Visual Art

I’ve had two solo exhibitions (see below), participated in group shows at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Mile End Art Pavilion, The Darnley and in galleries in Vilnius, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lugano and Virginia. Three books of my collected artworks have been published in limited editions - Selected Scribbling & Scrawling of SJ Fowler (Zimzalla 2018) / Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire (Hesterglock 2018) / I fear my best work behind me (Stranger Press 2017)

  • HARD TO READ : Rich Mix Gallery Brick Lane: 2017 : London, UK
  • Mahu : Hardy Tree Gallery Kings Cross : 2015 : London, UK
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art book - Selected Scribbling & Scrawling / Zimzalla 2018

Launched on June 6th at National Poetry Library

"The scrawl or doodle is not a by-product of distraction; it is an active production of the mind when concentration moves downwards in the brain. It is the poetry of the mind’s rearguard, and it is more often a product of writing, pen in hand, than it is a visual art. So why should poetry, the language art, not have held scribbling to its chest? This volume of SJ Fowler’s collected works in the line let loose tradition attempts to return the wandering shapes of letters and words back to the front. Selected from over 1300 works spanning 11 & ½ years and touching upon asemic and pansemic writing, widely varying in tone, density, form and character, this selection of poems shows SJ Fowler’s fundamental impatience and childishness."

You can buy the book https://zimzalla.co.uk/

 


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art book - Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire / Hesterglock Press 2018

Available to purchase https://enemiesproject.bigcartel.com/product/aletta-ocean-s-alphabet-empire-sj-fowler
Released in January 2018 in a limited-edition first-print of 40 copies.

"A book that asks, abstractly, are letters shaped like bodies? Can words evoke faces, captured in a screen? Who, or what, is assimilating, who or what? Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire is a collection of art poems, hand wrought in black, grey, silver and white, fashioned with indian ink, paint and pen, worked with techniques that edge around writing, vying with abstraction, constantly harrying semantic meaning and legibility. 

Five years in the making, conceptually this is a book about sex, poetry and pornography and the disconnect between the former and the latter. These pages explore technology in its absence and aim to evidence the power of materiality and the body, and our hands, that are still required for touch."

"Searching AOAE online (Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire) shows a YouTube clip of Japanese cats mating. What's a word in any case if not a monster? A monster that eats words. The toner explodes on the office carpet spilling out a perfectly formed oeuvre. Serifs skywrite like migrating gannets. The rorschach accidentally tells you what to think. The printed facsimile becomes original when the world goes JavaScript. The dollar sign is a duck walking backwards into a lake. The ATM dispenses glyphs. How do we know people have faces when they take the day off work? The tank rolls over the charcoal leaving a map of Iraq or a new version of Cathay. We're back in the world of Artaud's final journal where, thank fuck (and at last) we're not being told what to think. Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire is an almighty triumph, a well-earned relief. Picasso said it took a lifetime to learn to paint like a child. Or, for that matter, like the mad."  Chris McCabe

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art book - I fear my best work behind me / Stranger Press 2017

Available to buy here https://enemiesproject.bigcartel.com/product/i-fear-my-best-work-behind-me-sj-fowler
Released in October 2017 in a limited edition of 100.

A book exploring poetry as a fractured, overwhelmed, handwritten victim of colour, brutalist child-like portraiture, abstract illustration and negative space, I fear my best work behind me makes space around the formal domination of clean, centre aligned poetry. 

I could barely read this, this book changed my life.                                                                                       Tuur Van Balen artist 

i fear my best work behind me presents raw simulation of tentative and tender frailty. The respondent stares at fragments of attachment comprehension lost comprehension, becomes involved in a relationship of mark facture and scripted text applied sequentially or contemporary with each other, scripted in tandem or over the smudge. It is as if the intent has been hidden and that there rests an implicit coded discrepancy in each smudge demanding a decode, a search in the rubble, a decipherment that matches the pages of fleeting uncertainty and assured presentation without transcription. The work shakes with an engagement with these conditions.                               Allen Fisher poet & artist

The volume features works published by Oxford Poetry, Test Centre magazine, Gorse Magazine, Fractalia and others, and an example can be found online at:

Partisan Hotel http://partisanhotel.co.uk/S-J-Fowler
Oxford Poetry www.stevenjfowler.com/blog/oxford-poetry
Wazo magazine http://www.wazogate.com/wm10-1-orange-i-fear-my-best-work-behind-me/

The works call back to the post-war and latter 20th century explorations of Henri Michaux, Jacques Racquet and the CoBrA group especially – Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky, Asger Jorn, Lucebert, Gerrit Kouwenaars, Karel Appel – who have been enormously influential on my thinking and work. This book is a reconnection to their principles and practises, knowing it to be familiar ground, but one rarely tread and increasingly necessary in a still predominantly colourless medium.

