Tag Archives: norfolk contemporary art

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

faux, the love of artifice

Wednesday 14 July 2010

some thoughts on the wider significance of the lichens… it seems quite simple – they signify life amongst the decay, a sign of gentle renewal, the circle of life, the quiet resilience of nature, all the more poignant when experienced within the context of a graveyard, existing on the very surface that marks and memorialises a death (as previously seen in these photographs – on looking and lichen, december 2009, and more recently the lichen drawings) – but that wouldn’t fully justify making art or paintings sourced from lichens, as the photographs might convey these ideas quite adequately, in the right context… it would seem there is a challenge inherent in objectifying the powers of nature within art – and artists have been doing this for some time…

it was quite difficult to focus on the quiet matter of some painting over the weekend due to the cacophony of resident noise, (i need not go into the finer details of the myriad power tools in usage, dear reader, except to say that the particular occurence of some petrol-powered hedge-trimming at 7.30am was not music to my sensitive ears)… so, my best painterly intentions went a bit awry… what did i create instead??

lichen textured experiments
some alien biscuits or are they mutant cornflakes? some tentative lichen-ness experiments, which could do with being a little more crusty

like lichen
i attached one to the painting canvas…

lichen art
shown here with the artist’s hand, to give an idea of scale…


just looking, through the lichen-ness…

this idea, of creating fragments to use in work goes back a little… in my mixed media collages of the 1990’s i re-created fragments of stone, rust, metal, etc, which were then assembled into the work – many people believed i had found these fragments – i had not, they were entirely faux…

here’s an example of some eroded fragments from early 1997. you can see some of this older mixed media collage work on my collage art page

speaking of artifice, here’s a small detail of a large painting on panel, edgescape: lichen/algae, a work that precedes the current encusted fascinations by a few years… but it is also relevant to mention here in that it will be included in a new art exhibition…

i am really pleased to have been invited to exhibit three of my large edgescape paintings (algae, corros and rost) with a new gallery in the fine city of norwich, art1821. they will be shown in an exhibition that has been planned in collaboration with the sainsbury centre for visual arts, focusing on japanese art and the environment. the exhibition at art1821 is called rebirth, to coincide with the sainsbury centre’s unearthed exhibition… (many thanks go to BM for helping me get my paintings to the gallery)…

the art1821 gallery has a charming ambience with its low ceilings and irregular, cobbled, whitewashed walls, situated in one of the city’s oldest ‘listed’ buildings in the heart of tombland, the medieval quarter of the city… in a curious way, these historical features seem to complement the showing of modern art (i saw some margaret mellis assemblage works on the wall), in the way that the sainsbury centre’s minimalist open-plan aesthetic, of the transparent, inside-outside architectural design (not much changed since the 70’s), brings a fresh-eyed perspective to a substantial collection of old world artefacts… (for those that do not know, the scva building was designed by sir norman foster) … i would really like to visit the unearthed exhibition…

i had just enough time to also quickly see the norfolk contemporary art show at the forum – did i mention that i have some work in this exhibition too? whilst there i discovered that there is also a series of lunchtime artist talks (but i had just missed one) and also a series of ‘artists-talking’ videos on permanent playback during the exhibition – i enjoyed watching a couple of these short video talks before i had to dash back… i am not involved in this, so anybody desiring to find out a little more about my art and inspiration may find something of interest in this very blog.

i have also added a couple of new webpages to this website, of which this earnest ‘artist journal’ is just a small (but ever-evolving and expanding) section of it…  there is now a new page devoted to the recent/ongoing series of travel-inspired intaglio collagraph prints on canvas. here are four of the canvases currently on exhibition in the aforementioned norfolk contemporary art


norfolk contemporary art 2010

my four iCon works, fjord, tuscany, havana & sushi, are displayed between an intriguing mixed-media assemblage by andy cairns – an artist who was also in the salthouse exhibition i was in last year, and whose work is mentioned in my little bloglet devoted to the salthouse 09 art exhibition – and also a rather small but perfectly formed susan gunn painting… i would like to see this year’s salthouse exhbition, landmark 10, but travelling is a bit problematic at the moment (with a knackered, soon-to-be decommissioned iron horse…)…

