• J D Rooney, formed in water, Cob Award, 2023
  • J D Rooney, formed in water
    J D Rooney, Water, 2023, Akai 4000 DB, 1/4 inch reel-to-reel tape, take up reel, speaker, sound, duration: Infinite loop
    Dimensions Variable; Reel-to-reel: 40 x 52 cm, Speaker: 119 x 27 cm

    J D Rooney

    formed in water
    19 August - 26 August 2023
    Residency 02
    formed in water is the title of J D Rooney’s site-specific exhibition representing the culmination of extensive research and development as the second recipient of the Cob Award.
    This exhibition reflects on past and present Atlantic crossings by the Caribbean diaspora. Through a collection of imagery, sound, and found objects, the installation is shown through the artist's eyes – standing at the ocean shore, looking out towards the country of his family’s origin. The materials collected point to areas of Black study that ruminate on sound's ability to transport, and where it overlaps with our relationship to space, objects, and memory. Perhaps the residues of sound and material, left over by these crossings, allow us to escape to other lands.
    J D Rooney is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in London. His practice explores the complexities regarding feelings of dislocation and reconnection from both his Guyanese and Irish heritage, and the hope for physical and cultural border crossings. His recent work has investigated the historic and ongoing extraction of resources from Guyana, and how these processes overlap with the Afrofuturism theory of Drexciya. This Drexciyan theory has introduced musical influences within his work, which considers how Black Atlantic cultures can give way to the creation of Black radical space. 
    J D Rooney studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts. Recent exhibitions include Unknown Journey, ACAVA, London , UK (2022); Regal Oriental Hotel: AVA, Hong Kong, China (2019); Departed, LOA Gallery, London, UK (2019); Letting objects speak, Set Bermondsey, London, UK (2018). Recent Residencies include Into the Wild, Chisnehale Studios, London, UK (2023); Wysing Residency, Into the Wild, London, UK (2023); Studio 13 Residency, ACAVA, London, UK (2022).
  • formed in water 
    Words by J D Rooney
    Where the sound sits
    is upon the shores of the ocean, and
    on the jetty boards at Tilbury dock –
    residue remaining where arrivals walked
    were in the thuds of lapping water,
    perhaps traced from another ships wake.
    Years before in the hold of ships -
    while pressed together as passengers
    and as extracted bodies -
    a touch was felt, deeply,
    like those within a mother’s arms.
              (Reflections on Ayesha Hameed’s essay on the Black Atlantis, 2016)
    It begins in water
    As with the formation of our own bodies these thoughts began in water. From the depths of the oceans to the surface of the seas, they washed towards a British coastline and arrived at my feet while stood at the shore. As I looked outwards, I thought of the historic curiosity towards a world that exists beyond the horizon. I thought of how our ancestors may have felt while encountering the same barriers of water, and if, perhaps, these oceanic barriers offered safety through its isolating quality.
    I’ve been thinking about my Dad’s journey through the Irish sea, and if the condition of roots change while replanted in different ground. I’ve been thinking about how a place that’s relatively close to our geographic home can feel like a world away from here. I’ve been thinking about my Grandparent’s journey across 4000 miles of Atlantic Ocean. I wonder what objects they had in their pockets – whether there were keys and tools for a new life in London, or if there were reminders of memories and homes left behind. 
    “...I’ve been thinking about Édouard Glissant and the space between - and using the body of water as this potential meeting place where you don’t have to consider notions of citizenship, you don’t have to consider the here(ness) or there(ness) of our identities…” - [P. Boswell, 2022]
    We ate Tamarind often at Grandma’s house in Streatham. Together, hours would pass watching TV and cracking shells of the sweet and sticky fruit. After her insistence on us keeping the jewel-like seeds, we would always find these black diamonds stacking in bottles and jars around her home.
    It was only last year that my Mum told me about her upbringing in Notting Hill, and how the road she grew up on was demolished but now is the site of a community garden. I thought of this in relation to my Grandma’s seed collection, as well as my Grandad’s journey to London. Before arriving in the UK, he worked as a logger and gold-prospector in Guyana – through these extractive occupations he was able to fund his journey to London and place his roots in Notting Hill. The similarities with these extractions both hold cyclical qualities in their afterlives – that being, of materials taken from the earth and returned, and of the self removed from native land while discovering cultural paths for reconnection. Although I’ve thought about this separately through my family’s journey, the space that Blackness has been held in relation to the earth, land, and object, has historically been told through a proximity to European settler colonialism and existing hegemonic structures.
    “The racial categorisation of Blackness shares its natality with mining the New World, as does the material impetus of colonialism in the first instance. This means that the idea of Blackness and the displacement and eradication of indigenous peoples get caught and defined in the ontological wake of geology” - [K. Yusoff, 2018]
    I think about the heroic generation of Windrush arrivals, and I think of how the subtext of the British invitation could be understood as a call for resources, energy, and Black bodies. I think about the first arrivals at Tilbury Dock in 1948, and how the estuary breeze may have felt cooler on that day. I think of the first night of sleep many arrivals had in the Clapham South deep level bunker, and what the repurposing of a WW2 bomb shelter meant within this context. I think of the planting of Black seeds within the earth, and I think of eating Tamarind with Grandma.
    I began considering extraction in relation to Blackness and the Atlantic while researching ExxonMobil’s ongoing oil exploration in Guyana’s offshore regions. While exploring the depths of the ocean, this thinking overlapped with my curiosity towards the Detroit techno duo Drexciya’s creation of a Black Atlantis. Through their music, Drexciya shared the sound of an eponymously name underwater civilisation - originally populated by the unborn children of enslaved women who were thrown overboard during the Atlantic middle passage.
    “We can imagine Drexciya as the aquazone that surrounds an isolated archipelago somewhere in the Black Atlantic, with dimensional portals to Africa, North America, Europe and beyond Earth. These oceanic islands of music technology are separated from our physical reality. Drexciya’s fictionalised frequencies exist in a dimension beyond the known, providing a passage for a dispersed people, connecting them to a homeland.” – [N. Gaskins, 2016]
    The genesis of Dreciya’s idea found its roots within the sounds of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic but were more closely linked to Paul Gilroy’s work on the Black Atlantic. Within this, Gilroy resisted the notion that Black Atlantic cultures are formed through, and derived from, a marginal proximity to dominant national cultures - but rather, its creation and existence sits within the desire to transcend structures of nation states [Gilroy, 1993]. The escaping quality of this transcendence can be heard within music, within the escaping sounds in jazz, within the unending beat in blues, within the low ends of dub and reggae, within the infinite loops and samples in Hip-Hop.
     “Citing how blues, and its unending part, without climax or end, established time outside of European sense of time and factory time, blues time is taken as space and territory free from enslaved labour” - [K. Yusoff, 2016]
    I find the articulation and understanding of these ideas far easier while in the presences of sound and through feeling where it takes me - while standing near subwoofers at reggae soundsystems and basement techno clubs, while feeling a back-breaking bass that guides my movements - while sensing a closeness to those around me, while music fills the space between our bodies - while hearing the last song of the night, and thinking of how time escaped us on a sweaty Saturday morning - while returning home to eat the last piece of Guyanese roti, while feeling, for a moment, how a home elsewhere felt so near.
  • Dominic Watson, God Bless Strawberry Jam, Cob Award, 2023
  • Dominic Watson, God Bless Strawberry Jam

