It’s three years since I last wrote a newsletter, so I guess this is well overdue, but I’ll just give the highlights of what I’ve been up to: –
The big news is that I am currently working towards a large solo exhibition creating a ‘digital survey’ of a ruined Silesian Nazi Mausoleum for the gallery newly built at the Attenborough Arts Centre of the University of Leicester. This new work will be a mix of painting and digital work, the most ambitious element of my project Considering Silesia, begun in 2003, but the show won’t be until 2019 at the earliest. Focussing on iPad stuff and work on paper until I can raise funds for more substantial materials, it’s looking good so far but I have big plans!
Indeed, I’ve now focussed almost exclusively on iPad work for over a year for all my work: it allows me to create even large scale work relatively quickly (no waiting for paint to dry) testing ideas, and – until printing – is cheap and without storage issues. I’ve had a number of top quality archival giclée test prints done at John E Wrights, with the expert guidance of Adrian Nicholls, and even entered my favourite iPad painting into the national John Moores Painting Prize competition – unusually, the rules don’t say “no digital” – so wish me luck!
As if Silesia
My before-going-to-Silesia field studies have been enormously assisted by a series of commissions from City Arts / Creative Quarter (funded by EU Regional Development Fund), First Art and Wash Arts (both funded by Arts Council England), Staffordshire University and Nottingham Castle. These field studies are a training programme of tests, experiments, and thinking for when I eventually go to Silesia – perhaps a bit like Turner in the Alps with an iPad? Begun originally in Heanor and Codnor, I am happy to be asked to go to other places, meet other people. A recent review of iPad landscape sketches at the Lace Market Gallery said: –
Mik Godley’s drawings of scenes glimpsed from buses in north Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are the dominating feature of the gallery.
Godley has become one of the best, and best known, exponents of drawing using iPhone and iPad apps in the region and this work ably demonstrates that his drawing talent is just as expressive on a screen as it is on paper or canvas.
Mark Patterson, Nottingham Post, January 28 2015
Last year’s interview with Kayt Hughes in Left Lion also gives a good overview: –
As well as East Midlands Visual Arts Network feature “Meet the Artist”: –
A City Arts commission for Light Night generated terrific public feedback, a feature on BBC East Midlands Today, interviews on both NottsTV and BBC Radio Nottingham and local press coverage. You can see the BBC feature on my YouTube channel here: –
East Midlands Today posted an “out-takes” video clip on FaceBook that had over 4,000 views in just two days, on top of the thousands of TV viewers on the night.
Now I’m working on new (second!) commissions for Wash Arts – “Unexamined Lives” a project to investigate 20th C heritage of Borrowash near Derby, where I’m under instructions to visit the local pub. I’ve just done a series of drawings documenting Mansfield’s Christmas Lights Switch-on ceremony, again for First Art, and City Arts have also asked me back to create a series of portraits of “older people in care” for the Imagine project and next years Light Night festival – which could be seen as training for a proposal I have to meet any remaining WW2 refugees of former eastern German states who settled in Chicago en masse in 1953, if I can raise the money.
Last year I finally began looking at the controversial subject of post war recriminations and expulsion in former eastern German states in a presentation at PRIMARY. “Document Sudetenland” was a test installation of iPad and smart-phone prints, paintings of dying German soldiers from a US Army documentary film and charcoal drawing on tracing paper over a ten metre long mirror – people could see themselves in the gaps – with beer and German sausages for the audience. Laurence Ismay kindly created a short “trailer” video of the show which you can see here: –
I was very pleased that my Silesian portrait painting was published as the cover for “Representations of Flight and Expulsion in East German Prose Works” by Bill Niven (Prof. School of Arts & Humanities, Nottingham Trent University) by Camden House in Rochester, New York USA. An academic book, so not cheap, but I’m hoping that it will be seen by people that I might work with in the future.
Also on the academic front “Anthropology & Aging Quarterly” published a portfolio of portraits that had featured in “Winter Fires – Art and agency in old age” by François Matarasso, published by The Baring Foundation. Editor Jason Danely (Rhode Island College, USA) said “Ever since I saw Godley’s portraits, they have been lingering in my mind. He does with portraiture what a good ethnographer does with writing.”
I still have my much loved “day-job” (I think students are hilarious – most of the time – and teaching is an important contribution to society, though pay in Further Education is pathetic) despite the education minister telling students not to study arts and a halving of Art & Design Foundation students since the banking crash. So I must thank the many people who wrote letters of support during the redundancy fight – I don’t know what I’d do without this job – sweep streets perhaps? Indeed I have been presented with a Long Service Award of 25 years at Chesterfield College, which is going towards a new iPad Pro.
