Open Arts My Self - a curators reflection

The My Self project was joyful. Working with Wendy and Christopher the work in the exhibition, the artists involved in the project - my one overriding emotion reflecting on this project is joy.

I was curator and mentor for this project which was funded by Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant Funding, Ideas Test, Kent Association for the Blind, University of Kent and Medway Council. My Self was created by Sun Pier House with artists Wendy Daws and Christopher Sacre of the Mess Room. The project was hugely successful with an overwhelmingly positive response from participants and audience, and we hope to continue this success with future projects. Here I would like to take a moment to reflect on the work that was made for this beautiful exhibition, show you some photographs I took of the work in situ, and give my reflections on the art that was made and my experience curating and mentoring the artists involved.

People of all ages from 3 months to 96 years took part in a series of creative workshops to create this inclusive group exhibition exploring identity. The artist groups include Kent Association for the Blind, Medway Deaf Club, students from Danecourt School, Barnsole Primary Trust, All Faiths Children's Academy, and young people and families from Sip and Sign.

The wonderful MySelf shed and portrait wall

The wonderful MySelf shed and portrait wall

The star of the show was undoubtedly the ‘shed’. This piece was a team effort between Wendy, Christopher and myself, and started with a conversation about how we could display the work of multiple groups of school children. We wanted to create something cohesive and interactive and envisioned fairly early on a structure that the audience could go inside; experiencing the work from the inside as well as being visually exciting from the outside. It went through a few conceptual iterations; an igloo, a tent, a dome, but we finally settled on a shed, largely for practical reasons which involved the height of the ceiling, our ability to build the thing ourselves and to dismantle and move it to a new site later on.

The shed was constructed by Christopher Sacre, while the willow panels were a team effort between Christopher, Wendy, Sophie Wynne, and Mid Kent College work experience students. Wendy traced all the paintings with 3D tactile gel pen to create the internal images for the panels, and the whole team (including Zara Carpenter and Molly Millar) helped with the painstaking process of attaching all the panels to the frame. The result, I’m sure you will agree was entirely worth the effort and in my opinion, is one of the most striking inhabitants the gallery has seen).

A happy Shed team :)

A happy Shed team :)

All of the artists that I worked with were wonderful human beings, keen to share their stories and their lives, and to see them realise that ambition with such finesse and unique energy was genuinely exciting and satisfying. The challenge of this show from a curatorial perspective was how to best balance all these different energies to create something coherent, in order to give the audience a way visually through the different visual stimuli. Because the work had such high levels of visual engagement, it took a few days to discover the best way of displaying everything, to give the eye and the mind the requisite space to digest each piece in a narrative continuum. 

This also came into play during the mentoring phase, and one example which illustrates this was the work Janet Norfolk was making. She was using the motif of the tree to illustrate her self identity and had made the most beautiful tree as a wall relief from tea bag material - it was a diaphanous white tree sculpted so as to appear to be growing on or from the white wall. It had an entrancing minimal aesthetic that was immediately appealing and as soon as I saw it, I could tell how stunning it was going to look in the final show. Janet had intended to paint the tree and hang a series of trinkets from the branches, then take it from the wall and have it free standing. Between us we decided to keep it as it was to retain this wonderful minimal aesthetic and I think we made the correct decision; in the final exhibition the tree was absolutely spectacular, one of my favourite pieces in the show. I am always so blown away by the skills of the artists in these various groups and Janet is an exemplar of this - she is 90 years old and with very limited vision due to Macular Degeneration, and yet the work she made is truly breathtaking.

Janet and her wonderful tree

Janet and her wonderful tree

The white minimalism was a language we fostered throughout the project as a way of balancing the high-key vibrancy of a lot of the work that was made, particularly the shed panels and the wall of wonky portraits. As a quick aside - I am really grateful that Wendy and Christopher trusted me so much during this project, the conversations we had really made me feel valued in a way I haven’t had before, so a quick heartfelt thanks to them for that. OK, back to minimalism, another series of works that benefited from this balancing trick was the floor sculptures made by Ken Fane.

