The Autonomous Object

June 30th, 2013

Peter Hardy & Stephen Towns
An exhibition of sculpture 25th June – 19th July 2013

What determines the appearance of an artwork?  For both sculptors, the answer to this question would be “the investigation of the external world”.  They have spent many years pursuing their individual investigation into very specific aspects of the external world and work is made as the means to consolidate this understanding.  This gives their work an initial sense of familiarity, these sculptures remind us of familiar objects, yet on closer examination they are also new to our experience.  Both artists acknowledge their own subjective responses and it is this that gives the work its particular identity.  Thus these sculptures are mediators between the external objective world and the internal subjective world of the artist.
At first glance all the work in this exhibition appears to be abstract, yet both sculptors produce objects in direct response to selected data concerned with an exploration of the underlying causal factors that determine forms. The work therefore is referential rather than imitative or mimetic.
Pete Hardy investigates both natural, organic forms and man-made designed objects.  His work explores the processes of sense perception, both in terms of the apparatus employed (sense organs and man- made instruments) and the raw data experienced.  His sculptures have the appearance of instruments that may monitor data, e.g. sound, through a process of filtration. Information is the outcome of some form of processing and it is this ‘act’ of processing that is a central concern in his work.  The materials and methods he employs, however, appear to use the language of the mass-produced rather than the hand made, (which they are) and this only seems to heighten their paradoxical nature.
Stephen Towns’ work explores the structural processes inherent in growth, and he has been particularly influenced by D’Arcy Thompsons work, especially his treatise on Cartesian transformations of basic structures.  These sculptures explore the utilisation of linear elements within a grid that undergoes simple arithmetical transformations, using chance.  Thus these forms are generated as a minimal energy swept surface between fixed points.  The structures are therefore determined by systematic processes, but their surface qualities utilise physical processes in their generation.  Stephen identifies a similar interface between intrinsic and extrinsic forces in operation in natural form.  The method of manufacture of the forms is precise, yet the surface qualities have a “random” quality, yet is itself governed by physical processes that are similar to those observed in  fractals e.g. in clouds etc.
Thus both artists have developed their own working practice that incorporate decision making criteria that transcend the subjective.  Further, both artists minimise the individuality of the hand- made processes used in order to promote the autonomy of the work. It is this that connects their work and gives it evocative visual qualities that transcend the individual.
Stephen Towns & Peter Hardy


March 18th, 2013








John Eaves in conversation with Nick Moore
Saturday 16th March @ 3pm

A marvelous event at the gallery on Saturday afternoon. A good crowd enjoyed tea, cake and a spirited conversation between John Eaves and curator Nick Moore as part of the current show ‘Intimate Abstraction’.

They bought the afternoon to a close with a rendition of a Kurt Schwitters poem spoken simultaneously in English and German.
A real treat!

Intimate Abstraction

March 6th, 2013








‘Only he who conceives art through sensuous feelings can grasp it whole; whoever would master it conceptually will possess it only in its parts.’
Karl Scheffler, The gothic spirit, 1917

Intimate Abstraction-March 7th-April 5th 2013
The title of this exhibition derives partly from the size of the gallery and the choice of smaller works to include in it, but more importantly from the layers of meaning in the word intimate. Intimacy is usually thought of as the feeling of being in a close personal association, a belonging together; a familiar and very close felt connection with another. Genuine intimacy requires dialogue, transparency, vulnerability and reciprocity.
The adjective, “intimate” also indicates detailed knowledge and experience of the other, be it a person or a thing. And so the working processes of the painter with the depth of knowledge and experience of the material they use, have experimented with, investigated and tested through a long relationship (possibly thirty or forty years). This can result in a connection in which there is an emotional range involving both robust conflict, and intense loyalty to the medium being used, a dynamic partnership in which there is give and take. It is this sense of connection with the process that initially drew me to these four painters and the richness of the particular way paint is extended through the inclusion of other materials.
What interests me in painting, and indeed collage, is the directness and energy in the facture of the work, be it considered or improvised, or a combination of the both; the intrinsic energy is important. The work in this exhibition has a very direct relationship not only between the painter and his material, but also with the viewer; a directness that short circuits concept and fashion and encourages an engagement with the materiality of the work and felt experience of it.
‘We paint as a bird sings. Paintings are not made with doctrines.’
Claude Monet
Intimate – deep, profound, personal, direct, close; (intrinsic, essential) all words one could use to describe these small paintings; small in size but expansive in scale. …Rothko said ‘I paint large pictures because I want to create a state of intimacy. A large picture is an immediate transaction; it takes you into it ’  meaning that you could walk into the paintings and be in them, surrounded by them, immersed in them; he also said – ‘the reason I paint large pictures is because I want to be very intimate and human’ and as a painter of large works I agree with this. For this exhibition the pieces were chosen not only because of their life and vibrancy, but because of their small size; I feel that there is an immediate transaction that takes you into them and because they are small, the relationship of the paintings to the body is different – one has to get up close to see them, find the complexity, detail and subtlety that lies in wait for the patient observer. Perhaps the same way that one might study the features of a companion over time, slowly getting to know the nature of that individual’s appearance, and some of what lies beneath.
The word “intimate” used as a verb means “to state or make known”. So this is also relevant to our thinking about the work of these painters; they make known and demonstrate the qualities of abstract painting in the different ways that they approach it, and in this way we can get to know something of them too. Mostly working with the legacy of improvisation or notions of automatism that was key to some of the exponents of Tachism and Abstract Expressionism, they work without any hint of irony; this kind of intuitive painting flies in the face of much current work that is bland and empty, decorative, derived from graphics and some of it unrepentantly conceptual and/or ironic and ‘knowing’.. the painters in this show paint for nobody but themselves. They have an intimate relationship with the painting process and we the viewer have a possibility of sharing that intimacy as the work does not shut us out or bounce us back off a hard surface; it lets us in.

