Kim Fielding

Kim Fielding by EG The Welsh arts community is currently reeling at the news that artist, photographer curator, co-founder of tactileBOSCH and all round mover and shaker, Kim Fielding, died suddenly last week, following a suspected heart attack.

Describing Kim in words, particularly when this blow seems so close to home, is difficult. He had a go himself  here  on his Culture Colony profile, but as anyone who has struggled with a personal statement knows, getting a sense of a person through words alone is like describing air without breathing it.

So Kim was all of the things in my introduction, and everything that he writes about in his profile, but then he also a the larger than life figure, screeching up late to a meeting on his bike, or throwing dinner parties for no good reason, except for the pleasure of putting people together in a room over eccentric but delicious feasts. He saw a hole where something might happen, usually for the benefit of many other artists, stepped in and occupied it with a seat-of-the-pants, skin-of-the-teeth derring-do.

The enterprise that was tactileBOSCH  was just a tiny part of his mission to make things happen. He turned his basement in Cardiff’s Riverside into an installation space for Cement Garden; collaborated with Jan Bennett to put a terrifying creature in the basement of an empty building in Llandaff Rd (part of the House project); infiltrated numerous other venues around the city  – most recently the Wells Hotel, Nos Da bar, a couple of  buildings at the back of Milgis in Roath, the Wales Millennium Centre and even Urban Outfitters – ventured forth to Berlin, New York and South America (to name just a few of his international adventures), but always came back home to make another pot of hair-liftingly strong coffee for all of us who passed through his flat.

And those coffee drinkers kept getting more numerous by the day as he scooped up new emerging talent as it popped out of Cardiff Art School (and often before the talent had fledged he offered a proving ground for ideas), groomed new curators for their first shows,  ran the most exhilarating photography courses (Room 101) or simply just got out and about and met people, scooped them up and made many of them his willing slaves (I can still retrieve the memory of the smell left in my car after somehow agreeing to transport industrial quantities of rubbish from tactileBOSCH).Kim prepping Max for Room 101Kim had a can-do attitude and artists tentatively suggesting a new idea to him would always get the reply, “hmm, yes I think we can do something with that”, followed by action and realisation.

And the Kim Fielding laugh was something else – descending into a kind of honking snort that was utterly infectious – and frequently heard. If something really tickled him he’d cry out “barking!” at the top of his voice. Irresistible, irrepressible and occasionally exasperating because he was juggling so very many projects and ideas at once. If I was due to meet Kim at a given time I’d generally block off a few hours afterwards to allow for the shifting sands of his day.

We first met when I was working for the Arts Council of Wales. That initial meeting probably based on a budget crisis as the sums didn’t always add up and there was often a danger of a grant for tactileBOSCH’s programme being reclaimed. The applications themselves were works of art in themselves – hundreds of different fonts, in different colours and peppered with exclamation marks – as eccentric and colourful as the man who put them together.

It was a while before Kim thought to apply for funding on his own behalf and finally got himself some time to focus on himself with funding from the Arts Council of Wales. He spent the time developing new strands of his work, which he describes like this:

“Although a photographer by trade my personal artwork is based in video / installation / written word / sound & vision. Invariably lens based – it usually revolves around the story or essence of the protagonist I might be working with [or against]. Often a response in hindsight to the entanglements of personal relationships and the power therein, ‘an innovative combination of photo-visual and the human condition’ quote and un-quote.”

However this doesn’t even begin to describe the imagery that he created, which was often confrontational or provocative and occasionally disturbing. He’d find models for his photographs and films in the most unlikely places, drag them off the streets and, before they knew it, have them bound or gagged or covered in some sticky and hard-to-remove substance (sometimes all at the same time) or put them in an immersion tank or nail them into a crate. I should add that they were always willing victims of the Fielding charm and often came back to go through the whole experience again.

Alongside his activities to support other artists and the work that he made himself, Kim was also an inveterate documenter of arts activity and it will be the life’s work of many of his friends to collect, collate, archive, curate and edit all of the photographs, videos and ephemera associated with Kim’s all too short time with us. There is so much to say about Kim Fielding, but it’ll take a long time yet before the full mosaic of this rich and wonderful life is pulled together, piece by colourful piece. In the meantime there is a giant void as we all come to terms with sadness of someone who did so much and meant so much to so many.Kim Fielding at Blowback You can hear Kim talking about how he set up tactileBOSCH with Simon Mitchell in my inept interview with him in 2009 (click on the image below to hear it). Kim Fielding 2009, img EG Or watch him talk about tB here courtesy of Culture Colony, or sample the essence of tactileBOSCH in this video of the Addiction show. [Please note that there are some images that might offend or disturb some readers in the last link and those that follow]. And if you want to see him with his work – here he is at the opening of his show Sidewinder at Oriel Canfas in 2009.