Realising the potential of an ‘entry level’ smart-phone to draw with for a couple of years, I’ve invested in a much larger “phablet” – basically a pocket tablet that I can make calls on. The new phone has a 5.5 inch screen that has as many pixels as my 27 inch iMac, so I’m now testing what I can do with this – it’s promising so far.
With all the activity on commissions, I did manage a few exhibitions too. (detail) curated by Andrew Bracey went to Bangkok, London & Lincoln, a show of the Light Night drawings at City Arts, a small solo show at Leeds University (see link below) and the aforementioned drawing show at New College Nottingham’s Lace Market Gallery.
PRIMARY continues to grow despite the scarcity of arts funding, but as a founding member having completed the maximum possible of nine years on the board of trustees (actually twelve years from starting) I am stepping down to devote more time to my work.
It’s been fun to see the press reports on the Silesian Nazi Gold Train – a long running “myth” – in Albert Speer’s “Der Riese” tunnels that I have been investigating, below the bunkers I painted. That should help bring a bit of attention to the project – especially if the Polish Army excavations really do find it.
I created a showreel of some of my best iPad and phone drawings for the show at University of Leeds, School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies. You can see it on my YouTube channel here: –
P.S. The text link to YouTube shows at a higher resolution
The book is out – two copies arrived at the studio today – thanks Bill!
During Winter and Spring I worked with a group of Staffordshire University Fine Art students on a project to explore and document Hanley Park in Stoke on Trent through drawing. We had various drawing activities, both on site in the park, and within the Fine Art studios. The project was funded through the Staffordshire University Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Innovation Fund
We sat in silence on the bench just off our regular circuit, listening to the tennis players behind us, facing away so as not to make them self conscious. In a few minutes they built up a regular “womp” until one exclaimed “rally” in triumph – I got the impression these weren’t well practiced players.
Documenting the weekly changes brought by the emergence of Spring, I suggested one student try to record sound, so a second walk-through began by approaching the lake with its noisy geese and quieter ducks. This rare fine day had brought many more people to the park, and the cricket and tennis courts were pretty busy. The splashing of the fountains and waterfalls to the “crack” of cricket bats would make a great soundtrack to the many photos taken of repeated points along the way. Previously, other than the geese, surrounding traffic and the wind, the park had been quiet.
On the train to Stoke again, quite excited to be continuing this project despite it teaming with rain (again) at the moment. However, the forecast is good, and the clouds seem to be breaking. The first couple of Fridays on this project had been plagued by very bad weather, not fitting well with our timetable. But I can see blue skies up ahead – that looks promising.
Back in late Autumn a big old chap wandered over to us with his dog, telling us how the park was in his youth, a well kempt destination for social promenades, the centre of things with music and games, and boating on the lake. After a while the dog was impatient to be off, and we needed to get back to work, so he ambled along to tell his stories to another group of students sat on benches drawing the ornate bandstand. I suppose people have other entertainments these days, other priorities to spend time on, but then more recently seeing a bit of Spring’s good weather bring out the cricketers and dog walkers proved that there is still life in the park – in the very idea of a park, even if it has been sadly neglected and abused.
I’ve become quite fascinated by notions of ‘field studies’ and ‘documentary’ over the last few years, and its connection to my many years teaching observational life drawing. Perception and daily observation are at the core of visual arts, and though ideas tend to take precedence, looking and recording are how art education begins – even if the students don’t quite appreciate that yet, as they are often keen to run before they can walk.
And in these recent years of going out drawing, I’ve occasionally surprised myself by finding something genuinely new – something I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, something that has taken my own practice into exciting new directions. Well, exciting for me, at any rate – even if my fingers have nearly frozen off! Hanley Park in early Spring is a good spot for that.
Oh, and I can recommend the local chippy – very good.
Though, I’m told I should have tried the pies!
These drawings were created with an iPad2 and various drawing apps, and a Samsung Galaxy S3 mini mobile (cell) phone.
Copyright: Mik Godley 2013 – 2014
Thanks to Anna Francis and Sarah Key, Fine Art, Staffordshire University
There will be a free drawing workshop in Hanley Park on Friday 13th June 2014 – follow the link for information: –
While working on several small Google StreetView sketches that I’ve currently put to one side, I’ve been looking at a pair of A1 acrylic monochrome sketches of bushes in Hodmire Lane made over the winter, thinking about making some larger paintings, possibly towards creating a new suite of works all based on StreetView images of the same lane. To be honest I’d been a bit frustrated by concentrating on small scale work for too long and stretched up some large pieces of paper to play with – I was keen to let rip.