The artists are each represented by a particular body of work made in series, demonstrating different approaches to the painting process and using different formats and supports. Working in series lends itself to an unfolding over time much as a piece of music does, with variations on a theme or movements related to eachother – the relationship between the pieces can be obvious or more subtle. Worked in series, paintings have time to develop through continuity and change; they have their own pace and it is through this that the experience of the painting is given form. The work is built up of layers of material and each series is a particular body of work, a way of questioning, leading to revelation and discovery – a way of following a thread or seam to see where it leads. Each work in a series relates with another in a continuous non-narrative flow linked by enquiry, intuition and improvisation rather than following a logical, linear development. For each artist, the making of a painting is a journey into the unknown, the outcome is never sure. As Frank Bowling put it,
‘the material landing on the surface (of the canvas) gives me back the information that I need to continue the search – I see if I can find the right balance and make it have meaning for me.’

So, what is this exhibition about, it is about everything and nothing – abstraction, bullfighting, colour, death, energy, fruit, ghosts….in fact it is not about anything at all. It is an experience of the way four individuals approach the work of painting through the particular focus of ‘abstraction’, offering a continuity in painting through four decades with the artists born between 1929 and 1968. It is an invitation to a particular way of looking, looking not at pictures but at paintings; to let go into a complexity of relationships without searching for the obvious or the familiar; to engage in a particular process that is without parallel in reason and which goes against our seemingly hard-wired desire for making sense of things in a logical way. It is an invitation to enter into a dynamic interaction with the works, to experience them, appreciate their sensuousness, to give them time, to get intimate with them; ‘Paintings …are also to be meditated upon and to be engaged by the senses; to be felt through the eye’ as the late John Hoyland suggested; or in resonance with this, as the blinded Earl of Gloucester, in a scene towards the end of King Lear puts it, to see feelingly.
Nick Moore, 2013

Intimate Abstraction

February 27th, 2013








Intimate Abstraction at The Searchers Contemporary. Previewing 7th March 2013

 Intimate Abstraction is an exciting exhibition of contemporary painting, featuring four artists who make use of the elements of collage in various ways, and are concerned with an intimate relationship to the materials they use. Their work has a directness that short circuits concept and fashion, and encourages an engagement with the materiality of the work and the felt experience of it; they are John Eaves RWA, from Bath; Frank Bowling RA, OBE, who works in London and New York; Patrick Jones, based in the Exmouth area, and John Bunker, from London
Curated by Nick Moore, Bristol-based painter, musician and writer, the title of the exhibition derives from associations such as deep, profound, personal, direct, close; all words one could use to describe the qualities of these small abstract paintings. The artists demonstrate different approaches to the painting process, using diverse formats and supports, and are represented by a particular body of work made in series. The works in each series relate to one another in a continuous non-narrative flow, linked by enquiry, intuition and improvisation rather than logical, linear development. For each artist the making of a painting is a journey into the unknown, the outcome is never sure. As Frank Bowling put it,

‘the material landing on the surface (of the canvas) gives me back the information that I need to continue the search – I see if I can find the right balance and make it have meaning for me.’

Of particular interest is that the age of these painters spans four decades – from 1928 to 1967 – giving a sense of the continuity and commitment to a working process and attitude that flouts trends and ploughs individual and often idiosyncratic paths.

