Adam Reynolds Bursary winner Aaron McPeake gave a talk at the Shape Gallery in Westfield on his Spike Island residency on 3 July, as part of the launch of Shape’s Artist Network; a new, quarterly event for emerging and mid-career artists to get together, develop new collaborations and share ideas for professional development. Colin Hambrook reflects on the artists' practice.
McPeake gave an inspiring account of his travels. He showed us images of an open-casting bronze workshop in Burma that would have Health and Safety Officers running for the hills; young guys, with only flip-flops to protect their feet, pouring molten metal into clay moulds in the ground; being backed up with wet clay, even as the hot metal was flowing.
In exchange for seeing an ancient form of industry in action, he offered the Foundry safety goggles and help to remould a large monastory bell, which needed to be remade. The sound of bells and gongs figures large in McPeake’s work. There was an arresting quality to the sounds ringing frequently throughout his talk as he relayed powerpoint images.
The artist spoke about the privilege of receiving the Adam Reynolds Memorial bursary allowing space to work in; time to do the work and the luxury of not having to worry about earning money to survive. He reiterated that the bursary application, which is currently open for a residency at the Victoria & Albert Museum has a focus on ‘Inclusive Design’, but that potential applicants shouldn’t be put off as there is a lot of flexibility around this theme.
McPeake talked a fair bit about finding your voice as an artist. Much of the time artists struggle to fit the work they make to a flow of ideas, rather than making the ideas central to the work. McPeake’s practice spans bronze casting, moving image, photography and sound; a very eclectic range of media to tie together with an over-arching thread.
Much of Aaron’s work since his sight-loss in 2002 deals in shadows and traces of the world. The artist regularly uses the shadow as a simile to describe what he actually sees. As Aaron says: “There is evidence of a presence within the absence or darkness, but its exact nature is often ambiguous.” The over-riding theme running through Aaron’s work is an almost diary account of aspects of the artists life: the journeys he takes; memories from personal history.
Engaging with McPeake’s work takes you into those shadowy places, the sun being eclipsed; shadows running along pavements, the transitory flight of clouds.
The warmth of his personality came through his talk. He relayed a clarity to how his various excursions into making widely differing types of work using an eclectic range of processes, hang together in supporting his practice as a whole.