Mike Featherstone artist

Paintings, Prints and Sculptural Boxes

My Art

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Boxes of art

When we were children spaces meant so much more; the tree house; the cupboard under the stairs, the sheet over the clotheshorse and any cardboard box that inspired our imagination: Then there were Enid Blyton’s adventures with hidden panels and secret passages. There was the first time we saw the classroom or the doctor’s waiting room or the half-open door at the dentists as we caught a glimpse of the terrifying gadgets, and all kinds of strange and mysterious places like the space behind the coal bin where we hid during our games of hide and seek, or down the footpath where we used to meet.

Our houses are characterised by the size and shape of our rooms; the hall; the doors; the passages; the attic; the cellar. Spaces can evoke long forgotten memories and it seems that we impose upon a place our preconceptions; a room that is at the top of the house can seem different to an identical room that is below ground and even the way in which we enter that room can alter the way we think about it.

Everyone loves boxes, perhaps because of the things we might find in them: Joseph Cornell was the first to present boxes as art and it was the objects that he placed in them that created the mood and reminded the observer of faraway places. But my boxes are empty, and it is the mind that fills them with imagination. They could be huge buildings with large entrances, secret passages and mysterious rooms; or something much smaller, a tool box, a shelf for nick-knacks, a packing case or a game. Because mind is elastic the spaces here can represent all of these things and more

The fabric of the building and its decoration play a large part in our perception of that space. Stainless steel and glass would be modern, industrial, cold and light, lath and plaster reminiscent of times past. Wall paper is cosy, welcoming, bright and cheerful or expensive and formal. Wood is moody, familiar. If it is new and varnished it is one thing, if it is old and dirty it is another.

We have indescribable feelings when faced with very large objects, unfamiliar shapes that occupy a space wherein we walk, – like a warehouse or a towering forest. Our inner minds are filled with the clutter of the half remembered and the unresolved that manifest in dreams as strange, yet somehow familiar, places.

My first boxes were an attempt to illustrate the spaces that we have all encountered since childhood when our imagination could make them into something else. These spaces were also metaphors for the different levels of the mind – peering through the different strata into a dark and mysterious place. I then developed the idea of looking at the light within. – Peering through a dark area into the light. This light is brought into the boxes through ports at the rear or the side using mirrors that also extended the length and the mystery of the space. I am now looking at the light within, that space as we look through into the depths of ‘The Soul.’ with layers of glass representing the different levels. The glass is angled to reflect images picked up from the side ports just as images or thoughts would exist in the mind. (Called ‘Pepper’s Ghost this technique would be used in stage plays to portray a ghost – a reflection in a mirror on clear glass of an actor dressed as a ghost -)

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November 20th, 2009

Art, space and mind

When one looks at a particular space it is perhaps impossible to separate memory from imagination. The space in a box, for example might trigger the imagination but that imagination is intertwined with memories of childhood, of doll’s houses and secret corners: Of childhood boxes filled with treasures. A natural space might remind one of fairy tales where gnomes lived in the trunk of a tree. Bigger spaces may be reminiscent of childhood hideaways and cubbyholes and of the entrance to one of Enid Blyton’s secret passages. One of the essential ingredients necessary to trigger the imagination and the memory is a sense of mystery or strangeness that encourages the mind to delve into its storehouse of treasures. The mind has preconceived ideas about any space and it cannot be denied that there is a certain fascination with the idea of objects or pictures that are contained in a box: They appear to say something entirely different from those presented upon a flat surface The observer is aware that his or her imagination is confined within a small space that is different from a picture in a frame. The mind brings forth different memories and imposes it’s preconceptions upon a space therefore a room used as a cellar appears different to an identical looking room that is used as an attic.

Gaston Bachelard shows convincingly that there are connections between the space observed and the spaces that have had a strong impact upon that individual during his or her lifetime: There is also the idea that a particular scene might trigger the complex arrangement of hidden memories within the mind. These are a factor in many dreams that might for example say something about our insecurity or our wish to find a peaceful haven or nest. Various sources indicate that there is also a symbolism that manifests itself in both the dream and near-death experience.

Whilst the various influences that we have been exposed to will be a very personal thing there will be elements of Baudrillard’s ‘Hyperreal’ that we all share like the images that we are bombarded with through film and television.

