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Biennial artist captured by shadows, lights of concrete

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Alex Allardyce with Block 3, an acrylic monoprint on board, which is now on display as part of the 2022 Bermuda Biennial (Photograph supplied)

In 2020, Alex Allardyce spent a lot of time in his studio staring at concrete blocks.

The shadows, the lights and the “funny little abstract shapes” he saw all inspired him.

“I just thought, ‘Oh there’s something in there. Let’s do some studies and work on it and see what I can produce from that idea.’ It just kind of inspired a lot of things,” Mr Allardyce said.

Block 3, an acrylic monoprint on board, is now on display as part of the 2022 Bermuda Biennial, A New Vocabulary: Past. Present. Future.

Mr Allardyce was one of 32 visual artists chosen to exhibit their work alongside 11 poets this year. More than 100 submissions were received and appraised by Claire Gilman, chief curator of The Drawing Centre in New York, Alexandria Smith, head of painting of the Royal College of Art in London, and Richard Georges, the poet laureate of the British Virgin Islands.

“It’s quite an achievement really,” he said. “To be chosen by international judges you think, ‘OK, somebody else likes it.’”

Although it was architecture that he was drawn to as a career, Mr Allardyce had always been interested in art. While studying at the Edinburgh College of Art and Glasgow School of Art in his native Scotland, he was thrilled to find so many art classes open to him.

“It was a very free, liberal course so if you were studying architecture, you could easily walk into the art studio and do some stuff in there as well,” he said. “I took every opportunity.

“Art is just something that’s always been there, something I always do for relaxation and enjoyment and general pleasure of life. It’s one of my favourite things to do. It’s just a fundamental part of me – being creative and having to make things.”

“Block” linocuts drying in Alex Allardyce’s studio (Photograph supplied)

He moved to the island and married his Bermudian partner, Brenton Tucker, in 2017. He no longer practises architecture, which has allowed more time for his artwork.

“I’m living here now with a studio in the basement with a printing press down there – so all the stuff I need,” said Mr Allardyce, a mixed-media artist known for his painting, printmaking, sculpture and architecture.

Since moving to the island he has also shown his acrylic paint on canvas and linocut prints in the Charman Prize at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art as well as various exhibits with the Bermuda Society of the Arts.

“Confined to the garden studio during lockdown, I started looking more intensely at my immediate surroundings. The shifting sunlight on the decorative concrete blocks and the abstract shadows they cast on the floor caught my eye,” reads his artist statement. “Like a large sundial, they marked the passing of the day, which had become almost indistinguishable from the day before and the day to come. With access to the rest of the world restricted and with only a partial view of what was happening around us, the decorative concrete blocks became a metaphor for isolation in Bermuda during lockdown.”

Before the pandemic hit, Mr Allardyce was working on an exhibit that he had planned to show in Scotland.

“I'd started a series of Scottish paintings but then Covid happened so it was essentially shut down quickly so I’ve got a few Scottish paintings with no home right now,” he said.

He was born in Greenock, “an industrial town just west of Glasgow”.

“It's seen better days,” Mr Allardyce said. “It used to be sugar refining and ship building – it’s neither now. It’s got a high unemployment problem.

“I left there to go to university in Edinburgh, Glasgow and then moved to London 20 years ago.”

Although he’d always been interested in the Bermuda Biennial, this was his first time entering.

“I’d just received eligibility [at the time of the 2020 Biennial]. I wasn't really so geared up to do that kind of thing. I was just kind of setting up the studio at the time and so I was thinking ‘Oh, that’s a big one. Let's leave that for the next one.’”

He’s happy with the work that he created.

“The actual piece itself took about a week but behind it there was a two-month thinking process, a sketching process and just an experimental process before that.

“I think it looks very good in the room.”

The 2022 Bermuda Biennial, A New Vocabulary: Past. Present. Future. is on display at the Bermuda National Gallery until December 30. For more information visit: www.alexallardyceart.com; www.bng,bm

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Published July 12, 2022 at 7:45 am (Updated July 12, 2022 at 7:41 am)

Biennial artist captured by shadows, lights of concrete

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