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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 9 – Hilary James

In this video, musician, singer and artist Hilary James shows us around Talfourd Avenue in the Whiteknights area of Reading, which is the inspiration for the artwork she produced for The Art and History of Whiteknights. She talks about her illustration work and how using an iPad has opened up new possibilities including animation and the mixing together of art with music.

Hilary James studied Fine Art at Reading University before changing direction to pursue a musical career. In 2004, she rekindled her passion for painting. Four years ago she became excited by the possibilities of digital media: iPad art, film making and augmented reality and hasn’t looked back.

hilaryjames.com

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In a normal year, we always look forward to the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail, where our local artists and craftspeople open their houses. This is the trail’s 20th year, and in a joint venture with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, Two Rivers Press is delighted to publish a beautiful celebratory book, The Art and History of Whiteknights, which features 28 artworks all inspired by the Whiteknights area of Reading. The featured artists have all exhibited on the trail over the years, and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that this book will remind you of the wealth of creative talent in our locality, as well as inspiring you to reflect more deeply on the history and roots of this special part of town.

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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 7 – Salvo Toscano

Salvo Toscano writes:

© Salvo Toscano

I have always been interested in looking at the space where we live and how it defines us and interact with us. How it contributes to our sense of belonging and being. It describes and defines a place in our mind, or gives us clues about the history of the place or the people, maybe makes us curious about it.

By looking at the space I aim to observe how it may reflects or holds emotions: photographing the space is a way for me to capture my experience of being and seeing and interpreting those emotions.

I was very delighted to be invited to contribute to this publication celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Whiteknights Studio Trail. I have been living in Reading sine 2001, found out and visited the WST artists for the first time in 2005 and joined in 2010. It is an event that brings local people together and a great way to explore the area. A good feature of the WST is that all happens within an area that can be easily walked through, the streets really come to life during those weekends. Every weekend I had several hundreds people visiting me and I always found fascinating to observe them while watching, scrutinising, absorbing my work. It was a pleasure during the past years to engage with visitors to my exhibitions and discussing, answering questions or just chatting, sometimes discovering common connections or small unknown facts.  Always grateful to visitors for appreciating my work and the purchases: glad to know that there are some walls and shelves in Reading with my work on display.

As a photographer one of the reoccurring questions was about my processes and equipment.  Nearly all my personal work is currently shot on film and occasionally I process black and white prints in a traditional darkroom. For me it is not a matter of better or worse, rather just enjoyment in using and responding to a vision or aesthetic, that I feel reflects a specific idea or project. I occasionally find helpful constraining an idea to a certain format or technical limitations, it contributes to harnessing how I want to express something. Other times I run totally free and combine different formats as if they were different elements of a band covering different bits of a music score.

The image selected for this publication is from a set of images I shot around the Whiteknights Campus Lake. The lake is one of those semi-hidden gems in Reading. Though we’re in an urban area, once you step in that part of the campus you are taken somewhere that feels quite rural. This dichotomy between urban and bucolic probably inspired me. I aimed to not look for extraordinary images but for a depiction of somewhere that is mundane and reachable: a space that is visible but concealed as well. By using a slow shutter approach I sought to capture a feeling, a perception of a place how it would not be normally visible to us. For a brief moment it is taken outside its real context. I decided to use a black and white film to emphasize the mood of a semi-real scenery and perceived nostalgia for a place that, as a matter of fact, is very real and present.

For this work I decided to go for my Hasselblad camera, a medium format film camera, and compose within the square frame that the camera produces. Medium format film is a type of film wider than the 35mm that most people are familiar with. With this camera it produces images of 6x6cm on the negatives. The emulsion being on a bigger surface, it generates a different looking image and finish compared to a 35mm frame. An advantage of this camera is that allows me to explore at the same time different approaches, say, in both black and white and colour, as the film is kept in a magazine that can be swapped with another one with a different film, during the same shoot. Below are the image in the book and some of those that “did not make it” .

You can keep track of me on Instagram at @salvo_ts and @salvo_toscano_photographer

Website www.salvotoscanophotography.com

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In a normal year, we always look forward to the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail, where our local artists and craftspeople open their houses. This is the trail’s 20th year, and in a joint venture with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, Two Rivers Press is delighted to publish a beautiful celebratory book, The Art and History of Whiteknights, which features 28 artworks all inspired by the Whiteknights area of Reading. The featured artists have all exhibited on the trail over the years, and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that this book will remind you of the wealth of creative talent in our locality, as well as inspiring you to reflect more deeply on the history and roots of this special part of town.

