Fabian Peake is an artist and poet who has recently had an exhibition at 43 Inverness Street and staged a poetry reading at the gallery on 7 July 2012. 


“I Saw It Flew Over London”, poem by Fabian Peake

43 Inverness Street: What compelled you to start writing poems?

Fabian Peake: I was trained as a painter and have continued to do painting throughout my career, but during the 1980s my work began to diversify. I felt the need to work with ideas that were not accommodated by painting. I was making constructions, using photography and making fabric wallpieces which were based on clothing. I was also playing in a saxophone quartet. Some of these new directions necessitated learning skills such as sewing and pattern cutting and I began going to workshops and courses in poetry. I had written poems spasmodically since schooldays but started writing seriously in the 1980s.

When you ask why I was compelled to write poetry, I suppose it was because my ideas began to arrive in different forms. Some would make their appearance in visual form and others in written form. I found myself writing words on the paintings and the tailored objects that I’d been making. At the same time, I was going to classes in versification at The Poetry School and learning about traditional forms. Words in my work were being used in different ways. A visual way and a literary way. Although I had entered a literary world of sorts, I nevertheless thought of my poems as extensions of my painting. The same methods were being employed for thinking about and realizing a work, whether it was a poem, a painting or a photograph. Each work would be built from separate parts, trawled from many sources in the world around.

43I: Was this also around the time when words started to appear in your work, or were they always there?

FP: No, they weren’t always there. You’re quite right, though. That was the beginning of the use of words in my painting and other forms of art that I was doing. At first, words crept into my work as single, unattached entities. Over time, phrases and longer sentences of obscure and sometimes nonsensical character joined the visual imagery. The written words were part of the make-up of the work, just as colour, texture or drawing might be. With this use of words there were two things working in tandem but to very different ends. The first was the use of words as abstract counterparts to other qualities in my painting and the second was the development of poetry as a thing in itself. These would be purely word-based works written on paper. In my mind, these two approaches come from the same springhead.


43I: Your wallwork ‘Before I know’, which is at the gallery, is also the title of one of your poems. Can you tell me a bit more about that phrase and what it means?

FP: Yes, I’d been asked to take part in a live radio broadcast which was celebrating the first live radio broadcast in England. It was in 1922 at Writtle in Essex. Now, ninety years later, people from different walks of life (artists, writers, scientists and others) will be responding to the idea in any way they like. I thought about what I might do for this project and got intrigued by the idea of speculation prior to experience. As I knew nothing about Writtle and the shed in which the radio broadcast was made, I could not accurately form a picture of the place. But I could, through imagining, invent an entire world in my mind. Of course, it had nothing to do with the reality of the shed in a field in Essex from where that early broadcast was made. That shed is now in a museum. ‘Before I know’ is about one’s state of mind and thinking processes before having first-hand knowledge of something that one knows will happen. ‘What will it be like?’, ‘What will the place be like?’

I was speculating about what the land might be like in this rural setting and thinking about the word ‘broadcast’. The word is agricultural in origin and means to scatter seeds in all directions. The same word is used for the transmission of radio waves. I was thinking about what kind of seeds would be broadcast from a radio station. If they were words, what kind of crop would emerge from the fields? What plants? Radios, dictionaries? What would a field full of books look like, and how and when would they be harvested?

So, getting back to this idea about not knowing something, I see it as a fine line between the knowledge that one would acquire through actual experience and the knowledge that one imagines in advance. I know that I am going to do something and I know what that something is, but I have no idea about the reality.

43I: Is this related to the work in the gallery? Did the idea of a poem come afterwards?

FP: It was all going on at the same time, really. The work in the exhibition (at 43, Inverness Street) has the same name as the poem because of the ideas that I was preoccupied with at the time. I think that the idea for the poem came first, after I’d been invited to participate in the live radio broadcast. ‘before I know’ was a phrase I had in my mind while thinking about what I’d do for Writtle. The wallwork in the exhibition doesn’t really have a direct connection with the poem (the piece itself has more to do with shop signs) but my thoughts were so steeped in the idea of the falsity of prior knowledge that I decided to give the painting the same title.

