Biro miniatures by Greg Gilbert

Working in blue biro, Greg Gilbert’s miniatures draw on city council photo archives and render elements from different times in exquisite detail. With a series set to be exhibited in Southampton this month, we talked to him about the project and creating work in this unusual medium

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Bus, miniature biro relief

Working in blue biro, Greg Gilbert‘s miniatures draw on city council photo archives and render elements from different times in exquisite detail. With a series set to be exhibited in Southampton this month, we talked to him about the project and creating work in this unusual medium…

Back in January, we retweeted one of Gilbert’s images – Priest and Rabbit, a biro miniature – and discovered that he was in the middle of working towards an exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery, set to open on March 20.

Gilbert has been working with the city council’s photo archive to create a series of biro ‘reliefs’ and acrylic paintings – four of the new biro miniatures are shown here. Inspired by Stanley Spencer’s reimagining of Cookham Village, the show will depict a “mythologised Southampton”.

“I’ve always been interested in the relationship between art and photography, particularly in the work of Walter Sickert and Gerhard Richter,” Gilbert explains. “And from the beginning I’ve used family photos as a source for detail and fragments.

“The idea of overlapping epochs, different eras bleeding through each other to create new associations has always fascinated me and working from the archive has given me a much broader palette with which to address this.” Gilbert says that adding a three-dimensional ‘relief’ element to each of the works helps to further emphasise this overlap.

Benchminiature biro relief

 

The drawings also owe something to the compositional traits found in ‘icon’ painting, Gilbert explains. “Many of the pieces have absorbed elements of the illuminated manuscript, so there is also a clash between contemporary imagery and medieval design sensibilities,” he says.

Although he also paints and works in pencil, Gilbert’s recognisable medium of choice – blue biro – adds another element of friction to his work, particularly when applied to its historic source imagery.

“Working in biro is a tentative process and I’ve ruined many pieces trying to speed up,” he admits. “It’s a total investment, working inches from the card, my breath is in the ink. But I like the definite mark you can get from biro with even the lightest touch, as well as the uniform texture of the finished pieces. There is no real rehearsal for either the drawing or scalpelling – so there is a real sense of relief when each piece is finished.

“I only work in blue as I want the medium to be obvious and I also find it has echoes of faded newspapers and tattoos, which has parity with the somewhat haunted subject matter.”

Gilbert’s artistic talents aren’t solely confined to pen on paper either; he’s also the singer, guitarist and founder member of The Delays. You can see what they’re up to on Facebook, while two of their biggest tunes are here and here.

Having designed and drawn several of the band’s sleeves over the years, Gilbert started to present his art in its own right in 2013 – his website, greggilbert.co.uk, features an idea of the kinds of beautiful work he has made since then and is well worth checking out.

Greg Gilbert’s work will be shown at the Southampton City Art Gallery from March 20 until July 18. More details at southampton.gov.uk. Gilbert’s work can be seen at greggilbert.co.uk.

Antlersminiature biro relief

Trainminiature biro relief

  • Geoff

    Incredible stuff.

  • Kyle

    Really beautiful work. It has the pull of nostalgia, but also storytelling. Like an old photograph. Drawing you into the story.

  • Dan Lewis

    Very unique, very detailed and very excellent.

  • Hazel Yates

    Congratulations to Greg for an innovative and talented display. Brilliant depictions in an unusual way of ordinary people living their lives. Thoroughly enjoyable.
    Mrs. D.H. Yates (Bitterne Park)