Tag Archive: John Swogger


Making it up as we go along!

Like it was made yesterday - Inside out art activity day at Oswestry Library. Soon to be a regular event?

Like it was made yesterday – Inside out art activity day at Oswestry Library. Soon to be a regular event?

Another great art activity day at Oswestry Library timed to coincide with Apple Day on the Bailey Head and the culmination of this year’s “Oswestry Makes” festival.

Well-supplied with almost twenty kilos of scrap fabric (courtesy of Inside Out’s favourite mystery artist) Sue Mann, Freja and myself set up two tables at the front of the library and spent four enjoyable hours creating. We had a steady stream of kids through the morning, making costumes with Freja, sewing apples with Sue, and making rag plaits with me. By the end of the afternoon we’d turned out waistcoats and wizard capes, two branches worth of fabric apples (now hanging up by the Poe-tree display) and ten metres of rag plait!

Outreach is an important part of what it means to be an artist. Locking oneself and ones creativity away can end up being a bit selfish. It’s important to recognise that if we want to be part of the community at large, we have to get out into that community sometimes. Galleries and open studios and exhibitions are all very well, but these venues can still be very intimidating and alien spaces to some people, despite the best intentions of artists. The “outside” part of Inside Out is about getting art (and artists) “out there” – getting art in shops, like our Mind, Body & Spirit exhibition; or outside shops, like Marja’s and Jim’s murals; or above shops – like Jas‘ sculptures; in places like pubs – like Geoff’s digital photo exhibition in The Griffin; or in the library – like our Art and the Word exhibition for National Libraries Day.

This was only our second time doing an activity day like this in the library, so we’re still learning – learning how to best set up and publicise the events, how to organise them and structure them, and what sort of materials and activities work best. I’m now putting a lot of this garnered wisdom together and will be liaising with Debbie at the Library to organise these activity days into a regular, possibly monthly event – and you’re all welcome to get involved! Of course, not all of us are cut out to be teachers, but in a group it’s easy to take part at your own pace and in your own way. And what’s great about having different artists get involved is that each brings their own, unique take to the activity.

So I’ll be posting more information about this new “Make and Do” project soon. In the meantime, anyone interested in getting involved should get in touch!

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Richard III and the art of history

"Pembrokeshire Lane", Audrey Johns (from "Postcards from the past" at the Pure Art Gallery, Milford Haven Marina (via walesonline.co.uk)

“Pembrokeshire Lane”, Audrey Johns (from “Postcards from the past” at the Pure Art Gallery, Milford Haven Marina (via walesonline.co.uk)

Inside Out’s National Libraries Day event at Oswestry Library was in the Shropshire Star again this week, mentioned in an article about John Swogger’s comic on Richard III. The comic also features in an article on the University of Leicester’s press pages talking about the various comic artists and writers who have been inspired by the discovery.

There’s an important point to be made about narrating history, here. It does seem to be the case that successfully presenting the past requires more than just text – that it needs a visual “hook” as well. If that’s the case, what does that say about art’s relationship with time, memory and landscape? Is there something unique about the way that art taps into the past? So many artists seem to want to consciously evoke or present their own connection to the past in their work. Is there something perhaps about the creative working process that captures something significant about time?

Our latest exhibition at The Hand is entitled Ceiriog: Past, present and future, and I’m hoping that the works that go up in the dining room will reflect this ability of art to capture the flow of history within a landscape. Certainly this sense of a place with a deeply-rooted past is one of the things that visitors find so attractive about the valley – and art very much seems to be one of the things that can unfold that story for people.

Mind, Body & Spirit – venue update

mandala_1We’re sorry to have to report that EnergyCreative yoga studios on Beatrice Street is having to close. Apparently they just weren’t able to make the business side work well enough to justify leasing the space.

This means that the Mind, Body & Spirit exhibition is now located in Rowanthorn Fair Trade Clothing and Gifts only. Because of the number of works submitted for the exhibition, I’ll be rotating them through over the course of the show. At present, the exhibition includes works by:

  • Diana Baur
  • Ann Spence
  • Joan Santana
  • Maddy Vale
  • Derek Kelly
  • John Swogger
  • Mandy Whitehouse
  • Sandra Tickle
  • Jacqui Dodds

Next month, they’ll be joined by works by Kate Callaghan-Evans, Jude Greaves, Tony Roberts and Ted Roberts.

Do stop into Rowanthorn in Chapel Court, Oswestry (just opposite Milano’s cafe) and have a look upstairs at the exhibition. It looks good, and will feature in the Oswestry Advertiser next week.

More Art & The Word at Oswestry Library

Making Oswestry Library a real local arts hub!

Making Oswestry Library a real local arts hub!

Our Art & the Word exhibition at Oswestry Library has moved – and expanded! We’re now occupying the area immediately above the computers between the DVD racks and the kids’ reading area – directly opposite the main desk.

The exhibition has both 2- and 3-D works by Aimee Henderson, Rob Baur, Diana Baur, Freja Evans and John Swogger. The exhibition of book- and word-related art will last all year, and works will be rotated in and out as people bring them to me. I’m hoping that later in the summer we’ll have an exhibition on some of the work from Underhill Farm and Holy Trinity School. I’m also hoping that we can do something book/word/Christmas related for December.

Debbie at the Library said that people have been extremely enthusiastic about the exhibition, and positive comments still come in about our event for National Libraries Day. The library are now actively encouraging anyone with any interest in doing art workshops, demonstrations, working days or activities in the library to come and talk to them. There is working space available for rent in the library building for one-day workshops, and they can always find space for demonstrations or working days.

