“Beautiful, well considered show.”

“Wonderful exhibition – lightness of touch – forceful ideas and work!”

“Beautiful and playful reflective show – got me thinking”

Thank you to everyone who visited, participated and engaged with RECURSIVE, for me as curator, it was a fascinating investigation. A very special thank you to Hitomi Kammai, Ant Pearce, Simon Fell, Susan Francis and Dr Angela Fell for their enthusiastic cooperation and support throughout the project. A kind thank you to media sponsor Art Pie, all the artists who participated in the Art Pie open call, and Matthew Wood at Second Floor Studios/no format gallery, their support is very appreciated.  Here are some final images of the installation, along with a panorama view of the main gallery.

And as a final word on repetition, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite songs from the Talking Heads…

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

All Photos: Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer

RECURSIVE installation (c) 2014 Jane Boyer




Artists/Curator Talk

In conjunction with SLAM Last Fridays, RECURSIVE will be open until 8:30pm. It’s also Halloween night – I’ll leave the contemplation of repetitive and recursive tendencies in this tradition to you!

Artists/ Curator Talks, starting at 6PM at No Format Gallery.

Join us for an informal discussion with the artists of RECURSIVE. We’ll discuss personal history as muse and they way these artists have used it to create their works in the show.

A series of marks, neither measured nor equidistant, (c)2011 Jane Boyer


Date: 31 Oct 2014

Time: Starts at 6pm GMT

Venue: No Format Gallery

Admission is FREE

Address: Second Floor Studios & Arts
Harrington Way (off Warspite Road)
SE18 5NR

Here is a short excerpt from our discussion that evening. Susan Francis talks about her work and the significance of titles:

100 Kids

On Friday, 24 October 2014, RECURSIVE is going to be transformed by the questions of 100 thirteen and fourteen year olds – OMG!

Greenwich Free School – Year 9 will be joining us as part of a tour around Second Floor Studios & Arts.

They’re on a one day visit to no format gallery, Thames Barrier Print Studio, the Education Space and one-on-one (well, one-on-100) professional visits to artists and makers studios.

I’m ready though. I think I know how to answer, ‘Wots that then?’

The question I had most today was, “Miss, I don’t know what to draw, what should I draw?”

It was a delight to watch these kids ponder the artworks. Sometimes they were utterly baffled, sometimes they simply enjoyed their own creativity, and at others they really engaged with the works, looking carefully as they drew. Speaking with one of the teachers, I learned that Greenwich Free School is a new school in its third year and they are just beginning to build an arts education programme. Today’s visit to RECURSIVE was their first experience of a white cube space.

The encouraging thing behind this story is the parents. The parents of Greenwich Free School wanted their children to receive education in the arts and so the school is working to meet their demand. The new east wing of the school, which houses the art studios, will open next year. Any child educator and good parent knows the importance of learning through sensory stimulation and broadened experience, this is what art in school provides. Today I saw some kids who felt self-conscious about their lack of drawing skills, but were curious about other issues related to art, like why some smudges were worth millions. Other kids were proud of the drawings they produced and this gave them confidence. Overwhelmingly, the task they enjoyed the most was working collaboratively to create a still life drawing. Each mark was their own mark in the bigger picture.

Here are some pictures from today…


GFS_student drawing_reduced

GFS_students 3_reduced GFS_student work 1_reduced

GFS_students 2_reduced

GFS_student work 3_reduced


Ecstasy, (c)2010 Hitomi Kammai

Ecstasy, (c)2010 Hitomi Kammai

12 October 2014

RECURSIVE: How the past pushes its way into the present

Dr Angela Fell, Jungian analyst and psychotherapist, presents a discussion on how the past pushes its way into the present, in conjunction with RECURSIVE.

I have been a Psychotherapist, then Jungian Analyst for over thirty years and during that time I have worked with quite a number of artists, some of whom have become well known and some of whom are struggling to become established. I would say that one of the aims of the analytic work is to unlock the blocks to living a creative life and that creativity is a sign of health, perhaps the main one.

The title of this exhibition, Recursive, is an interesting one. I am going to take it to mean ever-recurring patterns: patterns within patterns that repeat infinitely. This image is useful when thinking of our personal issues.

Dr Angela Fell

We hope you will join us for this stimulating discussion. Entry is free to all.


