So, the King’s Lynn stop of the Cracktown tour has ended, and I’m catching up on all the little things that have piled up on my creaking and spluttering back burner for the past 6 months (that is, before the promotional campaign for the Cambridge show in April picks up). The first task I managed to complete, post-KL, is the Steven Pottle Podcast. Steven is a poet and artist that I was lucky enough to personally meet for a drink around 8 years ago, during the run of his solo gallery show 4Real in King’s Lynn Art Centre. I liked the cut of his gib back then, and his references to pop culture (and to the lost genius that is Richard Edwards) really interested me.
Even back then I felt that our paths would one day cross once again and, due to the magic of social networking sites, I hooked up with him before Christmas for a recorded session of tipsy discussion and poetry readings. It was great, and the results were uploaded here a couple of weeks ago. After the session itself, Steven kindly gave me a sheath of printed poems for my delectation. It was admittedly only until this February, when I managed to complete the editing of the podcast, that I pulled out that pile of poems and out fell a secret sketch present for me from Monsieur Pottle;
[Steven’s secret sketch]
Well, Steven, thank you so much – you truly are a man of gifts – and I hope to catch up with you again one day, hopefully at one of your poetry readings in London.
Saturday 28th Feb
Today I visited the Norwich Playhouse team to discuss curatorship issues for the final leg of my UK Cracktown v1.0 tour (a ‘save the date’ reminder; the show runs for the whole month of September 2009). They were extremely kind and supportive fellows, and I bumped into the legendary Jimmy Greaves on the stairs afterwards; partnering with Ian St. John, to me he was a memorable icon of ludicrous soccer commentary when I was a wee nipper (and, of course, a decent footballer before then). He looked younger in person than his tv appearances portray and, in his little tracksuit and befuddled musings on local parking facilities, he was a very sweet, endearing chap.
He was far too trusting, though. Greavsie’s team, setting up for the talk he was giving at the venue that night, left a motherload of rare soccer memorabilia unguarded in the foyer (signed shirt by Pelé, etc.) that I could have easily swiped at any moment. It’s just lucky for them that, over time, I have grown to dislike anything at all to do with soccer.
I felt quite melancholic after the meeting, for some ufathomable reason, but a brisk stroll around Norwich City in the icy-cold air soon perked me up before meeting with my SO for a meal at The Library restaurant. The Grade II listed building is stunning, the décor stately and gorgeously vibrant, and the food fantastic; heartily recommended – the mash with wild boar & apple sausages are really to die for. Officially my new evening haunt in Norwich (well, that and the rough and ready but entertaining Wine Press cellar bar on Guidhall Hill).
The fantastic Library restaurant. Norwich.
Leisurely making my way through the darkened streets of Norwich after the meal I felt safe and peaceful – no hint of trouble or aggro around the corner. Arriving back at the King’s Lynn Bus Station near midnight, and it was an entirely different, sadly predictable story. Hearing indecipherable shouts and human growls from afar, I approached the infamous Norfolk Street (for the uninitiated, think Dante’s Inferno with kebabs) to get a taxi home.
King’s Lynn’s immortal Norfolk Street [taken on a Saturday Night]
It was then that I caught sight of the rabid gentleman. Here was a fine specimen of a knuckle-dragger if ever I saw one, tearing his shirt off like a babboon, running about the street screaming and shouting unintelligible things, and generally squaring people up like a tit. He clocked me, and only narrowly missed grabbing my paunchy frame before I ducked into an eaterie for a quality pizza that I really didn’t want.
Waiting out the incident in my luridly coloured pizza parlour refuge whilst a police riot van screeched to a halt outside the takeway’s front window, pathetically peeping out of the door as several officers threw the dog into their cage, I felt cowardly, yes, but alive.
The quaint Norwich memories of dear Greavsie and those heavenly wild boar sausages were faint to say the least.
