Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Rusty Nail Art

There are several themes or motifs that run through much of my artwork, so I thought that I'd choose one of them, that of the rusty nail, and share with you a few of the pieces that utilise it.


Nail Heart (2011), Nailless heart (2012) & Mutant Nail Heart (2012) by British artist, Wayne Chisnall


As I mentioned in my recent Instagram video, my first piece to incorporate an element of rusty nails was a sculpture (one of a series of four tower pieces that I made in 1999) called 'The City'. The City was more architectural than its three sister pieces, and mostly made up of small cabinets and boxes constructed from and containing found materials. In this case the nails only adorned an isolated area of the sculpture. With later pieces, the rusty nails took on more of a starring role. 


Still from a stop-motion film by film makers, The Brothers Quay, alongside 'The City' (1999) sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall


I spent four years collecting the rusty nails (there's also rusty screws and other metal objects in there, but it's mostly nails) that went into creating my most prominently nail encrusted sculpture, 'Nail Box'. Rather than just buy nails and rust then myself, I decided to only use nails that I found (or which people found for me) either here in the UK or from my travels around the World. Some of the nails were gathered from historical sites - including one that I found high up inside the dome of Saint Paul's Cathedral, London, when I was working there on an art handling job. 


'Nail Box' (2007), sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall


Aside from the rusty nails and antique metal casters, the box structure for 'Nail Box' is made of a plywood core, clad in old wooden backing boards from paintings from the Victoria and Albert museum, in London. The sculpture was created during the 15 years that I worked at the V&A, and I'm pleased to say that I still have a massive hoard of interesting found materials, mostly salvaged from the museum's skip.


Three views of 'Frankenstein's Orifice Box' (2011), by artist, Wayne Chisnall


The latest artwork that I've worked on, which utilises the rusty screws and nails, is a collaborative piece between myself and the artist, Sharon Griffin, as part of our ongoing 'Unlockdown' project. For this work however, the nails are inserted into fired clay, and not into wood, the structural material that I usually employ when working with nails.


'Nail Head' (work-in-process from 2020) sculpture by artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin


As I briefly mention in the video, my initial inspiration for the use of rusty nails, screws, and other found objects in my work (and also to create 'The City' itself) was triggered by my love of the stop-motion animated films of people like The Brothers Quay and Jan Svankmajer. However, when I moved to London back in 1999, in was living just round the corner from what is one of my favourite museums - the Horniman. And it was here that I discovered another form of nail-pierced object; the nikisi. Minkisi (the most commonly used plural for 'nikisi', from what I gather), predominantly stem from the Kongo region, and are usually carved wooden totemic figures, believed to be inhabited by spirits. The word, nikisi, can also refer to the spirit itself. Many minkisi are covered in nails, but this addition isn't decorative. These wooden carvings are not considered artworks. They are intended as spiritual working objects and the hammering of nails into them is a way of activating their power.


A 'nikisi' from the collection of the Horniman Museum, South London


For me, the power or energy (albeit probably imagined) of my nail sculptures comes not from their inner contents but from the collective resonance of each individual nail's personal history - built up, over time, through their interactions with the elements and things around them. 

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Ink Drawings - Nudes

In an earlier post I mentioned how it had recently go into doing ink wash drawings, using a traditional Chinese calligraphy brush and an old dip pen made from bamboo. I chose to do them on quite small (A5-size) sheets of watercolour paper. This meant that, due to the thickness of the brush and the nib of the dip pen, I wasn't able to be overly detailed with the drawings or spend too much time on them. 

Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall


One of the curious things that I discovered about working on sets of relatively quickly executed drawings is that I was less precious about them during the creation process - dismissing each one as nothing special, as soon it was finished, and then immediately starting on the next one. 


Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

However, upon returning to them a day or so later, I found that some of them had qualities that I had not initially noticed. There were details here and there that interested me; details or marks that I probably would not have consciously made if I was drawing in a more aware or deliberate manner. I suppose muscle memory plays a large part in painting and drawing.

Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

A lot of the recent ink wash drawings that I've been making are based upon some of the hundreds of photographs that I took of skulls from the Catacombs of Paris, when I visited there a few years ago. I'm sure that I'll post a few photos of them in upcoming blog posts but for now here are some of the drawings that I've done of nudes. As you can see, some of them have more of a cartoonish element to them than others.


Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

As I've been doing a lot of these ink wash drawings lately, rather than inundate this blog with too many images of them, maybe I'll return to posting on my Oodles of Doodles blog - the one I set up (whilst drunk - hence the choice of domain name) some years ago, specifically for displaying my drawings and rough sketches. 

3 Nudes, 2020, ink wash drawings, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Monday, 18 January 2021

Rediscovered Uni. Screen Print Giveaways

One of the things that I love about the infuriating situation of not being able to find what you're looking for is that you often end up finding something different - something that you'd forgotten all about. So the other day, when I was searching through my art store (formerly the small bedroom), trying in vain to find some original comic book artwork that I'd bought, I was surprised to find this set of small hand-pulled screen prints. 



As you can see in this little video I shot, they are based upon some sketches of working drawings for a sculpture that I was working on, and are something that I made as free giveaways at my end of my degree show, as an art student in 1999. I do remember making a big stack of them - most of which disappeared during the opening night of the show. I also remember chatting to a guy that night (which is pretty amazing considering how long ago that was, and how incredibly drunk I got that night) about how he'd picked up something similar that Tracey Eminn had done for the show at the end of her degree show. Rather than taking just one of these prints I made, he asked if he could take one of each. I wonder if he's still got them. If so, his and mine are probably the only complete sets out there.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

'Magnet' Off To 'The Black Gold Museum', Riyadh

Pretty soon 'Magnet', my toy tower sculpture, will be leaving my studio and heading off to its new home at The Black Gold Museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (due to open in 2022), where it will enter the museum's permanent collection.


Interior of the Black Gold Museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (due to open in 2022)

It'll be odd not having Magnet around anymore as it's one of the earliest sculptures I made (way back in 1999) and has been a colourful presence around the place for over two decades - especially since most of my later sculptures tend to lean towards the brown end of the colour spectrum. Two compensate for its absence I think that maybe the next piece in my giant face mask wall sculptures series will be made using plastic toys.

 

Toy tower sculpture, 'Magnet', 1999, by artist Wayne Chisnall

'Magnet' is part of a series of four wheeled tower sculptures (the others being The City, Book Tower and Fetish); each relating to a different aspect of our relationship with material possessions, and how our psychological attachment to large quantities of physical objects limit our freedom and mobility.  


Exterior of the Black Gold Museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (due to open in 2022)

Originally titled 'Toy Tower', it was renamed 'Magnet' after its first showing when it became evident that its powers of attraction seemed to work on children and adults in equal measure. On the first day of Magnet’s first exhibition the person invigilating told me that he had looked over to where my sculpture should have been, only to find that it had disappeared. Apparently four little boys had managed to sneak the piece out into the street before being chased off by the invigilator, who wheeled the sculpture back into the gallery.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

'Paris Catacombs' Skull Drawing

This ink wash sketch of a skull is based upon one of the hundreds of photographs that I took of the skulls in the Catacombs below the streets of Paris, when I visited the city a few years ago with my patient travelling companion, the art journalist and art magazine editor, Holly Howe (when we were houseboat and cat-sitting for the talented artist, Kate MccGuire). I say patient because, after an hour or so of us wondering around the catacombs, Holly, knowing how fascinated I am by skulls, said 'I'm gonna pop back put to street level, but you take as long as you want down here - I'll see you when you're finished'. Needless to say, she didn't see me again for another three hours.



But, considering that there are estimated to be the remains of 6-7 million bodies down there, I don't think that you can blame me for taking so long - I had a lot of respects to pay.

 

From what I gather, in 1786, the city (because of the overflowing nature of its cemeteries) condemned all existing parish cemeteries within the city limits and started emptying them. All the bones were then transported (mostly at night, in covered wagons, so as not to provoke protests from the general population) and staked, 5 stories underground, in Paris' ancient stone quarries.