43I: Let’s talk about collage. When we’ve talked in the past, you’ve mentioned that you use collage in your visual works and that you think of your poems as collages as well.

FP: Yes, it’s very much to do with the way I construct a painting, mentally as well as physically. Poetry has followed the same pattern – that of a gathering or scooping process. A painting, drawing, woodcut or poem will be constructed in a similar way to each other. The images jump about on the surface of the canvas or (in the case of a poem) on the page, often having no relationship to what is next to them in time, place or emotion. They are moved about until they find some kind of settling point. Often, awkwardness is the motivation behind the positioning of an image or a line. Sometimes I employ more narrative ways of putting a poem or painting in place, but by and large, a kind of fractured, chaotic, erratic method of working is used, where experiment is paramount. Of course, this is at the start of a piece of work, but later, strict controls follow and a more formal, compositional approach takes over.

43I: What about the poems where you use Morse Code? Does that function in a similar way, in that rhythm and sound form a sort of collage?

FP: Morse Code has a very different feel about it. It’s fairly new for me to use it in poetry and in my readings. It is as a result of thinking about the Writtle broadcast idea. While thinking about the 1922 broadcast, Morse Code came into my mind and I was reminded about learning the code when I was very young, after the Second World War. I have recently been re-learning it. So far, I have used Morse in readings translated from my poems. As you say, the sound and rhythms of reading in Morse Code come across in a jerky, collaged sort of way. The effect is uncompromising. It’s an abstract language quite akin to codes that I might use in painting. Comprehension is put aside. For most people the sound will not be accompanied by an understanding of the meaning. Each letter sounds like a whole word.

With my poems I am trying to find forms that are not the prescribed forms that are taught when people study poetry. I believe that the content of a poem can suggest what form is right for it. I suppose that conventional forms are right for certain kinds of poetry, but I feel quite rebellious about those given forms and feel impelled to disrupt them. Morse Code is another way of exercising my interest in form and experiment.

43I: What is it about form that you’re rebellious about?

FP: Well, I’m not rebellious about form in general. I am fascinated by form, but I feel trapped if I am working with a form that has been decided upon by somebody else. I want the form of a poem to discover itself through the process of writing and surprise me and the poem. Form for me is a mood and moods are changeable. I would like each poem to forge its own set of muscles and bear its own distinct anatomy. It would be naïve to be rebellious just for the sake of it, but I baulk at the idea of working within preordained constraints.

43I: I was thinking about what you said about small ideas. You start with almost nothing and you expand it and see where it leads.

FP: A lot of my poems and paintings come about from small observations in the world around. I find it more exciting to expand an idea from something which initially may be unremarkable. The painting or poem will behave in a remarkable way through the process of the development of the work. I like working with ‘stuff’ – from innocuous, half-experienced sightings on the one hand, to larger landscapes on the other. It is all material to use for the construction of a piece of work. Sometimes though, while small ideas can find themselves expanded, larger ideas can find themselves diminished, for the purposes of a particular piece of work. I have a painting in my exhibition, called ‘Little Mountain’. The mountain in the painting has been reduced to almost toy-like dimensions. I had in mind those pre- Renaissance paintings (Christ standing on a mountain) where there is a code for the understanding of dimension. We know that we are looking at a mountain, and mountains are large, but for the purposes of this painting, we agree to ignore its physical state and accept the code.

The same methods apply with my poems. Often originating with observations of a fleeting moment, they use that moment to expand in all directions and follow any road that is suggested while I write. The subject matter is disjointed and moves about in an unsettled way, often using automatic writing as part of its make-up. A kind of ordered chaos is probably the best way to describe the poetry that I write.

listen to Fabian Peake read his poem “this alley”

this alley by fabian peake

43 Inverness Street has begun a collaboration with the Artist in Residency programme at Glenfidditch Distillery in Dufftown, Moray, Scotland in selecting artists from Korea. This is the first year that the programme has chosen an artist from Korea and 43 Inverness will continue to help the programme in introducing Korean artists.

