Andy Wicks’ paintings depict objects that might initially appear otherworldly or imagined, but are in fact real structures for mooring boats that can be seen – should you look – dotted along the River Thames. Existing some place in the no-man’s land between improvisation and ordinary functionality, they appear alternately too decrepit for use, or else modern, robust and sturdy. These mooring stations are called ‘dolphins’, an appellation that seems arbitrary given their utter lack of physical resemblance to the marine creature. Also seemingly arbitrary is their ad hoc composition and materiality: they can be built out of anything from pressure-treated pine to hardwood, reinforced concrete, or steel girders and tubes. Here, form follows function – but there is also a unity to their robust armature and tide-washed weathering, rusty iron, and agglutinated patches of algae fronds. Wicks’ paintings have a striking figure-ground contrast: the backgrounds are often rendered with a muddy-watery effect created by mixing resins, thinned oil paints and other mediums, which the artist agitates into eddies of bare canvas and coagulated paint – a process that echoes the flow of the river itself.
Colin Perry, 2011 Published in Florence Trust 2011 Catalogue
Colin is a freelance art writer based in London and writes for Art Monthly, Frieze, ArtReview, Modern Painters amongst others.
Its been two weeks since the Florence Trust exhibition finished which signaled the end of my year long residency at St Saviour’s. Since then I’ve found myself in and around the studio quite a bit which while empty of my belongings, still had a hold over my time. After such a full on and immersive year it was sad to hand my keys back but as I move on a new set of artists arrive to start their own journeys.
I came to the Florence Trust as an artist looking to experience full time practice, to create time away from the constraints of paid work to see what I could achieve over the course of a year. The appeal of doing this at a residency such as the FT was the support network of fellow artists as well as the studio manager and director, something to ease me in to a new way of working, which isn’t usually available in large closed off studio spaces. On a personal note I’m happy with the shift i’ve seen my practice take in the last year and I believe this really is down to having consistency of thought from day after day at the studio, along with a heap of messing around with paint. But my overriding memories of the FT are the people and the space, being there really made me aware that I am part of lineage of artists who have been using the studios over the past 20 years. But is one dependent on the other? While the space is truly inspiring, beautiful and impossible to hide from, its the group of 11 very different artists coming together who made the experience. As a group consisting of multiple nationalities and artistic backgrounds it was our shared journey through the year that brought people together. Ongoing independent practice may consume the individual but the openness of the studios and communal areas created a schedule for dialogue and banter at lunches, tea breaks and social activities. The changes of seasons and the setting in of winter, while tough was a great catalyst for togetherness and a competitive survival instinct, demonstrated perfectly with varying approaches to polyethylene roof building. The end of winter and the start of spring brought new optimism to the studios with the gardens and wildlife becoming a bigger part of everyday life, our winter film club and pub quizzes turned to BBQ’s and beers.
The Basel trip while very near to the end exhibition came as a perfect remedy from possible studio blues and as we all knew each other so well by then was a fun filled trip away with friends. Once back we had two weeks of prepping the space for the exhibition, taking down the 3 central studios opened up the space and highlighted the architecture of the building, perhaps making a strong exhibition even more of a challenge. Thankfully in my opinion and those of many visitors it was a great success for which thanks should go to Paul Bayley (FT Director) for his problem solving and vision for how 11 different artist’s work could sit and read so well together. With a years worth of life on display I wanted to spend as much time at the show as possible invigilating. Talking with visitors about my fellow artists work opened up more readings of their work and created some interesting dialogue. I was happy with the response to my work, we had a huge opening night with far too many people to squeeze chats in with and delighted that a few of my works have now taken their place in a private collection in Italy.
Its been an absolute pleasure to have been able to spend time alongside each of my fellow artists, to watch their working practices up close and share their excitement over future projects and opportunities. If you want to keep an eye on the FT 2011 Artists you can find out more about their work and links to personal websites here.
So whats next for me? Well firstly a bit of a break is in order. Whereas before this year it was a treat to get time in the studio, now it feels like one if I have a day away. With the realities of life once again at my door I will endeavor to seek a better live / (art) work balance to move forward with. The cost of London living makes everything feel like a compromise but if I take anything from this experience its just reinforced my desire to continue doing what i’m doing as much as I can. In the short term I’m going to be sans studio with my paintings and studio packed safely in storage, however I have got some ideas for a series of prints which I will be experimenting with in the meantime. There are also tentative plans on a building which maybe made into studios for myself and a few of the FT 2011 artists, it has the potential to be an amazing studio in another interesting period property, but until more discussions take place I’ll say no more.
I plan to get my curating/organizing head back on and push forward a few projects which have been on the back burner this year. One of those, a 3 person show with FT2011 artist Adam Watts and Peter Ainsworth is coming together nicely and we’re now seeking the right kind of space to exhibit in. I’d also love to do a solo show with the new work some day soon and imagine that the prints could fit nicely with the works on canvas. I’m excited to find time to take in more exhibitions in London having been out of the loop of late, I was blown away by Piccadilly Community Center Christoph Büchel’s immense installation at Hauser & Wirth last week and I still vividly remember his show at the Coppermill off Brick Lane in 2007. Through writing this and summing up it all suddenly feels very final, but far from it, the rigour and dialogue of the FT is something I will be looking to keep with me for the next stage.