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Zoe Catherine Kendall talks to Francesca Goodwin before the launch of Imprint

(Above: How I move through my days by Zoe Catherine Kendall, 2011)

 

In the week running up to Fabelist's first organised exhibition IMPRINT, I decided to meet up with director Francesca Goodwin to chat a little bit about the goals behind the project, her inspirations and her joys. Before we jump to the interview, I'll just bring you up to speed on Fabelist. Francesca emailed me around about 8 months ago saying that she had this idea for a collective network of artists and writers alike, often looking to practitioners who blur the boundaries or are happy to be bed fellows with their creative cousins. She asked me if I would consider getting on-board and I asked her to tell me a little about herself. I had previously been very occupied with organising my own exhibition back in April of last year at my humble abode on Commercial Street, but by the time Fran got in contact, I guess I must have been feeling the need for something fresh, wanting to look around even more. In Francesca I found enthusiasm, eagerness and excitement, three big Es needed for success I might add! To back all of this up was a sense of grounded-ness, a head-strong will and the professionalism needed to carry it all through. So I gave a tentative yes. Sounds a little cool in retrospect but you've got to test these collaborations, trust doesn't come cheap in and out of the bedroom, something I've definitely learned over the years. I agreed to an interview and to get involved after the first journal was made. I should probably mention that this was the first goal post, making online journals, now the post has been moved innumerable times onwards until we are about to launch a community and artist focused exhibition in the Serpentine Gallery's Centre for Possible Studies, an exciting leap to have made in just 8 months. And I can't take any of the credit. Francesca is responsible for having steered the Fabelist ship right from the outset. For me the project represented a wonderful opportunity to work and think alongside other artists and writers in a collective sense, building on ideas and feedback, as much because I work from my studio at home as anything else, and it's just great to feel a sense of community as an artist, to be one of many blossoming flowers. So to cut a story short, the growing numbers of Fabelist's worked in their own ways on the first set theme of 'imprint' whilst at the same time exploring the neighbourhood and meeting the people of Church Street NW8, learning about the imprint they had made on this area set for regeneration and allowing both sets of stories to coalesce into a larger narrative of change, growth and reflection. The result, Imprint looks backward to the past and in doing so initiates a glance forwards to an imagined future. Together we are helping to shape it, at least that's what we are striving to do!

How did you come up with the idea for Fabelist?

Fabelist originated from the frustration that I felt during the time I spent working for a creative arts magazine whilst I was at Oxford. A lot of the submissions had so much potential for development and yet, there was no facility by which people could receive feedback on their work from their fellow writers and readers. I also saw so much potential for collaborations that could occur between the writers and artists and yet, again there was no way that they could be facilitated in meeting up and talking about their work and identifying the synergy between the projects.

What is the core essence of Fabelist?

It’s about not being afraid to make mistakes, embracing the process of creativity and valuing this as much as the finished product. It’s about the friendships and support that arise from the framework of a community bound, not by direct commercial goals, but by love for what they do. We welcome people no matter their age background or experience and encourage the personalities and voices behind the work as much as the work itself.

 

(Above: Detail from Mneme by Nicola Anthony, 2011)


How and why did you decide to get involved in a community centered approach for Imprint? Is this a theme that is going to be coming up in future projects?

I have a firm belief that art should be in conversation with the surroundings that it is exhibited in - there is nothing worse than a piece of work that looks like it’s been photo-shopped from another planet and means nothing to the local community. That is not to say that I think art answers all social problems- I simply feel that it is a positive way to express emotions and should not just be a tool that is identified with imposing white-walled spaces. I have seen with the Fabelist group how artistic practice is a really strong adhesive to building communities and I want to share that message with a wider public audience- to give people the opportunity to access contemporary art at whatever level they can identify with. I started running ‘story a day’ workshops a few months into Fabelist- narratives are very important in both art and literature and the workshops allow children to identify with their creativity through art, writing or simply by listening to story telling by our performers. I have spent a lot of time in Church Street over the past 6 months and, I have always been struck by what a culturally diverse and rich area it is- a neighborhood with a really strong community identity. When I heard about the regeneration plans I immediately wanted to help the residents to preserve their experiences of the area and to spread that message across London- to put Church Street on the cultural map where it belongs. I wanted to tell their stories, just as we give voice to a range of personalities at Fabelist.

So yes this is going to be a reoccurring theme- The story workshops are so adaptable and the way that we are structuring performances at Imprint all bear vestiges of this story-telling element. It’s just as important as the work we do online. I also think it’s such an important experience for the Fabelisters involved- they meet people who are not necessarily interested in the art but in the basic skills and ability to adapt them for the workshops- it’s a rare and exceptionally valuable experience.

Projects that stand out from Imprint?