In its tenth year, Glenfiddich AiR invites international artists to work and live for a period of 3 months at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown. Each artist is awarded a monthly stipend, free accomadation, an allowance for materials and roundtrip airfair between the artist’s home and Scotland. In return, the artist will leave a piece of work largely created during the residency which is related to Glenfiddich,. Each artist will also take part in exhibitions, installations or performance projects of new or ‘in progress’ work during the residency programme.

During the residency, artists are encouraged to use their time at the distillery and the freedom it offers to create work which meets the aims of the art programme. The work could manifest itself through any medium and be specifically influenced by the family history of Glenfiddich, the people and processes at the distillery or indeed some of the materials specific to the whole process such as copper, steam, water, malt and barrels.

With the help of 43 Inverness Street, Dongwan Kook from Seoul, Korea is the first Korean artist to be selected for the residency programme and she will join six other established artists from India, Taiwan, China, the US and the UK.

Kook is known for her work combining the act of reading with the texts of dreams and memory. Her works take the form of texts, books, drawings, photographs, archival records, and sculptures. They have the quality of the ephemeral and the delicate and present a symbiotic relationship between the artist and the viewer based on reading and interpretation.

Dongwan Kook, Dreaming Piece I, 2010, Paper, Acrylic, Cloth

Dongwan Kook, A Perfect Bookcase 2010, Paint on wood

Dongwan Kook, Mindful Document 2010, Pencil on traditional Korean paper

Throughout London this month, there are a lot of exhibitions about lines and drawings. In addition to our ‘Lines in Drawings’ show, there is also ‘Lines of Thought’ at the Parisol Unit, ‘A Line of Drawing’ at Art First, ‘The Inception of Line’ at Coldharbour London, and ‘Taking a Line for a Walk’ at Vyner Street Gallery.

It makes you wonder why is there all this talk about lines? Why now?

While lines are implicit in other media of art, when we think about lines we first think about drawings, or at least I do. Drawing and sketching and writing is where you first try out ideas by hand, it is close, it is personal, it is subjective. In the April issue of Art Monthly, Christopher Townsend points out in his article, ‘On Drawings’ that during the Renaissance, artists exchanged drawings with their peers to not only show ‘a characteristic style, but one’s ‘identity’ at a time when distinction was a trait to be proudly acclaimed.’

Perhaps what we’re seeing lately, is a desire to turn to the thought, to the idea, to the beginning where artists in their drawings might mirror our own confusion of what is to come, of how things will turn out. Perhaps these works mirror our ceaseless questioning, wondering and anxiety.

“We still need to feel the wounds, the wounds of others and our own, to put our hands into the viscera,’ writes Townsend. “Without wishing to sound too much like John Berger, I would say that true writers, and I think, true artists take doubt as the central concern of their being: both make sketches that acknowledge their own, the world’s, the language’s, provisional, temporary, fragmented condition.”

There is a desire to return to the personal, the intimate, a return to the developing thought and idea. This is why a show like ‘Lines in Drawings’ works so well at 43 Inverness Street. In the gallery’s domestic setting the viewers are involved with the artists as if everyone was engaging in a salon, where communication is open and questions and ideas can be expressed.

Dustin Ericksen, who curated the show at 43 Inverness Street, said that ‘drawing is the mark of simultaneous thinking and action.’ Each drawing is the presence of the artist’s thought, the active thought that is in continuous movement. Each of the drawings in the show have a solitary feel to it, yet there is a communication between the viewer and the drawing and in effect the artist.
It would be interesting here to take the time to look more closely at each artist and see how these artists present themselves in their works.

