Emily Ball at Seawhite
Contemporary Drawing and Painting Courses
Affichages Libres et Sauvages
Recent Work by John Skinner
Image: Hâle blanc 4, 2020 (John Skinner) photo Sebastien Le Guen; Ne t'énquetes pas 2, 2020, (John Skinner)
In this newsletter we are excited to share with you what my colleague and friend John Skinner has been doing over the past year, based as he is, in the South of France. In a normal year he would be flying over to teach two Master Classes at the Seawhite studio, but obviously this has not been possible. We have missed these dynamic, invigorating and challenging painting sessions with him.
However, John and I have kept in touch regularly over the months and it has been really good to hear how he is continuing to develop his work; being inventive and finding opportunities to continue to open out his ideas and share them in these strange times of lockdown and isolation. Making paintings is vital to him and I greatly admire his work, focus and tenacity.
Affichages Libres et Sauvages translates in English as “Free and Wild Displays”. It is the title that John has given to his most recent work – a series of paintings that he has displayed on posterboards around his home town of Sète. In this newsletter he has kindly agreed to let us share with you the way in which Affichages Libres et Sauvages has developed and evolved and to reflect on the unexpected gifts that this body of work has given him.
“My friend Juliette Mézenc once said to me that I could use words like paint - increasingly words are appearing in my paintings. I began to think also of words being used as images and the series of “Mot Peints” followed.” (John)
Image: Mot Maudits, 2020, John Skinner
In October 2020, John’s colleague Delphine Jalabert was preparing for an open studio event using John’s studio space. On seeing the developments of the “Mots Peints” she suggested that John paste them to the exterior walls of the studio. And so began the idea of “Affichages Libres et Sauvages.”
Image: Mots Muraux Live, photo by Christy Peurtolas
Everything went into lockdown again shortly after this and John went back to working from home:
“In my madness I am pissing everybody off including Mary - Losing friends - can't go anywhere except shops and doctors. I have not been to the studio for weeks, except briefly to gather bits and bobs to paint with at home.” (John to Joss, email:19.11.20)
Image: corner studio, John Skinner
Working in a corner studio in his apartment in Sète, John began The Invocation Series. The expression of rage in this series of work was partly fueled by John’s sense of anger and frustration with the political situation in Europe, but they also had a myriad other catalysts informing them:
“The figures with their arms above their heads have many meanders flowing into to them; a plastic toy found on the beach, little branches/figures tied with cotton ; ancient Egyptian bird women, women protesting against male violence; Belarusian women standing up to the government thugs.” (John)
Image: Suis Aneanti (John Skinner), Branch figure (John Skinner)
Click here to see more of The Invocation Series.
John’s friend Joss - who works with Arts Central in Milton Keynes and is involved with the construction of a new gallery -was adamant that The Invocation Series needed to be seen by a wide audience. He proposed a show in Milton Keynes some time in the future:
“Always good to see your work, and with an angry slice of red too. Bloody brilliant work, John. Your stuff just keeps getting better, stronger - more real and vital. I am thrilled by it. But what will happen to it? It must be shown…the raw power of paint and nothingness. Bravo. (Joss to John, emails 1.12.20 & 3.3.21)
Image: Tu Ne Risque Rien (John Skinner)
On one of his morning walks John noticed that his colleague Sebastien Le Guen had pasted up some cartoons that he had drawn. The idea to display the original paintings arose out of seeing Seb’s cartoons. But this left John with a dilemma regarding how to save the work to show at a later date, whilst also displaying them in Sète now. Since all the recent paintings were made on photocopy paper, the solution was to make same size photocopies.
John enlisted Seb's help. Seb - Director, creator and performer of Lonely Circus – had seen all his performances cancelled because of lockdown, and so was able to dedicate time and energy to this new venture, dubbed by Seb as “Resistance Artistique.”
Initially, John and Seb would spend the late afternoons/early evenings wandering the town postering. In Sète there are “Affichage Libre” panels where anybody can paste up any posters they like. There is even a map of where the panels are on the Sète website. There are also places on buildings that have been closed for years like the Hotel des Arts where Affichages Sauvages goes on, so John and Seb used some of those places as well. Some of the posters were covered over quite quickly - others are still there today.
Image: Hale Blanc 4, 2020 (John Skinner), photo Sébastien Le Guen
“They look really good and fit in well on notice boards. Like a shout at the community. Well done. Hope you get feedback!" (Joss to John, email 31.01.21)
Image: Une torture soignée 2, 2020 (John Skinner), photo Sébastien Le Guen
Click here to see more of John's Les Invocations
“It was a most agreeable experience – no publicity, no private view, no speeches, no explaining, no standing around sipping wine – just good fun - so we decided to do more and three sorties were completed of the first group of six images.
" Last week Seb and I posted up a new set of four images all in Sauvage places simply because these seemed to last longer. This was early morning because the town is in curfew after 18.00h. Again a different sort of experience, but still good fun!" (John)
Image: Une renonciation à tout 3, 2021 (John Skinner); La Cible 1, 2021 (John Skinner), photo Sebastien Le Guen
“I can show my work live and for free. No applications, no grants. At low cost and available to all who pass by. It’s quite extraordinary; not an original idea but one that’s been going on for ages – I never thought I would find myself here!” (John)
A Philosophy to Paint By
John has created a catalogue of eight short films that are now available to purchase via our website. In these films John explains his philosophy about the process of making paintings and where his inspiration comes from. Some of these are selected recordings of past talks given by John during the Master Classes, some are poetic films that he has made in France exploring the subjects that fascinate him.
These films are wonderful pieces of inspiration and would be a valuable resource for artists, reminding us what it is all about when we feel stuck, low or despondent. It might be helpful to think of them like a reference book in film-form: something that you can dip into again and again. There is so much content in all that he says that it is really valuable to be able to listen and watch again.
To find out more about the films or to purchase your copy, please click on the image below
Image: Mensonges qui Corrodent - l'amour dans la bloc operatoire - LXIXap - huile dur toile - 79.5x144.5cm, John Skinner
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