Watercolour and biro on heavyweight cartridge paper, each 216 x 280mm, 2020/21
(Above: Top: 'External Wall, 'Worry Worms', 'Table Top'. Bottom: 'North Pond Hermit', 'Shielding (After Quentin Blake)', 'Still Life (Fictional Nature)'.
These initial six works were developed over August 2020, motivated by three things: to produce something for the #ArtistSupportPledge on instagram; to fundraise for Downright Excellent, the Down Syndrome charity we take our four year old daughter Alice to; and to make something that could start processing the complex feelings living through Covid-19 brings up. It also needed to be something I could produce at home, away from the studio, as caring full time for our two children leaves little time and space to make work.
The watercolours are all the exact size and layout of The World of Interiors magazine, with the initial of the title swapped out for a different vowel or absence. Each one uses the materials in a different way to deal with imagery that has preoccupied me during this time, reflecting something of life as part of a shielding family in lockdown. These were then sold via Instagram under the hashtag #ASP4DEX.
Above: 'External Wall', is painted from a photograph of the front of our terraced house, turning up the saturation in the source photograph to reveal the myriad colours and textures in the 1920s brickwork. In my daily afternoon walk to get the kids off to sleep we walk looping routes around the nearby streets, my eye drawn to the same details of this estate that has become our reduced world.
Above: 'Worry Worms', is based on little creatures I'd been doodling during lockdown, representing various anxieties of the situation. It was improvised directly onto the paper and is designed as a repeating pattern in every direction. It refers to the stylised nature of E17 neighbour William Morris but also one of the worms is imitating a recurring shape in a pattern by Marc Camille Chaimowicz, who's own book 'World of Interiors' is another reference point.
Above: 'Table Top', is an aeriel view of where I sit at our dining table, the site of every meal, lesson, workshop, craft project etc. It is also a collaboration with Alice, who I left to draw the coloured pencil lines over my watercolour woodgrain.
Above: 'North Pond Hermit', is based on the story of Christopher Knight who camped out hidden in the forests of Maine for 27yrs, only uttering one word ("Hi") to another person in all that time, and then only to avoid suspicion. We used an extract from Michael Finkel's great book about him, 'Stranger in the Woods', in the first ever #SaunaReadingGroup.
Above: 'Shielding (after Quentin Blake)', is based on a page from Blake's 'ABC', a book I often read Alice off to sleep with. This illustration has always preoccupied me, with that uncertain mood. As an experiment I reversed the colours in photoshop and printed out each version, making a study of both together.
Above: 'Still Life (Fictional Nature)', is an imagined view of a common sight on our daily sanctioned walks. But the weed is invented and the butterfly a mutation. The view somehow unconvincing. Thinking about how human and organic life is adapting and ephemeral in these times.
Anteriors 2' are the second set of six unique watercolours made in response to my experience as part of a shielding family in lockdown, and to raise money for Downright Excellent, the Down Syndrome charity we take our daughter Alice to.
As in the first set, these use the same size and format, 216 x 288mm, of the cover of 'The World of Interiors' magazine, with the main 'cover' image representing something of my feelings throughout this time. Each is a planned composition but improvised straight onto the paper. For this set the title of each one is derived from an anagram of the word 'Interiors', that somehow pairs with the imagery.
Above: 'Ironi Rest' is built around the outline of a sketch I made during the first lockdown of a Low Squat, an Isometric (or static, unmoving) exercise from a series I was practicing then. Traced around with masking fluid it was then flooded with watercolour pigment.
Above: 'Iron Rites' is a transcription of various paperwork gathered throughout the lockdowns. Daily childcare schedule, teaching notes, 'To Do' list and colouring in.
Each one an optimistic attempt to quantify something intangible, full comprehension just out of reach. Laid out on our dining table and painted in a trompe l'oeil manner, inspired by the book covers of Richard Chopping.
Above: 'Erors Init' is an attempt to chart the colours of our weekly food delivery. The fresh, packaged or frozen items that I am still washing down piece by piece before putting away. Laid out within the pattern of the chicken wire mesh that I use a lot of in one of my other paid jobs.
Above: 'Roten Iris' is my elastic resistance exercise band, collapsed on the floor. Thinking about the repetitive looping of days and weeks, picked out with points of interest.
Above: 'Siri Tenor' is my attempt at a watercolour self portrait. Sat in front of the mirror in a blue and red striped shirt I painted it without ever looking back at the paper. Perhaps somehow also reflecting something of my sense of self during these times.
Above: 'Err, Is It? No.' is based on the graphics of a billboard poster advertising the latest 'Now That's What I Call Music...' album that I would pass every day last summer on my daily walks with my two small children. It was replaced in the Autumn lockdown by one for the next in the series. The graphics are always in a seemingly endless, extruded, faceted font. I would walk past daydreaming about the current slipperiness of time and the intangible moment, as we slide from one week to the next, one trauma to the next.
As before, I sold the watercolours via Instagram, launching them first with a studio tour video. This time each was £300, with £250 of that going to Downright Excellent. The full set sold out a few days later, and with some extra generosity from one buyer we raised £1600!
Everything was hosted on www.instagram.com/BarrySykes with the hashtag #WorldOfAnteriors.
- 1. Outer. 2. Coming before in time. 3. Situated towards the head.
- 1. The six teeth at the front of the mouth.