Ken’s work is instantly affecting, seeing him produce his work in the studio is just something to behold; we call him the art machine because he just doesn’t stop until he runs out of materials or time. Ken is an autistic artist, and his work has a childlike aesthetic, in the best of ways - having worked with children, including my own nephew, their ability to unselfconsciously create is something I have tried very hard to learn from and incorporate into my own practice. Ken has that quality, his marks are intuitive and his thought process completely idiosyncratic. The sculptures made by Christopher, Wendy, Sophie Wynne and Sarah King are shaped like curved cones, made using the same willow branches covered with painted wet strength tissue paper that we used for the shed panels. These objects represent the people around him and are covered with his signature drawings, and were universally loved by visitors; his decision to depict his friends in this unusual form is exciting and intriguing. We kept the drawings in black to retain the minimal monochrome aesthetic and allow the shape of the structures to be the dominant visual element, and this worked really well in the space, I love these pieces so much, great work Ken!

A happy visitor exploring Ken’s sculptures

A happy visitor exploring Ken’s sculptures

So the main space of the exhibition was dominated by a triumvirate of pieces; the shed, Ken’s sculptures and the portrait wall. This third element was 90 self portraits made using collaged coloured paper, portraying everyone involved in the project; artists, schoolchildren, facilitators, and even myself. Individually these wonky portraits were adorable, charming, idiosyncratic wonders, but en-masse they were a site to behold. The portrait wall was the visual coda that held the exhibition together, rhyming with the panels of the shed, and creating a thematic narrative for the concept of the show as self-portraits, albeit elsewhere as less traditional self-portraiture. The playful, youthful exuberance of the work gave license to enjoy the show as a whole, in a manner of childlike wonder, and the blast of high-key colour that you got from being in that space was a treat for the eyes. I genuinely loved seeing that wall come together, and have that now as a reference going forward curatorially to draw upon. 

Another individual piece that stands out in my memory was the life size replica of Uri the guide dog made by Tracey Lane. The artist is partially sighted with Retinal Pigmentosa , and Uri is her guide dog. The artwork has been lovingly created in velvet making it irresistibly tactile and also incredibly lifelike. I saw other dogs come up to it and try to interact, convinced that it was a real dog. Tracey wanted her dark glasses near the dog to represent herself alongside her companion, so we came up with a way of suspending the glasses above the dog, as well as suspending the handle from the dogs harness, so it looked like she was stood with the dog, albeit invisible apart from her glasses. I think the final result was quite effective, and I enjoyed the playfulness of the presentation very much.

Art dog and real dog

Art dog and real dog

There were many other wonderful pieces in the show - Helen’s gorgeous sunrise paintings, the children’s papier-mâché sculptures, Norma’s tea-bag dress, and loads, loads more. Everything in the exhibition showed individuality and exuberance, and I congratulate everyone involved on a beautiful, heart-warming, and exciting show. Well done to Wendy and Christopher for their generous and gentle mentoring to help the artists to create such amazing work, I know how hard they worked (as always) and it is a credit to them that such fantastic work ended up coming to me for curation. Well done also to Heather Burgess from Sun Pier House, who organised the project and Caren Stafford who secured the funding to make it a reality - this is their first project of this kind and goes to show that Sun Pier House can run highly successful projects of this scale that help underrepresented social groups while also being incredibly exciting from a purely aesthetic standpoint. Bravo!

If you got to see the show yourself, I am sure you agree with me what a fantastic spectacle it was, and one that will live in our memories for some time to come. The My Self show has since been exhibited in full in the Crypt at Rochester Cathedral and was very well received, and we’re about to take down on 30th August and install at Ideas Test, Sittingbourne across several venues to create an art trail.

All the best! Matt x

Some of the project’s participants and facilitators in front of the portrait wall

Some of the project’s participants and facilitators in front of the portrait wall

A few bonus pics:

Entering the play state through collaboration

This article was published by Creative Collective

Sometimes making art can be difficult. I am a full time artist, working in the studio every day, but up until fairly recently that wasn’t the case. When I graduated my MA I became ill and for several years wasn’t able to make any work. Once I was better and back in the studio I struggled to find the momentum and confidence to get anything done. I was frustrated so decided to try something new – there was an artist whose worked I had discovered while curating a show for a local gallery, who had made a sculpture using marine chains. Even though I am a painter and his work was sculptural, I decided to ask him if he wanted to work on a collaboration.

