The drum, the chime, the scrape, the splash, the jerk

26 Mar - 29 May 2021

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Installation view, The drum, the chime, the scrape, the splash, the jerk, Patricia Fleming Gallery, 2021

This Spring Patricia Fleming Gallery presents 'The drum, the chime, the scrape, the splash, the jerk', the gallery’s first solo presentation with London-based artist Christian Newby. The exhibition includes a new large scale work as well as work produced whilst on residency at the Academy of Visual Arts, HKBU, Hong Kong in Autumn 2019.

 

Newby incorporates techniques from industrial textile production into a drawing practice that aims to subvert the assumptions pertaining to value and skill within fine and applied arts practice, as well as challenge the design principles and craft rhetoric commonly associated with carpet tufting.

 

The works on display are made using a handheld industrial carpet-tufting gun and created through a process of improvised drawing. He is currently looking at the carpet-tufting gun as a case study in how the roles of artist, artisan and fabricator are determined by terminal belief systems in productivity and commodification. His unique technique of ‘drawing with carpet’ redirects the manufacturing function of the gun and instead explores its capacities as a mark-making tool, while observing it as a fundamental equivalent to the pencil, spray can, paintbrush and tattoo needle. His works carry an awareness of the anonymity of globalized commercial production and mass labour, in direct contrast with the skilful mastery equated with artisanal handicraft.

 

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We are ready to welcome visitors to the gallery from 27 April 2021, with pre-booked appointments.

Please contact us to arrange an appointment.

Newby’s work is bold and imposing and we are immediately confronted by this when met by the first work on display in the exhibition, hsbc. Almost 3 metres in length hsbc hangs just inside the gallery entrance. Skirting the floor it obscures our view of the gallery space, yet invites us in to explore both its graphic vibrancy and sumptuous texture. Newby’s use of colour, texture and pattern creates a haptic rhythm, drawing the eye across the surface of the work.

 

At close proximity we are able to trace the journey of individual yarns (a combination of natural and man-made fibres: wool, acrylic and poly bailing twine). The beginning and end of each stitch are left dangling from the surface, one loose end leading to another, forced by the gun through the fabric. The difference in density of each fibre allows for a variety of marks - with heavier patches of tufting reminiscent of shading and colour blocking and simple scored lines made obliquely apparent. Up close Newby provides us with the ability to visually unpick the work and through this gain some understanding of its dense layers and shambolic overlays.

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hsbc, 2019, Tufted wool on cloth, 290 x 174 cm

Whilst there is an intricacy and delight in viewing the work up close, in stepping away from it, patterns begin to emerge and imagery is revealed. hsbc contains the most graphic and abstracted marks in the exhibition. Red and white hexagonal symbols adorn the polypropylene surface, a nod to its namesake (the logo of one of the worlds largest banking and financial institutions), and a conceptual reference to capitalism in a most latent and graphically innocuous form. In contrast, nestled discreetly amongst these symbols, rests the artist’s initials, a fitting acknowledgement to authorship and the individual, to the artist and the worker, a subtle protest with itself against commodification.

Through the positioning of hsbc, and its distinctly cropped edge, we are aware of the other works in the space and the additional reverse views. To the left hangs a second large-scale work, suspended from domestic carpet grippers secured to the wall. Resting on rows of tiny metal shark teeth, it sags softly under its own weight.

 

This new work titled Raspberry-Jail depicts free-hand organic forms including giant raspberries and branches, all of which are pictorially contained by a trellis made of cell bars. The images depicted in Newby’s works are an intuitive reaction to typical rug and textile design. He incorporates traditional motifs from nature (birds, shells and flowers) with crooked geometric patterns, often rendered in multitudes, and done so in his own decorative free-hand drawing style. Newby implicitly cites William Morris’s use of trellises or vines in his work to construct a sense of architecture or skeleton that everything else penetrates or occupies. This is apparent in all the large textile drawings in the exhibition but none more so than in Raspberry-Jail.