It’s the ones that I’ve seen benefit so much from the online forum and have developed and gradually been brought to form over the past few months. One of these is Zoe Catherine Kendall’s How I Move Through My Days - a wonderful sculpture made from love and dedication after my own heart, and also Nicola Anthony’s Rubik’s years and the sculptural conversation had between herself and Abigail Box about their idiosyncratic methods of filing and organising appointments. Carlos M Burgos’ beautiful drawing Simple Man and the piece he wrote about his experiences with his family growing up was also one that really struck a chord with me and I was exceptionally grateful that he chose to share it with Fabelist. All this work and more will be on view at the Imprint exhibition and can be seen in the online journal: ...

 

(Above: Jurrasic Journey by Polly Bagnal, 2011)


What do you hope to get out of Imprint and what's next on the horizon?

For Fabelist- I hope that the exhibition, workshops and activities will bring us together closer as a group. Our last ‘Breaking Bindings’ event was indicative of the fact that our community is as much about the connections made between people as the work actually made. The show should be a really strong statement of our cohesion as a group and build a platform from which we can really start to make an impact on the arts and literature scene. For Church Street- I really hope that we can set a precedent for activities that involve the whole community whatever their age or ethnicity and, hopefully generate more interest in the area for local businesses and groups.

What else do you get up to when you are not busy at work, heading Fabelist?

I’m an artist myself so I tend to spend every spare moment in my studio- my work is very much about emotional expression as well as an envisaged narrative so it’s a fantastic outlet from the desk work and admin. I’m always out hunting for new ideas and members for Fabelist- the inspiration for Imprint came from a chance encounter in a pet shop so there’s never a missed opportunity! I love taking long walks too, I do a lot of thinking when I’m walking so my border terrier Tigger gets a lot of exercise. I’m definitely a creature of the day and try to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible- especially in winter.

What are your goals and aspirations looking forward to say 2020? In and
out of Fabelist (whatever applies)


Myself and Fabelist have become something of a synonym recently so I’ll answer for both. Personally I’m looking for some like-minded individuals to share some of the responsibility for running the community- I want to be able to dedicate my time to supporting and opening opportunities for the group- it’s the hands on element that I enjoy the most and where I feel that my energy is best served. As for the community as a whole-I want to develop a wider professional mentor network whose support and advice Fabelisters can draw upon, plans are also in the pipeline in the next few months for setting up a space where Fabelisters can meet, make work, exhibit and collect material from the public for narrative based collective projects. I really want us to be the point that artists and writers turn to post university as a mechanism for support and collaboration when they are faced with the reality of having to work in isolation and juggling a job with their art. Fabelist is there to reassure them that they still have a space that is theirs to experiment and be creative.

Could you tell me a little about your own art work and writing?

I paint and sculpt- the work is very organic and is very much about my emotional journey in working with the material of the paint and materials. am like a magpie and borrow narratives from literature, poetry, old masters’ paintings, mythology, biblical stories, nature…you name it, from Rembrandt to Monet, Dylan Thomas to Flaubert, Mahler to the Rolling Stones there’s a gesture here or a shade of blue there that nods to this beautiful universe of spiraling, interweaving stories.
All of this channels through me as I work so that, although the paintings start with their basis in figures, they mutate, grow, reproduce and live, as organic forms that feed off of whatever happens to be residing in my mind’s eye at a particular moment in time. I wouldn’t say that anything is left to chance, there is an element of that but, the work does have some coherent overarching structure, as my responses to this wealth of influence join the dots in between to form my own constellations on the surface. My work has been described as being ‘beautifully grotesque’, it seduces and embraces the viewer into its folds but, there is also something slightly unnerving about it, something almost overbearingly personal and unsettling.


My writing is very sporadic and tends to be in the gaps between paintings- whenever I feel a visual void words are my safety net- I just really love playing with words and running with streams of consciousness. Creatively, I write poetry that borrows a lot from Imagism- last summer I went through a period that I guess is analogous to synaesthesia- every single object and experience spoke to me and I spent days and days putting it into words. I write poetry rather than keeping a diary.

 

What is your personal recipe for a plain old-fashioned (or newfangled) good time?

There’s nothing better I like than a meal and bottle of wine shared with people I love on an evening where the conversation flows all night. I do love meeting new people and trying new experiences though- I’ve met some wonderful people through Fabelist who, I hope to have in my life for a very long time. People are so fascinating and you will find the most interesting of them in the most unlikely of places.

Thanks Francesca! Imprint launches Friday 27th January 2012 at Serpentine Gallery's Centre for Possible Studies, tucked just behind Oxford Street. We hope to see you there.

 

Opening Hours:

 

Friday 27th 12pm-8.30pm

Saturday 29th 1-6pm

Tuesday 1st- Friday 3rd 1-6pm

(Closed Sunday and Monday)

 

Address:

 

21 Gloucester Place
London W1U 8HR

 

(Above: People thought the days had been stolen from them by Abi Box, 2011)