Thursday, 31 December 2020

Goodbye David Medalla (1942-2020)

 As if 2020 hadn't already been full of enough turmoil, I was saddened to hear of the death of my friend, the artist, David Medalla, who died in Manila on Monday. He was a joyous and mischievous soul, whose stories about his colourful life will stay with me always.

 

Artists, David Medalla & Wayne Chisnall, at London Biennale event 2004

My favourite, of the many stories that he told me, was of how Imelda Marcos once ordered his execution after he caused a scene at a political event in the Philippines - when he spat in the face of Ronald Regan (the then Governor of California - before he became President of the US) as a protest at something Regan had done. That's the short story - the full story involves David amusingly, and narrowly, avoiding his would be, machine gun-firing, executioners. Fortunately he survived that one and went on to have many more colourful adventures.


Artists, David Medalla & Adam Nankervis, at London Biennale event, Crystal palace, London 2004

David's oeuvre is broad but he is probably best known for his 'Cloud Canyon' pieces - sculptures dating from the 1960s; works that he labelled 'auto-creative-art'.

 

David Medalla, being interviewed with of one of his 'Cloud Canyon' sculptures, London 2005

David's death prompted me to look through some of the photos that I'd taken of him, and of the rest of the art collective (a group called the London Biennale, and set up by David and his friend, the artist/curator, Adam Nankervis) that I was part of. These photos from 2004-2005, when I was more active in the group, definitely helped me to smile at this sad time.


Artist, David Medalla (1942-2020), at a London Biennale event, 2004


 

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Accidental Inktober & November Releases

I seem to have accidentally stumbled into Inktober - the relatively new tradition in which artists set themselves the challenge of producing an ink drawing a day for the whole month of October. Though strictly speaking I'm not doing this. For one, I didn't start making my ink drawings till passed the mid-way point of October, and secondly, I'm not making one drawing a day. So far I've only spent two and a half evenings working on them but in that time I have managed to produce over 30 drawings.


Selection of A5-size ink drawings on paper, 2020, by Wayne Chisnall, for Unlockdown project


It's been so long since I properly worked in ink (if I ever did at all) and I must confess that working on these drawings has been loads of fun and, for me, a mini voyage of discovery. I've final got to try out a couple of drawing implements that I've had sat in a drawer for years - never used. One of them is a calligraphy brush that a friend bright me back from China and the other is a bamboo ink pen (even the nib is make if bamboo) which turned out to be a joy to draw with.


A5-size ink drawing on paper, 2020, by Wayne Chisnall, for Unlockdown project


To backtrack slightly, a few days ago I started on a series of A5-sized ink wash drawings. The series is tied into the Unlockdown project - an art collaboration between myself and the artist, Sharon Griffin. As I may have previously mentioned, Sharon and I were planning a Kickstarter campaign for January 2021. The aim of the campaign was to fund the production of, and the touring of the sculptural work that we will be creating for Unlockdown.

 

Porcelain busts, 2020, by Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall, for Unlockdown project


As such, we thought that we're going to need to offer some juicy rewards for the campaign. Our thoughts on this, so far, include a raffle to win a roughly 17 inch tall ceramic sculpture, ceramic badges, tote bags, possibly a book, a some lovely 4 inch tall porcelain busts/figures. And this is where the ink drawings come in - all of these original ink drawings are based upon the small series of porcelain figures that we've produced so far.

 

A5-size ink drawing on paper, 2020, by Wayne Chisnall, for Unlockdown project


We initially intended for the crowd funding campaign to start in January and for the money raised from it to be put towards the first major leg of Unlockdown's tour - a somewhat costly but prestigious London event, for which Sharon and I have been selected to exhibit. However, we have just this minute discovered that the event has now been postponed, due to the current pandemic situation, and put back till 2022.

 

A5-size ink drawing on paper, 2020, by Wayne Chisnall, for Unlockdown project


Regardless of this, Sharon and I had already been considering having a test run, ahead of the crowd funding campaign, and releasing a limited number of ink drawings and porcelain figures at regular intervals throughout November 2020. So I don't see why this cannot still go ahead. If you'd like to be kept in the loop over the release dates, and with Unlockdown news in general, please feel free to go to our website (Unlockdown.co.uk), where you can also sign up for our newsletter.

