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Blog - Deluge

Visual artists Rachel Gadsden UK and Jeremy Hawkes Australia: Creating Deluge during Covid-19

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Digital images with swirling lines in hues of green and purple, a woman in shown with her back to the viewer

Rachel Gadsden & Jeremy Hawkes in collaboration

About a year ago I received an email from Australia, from an artist who was applying for an Australian Council of the Arts Grant award, writing to enquire if I would be interested in being part of the grant vision.

And with his tremendous award success – Jeremy Hawkes became such an important and significant part of my artistic practise. Immediately it became so clear, despite being based half way around the World, we had finally met our artistic doppelgänger. With so many shared passions and creative motivations, our artistic relationship developed quickly, and now we meet regularly to discuss our work together, talk about art and basically share what it means to be human.

Many of our artistic and exhibitions plans have been scuppered this year due to Covid-19, Jeremy was due to travel to UK in April for us to undertake a residency, create a performance and deliver a very exciting exhibition program together at Solent Showcase Gallery, Southampton. But despite the many complications and disappointments that Covid-19 has brought, our utter commitment to working together and supporting each other’s artistic practice goes from strength to strength by the day. Perhaps a key to our relationship is also the fact that we do also have similar medical disabilities, and these challenges unconsciously, perhaps, underpin some of our creative motivations too. The anatomical form and the exploration of the universal human condition are paramount to both of our work.

During our recent zoom conversation Jeremy and I were discussing Francis Bacon’s paintings and specifically a significant new essay by Sophie Pretorius – A Pathological Painter: Francis Bacon and the control of suffering published by the Francis Bacon Estate. The opening sentence absolutely sets out a methodology that echoes our process.

The Patient
Francis Bacon used the pathologies of his body and mind as primary source material for his notoriously discomforting paintings.

Being visual artist/painters, working day after day alone in our studios, does, to some degree, mean our artistic existences are often lonely – but as Jeremy so eloquently expresses below, finding collaborators who you deeply connect with, opens up whole new world of opportunity, conversation and explorative creative journeys.

It gives me huge pleasure to introduce Australian visual artist Jeremy Hawkes, who is playing such a significant role in the creation of Deluge.

Black and white photograph of a white man painting

Jeramy Hawkes

Jeremy Hawkes

The Ghost in the Machine

There an excess of absences – contact with fellow humans, a physicality of just being out in the world and interacting with other bodies on a cellular and social level, even if we may never consciously communicate. A flood of human signals, micro-expressions, smells, chemical interchanges, the acknowledgement of a shared set of experiences. How can absence, or set of absences, be so utterly profound? How can a lack, an emptiness be so tangible and viscous?

Three fabstract paintings with fleshy, rib-like forms

Jeremy Hawkes – Covid-19 (details)

For those of us who live with chronic illness and the attendant disabilities, a degree of isolation is not uncommon. Over the past decade it has become normal, or nearly normal. I should be more practiced at this, be able to cope – am I? Without regular contact I have nothing to measure against. The flood of humanity is stemmed, damned up, the pressure building. Drawing and music have become of particular importance. It’s how I know I’m still here and there is aural evidence of a rich history of experiences that (can) transcend language and ultimately, speak to a shared language that is heard, felt and lived.

I’ve always been very particular about the music I might listen to whilst in the studio. As I get older, I’m more aware that there’s no such thing as ‘background’ music. Not for me, not in the studio. Sounds affect the way I move, hit me on microscopic and vibrational level. I’m always trying to reach periods of unconsciousness when I draw, trying to let my body articulate itself, be its own medium. Introducing sound, playing music has a direct effect on what I scribe…

A 6-way Zoom call featuring a white couple, a white man, a white woman and three women of East Asian descent

Deluge Zoom – Australia- Hong Kong – UK

Into this excess of absences comes this project – Deluge. A wave of humanity from across the world. The UK, Hong Kong – suddenly closer, Zoomed in, as it were on an increasingly regular timeframe.

I’m in contact again with other artists and a desire to find a way to respond and live through this unprecedented and unknowable…swamp of fear, loneliness and hope. I’m hearing the silences between the notes. I’m not looking for melody or familiarity, not listening for the hook or the ear-worm; my body is craving signals that can help me to connect and understand that others are out there knowing that a whole new language is needed, something that can speak to this deluge of change, flood of uncertainty, a drowning by strangeness.

I’ve always felt like a stowaway on the ship of fools. Let’s launch the lifeboat together and see where these currents might take us…

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