“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” [I always loved that deeply emotive and epic M*A*S*H grand finale]
Time to pack up and leave town, I reckon. I decided to conduct a last-minute experiment, leaving the Gimp Sandwich Board™ in the gallery cupboard throughout the final day to see if the absence of that free-standing street advertisment effected the footfall figures. It didn’t. Just as high an amount of visitors came in today as on previous days. Which was nice.
Gimp Sandwich Board™
Taking stock of the past two weeks I have been lucky to receive positive feedback for virtually all of the individual works of the show, particular praise given by gallery visitors to the following works, in order of the amount of comments I received;
1. Blinded By The Light [many people seemed to have a strong emotive connection to this work]
2. Synaesthesia [seems to be ever popular across all ages/demographics]
3. Concrete Soil [people liked the detail, layout of the shot, and contrasting brickwork & shadows]
4. Fertility Industriale [an apparently strong presence in the gallery, this garnered high praise and salacious comments/mild shock in fairly equal measure]
5. In View of Nothing [an unexpected curio to many people, with its pseudo-collage groove going on]
Tomorrow it all comes down from the walls and the Cracktown v1.0 Tour truck trundles out of town and onto its next destination; Cambridge (a ‘save the date’ reminder; ‘Cambridge Galleries’ from April 15th).
More news about that coming soon.
So, would I exhibit a solo gallery show in King’s Lynn again?
Well, possibly, though who’s to say what the future holds? I also like to keep on doing things I haven’t done before, so coming back to KL in the near future would already seem quite a repetitive idea to me – but who knows?
Once again, a big thank you to all who came along to the show and supported my concept.
The artist Andy Stringer came back into the gallery for an extremely interesting, and ultimately humbling, discussion and critique about my work in general, and the Cracktown v1.0 blog world in particular. Thank you Andy for the time and consideration you took in evaluating my work, and for your almost-stream-of-consciousness printed essay. The psycho-social/psycho-sexual evaluation of Cracktown v1.0 (and of myself?) was particularly interesting, as well as the beginning section of the essay that detailed an imaginary conversation between observing members of my audience (“and who the fuck is Chris Morris???” indeed!). I may well put the full essay up on here or http://www.barringtonarts.com/ soon, if Andy agrees.
For more information about Andy Stringer, see here.
I’m nearing the end of the King’s Lynn stage of the tour now, and I’m lucky enough that people are still visiting, and re-visiting, the Cracktown v1.0 gallery show in high numbers. Local children, some as young as 7 years old, have ventured in to point out which works of graffiti were actually created by them – leading me to believe that most of the graffiti in Lynn has indeed been spray-painted by virtual toddlers-with-attitude. In any case, the kids seem to be proud and boastful that their work has finally been framed and screwed onto the glaringly white walls of a gallery.
I am now constantly worried – to the point of paranoia; as it is school holidays during this final week of the show, I am highly concerned that a mischievous child with too much time on its hands will burst into the gallery, nick my insect syringes from the window display (which seem to transfix the eager eyes of passing juvenile gangs), and run off cackling into the wind with them. I am keeping an almost-constant eye on the situation, inbetween healthy slugs from my stock of Sainsbury’s Value Cider (£1.12 for two litres – bargain).
My god, today has been busy at the gallery. Not complaining. Saturday 14th Feb; the busiest day yet, and I haven’t talked to people as much in my entire life before this week. I’m now going home exhausted each night as a given. Its great people are interested in my work, though, with several gallery visitors staying past the 60 minute mark for in-depth conversations about my work, symbolism, influences, and technique.
I think my regularly poor diet of cakes and wine is catching up with me; my energy saps at the slightest exertion, not even physical exertion at that. Every monologue of jumbled words I utter to people in the gallery makes me that much more fatigued. Don’t think I can retire as an after-dinner speaker quite yet.
I think people have taken pity on myself, and my flagging energy levels in general, one visitor in particular brought in quality sandwiches and coffee for me, in exchange for a guided tour of the work. Well-received nourishment with almost zero sugar content (and no alcohol percentage either).