Monday, 5 October 2020

'Unlockdown' Website Now Live

As mentioned in previous blog post, I'm now involved with an artist, Sharon Griffin, in an art collaboration project called Unlockdown. Sharon and I (well, Sharon actually) have set up a website and an Instagram page for the project.

 


It's still early days in the project, as we only started on it a few months ago, but there are already quite a few photos available on both sites, as well as information on what we've been up to so far. Both sites will be updated regularly, and if you check in on either of them, you'll be able to see how the project progresses, and evolves.

 

Artist, Sharon Griffin, viewing the first sculptural piece from the 'Unlockdown' art project.

Sharon is currently managing both sites, so they are very much in her voice for now. One of the great things about collaborating is having that other voice to bounce ideas off. When we're throwing suggestions back and forth, they subtly alter on each rebound (knocking the rough edges off), until we have something that we're both happy with - and resulting in an idea of which neither of us is quite sure who came up with.


Work-in-progress, clay, 2020, 'Unlockdown' art project/collaboration

In the next few days there will be an excited announcement or two about a key development in Unlockdown. Unfortunately our hands are tied right now, and we're having to keep everything secret squirrel. But, as they say, 'watch this space' (or the website, or the Instagram page).

 

www.unlockdown.co.uk

www.instagram.com/un.lockdown


Sunday, 4 October 2020

'Your Art Matters' Talk For 'United Artspace'

I'd like to thank Michelle Lloyd, the founder of United ArtSpace, for inviting Sharon Griffin and myself to chat about our art collaboration, Unlockdown, and about our lives as artists in general. 



The talk was streamed live as part of Unites ArtSpace's 'Your Art Matters' programme, and it was great be able to interact with some of the platform's thousands of artist members, and answer questions in real time. I can't guarantee that any of my responses were particularly enlightening or that helpful but I did find the whole experience to be a lot of fun.


Monday, 14 September 2020

Two Small Paintings

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I find it creatively refreshing to flit between different artistic mediums every so often. So whilst I was waiting for the resin to dry on the latest sculpture that I'm working on, I thought I'd have a break and do a couple of small oil paintings.

 

'Bow Tie Man Crying', 2020, small oil painting by Wayne Chisnall

As you can see, they're quite different. The first one is more of a quick, cartoonish oil sketch, that I did to get myself back into the flow of painting again.


The second one, which I've titled 'The Monster' is painted over an earlier painting - one that had turned out unsuccessful because, at the time, I'd probably been too tired or lacked enough enthusiasm to put any real effort into it. I call it 'The Monster' because I've recently re-read Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', and whilst painting it I was trying to envisage a version of the monster that didn't resemble the iconic one that Boris Karloff played in James Whale's 1931 classic horror movie, 'Frankenstein'.

 

'The Monster', 2020, small oil painting by Wayne Chisnall


On the whole I don't have a favourite colour, but when it comes to oil painting, I do love a bit of red.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

'Unlockdown' at University Centre, Telford

The first piece from the 'Unlockdown' art collaboration project between myself and ceramics artist, Sharon Griffin, is now on display at the UniversityCentre, on the 3rd floor of Telford Town Centre's Southwater One building. 

 

Sculpture from 'Unlockdown' art collaboration, exhibited at University Centre, Telford

Sharon and I plan to create a body of work that we can exhibit/tour around the country. We've already had our sculptural work accepted for a prestigious exhibition that will be taking place next year - details of which we should be able to reveal next month.


Sharon Griffin with sculpture from 'Unlockdown' art collaboration

As Sharon and myself are both Shropshire-born artists, who use a lot of locally sourced materials in our work, we thought that we'd have our series of Unlockdown exhibitions kick off in Shropshire. The University Centre is the first venue but we're already looking at other spaces in the area in which to exhibit.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Small Paintings Update

Back in mid-January of this year I came up with the idea of setting myself the ridiculously ambitious challenge of trying to paint 1000 small oil paintings in a year. My initial thoughts behind the project were that I'd knock out a load of quick oil sketches as a way or generating a few new ideas and trying out different painting techniques. Although the majority of the paintings didn't turn out to be quite as quick or sketchy as I'd initially intended, I was, for the first few weeks, still on schedule for my target.

