Volume II

Collaborative residency at ‘TESTT Space,’ Durham UK, July 2018 – August 2018


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Dynamics of Dialogue


TESTT Space is pleased to present the international collaboration of Francis:Kirkbride’s first show, ‘Dynamics of Dialogue,’ an exhibition compiled of painting, screen-printing and installation that take up the second floor of the gallery space.


This series of work is an investigation into how mark making found within the city environment can be used as a universal dialogue. The process of adding and removing layers of paper, paint and print becomes an evolutionary process where haphazard gestures and marks cumulate to form a hybrid language stripped of it’s illegibility. Within this non-rational language, a printed brushstroke or painted bitmap have no hierarchy and marks are drained of authorship and purpose through repetition making its reproduction a method of commentary. 


The layering of repeated shapes and imagery is used as a catalyst for conversation between the authenticity of the mark. Through the use of digital and analogue techniques, textures and surfaces are documented, burned to screens then printed, reprinted, and printed again, echoing themselves through half tone imagery. The images are taken from the surrounding environment which are then digitally processed and reproduced through the filter of the screen, in order to erase the personal human hand and deny single authorship.


The torn or ripped paper used for décollage illustrates a temporal moment in time and is suggestive of an act of protest or defiance which may reflect social, political or cultural responses within the public domain. The tear is also able to reveal existing surfaces beneath and fragment whatever imagery had been printed onto the paper. The printed dot of bitmapping is used as a glaze to unify surfaces where the negative space between the dots shows the existing layers beneath while simultaneously creating a new layer that rises to the surface. Printed halftone gradients can push back or pull layers forward, creating figure-ground reversals. These reversals are used to conceal information while manipulating what is analog and what is digital.


The underlying compositions of the pieces are reflective of geometric representations of the city and it’s grid like organization. Tiled walls, sidewalks, windows, doors, pavement and fences quote the metropolitan environment and how the space we live in impacts us.  As stated by Itai Palti in his publication, Conscious Cities, To shape and be shaped, 


           Observing the dialogue between environment and people could uncover the mechanics by which we inherit                traits from our surroundings.


We choose to reflect these ‘traits’ through the use of abstract structural elements that are symbolic of the built environment.


In this body of work we chose a black and white monochrome palette that reduces the paintings to their most simplest elements so that the focus would be on form and texture highlighting the way in which it was made. The only areas of color are the unprimed boards that the work is composed on accompanied by signs and pallets that were used in the installation acting as focal points to emphasizing the limited palette.


The installation titled “Of other spaces” taking inspiration from Michael Foucault’s third principle explains: 


          The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are

          in themselves incompatible. Thus it is that the theater brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the                   other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another; 


TESTT space is itself a heterotopia, being a derelict office building that has now been turned into both a gallery space and artist studios that will in the near future be demolished. This ongoing transformation propelled us to use our own paintings but also to bring artifacts from the studio and outside world into the gallery. This was to bridge the gap between the spaces of outside, studio and gallery and create a transitional context in the show pushing the limits of the studio, not as a potential site for dialogue and production but also as a subject itself.


Our use of appropriation can be seen parallel to Newcastle based artist Paul Jex’s in which he describes, 


         Appropriation Art relates to the use of imagery, objects and resources to

         re-contextualize the original idea or outcome. These can include the reproduction of art work, the use of art                work as source material or the use of actual artifacts.


We thought it important to utilize actual signage from the outside world that gave caution, directed traffic flow or prohibited dumping. The signs that were originally blank were then given an accumulation of marks through gestural spray paint and screen-printing that obscured the commands, rendering them indecipherable.


The installation with it’s mix-matching range of materials including wood, pallets, silkscreen and signage wraps around a section of the gallery walls crating a geometrical, juxtaposing of the space. Individual pieces are hung, mounted, leaned and nailed to the wall as to mimc how we would encounter them in their original setting being either in a studio or bolted to a post.  The resulting effect of allowing wooden pallets to lean and panels to overhang structurally fragments the space while simultaneously altering perspectives and dislocating the original anatomy of the walls.


The final step of applying lines of spray paint, starting from the surface of the signs and traveling directly onto the walls of the gallery, creates marks that are interchangeable with the screen printed and hand sprayed motifs. Thus creating a common thread that weaves through the installation with the aim of collapsing the outside environment, the gallery space and the studio into a heterotopia of its own.

Francis : Kirkbride

Dynamics of Dialogue


Francis : Kirkbride seem to have made leaps and bounds during the summer residency in Durham.  Their art is full of energy.  It is a bit mischievous and it is ambitious.  They exhibited an installation for the first time alongside an impressive variety of 2-dimensional works.  The sculptural work was placed in the middle of the show next to the windows of TESTT Space through which you could see and hear the city from where these materials came. Complex processes are involved in producing these extensively worked pieces that marry printing and painting and confuse them, so we’re not quite sure what we’re looking at.  The art works are at once accessible and mysterious.  These are signs that we all recognise but they are also suggestive and multi-layered.  There are many references to art history here, including the traditions of appropriation, gestural painting and abstraction, harking back to early 20th-century artists who believed that abstraction had potential to be a universal language.  Francis : Kirkbride see urban mark-making as a universal language.  Brooklyn and Durham would seem to have little in common but of course, they share quite a lot.  In 2018 when so many doors are being closed, we have to to kick them open and this exceedingly fruitful international collaboration does just that.  More please.



Hazel Donkin

Assistant Professor

Durham University

(with thanks to Nicole Vivien Watson)

September 2018


Francis         Kirkbride