Remarkable and Curious Conversations

Curated by Cally Trench (2009-12)

The vision behind Remarkable and Curious Conversations was that we would create a network of interactions between artists. These interactions might range from the tiny impact of a single comment to a full-scale collaboration. Each artist would allow the possibility of someone else having an effect on their work.

Remarkable and Curious Conversations

There were 38 artists and over 70 interactions. The project ran over three years from 2009 to 2012.

The Remarkable and Curious Conversations artists were: Tânia Bandeira Duarte, Tineke Bruijnzeels, Marco Calí, Alison Carter Tai, Carol Coates, Daphne Day-Handkammer, Claire Deniau, Alex Dewart, Pauline Edwards, Linda Francis, Judy Goldhill, Lynne Grace, Frances Greenough, Jane Grisewood, Joanna Hill, Theodore Hill, Patrick Jeffs, Ingrid Jensen, Lydia Maria Julien, Philip Lee, Heidi Locher, Sophie Loss, Dan Lovelace, Lis Mann, Valérie Mary, Lorraine Pepper, Steve Perfect, Roger Perkins, Alan Prosser, Ann Rapstoff, Brigitte Ritschard, Duncan Sellar, Kay Sentance, Joan Skelton Smith, Ben Steren Bell, Cally Trench, Imogen Welch, and Mary Yacoob.

C&M Plate Exchange by Claire Deniau and Mary Yacoob

C&M Plate Exchange by Claire Deniau and Mary Yacoob
Etching 8 - 7/6/11

Some of the Remarkable and Curious Conversations interactions involved the artists in a to-and-fro exchange of work where one artist worked on a piece and then passed it to another artist to work on. This included Claire Deniau and Mary Yacoob's C&M Plate Exchange (2011); Alex Dewart and Cally Trench's Sketchbook Sharing (2010); and Pauline Edwards and Daphne Day-Handkammer's Silence sketchbook exchange. Colexquis was an exquisite corpse in/with/about colour between Claire Deniau (Paris) and Valérie Mary (Bordeaux).

Conversation 1
18-3-2010 (T) by Tineke Bruijnzeels and Brigitte Ritschard
Conversation 1
18-3-2010 (T)

Conversation 1
24-5-2010 (B) by Tineke Bruijnzeels and Brigitte Ritschard
Conversation 1
24-5-2010 (B)
Conversation 1
10-6-2010 (T) by Tineke Bruijnzeels and Brigitte Ritschard
Conversation 1
10-6-2010 (T)

For Tineke Bruijnzeels and Brigitte Ritschard's Conversation in Three Dimensions (2010), the starting point for three of the conversations was a ping pong ball inserted with strands of wavy metal wire, made by Tineke. Brigitte responded to the piece, Tineke replied, and so on. Every ph(r)ase of the four conversations was photographed.

Postcards sent by Alison Carter Tai to Cally Trench

Postcards sent by Alison Carter Tai to Cally Trench
September 2009 - July 2010

In other cases, the exchange was in words and ideas (as well as images): Cally Trench and Alison Carter Tai's Postcard Exchange (2009-2011); Alison Carter Tai and Joan Skelton Smith's Open Work; Lorraine Pepper and Cally Trench's Letter Exchange (2009-2011); and Alison Carter Tai and Lorraine Pepper's Letters.

The Orange Painting by Claire Deniau

Claire Deniau, The Orange Painting (2009)
Oil on linen, 33 x 24 cm

In Claire Deniau and Joanna Hill's Painting and Moving Image, the two artists embarked on a journey to explore the boundaries between painting and moving image: colour, texture, mark, light, gesture, movement ... a desire to define and create a space where they both converge as a whole, and also preserve their individuality/identity.

By Frances Greenough By Frances Greenough

Frances Greenough (2010)

By Cally Trench By Cally Trench

Cally Trench (2010)

Sometimes two or three of the Remarkable and Curious Conversations artists chose to work in parallel.

For Wednesday, Friday, Sunday (2010), Frances Greenough and Cally Trench agreed that they would each make a piece of work every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The work had to be A6, vertical or horizontal format. It could be any surface, any medium and any subject. They met from time to time to show each other their work.

Babble by Pauline Edwards
Babble by Lynne Grace
Babble by Daphne Day-Handkammer

Babble (2011):
Pauline Edwards, Lynne Grace, Daphne Day-Handkammer

In Sparkle Babble Chaos, Pauline Edwards, Lynne Grace and Daphne Day-Handkammer encompassed the visual, text and audio, relating to word, image, and interpretation or misinterpretation. The idea behind the project was to see how the three individuals responded visually to the written word. On a weekly basis, one of them selected a word and sent it to the other two; all three responded visually to the same word in their sketchbooks. The first three words were 'sparkle', 'babble' and 'chaos'.