This exhibition is an invitation to experience the work, appreciate its sensuousness, to give it time; ‘Paintings …are also to be meditated upon and to be engaged by the senses; to be felt through the eye’ as the late John Hoyland put it.

John Eaves will be in conversation with Nick Moore in the Gallery on Saturday 16th March at 3pm

Image: ‘April Is…1’ John Bunker

Artists Talking

February 4th, 2013








‘Forget who you are & everything you know’
Saturday February 2nd @ 2pm

We stuck our toes in the complicated subject of making a painting with reference to Jess Woodrow’s excellent article.
The discussion moved around how information is processed through the medium. How does it get there? Are we ‘a camera’, Unconsciously gathering data and then having no control over how and when it appears in the work?


January 28th, 2013








An exhibition of Fine Art Photography

24th February – 2nd March 2013
PREVIEW: Sunday 25th February 2-5pm
Ben Heathman | Danielle Arundel | George Scane | Hannah Ranken | Mary Roe | Ian Chittick | Beata Bartkevicha | Joe Williams | Luka Gatt | Tommy Sussex | Ibolya Feher | Philip Shannon | Siobhan Raw


The Searchers contemporary gallery project is pleased to be hosting ‘Discontinued’ a pop-up show of Bristol based photographers. The exhibition previews on Sunday 25th February and runs until Saturday 2nd March at 14 St Michaels Hill, Bristol.  This is the groups second Fine Art photography show together and will display selected works of recent graduates and current photography students from the University of the West of England.
Following their first exhibition ‘MONO-C’ last autumn in the Bristol Arts Quarter on Christmas Steps, the group continues to pursue their aim of endorsing contemporary photography by obtaining consistent exhibiting opportunities of previously unseen and new work.
Once captured, a moment loses its connection with time, continuing to exist autonomously as a photograph – with “no before or after: it represents only the moment of its own making.” (Graham Clarke) ‘Discontinued’ explores and reveals narratives behind the near and recognisable as well as the distant and unacquainted. Unlike the previous monochrome exhibition, ‘Discontinued’ will introduce colour work – choosing the different subject matter from still life and portrait to landscape, each pursuing their own individual style, all reflect the quiet stillness of the surrounding world expressed in the subtle tonality of imagery.

Image: Danielle Arundel ‘site 3’ project

‘Surface disturbances-evidence of biological time-Part 2

December 13th, 2012







Artists Talk: Thursday 20th December @ 7pm.
Entry £3.00 inc. seasonal refreshments
An informal talk and discussion

Katherine Midgley
Katherine graduated recently from University College, Falmouth. Her charcoal drawings deconstructing the built environment imagine a newly configured future with psychological passion and precision. Her control over both subject matter and medium is masterful.

As the end of the world approaches (again) her new drawing made especially for The Searchers ‘Surface disturbances-part 2’ exhibition describes in detail one possible scenario for our predicted demise!

With all the recent the talk of advances in robotics, think block buster disaster movie.

I am looking at a cyber attack.

A large robotic insect has descended from a hovering spaceship and is approaching fast from dead centre. A nightmare of destruction is all around, fragments of buildings are sprayed across the paper. The Robot itself is also under attack but with little effect. Like The Terminator it will never stop, the robot has developed beyond its creator and is out of control.

Ruth Piper Dec 2012

Seeking Beauty

December 2nd, 2012

Galloped off to Cardiff on Friday afternoon to see ‘Madness’ in concert.

Took a slight hangover to the National Museum of Wales. ‘Artesmundi 5’, hard work and uninspiring. On the way out spotted a beautiful Elizabeth Fritsch earthenware vase, marvelous.

Example: Link to a similar piece.


Artists Talk – Lucy Austin

November 27th, 2012








Lucy Austin inspired a lively informal discussion on Saturday in the gallery. Talking in depth about her ongoing series of watercolours, ‘Tender Machines’ that she felt compelled to create.

The powerful emotional and intellectual nuances of the subject, choice of colour and materials were explored. Each piece is made spontaneously, drawn with a brush with no adjustments or re-working and each has a different character.

The gallery installation consists of a selection of 45 pieces, carefully arranged in a loose grid with alternate white and coloured backgrounds.

The Searchers events – Artist’s Talk

October 22nd, 2012








Michael Hayter – Saturday October 20 2012
Artist Michael Hayter spoke about his work to an enthusiastic group on Saturday afternoon at The Searchers new gallery space on St Michaels Hill, provoked interesting discussion and debate that continued over tea & cake!
Micheal’s work can be seen in the current show ‘Objects of Desire’ until Oct 31.