Chichester: art crosses all the boundaries

A new Chichester exhibition underlines the harmony as two contrasting artists come together.

University of Chichester MA fine art student Gemma Green has gone down the traditional academic, formal-training route; Outside In artist Paul Bellingham dropped out and has struggled with mental illness and addiction.

Paul and Gemma

Paul and Gemma

But they’ve found total togetherness in their shared work at Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery – a collaboration which culminates now in Insight, their joint show in the ArtOne building at the University of Chichester from March 23–26.

The exhibition will showcase the documentation of their experience, including sound recordings of their conversations and videos of the work in progress alongside collaborative canvases and a concertina book.

Additionally there will be works by Paul and Gemma created individually before the project and then examples of their individual work after the project to highlight the impact of the partnership on their respective creative practices.

It’s been a fascinating and happy journey – an important new partnership between Pallant House Gallery and the University of Chichester. On the back of this initial success, the hope is to set up an annual pairing between an MA student and an Outside In artist; in fact, maybe more than one pairing.

Gemma admits she had never collaborated before: “We were asked to apply, and we had to present a personal statement and a CV and give a proposal for the project and say what our aspirations. It seemed a wonderful opportunity to work with another artist. We started on September 1, and we met up for four months form September to December, every Monday, and we created art together.”

Paul, who lives in Brighton, is self-taught: “I was drawing ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I had always wanted to be an artist, but I ran into a lot of life problems. I had some mental illness and some addiction/alcohol problems. I have been in recovery for two years now on a 12-step programme.

“But I have just got a love of art. I have to make art. If I don’t, I am less happy. I feel the need, often 24 hours a day. The week isn’t long enough. Ten days would be better!”

Paul works largely in oils: “But the last couple of years, it has been mostly drawing while I have been in recovery. I didn’t really have time to paint, but I really enjoy drawing a lot. I mostly do portraiture of the human face. It is quite abstracted. A lot of my recent portraits have been blind portraits. I close my eyes and draw a face, and then afterwards I put the colours in.”

Paul said the collaboration with Gemma had been easy and enjoyable: “I think we both went into it with the right attitude. There is no sense of ‘I must dominate!’ It has been lovely. It’s about going into it with different ideas and different minds.”

As Gemma says: “It has really taught us that it does not matter what your background or education is. Every artist has got a voice, and this project has given us the chance to discover each other’s voices.”

The background to the project is that in 2014, MA fine art graduate Tanya Wood (University of Chichester) was given a Graduate On placement with a remit to build on existing links between the University and Pallant House Gallery with a project entitled Insight. Tanya has worked on the design and development of the concept, which involved building and supporting the first artist partnership between Gemma and Paul.

Tanya said: “Together, the artist partnership has refined a series of works through a meticulous process of discussion and visual response, creating collaborative works as equal partners, whilst exploring drawings, printmaking and painting and making gallery visits together.

“The outcomes highlight the collaborative nature of the project, giving each of the artists an insight into their partner’s working methods, aims and creative ambitions, showing how potential can be nurtured by sharing ideas and skills.

“Gemma and Paul worked collaboratively for three months with the common passion for art, building on similarities to achieve more than they could individually, their shared experience proving beneficial to both. It has been a privilege to witness the growth in both of them, achieved through their commitment, goodwill, honesty, great communication, respect and trust.”

Jennifer Gilbert, Outside In manager, added: “The project has enabled an interesting and broader experience for the artists involved; bringing together art worlds whilst strengthening the bonds between establishments, their communities, and the wider community.”

Insight will be at ArtOne at the University of Chichester from March 23–26, open Monday–Thursday, 10am–5pm. Alongside the exhibition, there will be scheduled workshops, seminars and discussions.

An account of the creative endeavours of the partnership can be found on Gemma and Paul’s blog