By Siemon Scamell-Katz
At Black Barn Contemporary
Siemon Scamell-Katz ’s solo exhibition, Vanishing-Sublime , is due to open at Black Barn Contemporary , an exclusive art space in Cockley Cley, near Swaffham, Norfolk, from Saturday 4 September to Sunday 19 September .
The exhibition will showcase 32 abstract paintings inspired by landscapes in the UK, Greece, Italy and the USA,inviting viewers to experience the vanishing sublime of nature.
Once an art collector’s best kept secret, Black Barn Contemporary will open its doors for three weekends, drawing art lovers to the Norfolk countryside for one of the most thought-provoking exhibitions outside of London this summer.
In his mid-twenties, Siemon Scamell-Katz launched a business that pioneered eye tracking, a technique which allowed him to understand how humans see – and interpret what they see. Studying how our eye travels through an image, he discovered that we don’t focus on the whole, but instead on small elements of a scene, trying to identify what it is we’re looking at. Each person fills in the gaps with what they know – memories, representations and symbols. In other words, we never see what’s really in front of us.
Siemon Scamell-Katz rejects realistic painting or photography as “a false record of experiential reality” , and throws out anything representative. Instead, he uses his knowledge of human vision to create works that draw their viewers in,allowing them to experience the fundamental feeling of the landscape, often in a deeply spiritual way.
The paintings take several months to complete. First, Siemon Scamell-Katz immerses himself in nature, sketching en plein air, usually in watercolour, as a reference for subject and colour. He then works in the studio on unframed aluminium panels. To create the volume and depth of the painting, the artist applies thin oil glazes, each one taking days, sometimes weeks to dry.
“These images seem to me to be made up of opposites: surface and depth, fragility and permanence, stillness and movement. The focus itself is mysterious – maybe how a bird might see a landscape – as if looked at through a microscope but from a great height.” Celia Paul, artist
“To use words to describe [Scamell-Katz’s paintings] is to risk, or in fact to accept, falling short. They are hard to write about and hard to reproduce, but all such barriers fall away when you’re in their presence. The way they first draw then overwhelm your eye is one of the great pleasures and rewards of Scamell-Katz’s paintings.” Chris Power
The exhibition will be available to see at Black Barn Contemporary in the weekends from Saturday 4 September to Sunday 19 September. It will open on Saturday 4 September with a Private View from 12 to 2pm, and a Panel Talk from 6pm to 7pm, discussing the works in the exhibition and the themes raised by the works. Particular emphasis will be on the theory of The Sublime, its historical origins and its Contemporary meanings.
The exhibition will be available to see on:
• Saturday 4 September for a Private View from 12-2pm, then a Panel Talk from 6-7pm from writer Rachel Cusk, art critic J. P. Watts and writer Alba Arikha
• Sunday 5 September 11-1pm
• Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 September 11-1pm
• Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 September 11-1pm
• and at other times by appointment.
Siemon Scamell-Katz is a contemporary painter living and working between London and Norfolk in the UK, and Paris, France. In his mid–twenties, Siemon Scamell-Katz started a business that researched human behaviour through eye tracking, a technique he pioneered to study what people look at. Today, the artist uses his knowledge of how humans see – and interpret what they see – as the basis for his practice, exploring his relationship to the sensing moment in landscape. Siemon has recently shown his work with East Anglia Fund and Cley Contemporary.
Black Barn Contemporary is a project-space for contemporary art in Cockley Cley, near Swaffham, Norfolk, PE37 8AH. This meditative space is ran by architect, artist and curator Hugh Pilkington, who is known for championing and challenging artists living and working in Norfolk. Hugh Pilkington regularly curates exhibitions in Norfolk, exploring whether there is a Norfolk school of painting today, as there was in the 19th century.
Alba Arikha was brought up in Paris, her father was the Franco-Israeli artis Avigdor Arikha and her mother the American poet Anne Atik. After receiving her BA from Hampshire College, she completed an MFA at Columbia. She has written 5 books including Major/Minor published in 2011 charting her artistic childhood in Paris, coupled with memories of her godfather, Samuel Beckett. The book was shortlisted for the Spear’s Awards and selected by the New Yorker among the best books of 2012. Alba is also a pianist and songwriter, and has performed in Paris and London. She has collaborated as a librettist with her composer husband, Tom Smail. She is a regular contributor to Radio 4. Her new book, Blue as an Orange, an international history of Bohemianism, will be published by Unbound in 2023.
Rachel Cusk was born in Canada in 1967 and spent much of her childhood in Los Angeles before finishing her education at a convent school in England. She read English at New College, Oxford. She has written 11 novels and 4 works of non-fiction and is published internationally in 32 languages. In 2003 Rachel Cusk was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 ‘Best of Young British Novelists’, in 2018 became a Guggenheim fellow and in 2019 became inducted to the American Academy. Her latest novel, Second Place is longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. She lives in Paris.
Jonathan P. Watts is a contemporary art critic and editor. He is a regular contributor to Art Monthly, Frieze and Artforum, and is visiting lecturer at Nottingham Trent School of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art, London. With Henry Newcomb he co-ran the artist-led contemporary art gallery LOWER.GREEN in Norwich’s Anglia Square. With seven friends Jonathan is a contributor-editor of A-or-ist, a magazine of new critical writing on contemporary art.
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