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We worked in my studio on a series of heads using polystyrene and various other materials, jamming stuff together in a playful way, just seeing what we could come up with. Because the medium was completely new to me, it was easy for me to get into a playful state and allow the art to happen spontaneously. It is the artist’s job to get out of his or her own way and let the work do what it wants to do, and collaboration is a great way to let this happen. Also, because the work wasn’t solely mine, that allowed me to be less self-critical than usual; and I really liked what we had made. This collaboration lark was exactly what I needed – it had unlocked my creativity and confidence, allowing me to make my own work again away from the collaborative space. Since then I have collaborated with several other artists whose work I admire, and I continue to do so; it is now an intrinsic part of my practice.

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So here is what I think collaboration can offer you:

PLAY:

This I think is the key advantage that collaboration offers us as artists that we of course can access in our own work, and should if we want to make great art, but I have found it is easier to access via collaboration. Due to the nature of collaboration, it is easy to enter a space of play where you are riffing with each other, trying things out for fun, enjoying the creativity of working with another person, reacting to and bouncing off of one another – creating a kind of creative feedback loop that is inspiring and fun. When we play, we allow the work to find its own form and surprise us, which is when art is at its best.

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LACK OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS:

Because you are in a play state, there seems to be less intrusion from the policeman in your head. If you don’t know what I mean by that term, it is how I refer to the internal voice that criticises what you are making as you’re making it. The one that says “Oh that won’t work” or “Don’t do that, you might ruin it” or “What will people think of this piece of work?” as you are trying to make the thing, which kills the creativity. The play state doesn’t allow room for the policeman in your head and as a result the work is purer as you are in a flow state.

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LACK OF OWNERSHIP:

In my experience, artists tend to be very critical of their own work in a way that they aren’t with the work of others. Because collaboration work isn’t solely yours, it seems to be much easier to appreciate and enjoy the results, which is a lovely feeling. I have found that often I can appreciate my own work once I haven’t seen it for a reasonable length of time, having created distance from it, but this seems to happen almost instantly with collaboration work.

INSPIRATION:

Working with another artist is bound to bring new ideas into the creative space. You get to inspire each other with marks, gestures, materials, techniques, thoughts, ideas, insights (etc.) that you wouldn’t necessarily have come up with on your own. These new ideas are forever part of your arsenal as well, so as you go forward collaborating with other artists, you are continually increasing your artists toolbox of ideas and gestures for future projects. I am without doubt richer creatively as a result of my working with other artists, and I thank them for that.

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NETWORK BENEFITS:

Lastly, collaboration also has a network benefit, which is why we often see professional musicians, fashion brands (etc.) collaborating. Each of us has a network of people interested in our work regardless of our level of success, and collaborating gives us access to those combined audiences, giving us the opportunity to find new people that will follow us, come to shows, or buy work. Although I instinctively recoil from any kind of talk of ‘networking’, ‘making money’ or ‘increasing audience’ blah blah blah, having our work seen and enjoyed by more people is always a good thing.

So… there you have it. My little spiel about collaboration and the benefits it can bring to your practice. It might not be for everyone, but I think it will bring more to your work than you might imagine. Give it a go. Think of an artist you know whose work you like (if they work in a different medium all the better) and ask if they fancy trying a collaboration. Meet up and have a play!

Matt Bray: Collabs is currently on show at Sun Pier House, Chatham from 10th – 27th April 2019. Check his instagram for more info.

‘Matt Bray :: Collabs’ review by Anna Morell

Collabs. Collaborations. Co laboratories. The latest exhibition from Matt Bray is a collection of works of exploration and experimentation in conjunction with a number of artists and friends – Wendy Daws, and her tactile interplays of light, shade and physical form; Zara Carpenter and her gentle corruptions of the self through decayed portraiture; Daisy Parris and her free splashes of texture and emotion; Darrell Hawkins and his open playful colourings; Adam Newton and his dystopian literal headspaces and Miles Bray’s free and easy brushstrokes.

installation view

installation view

There is a strong undercurrent of play within the works. A shedding of purpose to rediscover form through freedom. A being in the moment, for the sheer joy, and maybe hell, of seeing what happens. A presentness. A disconnection of conscious thought to connect with another’s pure emotions over canvas. These works are snapshots of moments – often executed quickly, the freedom of them creating a connection to timelessness.

