Friday, 24 May 2013


In February I initiated the process of cataloguing my late Uncle Chris Holme's many artworks, most of which are currently stored at my aunty and uncle - his brother and sister's - house in Preston, my hometown. He had been a prolific painter, but never exhibited the vast majority of his work, and suffered from health problems which meant he was never able to complete an art degree. Luckily my mother, Bernie Velvick and my step-father Dave Curry have volunteered to help, and we have been photographing, documenting, numbering, wrapping and labelling the works whenever I can make it to Preston for a day. Dave takes responsibility for cleaning; wiping each painting with a soft brush, and hoovering the back, whilst Bernie and I wrap, measure and label the works.

For the first couple of days in February I had been photographing the works, and uploading them to a Tumblr straight away; it seemed imperative to have them seen as soon as possible, when they had been hidden away for so long. The pictures were uploaded in a completely arbitrary order, which was perhaps foolish, but hopefully worth the trouble it caused later for them to have been accessible on line. Now we have begun to number and document each painting and drawing in a spreadsheet, with details of size, material and a thumbnail image, it makes sense for the tumblr to correspond. Thus, where once there were 90 images, there are now only 48, because that's how many we've managed to wrap and label so far, but with more detailed descriptions - the project is slowly starting to take shape and make sense.

At an Islington Mill Art Academy 'crit' on the 5th of April I presented the project, via the Tumblr blog, and three works brought from Preston, receiving some good feedback and inspiration for how to progress. It was really helpful to get perspectives and opinions from people outside of my family, and who didn't know Chris personally - I think it would be disingenuous to pretend that my opinions of, and interactions with the works aren't affected by, and interlinked with my particular relationship with the artist. It has been an incredible experience to spend time sorting through and interacting with such a huge body of work, and it can't help but feel like an investigation; examining each work from every angle to find signatures and dates, discovering pictures on the back of other pictures, and what appear to be acrylic paintings over older oil ones. Fellow I.M.A.A member, Rachel Newsome, who's writing evokes contemporary mythologies and fables, expressed an interest in writing an essay about Chris's work, particularly his many and varied self portraits.

In-keeping with the spirit of investigation, I'm hoping to compile a biography of Chris J Holme through interviews conducted with his Mother - my Grandmother - along with his brothers and sisters, and any friends that we can contact. I had been debating how to go about producing a biography, which I feel is necessary if the works are to be exhibited, and would make an on-line archive comprehensible, but which could easily be misinterpreted. I am hoping that by conducting interviews, and perhaps presenting them as interviews, rather than prose, I can avoid fictionalising Chris's life, whilst still providing a context for the works. Some information about the artists' life will, I think, be necessary to understand why the paint has a dark patina of dust - although we have attempted cleaning - and why so many works are painted on corrugated cardboard, and the boards that back sketchbooks.

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