Date: 12 Oct 2014

Time: Starts at 2pm GMT

Venue: No Format Gallery

Address: Second Floor Studios & Arts
Harrington Way (off Warspite Road)
SE18 5NR

Take the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich station, then buses 161 of 472 from bus stop A. Get off the bus at Warspite Road stop, one stop after Royal Greenwich University Tech College. Walk to the end of Harrington Road, left through the entrance barriers and straight down, the gallery will be on the right.

The Weight of Absence

Ssshhhhh (c) Susan Francis

Ssshhhhh (c) Susan Francis

And the final interview in our short series, a discussion with Susan Francis. Susan is very active in her practice. She is currently involved in the touring exhibition Cicatrix, is artist in residence at Solent University, and is working on a commission with 5x5x5 Creativity which is supported by Bath Spa University. I’m very pleased she is part of RECURSIVE.

I recognise the fragile and precarious place from which Susan draws inspiration. It’s a place of transience, persistence, aggression and silence, encompassing the full range from positive to negative in human experience. It’s a place of innocence which has been compromised. Susan says,

“The two works [in this show] derive essentially from the momentary, that which, at their point of inception, were already a fleeting history. Process and presentation allows first the artist and then the viewer to lift them from their transitory lifespan, dissect and linger over their context, removed from the confines of linear time. I am interested in these fleeting moments, mundane and transitory. Not with the emotional eye of the related, but with the detached gaze of the observer. Presentation, or whatever it is an artist does, is simply an invitation to take part in that exchange.”

  1. You often stand outside of the subjects of your work, as a voyeur watching and observing. Why do you take this position and what role does it play in thinking about your own experiences? Do you worry that viewers may assume these are your experiences?

I suppose I haven’t intentionally taken the role of the outsider in my work but rather I feel I have naturally transferred to this position as my work has developed. It stems, I think from a range of stimuli. I grew up in Belfast in the 70’s where, despite the Troubles playing out around us, my parents kept the door firmly closed on sectarian politics and divisive cultural traditions, a step which, although taken in good faith, perhaps denied us the almost tribal sense of belonging shared by some of my peers. We neither fitted the cultural, educational or ancestral norm. We purposely took the position of outsiders.

Also I have a great draw towards narrative in my practice and every narrative, of course, requires a narrator, a position which permits a certain safe distance from which to view more subversive or emotive subject matter.

Thirdly, progression into video, which runs alongside the objects and installation, has very much allowed me to step back into the position of the voyeur, in a sense allowing me to join the onlooker behind the lens of the camera. It is a position I enjoy.

Do I worry? No.

  1. Is there a big difference in your mind between the work you produce with objects and the work you produce in film? Are there commonalities? And what makes you choose one medium over the other?

I can understand why this seems an obvious question to the onlooker, but as the artist, this dichotomy never really features in the process of making work. At any one time in my studio, the floor and shelves are full of objects, materials, sketchbooks full of scribbled ideas and the computer full of images, sound excerpts and gathered footage, all of which feed in and cross over within the themes I am exploring. At times film will progress to working with objects and vice versa, or, at times, remain entirely separate.

Commonalities come down to the working process, the weighing of absence against presence in installation, object against space and likewise in film, image against blank screen, sound against silence. The balance of these elements for me is critical and it is this balance that concerns me both on and off screen. But each work chooses its own media.

  1. Is repetition important to your work or your working method? If so, does this cause you to repress aspects of your artistic intention or does it liberate your intention?

Repetition manifests itself practically in my work less so recently I suppose but continues to linger more so in the development of a conceptual language. A background in the Protestant church (my grandfather was a vicar in the Church of Ireland) has led to an early relationship with symbolism and the transformative role of repetitive liturgy as a vehicle to understanding, so in a sense, it is a structure I am comfortable with. It has, however, the potential to bring about stagnation and I do recognise, as you say, how the use of repetition could so easily slip into a repressive force as much as a liberating one. As such I use repetition with great care and a certain amount of trepidation in my work. Recently I have been dipping in and out of Bourdieu’s Distinction which illustrates just how locked we our within the historical and social framework we were born into. At our most basic molecular level we are, after all, the product of repetitive creative structure so it seems only natural that we should create in this vein. Using it as a process to propel us forward however is where the secret lies I guess. Participating in this show will no doubt encourage us all to examine our relationship with repetition more closely which I’m looking forward to.