i have been thinking about a collective title for these small intaglio works on canvas, briefly considered iCons (or eye-cons) and then decided upon eikons (from the greek, a symbolic or representational object) – it was still a suitably concise-sounding word – but an icon now also refers to little square computer symbols or visual shortcuts – but the variant, more archaic ei spelling also suggested a reference to the electronic internet… with so many con-nections, i was suitably con-verted…

everything is so e, i or ii these days, isn’t it… do you have an e-car yet? i once made a birthday card with a comical u-pod, using an apple-style umlaut, with party like it’s 1978 as the tagline, appropriating an image from a knitting pattern that i found in a charity shop, of a chap modelling an itchy-looking sweater with a (now) very retro, 1970’s sony cassette player – oh, how w-e laughed about the u-pod!!  but i-digress, i-had better just keep to the art (but it was quite artistic, in an ‘i made this just ‘4u’ sort of way)…

so, in the small (ei-kon) works i inverted the process of idea/source to object/meaning by employing various processes and methods to determine a unique ‘identity’ for the work… they began as humble, small-scale textural experiments for printmaking purposes, drawing upon the visual signs of decay in agricultural outbuildings and the local environment – but then some analysis of colour and associated words, and their real-world connections or counterparts, led, inevitably, to the concept of pursuing some virtual travelling, an activity which gave rise to the titles, and thus gave the work a new, more global resonance and identity… those diy paint colour charts were just the start of it…

what’s in a title, a name? is it vital or important, is it meaningful, revealing, persuasive, or just a means of differentiation?  within the context of (or absence of) subjective art titles one might also mention the artist martin creed again, or mark rothko even, but i am just seeing a lot gushing red stuff, so let’s not go there today…

i liked pursuing the open-ended nature of this sideline activity, that i would, in a vaguely lynchian way, create works that followed a more convoluted, non-linear course; the end became their beginning. it was also a deliberate move away from a series of strictly numbered works… the virtual travels also inspired the idea of starting a faux sketchbook… in that, if anyone cared to contemplate upon it, that the vast network of the internet is not just a window to truth & knowledge, but is equally a platform for some deliberate artifice & creative reinvention of one’s identity and sense of place in the world…

random fact alert! i actually graduated in the presence of the great david lynch! he was awarded an honorary degree by the RCA


a lichen drawing in a sketchbook, june 2010

i have also created a new webpage to show some of my recent lichen-esque drawings

i really would like to pursue the idea of doing some larger versions of these – where does one get rolls of good drawing paper, and perhaps, more importantly, is it very expensive?? i probably have one too many ideological plates spinning (or they are just wobbling and are likely to shatter in a very messy, greek fashion) – the eroded circles/discs, the cubed/3d prints, the lichens and their various transformations, the green mould prints, dissolved image transfers, small etchings, virtual travel sketches…

now, i am even contemplating  growing fake lichens in my spare time…

reasons to be cheerful: one, two, three… and four

Thursday 1 July 2010

i was going to just ‘blog’ about the NCA 2010 (Norfolk Contemporary Art) exhibition today; i didn’t actually make it to the PV, sadly, but i am sure it was very good…

i have a small mention in the catalogue’s main introduction to the exhibition (and four small works in the show)… it has caused a little contemplation on the matter of the origins of contemporary art

‘The example of the significant developments in attitudes to painting that occurred in America in the fifties and sixties of the last century – abstract expressionism, colour field painting and minimalism – are represented here in the works of Jazz Green, Geoffrey Lefever, Zheni Warner and Rhona Fleming. The preoccupations of those times, the flatness of the canvas and its nature as an object are clearly represented here.’

