The Secret Artist #9: The Visionary

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And The Dark And The Dark was a three person exhibition of painting and sculpture, addressing themes of the visionary and the otherworldly.

I was in good company: Vanessa Mitter and Lana Locke.


Vanessa and I met at her open studio in Hackney Wick and we discovered that our practice overlapped in many way; our love of fluro colours, performance and….The Dark. We both have a layered and intense way of working and several people at the show asked if we had worked in the same studio because we paint such similar marks and shapes.

Vanessa originally studied English before studying an MA in Fine Art and has many Literary references in her work. When we initially met at our respective studios we both saw a story emerging between her haunting figures and the mysterious other worldliness of the suggested landscapes in my paintings. We wanted a story to frame the exhibition, this is an extract from the press release written by Vanessa:

And The Dark

     And The Dark……

 There are the neons, those slapdash pinks that signal a lapsed adolescence, three women at a banquet and the nonchalant gaze of a dandy about town. In this world, there is no return. Only the moment exists.

Walking through the forest, I stumble over the gravestones of the nameless and the countless and all that crosses my mind is that one word ‘erasure’. Erasure. Erasure. There is no return.



I’ve since been reflecting on the aspects of the exhibition I enjoyed the most; the bringing together of the work, curating the pieces, looking for the connections and arranging the work so that a spontaneous narrative could unfold. One of the thoughts I’ve had, that has felt like a major epiphany, is that perhaps paintings such as Adam and Eve and The Goddess are more akin to a stage prop than a painting in it’s traditional sense. Although I’m not quite sure what that means yet. They have so much presence in the gallery yet somehow attaching price tags and offering them for sale seemed to me almost kind of absurd. Not because they are not appreciated and valued. I wonder if these paintings have more of a future within the context of theatre and it feels exciting to consider what this potentially means. Someone said to me a while back “how do you get inside? I want to get inside…” That’s the feeling I get too. They are like a doorway, a darker Mary Poppins chalk on a paving slab, inviting you to step into their world. I think they enjoyed their time in the gallery but I think part of what they enjoyed was knowing they didn’t really belong.

That said there is no question that they played their part in And The Dark And The Dark. We received many compliments for the quality of the curation and definitely there was a unique and curious song about the And The Dark assemblage that’s quite difficult to describe and the photos don’t do it justice. I’ve decided to make a (v.short) film of the exhibition for next weeks blog. The installation, the private view, my talk with Lucy Steggals and then it will be time to lay And The Dark And the Dark to rest and begin a new chapter.

I have a hint what this new chapter might be. During one of the days I was in the gallery I began to see more and more layers in the paintings and to recognise so many of the shapes and symbols I have drawn thousands of times in my sketch books. I suddenly felt the profound absence of all these thousands of drawings and had that double take moment as if I’d left my bag on the bus, or shut the door with my key inside…. Where are the drawings?! I thought of Paul Klee and the exhibition that had hundreds of his sketchbooks and drawings on display, the sharing of the drawings opened an important portal into his mind and imagination and the evolution of his work. I made a promise to the hundreds of drawings squashed in sketchbooks like forgotten butterfly specimens, that they too are part of this and not to be forgotten!

So as I draw a line to follow, that may or may not take me to the ritual of performance and theatre. I’m aware that these two realisations about my future steps come from me wanting to somehow fill the gap, to bridge the distance, of the gallery space. The divide. I could write a lot more about my thoughts on the limitations of the gallery/exhibition space, because for me there is something just so inherently odd and unsatisfying about the exhibition format, but that is a blog for another day. Today I’m just noticing these nudges, these sign posts.

The future beckons with many plans but tempting as it is to abandon the here and now for the promise of  ‘bigger’, ‘better’, ‘new’ ideas. Today I remain anchored in the present and reflective of the past. Tomorrow I’m going to do what I always do – draw a line and see where it takes me. I might write to think but I draw to see.



See you next week,

Love and Best Wishes


Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

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