Collaboration with Terri Brooks 2014

FLG artists Terri Brooks and Melinda Schawel have had a mutual admiration and respect for each other's work for over a decade. At the start of 2014, when the unique opportunity to exhibit simultaneously arose, both artists thought a collaborative project would not only be a tangible expression of this connection, but also an exciting and challenging one. For a collaboration to be truly successful, however, a lot of boxes need ticking. The artists must have time and a genuine interest in stepping into the other's shoes, blind trust, and a willingness to let go. There must be a common thread that underpins the work technically and/or conceptually. It’s risky. It doesn’t suit those who keep their cards too close to their chest. It therefore does beg the questions - what motivates artists to turn mutual admiration or connection into collaboration, and does it work? 

At first glance there really are no obvious similarities in the imagery, palette or media of their current works. In fact, there is a more graphic, hard edged line and brushwork present in Brooks’ pieces which one would rarely see in Schawel’s more fragile, floating shapes and torn surfaces. Schawel’s recurring blue grey tones accented with bold colours and created with water based ink on paper, are also in contrast with Brooks‘ large ‘brown and bone, not quite black and white’ oil and enamel works on canvas. Ironically it was exactly these differences that they brought to the table which kept it interesting and visually appealing. The work entitled Division is probably the best example of this with Brooks’ distinctive stripes used in conjunction with Schawel’s perforations. Bouquet showcases both artists’ use and love of paper but in totally different ways, one employing papier-mâché and the other, collage.

The true motivation behind this project however, is both artists’ process driven approach that is at the crux of their practice, where process defines the work. Their curiosity and strong desire to be present in each other’s work, i.e. to engage in the other’s methodology and the symbolic gestures that go along with it, overrode any potential pitfalls. So, did it work? The artists selected five final works out of the original eight which they considered successful and four are displayed on the wall that divides yet unifies the concurrent exhibitions. The viewer of course will be the ultimate judge but as far as Brooks and Schawel are concerned, the success of any collaborative process ultimately lies in the process itself.