Opening of our Flock Together exhibition at Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton

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The day had finally come! – the opening of our solo exhibition ‘Flock Together’ at Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton, Devon – showing our collaborative works, culminated from the last 2 years.

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And, what a fantastic start to the exhibition – huge thanks are due to Angela, the curator, who has done a brilliant job in hanging our work in this wonderful gallery – the combination of clean white walls, a light and airy atmosphere and a characterful building, really fits well with our work.

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It was great to be able to have some of the earlier pieces shown alongside the newer works – allowing the viewer to see how our work has progressed and developed.

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Our video installation has its own darkened viewing room upstairs, with chairs provided for people to sit and watch the action unfold. This gives people the opportunity to gain an insight into the ideas that inform our paintings – the rounding-up of the sheep by farmer Tony and sheepdog Fly, seen simultaneously from all their perspectives.

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There’s interpretation text around the gallery, describing our process-led practice

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and there’s items that we use to create the work, displayed in a cabinet, along with photos from filming at the farm and packaging documenting the posting of work between our 2 studios.

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In addition to the more complex works, we’ve included some simpler 4-layer drawings. We see these as works in their own right, but they also operate as explanation of our process – they are part of the early developmental stages of a painting – and it’s interesting to have them exhibited alongside the final pieces, as a contrast.

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We were delighted that farmer Tony came along for the opening of the show – he has given us so much of his expertise, time and support at the farm, along with generously allowing us amazing access to his working dogs and sheep. We see them all as collaborators in this project and we are completely indebted to them.

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We were also very grateful to Barbara, another of the farmers that we have been working with, who brought along some of her sheep to be ‘in residence’ on the front lawn at the gallery, for the afternoon. In the early days of our project, Barbara kindly allowed us to work with 3 of her sheep on her farm, trialling ways of putting cameras and GPS handsets on them and it is one of these sheep, named ‘Lippy II’, that wore a GPS pack and took on the role of ‘camera-sheep’!

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The data that we recorded from those early trials, was used to create ‘Barbara’s field 18:20-19:45’, shown here with Barbara. We were so pleased to have the sheep at the gallery, as this really helped to contextualise our project and emphasise the links with the farming community, which has been at the heart of our work.

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We have always encouraged debate around our process of art production and collaboration, so we are delighted to have this opportunity to exhibit our work and talk to visitors about it – and we really appreciate all the feedback we are getting.

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Up for discussion was the contrast between our limited edition prints and our paintings – in developing these, we’d set out to capture the essence of our multi-layered process, whilst restricting ourselves to only a few layers. This was always going to be a challenge for us and we are immensely grateful to the fantastic team at Double Elephant Print Workshop in Exeter of Simon, Lynn and George. We heavily relied on their expertise to create prints that retain the integrity of the original ideas, whilst exploiting the characteristic properties of printmaking. The thread from the top of animal feed-sacks was hand-sewn to the ‘Bring Them On’ print edition, to maintain a direct conceptual link to the farm.

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Our 3 newest works were also greatly scrutinised, as these had been shown ‘in progress’ at the Nissen Hut exhibition at the farm and since then had had several layers added – making them unrecognisable to some of the visitors who had previously seen them in their unfinished state.

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We’ve always felt that it’s important to share our process during all of its stages – especially as the initial production of our collaborative works started during a 10-week long artist residency for the Drawn 2013 exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, where we worked in full-view of the public and openly encouraged interaction with them. Therefore, it’s been great to receive comments regarding how these works look now and discuss with visitors how artists decide when a work is finished – determining that, is always a bit of a challenge! As collaborating artists, we have a rule we follow that says that we both have to feel that the final outcome meets its initial aim, so sometimes this requires more layers to be added – however, it also means that no painting gets exhibited, unless we’re both happy with it, so hopefully that creates an interesting and exciting body of work for exhibition.

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We’d like to say a huge thank you to all the people who came to the opening event – we were so pleased to meet you all and excited by the level of debate and feedback we were getting. The show continues until Saturday 17th October and there are several more events coming up – details can be found on the gallery website www.thelmahulbert.com

We hope to see you there!

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