Works by Sherman Sam and Charlotte Thrane

Sherman Sam, SS-005-JWB, pencil on paper, 2010

Charlotte Thrane, from Notebook Drawings, ink on paper, 2010

These works are similar in that they are small and are finished drawings but are presented as studies, as if they were notes on paper. Sam’s drawings show erasures and layers of shapes and ideas and pentimentos and erasures and re-thought out lines, while Thrane’s are singular lines in ink, crude abstract shapes as if they were empty vessels waiting to be filled. These are both the drawings of a thinker, of sketches and thoughts, of how one needs to put a thought down on paper in order to be lead to another one and then another one, where ideas can be developed and explored.

Jieun Kim

Jieun Kim, untitled, water colour and pencil on paper, 42x20cm, 2010

These works by Jieun Kim are the only ones that use watercolour in the show. This entitled works is ephemeral, fragile and airy. As if it were a whisper from the artist hiding around a corner. It is deceptively unassuming and has its own power as if it were a repetitive reminder to oneself of existence.

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers, Tip Room(Facing north),coloured pencil on paper, 2010

Meticulous mark over mark to bring out the red, the diamond patterns, the waves in the wooden cabinets. The sparse isolated room, the mysterious scientific instruments that make you wonder what kind of activity is conducted in a tip room. In fact, this drawing depicts the laboratory of David Baltimore, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 30 years ago for discovering reverse transcriptase, which deals with the reverse coding of DNA from RNA. It is a room of discovery and process.

Marc Hulson

Marc Hulson, from Untitled Sequence of Drawings, ongoing series since 1998

Begun in 1998, ‘Untitled Sequence of Drawings’ is an (hypothetically) endless series. Each identical in size and medium, and returning continually to variations on the same themes, the drawings are intended to work as a whole from which continual rearrangements, regroupings, episodes and subsets can be formed. This repetition and variations that can be seen in three pieces on the first floor are slightly melodic and dark and questioning as if you can see the thought processes of the artist as he repeats motifs and performs variations.

Chinwook Kim

Chinwook Kim, Inside and Outside of Landscape, chinese ink on canvas, 2012

This large work of Chinese ink on canvas is one of the largest pieces in the show and one of the most figurative works. The work shows coiling, turning figures in a pattern of leaves and vine-like designs. In some areas the ink is diluted to a faint grey so the figures are contoured out of a background of ink. (?)In some areas the ink bleeds into the canvas and while it looks like it may be an artist error, in fact these areas are intentional and are done to show the artist’s hand. It is not a perfect work and that is the intention, to show the presence of the artist, the artist’s hand as well as his thought process as the line works around the seepage.

Paul Noble

Paul Noble, The Sea IV, pencil on paper, 1998

Paul Noble’s ‘Sea IV’ is an impressive work of pencil on paper. The large amoeba shapes that cover the paper get smaller as they recede into the space giving you the sense of a calm sea extending deep into the horizon. Each shape is meticulously coloured in circular strokes in giving one the sense of the time it took to get the rich colour of lead and the pressure that the hand had to exert in order to get the rich colour of lead. This is the only work that hangs on the east wall of the first floor room.

Etchings by Victor Pasmore and Bryan Ingham

Victor Pasmore, Burning Water, Etching and aquatint, 1982

Bryan Ingham, Morning, etching, 1978/79

These are etchings by two prominent British artists of the 20th century and while they are multiples and don’t show the same intimate gestures of pencil on paper, etchings still reveal the artist hand and the manual labor that the artist had to produce in order to carve the lines onto the etching plate. With these two works, one of them figurative and one of them abstract, you can see the obsession with the line, the repetition and exaggeration of action towards completion.

With all of these works, there are many variations of the line on paper. Please stop by and see for yourself how each of these artists communicate their thoughts on paper.

‘Lines in Drawings’ 16 March – 20 April

Ha Young Kim's Studio

Much of your work deals with issues of consumption and evacuation (like In and Out which was exhibited at the gallery). When did this idea first come about and how is this continuing in your present work?

