Blog: Gareth Kemp

Bridewell gallery shot 3.jpeg

Blog: Gareth Kemp

New Contemporaries 2018 artist Gareth Kemp reflects on their time as recipient of NC's Studio Bursary with Bluecoat, Liverpool


28 March 2022

Establishing my practice around 2006, I started as a predominantly self-taught artist until I participated in the Turps Banana Correspondence Course between 2014 and 2017 - part of the Turps Art School programme. This led to being selected for New Contemporaries in 2018. At the same time, I obtained funding from Arts Council England’s Artist International Development Fund to spend a month in Texas; a period where I carried out research and networking. My current practice builds upon this time, highlighting my ongoing interest in the West Texan city of Marfa.

Undertaking New Contemporaries’ Studio Bursary with Bluecoat has coincided with a number of other opportunities, such as receiving a ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ grant, again from Arts Council England, in January 2021. In my Bluecoat studio, and with this financial support and additional mentoring from Mark Devereux Projects, I have been developing a new body of work that translates my paintings and concepts into sculpture and neon for the first time. Marfa Abstraction is a series based on photographs of Donald Judd’s 15 untitled works in concrete, taken in the desert at Marfa, Texas. These artworks attempt to capture aspects of the landscape: scale, flatness, space and light, colour and vastness. Through repetition and the painterly process, different motifs and forms emerged - becoming both simplified and intensified. These have been re-invented in concrete and neon, which acts as a physical representation of the ‘Marfa Lights’ - an unexplained phenomenon seen near the city. My series of ‘Text paintings’ document anecdotal stories from people who claim to have seen these Lights in person.

Gareth Kemp, Marfa Abstraction XXXXIII (2021). Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Daniel Walsmley.

Much of my time at Bluecoat has allowed me to experiment with new materials and mediums. I have been making sculptures of abstracted forms that emerged through obsessively painting the same image over and over again. The starting point for these works was the Judd sculptures on the edge of Marfa, and I took various photographs of them from a variety of angles. I have then made paintings based on these images, often altering the perspective and the placement of the viewer, slowly removing lines and flattening areas so that your eye has to fill in some of the gaps. Several forms or shapes started to emerge, and based on one of these forms I made a maquette from wood and painted it. I then photographed the maquette from various angles under strong light and made paintings based on these, eventually producing a cast from the maquette to make small concrete sculptures. I have also scaled-up the sculpture, making a large floor-based piece out of painted MDF, and I have made another based on a section of this floor-based sculpture. This time the work hangs on the wall, extending at head-height and confronting the viewer. This sculpture is painted to look as if it is permanently lit from a strong light source that doesn’t exist in the gallery.

Gareth Kemp's studio at Bluecoat, Liverpool. Courtesy of the artist.

I will shortly be presenting two paintings at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in a forthcoming exhibition ‘Refractive Pool: Contemporary Painting in Liverpool’. Working from my studio at Bluecoat has allowed me to be more ambitious in scale, and provided the space for me to produce two larger paintings ahead of this exhibition. The Bluecoat studio has supported my work in other ways by enabling me to translate my practice into sculpture and neon for the first time. This has meant spending a lot more time conducting research, which I can do whilst physically working on various pieces in the studio.

Most recently I presented a solo exhibition at Bridewell Studios gallery space, Liverpool, and was able to test the pieces I have been making at Bluecoat. Seeing the work in this context has further influenced my ideas and I see the remaining time in my residency being taken up pushing and developing this body of work.


Gareth's Bio

Gareth Kemp’s practice dates back to 2006. Starting as a self-taught artist, between 2014-2017 he participated in the Turps Banana Correspondence Course. During this time his work was selected for John Moores Painting Prize, 2016, and Bloomberg New Contemporaries, 2018. Kemp was also nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Arts in 2017. In 2018 Kemp was awarded Artists’ International Development Funding by Arts Council England to spend a month in Texas; with the aim to raise his international profile through meetings with artists, curators and gallerists as well as collecting source material for making new work on his return. Kemp was awarded A.C.E. Developing Your Creative Practice funding in 2021, with the aim to make a new body of work, with mentoring sessions with Mark Devereux Projects.