As you enter, on the right, is a collection of three loosely figurative crowds. Inspired by Baroque paintings, Bray has filtered them through the neon of memories of rave culture, their loose lines painted with a nod to the Impressionists, canonical connection through important artistic movements, eyes scrawled on with day-glo pen, wired, buzzing, melding into oblivion and obliviousness within the melee of movement and people, the odd goat looking out directly from the crush – Pan connecting, perhaps inviting, the viewer into these worlds. They are supposed to be dark, but there is something in the colours which is enticing as a beach scene. The line between hedonism and hellishness drawn only when your eyes match theirs.

‘Who brings a goat to a party?’ by Matt Bray

‘Who brings a goat to a party?’ by Matt Bray

The colours follow through into bright, saturated, Pop Art oversized Polaroids of Bray taken by Zara Carpenter. As part of her ongoing work as co-creator (also with Bray) of the Sick! movement, Carpenter’s latest tranche of works sees her exploring the lived experience of chronic health conditions through the corruption of traditional art media. Carpenter’s photographic portraits have been left outside to corrode, disintegrate and decay, beneath earth, elements and chemicals, each stripping or scrunching of detail creating a twist in emotional response to the face of Bray beneath the corrosion.

The colourways lead, again, into his collaborations with Darrell Hawkins. Hawkins and Bray’s styles have always had an overlap in terms of their unabashed embracing of bright palettes, their figurative art often crammed with blotches and squiggles, the energy of these making the response to them more visceral, as with abstracts. The grump of the bunny undermined by the casual bananas and colours splashed all over him. The demand of the ‘SMILE’ in the corner of the portrait in profile ignored with pride, language ignored, scrubbed out elsewhere on the calico, as the lion’s face connects with the animal in the artists – base emotion the driver to create the collaboration – no space for the restriction of thought. It is puerile in its very best, rarely used sense – free, delighted, delightful, with absolutely zero shame. Childlike.

‘Kickass’ by Matt Bray and Darrell Hawkins

‘Kickass’ by Matt Bray and Darrell Hawkins

Bray has spent the past couple of years collaborating with his nephew, Miles. Miles is five. Give a child of this age a paintbrush, and they will express freely, with no nod to thought. For an adult, it is a lesson in unlearning. The Pink Series is a collection of small canvases where Bray Snr has actively tried to channel Bray Jr’s openness. Pink splatters pink splashes magenta and cerise. Pink as child cheek, in both senses. There is an inherent feminity to it, because, well, pink. It feels subversive, and light to use such a recently socially divisive colour, to just be itself, splashed around by a couple of boys.

More pink, scumbling over the lines of a woman. She will be finished by Bray as an artist in residence piece throughout the exhibition. Prone, classical, possibly pained, she rests, or is at permanent rest, poised in death. The canvas is huge, unavoidable and serious. This piece is for Kate Ashley – a local, much loved yoga teacher who died young, and recently. It is the only piece in the collection which demands a moment’s pause – the face demanding some alone time with its viewer, the emotions of the abstracts tempered into thought: why her (and it is a universal Her)? Why here? The existentialism of the piece a call back to mortality, before the splash of pure abstract in the next set of collaborations with Daisy Parris. It feels like a companion piece to Bray’s other large-form female – 2017’s Lux Lisbon, which hung in the exact same spot as part of Carpenter’s Sick! Exhibition.

The Bray-Parris collabs throw deep sage, mustard, pink and black around in a triptych that harks back to Cy Twombly. Again, there is a feminine energy here, although whose is whose is not obvious. These are dark, angry, free, fierce and proud. They are graceful, light, and serious.

A tactile piece will be developed over the exhibition with Dawes, and Bray’s trademark head sculptures, developed in collaboration with Adam Newton, are dotted around – disconnected, faceless, disgusting, pubescent. Macabre and silly simultaneously, momenti mori which somehow laugh with the vitality that infuses this entire exhibition.