I revisited the road on StreetView, and it seems that Google have too – the previous photos of late autumn or winter are now full of lush vegetation. So over a couple of days or so I collected several iPad screen shots while thinking about how to tackle them. At the same time a friend questioned my plan (to start by chucking a load of watercolour around) and I began to question it myself – these new images were very complex and technically would be pretty demanding – I needed to both get to know these new images and think through the approach I’d have to make: just chucking the paint on there probably wouldn’t quite do it.
I did start drawing out the basic structure on the largest sheet (about five feet across) but the day-light deteriorated (it’s been very cloudy) so I spent a couple of days drawing simple monochromes on my phone with the StreetView images on my iPad on my lap – sadly my iMac died over a year ago and I haven’t yet raised the cash to replace it. I think these sketches are beginning to help me think through what I might do and get to know the source images a little better. Mobile phone drawings are small scale, but at least I don’t have to wait for layers of paint to dry!
I think I’ve made a start.
Over 10.2 metres long by 2 metres high, tracing paper covering mirrors, charcoal drawing on the tracing paper based on stills from a recently released Czech “home movie” hidden since 1945 of German civilians taken to a roadside, machine gunned then driven over by a military truck as part of the Expulsion of Germans after the war had ended. Beneath the tracing paper are eight acrylic paintings of dead or badly beaten SS soldiers filmed by an American Forces film crew documenting the immediate post-War Expulsion and returning German troops, the film published by the US Holocaust Museum. On top of the tracing paper are prints of iPad and mobile phone drawings produced on a recent visit to my parents, just outside of Hannover, Germany.
“Document Sudetenland” is a development of my project “Considering Silesia”, a story of “the artist” seeking his Anglo-German heritage in the context of our evolving relationship with new media – our digital “way of seeing” – focusing on “virtual” expeditionsto my mother’s homeland (a place I’ve never been to) and the very “analogue” response of painting.
In development since 2003 ‘Considering Silesia’ has been aided by an EU funded research degree at Nottingham Trent University and exhibited in:
“Counterpoint”, Platforma Festival, London; “The Bookmark Project”, Nottingham Contemporary; “Digital Canvas”, Autodesk Gallery, San Francisco;”Nazi UFO’s @ TotalKunst”, solo show for the Edinburgh Art Festival; “Penned” Artscape/Pinkard Gallery, Baltimore; “No Letters”, Nettie Horn Gallery, London; “in the echo of a shadow”, University of Leeds, with Henry Tietzsch-Tyler, for the conference “From Perpetrators to Victims? Constructions and Representations of German Wartime Suffering”; “When Men and Mountains Meet”, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb.
I was very pleased to get such positive responses to the installation both at the presentation, some verbally and a couple feeding back afterwards, and to the photos I posted on Facebook at the time (see below)
Considering Silesia – Document Sudetenland
Having seen Mik’s work over the last 15 years, including having a couple of works in my house, I am always intrigued by his new work and his thinking surrounding it. For the Old School Break Mik presented Document Sudetenland, a mixed media piece (including painting, drawings, digital prints and rolls of translucent tracing paper) that runs the whole length of a 10m mirrored backed wall. The large scale drawings at first appear abstract patterns, but on further viewing they clearly represent piles of dead bodies. Also part hidden by the tracing paper are paintings of dead and dying soldiers, that varies in their focus with the movement of the paper, which partly acts a shroud. Acting as a contrast to dead are the digital prints of portraits, landscapes and blossom covering the opaque paper… but do they or are they just the scene of the crime… having seen the video on Youtube suggests the latter.
Michael Forbes, 12.03.2014 (after attending the presentation)
Having seen much of the work involved in Mik’s Considering Silesia project over the years it was very interesting for me to see this latest development; ‘Document Sudetenland’ which formed part of the event ‘From a Dizzying Height’. The event involved an installation of work by Mik alongside work by Rebecca and Katy Beinart. There was a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and it was very interesting to see and hear about the connections between the artists’ work. The audience sat within the installation and shared a meal of food relating to the work while enjoying some very interesting conversations about how the themes relate to their own lives; this provided a rare occasion to openly discuss what can sometimes be difficult subjects. The event concluded with a joyful toast of vodka dedicated to an ancestor of our choice.