Another project that elicited a visual response to words or text was Drawing Round Trip; this was a drawing project between Claire Deniau, based in Paris, and Steve Perfect in London. One person sent a text message or email to the other with a title, subject or idea for a drawing.

Ginkgo near Aldermaston by Joan Skelton Smith

Joan Skelton Smith
Ginkgo near Aldermaston
(2011) Paper, 29.5 x 21 cm

In Ginkgo (2011), Joan Skelton Smith has made two paper cut-outs based on, and in response to, a photograph of a ginkgo tree taken by Alison Carter Tai.

For Looking Down, Patrick Jeffs wrote: "I decided to make a drawing which incorporated images created by other artists. These images were to be based on the idea of looking down - imagine for instance looking down from an aircraft, or looking at objects washed up on a beach or surveying litter on a street. If the drawings involved an illusion of three dimensional form, they should have been visualised as seen from directly overhead. As I intended the final drawing to be displayed on the floor it was important that the images were designed to be seen from any direction."

in Detail (2011), Joan Skelton Smith made a paper cut-out based on a detail of a photograph taken by Steve Perfect.

In some of the Remarkable and Curious Conversations projects, one of the artists invited a response or participation from any of the others who were interested. Alison Carter Tai invited people to reveal their childhood nickname in Remarkable Nicknames. Alison also invited us to tell her about our clothing in What does an artist wear?

The Shredded Money Project by Imogen Welch

Imogen Welch
The Shredded Money Project - Rabbit bedding (2010)
Letterpress printing on handmade shredded money paper

Imogen Welch invited people to suggest uses for shredded money in The Shredded Money Project (2010), and then printed many of the suggestions or made objects based on them.

I live in a fantasy world half the time Not really an artist? Can't take criticism
Forgiving Were you generous? I don't work hard enough and I don't know what I want
I'm really very lazy If I had a brain I'd be dangerous If looks could kill

Duncan Sellar's Self-Critical Badges gained a response from eighteen of the artists, who sent in terms of self-criticism, which Duncan made up into coloured badges. Duncan Sellar: "I'm surprised by how discomfiting the results are: the contrast between the sentiments expressed in the statements and the jolliness of the badges' appearance often feels discordant."

Time Out was a project where Lynne Grace made work from participants' written words about a personal holiday memory. She made paintings, which were then photographed and printed 5 x 7 inches to be displayed in a postcard roundel, continuing the holiday theme.

Messy hair by Lydia Maria Julien
Messy Hair by Lydia Maria Julien

Lydia Maria Julien
Messy Hair 010 (2010)

Lydia Julien invited artists to be photographed with messy hair: Messy hair 010. Lydia Julien: "This is a project that started with my obsession with Boris Johnson's hair. I am seduced by the notion of messy, tangled hair and the way it almost becomes a living thing in itself."

Matchbox by Joan Skelton Smith

Detail 2 (2012)
by Joan Skelton Smith

For Kay Sentance's Getting to know you in a matchbox, artists were invited to give each other a taste of their work that could actually be held, in a minature form.

Remarkable Bookshelf 2 by Cally Trench

Detail of Remarkable Bookshelf 2 by Cally Trench

In June 2010, Cally Trench asked the artists to tell her what they were reading, and made a zigzag book of the spines to create Remarkable Bookshelf. She asked the artists again a year later, in June 2011, and made Remarkable Bookshelf 2.

Earliest Memories Quilt

Earliest Memories Quilt (2012) by Lis Mann
Work in progress

In 2012, Lis Mann invited the artists to send her their earliest memories in a sentence, handwritten, by post, to be embroidered and sewn together to make Earliest Memories Quilt.

Obscure Corners by Brigitte Ritschard

Brigitte Ritschard
Obscure Corners

For Obscure Corners, Brigitte Ritschard asked people to send her photographs of obscure corners in their house or studio. She received responses from five artists. Brigitte's project was to make small paper houses with a detail of a photograph or a drawing.

Remarkable and Curious Record Label was a project by "Ben Steren Bell", assisted by Duncan Sellar and Dan Lovelace. Ben invited the artists to join him in creating a collection of fictional records for the Remarkable and Curious record label. The question was: If your life were a record, what would it be called?

Linda Francis invited artists to send her photographs of Unintentional Traces: "As artists we 'leave our marks' deliberately, but I am interested in the unintentional traces that we leave behind. Do they tell a story? Do they leave clues to the personality of the artist? They may be the result of a repetitive action that we do not notice, or they may be the result of an accident that we have been unable to eradicate."