Clever Cow! (c) Susan Francis

Clever Cow! (c) Susan Francis


Art Pie Open Call Results

What a lot of fun this has been! Thanks to Art Pie for coordinating the open call and our sincere thanks to all the artists who entered. Our special thanks to everyone who participated in the online voting. All of the artworks entered for the open call will be displayed within the RECURSIVE exhibition at No Format Gallery, 9 Oct to 2 Nov 2014. We hope you’ll join us for the opening 9 Oct, 6-8pm.

Here are the results:

First Place

Mangalyaan Orbiter #2 by Lizy Bending

(c) Lizy Bending

Second Place

123.3 by Maddie Wheeler

(c) Maddie Wheeler

Third Place

Everything is a continuation of everything else by Audit Chaos

(c) Audit Chaos

Curator’s Choice

Horizontal IV by Gemma Cossey

(c) Gemma Cossey

The entries we received were of a very high quality and it was not easy to settle on a single piece for Curator’s Choice. I was particularly delighted by the range of interpretations on ‘Repetition’ we received. I enjoyed the humour in Sintija Vikmane’s Deaf Shakespeare, “The guy doesn’t even have ears anymore, so constant repetition is needed,” and the implied repetition of sight and sound in Julia Russel’s Muse on the Thames series and Dale Wilson’s Two Minutes Fifty One Seconds series. Dale’s precision in working with audio cassette tape to create geometrical pattern and depth is quite amazing. I also was attracted by Planting by Theo Wood and his creation of space and texture in the work. However, ultimately my choice was for Gemma Cossey’s Horizontal IV because of the visual manifestation of her working method and rules which, for me, illustrate the nature of recursion and thus the concept of repetition most related to the exhibition premise. Thanks again to you all!

If feminism posed a question, it wasn’t ever just a question for women

Treasure (c)2012 Simon Fell

Treasure (c) Simon Fell

“…on byways he seemed hardly to know, or not at all, for he went with uncertain step and often stopped to look about him, like someone trying to fix landmarks in his mind, for one day perhaps he may have to retrace his steps, you never know.” Samuel Beckett from Molloy.

This quote by Beckett marks the trepidation of navigating change. These same uncertainties confront contemporary masculinity and exploring the state of masculinity lies at the heart of Simon Fell’s work. Simon says, “Through sculpture and drawing I reflect on what it means to be a male artist in a diverse and fast evolving culture where masculine roles have changed much faster than the scripts that used to support them.”

  1. What has changed for men that is no longer supported by traditional scripts? Are these changes a liberation or an oppression leading to repressed emotions?”

I think everything has changed and continues changing for men. Work, relationships, fatherhood have all changed. I suppose I would identify change of all kinds as a challenge to traditional notions of masculinity. The most obvious change is to the work men can now expect to do and through that the role they can expect to play in their families. Women have changed so men in relationships with women have had to adapt. Childcare can no longer be assumed to be exclusively a woman’s role so men have to consider what kind of fathers they want to be, what kind of relationship do they want with their children. Can they be fathers in the same way their fathers were? It’s doubtful that [script] would even be possible now.

The scripts are not written out anywhere but they are continually rehearsed and replayed throughout our culture and in our families but above all in our own minds. It is extraordinary how persistent the myth of the hero is for instance. Although no adult seriously believes in James Bond, [but] as an example of a man who gets results through sheer determination, individual heroism and disobedience in the face of brutish bureaucracy he means something serious for men and boys. Although he inhabits a simplified world where good and bad are clearly signposted (and women do as the script tells them) there are aspects of him that are admirable and are taken seriously. Heroes such as Bond are hyper-effective in all they do, whether it’s killing baddies, seducing women, saving the world, they get it done, they get their way, they usually get it the first time too. For men dealing with the complexity of real modern lives this is refreshingly simple and it’s made to look both straightforward and even logical in the context of the movies. Woe betide any man who tries to use this as a model for any aspect of his real life. I think these stories are like myths, they keep alive the men of the olden days when life was simpler and men were simply – men. That is no longer possible, men are now complex as you have to be to survive in a complex world. I do believe men, like women, need liberation from ridiculous and out dated expectations. I think you have to find out what is really driving you especially when it’s driving you mad and the chances are it’s something you repressed or compromised earlier in your life and that could come from your own need to survive in your family or from what your family needed from you.

  1. Your work appears to have a solid connection to your own history. Is your work largely autobiographical or would you consider it more a philosophical view on the male condition? What role does repetition play in those views?