The installation of drawings and prints which Mik had created across a mirrored wall combined layers of images operating on varying scales which revealed their content differently depending on where the audience was situated within the space. The drawings on tracing paper over the mirror glowed with reflected light echoing the layers of watercolour paint used elsewhere in the installation. The open spaces between the lengths of tracing paper allowed the viewer to see glimpses of the watercolours of the dead soldiers more vividly; at the same time the viewer could also see glimpses of their own reflections in the mirrored wall as the drawings moved with the breeze. The artists’ talks during the evening event and the day time tour allowed me to learn about interesting periods of history from a personal perspective and helped me to consider the relationship between the genre of landscape and the issue of identity in a new way.
Sarah Jane Terry, 14.03.2014 (after attending the presentation)
Claire Swallow (via FaceBook):
Oh my god that is so horrible… but not so surprising which is why its so horrible I suppose. There are bits of WW11 that we don’t get to hear about so much in part because of what went on during WW11 but its important to have a full picture of the brutality that central/eastern Europe was immersed in both before during and after the war. If we want explanations or context or understanding we have be aware of the already brutalised psyches of that part of the word, not in apology of, but in the service of “never again”.Very powerful work Mik…
2 March at 16:22
Carol Ann Docherty (via FaceBook):
“I so wish I was well enough to see this. It looks and sounds so powerful. I love the layering, the time element, the historical aspect, the apparent innocence of place that can resonate with our senses, and; what seems as a personal aspect for you, or at least of your country of birth (?). The Holocaust was horrific. The murders of the German SS and civilians are equally horrific. When does hatred end and forgiveness begin? Did you manage to video it and the event?”
2 March at 19:11
Isis Wisdom (via FaceBook):
Ya, now I get the tracing paper and that really works as an installation, Mik! nice. powerful. gets at layers of history/memory and processes of encoding both, including the technology that aids in this. So was this a room full, all the way around? It needs to be…. ))
22 April at 13:27
Isis Wisdom – thank you!
A roomful would have been good, Isis, but this was a ‘test’ of the idea – and very useful in that respect. The piece covered a 2 x 10+ metre long mirror along one wall – the idea of being aware of yourself in those layers being part of it – the building had been used by a dance school before we got hold of it.
I was tempted to use Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” as a sound track for the opening event – in the end I served German beer and sausages (though had planned Silesian sausages!) as part of a meal – a bit more conducive for an opening party – I didn’t want to scare people too much
The work was meant to be more developed than it ended up, I had booked the space for a month, but day-job issues and the studio’s decision to renovate the ceramic floor during my month meant that I only got a couple of weeks.
Still, it was a worthwhile experiment, and if I get the time and space to have another go, I know more about how to take it, what changes to make – I didn’t get time to play around with the compositional aspects, although most of the research and thinking had been done over several months before starting.
The starting points were a couple of videos that I’d seen on YouTube – one quite well known created by a team of American GI’s in the chaos at the end of the war, documenting retreating German troops – the paintings behind the tracing paper are of SS troops attacked and left dead or dying by the roadside, posted by the US Holocaust Museum. The second film is a ‘home-movie’ only recently released – hidden from the Czech authorities (despite their asking for it) and released by the film-makers daughter, if memory serves.
When I get a bit of time I’ll write something up about the project and post it on my blog. In the mean time I’ll dig out the YouTube links so you can see for your self.
22 April at 15:03
“Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive– Liberated Czechoslovakia; wounded and dead Germans; POWs
22 April at 15:09
Ya, would be interested to see the video. Ah, you just posted it, will look a bit later. Yes, got the sense that the ptgs were German troops. Mirror is even better. You have an excellent installation here Mik for a medium sized gallery/project room. Get a grant, make it happen. Add the audio. It’s interesting to have to track through, and process through, the technical layers in the piece, and deal with them as “drawing”, “painting” and then with how they function moving seamlessly back and forth through them. Just do it! ))
22 April at 15:11
Here is the second – it has been posted a few times by different people, each somewhat changing the context: –
“czechs execute german civilians in jun. 1945 Ethnic cleansing by benes and his henchmen
czech brutality against german civilians, czech savagery towards germans beneš called in May 1945 in Prague to completely liquidate the Germans in the Czech …”
22 April at 15:13
I’m not keen on infringing copyright as far as the soundtrack is concerned – I made the soundtrack on the ‘trailer’ by layering free sound effects from Apple
Anyway Isis – I’m not sure that anyone would give a grant to work on this subject matter – it’s a teeny bit problematic – even if there were grants for artists any more
22 April at 15:19
Photo credits: Graham Lester George & Mik Godley Video: Laurence Ismay
For further information: –
I’ve also posted some more photos on Facebook: –