The prompting of both conscious and unconscious memory is a major factor in the appreciation of spaces in particular also the unexpected and unusual are essential components in the production of modern art. It is my conclusion that no one can predict the effect that any given space will have upon the observer: One person may find the experience one to remember, others will find it instantly forgettable and yet some artists have the gift, of producing stunning work. Like the skill and judgement that seems to be enriched by the Artist’s unconscious, the work can bring forth strange or familiar feelings and memories for the artist and observer alike.

Rachel Whiteread’s house became an imagined space, an echo of what once was. Since the house was originally built the spaces that have been designed by architects have greatly changed and these spaces have a great impact upon the psychology of we who live, work and play within them. We ended with the work of Fritz Rahman and the issue that ordinary objects become art when they are presented as art that is, when we focus our minds upon them and or the space in which they are presented. . The Gestalt is an attempt to understand how the mind in general assesses a work of art that has for the artist that created it, a special meaning. For a while the observer may catch that meaning and hopefully the wonder of it but how the artist achieves this seems to owe as much to his or her own unconscious as to a deliberately planned act. Picasso once said something like, I know nothing of rules and systems but the Artist needs to have good taste and good judgement. – These qualities must of course go hand in had with thought processes that centre on observation, decision-making, and experience.

The marketing men tell us that many of us observe an ordinary scene or a clutter of objects with our brains switched to Beta mode. It often takes something rather special or unusual in order to make us look harder and to switch it into Alpha mode in order for the mind to bring out from its hidden storehouse of treasures the unexpected and strange feelings that will engaged the observer in a special and unforgettable way.

Thus art has both a major role in the concept and design of these everyday spaces that in turn influences our appreciation of the use of space in art.

Previous activities.

2010:- Last month CAS had a great model Shannon who was dressed in an Edwardian costume. (See ‘Portrait’ Gallery.) People say that painting is relaxing but portrait painting requires a lot of concentration. On the 12th of June we were kindly invited to Skelton Castle which was built by the Normans in twelve hundred and something. This is a great place to paint – the work is still in progress. On Saturday the 19th of June I went to the Viridian gallery in Keswick to see the works of the Hartlepool Art group. 2010:- In July I visited the “Artsbank” in Saltburn and will be exhibiting some work there. It’ s fantastic venue for Saltburn, Teesside and our corner of the North East. After viewing a huge variety of art you can go down to the beach on the Cliff railway, (Funicular.) have a walk along the pier and see the magnificent views. I have also made several visits to the superb Zillah Bell Gallery at Kirkgate in Thirsk. Over Christmas I had four portraits on display at the Macmillan College in Middlesbrough, the home of the Cleveland Art Society. On the 25th of August I visited “Nest”, Barnard Castle’s new gallery, studio, digital hub and cafe’ in Newgate near the market cross. The furniture, paintings, photography and lunch were first class. On Friday the 11th of February 2011 I re-visited ‘The nest’ It has now been taken over by Arts Bank. Monday 14th Feb – Saltburn, Arts Bank is now featuring the Transporter bridge there are paintings and a large Meccano model. We are well into 2011 now Friday 17th June went to Bianco Nero at 14 Bridge Road, Stokesley and viewed the exhibition by Sophie McKay Knight. – With a simple use of colour and form she has created striking images that I presume depict Sophie herself. Saturday 2nd of July we visited the Baltic at Gateshead. It’s a great building with spectacular views but much of the exhibition was disappointing for the size of the venue. We went on to the Biscuit Factory over the river where I was particularly interested in Jim Edwards’ new work. He has moved out of the city into the country and his slightly comic style landscapes reflect this. Brilliant!! Jim also has some work at Arts Bank. July 14th we visited the Gallerina gallery in Duke Street Darlington. http://www.gallerina.co.uk/news.html A really friendly and well presented gallery there were stunning portraits by Steven Lawler and landscapes by Mark Johnson amongst others. We also called at the Arts Centre, Vane Terrace – not too far away that featured brilliantly wacky sculptures, superb animal drawings and photographs. On the 11th of August I went to Gallery TS1 in Middlesbrough to the opening night of Shelly Oyston’s paintings and on the 12th to see Miranda Richmond’s work at the Python Gallery. Both of these artists are interested in the use of paint and colour which have an endless fascination for me.
I must see Platforms Arts new exhibition space at Middlesbrough Station. In October we visited Zilla Bell and a new gallery in Thirsk. We then went on to Easingwold.


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