Study event review: ‘Collocations – pain & trauma’, Chatham Kent.
An exhibition of paintings by Eddie Tucker, 12 Feb 2022
This was a study event with a big difference for me to all the others I have attended with OCA – instead of looking at other artist’s work, in this instance, I was the subject of the study visit.
OCA Painting tutor, Paula MacArthur, led a group to my exhibition of painting on the second Saturday of February. This exhibition “Collocations- pain & trauma” consists of 52 paintings and was set in the tranquil green oasis of The Halpern Gallery, at the Nucleus Arts Centre on Chatham High Street in Kent.
The group arrived during the morning and spend some time as individuals looking around the works and socialising with others from OCA. I was delighted to meet fellow students from OCA after the last couple years trials and tribulations, though that period was a bit relevant to the exhibition’s theme. Recognising people only previously met on Zoom whilst they are wearing a mask was a bit of guessing game at times. After the group had looked around and chatted, Paula called them to order for a quick round robin of introductions and then my artist’s talk.
I had prepared notes by posing a series of questions to myself and then answering them as the talk. Opening the talk, I noted that I had studying for the last 8 ½ years at OCA having previously had a career as a ship’s engineer, an offshore oil rig engineer before spending the last 30 years in refrigeration engineering and management. he OCA study group, which by now had attracted additional listeners from the gallery visitors heard about how and why I landed on the subject of pain. They heard about the MRSA, superbug infection in my spine acquired during an outpatient hospital visit. During the talk I led the group around the exhibition highlighting works that show the pathway from infection to operation and implanting of two dozen titanium bolts in my spine.
The inkling of this as a subject had occurred when I was near the end of level 2 studies, when I was seeking subject matter on which to base my level 3 studies and body of work upon. I found Frida Kahlo’s work ‘Broken Column’ and I realised I could utilise my own pain journey as subject matter. This subject broadened into depicting pain and trauma in myself and others.
The body of work in the exhibition, which came with a ‘content warning’, depicted work on dark and rarely touched subject matter. The works in the exhibition ranged from subjects depicting external injuries such as black-eyed rugby players, men with seat belt burns after surviving dramatic car crashes to those with more internalised traumas such as regret, grief and depression. Much of the work had a narrative attached to it, with some noted in accompanying glossy brochure. This narrative was developed in several cases by the pairing of works and the positioning of works together, i.e., by collocating them, hence the title of the exhibition.
Through the curation of the exhibition, I had sought to present an aspect of pain to the viewer via the hanging. The first wall was saloon-hung with thirty-eight works very closely hung and spaced. Imagine you have just whacked your head on the open boot of a car, for a few moments you are confused and then things settled into a grasp of reality before full clarity is restored. This is what I tried to replicate in how the works were hung. The arrangement, on the first wall, was to both overwhelm and confuse the viewer, before clarity won out to allow the viewer to see individual works and discern subjects etc.. The next wall allowed a deep breath before the exhibition continued with a more regular gallery hanging arrangement.
Before concluding my talk, I noted to the group that as I start work on a painting I seek through my painting to “get beneath the skin” and show the individual behind the pain whilst allowing the viewer to identify the subject’s pain and empathise with them.
This was a ‘big event for me as a budding ‘new’ artist, putting on a solo degree show to a larger than usual scale for SYP, most probably. But as part of my development, it has reaffirmed my commitment to be an artist, as well as indicating that difficult subjects and work can be positively received. It has also provided a host of feedback, primarily very positive, which is always welcome, especially by OCA artists who are often isolated from feedback and connecting with other artists and like-minded people.
It’s never usually a cheap or free undertaking to put on an exhibition, especially a solo exhibition. With the costs of venue hire, printing, and even a week of all-day parking quickly mounting I was glad that part of the costs of putting on the event had been met by an OCA Enterprise Grant. The procedure to apply and receive this Grant being very quick and efficient and most definitely very welcome.
Comments from the study visit attendees in the Visitors book included:
Impressive amount of work – Well done. Loved all the paintings.
Really brilliant – great skill and determination to create works of this quality.
Fantastic exhibition. Excited to see where you take your painting next!
An epic body of work,
After visiting my exhibition and having a quick lunch at the ever-popular Nucleus Cafe the group headed along Chatham High Street to the Sun Pier Studios to visit artist, Nathan Eastwood.
Thank you to Paula and the students, as well as other that attended the exhibition.
The following account comes from Mick Whyte, OCA student and visitor to the exhibition.
I was going to see Eddie’s show in Chatham in any case but then Paula decided to have a study visit so I signed up.
The Venue, as a stranger to Chatham, was slightly difficult to locate but once there Eddie was very welcoming.
The first wall was a little off putting as the paintings were hung very close together and unframed. I had been reading Inside the White Cube (O’Doherty 2000) about the significance of the frame and how the frames historically were used to separate each painting from its neighbours when they were close hung in the Salon and Academy Exhibitions. I had seen this in old engravings and photographs but never in reality and certainly never without frames. The effect was most disconcerting, and it was difficult for the eye to concentrate on a single painting and you had to really concentrate to view the paintings,
In his speech Eddie explained that this has been a deliberate curatorial ploy to slap the visitor in the face, it certainly worked for me, but on balance I think it would have been better to be welcoming the viewer rather than slapping them in the face.
On the other three walls of the exhibition the larger paintings were well spaced, giving them chance to breathe, and they showed Eddies love of narrative, something has happened and from looking at the paintings you can imagine what has happened prior to the painting or what the painted scene is a result of. There is a tendency to project your own personal memories into the narratives Eddie is exploring, which is at times unsettling.
My personal favourites in the exhibition were “She’s leaving home” and the loosely painted “Pieta” to which Eddie had given twentieth century relevance by situating it in the aftermath of the 9-11 attack.
The pre-publicity for the exhibition warned that I was going to be shocked, and I was, but once I recovered I was able to enjoy Eddies work to the full. The presentation that Eddie gave was very enjoyable and interesting giving an insight and personal relevance to the exhibition.
O’Doherty B. (2000) Inside the White Cube; The Ideology of the Gallery Space. California, University of California Press
As a roundup to my studies and time at OCA I’ll be giving an online artist’s talk on Zoom on 21st March (6-7 pm), hosted by Programme Leader Emma Drye. You may like to join your fellow students to listen in or grill me with questions. Everyone is welcome – painter or not.