 

'Hollow Dog Warrior', oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

However, I soon realised how all-consuming a twelve month painting challenge of this scale would be, and that putting that amount of pressure on myself would take a lot of the fun out of painting. Also, it wouldn't allow me any free time for working on my sculptural projects - and I've always found that taking a break from one medium and switching to another for a while keeps me motivated and helps generate new ideas.

 

'Meaty Hair', oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall


Around a hundred paintings into the challenge I switched over to sculpture, with the intention of switching back after a month or two. However, it was around this time that I was invited by the ceramics artist, Sharon Griffin, to collaborate with her on a sculpture project (which we have named Unlockdown). And it is this project that has taken up most of my free time over the last few months - so much so that I've just realised that I only got round to posting photos from the first half of the hundred paintings that I produced. So here are a few more from the second half of the, as yet to be continued, series - and I'll try and remember to post more photos over the coming weeks.

 

'Schrodinger's Match', oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

Apart from two or three, all of the paintings in this 2020 series are painted directly to the painting's surface with brush and oil paint, rather than being penciled in beforehand. I really like the immediacy of this approach. You can often end up with a piece that has a vibrancy that you might not have got if you were being more considered and calculated.


'Wide Mouthed Hollow Dog', oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

The mini oil paintings/oil sketches that I've produced so far are mostly painted on small, wall mountable, plywood or chipboard plaques (recycled form pieces of  Victoria and Albert Museum packing crates), or on old book covers and recycled pieces of primed mount board (recycled from the V&A museum's Paper Conservation Department and from their Picture Framing Dept.).

 

'Clown Nipple', oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

I've already sold some of the pieces from this new series. Apart from works in my Taster Menu series I don't usually sell original artwork for less than £500 but as some of these pieces are very small and quickly executed I've put up a few for as low as £200. For info on the prices and dimensions of any of the mini oil paintings I'm currently posting about please feel free to get in contact (waynechisnall@yahoo.co.uk). Some of my collectors prefer to pay in monthly instalments, so that's always an option if you're interested. To see all of the paintings in the project, as I paint them, check out my Instagram page.

 

'Hollow Dog Carcass', oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall


I'm also taking part in the Artist Support Pledge on Instagram (where any of my posts that have #artistsupportpledge in the text will be offering artwork for £200 or under). The initiative was set up by the artist, Matthew Burrows, and now has hundreds, if not thousands of artists taking part. Check out the pledge as there are some great artists involved (and surprisingly, some reasonably well known up-and-coming names in the artist world) - all offering prints and original artwork for £200 and under. So now is the time to pick up some art bargains.

 

Here's what Matthew has to say about the initiative:

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists have found themselves without work, teaching, technical support and gallery work. Exhibitions and sales have disappeared. In an attempt to help alleviate some of this stress I have instigated the ARTIST SUPPORT PLEDGE #artistsupportpledge The concept is a simple one. Artists post images of their work, on Instigram which they are willing to sell for no more than £200 each (not including shipping). Anyone can buy the work. Every time an artist reaches £1000 of sales, they pledge to spend £200 on another artist/s work.

To make a pledge, post your work with the #artistsupportpledge and follow the # to see everyone else's work. Keep updated on new opportunities and announcements @artistsupportpledge Repost and tell your friends, colleagues and collectors. Let generosity be infectious."


Sunday, 9 August 2020

'Meet Your Maker' - BBC Shropshire Radio Interview

Last week (3rd Aug. 2020) I had the pleasure of being interviewed by DJ, Jim Hawkins, for the 'Meet Your maker' feature, on his BBC Shropshire Radio mid-morning show. I will admit that I was initially a little apprehensive about chatting live on radio, but Jim's engaging interview style made it a relaxing and fun experience. 

'Meet Your Maker' is a regular feature on the show where Jim interviews artists and makers who are based in Shropshire, and asks them about their practice. To hear the actual interview you can click here and scroll along to the 2 hour, 8 minutes, 30 second mark (2:08:30).