the flatness of canvas (the surface) and ‘its nature as an object’ in itself is indeed a preoccupation of mine – but thoughts drifted through my mind like the tangled balls of tumbleweed rolling across the dusty prairies, reminding oneself that no artist is entirely resistant to the winds of such international influences… america, as a second home to european artists such as duchamp, mondrian and albers gave both sanctuary and freedom to artists, in the making of their art, as process-driven ideas and concepts developed, quite separate to any desire or need for a pictorial narrative… it is, perhaps, due to the pioneeering and independent spirit of the age, a radical welfare & arts program, the art was unburdened by (and physically detached from) the historical trajectory of european art. american artists have been colourfully swooshing around the paint ever since, while in britain things were a little more muted…  well, there was the small matter of a war (and its subsequent debts) to deal with (i simplify, of course)…

someone said to me recently that you need to look at a lot of art and then forget about it, before you can make your own… one hopes that any traces of influence will be subtly distilled into a new form…

these four small works are currently in the NCA10 exhibition… all are 13 x 13 x 3.5cm…


fjord 2010


havana 2010


sushi 2010

and…


tuscany 2010

NCA 2010 is open daily, 1 to 21 July 2010. NCA is a curated, contemporary art exhibition, with sixty-five works selected by the arts writer Ian Collins and the artist Derek Morris. The exhibition includes painting, photography, printmaking, ceramics and mixed media works. A full-colour catalogue is available to accompany the exhibition and all artworks are for sale.

despite this current exhibition, the urgent matter of ‘work’ preoccupies my thoughts most days… over the weekend i penned (or designed, but it still needs a ‘little’ work) a leaflet to promote my good self as a freelance art tutor – this might be another string for the bow that has yet to pair with its corresponding arrow… and then there are my plans or development of ideas for more decorative objects in 3D… this multi-disciplinary approach, i believe, is critical to any financial stability… it is not good to be left hanging in the balance, waiting for a call…

meanwhile… i received, via email, some photographs of the setting up of the next exhibition, textures, traces and elements at beyond the image gallery – on what was probably the hottest day of the summer, thus far… angie, the gallery manager, was instrumental in the ‘hang’; immensely giving of her time and a very calming influence on us all…


critical discussions going on…


talking labels and other matters pertaining to the final touches of the exhibition…

here is a quick snapshot i took just before we left – i really respond to carol’s layered porcelain and slate pieces… i already have one of carol’s smoke-fired pots…

here are hazel’s paintings in the exhibition. to understand some of hazel’s paintings you really do have to see the incredible images that she draws out from the patterns seen in the most humble-looking of pebbles. she has an inspiring, spacious studio too, full of her coastal, beach finds..


[hazel bignell – paintings]

and now for something [not so] completely different; a more formal introduction to the textures, traces & elements exhibition, a poster…

TEXTURES, TRACES & ELEMENTS at Beyond the Image Gallery

2nd July to 1st August 2010

Textures, Traces & Elements is a contemporary art exhibition of mixed media paintings, collagraph prints, ceramics & textiles by three Suffolk-based artists: Hazel Bignell, Jazz Green and Carol Pask. These three artists respond boldly and uniquely in both process and media to the rural East Anglian landscape.

Beyond the Image Gallery is a contemporary, artist-run exhibition space located within the beautiful setting of the Thornham Estate, conveniently situated just off the A140, midway between Ipswich and Norwich. The Thornham Estate also includes twelve miles of waymarked footpaths through naturalised meadow and woodland, known as the Thornham Walks.

Textures, Traces & Elements at Beyond the Image Gallery is open Friday to Sunday, 11am-4pm, from the 2nd July to 1st August 2010.

Click here to view the gallery location on Google maps.

meanwhile, the promotional mill grinds on – i am very much looking forward to showing some new work at the 11th annual ‘Artworks’ exhibition at blackthorpe in september (Artworks is an established group of thirty professional East Anglian visual artists), with the environment and mankind’s impact on it as the broad theme of the exhibition… so, no pressure then…

stop press: it looks like i will have three large edgescape canvases in another exhibition, entitled Rebirth at Gallery Art 1821 in the fine city of Norwich,  opening 29 July – 8 September 2010.

read more about the future exhibition Rebirth