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Artist Talk : Gordon Coldwell

30 March 2021 @ 14:00 - 15:00

Virtual Activity Virtual Activity

The Seven Sisters

As part of the Correspondence Collective Restriction Exhibiton, this is the second in a series of Artist Talks, exploring the lives and practice of artists who use mail art within their work.

Gordon Coldwell

Gordon is a former Art College Lecturer, Head of Art, Design & Media, College Marketing Manager and former Branding Business Owner. For the past 6 years he has made digital paintings and mixed media artworks pretty much every day.

PEPITO PROJECT – Visual Correspondence (MAIL ART)

Flight of Fancy

Since 1997 Gordon (based in Somerset) has been working with David (based in West Sussex), a friend and former Art College colleague, in exchanging ‘Visual Correspondence’, the outcomes of which became PEPITO works. The exchanges began as a means of keeping in touch. Over time, over 100 collages were by way of Royal Mail postal exchanges. In 2013, 80 of these collage works were exhibited in a Pepitio Exhibition at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, West Sussex – see 2 videos relating to this exhibition below.

Following the exhibition, it was agreed to change the nature of the exchanges. Pepito works became paintings. Each painting started out as a second hand Ravensburger puzzle made from 102 pieces – the picture side of each puzzle was painted white all over. 51 pieces were painted by Gordon, the other 51 by David, then all 102 pieces were exchanged and developed multiple times via Royal Mail. 25 paintings were made in this way.

Following the Pepito Paintings phase Gordon and David agreed to make a book. The book became 2 books – Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 typically presents a series of double page spreads. Each spread presents a selected Pepito Collage on either the left or right facing page… its opposite page being a digital artwork made in response to the collage it is paired with. Part 2 is a Pepito Virtual Retrospective Exhibition. The books were made via email exchanges of notes, sketches and diagrams etc. Both books can be viewed in the PDFs below.




Gordon was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne (UK) in 1954. His mother was Dutch and could draw well. Both of these facts are significant in terms of influences and experiences.


His work might broadly be described as ‘Art About Art’ – it is multi-layered in construction and in potential meaning. He makes his artworks by importing pictorial content into two kinds of image manipulating software, the composition is then constructed, developed and finessed digitally.

Often utilising elements taken from classic ‘Old Master’ paintings, he re-presents them in new contexts and relationships. And, by fusing history with contemporary additions, he works with the iconic and the cultural, merging them to create new narratives. His artworks are, in part, referential in their intent rather than simply appropriated or copied from masterworks. He sees his imitation as a sincere form of flattery. In addition to explicit references, some may find humour in his alterations. By leaving out familiar elements or by adding new elements to known works, or reconfiguring components within them, much of his work is a visual commentary.

Viewers often recognise ‘familiar’ elements in his re-imagined compositions. However, seeing them in unexpected and surprising compositions can lead to a reassessment of the original… and a ‘smile in the mind’ in witnessing the new.

Recently, Gordon has been working with friend and colleague David on their mail art project Pepito. Between the duo they sent collages to each other in the post for more than a decade starting in 1997, with the internet being in its’ infancy some works had taken years to complete with the pair working back and forth.

As Gordon works digitally and has been involved in a digital mail art exchange, this has raised questions over what makes an art collaboration? Does mail art work digitally? And is what he will be exploring throughout this talk

You can find Gordon’s work on:

Instagram @gordonartworks

Twitter @ColdwellContact

Website www.coldwellandcoldwell.co.uk

The Correspondence Collective

The Correspondence Collective started as an idea from a postcard-exchange took place between between two artists at the start of lockdown in March 2020; as a way of staying in touch and acknowledging the joy of receiving items in the post.

This swiftly evolved into a growing collection of postal art collaborations. After a couple of months we invited fellow artists to join this creative conversation and so the ‘Correspondence Collective‘ was formed.

Their aim is to keep this growing group of creatives, both local and global, connected through mail art, exhibitions, podcasts and workshops, with the Open call for miniature pieces of artwork inspired by ‘Restriction’ being its first.

The project is led by artist Amanda Lynch in partnership with Clayhill Arts, Somerset and has been funded by Arts Council England


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Working with Deborah and Michael was such a pleasure. They understood the project from the beginning, what the needs of the makers and our audiences would be, and acted as thoughtful ambassadors for the project when we were not able to be there. Every aspect of the exhibition and events was facilitated in such a calm and confident manner, which made my job of coordinating a group of artists so much easier! The whole event became a pivotal moment for the project, bringing people together in a way I could never have anticipated, and which has altered my thinking about the future of the project. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.


The weekend I spent at Clayhill Arts was a very welcome change of scenery to my otherwise urban setting. I felt calmed yet invigorated by the surroundings, and the accommodation was beautifully tasteful and very homely. The main space is wonderfully considered and very versatile - an ideal space for creativity and dynamic discussion. I left on the Sunday feeling energised and inspired by the experience of staying at Clayhill.


As a singer it has been one of the best spaces to sing in with generous reverberation and acoustics.  It is a space which complemented the type of instruments I was working with and the songs.


I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being at your venue. It is a lovely and inspiring artistic space. The food was fantastic, homely yet unusual. I really enjoyed the day.


As an artist retreat, the venue at Clayhill Arts provided a warm and welcoming environment, allowing a safe and constructive space where individuals creative needs can be met. 


We were lucky enough to be able to take over the whole venue for a weekend, using the Granary as our base for experimentation, discussion and shared learning. The informality of the accommodation, and the relaxed surroundings, put everyone at ease and offered a space where cooperation and encouragement evolved naturally.


Everything was wonderful! This is a beautiful place. Thank you, we really enjoyed our stay.


Clayhill feels remote which is great but it also is close to Cannington which has everything, so supplies can be bought without travelling a great distance...I also really enjoyed that it is still a working farm, because it feels productive and there is such a lot of life around us which is very inspiring