Czech animator, Jan Svankmajer
Czech artist, film-maker and stop-frame animator, Jan Svankmajer


The interview lasted about 20 minutes and in it we talked about lots of things - including my relocation from London back to Shropshire, some of my influences (one of them being the Czech animator, Jan Švankmajer), the changes to London's creative scenes, my switching from being primarily a painter and printmaker, to a sculptor, and the life-size sculpture ('And When I'm a Man, I'll Think As a Man') of myself as a giant Airfix-style model kit


Life-size model kit sculpture, 'And When I'm a Man, I'll Think As a Man', and artist (for scale), Wayne Chisnall


We also discussed my unlikely, and brief, foray into script writing, when I wrote a script (via a Sony scriptwriting competition) with the American actor, John Malkovich - which was turned into the animated short film, 'Snow Angel'

 


I also took the opportunity to mention my current collaboration project with local artist, Sharon Griffin - although I forgot to mention the name of our project, which is 'Unlokdown'. Sharon and I have just created an Instagram page for the project - although, at the moment there isn't much on it, but I assure you that we'll add to it as the work grows. 

 

Artist, Wayne Chisnall, in his Shropshire workshop, working on a piece from the 'Unlockdown' collaboration

 

One of my artworks that Jim brought up on the show was a piece called 'Evil Masked Zombie Pebble' which was one of the wall-mountable wooden plaques (actually there are a few versions, but in different colours) that I created for a pop-up event at the A Plus A Gallery, that was on during the 2015 Venice Biennale. The event was one of artist flea markets attached to American artist, Rob Pruitt - although, in typical style, I forgot Rob Pruitt's name when I was chatting on Jim's show. 


'Evil Masked Zombie Pebble (red)', acrylic on plywood wall plaque, created for 2015 Venice Biennale event by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Thursday, 30 July 2020

From Leaving London To Lockdown Collaboration

Below is the newly published article that I wrote for Artquest.

To deliberately misquote Groove Armada, “Goodbye Nightclub, Hello Country”. Back in my 30s, I thought London and I would be married for life. But then as the years progressed, our relationship became more strained, and suddenly we began talking about our D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

 

Four years ago, I finally made the tough decision to leave the capital and after a 17-year stint living in London, I relocated my studio practice back to my home county of Shropshire. As much as I still love London, and try to get back at least once a month to see friends and get my culture fix (although obviously the pandemic has put pay to that for now), a sufficient number of small factors had mounted up to the extent that I clearly had to re-evaluate my situation. One of the reasons was that after 15 years of working as a technician at the Victoria  & Albert Museum (it's amazing how many artists and musicians work as museum technicians), a substantial amount of my colleagues had moved on, so sadly the atmosphere of a fun working environment had changed. However, as is probably the main gripe of most current London-based artists, I found that the glut of affordable art studios had long since disappeared, and this was my main reason for relocating.


'Orifice Tower' by British artist, Wayne Chisnall

When I first moved to London's East End there were plenty of large, cheap, although definitely not luxurious, spaces for artists to take over. I spent many eventful years living and making art in old shops and warehouses (which brings me to my big tip for any artist wanting to make work while still getting a decent night's sleep – never share a warehouse with three unemployed DJs). But that was a long time ago. Now, with the gentrification of the East End, an ever increasing number of hipsters moving into the area (willing to pay exorbitant rents), and developers knocking down artists' studio spaces and putting up high-end apartment blocks in their place, any studio spaces that artists are now able to find tend to be either too small, extortionately priced, and/or not fit for purpose.

 

When I left Shropshire in the mid-nineties I didn't think that I'd ever move back, but surprisingly it's worked out well for my art practice. I now live alone (for the first time in my life – and I'm loving the freedom it affords me) in a very ordinary-looking house in a small semi-rural town. I use the house itself as a live/work space with bedrooms converted into studios and the garage, conservatories, and sheds serve as workshops and storage areas. And having a garden allows me the luxury of space to work on messier or larger scale sculptures whenever I need to. Also, living in the Midlands, with a nearby train station, affords me reasonable access to pretty much anywhere in the country. Being a sculptor whose main medium is found materials, I'm a bit of a hoarder (anyone who knows me would laugh at the term 'a bit of'), so when I first moved back to Shropshire I turned to Ebay as a way of reducing my 'hoard'. It turned out that this, coupled with a few hours a week working as a carer for a disabled friend, proved enough to pay the bills and allowed me a lot more time to concentrate on making art than when I'd been living in London.