Foreground: ‘Rotten Heads’ by Matt Bray & Adam Newton. Background: ‘Who brings a goat to a party? (version II)’ and ‘She’s gone away (for Kate)’ by Matt Bray

Foreground: ‘Rotten Heads’ by Matt Bray & Adam Newton. Background: ‘Who brings a goat to a party? (version II)’ and ‘She’s gone away (for Kate)’ by Matt Bray

Matt Bray: Collabs runs from 10 April – 27 April 2019 at Sun Pier House, Chatham (open wed-sat 11-4pm)

University of Kent Interview

Interview with MA Fine Art alumnus Matt Bray, co-founder of the Medway Print Festival

Drawing at the dockyard during MA. Photo by Gaz Bray

Drawing at the dockyard during MA. Photo by Gaz Bray

Matt Bray is a practising artist, freelance curator and arts consultant, who graduated from SMFA in 2012 with an MA Fine Art. He co-founded the Medway Print Festival, which is running until 24th June at present, and multimedia group exhibition Sick!

Matt kindly took time out from his busy schedule to chat with SMFA’s Marketing & Communications Officer, Jane Seaman.

How did your time at Kent prepare or equip you for the role you have now?
My time at Kent equipped me with a far richer understanding of contemporary art and its relationship to the longer stream of art history. That has afforded me a more nuanced understanding of both my own work and the work of others, allowing me to curate more mature and interesting shows, and I’ve developed confidence in my abilities as an artist and curator as a result.

What does your job involve?  Is there a typical day?
There are no typical days. Networking is key though, so I can often be spotted having coffee with artists and gallerists (tough life I know). Funding is the least glamorous and most important element of putting exhibitions and festivals together, so that is something I have had to learn on the job – how is the project going to be funded? Arts Council? Local council? Paid by the artists? Somehow it needs to be paid for and that requires good clear ideas and being able to articulate those ideas well. Once funding is secured the rest of the project is normally plain sailing to a large degree.

What kind of opportunities offered at Kent were especially beneficial for your career development?
Putting on the degree show was obviously a pretty important experience, and it was such a great place to host an exhibition.

What have you been doing since graduating?
Since graduating I have been in the studio whenever possible, I have also been running several key projects like ‘Sick!’ and ‘Medway Print Festival’, both of which have been very successful and I have been lucky enough that the people I run those with are very good friends, so although it can be very hard work sometimes, it is always super fun.

What would you recommend to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
If anyone wants to get involved in curation, then the only real advice I can offer is to put shows on.  My first exhibition was in a bookshop with my buddy. You can start small if need be, but just put shows on, as often as possible, of your own work or other people’s, it doesn’t matter. You will learn so much from every show – like anything else, the more you do it, the more you will learn. Before you know it, the shows will have become quite sophisticated and you will have made all the obvious mistakes which you can then learn to avoid.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Kent?
Probably my favourite memory of my time at Kent was meeting my mate Billy Childish, who had a studio in the dockyard too and taught me a lot about being a painter.

What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to create the Medway Biennial.

Who or what inspires you?
My parents.

Thanks, Matt.

You can catch the Medway Print Festival until 24th June.  Now in its 3rd year, the festival celebrates printmaking and fine art in Medway, with over 40 events and activities to showcase some of the best printmaking being created today as well as highlighting the fascinating local history of the medium. More http://medwayprintfestival.com/

original article: https://www.kent.ac.uk/smfa/news.html?view=2844 

Studio portrait by Rikard Österlund

Studio portrait by Rikard Österlund

Material Conversations

My practice has always been restricted to 2d, but for many years I have wanted to explore sculpture. For whatever reason I have not been able to find a way into doing so; I seemed to have some kind of mental block that prevented me from entering the round. As a way in, I decided to try collaborating with other artists to create sculptural work – by releasing control of the work, at least partly, I found I was able to explore this new medium and way of working. I collaborated with Adam Newton and Zara Carpenter to create work for the Sick! exhibition in 2017, and the next artist I planned to work with was Wendy Daws.

