Monthly Archives: October 2010

a show and no telling

Saturday 30 October 2010

i had planned a special trip to the sainsbury centre for the visual arts last week. i was hoping to be inspired by some of the objects on show in the world art collection. i arrived armed with my sketchbooks & drawing materials only to discover that the scva is closed on mondays. most telling perhaps, that my hopes of some visual research were thwarted from the start, so i duly headed back home and completed the ‘work’ homework instead.

between belief and perfection is a station called irony; change here if you have any doubt about your onward journey…

arbara kruger - london tube map commission 2010
[barbara kruger, london tube map, 2010]

i have been thinking more how to develop my art in different ways (in a vaguely business-headed way), what i want to achieve by this diversion, and how the change might require some creative rehab (or retreat) en route. i have made some headway with my vessels idea. i came to the conclusion that i should not worry about where they are conceptually headed  – too much analysis becomes rather academic – but i pondered on the meaning or idea of the vessel – about containment & openness, flow, movement, transition, metamorphosis. some routine housework duties led to a much-needed declutter of the personal workspace, aka the artist studio. in the subsequent reorganisation i have now misplaced an important notebook but i did unearth these paint palettes…

cardboard paint palettes in the artist studio
[cardboard paint palettes]

tray paint palettes in artist studio
[tray paint palettes]

i rarely use a paint palette these days; i am more fond of these small glass ramekins for mixing colours in. these are gü chocolate pudding pots, of which, it has been noted, have over the years changed subtly in their design. many gü puddings have been consumed in this household and they are always eaten with the tiniest of spoons so as to savour the chocolate puddingness for a few moments longer than the appetite immediately craves. where chilli is my tonic, chocolate has become my panacea. it seems heaven sent that there is a new raspberry & chilli choc gü just out but where can one buy these sweet delights out in the sticks?

paint pots in the art studio
[gü ramekins used as paint pots]

i spent what seemed to be an extraordinary number of hours preparing (first selecting the artwork, then cleaning glass and edges, adding d-rings to frames, labelling and so forth) twelve affordable works of art for the bumper christmas art show at the harleston gallery. forty regional artists will be exhibiting in this art-filled bonanza, which is open from 5th november to christmas eve 2010. the exhibition will be officially opened by the author and art historian Ian Collins, who has a new book out, entitled Water Marks.

the norfolk contemporary art exhibition is still on but the show comes down on monday… the norfolk contemporary art society presents a selection of key works from artists included in NCA10, at the fabulous rocket house cafe in the seaside resort of cromer – if you are in the area do visit, the food at the rocket house cafe is very good apparently…

rocket house cafe, cromer, norfolk - ncas art exhibition
[rocket house cafe & museum, cromer beach]

this journal (or blog, if you prefer) will be five years old in a couple of weeks. i believed back at the start, rather earnestly, that this blog would always focus on the art – but the fact that i think about, create and sometimes even show some art means that i sort-of-really-have-to-be in the frame too, most of the time… about this time last year i was sketching in the woods and drawing the sea – whatever became of that little adventure?


the artist estimating the age of an old oak tree by the established method of hugging a tree

about this time last year i also spotted this apple tree growing in the corner of a redundant building plot in the fine city. this image reminds me that good things flourish in the bleakest of environments, even if, in the end, all that remains is just food for the birds…

apple tree growing in redundant building plot in the city
[an apple tree growing in the city]

i  keep thinking that there is a strange paradox (can a paradox be anything else – familiar, welcome, usual?) in the art of blogging in that the most highly visited blogs are about blogging itself, informational blogs that publish links to other blogs of related information, blogs making money from blogging about making money from blogging, or those ones that tell you what to do or how to do it (in 7 simple steps, 10 top tips or 11 easy ways), on how to become more organised, efficient, popular – a network that is not so much evolving & expanding but cloning its smart offspring in ever more resourceful ways (this is just my humble opinion, as i recall life bti)…

