Exhibition review: Cracked Egg @ Preston’s In Certain Places Project Space

Cracked Egg

A spontaneous trip to Preston after work on a Friday evening led me to a gem of an exhibition and to discovering an amazing artist I would probably never have otherwise come across.

The ‘soft boiled exhibition and publication launch’, Cracked Egg, is a response to the work of Christopher Joseph Holme (1952 – 2010) curated by Lauren Velvick and installed in the In Certain Places Project Space in Preston.

Holme was an unknown painter who might be referred to as an ‘outsider artist’, his work comprises extensive paintings, sketchbooks and diaries. Born in 1952 in Preston, Christopher Joseph Holme studied Fine Art at Newcastle University, and it was in his second year of study that Holme first became seriously ill, and was diagnosed with and treated for Schizophrenia, a disability that would go on to influence the course of the rest of his life. In 1977 Holme moved back to his family home in Preston, during which time he was painting prolifically.

Throughout Holme’s life family members and friends would purchase his work and commission paintings which supported his creative practice, and ensured that he could afford to continue. Many of Holme’s paintings are on corrugated cardboard, or other such cheap and readily available materials, even cupboard doors with the handles still attached can be found amongst his canvasses. The subjects of Holme’s paintings are wide and varied, with some showing experimentation with styles, whilst others play with symbolism and narrative, however there are particular motifs that appear again and again; the self portrait, the city or land-scape and interior spaces.

Chris Holme - Untitled (figure with house)

Over the past year four creative practitioners: Aliyah Hussain, Clara Casian, David Wilkinson and Michael Redmond have been commissioned to work with, and to respond to this incredible collection. Each artist had a prior interest in, or affinity with ‘outsider art’, and through his or her individual observations they have produced responses in writing, drawing, photography, film and sound. The exhibition curated by Lauren Velvick and a publication designed by Lisa Lorenz is the culmination of this project.

What first struck me about Holme’s work was the Frank Auerbach -esque textures to the paintings. Thick strokes of paint upon thick strokes of paint abstract the subjects of Holme’s paintings and confront the viewer with a profusion of colour. The four artists reacting to his work touch upon different aspects of his paintings and drawings, enriching his work as well as their own through the process of response.

Aliyah Hussain draws on Holme’s use of masks and motifs, borrowed from distant cultures and historical eras, reflecting on what this means in relation to the performance of identity in different environments. She produced a series of felt masks encompassing designs derived from patterning in the CJH collection and photographed them being worn.
Clara Casian takes a documentary approach with her film ‘Drawings for Ideas’.
David Wilkinson looks at the way in which Holme converges with the countercultural creative movements of the 1970s and 80s, taking a historical approach but also focussing on particular works in depth. He gave guided walks that draw on his interest in psychogeography to physically explore the sites that were depicted by, or important to Holme.
Michael Redmond focussing on how a prolific creative drive and overabundance of work can be understood from the outside, or after the death of the artist responded with a series of drawings in his signature humorous style.

If you get a chance to explore the work of Christopher Joseph Holme do as well as the work of the four artists in this exhibition and if someone invites you on a spontaneous trip to Preston say yes, you might make an exciting discovery!