While speaking to Jane Pitt, the curator of Ideas Test in Sittingbourne I told her about the collaboration I had planned – In Wendy’s studio I discovered a piece of work she made during her degree – a sheet of rubber latex with marks imprinted into it, which I found very intriguing. I suggested we collaborate to create something similar and she was very keen – I had worked with Wendy several times previously as curator, but it would be our first time making work together. We ended up deciding to do the collaboration with Jane on board as curator –  Ideas Test have a history of working with excellent artists who make challenging and interesting work, and we all felt it would be great to make the work specifically for their space, with an element of live making also involved.

The project developed quickly and organically, and I must say the whole process, from inception to installation was absolutely effortless – which is entirely down to how comfortable and natural it was working with Wendy, and the Ideas Test team (Jane, Daisy and Jade). So here’s a little film about the making of the work, to give you a sense of how it came together. I hope you enjoy it.

Just to briefly explain the process in case the film doesn’t elucidate entirely how it was made – Wendy and I made drawings of each other over several sessions in my studio, we then collected the drawings together and traced them onto acetate with hot glue guns, so that the drawings were now 3d. We then covered the whole thing is about 6 layers of liquid latex, which once dry could be peeled off to create a semi-translucent, amber coloured sheet of rubber with the drawings engraved into the surface, allowing the light shining through it to become the drawing. The whole project was so much fun, and it was great to work with Wendy and Ideas Test, and I very much hope to do something else with them in the future.

Thank you to everyone involved, and everyone that came along to the exhibition!

Mx

photo: Matilda Flood

photo: Matilda Flood

Sick! Exhibition

This project first started 2 years ago with a conversation between myself and my very good friend Zara Carpenter. Since then we had Rikard Österlund and Xtina Lamb join us to help shape and complete our vision. We were awarded funding by Arts Council England with extra support from Medway Council.

I was the project’s curator as well as one of the 14 exhibiting artists. I submitted two pieces – a large wall painting called ‘Lux Lisbon‘ based on the movie ‘The Virgin Suicides‘ by Sofia Coppola and a group of sculptured heads that I made in collaboration with Adam Newton. I also collaborated with Zara Carpenter on her work ‘Burdened‘; the heads with Adam and the sculpture with Zara are my first foray into 3d work as well as collaborating, both of which I really enjoyed and produced great results, so I fully intend to continue to explore both of those realms in the future.

portrait by Rikard Österlund

portrait by Rikard Österlund

The exhibition comes down in a few days time (it ran for 4 weeks) and the response has been amazing! We had about 300 people come to the private view which is pretty unprecedented for the venue and for any of the projects I’ve so far been involved with, it was really great to see so many people there, and the level of engagement was also really really high compared to usual. It wasn’t just friends and family turning up to show support, there were many people there none of us knew and everyone was just glued to the work and standing in groups discussing it deeply, which was really quite moving for me to see. The experience has been totally heartening.

We hope to tour the show to other venues around the UK, so that is the next job for this project, and there will probably be other things we do under the banner of Sick! too. For more info you can check out the project blog at sickblog.co.uk

Scene Report: Medway (a-n.co.uk)

For the latest in our Scene Report series, artist and curator Matt Bray reports from Medway in south east England on a scene with a close-knit and independently-minded community spirit.

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close knit community punches above its weight

Medway has been reinventing itself since the closure of Chatham Dockyard in 1984, and one of the primary engines of that change has been its vibrant community of artists. The cultural landscape is ad-hoc and independent; most projects are artist-led, although frequently supported by Medway Council and Arts Council funding.

There is a strong history of music and literature in Medway which bleeds into the visual arts network, with many of its key practitioners coming from a multidisciplinary background. That sense of cross-pollination and playfulness is what makes this close-knit community feel so genuine and honest. One of the key venues for such interactions is Nucleus Arts, with studios, galleries, community spaces, and music studios – they have been supporting artists of all stripes for 15 years, fuelling the current surge in creative confidence in the area.

Another great venue is the award winning Sun Pier House, it sits on the river so has fantastic views and light through the windows of its studios and large gallery space. They host monthly exhibitions in the tea room and main gallery, showing a good mix of community art as well as national and international contemporary art, they are also responsible for the Medway Open Studios project, which this year runs from 15 – 23 July.

