Reservoir – Howard Silverman

13th – 31st March 2015







A place, receptacle, collections and condition of experience (brain cells or a state of mind), a crucible, in which resources, both the intentional and unexpected, are stored, fermented, transformed and manipulated and from which they are released, sometimes explode and escape, or just leak.

‘Reservoir’ in this instant, is an installation by Howard Silverman, made specifically for the Test Space at Spike Island. It started many years ago with the collection and storage of discarded aluminium foil trays, which the artist had been using to mix paint. The multi layered build up of paint as the trays were reused and the reshaping of the foil containers, through prolonged handling and accident, made each tray a ‘witness’ and ‘partner’ in a process of selection and exploration. By the time they were no longer of any practical service they had been transformed into unique, and vibrantly tactile documents of journeys taken, rejected or still possible – consequently evolving, as idea and object, new points of departure.

Taking them out of storage, a couple of years ago, he began to play with them, mapping his studio and building structures. From there his focus shifted to acquiring ‘virgin’ units from a wholesaler and painting them with structured intent rather than working with the by-product of another activity. The units trailed around the walls, faced in, with what appears to have been their contents splashing about them. Eventually, clusters of uniform containers vied in counterpoint with the irregularity of what ‘they’ may have released.

The Test Space installation developed this contrast between container and content, reservoir and realisation, uniformity and accident, by completely covering and animating all the walls.

Howard Silverman was born and educated in the US and has lived in Bristol since 1972. In 1974 he initiated the artists’ studio scheme, originally Artspace Bristol, which became Spike Island, and has been active in its development ever since. He was also instrumental in the founding of what has now become Spike Print Studio.

Silverman’s work has encompassed installation, sculpture, painting, printmaking, video and digital imagery. He has exhibited in Europe, the US and Japan, including at the John Moores Painting Prize.