Open until 1 December 2013 at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, Kate Bradbury: Squalls and Murmurations is the second exhibition in a series celebrating the Six Award Winners of Outside In: National 2012, a triennial competition for artists from the margins.
Art Historian Roger Cardinal, performance artist Bobby Baker and ex-Director of Pallant House Gallery, Stefan van Raay, chose Kate Bradbury as one of six Outside In Award Winners as part of the 2012 National exhibition, for which one of the prizes was a solo exhibition in the Studio. Cardinal said of the competition and the subsequent winners: “It is about showing the public that ordinary people without training can produce great work. Art can happen anywhere in all sorts of places.”
Bradbury’s art career began some years ago in a run-down house in North London, where she started to intuitively make pictures and sculptures from abandoned belongings. Unearthing a role of thin Chinese paper and a well of black ink, an unforeseen tide of repetitive image and pattern-making promptly began. Bradbury also created sculptures from salvaged litter found in the tall, crumbling house.
This obsession with found objects can perhaps be traced back to Bradbury’s childhood, where some family friends who were archaeologists would take her off into caves where she witnessed cave paintings with crude handprints and began finding and collecting things. Now, Bradbury collects material on her way to work, or on her way home from work – whatever she can find and wherever she can find it.
Her suitcase people – the doctor, the artist, and Railroad Jim – all have their own personalities, each with a story inside their box-bodies. New additions to Bradbury’s family of sculptures are her ‘goat’ creatures. Constructed from the bristle-end of brushes, severed musical instruments and human faces, they came to life after Bradbury happened upon the ‘disembodied goat heads’ at her local car boot sale. Not wanting to separate a few goats from the herd, Bradbury took the lot before restoring them: “I have gifted them legs and bodies and I hope that one day soon I will have identified and practised the Holler that will alert a distant herdsman to their whereabouts, so that they may return to their native hills.”
To complement her trademark sculptures, the exhibition also includes some of Bradbury’s trademark ink drawings. It was one of these fantastical black and white worlds; The ones that I’ve been saving to make a feather bed, for which Bradbury was granted Outside In: Award Winner status. Bradbury says of her contrasting practices (sculpture and ink): “Both of these have become passions that fill both my waking and sleeping hours with ink-stains and splinters.”
It is this diverse creativity that gives the exhibition its name. Bradbury explains: “A squall is a storm and that suited the swirly patterns in my drawings. The monoprints often have a stormy sky and a lot of the sculptures are crude and brutal in texture. Murmuration is playing on the word murmur, a much quieter space like the fine lines and delicate paper that I draw with. So it’s loud and quiet and reflects both sides of my work.”
With no formal art education, Bradbury is inspired by known – Klee, Miro, Franz Kline – and unknown artists, stage sets, archaeology, visions, inventions, and by music and song. She thinks about ideas for her work whilst at her day job – in a sandwich shop – where she has the space to go to a different place in her head. She doesn’t make work to please an audience; she makes it because it needs to be made. She explains: “I get a picture of something in my head and then need to make it, to offload it and then I can think about something else. I get obsessed with an idea and try to see it through. I’d love to get a studio and be able to make some bigger or noisier work and I like the idea of making a stage set, working with animation and just to keep finding inspiration.”
Outside In was set up by Pallant House Gallery in 2006 to provide opportunities for artists with a desire to create who see themselves as facing a barrier to the art world. The project’s main vehicle is a triennial open art exhibition which was first held in 2007 and featured 100 artists from across Sussex. By 2012, the project had gone national, engaging more than 1,500 artists and 13,000 audience members.