    Dissected: An Interview with Dominic Watson for Curatorial Affair, 2023. 

    For full interview read here

    Dominic Watson

    God Bless Strawberry Jam
    23 June - 01 July 2023
    Residency 01
    God Bless Strawberry Jam is the title of British artist Dominic Watson’s site-specific exhibition - representing the culmination of six weeks of research and development as the first recipient of the Cob Award.
    At the heart of the conceptual part of his practice, Watson twists narratives that relate to English histories and mythologies with a visual language that subverts that of the caricature.
    The exhibition’s title refers to both album name and specifically, a line, extracted from a song called The Village Green Preservation Society by British band The Kinks. The Village Green Preservation Society was an album released by the band as an act of defiance following their controversial ban from touring America in 1965. This deliberate comparison is an insight into Watson’s anarchic take on quintessential ‘Englishness’ - the main field of enquiry across his practice.
    A sculptural installation will transform the residency studio, referencing elements of the traditional English Country Garden - a site of interest that Watson has focussed on his research during the residency. Using the English garden landscape as an entry point - Watson comments on archaic structures at the heart of English society whilst imbuing his sculptural installation with the anxieties of a post-Brexit society.
    Life-sized, but redacted figurative sculptures - equally absurd as they are grotesque - sit against a digitally produced backdrop of an 18th Century landscape based upon those designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and rendered in the style of painter Claude Lorraine. To enhance this landscape vista, Watson’s sculptures function as water fountains. However, rather than water, Watson chooses to pump English cider between his sculptures - filling the room with an intoxicating scent of English summer whilst satirising the decorative form and idle function of the seemingly superfluous outdoor object. Meanwhile, working with a combination of materials including Terracotta, paper and epoxy clays, Watson explores the visceral qualities of the human body, by way of exaggerating the narratives he builds for his sculptures.
    An exhibition text written by the artist draws on his experiences visiting Stourhead’s National Trust site. Here, Watson treats the exhibition as if it were an actual historical garden and the text set in the canteen; a place that has been a site of reflection throughout his time on the programme.
    Withs thanks to Colart, Liquitex and Winsor & Newton.

    Please contact [email protected] with any enquiries, or to request a catalogue.
  • Cob Award

    The Cob Award is designed to offer early-mid-career artists of any age and nationality an opportunity to develop their artistic practice and realise ambitious projects within our contemporary London art gallery. Award winners will receive £6,000 to produce a new body of work, access to a bespoke on-site studio space, six-weeks of professional development through curated studio visits with Cob’s extensive network and a final presentation of their work within the gallery.
    Each residency cycle will run for six weeks and consist of one artist selected by an esteemed judging panel.
  • Award Details

    • Award winners will receive £6,000 to facilitate the production of a new body of work and cover additional expenses incurred with participating in the residency (this includes travel and accommodation - where needed)
    • 500 sq.ft bespoke on-site studio space in the heart of the gallery.
    • Six-weeks' worth of professional development, including overview mentorship with the gallery team.
    • Studio visits from a selection of high-profile art world professionals, including curators, writers, collectors alike. 
    • Industry advice and seminars with public art figures, including established artist, writers and institutions. 
    • An opportunity to connect with the wider artistic community, through artist-led studio crits. 
    • Professional documentation of the work for future use by the artists.
    • Final presentation within the gallery at the end of the residency. Running 1 week with an opening event. 
    • Written interview with Brooke Wilson, writer, curator and Programme Coordinator. 
    • Support with writing, artists statements and online presence. 
    • Outreach to press - promotion on website and social media platforms
    • All works made during the residency will be consigned through Cob Gallery – terms to be agreed upon selection.