Aspex Portsmouth

Week 3, Words Don’t Stand on Trifles, 40 Stories

Les Buckingham, Director 1984-1999

This is what artist Rob Kesseler told me when I described the genesis of what turned out to be this ground-breaking show (WORDS! Don’t Stand on Trifles, January – March 1995). A viral show before the internet came into general use, I had asked artists a simple question: Send me the words from any source that have influenced your visual or artistic work. The invite was sent by email and the recipients were asked to forward it. The result was 250 responses from over 20 countries, modest by today’s viral avalanches but significant at the time. I didn’t employ a vetting system and tried to include all the work on the walls, following the artists’ instructions where possible. The show was extended to nearly three months to allow for new contributions.

The show revealed that literary sources for visual artists can come from anywhere and I will look at more of these in this series. Some contributions looked at the influence of other artists and Neil Taylor’s caught the spirit of the idea perfectly, revealing the struggle some artists have maintaining an openness and freshness to ideas, while working through the multiple processes of medium and meaning. Taylor quotes from the great American painter Philip Guston, and to emphasise the idea he constructed a small door to be hung on the wall that could be opened and closed by the viewer. The quote behind the door portrays the moment an artist sees what he or she made the day before: 


I came into the studio very fearfully.

I creep in to see what happened the 

night before.  And the feeling is one of,

“My God, did I do that?”