Three works from the book were published as a Limited Edition postcard set by Stranger Press for the Poetry Book Fair in London, September 2017.

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art book - Memoirs of a Hypocrite (o gandia) / forthcoming from Hesterglock Press : 2018

Due for release in November 2018.

A collection of visual poems exploring the obscure, inarticulate, child-like intensity of the movement of the hand while writing - deliberately rough, handworked. The words are meant to make you squint, to battle for legibility, rather than you be able to pinch and extend your thumb and forefinger against the page to get a closer look. Scribbling is more interesting than type, as are crossings out, as are forgotten notes, strange scrawls, gesturing toward the handmade, the amateur, the outside, a tiny gesture of mine towards paint, ink and paper, towards liquid and wood, ugliness, toilet wall draughtsmanship and mess.

Three works from the book published here https://partisanhotel.co.uk/S-J-Fowler


SOLO EXHIBITIONHARD TO READ
Collected Paint Poems, Pansemia, Cinematic Drawings and Logograms
SJ FOWLER // Rich Mix Gallery - December 9th 2017 to january 6th 2018

Once we understand excess, then we can get really simple.
                                                                           Robert Rauschenberg

From the gallery "Collecting together the art poetry of SJ Fowler, this solo exhibition aims to pose several questions of the poem as a concrete, visual thing in the world. What is in the shape of a letter and what images do words recall? What is the meaning of colour in poetry and text upon the page, and white space? How does the situation of a poem change its meaning? Why is composition not a concept that applies to a medium that is innately visual? In literature, why has content overwhelmed context? Why has product dominated process? HARD TO READ poses these questions and answers them poorly, playfully, with over 40 original works drawn from multiple publications and previous exhibitions - works that interrogate handwriting, abstraction, illustration, asemic and pansemic writing, scribbling, crossings out, forgotten notes, strange scrawls - the odd interaction between paper and pen, and pencil, and coloured words that randomly collide with image recalling words.

This is an exhibition about the page as a block, about geometry, about lines that sever meaning, about inarticulate shapes, about minimalism and collage. It is about making, gesturing towards the handmade poem, the amateur poet, the outside, liquid and paper, the absence of technology, and ugliness - toilet wall draughtsmanship and mess. It is a response to being called an artist in the poetry world, and a poet in the arts world."

This is my second solo exhibition and will kick off The Poem Brut, a new project I'm doing which includes the books I fear my best work behind me (Stranger Press 2017), Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire (Hesterglock Press), The Collected Scribblings of SJ Fowler (Zimzalla 2018). It's also part of my time as Rich Mix Associate Artist. 

Four new limited edition art books and an exhibition at Rich Mix as well as, beyond my own work, a programme of books, events, exhibitions and installations that explores the visual and contextual character of poetry and text, and in so doing the overlaps between modern art and modern poetry.

The Poem Brut explores the language art, the art of poetry – handwriting, abstraction, illustration, asemic and pansemic writing, concrete poetry and more. This is an examination of words that are meant to make you squint, to battle for legibility, rather than you be able to pinch and extend your thumb and forefinger against the page to get a closer look. As a major part of our day becomes how much time to spend online, and a movement slowly arises to disengage from online existence, so The Poem Brut is also intended to be a tiny return to the obscure, inarticulate, child-like intensity of our making marks upon a page, pen, brush, pencil to paper, that which underpinned the art brut and all it was influenced by.

Drawing on the great post-war figures of avant-garde poetry and visceral text art, and so interrogating the limitations of these definitions, The Poem Brut will refer back to European figures still profoundly underappreciated in the UK, most especially in literature. Henri Michaux, Christian Dotremont, Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, the CoBrA group, Messa.

Works that explore language as markings, that return to the lost languages of linguistic history alongside the immediacy of groundbreaking art movements that used text freely and influenced practitioners from Basquiat to Twombly, will be created and brought into focus. Both those who pioneered such works in poetry and art will be brought together, from the last seven decades and the now.