 

As the practice of being an artist involves long periods of solitary work, I have found, as I'm sure many other artists have, that lockdown hasn't affected my daily routine that greatly. While it would be lovely to still occasionally meet up with friends in person and have greater travel freedom, I've now embraced the benefits of online social interaction in a way that I probably wouldn't have if the coronavirus hadn't struck. Before the pandemic I'd never even heard of Zoom. Now I use it to chat with other artists and friends, join online social gatherings, and have even been interviewed by the head of a college art and design so that his students can start a project based upon my work.

 

Now through a mixture of online social interaction and carefully maintained social distancing, I am engaged in an exciting new art collaboration project called 'Unlockdown'. This started around month or two ago when I was approached by the talented and prolific artist, Sharon Griffin (@sharongriffinart on Instagram), about us collaborating on a sculptural project together. After hearing her proposal I immediately said yes. Before we physically started on the project we had one of those lovely, several hours-long, joyfully meandering conversations about creativity and the themes that influence our work – themes such as identity, memory, growth, containment, the resonance of found materials, the self... all the usual good stuff. Even though the project is still in its infancy, some of the elements of our initial conversation have already bled into what we have produced so far.

 

'Unlockdown' (piece No. 1), art collaboration between artists, Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall

Although not exactly an ‘exquisite corpse’ in its truest form, 'Unlockdown' does share some of the same elements. What we have undertaken is to produce a series of experimental sculptures whereby Sharon kicks off the creation of each new sculpture by giving me a clay bust of a relatively androgynous-looking figure, taken from a plaster cast mould that she made from her original sculpture. I then alter the bust in some way, before returning it to Sharon. She then performs her alchemy by applying some of her glazes (created from her own recipes, using locally sourced geological ingredients – apparently the variety of geological conditions in Shropshire are unmatched within the British Isles or, within such a relatively small area, probably anywhere else in the world), and fires the piece. Following that, she hands the piece back to me for next stage, in which I integrate it with other manipulated materials.

 

I will say that at each stage of the handover, we are observing the correct and responsible levels of social distancing that these COVID-19 times demand.

 

Even though the starting point for each piece in the collaboration, i.e. a clay bust, is close to identical, every time Sharon hands it over to me she doesn't know what it's going to look like when I give it her back. And likewise, I don't know what it's going to look like after the glazing and firing process (and any other alterations that Sharon might have made pre-firing). This is one of the many exciting elements of the collaborative process. Another is the verbal interaction. I had forgotten just how exciting it could be to talk to another artist about art – and how two creative minds can both feed off and boost one another.

 

Although Sharon works predominantly in clay and I work in... well, pretty much anything I can get my grubby hands on, we have a lot of things in common – a love of nature and the earth, and of manipulating materials. We share many similar views, we're both from the same part of Shropshire, and both have similarly odd family backgrounds. Luckily we also have enough temperamental differences to hopefully keep one another in check and to be able to maintain a balanced view of the project.

 

'Is Margaret Free' (the exchange), collaboartion project between artists, Wayne Chisnall & Calum F Kerr

I'm very excited to see where our collaboration takes us. This is only the second time that I've collaborated with another artist. The other time was a 12-year-long project with the performance artist, Calum F. Kerr. Calum and I have yet to exhibit anything from our collaboration but, considering our joint enthusiasm for 'Unlockdown' and Sharon's exuberant drive, I'm pretty sure that the fruits of this collaboration will not have to wait too long to find a viewing public. We're already applying for a stand at next year's Collect art fair at Somerset House, and are looking into crowdfunding so that we can afford to pitch the project to even more open calls and fairs. We view our collaboration as an ongoing project that will develop alongside our individual practices, and we'll just let the body of work within 'Unlockdown' keep growing until it finds its own path.

 

This work by Wayne Chisnall and first published on Artquest is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.