Bloc beginnings

by Helen Barker

So, having completed my residency at the Woodmill Studios I’ve flown north and landed in Sheffield, my home town, for a brief stint at Bloc Studios. I have a lovely little space and so far the community vibe has not disappointed – there’s even a “swap shop” cupboard for everyone to leave/collect/re-use unwanted items. Of this, I greatly approve.

It’s been a bit of a struggle to get going lately, I over-exerted myself with a recent influx of events and have been a bit shell-shocked these last few days. But the change of air and surroundings is invigorating and I’ve spent some time pottering about the city, familiarizing myself with whats on offer. Yesterday I checked out a brilliant show at the Site Gallery by Guy Ben Ner. I first came across this artist’s work in 2004 when I visited the MOMA in New York and saw his video Moby Dick playing. It’s always stuck with me as a witty and exciting piece and it was great to see some of his new stuff here in old blighty. An impressive new collection of material is on show. I particularly warmed to the de-construction of work by Duchamp and Picasso in a video where Ben Ner and his children take original art works (like bike wheels on plinths) to pieces and  put it back together again to form a bicycle – claiming art back for its original use value.

I’m not impressed with the Millennium Galleries, the contemporary exhibition is bland and repetative, and the Ruskin gallery, which used to be lovely, has been reduced to a small square patch of carpet and a few display cabinets. I await new and more challenging interpretations of creativity in this particular place.

I spent yesterday morning in Waterstones and picked up an interesting book entitled Vermeer’s Hat by Timothy Brook. I haven’t really made much of a feature of it on this blog (yet) but Vermeer is a huge influence and interest of mine and I am constantly on the look out for material/stories/info relating to his oeuvre of work. He’s been the catalyst for my recent interest in Dutch Still Life and the art of looking. Inspired, I returned to my studio and made a wall map of ideas, thoughts and points for consideration. After a messy few weeks of meeting deadlines and casting all other thoughts into over-flowing notebooks, I have not had the time to sift through my working process and it was great to throw a few words onto paper at last.

There is so much splurge that I hardly know where to begin. I guess the next move is to distill some of the thinking into form.