so how exactly does one factor in the time required to create art, between composing artful statements & typing succinct emails, writing an engaging blog post, updating a page on a website, designing a business card or logo, uploading photographs to flickr, checking in on facebook or just tweeting the happenings of the day? all of these activities undoubtedly increase the visibility of the professional artist and it also has some influence on making the art when informed & motivated by an audience (and the awareness of others’ artwork in the process of such an online engagement) – but this well-intentioned information share-athon has become something of a distraction to my own humble, day-to-day existence – there are shelves to dutifully dust (i dont entirely follow the francis bacon aesthetic here)…

art books library
[library image]

i only highlight these issues because i attended a business workshop where ‘do you have twitter, facebook or linkedin?’ was mentioned in the discussion. these are vital tools for building a business it seems, so today the business brand ‘jazz green’ felt ever so slightly stuck at the ‘shows some promise’ stage – not longer qualifying as an emerging artist but in danger of being a slowly submerging one instead, back into the creative swamp from which i thought i had sucessfully crawled out of. it’s ok, there are many other artists down there, and one day some of them will be prized from the mire and will be found to be perfectly preserved with all works intact.

it occurred to me that what i want most is a happy & contented life, one that is rich with experiences and continually inspires the making of art, creating it in the most original & authentic way i am capable of, for the majority of my time. i have the motivation and incentive to make art but i am not sure i have all the skills needed to turn the making of art into a money-making venture – am i to be a product designer, a manufacturer of goods, a provider of services, none of the above or all three rolled into one?

the answers lay not in the facts of the product or service (it need not be completely unique the workshop facilitator said, citing hairdressing as an example), but where it fits in, who it is aimed at and what makes it different or exclusive. rather than do some self-analysis i instead contemplated why someone should choose an apple over an orange say, if they had been persuaded that eating fruit was a good lifestyle choice. should you rightly balk at the mere suggestion of comparing apples with oranges then you might like to read this entertaining piece of improbable research.

barbara kruger - buy me -2007
[buy me, i’ll change your life, barbara kruger, 2007]

so, i progressed to thinking about the many varieties of apples, which rather complicated the straightforward ‘buy me’ because i’m an apple. i have nothing against oranges, there’s room for all manner of ovoid fruits in the basket, but bananas are best hung on their own. i then considered the many ways in which apples are available to purchase – from the local greengrocer or farm shop, where you will probably know what orchard they came from and they might even have a leaf stalk still attached suggesting they did indeed once come from an apple tree – or perhaps more conveniently pre-packaged in the supermarket with a few persuasive superlatives such as irresistible, finest, the best of, etc.

this simple analogy is going wildly off the point but there is, as it happens, a very fine dessert variety of apple called ‘jazz’, but i’ve only ever seen them for sale in waitrose…

i have been fortunate to have sold some big ‘apples’ and a few small ones over the years – but here’s the thing, never to the extent of making a real living – that is, providing a wage or salary that would cover all one’s living expenses such as a mortgage, utilities, household bills, a car – thus the requirement for a supporting ‘day job’. this fact, i think, rings true with many contemporary artists, but not making a viable income from creating art in no way denigrates the professionalism of the art or the artist. i also think that teaching art, doing workshops (as i have done), or working in arts administration is, in a good way, a vital part of the artist’s work because it continues an engagement or dialogue with contemporary art.

i will have to remind myself that the first major piece of work i ever sold, back in the early nineties, was for £1000, so as not to undersell or undervalue what i do from now on! hard work, the right opportunities and the benefit of time might just get me there one day… an artist friend once said that fifty seemed to be about the age when artists become truly ‘established’ artists, so i have a few years to go yet… in the end, it’s not about the money, it’s about the art; i’ll live off that reality check…

the bumper christmas art show, affordable work by forty artists, is at the harleston gallery, norfolk, 5th november to 24 december 2010

a little something for the weekend

Saturday 23 October 2010

may i introduce to you another small installment in my virtual world travelogue..? here is another mixed media abstract on paper on canvas, in the ongoing series of diminutive travelling icons or iCons. this one is entitled venezia

mixed media canvas print venice venezia

venezia, 2010, 13cm x 13cm x 3cm, intaglio collagraph on paper on canvas

mixed media canvas print venice venezia

venezia is one of a new series of very small works (virtual travel ‘iCons’) that focus on colour and visual associations with locations around the world – but i never quite know where i will visit next. this one is quite formally patterned as an object and i have begun to envisage it as work in textiles, perhaps as a woven wall hanging or a rug.

