Our lives are in our works:
read between the shapes, the lines.
See the colours, the spaces.
Our screens are to look at,
to look through, to look beyond,
to find ourselves - reflected.
Asidescapes is a joint brother and sister art project which started in 1989 when the first Aside, 'Being Virginia' was written by PA. Over the next three decades further Asides were completed, initially, as random, spontaneous, unconnected poetic prose pieces. Meanwhile, and separately, VG was working on individual art pieces in a variety of experimental styles, testing and trying out various techniques. Neither of us considered the work for publication or public consumption.
Although brother and sister, we had been brought up separately. The second half of our childhoods were completely different experiences, as PA was brought up by our father and VG by our mother. We had no contact with each other during this time. When we met again, it was intriguing how different we were - but also how alike. Although temperamentally different, we shared complimentary tastes and values. Our early years together (PA was nine, VG six when we were parted) seemed to have forged a common bond of understanding and mutual need for creative expression that we had pursued separately and spasmodically while we were apart and bringing up our families.
Only in 2010 did we realize we had contrasting but complimentary talents, which we could bring together to create more complete pieces of work than we were doing on our own. VG selected the first Asides she felt she could work with and then painted her first Scapes, based on intuitive responses to each particular piece. If no response was forthcoming, it was literally put aside. Each Scape could be triggered by merely a phrase, a verse or the complete text. We never discussed the meaning of a particular Aside, so that allowed permission for complete freedom over what we were both trying to communicate. Each Scape is, consequently, a personal interpretation of an Aside and so is open to multiple readings between the co-creators as well as the audience. The first twelve were selected by VG and PA then arranged the order of the texts for publication according to contrasts based on individual character, tone and length. This became our first collaboration, Chambers (2010).
We didn’t want to confine our work to text and static visualization alone, so we decided to expand further using sound to help enhance the mood and atmosphere of each piece. Having self-published Chambers in traditional book form, we also decided to produce short videos of readings of the Asides complimented by music. Roland Taylor kindly agreed that we could use his solo piano music, as, we felt, the beautiful tone complimented what we were doing. Again, we selected each piece by Roland according to the aptness of the mood for the Asidescape. We then added soundscape effects to the readings to help enhance and contextualise the atmosphere of each Aside still further. While the music plays, each Scape then further changes its emphasis through shifts in shading and colour. The results are self-contained entities which utilize a blend of different artistic expressions that cohere within each piece. They attempt to interweave different sensations to create a sensory world – containing both darkness and light – that we hope you will find both pleasurable and intriguing to look at and listen to. Some of these pieces can be found in the Video Art section.
We wish to clarify that the Scapes are not just illustrations of the Asides or 'illuminations' to shed light on the meaning of the words but are integral to the completion of each work. The poetic prose and visual material are constructed to be a whole. The process is triggered by the text and then expanded and dependant on completion by the other media, be that material, visual or aural. To just read the text or view the art is to engage with only half the work. The artwork designs are expressed in different mediums and do not always appear to relate to the texts in a straightforward way. Intriguing value can sometimes be reached when the visual representations seem to have nothing to do with the words at all - or even contradict them 'against the grain' as it were. In contradiction is often a truer meaning; the easy explanation is often false.
The works might appear fixed, but we are aware of the historical flow of separate readings, and the shifting of visual focus concerning the images, and how meanings are constantly in flux with their own cultural moment - as different cultural audiences always are too. We ourselves now see different meanings in the works we produced earlier and failed to recognise/read at the time we conceived them. So, they are also memory touch-tones on our own journey to fresh understanding. The hope is they begin a process to help others think beyond and between the fixture of words and fixity of representation and help encourage a playfulness, an encouragement to find understanding in movement and interaction rather than containment. Many of the pieces are warnings, warnings in content and form about individuals trapped by their 'containment', whether their own (in Blake's phrase, their self-imposed 'mind-forg'd manacles'), or the social and political conditions of their existence. This is not work conceived to be propped up collecting dust on a bookcase, or to be hung inert in a gallery. It started with 'Being Virginia': a celebration of Woolf's restless search for artistic freedom, but it is also clear-sighted about the reality of her suicide. If the need for freedom cannot be recognized and realized, the consequences are often dark, both for people and nations.
Our next collection completed the following year, Pathways (2011), was compiled in the same way: twelve Asides were selected and their visual completion painted by VG. We then finished Follies, (2013) our third collaboration, and, although again following the same twelve-piece format, it is more adventurous in style and content. VG used sculpture in her Scapes for the first time and PA experimented further with layout for visual effect in his Asides. Alcoves followed in 2014, a mainly acrylic-based collection, before a four-year hiatus due to other commitments prevented us from further work. 2018 saw us back together and able to collaborate again. Consequently, we published our fifth collection Threads (2019), a work celebrating the materiality of embroidery in a variety of media. A sixth collection Thresholds (2022) has just been completed and will be the final collection in the set to appear on the website. We both agree that we have taken the art project as far as we can and have, consequently, decided it is completed and has expressed our intended aims. We think of it as our on-line gallery to share with those who happen to browse through.
We hope this collaboration is of interest to you and helps to illustrate the creative enrichment that we both found within ourselves as a result of our unfortunate childhood separation.