Digswell Arts Alumni feature in UH Arts and St Albans Museum + Gallery’s first ‘Hertfordshire Open 2020’ exhibition

Written by Digswell Arts

On June 18, 2020

Digswell Arts alumni Anji Archer, Allistair Covell, Permindar Kaur and Freya Pocklington are currently showing work as part of the first UH Arts and St Albans Museum + Gallery Hertfordshire Open 2020 Exhibition.

Originally intended to be on display in the Weston Gallery in the museum from 3 April – 21 June 2020, the exhibition became an online digital showcase owing to the global Covid-19 health pandemic. The online exhibition, now extended until 31st August 2020, has been split into four virtual galleries, curated by the UH Arts team and is jointly hosted between www.uharts.co.uk and www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk

Artists with a connection to Hertfordshire were encouraged to apply and the final exhibition features 80 artworks by 50 artists, selected from nearly 200 submissions by an independent panel of judges. The judging panel included Maurice Davies, former Head of Collections at the Royal Academy of Arts, London; Liz West, a British artist whose broad body of work includes site-specific installations, sculpture and wall-based artworks; Phil Healey, Dean of the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire and Annabel Lucas, Head of UH Arts who has over 20 years’ experience of programming, curating, commissioning contemporary and modern visual art.

“The Hertfordshire Open provides a vital snapshot of art production within the county at the start of a new decade. Immersion in the exhibition reveals the talent, diversity, commitment and ambition within the artist community. We hope that this exhibition and future initiatives will further establish this critical mass of artists and shine greater light on Hertfordshire’s rich creative ecology.” St Albans Museum + Gallery, April 2020.

The first gallery features a collection of large sculptural pieces, as well as wall-based works and includes the work of Anji Archer and Permindar Kaur. The second gallery explores the theme of landscape through both conventional and surprising approaches. Freya Pocklington’s painting is featured in gallery three, a selection of works that explores people from formal portraits and groups to figures in landscapes. The fourth gallery is comprised of three separate art films, one being the animated painting by Allistair Covell. Although all three films first appear very different, on closer consideration they share many qualities. All depict a human activity – sweeping, collecting, painting – all of which are ritualistic, rhythmic and accumulative.

The Hertfordshire Open Exhibition is also part of the University of Hertfordshire’s ‘Festival of Idea’s Reimagined’ which launched online on the 28th June runs throughout July. As part of the Hertfordshire Year of Culture 2020, you can access the Festival’s diverse line-up of art exhibitions, thought pieces and hear from speakers including Bernardine Evaristo, Helen Lederer, Mike Newell and Theresa Lola. The full programme is available to view on the The Festival of Idea’s Reimagined website: https://www.herts.ac.uk/about-us/ideas


Anji Archer, Wake Up Time, 2019, Mixed media installation

Anji Archer’s Wake Up Time acknowledges the loss of her husband who was tragically killed 12 years ago by a drunk driver. The work considers the reality that is left behind after the death of a loved one. Questions and belongings act sometimes as a comfort in grief, but also as a reminder of what we have lost.

One of Digswell Art’s original fellows to occupy the Farmhouse studios in Stevenage, Archer’s creative practice consists largely of site-specific installations produced from discarded or given materials. These installations look at factual or fictional stories poignant to the artist, drawn together by elements and observations from her everyday life.

Archer’s artistic practice spans across mixed media and uses a variety of artistic approaches within her work. Archer initially trained in Constructed Textiles and specialised in traditional woven tapestry with sculpture at Middlesex University, graduating in 1992. A few years later she completed an MA in Art & Media Practice at the University of Westminster – choosing installation, sculpture, textiles, photography and text as her focus. Archer’s artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally and held her first solo exhibition at the Madder139 Gallery in 2005, under the title Little Sister, Poor Soul, a mixed media installation that portrayed women and religion.

Instagram: @anjiarcher / Twitter: @anjiarcher

Allistair Covell, To The Beat, 2019, [film still] from iPad painting animated film, 4:11 minutes 

Allistair Covell’s To The Beat is a film charting the progress of an iPad painting. Created on the iPad whilst listening and responding to the song Back That Up To The Beat by the American singer Madonna, the film starts and ends with white, a blank space; highlighting the ephemeral nature of a digital drawing that exists only in the moment.