the dark brown recalls the damp wood of mooring posts and the striations echo shop front canopies, and also the mineral traces of waterlines on the buildings. the very small but perfectly formed venezia iCon is up for some real-life travelling should anyone wish it to give it a room…

so, a virtual weekend break, spent in venice, italy… well, not exactly (if only), but this is where i landed

venice - gondola

however, venice is presently in my thoughts, as i recall memories of when i first visited, many years ago on a journey through italy. we arrived aching & mildly dazed after a through-the-night train journey (in economy class, naturally), venice shrouded in an early morning mist which mizzled on for most of the day – but venice seemed like a very accommodating place in which to get slightly disorientated…

 venice canal and boats

venice also reminds me of my first experience of italian ice cream (or gelato) and the visual array of textures & colours on view along the counter. i was amazed to discover that ice cream came in so many flavours, and then i savoured my first taste of the very aromatic pistachio. it was lighter and more crystalline in texture than british ice cream and i marvelled at the sophistication of its presentation, elegantly scooped up and served atop a stylish cone. it was something of a glacial epiphany when all i had previously known was raspberry ripple in a large tub (re-used as a lunch box when empty), cinema choc-ices and maybe a wall’s funny face

venezia now joins tuscany, pompeii, milano and roma in a somewhat unplanned & erratic virtual tour of italy… these very small travel iCons (visual shortcuts, suitably squared, the equivalent of pixels, as small mementos to my virtual journeys) will continue the cause & effect – that of the aesthetic of colour leading onto faraway places; the subtext needs no futher explanation…

so, i found myself being taken back to what seems to be the very source of things again, the endless fascination with the signs of weathering, neglect and decay. i took a lot of photographs during my inter-railing journey through europe (about seven rolls of film) – of the cities and their buildings, the doorways, windows and walls – and even the pavements – any structure or surface which seemed to exhibit the textures of time, the evidence of history that didn’t require a tour guide…

later that year, during my art & design diploma (the pre-requisite qualification prior to embarking on an art degree) i first encountered etching. the printmaking workshop was a small but brightly lit room, with windows that overlooked the museum next door. in the centre of the workshop was a very old star-wheeled etching press. this seemingly archaic contraption of print technology was a much revered object, a prized antique (which, of course, it was). our printmaking tutor would often play old jazz records to jolly us along, so the atmosphere was more convivial and relaxed in comparison to the painting & drawing studios…

this is my first ever etching (1985), very simply titled ‘a door in venice‘. the subject matter of an old, weathered door and crumbling, decayed brickwork seemed perfectly in tune with the intaglio etching processes of open bite and aquatint

a door in venice, etching, 1985

is it really twenty five years since the not-so-grand european tour?

it’s strange how the tide of time affects the memory of things, how those memories resurface when you least expect them to, when you come across something, a photograph or an object, something that both creates & completes the connection to the past, that takes you right back there, in an instant, and in that instant everything that has happened since seems to make perfect sense…

inside art, out in the garden, again

Thursday 21 October 2010

i took some of these small paintings on paper for a little walk to the end of the garden this week…

to the shaded spot where the rust continues to grow and bloom in many hues of red, orange, brown, violet and grey…

where a light dusting of green mould or algae turns the old reclaimed wood from a dull pallet brown into a more vibrant shade of green…

where everything is quite simple, rustic, earthy, and unrefined in character…

i don’t have a good tripod for my camera, so i had to stay quite still to take these photographs, keep a steady hand, propped up against the nearby sprawling branches of a large, overgrown orange blossom (syringa) shrub. i got quite cold after a short while and so my good self & the small paintings promptly came back inside to the house again.

here are some photographs of some small canvases i have made, now known as the travelling iCons

bali 2010, 15cm x 15cm, collagraph print on paper on canvas

mixed media striped abstract on paper on canvas NEPAL

nepal 2010, 15cm x 15cm, collagraph on paper on canvas

mixed media stripes abstract on paper on canvas PUEBLO

pueblo 2010, 15cm x 15cm, collagraph on paper on canvas

just thought it would be interesting to show them in a different light, a different context…