The funeral will be held at 2.45pm on Friday 21 February at the Wenallt Chapel, Thornhill Crematorium, Thornhill road, Cardiff, CF14 9UA. at 2.45pm Map here.

With thanks to Pete Telfer and Culture Colony for all of the links to video content in

*** UPDATE***

Following the death of Kim Fielding a group of friends and family decided that the best way to mark his extraordinary life and contribution to the arts in Wales and beyond was to set up an award in his memory – The Kim Fielding Award

The award was launched on 24 October at the tactileBOSCH exhibition Paradise Lost, which, in true Kim Fielding form, included works by some 90 artists in the old Customs and Immigration building in Cardiff’s Bute Town and the crowd funding campaign achieved its £5,000 target in two weeks.


It seems that drawing,  painting  and print are back on the agenda again. Artists’ collective tactileBosch put out a call for artists working in two dimensions and the selection that forms Citizen certainly proves that there’s plenty of mileage left in the traditional media.

Curated by Sam Aldridge, Andrew Cooper, Kim Fielding and Neil Jeffries, there’s the usual eclectic mix of stuff, but the venue’s nooks and crannies lend themselves to a range of work and nothing seems overcrowded, nor are there any jarring juxtapositions.

True to form, tactileBosch made the opening on 01 May memorable and really did roll out the red carpet. And there was live music from the likes of techno duo Barry Hole’s Hit List, offering up terrific renderings of 80s classics like Kraftwerk’s Das Model on a multitude of synths and gizmos. Made me almost nostalgic for my youth.

As with any open call, new voices emerge and Citizen offers a chance to see the unfamiliar alongside those who have embedded themselves on the Welsh art scene.

Jonathan Powell’s bathetic heads and Richard Monahan’s dysmorphic characters require a longer look. While Elys John’s monochrome flowers, (see main pic above) painstakingly rendered, bloom and grow to fill the screen: Computer rendering, but without the usual showing off. He also offers a slightly harder-to-see projection that’s part dandelion seeds, part jellyfish, part heavenly bodies. Tucked under the roof, it’s easy to miss it but worth looking up. Both films are hypnotic and, despite their hidden techno credentials, are beautiful in their organic simplicity.

There’s the full gamut of approaches here. Matt Skelley’s Three Chairs, uses light to create an afterburn image that transforms the mundane into something magical. Martinez de Lecea’s series of digitally tinkered with images are extremely powerful in their restrained use of technology, while Mi-Young Choi offers hyper-real skies with lone missiles cutting across the canvas, in sharp contrast to the dark canvasses of Steph Goodger’s hellish painting’s, based on Dante’s Inferno. Similarly Sonja Benskin Mesher’s jewel-like abstract landscapes contrast with Geraint Evan’s apocalyptic urban scenes.

Of course it wouldn’t be a tactileBosch exhibition without a performance. As he and his fellow students deal with the news that the MAP (time-based/performance) at UWIC will be no more from the end of this academic year (snuffed out with barely a murmur), Chris Evans decided to rebrand himself as a painter – literally. In his performance Jackson Bollocks, he suspended himself from the ceiling and used his head as a paintbrush.

There are 23 artists in this show and a blog can’t do them justice, although the foursome of curators certainly seem to have done so. I suggest you get up to Llandaff in Cardiff before 23 May and see for yourself. Check website for details of opening times and days.

If you want to see more of drawing but not as we know it, here’s a trail for the forthcoming Opus show at Bay Art. It’s called “What will be seen” and promised to stretch perceptions of drawing to the limits.

Meanwhile, I’m off to the opening, across two sites, of Ffotogallery’s latest exhibition, Life Less Ordinary looking at performance in display in South African Art.

You Had to be There

Ok, before I start this blog, here’s a caveat. The images here a reproductions, (my) low quality representations of original images,  which themselves are representations of something. I have credited both artist and photographer but the images of the images are mine. Taken to give you a flavour of what I’m talking about when I try and articulate the problems of presenting or representing performance art out of context. Hope you’re still with me so far.

Reduplication of the Real opened at Cardiff’s Old Library (technically now the old, Old Library), on a wet Thursday evening (20 January 2010).

Neil Jeffries has pulled together a series of images documenting performances from a wide range of artists – new, established, local, international, offering a window on a world that, at first glance, seems populated by strange people doing stranger things.

Therein lies the rub. Performance art is, by its very nature, a live interaction with an audience, who build their own internal narratives as it progresses. Out of context, in the frozen gaze of the lens, it can seem mighty peculiar: passers-by in the works located out in the real world are caught on camera – jaws sagging, cartoon question marks hovering over their heads as they glance and move on or stay and see what will happen next.

In this show there is no context offered for the work and it becomes a bit of a freak show.

