Guest blog: Artist Patrick Hallissey reflects on the creation of the RE-IMAGINED exhibition and his collaboration with poet Mervyn Grist

Every other year Trowbridge Museum invites a member of the Cloth Road artist’s group to create a series of works inspired by the museum collection. In early September 2015, I was invited to do this for an exhibition starting in April 2016. This involved working with Hanne Dahl the museum’s Exhibition Officer. After looking through the museum’s archives I decided on sport as a theme.

Having much support and interest for “Tour of Britain” paintings executed during a residency of Trowbridge Town Hall, I decided to focus specifically on cycling as a theme. I worked through the Trowbridge Museum’s archives with Hanne and came up with some photos on which to base the paintings. This proved to be a very fruitful direction and I aimed to complete 20 paintings by December 2015. To support this departure with figurative work I attended life drawing and a portrait class.

I worked at length on the composition of the paintings, redrawing until the narrative was clear. I chose to use oil paint in a spontaneous way to create an atmosphere. Hanne visited my studio several times during this time and was very supportive. I tried where possible to give the paintings a Trowbridge background.  I immersed myself in information about the period as well as looking at shaky newsreels and black and white photos on the internet.

As the series developed the narrative aspect became increasingly important, something I discussed with my friend Mervyn Grist an established poet. Mervyn was not only enthusiastic about my new work but eager to use them as an inspiration for his own work. He has a very broad range in his poetry from the comic to the tragic.  He seemed to catch the mood of the paintings and give them another aspect in words.

Hanne and I collaborated as the exhibition took shape, she planned for me to do workshops and a series of progressive painting sessions. Hanne organised leaflets, online publicity and the exhibition opening at which Mervyn Grist was able to perform some of his poems which were displayed along the paintings.

This coupling dovetailed together so well that we began to investigate a celebratory book. My graphic designer daughter Xanthia stepped in and took over the layout and design .

The book which we called  “Chain Reaction” is now published and available at Trowbridge Museum .  Its official launch is on Saturday 15 October 2016 in Trowbridge Museum from 2 to 4pm, at which Mervyn and I will be available for book signing. I plan to give a brief talk about the paintings and Mervyn will be reading his poems.

Mervyn describes his own experiences of our collaboration below.

Patrick Hallissey, painter

Photography of painting © Grant Newton 2016

Photography of painting © Grant Newton 2016

It is well over two decades now since the creative paths of Patrick and myself first crossed. We were brought together to add our own idiosyncratic visions and talents to the creation of the Shears Map, which has now found its resting place outside Trowbridge Civic Centre.

What became obvious to me, almost as soon as we had met, was Patrick’s infectious and untiring passion for the Art World and all things creative. This passion never appears to diminish and manifests itself so clearly through the vibrancy and colour of his paintings.

Needless to say, with such a passion Patrick is not one to shy away from an ‘artistic’ challenge and  I have been able to coerce him into the world of Performance Art. For many years he and I made fools of ourselves on the streets of Bath during Fringe Festival week, most notably with the Overcoat Gallery which was, literally, a gallery in an overcoat, magnanimously worn by Patrick in stifling summer temperatures.

Now with the RE-IMAGINED exhibition Patrick has managed to get his own back by challenging me to produce a set of poems to accompany and compliment his wonderful paintings themed around the early days of cycling.

The composing of the poems flowed as easily as brushstrokes on a Hallissey canvas as each painting oozed inspiration. I think I break no confidence here by saying Patrick is no cyclist, yet the sheer enthusiasm and exuberance given to the subject, that leaps out from these pictures, made my task of marrying words to images a delightful, painless pleasure.

For me, the RE-IMAGINED exhibition features some of Patricks most direct and exciting work to date and we hope the poems add a further dimension to this fascinating project.

Mervyn Grist, poet 

The exhibition of Patrick’s paintings and Mervyn’s poems at the Trowbridge Museum continues until 29 October 2016. An element of the exhibition will then move to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Chippenham in November 2016.



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