Covell, who was one of the last fellows to hold a studio at the Farmhouse Studios, explores colour and pattern creating vibrant, rhythmic abstract patterns, inspired by his ‘synaesthesic’ responses to sound. Synaesthesia is a phenomenon where one sensory experience prompts another, affecting people in different ways. For Covell it is the ability to ‘hear’ colour – making music appear as an ever-changing audio-visual landscape.

Covell is a graduate from the University of the Arts London and holds a BA (Hons) in Surface Design and a Foundation Degree with Distinction in Fashion and Textile Design from the University of Bedfordshire. In 2014 Covell won the Best Young Designer Award at the 9th Carpet Design Awards at Domotex Hannover in Germany. In 2017 Covell received royal recognition from HRH The Prince of Wales when his textile artwork Digital Stitch was acquired by the National Wool Museum in Wales and since 2017 he has been an invited member of Design-Nation. In Spring 2019 Covell’s first major solo exhibition Canvas To Carpet opened at Broadway Gallery in Letchworth Garden City. The exhibition served as a survey of Allistair’s creative practice over a period of five years whilst he had a studio with the Digswell Arts Trust.

Website: www.allistaircovell.com Instagram: @allistaircovell Twitter: @allistaircovell

Freya Pocklington, Outside Theatre, 2019, ink and pastel on paper

Freya Pocklington’s Outside Theatre explores the artist’s personal experience of a hospital theatre, with reference to the works of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Pocklington’s creative practice lies within arts and health, looking at the role portraiture plays in narrative medicine. Using animals as metaphors, Pocklington makes large-scale drawings, paintings, visual diaries and sound recordings, which document her experience of living with a long-term health condition. She is particularly interested in the mental impact that living with such a condition can have on individuals and investigates the feelings of alienation that many patients experience.

Pocklington, an alumni of the Forge studios in Welwyn, is currently undertaking a PhD at the Royal College of Art, examining the role of fine art portraiture within narrative medicine. She gained a BA (Hons) in painting from Edinburgh College of Art (2006) and an MA in Drawing from UAL (2009). Pocklington has received residencies from The Royal Scottish Academy, Scottish Arts Council, The Florence Trust, Chichester Cathedral, Somerset House, West Dean College and The National Trust. She exhibits regularly in the UK and abroad in exhibitions such as The Jerwood Drawing prize, The Ruth Borchard Portrait Prize, the National Trust, Discerning Eye Drawing Bursary, Oxford University John Radcliffe Hospital, Sluice Art Fair, James Freeman Gallery and many more. She is a lecturer and tutor alongside working on portrait commissions.

Website: www.freyapocklington.com Instagram: @freyapocklington Twitter: @freyapock

Permindar Kaur, Yellow Birds, 2019 Copper and Polar Fleece

Permindar Kaur’s Yellow Birds, five darkly comical creatures, hang lifelessly side-by-side, each equipped with alarmingly sharp copper claws and beaks. Each bird wears one of the five Ks, symbols from the Sikh religion.

Kaur, who had a studio at both the Forge and later the Farmhouse, creates sculptural objects and installations that explore the territory of cultural identity, home and belonging. Seemingly innocent, Kaur creates small figures and animals in soft fleece that invoke ideas around childhood and domestic spaces. However, the comforting fabric is embellished with the cold contours of copper and steel. Each figure is armed with claws, horns and beaks, giving them an air of comic menace.

Kaur has shown work in key group exhibitions in major galleries and institutions in the UK and abroad, including At Home with Art, Tate Gallery, London (2000); Krishna the Divine Lover, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2000); Flexible Co- existence, Art Tower Mito, Japan (1997), solo show at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (1996) & Mead Gallery, Coventry (1996), British Art Show, Manchester, Edinburgh & Cardiff (1995), Hiding Out, Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham (May 2014), Interlopers, University of Hertfordshire (2016) and Black and Blue, New Art Projects, London (2017). Public sculpture commissions include Playtime, Hakata Riverain, Fukuoka, Japan (1999), Dudes, North Shields Ferry Terminal, Newcastle (2002), and Tower, Spirella Building, Letchworth (2014).

Kaur is also the Arts Council Collection’s ‘Artist of the Month’ in June. The curator and writer of art criticism, Eddie Chambers, explores Kaur’s work Innocence, 1993, which features in the latest Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945. http://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/explore/artist-month/permindar-kaur

Website: www.permindarkaur.com Instagram: @permindarkaur Twitter: @permindar_kaur

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