The images are all presented singly (with a couple of exceptions). Are these the ones that sum up the experience of that performance or the images the artists/curator liked? They are also presented at a small scale, some smaller than A4, giving a cartoon strip feel to the gallery walls, and adding another layer of alienation from the event.

I don’t want to knock any attempt to find a wider audience for a practice that most arts institutions still fight shy of, but wonder if there’s another way to do it?

The show runs until 08 February in The Hayes, Cardiff.  It’s not terribly well signposted so, once you’ve got into the Old Library, go to the entrance opposite House of Fraser and upstairs . Soon the Museum of Cardiff will fill this venue so it’s a last chance to see artists’ work in a venue that was long associated with them.

Artists’ groups – together we are beautiful

On 11 December Cardiff will be a-throng with artists from Bristol, Birmingham and, of course, Cardiff, cementing a three-way partnership that’s been blossoming for  years. Artists who work away from the perceived art centre of London, who work in ways that’s hard to comodify or Saatchify.

These visitors will, by and large, be part of the burgeoning artists-collectives networked across the UK.

Artists come together for all manner of reasons: to share studios, to exhibit together or simply to find a forum to discuss their work.

Wales with its dearth of dealers and commercial galleries (not to be confused with the galleries that sell work, who are not to be denigrated), seems well-placed to host this celebration of the off-centre, to focus on practice not prices.

Cardiff’s artists’ groups

And here in Cardiff we’ve got artists’ groups coming out of our ears. From the well-established: g39 is eleven years old; Trace: Installaction art space is nudging towards its first decade, albeit in a different form; Old Library Artists have been together since the early 1990s and Butetown artists have been around in one form or another since the 70s,  to newer initiatives like Open Empty Spaces. And then there’s tactileBosch, ten next year and not flagging yet.

tactileBosch, in an old Victorian laundry in Llandaf, has become a major player on the visual arts scene in Cardiff, but its reach is truly international.

It’s a proving ground for artists, whether they’re still in, or fresh out of, art college, or more established but wanting to try new things.

Everything is possible

Founded by Kim Fielding and Simon Mitchell (who went on to found  Volume Projects in London) nearly ten years ago, it’s been a seat-of-the-pants ride for this artists’ collective. They don’t get any sort of core funding from anywhere, business rates reductions from Cardiff Council are by negotiation and building repairs come courtesy of the Probation Service.

And yet, somehow, they punch far above their weight,  infinitely accommodating of proposals and ideas. Offering vital (if sometimes wet in winter) studio spaces, artists, such as recent graduate Sam Aldridge (left pic) get critical support and feedback as they develop their ideas.

Every year tactileBosch programmes those hard-to-deal with art projects: performance, complex installations, moving image, sound, alongside more traditional art forms. They’ve latterly added their painting strand: Wood, Canvas, Steel, that takes in print and drawing. I’d signpost you to their archive but they’re in the process of moving their website.

The images featured here reflect part one of an ambitious three part exhibition called Auxesis. Curated by resident tB artists Andrew Cooper, with Michael Murray, part one is the easiest to pin down, as it’s happened. It was largely installation/moving image based, although the opening night of any show will feature performance and music, that’s part of the ‘Bosch tradition.

Part two folded in nicely to Experimentica, reviewed in an earlier blog: tactileBosch goes Experimentical, featuring a raft of performances that complemented the Chapter Arts Centre programme. Part three opens on Saturday 23 January 2010.

tactileBosch is the first staging post for December Eleven. Which is where we came in.

Are friends collective?

Trying to define what makes an artists’ group or collective is as easy as wrestling with a barrel of eels: sometimes it’s about sharing spaces and resources, sometimes it’s about geography and most often it’s about tackling the imbalance between the number of artists out there and the scarcity of gallery slots available to show certain kinds of work.

I spoke to tactileBosch co-founder Kim Fielding, and he shared his memories of the early days of tB,  when he and Simon Mitchell  came up with the name and the tag line The fist in the velvet glove, and how things are shaping up now. tB is now truly a group effort.

Kim Fielding 2009, img EG

mind the gap

Kim refers to a problem across Wales and probably further afield: the cracks that newly graduated artists can slip down after leaving an art college, about the transitional period: “Coming out of college, there’s a gap. So mind the gap.”

But there are other cracks in the system too. In Wales there’s no discrete pot of funding for artist-led activity, unlike in Scotland. This means that these groups are up against priority-ticking projects bidding for lottery funds, most of which have headed over the Severn Bridge to a large sporting event planned for London in 2012.

Next week the Arts Council of Wales begins its most radical funding review ever. Simply put the funding from government is at a standstill and may well decline further. There’s not enough jam to go around the existing portfolio of clients so there are cuts to be made.

This process won’t have a significant impact until 2011. Let’s hope that the Arts Council creates some breathing space for the next generation of artists to truly flourish.