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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 6 – Andrew Boddington

Andrew Boddington’s stained glass window, illustrated here, features in The Art and History of Whiteknights. The window was commissioned for a home in Upper Redlands Road, in a building which was previously used by the University of Reading as rooms for the Music Faculty. The design of the glass reflects the history of the building while making a bold and colourful visual statement.

In this video Andrew talks a little about this artwork in its (slightly windy!) location, and he then shows us around his attic studio and introduces his current experimental work using sifted glass frit, inspired by some recent life drawing classes and the cut out technique of Henri Matisse.

 

Andrew Boddington, Designer and Maker in Glass.

About

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In a normal year, we always look forward to the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail, where our local artists and craftspeople open their houses. This is the trail’s 20th year, and in a joint venture with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, Two Rivers Press is delighted to publish a beautiful celebratory book, The Art and History of Whiteknights, which features 28 artworks all inspired by the Whiteknights area of Reading. The featured artists have all exhibited on the trail over the years, and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that this book will remind you of the wealth of creative talent in our locality, as well as inspiring you to reflect more deeply on the history and roots of this special part of town.

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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 5 – Carole Stephens

Carole Stephens writes:

I’ve been privileged to be part of the Whiteknights Studio Trail since 2004, in a variety of venues: in Progress Theatre, in a beautiful Arts and Crafts house in Northcourt Avenue, in Redlands School, in MERL, and in Christ Church, Christchurch Rd.

For my contribution to The Art and History of Whiteknights I chose to make a mixed media picture based around the Michael Cardew teapot which I discovered in the Museum of English Rural Life, where I was due to exhibit this year.

My Whiteknights Studio Trail displays were initially vivid compositions based on natural forms, or more subtle Welsh landscapes. The compositions were made using coloured inks, the landscapes more often a mix of watercolour and water based crayons, with details added in pen and ink.

In 2004, my first year on the trail, my WST leaflet description ran: ‘The effects of strong sunlight on a summer garden or dramatic weather over the Welsh mountains are seen here beside more peaceful pastoral scenes or still-life as I try to show the ordinary in an extraordinary way’. In 2005 I was writing a similar description of my work but adding ‘in a range of media…’ Thus, over the years this focus has changed and I’m now just as likely to be showing prints, collages or mixed media work.

Prints, in my case, could often be a simple line drawing. This will have been made on the back of a piece of paper placed on a surface onto which oil paint or printing ink has been applied with a roller to make an even surface. My drawing is then made with a biro or sharp drawing pencil; when pulled off the inked surface the print is revealed. Usually these prints are portraits, which lend themselves particularly well to this way of working.

How do I do mixed media? It’s always an experiment, layering painted or printed backgrounds, adding details printed from any kind of textured surfaces, be it wood, lace, plants, leaves. Then I use collage, which could be scraps of patterned papers to clothe a figure, vividly coloured cut shapes for sails on a choppy sea, even the odd word.

Out of Africa ‘Kampala series’

For example, in a collage of a vase of flowers, in the deep reds, ochres, yellows and pink, echoing the depth and colours of the Kampala scene, the name ‘Entebbe’, Kampala’s nearest airport. Then I may perhaps add more linear detail to complete the picture.

I’ve often been inspired by particular places or events or been asked to provide images or illustrations on a particular theme.

Kampala: In 2013 I went with my husband and the charity ‘Brass for Africa’ on a working trip to Kampala, Uganda, where sights, sounds, colours, and local costumes made a great impression. Back home in Reading during dreary January days, I could not see a way to reproduce these extraordinary and vivid images on paper.

But by chance one day an image by Picasso inspired me, and from it I developed a collage of a majestic Kampala figure. This image was replicated, several times, as a full-length portrait. These figures were then clothed/decorated/ enhanced with coloured paper scraps.

Regatta

Boats and Boating: Teenage holidays sailing across the English Channel to Brittany and plus living so close to the River Thames has inspired many monoprints and collage pictures. Colourful sailing boats take part in regattas off the French coast or rowers training on the Thames at Henley. These images of water did develop a slightly more sinister feel, when skies became darker, and the waters too, or as in a larger collage for the exhibition ‘Hooray Henley’ figures scurry along the towpath; scullers practise beneath a heavy sky and hanging trees.

‘Reading and its Rivers’ was an exhibition curated by Jenny Halstead at Blakes Lock Museum, Kennetside. For this I researched old maps of Reading, in Reading Library, and was much inspired John Speed’s map of 1611. Elements of this 1611 map was used as a basis for my compositions. To these I added cut or torn cyanotypes: simple prints made by exposing plants or torn pieces of lace or cloth to the sun, on photosensitive paper, to produce very beautiful, mysterious, subtle images. I used these cyanotypes to evoke the surface of the river, with plants and bits and pieces drifting along on, or below the surface. It was interesting to see that the flow of Reading’s waterways has not radically altered, and the plan of the town still accommodates these.

