The Poem Brut // Rich Mix Cultural Foundation : October 2017 to March 2018

We take writing for granted

A six month programme of events, book launches and an exhibition exploring the visual, the handmade poetry of SJ Fowler. Art poems, pansemic writing, abstract portraiture - exploring insections between brutalism, poetry, handwriting and abstract illustration.

As a major part of our day becomes how much time to spend online, while a movement slowly arises to disengage from online existence, so these works are meant to be a tiny return to the obscure, inarticulate, child-like intensity of the movement of the art brut and all it was influenced by. It’s more ambiguous than this, the meaning of the poems, but this is why it is 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. I think scribbling is beautiful, as are crossings out, as are forgotten notes, strange scrawls. As is the strange interaction between paper and pen, and pencil, and the colours that randomly collide.

At times it explores ancient renditions of death’s reminders, at other times, geometry. It also explores ideas of Minimalism, Sex and the human form, Collage, Time, Found text.

It’s an Art brut work I think, gesturing toward the handmade, the amateur, the outside, the book is a tiny gesture of mine towards paint, ink and paper, towards liquid and wood, ugliness, toilet wall draughtsmanship and mess. They are a response to my being called an artist in the poetry world, and a poet in the arts world.

All the materials – the paper, the ink, the paint – very carefully chosen (art paper, rollerball pen, soft pencil and children's fingerpaint from spain!).

These poems explore the limits of words - those illegible to the literal, illuminating to others. They are books of an expanded linguistic system, where semantic meaning is pliable, relative and playful at the margins of what we deem to be readability and textual understanding.

IIlegible writing indicates in fact that the sign of the letter has been remorsefully eaten away by its own figurative nature, and that it does indeed take almost nothing at all for the figure to resort back to its status as a mere drawing, upsetting the old imperatives of differentiation between drawing and writing by developing a continuous exchange between the two.

The Poem Brut engages with a European tradition of poetry making all too little recognised in literary circles, emerging from post-WWII pioneers like Henri Michaux, Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, Christian Dotremont, Juan Mesa. Their working method was based on spontaneity and experiment, and they drew their inspiration in particular from children’s drawings, from primitive art forms.

“I paint just as I write. To discover, to rediscover myself, to find what is truly mine, that which, unbeknown to me, has always belonged to me. To experience at once the surprise of it and the pleasure of recognising it. To bring forth or bear witness to the appearance of a certain vagueness, a certain aura, where others would, or do, see fullness.”
                                                                                                       Henri Michaux (1959)

This special programme explores the intersections of modern poetry and contemporary art through the work of Rich Mix associate artist SJ Fowler.

  • October Saturday 14th : The launch of I fear my best work behind me (Stranger Press)
  • November Saturday 25th : The launch of Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire (Hesterglock Press)
  • December dates to be confirmed : The Poem Brut exhibition
  • February Saturday 3rd?

I fear my best work behind me // Stranger Press

Click here to read more about this book


Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire // Hesterglock Press