Cameron Morgan - Arthouse residency

Cameron Morgan started his two-week residency in the Arthouse, Wakefield, on Saturday 17th June. Project Ability' technician Jim Ewen is with him for the first week; here he tells us what the two of them did during the first couple of days. 

"Seventeenth of June 2017, we arrived at the Arthouse Wakefield with real excitement and the beginnings of a Florida tan. We thought summer was over already. Two weeks in May is the same for everyone right? No, we’ve traveled 230 miles to a different climate and we’re amazed and scunnered at the same time. Cameron Morgan has been awarded a 2 week printmaking residency here in Wakefield and I’m his buddy, driver, assistant, fellow artist? It doesn’t matter, I’m the technician for Project Ability which means I do anything and everything and that’s why it’s a great job. This is going to be fun.

The Arthouse is a young, handsome, brick building. It comprises of a new build, born in 2009 and a refurb of a Victorian listed library. 50 studio artists work here now and two more live in the fantastically accessible flat which even has a socket by the bed for your essential pillow vibrator. A great deal of money has been spent here, the facilities are fantastic, the light floods in everywhere and just as a bonus the roof doesn’t leak. Odd for an artist studio.

The printmaking studio is kitted out with an auto-etching press, a laser-cutter, iMacs and silkscreens galore. It’s almost the Arthouse’s greatest asset but that has to be reserved for the workers here. The staff made us feel so welcome and Ian the cleaner made us laugh at 8am. Surrounded by bars, restaurants, the train station and The Royal Theatre, the Arthouse couldn’t get any more central. It seems the cultural quarter is important to this cathedral town. The Hepworth Wakefield is 15min walk from here. The Sculpture Park is the same by car and, oh boy do the people love that place! Heavin wi folk!

I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park about 15 years ago when two friends married on the grounds. It was beautiful, but now, when Cameron and I visited it, it’s evolved and attracted the biggest names in international sculpture. There are new galleries, cafes, and installations all over the place (as well as plenty of sheep). People love it. The art, picnics under a tree, the walking. But the art - there is just so much of it now! It’s the first time I’ve seen work by Ai WeiWei. Twelve Bronze zodiac heads. Like totems to worship, and worship people do. I watched. Arms raised in adulation, a photo taken from every angle, data sacrificed. And then as Cameron did, the people bow and grovel in search of the best low angle shot. I don’t mind the selfies and wanting to record everything but I was wondering if this kind of human behavior was what Ai WeiWei intended all along? As Cameron fluttered around the zodiac heads, I stood back and watched the pilgrims.

After the long hot walk past the boat house with no water, past the lake with too much, we took a rest at James Turrell’s Deer Shelter Skyspace. I’ve always wanted to see this master’s work and it didn’t disappoint. Stepping through the door into the underground space immediately removes you from brea-ing sheep, crowds of people and constant heat. A space of contemplation and coolness where the focus is the square hole in the high ceiling. Bright cerulean blue square as perfect as a new watercolour pan, wetted for the first time with so much promise. The square sky doesn’t change today but I can still watch it forever. This is my idol, pure colour.

Tony Cragg’s retrospective was simply stunning. Beautiful complex forms, with the maker in me trying to unlock their secrets of construction. The simple framed drawings which accompanied the sculptures were enlightening. Even the most complex of structures begin with a drawing. Drawing always comes first, and it’s what we’re doing today. In the Arthouse printmaking studio Cameron sits drawing his idea of a combine harvester. It will be one of many that will be produced today in preparation for tomorrow. For tomorrow we meet another of the locals –the screen printer- who will guide us through the cultural quarter and help us on the way to express the love of the combine through paper and ink.

And if it doesn’t cool down soon I’ll be dreaming of Turrell’s Skyspace, praying to the zodiac, and making plans for a pilgrimage to our temperate rainforest we call home all the while I’m topping up my Floridian tan."

Keep an eye on the website for Jim's second blog next week!

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