Emptiness and a Beginning – Work With Sue Hunt

I’ve been working on an new collaboration with painter and print-maker Sue Hunt for the last couple of years and we are now in a position to show some of this work and are also beginning to channel it to working within the health care sector in Wales, specifically, at the present, with Rookwood, a spinal and neurological rehabilitation centre.

The grounds of Rookwood hospital

Sue and I both firmly believe in the restorative properties art has and how it can be beneficial in both recovery and preventive aspects of health care. This is backed up by current research and more and more hospitals are beginning to embrace this notion, through both physical objects of work created by practicing artists and those produced by patients through guided workshops.

Our work together did not begin with the specific aim of working within the health care sector, but through experience we have seen and understand how the powerful effect of being outdoors and responding to the natural world can effect our own and other peoples sense of well being.

Good health and well-being require a clear and harmonious environment in which physical, psychological and aesthetic factors are given their due importance.

World Health Organisation

After talking through ideas that underpinned our work we began to see a synthesis that we wanted to explore further. We were struck that, although working independently, there were clear similarities with the way we treated space within both our disciplines. Furthermore the means of expression through which we were both articulating our ideas was the natural world.

When our collaboration started the idea of ’emptiness’ began to take root and its curious presence in art. The ideas were firmly rooted within ideas expressed in the writings of Mark Rothko in his essay ‘Space’  published in ‘The Artists Reality – Philosophies of Art.’

The artist who creates illusory space ……. is interested in conveying the illusion of appearance. In his very attempt to be faithful to appearances, however, he cannot give air any appearance of actual existence, for a gas cannot be seen. Hence we have an appearance of weight for objects themselves and non for the air that surrounds them. In other words, there is no way to represent the appearance of this all-pervasive substance which we know has a pressure of fifteen pounds per square inch. As a result, the appearance the illusory artist achieves is of things moving about in an emptiness.

It was this emptiness that drew us in and how it might be hinted at within our work. From this starting point our work together has moved into new areas for both of us, with time and a loose narrative becoming ever more important. This led us into working with film, something curiously we’d both been dabbling with before we got working together.

The work has developed into new avenues of exploration and, we believe, has a lot of potential. It is continuing to push us into new ways of seeing and reacting to each other’s work. Sometimes we have combined our work, literally fusing the photographic with painting and print-making. At other times we have juxtaposed our work which was sometimes produced prior to the collaboration (thus strengthening the underlying principles that drew us together in the first place) and at other times created new pieces to deliberately work together.

The posts that follow this introduction will primarily be of a visual nature, but we will also include thoughts and further ideas along the way and also through the blog chart our work together with Rookwood hospital.

We’ve always had similar ideas with regard to the depiction of space within our work and generally used the natural world as a vehicle with which to explore the curious areas of ‘nothingness’ that are inevitably within the images we produce.

The work has involved us in both the moving image and sound and we are learning new skills and techniques along the way that are enabling us to more fully investigate, among other things, a visible, tangible  ‘nothingness’ and the contradictions that surround it, both visually and philosophically.

The work for Rookwood will take ideas from our collaboration but not mirror it as the demands for working within a healthcare setting will inevitably be different from our personal investigations. This will be come clear as we move through the projects.

Below are a few examples of our very early work together were we began to look at fusing some pieces we had produced specifically for the project and working together at the same location and rephotographing some of the original images produced, the ambiguity of space becoming apparent.


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