HELEN FOX - Curator
B O U N D A R I E S
"What do we accept defines art? We all have our own personal ideas and perception of what it is. What does contemporary art look like? What does it do? It shifts borders, artists constantly explore boundaries, and they change all the time: different style, materials, cognitive and aesthetic boundaries. Art does itself not care about boundaries, it is an activity at the beginning. The artist plays with traditional boundaries (cultural conventions, artistic traditions and genres) and how art should be made. By setting boundaries, we produce meaning. What would art be without meaning? Never have we felt boundaries affecting our lives more. The effect of Covid-19 has been so significant. We have a greater sense of those boundaries affecting our external and internal life: the Island boundary, our boundaries with our neighbours, the heightened sense of place we have all felt during lockdown, the ritual daily exercise and the appreciation for the slower way of life. In facing our internal boundaries and dealing with mental health, creative practice helps us to release and find a way of processing and dealing with the world. Modeen (2006) wrote, “an island insists on its definitions: the geography of water and land are incontrovertible. For an island that is also a nation, more than shorelines defines distinctiveness”. Curating an exhibition in itself is a visual marker, a statement of direction. The definition given to this exhibition gives it shape, coherence and meaning, bringing together this selected group of works. It has given all those artists who rose to the challenge and submitted works an opportunity to explore the boundaries of perception, of art and the boundaries of making art. I love to see the limitations of the materials being tested. Whether this is paint, wood or fabric, it is the transition that material encounters as it transcends the mind of the artist that I find most satisfying. In making the selection, the accompanying artists’ statements were invaluable giving real insight into the works and how this theme has affected the works produced. I feel very privileged to be a part of this collaboration between the Creative Network and Manx National Heritage. I have high expectations for this exhibition, that it will offer an opportunity for artists to push their own boundaries. “We as teachers have no right to demand from our students what we are unable or unwilling to do ourselves.” Albers 1939 In my role as educator at the University College Isle of Man, helping students to test and break their own boundaries, I think it is important that I use my own work to test the traditional boundaries of my art practice. I also feel a responsibility to extend an educational role outside of the institution to have a dialogue with a wider audience about contemporary art practice, making connections to the landscape and culture we share, and extending our understanding of the sense of place. I am interested in how we are affected by the communities in which we explore our creative practice and how that community responds to the work we make. To represent the landscape in ways other than traditional painting is a challenge in a small Island community. HELEN FOX Recently I have been working with materials found within the landscape and which make comment on the environmental and economic issues I experience. I am interested in how we interpret the landscape we live in, using the materials found within it to construct new windows into the livelihoods and pastimes of its inhabitants. This has become an integral part of my work: developing the narrative not only with the visual language (shapes, colours, textures etc), but with the history that the materials I use already have; constructing pieces that can be enjoyed merely for their beauty but also encouraging the audience to look deeper, to explore the intertwining relationships of the past and present, the different jobs and uses these materials have had, the hands that have touched, manipulated and controlled them, offering multiple layers of meaning."