For Neverospective, Duncan Sellar wrote: "I'm interested in collecting Remarkable and Curious Conversations participants' ideas for artistic projects that haven't been realised; these might be projects that haven't worked out, projects that time and resources haven't allowed the artist to complete, projects that are the artistic equivalent of 'unfilmable', or just total fantasies. The intention is to organise these ideas into an installation entitled Neverospective, which will take the form of a museum with models, drawings and commentary representing each project."

For Remarkable Nature, Tineke Bruijnzeels worked with the replies she received asking for people's experience of nature.

Mladic by Joan Skelton Smith

Joan Skelton Smith, Mladic (2011)
Cut paper template, 35 x 53.5 cm
based on photo suggested by Cally Trench

For Papel Picado, Joan Skelton Smith asked for political images from other artists. She produced three new paper cut-outs based on these photos, which form part of an ongoing series. These cut-outs serve as templates for tissue paper banners in the style of Mexican Papel Picado banners. This series operates as both history painting and social political commentary.

Nick on Blue by Judy Goldhill and Sophie Loss

Judy Goldhill and Sophie Loss
Nick on Blue

Some of the Remarkable and Curious Conversations interactions involved a true collaboration, where the work being made by the group was a real combined effort, with ownership being undisputedly shared.

In Judy Goldhill and Sophie Loss's Cymbals in Pas de Deux - Reification, Sophie Loss began the process by using words to describe an internal image. The words were then interpreted by Judy Goldhill to conjure her own vision. The discrepancies/differences/confrontation between the two created tension and open endless possibilities producing unexpected situations and results.

Three performances by Cally Trench, Annie Rapstoff and Philip Lee - In Praise of Zebra Crossings (2011); Triple Spin (2012) and Zebra Pelican Cross (2012) - were collaborations that celebrated zebra crossings. Unlike pedestrian crossings involving traffic lights, zebra crossings require drivers and pedestrians to engage in a social contract with each other and to recognise each other's humanity.

Anyone Allowed Anywhere by Frances Greenough and Dan Lovelace Anyone Allowed Anywhere by Frances Greenough and Dan Lovelace
Anyone Allowed Anywhere by Frances Greenough and Dan Lovelace Anyone Allowed Anywhere by Frances Greenough and Dan Lovelace

In Anyone Allowed Anywhere, Frances Greenough and Dan Lovelace worked on a joint painting.

Blue Home Grown (2011) is an artist's book, the result of a collaboration between Cally Trench and Philip Lee.

A Last Bit of Loving Care

Ingrid Jensen and Steve Perfect
A Last Bit of Loving Care

A Last Bit of Loving Care is a film by Ingrid Jensen and Steve Perfect saying goodbye to the old Saint Martins building. "The idea was to perform a short meditative act of cleaning/polishing on a token part of the building structure (eg banister, window, floor, door), with the act being filmed/photographed. It is related to the idea of "last offices" or laying out following a bereavement, and is a way of formalising the "saying goodbye" process."

Cally Trench, Judy Goldhill and Philip Lee collaborated on a series of photographic projects of Philip Lee's body painted with black body paint to create a series of striped patterns. These projects were Camouflage: Striped (2009), Crumpled (2009), Dazzled (2009), Angled (2010), and Rippled (2010).

In some of the Remarkable and Curious Conversations projects, two media were brought together. Theodore Hill wrote music to accompany Cally Trench's Black Boxes.

Jane Gisewood Mapping Blindfold Slip I

Jane Grisewood mapping Blindfold Slip I
Photograph: Sophie Loss

In Mapping Blindfold Slip (2011) and Mapping Window Slip (2012), Jane Grisewood made drawings as a response to a performance by Philip Lee to record the virtual trajectory and traces of his body moving in time and space through seismic-like marks on the paper. Remarkable and Curious Conversations included two performances by Philip Lee: Body Cell Slip (24th March 2012) and Window Slip (15th July 2012).

Places 127 by Steve Perfect

Steve Perfect, Photo 127

For Places, Steve Perfect asked for collaboration on a project that started with a selection of photographs of places. He asked us to look at the pictures, choose one, and write down any memories, reflections or sensations that it evoked.

Interface: Photo Joan Skelton Smith

Claire Deniau and Valérie Mary
participate in Interface
Photograph: Joan Skelton Smith

In some Remarkable and Curious Conversations interactions, artists experienced something offered by another artist.

In Interface in Reading (9th April 2011) and Interface (15th July 2012), Ingrid Jensen offered people the experience of drawing, or being drawn, by touch. Interface was about doing away with the pencil. It was also about exploring the personal space between people - we often think it's OK to explore people's personal topography provided we don't touch them. In Interface, participants were invited to imagine they are "drawing" each other's faces by gently running a finger over the facial surface and features.