The characters in my paintings are looking nowhere with vacant eyes. They seem so disarmed towards violence and easily could be consumed. They look as if they are cyborgs, robots or avatars, those artificial human-like objects that we create. The image of those figures evacuating or eating stuff endlessly with an empty gaze is my symbolic way of looking at the (post)modern human condition; the modern humans who are surrounded by numerous information and ads and excess of everything.

Eat in and out' Acrylic on polyester 40 x 40 cm, 2011

For me we are like ‘passive eaters’ without filtering incomes, taking the fast stimulus and shocks and as a result of that becoming numb. I went to Korea recently and my ideas became solid by seeing the fast-developed city’s plastic flatness. Screens are everywhere showing things soundlessly with extremely bright light signs. The experience happening inside of flat screen looks unapproachable. As Slavoj Zizek said, the modern situation under science and virtual reality turns the whole of reality into something which ‘exists only on a screen’, a depthless surface. In Seoul, there were so many advertisements for plastic surgery and restaurants juxtaposed in the same space. This ‘unmatchable scenery’ for me feels like a contrived outside and inside. The cosmetic surgery ads maniacally but unabashedly showed natural before and artificial after photos of girls. It was so uncanny. The girls’ faces looked as if they were made of plastic. And the photos of well represented food conveyed a similar feeling. I felt light and heavy at the same time.
As a person living in a country that underwent rapid post-war development, I felt disoriented with the mixture of all these unmatchable things that are all fully ready to be consumed. Pretty shiny high-resolution figures drive me to futility.

You seem to shift back and forth between the monumental and the small. Do you have a different work process for each one? (for example, sitting and standing.)

When I work with small scale works I focus on the stillness of the subject like a still life. Things painted on the smaller scale canvas are vulnerable creatures. They are abandoned useless things as a result of human greed. For example the work Only Can Watch is inspired by CCTV.

This multiple-eyed creature can not do anything but watch. It is vulnerable to outside violence. It is deadly passive. Vice versa when I work on the bigger scale I try to express a narrative of an active event.

Untitled, work in progress

For example the work Threat of Farming Feelings is inspried by an article of scientific conjecture in which it is imagined that in the future we will be able to farm organs to replace our own when they get weak. This painting is depicting the event.

I like how in your work, there are areas of the picture plane that you can see through to something else–like something behind it, either colour or light, and in other areas the colour is dense and it’s packed with activity. Can you tell me more about your use of transparencies and layers?

'Hidden in You' and two paintings from the X bollomasome series

I wanted to find a material that could show the depth in two dimension painting with flat images and I found that drafting film and polyester have the perfect textual effect. Drafting film is a translucent material. When I layer it more than once the back images appear dimly, like a ghost. It gives the feeling of inside and outside. I have always been interested in what is in the inside and what is ‘in’ the outside. The series Internal Sequence came from the idea of a reaction between the inside and the outside so that the layering in the works fits in with the concept.

It seems like you have a great productive output. Have you ever gone through periods where you rest and are more contemplative?

I think I am now in that interval moment. With my expression, I call it going into the cave, literally a hiding period. Because like you said,I have moments of pouring out works. I am working with my intuition and when it comes I can make lots of work but when it goes I need to do nothing. It sounds like I don’t have my own principle but I think art is conveying and resonating energy to people so that I need to have some time for hiding, for accumulating things that will later explode.

How was it going from the environment at the RA to working during the Arts League residency in New York? Did you notice any changes in your work or in your process?

I am very affected by my environment. Of course the results were very different. When I was at the RA, there was something in the air. Being at the such a historical academic place made me work with form differently and when I was in NY I focused more on an expression method.

Disappearing into All as One Acrylic and glass paint on drafting film 305x244cm, 2011

Do you think of yourself primarily as a painter? could you see yourself working in other areas–sculpture, video, installation, etc?

I am an artist who deals with two dimensions. I have always wanted to make animations but don’t know when it could happen.
It is always in my mind.

Hidden in You' Acrylic on polyester 50 x 50 cm 2011