I’m also now setting up a Word Art Roundtable for anyone who’s interested in taking part in a regular get-together at Oswestry Library to work on book-/word-/library- related art. Please email and/or comment on this post if this sounds like your thing. I’d like to start in May.

Getting ready for Underhill

Winding tower, Llanymynech Quarry (colour study) - John S., 2012

Winding tower, Llanymynech Quarry (colour study) – John S., 2012

Underhill Art and Craft Weekend

Underhill Farm, Pant nr. Llanymynech

May 4, 5, 6

Here’s another date for your diary: Inside Out is helping put on an art and craft weekend at Underhill Farm, by Llanymynech Rocks in Pant on the first bank holiday in May.

There will be an indoor and outdoor exhibition, and opportunities for artists to run demonstrations, activities and half-day courses over the weekend. The weekend should feel like a combination of our original “Inside Out” outdoor exhibitions in Llanarmon in 2008 and 2009, and the National Libraries Day event we did in Oswestry Library a fortnight ago.

There are about eight of us already on board, already working on projects based on or inspired by the farm and its surroundings. Gill Crozier has been painting in the quarry, John Swogger’s been drawing a lot of the industrial features in the quarry and planning some half-day heritage drawing courses, Wilf Thust is doing something exciting and mysterious involving tree branches, white paint and ultraviolet lights, Dorothy Harrison has been eyeing the large pile of clay at the farm and thinking about fired earth and landscape, Jude Greaves and Tony Roberts are going to hopefully do some stone carving and glass demonstrations over the weekend, and Steve Evison and his permaculture crew are going to be doing interesting things mixing together sustainability and art.

Over the next two months we’ll be posting more about what individual artists are doing, as well as posting more detail about how the weekend is shaping up.

If you’re interested in getting involved, then start talking to me as soon as possible! We’ll need to start fixing demonstration and exhibition space around the farm sooner rather than later. Come along to the notebook meeting on Wed., March 6th at The Willow Gallery at 2pm when we’ll be talking a bit about how the weekend is shaping up.

Ceiriog: The Seasons

"First Snow at Hendre Quarry" John Swogger, 2012. My entry into the "Ceiriog: The Seasons" exhibition at The Hand.

“First Snow at Hendre Quarry” John Swogger, 2012. My entry into the “Ceiriog: The Seasons” exhibition at The Hand.

Hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas! With New Year rapidly approaching, it’ll soon be time for us to switch around our Ceiriog exhibition in The Hand, Llanarmon D.C. This has been one of our most successful exhibitions at The Hand to date – we’ve sold three works so far, and have had double that number of enquiries. Martin and Gaynor have reported that lots of people are interested in the exhibition and the theme. As you know, we’re keeping the Ceiriog theme running throughout the year, but “tweaking” it slightly every three months.

For January, February and March, our theme will be: Ceiriog: The Seasons, and we’re inviting Inside Out artists to submit art about the Ceiriog valley through the year: summer, spring, autumn or winter. It could be scenery, it could be portraits, it could be paintings of seasonal events like the sheepdog trials or Christmas carollers – whatever reflects the Ceiriog through the seasons.

As not everyone can make it down to Llanarmon immediately in January, Diana and I will be switching things around throughout January. If you would like to submit work to the exhibition, please make arrangements with myself or Diana, or bring it along to our next meeting in January. Remember that space in the dining room is limited, and so we will have to offer exhibition slots strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.

Second Tattoo

Japanese-style peony – my second tattoo.

Just finished my second-ever tattoo at Fine Line in Oswestry. Still on artificial skin – can’t get working on real people until I go through all the health and safety checks, and fill out all the proper paperwork, etc. Still, having great fun getting to grips with this completely new medium. It’s not often I think we get the chance to immerse ourselves not only in a completely new medium, but in a completely new kind of art practice. It’s not just that tattooing is a different medium to painting or pen-and-ink – the whole business of it, the method and studio practice, and the relationship with ones audience/clients is completely different as well. Talking at the last notebook meeting, I think the closest it may come to is portraiture – a unique and intimate partnership between subject and artist.

Next week I won’t be tattooing, but will be back in school, as it were. I’ll be sitting in on a session, watching Rena tattoo – but instead of sitting there sketching, I’ll be taking notes on her technique, and she’ll be talking me through what she’s doing and why. Now that I understand something of the language of the different needles one uses, the different types of grey shading and the different colours of ink, I can begin to really appreciate the technique behind the art. I won’t be seeing the tattoo studio as a place to do life-drawing – but a place to learn something completely new. And it’s not just me who’s learning new things. Today I showed Stuart a few graphic tricks for aligning things like stars for a tattoo stencil. Some of my skills as an artist and an illustrator absolutely transfer over into the tattoo studio, opening up new design possibilities for them.

Anyway, to coin a phrase, I’m having a blast. Anyone interested in reading about today in more detail should hop over to my own blog. I know I forgot to bring my artificial skins to the last notebook meeting, but I promise I’ll bring them all next month for you to have a look at.

Painting for Rowanthorn

The Death of Tigranes - John Swogger, 2011

Paintings and prints for Rowanthorn beginning to collect. This is mine – not framed yet. There’s a little bit more about it on my own blog.

I’m working on getting some foundation students from North Shropshire College to show some work there. I’ll be hanging work sometime in the next few weeks.

If anyone else is interested in exhibiting in Rowanthorn, there are still some of the 50x50cm spaces left. Leave a comment if you’d like a slot.

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