Talking of fatigue, I have noticed over these past two years that, as soon as I have completed a new photoshoot/filmshoot, I feel extremely tired immediately after the session, no matter how much sleep I may have had the night before. I instinctively want to crawl into bed as soon as I’ve created or ‘captured’ a new work, my eyes drooping before my head hits the pillow. I am not at all sure why this happens.
I did another photoshoot of work for my next major project yesterday, and am now looking over the .raw file results on my laptop in the gallery (thank you to Miss PRR for your stellar and brave modelling work, and to Rikki for logistically making it happen – and good luck to you both for Mid-March).
I personally think my post-Cracktown v1.0 work is the most strongest, boldest, and hopefully most strikingly iconic, work I’ve ever shot.
More on that at another time.
Another great piece about the show was put in the Lynn News today by Sarah Reedman, the press continually supporting the show. A great surprise. I honestly didn’t think everything would turn out like this, as well as it has. I really expected heated comments from local visitors about some of the imagery/subject matter, or wound-up people suspecting I was an outsider criticising King’s Lynn itself, from ‘my ivory tower’. But the opposite has happened;
This is the trailer for Phil Barrington’s Podcast #1 [Feb 2009].
Shortly before Christmas, Phil Barrington took over King’s Lynn’s Duke’s Head Hotel with the town’s own Steven Pottle, artist and poet extraordinaire. Together they embarked on hours of discussion, drinking, poetry readings and assorted tomfoolery. And Phil recorded the event.
The full Steven Pottle Meets Phil Barrington Podcast is now available for your listening pleasure, residing at the bottom of the Downloads page at http://www.barringtonarts.com/
p.s. There is a downloadable poetry reading session in the Downloads section of Barrington Arts website from Thursday 5th March to Monday 9th March, kindly performed by Steven himself, so please do keep visiting this blog site for info about all latest events.
So, mid-week through my invigilation of the first stint of my Cracktown gallery tour and I’m completely bowled over. The response from the public to my work has been unexpectedly astounding. I’m getting a fair few people coming through the door, all of which have gone on to view my entire collection throughout all three rooms of the gallery. Some fascinating contacts have been made, some really interesting feedback given, some drink being drunk. A small portion of wine and absinthe was left over from the opening night, so have decided to either offer it to visitors or drink it myself throughout the day (luckily only around half had been drunk by myself before visitors enjoyed the remaining stock).
Everyone’s been very pleasant. Local camera club members have come in, and left with documentation about myself and body of work for the rest of their organisation (though I, of course, am not a photographer myself). The snow has returned, unfortunately, and is falling quite heavily – the sandwich board up the street is still signposting people to the gallery effectively (for the time being), but it seems likely that the weather will eventually stop the waveringly adventurous amongst the throng from visiting the bright lights of Greyfriars Art Space for the remaining two opening hours of the day. Looking back over the records of footfall from previous shows, there seems to be an average of 8 people visiting per day. I’ve had 18 people turn up yesterday, and 19 thus far today. I’d like to say that this success was all down to my marketing & promotional plan, but it is most likely due to the effectiveness of the press coverage over the past 6 days. No matter; it is all good.
The poet and artist Steven Pottle popped into the gallery to share luminous green drinks and glasses of sauvignon blanc semillon with me today. Great to see him once again after our hilarious podcast session before Christmas (more about that coming soon), and he gave me a very kind Morrissey-shaped gift; always eagerly accepted, with sincere thanks. In summary; another great day at the gallery.
Sitting cross-legged for 60 minutes next to a well-dressed man, who’s wearing a gas-mask and black gloves, was not how I originally planned my first morning of the exhibition, but the EDP photographer wanted it, so…
Not many people ventured out to the show before the opening event at 6pm (I’d forgotten that I still had the closed sign up at the entrance until, ooh, 5.50pm), but I was still feeling fatigued by that time, nonetheless. There was still a quantity of Red Wine left in the gallery kitchen, so I polished off another six glasses by mid-afternoon. Felt queasy at that point (not nervous at all, oddly), and the bright lights of the gallery were prickling the nausea.