Office for Zebra Crossings Office for Zebra Crossings
Office for Zebra Crossings Office for Zebra Crossings

In Office for Zebra Crossings, Annie Rapstoff collected data on people's responses to zebra crossings and the small hand gestures they make as pedestrians to drivers that stop.

In Slip Dipping, Philip Lee invited the artists and others to dip their hands, feet, or any other part of their body, into a large bucket of slip (smooth white runny clay), and he recorded their reactions and responses.

Home Delivery - Cally Trench's Board Games

In some Remarkable and Curious Conversations projects, artists facilitated something for other artists. In The Home Delivery, organised by Artwash (Kay Sentance, Ann Rapstoff and Barry Reeve), customers were invited to choose from a menu of five art-dishes. Cally Trench's Board Games were ordered by a customer for the evening of 4th November 2009; the customer and her friends played three games: Hitched, Board Game, and Danger Money.

Some of the Remarkable and Curious Conversations joint ventures involved exhibiting together.

For 101, Sophie Loss brought together a group of 21 artists (including eight from Remarkable and Curious Conversations), each of whom made a moving image work of 101 seconds in duration. The work was screened 12-13 March 2010 at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds, as part of an international contemporary artists book fair, held at Parkinson Court, University of Leeds.

The Re...Show curator Rekha Sameer invited six of the Remarkable and Curious Conversations artists to install work in this exhibition at Out Of The Dark, High Wycombe, as guest artists on 19th November 2011. There was an opportunity for everyone to write down a few words or phrases about each work; this formed a starting point for a discussion of each work facilitated by Rekha and Cally.

The Remarkable and Curious Conversations interactions also included a number of gatherings (small and large) in house, flats and studios, where the artists who attended could show and talk about their current or recent work, or give feedback to one particular artist. These occasions were also very relaxed and sociable, often involving cake.

These gatherings included Conversation at Alex's (10th September 2009), Post-Uni Conversations (10th March 2010), Alex at Blue Fin (31st March 2010), Visiting Dan (31st July 2010), Cake and Art at Martina's (6th May 2010), In the Secret Garden (28th May 2010), Discussion at Mary's (28th July 2010), Forum at Joanna's (22nd September 2010), Fuchsia River, Fuchsia Sea (2010) Paris Forum (20th November 2010), Conversation at Cally's (30th December 2010), Discourse at Mary's and Rope (9th March (2011), Joan and Lis Together (19th April 2011) and Lydia's Discussion Forum (21st July 2011).

Steve Perfect: "Perhaps the most fundamental form of collaboration (and one that all artists must acknowledge however un-collaborative their practice may seem) is the giving and receiving of thoughts, criticisms and ideas on each other's work."

Joan Skelton Smith: "I feel reinvigorated to get on with more work."

Lydia Julien: "Being part of a network is so very important and it relieves the isolation that I believe we all feel as artists."

Cally Trench: "I have been thinking about why it can be so helpful to discuss your work with other people. It is not that the other people are actually very likely to make good suggestions or solve problems. Unless they already know your work and intentions very well, they are as likely to miss the mark as hit it. So what do these conversations do? Assuming that the response is positive and supportive, then the sheer fact of other people taking the time to consider the work and listen to you speak about it, can give you a boost. It can be reinvigorating and counteract moments of dwindling confidence. But it also allows you to articulate thoughts that have been circling about amorphously in the brain. It can be hard to realise what you really think about something until you try to put it into words. So being an attentive audience may be the most helpful thing other people can do. And inevitably, everything that the other people say reveals what it is like to view the work, rather than to have make it. So you get flashes of what it is like to have that distance from the work, to be in the viewer's shoes. At the same time, the audience get flashes of what it was like to have made the work - which may in turn impact on their own work. It is also fascinating how much people (including artists) revert from analysis to emotional responses. And it is hugely satisfying to make work that other people respond to by saying 'I like that'."

Some of these gatherings facilitated conversation while doing something else. Lis Mann organised two events: Lis's Walk (2nd May 2010), and Conversations with Clay (20th October 2009), during which each participant manipulated a piece of clay while engaging in conversation.

Patrick Jeffs: "I found myself engaged in two streams of thought: the largely unconscious process of trying to create form in an unfamiliar medium whilst taking part in a conversation which ranged over many topics."

Remarkable and Curious Conversations culminated in two exhibitions.

Click on the thumbnails:

Remarkable Place

Remarkable Place

Remarkable Place was a weekend exhibition with events and interactions at OpenHandOpenSpace, The Keep, Reading RG30 1HL on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th March 2012.

The Remarkable Shed Party

The Remarkable Shed Party

The Remarkable Shed Party took place at Sophie's Shed, London on Sunday 15th July 2012. This was the finale for Remarkable and Curious Conversations. It was curated by Cally Trench and hosted by Sophie Loss.

Cally Trench's homepage