I think my work is subjective, in that sense it’s autobiographical. I think objectivity is currently over-rated in art as it is in the culture as a whole, as if science is the only viable model particularly in education, personally I think this is a passing fashion and we will move on to something much more humanistic in the near future. I also think the mind is a fantastic resource and that creative thinking is what is most likely to get you out of a repetitive rut.

In my ceramic piece ‘autobiography’ I turn mass production, where every product is identical, on its head by producing nine vehicles as varied as possible in character where the only constant is a set of four wheels. Ceramics is often a mass production material, the potter’s wheel is an early form of mechanisation but in the West now pottery tends to represent the hand made and individualistic and it has been adopted as a symbol of the pastoral idea of country living in the city – the good life. To me this is a pitfall that artists need to avoid, although it also creates rich pickings in terms of satire.

I find I have a limited appetite for real life repetition; I always want to try variations on a theme rather than stick to one version. I just made a limited edition figure cast in aluminium but even that comes on a ceramic base and each base is different. Personally I think recursion (where what you learned first time round gets incorporated the next time), the human version of repetition, is only really possible for machines.

  1. Is the male condition a valid subject in a post-feminist era? What are your thoughts on the male condition and post-feminism?

Well that is a question and a half.

Yes it absolutely is a valid subject. If feminism posed a question, it wasn’t ever just a question for women. Anyone who can address the questions posed by feminism for men and boys should speak up, I think it’s urgent and an exciting area for new work in any context. In my experience there is a whole spectrum of responses among men to feminism including a lot of paranoia, anxiety, and aggression, while I can understand this it is not the way to develop new ways of being male in a changing world. I think the task of reviewing what it means to be a man is already under way and has been for some time, the trouble is that it’s not much discussed nor organised on a large scale and the media almost always reduce it to a joke. This is why the issue that is being used to headline men’s issues is the high rate of suicides among young men in the UK, which is clearly a serious matter. This is just one reason that it’s a good time to think about and celebrate the positive aspects of belonging to the male gender and work out ways to deal with the negatives that are associated with being a modern man.

Karparc (c) Simon Fell

Karparc (c) Simon Fell




The External Authority

Father and Son (c)2014 Ant Pearce

Father and Son (c)2014 Ant Pearce

An imprisoned existence is probably not the way most of us see our own lives, but Ant’s view that “man is condemned to exist imprisoned” is not far from the mark when we consider the struggles involved in attempting to live life on our own terms. There is always a barrier to achieving this end. Interpreting Freud’s Id, Ego, and Super Ego structure, Ant’s work centres on the outside restrictions imposed from childhood by the ‘external authority’. Also influenced by the writings of Dostoevsky, Kafka and Camus, his work presents the notion “that the omnipresent external authority is what brings about man’s aberrant destructive behaviours.”

  1. Your External Authority series is an elegant expression of Freud. Can you tell us how your method of thread drawing helped you to convey such a complex psychological concept in simple terms?

The thread drawings came about through experimenting with the materials over 3 stages. Once I had developed the technique to a level I found interesting I needed to find something to associate the result with. Having studied aspects of Freud’s ideas regarding the model of the human mind during my MA dissertation I felt that the two seemed to match. It was a case of working backwards, finding a viable explanation to back up the visual work rather than coming up with a visual solution for a specific set of ideas, as is so often the case.

  1. In much of your work you deal with the ‘external authority’ as the controlling force of our desires and behaviour. Where does personal responsibility and choice come into that dynamic?

I do not believe it is my place to comment on an individual’s personal responsibility and choice. That is the responsibility of the individual. I simply try to observe and reflect.

  1. Much of your work seems to question underlying issues and motivations in human activity. What are your thoughts on repetition and repression?
Blue Shark IV (detail) (c)2013 Ant Pearce

Blue Shark IV (detail) (c)2013 Ant Pearce

This has been the most difficult question to answer, or at least the one I had to think about most. I read the words “we repeat because we repress” but struggled to understand them. Having discussed this, with a trusted friend and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, in relation to my own behaviour as well as behaviour documented by Freud regarding children in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, I have concluded that repetitive behaviour is driven by two main principles – firstly that the result will be different from the last time, and by that I mean what is ‘desired’ in the mind of the person repeating – this seldom if ever happens. Secondly and more importantly, it is about control, or the ‘illusion’ of being in control and moving through a state of displeasure to a state of pleasure. The only aspect of my work which I see that touches on ideas of ‘repetition and repression’ is this ‘illusion’ that we as human beings are in control of ourselves, let alone anything else, and the inevitable fact that we will return to a state that is inanimate.