Week One- Ian Wilkins
April 16, 2010, 4:51 pm
Filed under: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap Collective

Thinking about the basement as an ‘art-tomb’

by Ian Wilkins 

This is the first residency in which a collective group of artists have been given the chance to make work in response to the basement space. Our immediate aim for the first week was to transform the basement into a more comfortable environment for making work – the usual furniture moving and comfort accessories materialising as the first few days progressed. Once we had settled and begun the standard musings over ’what to do’,  I began to think about the ways in which the basement would impact on my current work, but also how it would influence on the group as a collective experience.

I have become increasingly more interested in the hidden aspect of the project and the casual revealing of work as people become aware and step down to take a look. My initial thoughts regarding the project were hinged on the idea of a basement being a place where objects or social practices are concealed and revealed at various points. This idea then led me to think about my working method, particularly regarding my use of appropriate material and their alteration.

A few weeks previously I had picked up a book on Manchester University’s autopsy of their mummified collection held in their natural history museum.  The photographic documentation of this event combined with a series of compelling radiographic prints captivated me, with this book remaining in the studio for a number of weeks. The means of appropriation has become a consistent working method within my practice – I enjoy sourcing inspiration from objects and books collected whilst on my everyday travels. It is often the case that my encounter with such material is because of my interest in graphical image and that certain objects display imagery that I find visually interesting, or that suggest an ambiguity regarding its meaning to contemporary society.

Charity shops, boot sales and other second-hand sources are therefore ‘hotspots’ for finding hidden visual treasures that feed my imagination and evoke response.

As soon as I was invited to the residency at the gallery I instantly thought back to the book I had picked up entitled ‘mysteries of the mummies’, drawing an analogy in my head between our hidden project within the basement and that of an Egyptian tomb. This book has now been subjected to customarily methods of play and intrusion, using photomontage and pen and ink drawings to begin to form ideas that will later be realised in more carefully thought-out compositions. 

As a printmaker, my time is currently split between the basement studio, and workshop back at Howard Gardens. Already drawings and simple photo-collages that completed in the basement are already feeding their way into the print workshop transforming into more considered compositions.


Returning to the use of the basement – I was recently questioned regarding how the ‘group’ were making a response to the basement project. My answer was based on what most people experience when they find themselves in a particular place and time, within a collective group of people…

A sense of cohesion within a peer group, away from institutional rules and restrictions, with a sense of complete freedom to feed off each others own enthusiasm and enjoy making art.


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