 

Presented against the gallery wall Newby removes any functionality that may be associated with the typology of a carpet format, instead it shares similarities with other adjacent textile forms like medieval tapestries and theatrical curtains. In treating industrial carpet production as drawing Newby works on a large scale (approximately 3x2 meters-long). A scale allowing the gun’s over-sized needle a suitable level of detail.

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Raspberry-Jail, 2020, Tufted yarn on cloth, 135 x 290 cm

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To the right of Raspberry-Jail a third work is sited, floating just above the floor. Maersksealand continues this depiction of natural forms with star formations (a coarse imitation of the Maersk logo), thick kelpy leaves, scallop shells and a scattered typography squeezed in amongst them on a scratchy black background. The imagery is no coincidence when considered alongside the work’s title. Taken from the global shipping company it alludes to the environmental impacts of capitalism and globalisation. 

 

Maersksealand contains the most limited colour palette in the exhibition and has the flattest surface both pictorially and texturally, giving it a lightness not found in the other works. Installed in front of the gallery window it becomes almost translucent in areas that are under-worked or where the cloth remains bare. A pink hue on its reverse-side is set off by the reflection of the salmon-coloured building outside, intensifying the coral and green tufted stitches. 

 

The ability to be able to view the works in the round results in them occupying a space that is both two and three-dimensional. We are made to think about our body in relation to them: in terms of their scale, their function, as well as their value. We are made to look straight on to these works when they might normally be underfoot or perhaps even wrapped around us.

 

As with hsbc we are able to view the back of Maersksealand where we find the front-side’s points of origin, a hectic root system of taut lines made discreetly visible. Newby reminds us of his aims to break down hierarchical thinking around production and manufacturing. He doesn’t shy away from providing us with an insight into every aspect of his making process, explicitly revealing many elements of production that would conventionally be concealed or tidied away before being bought or sold. Newby gives us scruffy, irregular edges; rogue fibres falling out and threads knotted and precarious. The works are raw and very much alive with their own individual identities.

Maersksealand, 2019, Tufted wool on cloth, 285 x 135 cm

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Included in the exhibition are two small-framed painted studies titled HK19 (1) and HK19 (2). Produced whilst on residency in Hong Kong (and at the same time as hsbc and Maersksealand) the works are not preliminary sketches, instead they perform a kind of training regimen for potential shapes and colour-ways. Drawing is intrinsic to Newby’s practice and works such as this act as a diary or field notebook, of accumulated symbols and movements to support the artist in his production and decision-making.

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HK19 (1), 2019, Acrylic on stationary, 20.5 x 14.5 cm

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HK19 (1), 2019, Acrylic on stationary, 20.5 x 14.5 cm

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HK19 (2), 2019, Acrylic on stationary, 20.5 x 14.5 cm

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HK19 (2), 2019, Acrylic on stationary, 20.5 x 14.5 cm

Christian Newby was born in Virginia Beach, VA, USA and now lives and works in London, UK. He graduated with an MFA from Glasgow School of Art (2009), following his BA (Hons) in Sculpture and Extended Media at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently undertaking a PhD at the Contemporary Art Research Centre, Kingston University, London. 

 

Selected exhibitions include: Brick-Wall-Spider-Web-Post-It-Note, Beers London (2019); Yo Compro Calidad, Matadero, Madrid (2017); Tetracontameron, Space Between, London (2016) and Le Club des Sous l’Eau, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016). He has been an artist in residence at Academy of Visual Arts, HKBU, Hong Kong (2019); Matadero Madrid El Ranchito exchange with Arthouse Foundation, Lagos, Nigeria (2017); URRA/Gasworks Residency, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2015) and Triangle France Artist in Residence Programme, Marseille (2010). He was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant (2016) as well as the Converse/Dazed & Confused Emerging Artist Award shortlist in association with Whitechapel Gallery (2013).

HK19 (3), 2019, Acrylic on stationary, 20.5 x 14.5 cm