Tab Interview: Byard Art Exhibitors

Have you got half an hour to kill on King’s Parade? TABATHA LEGGETT drinks 10 cups of coffee and checks out the 10×10 show in Byard Art.

10/10/10 10x10 Art beckie reed byard art exhibition lee madgwick rebecca merry Tabatha Leggett

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The inspiration behind Byard Art’s latest exhibition was its opening date: 10/10/10. The exhibition opened at 10am. 10 artists displayed 10 artworks measuring 10×10 inches each. I drank about 10 cups of free coffee at the opening due to said opening time.

‘Most of the artists who were invited to take part in the exhibition really enjoyed the challenge that the 10×10 theme presented,’ the exhibition curator explained. ‘For most artists, working on a 10×10 picture is really difficult, because it’s so small. It requires such intricate work.

‘Hence, some of the artists who were invited to be a part of this exhibition declined. They found the project incredibly restrictive. They weren’t prepared to work on such a small scale. But, those who took on the challenge have produced some really beautiful and complicated work.’

One of the artists who is exhibiting her work at Byard Art is Beckie Reed. Beckie’s work is largely inspired by the countryside in Norfolk and Suffolk, and she has recently started working with enamel paint. ‘Of course there’s more freedom to paint on a large canvas,’ she said, ‘but I have hundreds of photos of things that I want to paint, but just won’t work on a big scale,’ she told me. ‘So, it’s been really nice to work on such a specific brief, and on something totally different to what I’ve done before.’

Beckie’s series of tree paintings are beautiful, and yet lie in stark contrast to fellow exhibitor Lee Madgwick’s work. Lee’s work at this exhibition focused on random objects, and he worked hard to ensure that his pieces remained distinctly British. ‘I have also enjoyed working on such small pieces,’ Lee explained, ‘I didn’t find it overly restrictive, and found myself putting more time into the work to produce greater detail. It’s definitely a project I’d like to go further with.’

Lee’s paintings were probably my favourites in the exhibition. Each of his pieces showed a single object (for example, a garden shed), frozen in time and without any surroundings. His work was somehow haunting, and yet ultimately very beautiful.

‘I agree,’ said Beckie, ‘I’d also like to continue doing work like this. It’s nice to have smaller projects like this going on alongside other work.’

Photography by Will Seymour

However, not all of the artists were new to painting on such a small scale. Rebecca Merry, for example, explained that she is used to producing 5×5 inch pieces. ‘I’m used to producing finely decorated work,’ Rebecca told me, ‘I’m used to working on stuff that is up to a third of the size of the pieces on display here, and so I suppose the project challenged me in a different way to the other artists.

‘The work that I am displaying here is all inspired by my holiday to Cyprus this summer,’ she continued. ‘I was supposed to go on a three week holiday, but I ended up staying there for two months! I loved it there.

‘I found the landscapes in Cyprus really inspiring: the sea and the mountains. And a lot of my work is inspired by Cypriot mythology – Aphrodite is from Cyprus, and so lots of my pieces focused around her.

‘I’ve really enjoyed the 10×10 theme,’ she continued. ‘Some of my pieces are still works in progress, but I’m hoping to have them all here by the end of the exhibition. I produced a series of four, a series of three, a couple of paintings that are displayed together and then one solitary piece which is in the window of the gallery. And, of course, four plus three plus two plus one equals ten.’

What struck me as most interesting about the 10×10 exhibition was that all of the artists were working under the same brief, and yet had produced such different work. Whilst Beckie’s tree paintings were breathtakingly true to life, Lee’s solitary random objects were somehow emotive and mysterious. And Rebecca’s work was entirely different again. Rebecca works primarily in egg tempera, and uses copper in her paintings. ‘It’s a really old technique,’ she told me, ‘but I’m really interested in working with unusual materials.

‘I think my style has changed recently,’ she continued. ‘I’m studying for an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Anglia Ruskin University, which I think has made me paint differently; perhaps in a simpler way.’

The idea of gathering 10 artists to partake in such a unique project has undoubtedly produced some fascinating results. If you find yourself with half an hour to spare between lectures and supervisions, pop down to King’s Parade and check out Byard Art’s exhibition; you won’t regret it.

The 10×10 exhibition will be at Byard Art until 31st October 2010.