Best pull my ramshackle self together and get prepared…
Come kick-off time, however, I was still wrist deep in sushi and other colourful nibbles for the spread, and I hadn’t even performed my wardrobe change yet. From 6pm to 8pm (actually more like 9.20pm), a steady stream of curious fellows entered the gallery and the feedback from them all was, well, astounding. Everyone very positive, more so than people usually are at private viewings I’d suggest, so that was really fantastic.
As a surprise to the visitors, the Cracktown character of Florian came to life and helped entertain the visitors, walking round with trays of wine & absinthe in the aforementioned gas mask, gloves and tie to either relax people more, or put them on edge – I couldn’t make up my mind which. All I wanted from Florian’s character was humble elegance, and that’s what he gave; a humble elegance (sincere thanks to J).
Siobhan, my Significant Other, was a true life-saver organising the drinks and food throughout the whole hectic night (having cooked most of it just a couple of hours earlier) and, seriously, loads of people came along for the ride (much more than I anticipated or prepared for), all bouncing from one work to the next in a steady line. I expected around a dozen people to turn up on that cold winter night, truth be told, but an easy 80+ fine individuals ventured out of their warm homes to come and see my little show.
A fairly exhausting session of absinthe-enhanced artchat later and, after a brief sojourn to the Globe Hotel for late drinks with a few friends, I managed to heave myself home to gently snooze off the day, slumped in my sofa like a common, besuited drunkard (in the process leaving my oven on most of the night to cremate a tray of chips – plumes of smoke billowing into the living room – not wise).
Oh, and I sold two works on the night – one high-profile work (‘Synaesthesia’), and the end-of-gallery vertical triptych (‘Restroom Trilogy’). That was astounding. As Bacon said, “I never thought I’d sell”.
For my first solo show preview night I don’t think it could have gone any better at all. Manic most times, yes, and the gallery too bustling to be able to speak to everyone for any length of time, but a fantastic start to the tour nonetheless.
My heartfelt thanks to you all for the kind support and time you gave up for me and my bleak wares on that cold, dark and miserable Monday evening.
I’ll hopefully see you again real soon.
p.s. if you’d like to visit the gallery again, for a closer/quieter inspection of the work, the Cracktown v1.0 Tour 2009 will remain at Greyfriars Art Space until close of play Saturday 21st February, Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5.30pm, before the tour moves on to Cambridge in April (more details to follow shortly).
Things are now gearing up and into shape. A day before the show starts, and almost all i’s are dotted (the t’s crossed yesterday).
All print-outs of project documentation for visitors have been printed/bound, the gallery sandwich board designed and created, the exhibition gift sky-blue usb sticks have arrived, the secret website page created, the main http://www.barringtonarts.com/ site now officially open and updated. Still time for sleep, maybe, but first; the matter of actually hanging the work. Fortunately, my long-time art companion and old friend Jon has much experience in this field – an actual ‘physical’ artist (who makes his own frames and hangs local shows), not a poncey sprightly-stepped conceptualist like me. Together with another old friend, who I will call ‘Shaun’ (for that is his name), we set upon the gallery and hung the work in a matter of hours, together with a last minute sculpture of ‘found items’ (with those thumb-sized cricket corpses barging their way onto the plinth) and the window display completed.
Stuffing dead insects into syringes garnered a few curious looks from passing folk, but the whole setup went swimmingly – even though the whole street right outside the window was overtaken by an Air Cadet marching show for a portion of the show – an over-zealous pc telling us in no uncertain terms that the car carrying my exhibition materials MUST vanish (i.e. “fuck off, the cadets are here”).
The artist who had the gallery space before me kindly left a fairly full box of red wine for us, and that really helped grease my wheels for the rest of the morning/early afternoon.
All setting up now done and dusted, I retire homeward for several hours of heavy slumber before getting up at 3.30am to finish uploading the items to those Cracktown USB sticks.
Its 9.20am, ten minutes before the opening morning of my exhibition, and I’m finding myself racing round town to buy some doughnuts as a well-wishing gift for the nearby legal firm, whose building will sit next to my gimp-adorned Cracktown v1.0 Sandwich Board for the next two weeks.