This proposed collaboration project is based on juxtaposition between paintings and text.

The text element is based on the premise underpinning the Mass Observation Movement, a series of notebooks containing material that records the everyday lives of people and their environment in both urban and rural communities. The observations cover a broad remit but focus in the main on snatched overheard conversations, noting subtle trends and behaviour through to recollections of daily events.

The recorded material is rarely written verbatim but considered, prompting further exploration, questions and sometimes fused with sardonic humour. Exhibiting the images and text in 2012 will have an added poignancy as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Mass Observation Movement.

Our challenge is to express aspects of potential meaning contained within 12 of these observations – on an individual basis as well as on a generic level, in 12 painted images. We are interested in the process of representing a through-line from the literal and immediate to the entirely abstract.

It could be argued that ‘meaning’, for any interested observer, is entirely subjective, and that the interplay between text and painting seeking to reveal a common essence is futile. Both mediums have ‘languages’ of their own that are entirely unique and, as a consequence, are mutually exclusive of one another. On the other hand, what if the relationship between text and paintings might elicit a sense whereby meanings-in-common is, or are, greater than the sum of their parts? Might the interested observer then attain a deeper, higher or more distinctive connection to these essences by engaging with both mediums side-by-side?

It is not unusual for artists to incorporate text into their work, or even to use text on its own for a part-aesthetic, part-conceptual basis. This project differs to more ubiquitous uses of text by artists in that the paintings are generated as a second-stage expression of the original medium and are contingent upon the text that brought them into life.

An outcome of this process, perhaps, might be the creation of a platform for documenting social and political issues which have relevance to all of us…or more even than this, perhaps illustrating a timeless quality to observing what we seem to do and how we seem to behave? James Joyce put forward the notion that Art should be like a small piece of grit in the machine of an otherwise (seemingly) perfect world, which implies Art should act as a mirror for us to look upon ourselves and seek truth. This notion is very much at the forefront of our minds…

Brian Neish
Tim Free

December 2011


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