Collaborative / Group Exhibitions include:

  • Worm Wood w/ moving image artist Tereza Stehlikova : Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter's Chapel : 2017 : London
  • Visual Poetry at Museum of Futures : 2017 : Surbiton : London
  • The Night-Time Economy w/ photographer Kate Mercer : Riverfront Arts Centre Newport : 2016 : Wales
  • Rest & its discontents : The Mile End Art Pavilion : 2016 : London
  • Conceptual Poetics : The Poetry Library : 2016 : London, UK
  • Neurocantos w/ sculptor Rebecca Kamen : Greater Reston Arts Center : 2015 : Virginia, US
  • Nanopoetry w/ material engineer Thomas Duggan : Victoria & Albert Museum : 2015 : London, UK
  • Poetry in Collaboration : The Poetry Library at Royal Festival Hall : 2014 : London, UK
  • Enemies: Visual Art and Poetry : Hardy Tree Gallery Kings Cross : 2013 : London, UK
  • Visual Poetics : The Poetry Library at Royal Festival Hall : 2013 : London, UK
  • Vikings : Ark : 2013 : Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Gilles de Rais w/ artist David Kelly-Mancaux : 2013 : Rich Mix Gallery Brick Lane : London, UK
  • The Estates of Westeros w/ artist Ben Morris : 2013 : Darnley Gallery Hackney : London, UK
  • 5 x 7 : Hardy Tree Gallery Kings Cross : 2013 : London, UK
  • Vispo London - an exhibition at the Tarp Festival Vilnius, Lithuania: October 2012
  • The 9 lessons of Wortwedding - an exhibition at the Wortwedding gallery, Berlin
  • evolve:R - an exhibition in Lugano, Switzerland: September 2014

New paintings 'Cemetery Portraits' for Worm Wood - August 2017

A series of portraits, of people who, at the time of painting, were buried in the place the paintings were made - Kensal Green Cemetery, the first of London's magnicifient seven, as part of the Worm Wood exhibition.

Portraits of Harold Pinter, James Ballard, Charles Babbage and Isambard Brunel amongst them.

The series was made under the constraint that I could only paint them on site in the Dissenter's Chapel with materials found in the chapel, the catacombs, cemetery stores and in the cemetery grounds. 


Mahu: June 6th to July 14th 2015 at The Hardy Tree Gallery. London, UK.

An exhibition of handwriting as art, a novel written onto the walls of a gallery in black ink, descending into asemic abstraction. A durational practise of writing / an exhibition of the word as symbol as well as content bearer www.stevenjfowler.com/mahu


Writing Art

Including - Gold & Silk exhibited at Victoria & Albert Museum (2015) and Hardy Tree Gallery (2013) and The Night-Time Economy: an exhibition - April 6th to 29th 2016 at The Riverfront. Newport, Wales. / Rich Mix Gallery. London, England.

A series of minimalist text artworks, exhibited in collaboration with the photographer Kate Mercer, responding to the violence of Newport's nightlife. Interrogating the detail of language, how it is as a material, how poetry is read when framed, beyond the book, in the gallery setting. More here http://www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy

Two collaborations with material engineer Thomas Duggan. The first a poem about the process rendered in pure synthetic silk, that would disappear upon contact with air. The second, a poem about the process rendered in synthetic gold nanorods, exhibited in group shows in London.


Visual Poetry

Including Vikings: published by POW press (Brazil) and exhibited at Ark (Copenhagen) 2013.


Calligrams: The 5x7 exhibition at the Hardy Tree Gallery - Dec 2013

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15 artists provide 15 artworks around postcard size. My 15 artworks are all original calligrammatic representations of animals. Each one is essentially a drawing of an animal in handwriting. Ive played with Calligrams for awhile, pretty much directly following Apollinaire. I've deliberately made them somewhat illegibile, so the handwriting, in places, allows for multiple, interpretative readings of the poems. They are all poems, pre-existing poems, written for the calligram, which will never see the light of day in their non-calligrammatic form, but I want the search for the meaning to be primary in the readers experience. The reader can make their own poems as they have to fill in the gaps between what is legible to them and what is not. Each time the poems are read, they are anew.


The Estates of Westeros: exhibited for Synathesia at Darnley Gallery, London - April 2013


Fights: published by Veer Books (2011) in a second edition (2015)


Visual art online:

Animal calligram series: http://lex-icon21.blogspot.fr/2012/05/lex-icon-blog-project-post-50-steven-j.html

If her last wish were collage series: if her last wish were http://the-otolith.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/sj-fowler.html

Minimalist poetry series Animale Romanesti: http://the-otolith.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/sj-fowler.html

the Five Points of Basque Loyalty published by Visual Poetry Mail Art July'10

Seven Asemic artworkshttp://the-otolith.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/sj-fowler.html