Artist in Residence at Ferens Art Gallery

I first heard about the artists residency at the Ferens Art Gallery by visiting and seeing the work by the previous artists in residence.

Could I? Should I? Well, I did, I applied. And was happily successful too. Hence this blog. What a marvellous opportunity to be able to create work in the Ferens Art Gallery in the city where I completed my Fine Art degree. And having entered the Open Exhibition successfully previously this was such an incredible opportunity to be selected to do.

First things first, a meeting to discuss the expectations and a brief.

Followed by an informative tour by the Curator of Art, Kerri Offord. I began to make some great connections with the gallery building, artworks and TR Ferens the founder of the gallery.

Firstly, the building, noticing the front of the building, the windows, doors, furniture and the architecture. The use of materials and constructions of them. The whole building was built with symmetry in mind. The gallery opened in 1927.

On the tour of the galleries there were paintings that caught my attention. In Gallery Five one of these was a painting that was acquired in 1907 using TR Ferens’ Endowment Fund. A painting by Edgar Bundy, 'The Night School', 1892.

It depicts a scene where education is it's subject. It shows a group of men, in various states of learning. In the front of the painting is one man sat with a face full of thought of maybe being elsewhere, and in front of him is a page of geometric drawings and a pair of compasses. These people had most likely completed a very long day at work, and as the title suggests continued their education at night school.

Education is something that I can identify with being that I studied and worked whilst studying at the Hull School of Art and Design here in Hull completing my degree in Fine Art. It was also knowing that TR Ferens was a supporter of learning and education and provided a generous donation to establish the University of Hull. Education was a strong connection because I also work as an Artist but in education also. Learning to me is very important and is important that I can share my knowledge with others too.

Back to the compass and drawing in the painting, working in 3D shape and form are primary starters to many of the works I create. The compass also linked to learning, Maths, geometry sets, Architecture the tools that could have been used to design the building. The building as I noticed was built symmetrically. It combines many of the shapes in the decoration and architecture, triangles, squares, rectangles, semi circles etc. The materials used, the patterns too.

Pietro Lorenzetti

Other paintings also were an influence, the oldest work in the collection in Gallery One, 'Christ between Saints Paul and Peter' c. 1320 by Pietro Lorenzetti. The surface used to paint on most likely from the furnishing of a church part of an altar piece possibly, noticing the form of the arches, the unevenness of the edges of the work too. The use of tempura utilising everyday ordinary things. Eggs being one of them!

Jan van Goyen

My journey through the galleries led me to Gallery Two, where I saw the painting by Jan Josephszoon van Goyen, 'An old watchtower at the mouth of a river', signed VG 1644. Now his story also intrigued me, as well as the painting. I was noticing the use of high and low structures, as I discovered through a little research this was apparent in a lot of his works. The depiction of an everyday scene, the pigments used as if he painted using the minerals from the earth itself. Materials used sparingly not lush and vibrant in colour as some of the other works nearby. I learned he limited the use of materials due to keeping costs low.

As an artist myself this also plays a part in the materials I choose to use. Everyday stuff, cardboard, tape, paper, scraps of wood etc. Lots are donated to me, or I find for free, keeping my work as an artist sustainable, meaning I'll always have materials to hand even if funds are low. But in the utilising of these materials, I can transform them into valued works of art.

David Bomberg

Now moving along to the Modern and Contemporary works in Gallery Nine. And thinking here that influences are not always apparent or expected, and one thing I did come to realise that not once have I referred to the sculptures in the galleries. Not that I don't appreciate them, they just didn't play a part in this process this time. I recognise the history and the person that created them, I suppose this is still an influence maybe.

Two works of art played a role in this gallery space, they are in fact side by side. The first work is by the artist David Bomberg, 'Jerusalem, City and Mount of Ascension', 1925. For me I was drawn to its abstract qualities, the joining of shapes, forms and line, high and low grounds. I didn't know a lot about this artist but also learned that earlier works of his were of pure abstraction using and applying geometric forms. One example I found was a painting called 'The Mud Bath' 1914. It was through this research that the ideas I was considering began to make links with the building, TR Ferens and the artworks in it. The history of the artworks and the artists themselves.

Frank Auerbach

Still in Gallery Nine, the painting next to Bomberg, is a painting by Frank Auerbach, 'Building Site, Victoria Street, London', 1959. How can this not catch my attention! Firstly, its title, I cannot pass a building site or similar without looking at all the paraphernalia of materials on site. The incredible texture, it’s like the crust that forms on a good chocolate brownie. The daubs, the sludgy mounds, the spread of paint, carved onto the board as reconstructing the building site he paints. The harsh black lines against the mound of stuff, like blackened charred wood.

Again, my observations similar to the painting by Van Goyen. As if Auerback also has used pigments direct from the building site, or materials like cement and plaster. For me it is this use of the materials and how they've been used. In Auerbachs case he used such a large quantity of paint the opposite to how Van Goyen did. Auerbach used the cheapest pigments in large volumes. Both using earthy tones. It was the rawness of these materials, the directness, the boldness particularly of the Auerbach painting. I wanted to capture a boldness in my work. I wanted to show the rawness of material for what it was.

My work has been influenced by many ideas, observations and research connected to TR Ferens, the founder of Ferens Art Gallery along with the building and the artworks I've mentioned. The initial idea was born through education. But also, not without influence from the many conversations I've really enjoyed with members of the public of all ages and walks of life.

Many discussing that making and building from a very young age needs to be encouraged more, or how it highlights the reusing of materials. The value of materials and sadly the little time many have to give to their free time activities due to busier lifestyles and the cost of living in that they need to work more.

Through education and the magic of encouraging and watching the primary school children create their own works of art during the sculpture workshops when they came to the gallery. The National Saturday Art Club with the happiness of being able to create anything! Meeting the wonderful young people of Future Ferens and hopefully providing some helpful advice in working your way through an art career.

The generosity of their questioning, listening and participation will be a memory of this residency I will treasure forever. It's so important to me that the sharing of ideas, thoughts, skills through learning happens no matter the age or ability of the person. As an artist I try to dispel some of the barriers in accessing the art world and one of those is through materials. I hope this knowledge will be carried on by every person I've had the pleasure to meet during my time as the Artist in Residence at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.

Thankyou! I hope you enjoy the work that I’ve created, it would be great if you could take a little time to visit,

‘An intersection of angles’ on display in Gallery Two at Ferens Art Gallery until 22nd September 2024.

Sam Larter


June 2024