Last night was the opening of Pretty Common Things, an exhibition and installation by Joanna Bond at ::the studio:: gallery. It was exhuberant.
First let me tell you the set-up, and then I’ll tell you what we did in the space.
You enter the basement gallery via an outdoor staircase the leads down to a tiny candle-lit courtyard and then a broad corridor, decorated with ethnic wall hangings, fairy lights twining among the silvery cladding on exposed pipes. Jo’s husband, Owain, had a DJ station at one end, with refreshments on a table at the other.
You turn a corner into a narrow hallway, which was lined with potted saplings, birch and other trees. Each one had a red tag with instructions to take the tree home and plant it in the Wildwood reforestation project or you could plant them anywhere. Other than that, the two indoor hedgerows were bare at the start, leafless mid-winter.
The exhibition space is a tiny white room off that hallway. The walls were hung with framed collages created by Jo, and stunning ceramics on shelves and tables. Tiny ceramic seeds were suspended from the ceiling. The collages and paintings featured hand-drawn images from the countryside and hand-drawn maps, with bits of textiles, strips of printed maps, and dried flowers incorporated into some of them. The natural wood frames enhanced the earthy colour scheme. Some had a circular motif, while others had structures like branching trees or streams.
The ceramics were arranged on natural wood shelves and stands. They were hand-built with a plain white underglaze and organic shapes set into the glaze. Jo had made a series of paintings on the countryside hedgerow theme, scanned them and cut them into leafy and circular shapes – a fall of leaves crossing the center of a bowl and spilling over the edge, a bumble bee in the middle of an asymmetrical plate, rows of tiny seeds or a bird bedecking an espresso cup and saucer. Nature was embedded everywhere in the show.
By the end of the evening, there were lots of red dots on items that had been sold or reserved. If you have a chance, get down there and see them while you can.
The evening started with DJ music and then we did the first of two runnings of a new surrealist game – Hedgerow messages.
We had a dozen or more people sitting in a circle in the exhibition space. For the first round, Orion (guitar), Pete (concertina) and Allen (fiddle) played music as people settled on cushions, then it became quiet. I gave everyone a brown paper tag for messages from the unconscious and a writing implement. There were books about nature to use as writing surfaces.
I talked people through Theta State, a performance piece that encourages the audience to relax and be receptive. The music began again, and Jo recited a poem (really the lyrics to a song) that she wrote about hedgerows in the Welsh countryside. The musicians played in the background and carried on for a bit after the end of the poem. When the music stopped, everyone wrote down whatever came into their minds. Most wrote words, some drew pictures. As they finished the tags, they went and tied them onto the saplings.
The audience at the opening contributed to the art installation. As people wandered through the space, they were reading the messages on the tags. The hedgerows blossomed with messages from the audience.
After that, Jo introduced the issue of indiscriminate cutting of hedgerows in Wales and then sang the song with accompaniment. Then there was live music from The Barefoot Dancers Of The Sea in the large hall. More people had been coming throughout the evening, so after the live music there were quite a few who had not participated in the first game, so we ran it a second time with a different set. Again, the room was as full as it could be, with a few standing outside writing on their tags. The first time, Pete had led the music but the second time Orion led. It was lovely!
We had upwards of 30 tags with messages from the unconscious tied onto saplings by the end like prayers, and some people did take trees home with them.
The final part of the evening was a true highlight…Milly Jackdaw told a story about listening to the earth, and Peter Stevenson (Mr. Fox) told one about rabbits running through hedgerows.
It was so hard for people to say goodbye that we ran past the publicised end time, and a group went out for dancing afterward == I didn’t go, still being on the crutch 😦
It was one of the loveliest evenings I have had. Together with gallery owner Ruth Hogg and Hannah, Joy and other artist friends, Jo created a truly magical environment. Thank you!!!!