15 Dec 2010

Artist Simon Packard: great piece in Stroud Life

Below is the great piece in Stroud Life today about Simon Packard - local artist and Randwick School parent. The piece is by Tracy Spiers who always seems to do a great article. Anyhow I've wowed before about Simon's sculptures in Horsley - see here. Below are also photos from Simon and one of him taken from Stroud Life left.

Artist throws himself into every project

LARGE silver cylinder shimmers elegantly against the night's sky and dark pool of water it is set in. This Totem-shaped sculpture will draw attention day or night, winter or summer as it has the ability to change according to light and season.

It's one of three eye-catching creations sited in the lakes of Ruskin Mill near Nailsworth. They belong to Simon Packard, a well-known multi-skilled artist who can turn his hand to print-making, sculpture and ceramics. In fact give him any material, he will turn it into a masterpiece, such is his fluidity and expertise.

Simon, who also teaches and often takes up residencies in schools and colleges, has impressive work credentials.

He's won numerous awards including a Bursary from the Henry Moore Foundation and exhibited all over the country.

His public commissions include a seafront sculpture in Blyth called the Spirit of the Staithes; steel gates for new-build Hartpury Primary School and metalwork artist for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Daily Telegraph Show Garden in 2007.

Simon doesn't normally exhibit locally. Yet this month, not only can one see his sculptures, which are collectively part of a project called Black Flour Contemporary Art Installation, involving photographer Alexander Caminada, they can also admire his latest prints at Star Anise arts cafe in Gloucester Street, Stroud, until January 16.

"I use old-fashioned printing inks used in industry. They are spirit based and have a very strong pigment so the colours are more dense and vivid. They also take longer to dry. I often rub the prints down to create a ghost image," reveals Simon.

When I met this inspiring artist, Simon looked as blue as one of his prints. He clearly throws himself into whatever he's doing and both his face and hands take on the persona of his designs, which are bold in pattern, texture and shape. His spacious studio, based in a converted chapel, is primarily a place where he thinks, experiments and develops his ideas. Sometimes it's his prints which inspire his three-dimensional projects, other times it is the finished sculptures that influence his prints. His current body of prints in Star Anise certainly carries the Packard design DNA and some reflect his sculptural work at Ruskin Mill.

"Print making and drawing underpins everything I do. If I want to think through an idea, I often use prints, either a woodcut or monoprint to work it out. I also use printmaking in the presentation of pitching for a commission," he admits.

One has the sense when talking to this artist that there's an endless stream of ideas and concepts he is working on. There's certainly no idleness. Simon comes across as a hands-on man, keen to explore new trains of thought – often related to plant life, nature, fish and decorative pattern – and see them through to an end result.

"I like all the parts of the journey. It could be the research, the making of the installation or the connections I make along the way. They are all important," say Simon.

He is inspired by scale of ambition Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the leading 19th Century British civil engineer famed for his bridges and dockyards, and the late Shiko Munakata, one of the most significant modern Japanese artists of the 20th Century who excelled in paintings, prints, ceramics and calligraphy.

Simon's interest in Brunel may well have stemmed from his maternal grandfather who was a shipwright foreman. Brought up in Sunderland, Simon discovered printmaking in his sixth form and, after a degree course in Brighton, completed a Masters in fine art and print-making at the Royal College of Art.

He left London in 1987 for Stroud after being appointed a Research Fellow in printmaking for GlosCAT in Cheltenham – one of the last such postings based in Stroud at the old art school in Lansdown. It's here where he became interested in ceramics.

"I guess I wanted something different to try, so I went from dry and paper to wet and clay. It got me into three-dimensional work. I had a studio at Prema in Uley at the time and did an evening course in ceramics and found I liked it," admits Simon, who moved into metal work in 1995.

His latest project with photographer Alexander Caminada at Ruskin Mill, reflects this shift, yet the three sculptures, which all have different histories, also reveal elements of print design, especially when the night or day light shines on them.

The cylinder Totem is a model for a public sculpture in London; the middle one is from RHS Chelsea Flower Show and appeared in the Daily Telegraph Show Garden 2007; and the pair of screens is for a future garden design.

This particular project is called Black Flour Contemporary Art Installation for a reason.

"I read an obituary in The Guardian newspaper in March about an Israeli poet called Abraham Sutzkever who wrote a lot of poetry in the Polish ghetto. He described the texture of the sky as 'midnight black flour'. The words black flour, intrigued me and there is an element of that at Ruskin Mill and apparently there has been subsequent contact between Ruskin Mill and the family of this poet in Tel Aviv."

What's appealing about Simon is he is not so precious about his work that he doesn't hold back in sharing his expertise. A popular lecturer, he has collaborated with graphic designer and lecturer Andrew Morrison to produce a must-see stunning website for the University of Oxford Museum Service resembling a museum display cabinet and is an excellent resource for artists.

It's hands-on and reveals valuable insight into artist's books, displays and artefacts. It's a unique site and reflects Simon's passion to share his skills and inspire up and coming artists.

In January, his sketchbooks and monoprints can be seen at Ruskin Mill in Blackflour; print as drawing, which highlights the 2D artwork behind the creation of the sculptures.

Simon is hoping a potential interior sculptural project in Stroud, incorporating all of his artistic and construction skills, will come off. Let's hope so, a Packard piece is definitely worth seeing.

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