Writing and Art: Art and Writing

When drafting out the possible future directions of my own writings, there was an early link between my interest in writing and my interest in art. I wasn’t sure where this might lead me but it was a well-signposted opportunity – an interesting enough looking path to make me want to wander down it for a while. When I was setting up the structure of the website to carry most of my writings  (www.thewordsthething.org.uk)  I created a separate section titled ‘Art-based Writings’.

I had already used pictures and postcards as triggers to get writing. Some of the pictures were tear-outs from magazines but some were printed reproductions of paintings. Some of the postcards were cityscape views from places I had visited, but more were postcards gathered in gallery shops as I went to a variety of exhibitions. These triggered some of my short fiction pieces ‘Made in Birmingham: The Tales’. Some triggered poems later gathered into the collection ‘Made in Birmingham: The Poems’.

Birmingham has a range of art galleries. One of these, the Barber Art Gallery, forms part of the University of Birmingham. It has its own collection but also hosts visiting works of art and gives space to part of an annual West Midlands showcase of new art from graduates of local art courses. Alongside these the gallery runs an education programme that, with the appointment a Writer in Residence at the gallery, included a series of writing workshops using the gallery contents as stimuli. The culmination of several workshops was a performance evening where some workshop participants were invited to read selected pieces of their writings. Three of my writings were selected for inclusion. These can be read here: Barber Institute Writings

Even a cursory glance at my main website (the www.thewordsthething.org.uk one mentioned earlier) will show that one of my main interests is Cities. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was awarded a fund to bring seventy pieces of contemporary art from around the world, all based on the theme of cities, to form the 2013 exhibition ‘Metropolis: reflections on the modern city’. This brought together my interest in contemporary art with my interest in cities – and opened up the potential for me to visit the exhibition several times (as some kind of ‘Writer in relation to…’) and produce a wide range of writings. Each piece of writing lists the works of art, from the Metropolis exhibition, that gave rise to it. In addition to several varied fictional writings there are some non-fiction articles on topics such as the Language of Metropolis, The Modern City and a speculation on the role of ‘being a writer in relation to’. The total output from writing in relation to the Metropolis exhibition amounts to more than 30,000 words: Enough for an ebook? These collected writings are on the main website at http://thewordsthething.org.uk/?p=244

Also in the spring of 2013 The Royal Academy, in London, had its galleries transformed by seven contemporary international architectural practices to create unique spaces. This formed the exhibition ‘Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined’. This was a fascinating exhibition to visit in its own right and I had already primed myself to do some writing in relation to it. The organisation Ekphrasis (www.ekphrasis.org.uk) arranged for a number of established poets to produce work stimulated by the experience of the exhibition and to print these in a booklet. In addition others were invited to submit their own poems written in response to experiencing the ‘Sensing Spaces’ exhibition. One of mine (‘In Hidden Spaces’) was selected. This is on the Ekhrasis website as featured Poet: Geoff Bateson. http://www.ekphrasis.org.uk/#!featured-poets-1/c6x8

Since then I have visited a number of exhibitions – One on Photorealism at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; one at the city’s IKON Gallery called ‘Pieces of Evidence’; and several others. These have stimulated writings of different kinds which are at various stages of editing, and may or may not see the light of day.

All of the above has allowed me to think through the interconnections between my interests in art and my interests in writing – circling around between writing about art, writing based on art, and writing as art.

Writing based on art has been described above. Writing about art is, for me – up to now, not high-level academic writing. An example is the main character from my ebook ‘Another Glorious Day’ having a blog of his own and describing his attempts to study and produce art. Another example is the beginner’s piece wondering about the idea of progress in contemporary art.

No doubt these interconnecting strands of writing and art will continue to feed each other.

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