It was over before it began, and everyone was lovely.
I’ve written this entry nearly a year after the residency, because it’s taken me that long to digest everything. In addition to my research question about the viability of VCA in stone lithographic processes, I had come to AGALAB to make and show work, to share with others my experiences and the results of my efforts.
In 2019, I had a solo exhibition in De Bouwput Galerie at the end of my residency. ‘Free to a good home’ was about sharing my experimentations in lower toxicity etching, and inviting the members of the studio and public to participate in mark making. Everyone was able to ‘adopt’ a pigeon artwork and take it home, for free. I felt this was the best way to say ‘thank you’ to a community that embraced me with open arms even though I was only there for a month.
It was an amazing experience, people drawing, painting, directly on top of etchings, participating in a group creative action. There was a brief moment of hesitancy, but everyone got stuck in, and the night was, for me, a bit of community magic.
The gallery was not available this visit, nor did I feel my final work would be at any sort of ‘hanging’ stage. I did, however, want to say ‘thank you’ again, so ‘Free to a good home II’ was born, an in-studio final event where everyone could be together. This was especially poignant after two and a half years of everyone being apart.
For one night only, members of the wider studio, members of the public, friends, colleagues, and staff from the print workshop, gathered to draw, animate, drink, and share stories over a pile of lithographic discards. I showed everything, the good, bad, and disappeared, and told the story of sponges, gum, and VCA, and everyone was kind enough to listen.
I was touched by how many people who had visited my exhibition in 2019, returned for a second round of pigeon prints. And I was thrilled to see people participating with gusto. I still have some of their interactions, archived in my London studio. I hardly ever look at my own prints from this period, but the interactions I had with others, stay with me every day.
To read an interview from my time in Amsterdam, go to the AGALAB website here.
Note: I was very lucky to be able to ask a research question and afford a negative outcome. Thanks to my grant from Arts Council England, I was able to try something, learn, and reflect, and then decide against adopting VCA into my lithographic studio practice.
In the end, I did get the VCA to work, to an extent, and managed two, medium, black and white lithographs in small runs. One of these has been accepted into this year’s RE International Original Print Exhibition at Bankside Gallery, London.
I left notes and suggested instructions for future lithographers at AGALAB to follow, or ignore, and I even squeezed in a quick workshop with two interns – there is no better proof of learning than teaching.
… but I’ll never show that large print in public, except here, in the quiet space of my blog. All the other pigeons have been given away, and I have gone down an alternative route, but looking back, I’ll always be grateful for this opportunity to fail.