WHAT IS THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF THE INNER CITY?
I work with various media and processes including assemblage, photography, digital, print and painting. I use found objects, materials and images taken from the urban environment. Revealing the overlooked visual qualities of these apparently mundane subjects, I aim to validate the intrinsic aesthetic worth of the inner city.
This reflects my personal situation as a long-time resident of inner London, but also develops a practice that is outward-looking or ‘exoteric’. When artists seek source material from their immediate surroundings (and by implication, their social context) it can broaden our understanding of what a ‘socially engaged’ practice could be.
The inner city as a site to conduct such practice is not just relevant to those resident there. It becomes more so as the global population continues to shift from the rural to the urban. Typically characterised by an intense concentration of diverse peoples, materials and environments, inner cities offer unique opportunities as a source of inspiration.
This practice has been driven by research into various approaches to artists’ social engagement. In particular, it has looked at the urban work of Robert Rauschenberg and Cornelia Parker. It has also made use of psychogeographical methodology, such as 'dérive' (‘drift’) - exploring a city without a planned route; and 'détournement' (‘rerouting’) - the appropriation and subversion of the signs, images and media of the dominant culture.
Formal concerns include explorations of dualities such as simplicity/complexity; digital/analogue; beauty/ugliness; and abstraction/figuration – as well as experiments with colour, layering and lighting. I have also sought to address issues of accessibility and create a body of work with a broad appeal, simultaneously approachable and ambiguous.
Lionel Openshaw is a London-based designer and visual artist. Originally from Durham, he has lived in inner London since the early 90s. He completed a BA at Goldsmiths and has since worked as a graphic designer specialising in typography, identity and publishing. Clients have included the BBC, The Guardian, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London Boroughs of Southwark and Lewisham, and Birkbeck University of London.
He has regularly exhibited in various spaces across London. These have included the Menier Gallery, the Laban Centre, the Viewfinder Photography Gallery and at Cockpit Arts as part of the London Design Festival. He has also been active in the performing arts – and has staged events at venues such as Ciné Lumière, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Society of Arts in partnership with Channel 4.
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