Welcome to the blog of Spike Dennis; an artist and sometime curator. Trained in London Spike has exhibited widely, from London to Los Angeles, and has delivered projects from Cardiff to Stockholm, for organisations including the Illustration Research network and Cardiff Design Festival amongst Others.
Alaina Varrone is an artist from Connecticut, USA. She states that she was ‘born to a family of weirdos and storytellers, and she uses this natural creativity to tell her own stories in thread’.
I love the attitude of these embroideries. They’re often risqué without being grotesquely explicit, and there’s a humour on the surface of the images that belies the serious messages that are embedded within these little narrative scenarios. This works to lure you in before you get enveloped in her unique narrative worlds.
My solo exhibition at The Sho gallery has now ended. Thank you to all those who made it down to the gallery. The feedback from the show was overwhelmingly positive and the work prompted some excellent discussions!
You can view a couple of images of the exhibition below, and you can also listen to me talking about some of the work I was exhibiting on Radio Cardiff here.
There are a number of artists working with embroidery and appropriated imagery at the moment. Many of these artists make use of old (‘vintage’) photographs.
Following on from some new work I’ve been creating it’s interesting to note how these images are received. They are frequently regarded as aesthetically pleasing, commentators and bloggers draw our attention to the way in which the brightly coloured threads, and often geometric forms and straight lines, bring vibrancy to these black and white or sepia images.
Artists and commentators also comment on the way in which these photographs are transformed into something new; giving them a new lease of life even.
It’s not only the color of the thread that stands out against these old monochromatic images, but it’s form as well. Thread is tactile. It punctures and protrudes from the surface of flat photographic image.
Julie Cockburn is one such artist who is described by Sean O’Hagan in The Guardian as an artist who “obliterates the faces with embroidery – and injects them with new life”.
According to Nandita Raghuram the artist herself says that she is “perhaps adding what seems to be hidden there or missing, unspoken”. By stitching over parts of these photographs the artist is creating her own narratives. She takes away a piece of the original image, hiding it beneath, and replacing it with her own stitches.
While Cockburn embroiders geometric cages around the heads of the people pictured in the photographs that she finds, Maurizio Anzeri (pictured above) creates more organic looking mask-like forms with thread. O’Hagan says of these images that “here, the poignancy that attends all discarded photographs – remnants of another time, another life of which we know nothing – is literally covered over”.
It’s interesting to note that the commentary on these works is wholly positive; the photographs are “given a new lease of life” by the embroidery, they are “brought to life”, “given a new sense of vibrancy”.
Yet these photographs have all been defaced, and in many instances the identity of the subjects has been erased by these artists’ interventions. Cockburn admits that she gets a rush of adrenalin when starting a new piece –
it’s an exciting moment when the intervention starts and I commit to the defacement.
Perhaps it’s the transgressive nature of the act of defacement that causes this adrenalin rush? After all, knowing that one is breaking the rules can be exhilarating!
Somehow, the knowledge that these photographs were created outside of our current time allows us to detach ourselves from them.
Photographs are ubiquitous today. We are constantly bombarded with new images through media, and social media channels. As soon as images are posted up on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook accounts they’re outdated already, lost to the constant stream of new updates. So how long do we spend looking at these images? Do we ever really consider them fully, if at all, beyond the initial aesthetic impact?
So if we have learned to treat photographs so fleetingly is it a surprise that these ‘vintage’ images are regarded as little more than a vehicle for artists to create something new? After all these photographs have been forgotten about, lost to the stream of time have they not? Living memories of the subjects of these photographs will be few and far between and so there is no one to offend by defacing these images of the dead. The photographs are treated as objects rather than memorials.
How far back then do we have to travel in order to detach ourselves from these images, to de-personalise them in order to consider them aesthetically or artistically?
We were joined on air by renowned Welsh painter Shani Rhys James who currently has a major exhibition at the National Library of Wales.
This made for an interesting contrast in terms of approaching the creation of work from within and without. You can listen to this broadcast above.
Illustration Radio is a new venture by Amelia Johnstone in collaboration with Pitch on Radio Cardiff 98.7FM.
Illustration Radio expands the discussion around art and design relative to society, politics, morality and every other issue talk-aboutable, encouraging a dialogue between the context of the ‘image’, in the broadest sense of the word, and the imagination and knowledge of the viewer.
Illustration Radio is all about the encounter; imagery which we stumble upon, imagery that we listen to, and even converse with.
This is a little sketch I created as I continue my glitch art experiments. The still image of the unicorn glove puppet was distorted using a Processing sketch called VectorDrift written by textile/glitch artist Philip Stearns which is available to download via GitHub.
The Processing sketch allows you to distort a still image. In this instance I used a still image from a film of my unicorn glove puppet that was shot against a green screen allowing my to key out the background and overlay the image over another clip.
Philp Stearns has been creating glitch inspired textile art for some time. You can checkk out a lot of his work on his Tumblr blog Year of The Glitch here.
24 March – 4 April 2015
Private View: Thursday 26 March 2015, 6 – 8pm
I am happy to be able to announce that The Sho gallery will be hosting my solo exhibition entitled NSFW; an exhibition of new work featuring interactive hand embroidered objects and short films featuring my glove puppets.
This body of work, which will include embroidered samplers from The Hunt for the Unicorn series, critiques our attitudes towards sex, identity, morals and privacy in our increasingly digitally inter-connected society. In a world in which nudity has become commonplace; whether through the unavoidable abundance of internet porn; shared photos of anonymous amateurs and celebrity sex tapes, or more recently phone hacking scandals, how do we conduct oursleves we interact in an online world. How much of ourselves should we give up? How much is too much?
Subverting commonly held assumptions that embroidery is an activity reserved for the female of the species, Spike reveals the phallocentric language of sex through stitch. Familiar digital pixels are replaced with pixelated cross-stitches which expose the aggressive and often harassing nature of the way in which messages and images are often distributed across our multifarious wi-fi’d networks.
Please note: work on display as a part of this exhibition will contain strong language and images of a sexual nature.
Jake & Dinos Chapman are two of the most controversial figures in the art world – with Dinos suffering with an explosive bout of ‘diarrhea’ his better half, Jake, did us proud (ish) by sharing a few thought on life, love and art by answering audience questions from a hat. The result, about as painful as his brothers stomach problems.