1 Bic Biro

Flux Space by Jane Chavez-Dawson

Flux Magazine, Issue 43 (2004)

The fields that artists become experts within never ceases to amaze me. Lesley Halliwell knowingly points out to me the difference between a line left by a blue Bic biro purchased in WHSmith as opposed to a line left from one purchased at a small local post office. “A Bic, if they have just been sat there for a while tend to be a bit feathery whilst a WHSmith biro will be a darker ink and run out suddenly.’ I am duly impressed by this peculiar knowledge. The inconsistency caused by the different inks has become an integral element to the ‘spirographic mandalas’ that Halliwell creates rather than a hindrance. The crude process that is laboured over, by hand, is never hidden but in fact almost celebrated. Halliwell never attempts to be contrived with her work but has now developed a sixth sense for the idiosyncrasies of her chosen medium. “I have thought of basically repeating one (a spirograph drawing) again; the same distance, same colour, the same dimensions but where that pen went with its wispy marks would never happen again in the same way.’

Laid our on a large wooden table is an enviable collection of spirograph kits which Halliwell has begun collecting from charity shops. “I can date your age by the box you remember,’ she points out just as I subconsciously prove her point by reaching out for the one embedded in my own childhood memories. The pristine boxes reflect the changing ideas of the spirograph from ‘family’ activity to a hobby for the kids.

It was a shift in circumstances that left halliwell studio-less and subsequently unable to continue with her painting practice. For a short period she moved towards making temporary installation pieces but realised that she really loved the act of crafting gestural marks. “You can make a house of cards (referring to an earlier piece of work made on her MA) but it is just not the same as materials or marks,’ she explains. A healthy adult obsession with the ‘home’ and flock wallpaper coupled with an interest in patterned motifs led neatly onto the Spirographs. Early influences , all evident in a photograph of Halliwell as a young child; proudly posing in a floral patterned pink dress, which is fighting with William Morris-esque wallpaper print behind her.

While it was her lifestyle that encouraged the initial conception of this work it has subsequently sustained it. The scale is determined also by physical capacities. Early work was a specific size due to Halliwell’s pregnancy but since then the scale has grown and grown so that now she works on a 50 ft roll of paper the width of her dining room-cum-studio.

Whilst Halliwell’s drawings are significant and self contained works in themselves, additionally they are ritualistic and obsessive in their process. There is also a ‘performative’ element, a fundamental part of the work that she acknowledges. Each new drawing is timed which in itself becomes part of he works titles. For Flux Space, Halliwell has worked within the allocated dimensions of the space and has limited herself to one red Bic biro, the origins of the full process only becoming obvious once the gatefold is fully opened. Her work is a remarkable marriage of circumstance with obsession.

March 2004