INTRA is a community hub that focuses on printmaking, offering one of the best collections in Kent of specialist arts equipment accessible to the general public. They are a not for profit hosting creative events, classes, activities and studios – the vibe here is fundamentally one of community and they are a key element in the fabric of Medway’s collaborative identity.

Now in its second year, the annual Medway Print Festival has quickly become a staple of the arts calendar. The festival celebrates Medway’s strong tradition of printmaking and brings together exhibitions and workshops across 12 of the most prominent arts venues in the area, helping to forge new ties between the various arts organisations here.

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Medway’s premier gallery space is Rochester Art Gallery, with a program that includes local and international artists curated by Allison Young. The gallery is supported by Medway Council and due to the high quality of its exhibitions and perfect position opposite Rochester Cathedral, always draws a crowd.

In 2009 the University of Kent made Chatham Dockyard the new home for its School of Music and Fine Art, transforming several of the historic buildings there into studios and teaching spaces. The 2017 degree show was the best yet in my opinion, and the flow of art graduates into the area has been a great boon. All of which makes the recent news that the University will be discontinuing their arts program and closing the school such a sucker punch to so many.

Medway is a small collection of towns that somehow manages to punch well above its weight in terms of art production; it has a great tradition of grassroots, home-baked art movements and continues to thrive thanks to the cooperation and collaboration between its many artistic souls. Long may the Medway spirit continue to shine!

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Sun Pier House

During July this award winning venue is showing ‘Little Pieces of Me’; a celebration of 2 years work by community arts group Move & Make run by artist and creative practitioner Wendy Daws. The following month is Sick! 13 international artists exploring their experiences living with invisible illness, encompassing painting, sculpture, photography, installation, performance and film. The Sick! project was co-founded by Zara Carpenter and Matt Bray, and is supported by Arts Council England. The exhibition includes an associated publication and film, and is preceded by a series of workshops at INTRA

Until 27 August 2017, Medway St, Chatham ME4 4HF. www.sunpierhouse.co.uk

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Rochester Art Gallery

New works by Lily Dudley, Laura Dunnage, Heather Haythornthwaite, Xtina Lamb and Adam Newton. Winners of the Medway Printmakers Bursary 2017, Showing at Rochester Art Gallery & Rochester Cathedral. Five Medway based artists, all pushing the boundaries of contemporary printmaking are showing their work as part of the 350 year commemorations of the Battle of Medway and Medway Print Festival 2017. Working in partnership with the Guildhall Museum, the artists used the collection of Dutch prints (currently on display at the museum for the first time), as inspiration for work that explores the location, history and stories of the Dutch raid.

Until 28 August 2017, 95 High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1LX. www.medway.gov.uk/…rochesterartgallery

The Historic Dockyard

The Historic Dockyard Chatham, in partnership with Turner Contemporary, Margate, has co-commissioned an installation by the artist Jyll Bradley as part of the Battle of Medway commemorations. Using old timber repurposed from one of the former naval buildings with ‘edge-lit’ Plexiglas; orange to symbolise The Netherlands and green for Kent, the ‘Garden of England’, Dutch/Light (for Agneta Block) is a perfect marriage of art and history to reflect upon the cultural exchange between the UK and The Netherlands amongst the commemoration of the Battle of Medway.

From June to September, they are also showing a temporary exhibition in their gorgeous converted gallery space, telling the story of the Battle of Medway through Dutch and British contemporary art, literature, historic manuscripts and extraordinary objects. The Breaking the Chain Exhibition vividly brings the Battle of Medway story to life through art drawn from collections at The Royal Museum Greenwich, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Dutch National Maritime Museum, the Michiel de Ruyter Foundation and the British Library.

Until 6 August / 3 September 2017, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TE. thedockyard.co.uk

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Images:

  1. Luiza JordanInstallation 2017, Chatham Dockyard. Photo: Matt Bray

  2. Adam NewtonEbb. 2017, Rochester Art Gallery, Photo: Adam Newton

  3. Degree Show, Reverberate. 2017, University of Kent. Photo: Matt Bray

  4. Rikard Österlund2017, Sick! @ Sun Pier House, Photo: Rikard Österlund

  5. Jyll BradleyDutch/Light (for Agneta Block), Chatham Dockyard. Photo: Jyll Bradley