Non-Fictions: Identity, Marginality and Agency

Gavin Fry, Andrew Walsh-Lister (Other)

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


The exhibition will explore the working relationship between making, materiality and thinking, how ideas are edited and built over time into artworks.

As an artist working outside the mainstream the themes explored in all my works are identity, marginality, and agency. Sketchbooks and stitching enable me to play myself because my identity is partially constructed through making with them, and in turn, this becomes a device to activate further inquiry. Roland Barthes in his essay The World as Object, discusses the transformation of things (and materials) “taking refuge within attributes”; for over forty years the attributes of embroidery have become a productive epistemic practice and enabled me to occupy narratives on both a personal and historic ledge.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of having an art practice is to use it as a trigger to ask questions that might not otherwise have been considered or I probably never would have asked. By capturing information in samples and sketchbooks accidental discoveries, improvements, or problematic blocks (which can become invisible with progress) become available for use in my artworks and writing.

The exhibition will consist of two very large two vitrines housing sketchbooks, journals, embroidered matter, and experiments made by me and two other artists which I will curate. In addition, there would be very large wall hung artworks by each of the two following artists: Anthony Green RA and Mary Cozens-Walker. An accompanying essay and captions would explain the working relationships between us, and the enduring cumulative influence of documenting ideas on all works in the exhibition.

For myself, Cozens-Walker and Green the process of active documentation is at the core of art practice. All three of us actively document our ideas and investigations during the making period and do so using materials familiar to us - so as not to inhibit but make easier both the documentation and making processes. These forms and material choices support and contextualize the ideas.

Hand stitching is a slow rhythmic craft that describes both functional and symbolic dimensions of joining and being attached, as such it is a social encounter, and this is demonstrated in my artwork and in the work of Mary Cozens-Walker. Not strictly a painter or sculptor, or an embroiderer, she developed her own paint-stitch style on cloth, papier-mache and found objects, to chronicle the intimacies and intricacies of life. Her work sits between painter Anthony Green’s and mine. His building blocks are loops of memories dense with objects that have personalities, patterns and a tenderness that has occasionally resulted in sculpted forms but usually in oil paintings and is always grounded by sketch-booking. This exhibition will build on my doctoral thesis to explore the work of educator Prof Nancy de Freitas in the field of active documentation and education.

The gallery walls would display artworks themed according to three categories: Identity, Marginality and Agency. This would include framed and unframed works that will relate to the smaller ones kept in the vitrines with the sketchbooks.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


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