Isabella Bird ‘Top Girls’

Further focus for my mixed media work has come from Progress Theatre, and also from writers or editors asking for illustrations on particular themes. Progress Theatre put on Caryll Churchill’s ‘Top Girls’ just before the WST 2019 and as my WST venue was to be Progress Theatre, I was able to display these for the duration of the play, and during the WST weekend.

Patient Grizelda ‘Top Girls’

If you’ve seen the play, you will know that it includes female characters from differing eras. I imagined suitable portraits for each of the female characters.

‘Isabella Bird’ from Edinburgh was an intrepid traveller in the nineteenth century. I depicted her in a Far Eastern setting, her portrait surrounded with a collage of hieroglyphics, monkeys and tourists. These are all collaged scraps of information; only Isabella’s portrait is made using monoprint technique.

‘Patient Grizelda’, a character from the Middle Ages, an obedient wife whose story is told in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’, is depicted in a simple portrait. Framed by contemporary medieval floral designs, horsemen wait patiently below her in the picture, ready to escort Grizelda onwards.

Trial portraits for ‘Famous Women of Reading‘

The ‘Famous Women of Reading,’ proved harder in the sense that I had to make portraits of real people. I chose to experiment using backgrounds ready covered in subtle print from various textured surfaces.

I both painted and printed the portraits, but here the mixed media, although beautiful, proved too subtle for successful reproduction in a book, so in this case I resorted to my original way of working; pen and ink.

‘He lay as one who lies and dreams…’ The Ballad of Reading Gaol

The exhibition ‘In Reading Gaol by Reading Town’ provided me with another excuse to make some dark, complicated compositions in response to lines from Oscar Wilde’s famous tale. The main character, the condemned man, is due to be hanged, yet in the tale ‘he lay as one who lies and dreams in a pleasant meadowland’.

It was hard to convey this mix of the harsh reality of his life as a condemned man, with his dreamed state. I tried by layering collage, inks and paint to achieve this dreamy, but nightmarish feel.

Despite appreciating the challenge of this doom-laden project, I continue to make drawings from the natural world. So those of you who know me for my lighter ‘ summer garden’ compositions in inks and paint, will be happy to know that these are still being made, and are available.

Please see my website or contact me directly.

Carole Stephens

www.artbycarolestephens.com

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In a normal year, we always look forward to the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail, where our local artists and craftspeople open their houses. This is the trail’s 20th year, and in a joint venture with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, Two Rivers Press is delighted to publish a beautiful celebratory book, The Art and History of Whiteknights, which features 28 artworks all inspired by the Whiteknights area of Reading. The featured artists have all exhibited on the trail over the years, and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that this book will remind you of the wealth of creative talent in our locality, as well as inspiring you to reflect more deeply on the history and roots of this special part of town.

In the run up to the book’s official publication date of 21 June 2020, we are offering a discount of 15% off the book’s published price. Use the code AHWEARLY15 at the checkout.

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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 4 – Chris Mercier

In this short film, Chris Mercier talks about the 1940s TOB1 prefab buildings on the University of Reading Whiteknights campus which have been the home of the fine art department since 1989. Chris’s illustration of Studio 4, with its distinctive saw-tooth roof, features in the book The Art and History of Whiteknights.

Chris shows us his print studio, talks us through how he made the silk screen print of Studio 4, and introduces some of the work produced during isolation and lockdown, including a series of disembodied dance drawings.

Chris Mercier, artist and printmaker lives and practises in Reading (UK).   He runs the Printmaker art editioning studio. He has also collaborated with many artists in the role of master printer. He is a member of the OpenHand OpenStudio, Arjeea21 and the Printmakers Council.

He studied Fine Art at The University of Reading and fine art printmaking at the Royal College of Art, London.

You can find out more about Chris Mercier’s work at www.chrismercier.co.uk

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In a normal year, towards the end of May we would be looking forward to the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail, where our local artists and craftspeople open their houses. This is the trail’s 20th year, and in a joint venture with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, Two Rivers Press is delighted to publish a beautiful celebratory book, The Art and History of Whiteknights, which features 28 artworks all inspired by the Whiteknights area of Reading. The featured artists have all exhibited on the trail over the years, and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that this book will remind you of the wealth of creative talent in our locality, as well as inspiring you to reflect more deeply on the history and roots of this special part of town.

In the run up to the book’s official publication date of 21 June 2020, we are offering a discount of 15% off the book’s published price. Use the code AHWEARLY15 at the checkout.