Tag Archives: sculpture

home correspondence

Wednesday 11 February 2015

a good artist friend has sent me some pictures of one of her recent sculptural assemblages with one of my miniature abstract collages – comparing the surface, colour and texture of the small sculpture with the collage: blue, pale green, grey, rusty red-brown.


it was a lovely surprise to see one of my tiny collage cards now in a picture frame next to hazel’s sculpture.


this delightful ‘boat’ sculpture is constructed from a rusty spade* as its sail, fixed to a small piece of driftwood. my small abstract collage is made from paper and card fragments [art studio detritus].


this very small collage is is about 3cm square, one of thirty abstract collages on A6 postcards that i created for the 2013 artworks exhibition. the artworks exhibition has a popular ‘art shop’ where visitors can buy postcards, small paintings, original prints, drawings, sculpture, etc – the small things you might see and like at an ‘open studio’ event. i made more collages, this time on square cards, for the 2014 artworks exhibition. many people seemed to like these tiny collages, which was heartening.

most of my artwork is quite subtly textured, or created in relief, and sometimes muted in colour, and it doesn’t translate naturally into flat, printed cards and postcards. i’m more naturally inclined to make artworks as cards, or cards as small artworks. i have also framed a few of these very small collages [as seen in previous blog posts].

it is always pleasing to see art in situ, at home in someone else’s home, how it corresponds and connects to the surroundings. curiously, this aspect of art and the home came up in conversation this week with another artist friend: how and where you live, and how it influences or reflects your art in some way. i don’t think i could ever live and work in two separate places [well, no further than the end of the garden!].

inevitably, this got me thinking more about art and life, how one thing feeds naturally into another, the correspondences between the life we live, the things we see, the things we collect, the things we like and love, the things we make and do – it is an ever-evolving symbiotic relationship. if it is disrupted, it takes some time to rediscover and nurture a ‘creative space’, be it physical [a room] or in the mind [of ideas].

relatedly, last week, another artist i know had mentioned in casual conversation my artwork from the 90s – my detritus collage – and whether i had considered doing more of that kind of work [it seems like decades ago, now – and it was!!]. i still have a habit of ‘collecting’ small random things from walks and my travels – all the artists i know do this – artists are natural magpies.

well, dear reader [i think that’s me, mostly!], this concludes today’s home correspondence.

back to the wonderful rusty boat. hazel has a marvellous art studio, spacious and full of light, filled with beach-combing finds, which are often transformed into small sculptures. many of them, like the boat pictured, are created while staying at the coast. you can see more of hazel’s paintings and sculptures on her website. http://www.hazelbignell.co.uk/

exhibition at aldeburgh gallery : britten centenary

Wednesday 20 November 2013

ahoy there..! after being all at sea for a while, it was nice to be invited to contribute some small artworks for a group exhibition at the aldeburgh gallery, buoyantly entitled britten’s birthday bonanza, which opens later this week on the special occasion of the britten centenary celebrations this weekend – as friday 22nd november 2013 is the centenary of the birth of internationally acclaimed composer benjamin britten.

the exhibition, britten’s birthday bonanza, will feature recent work by three artists: sara johnson (watercolour paintings), gill levin (oil paintings) and chris mound (woodcut prints), alongside a selected exhibition of small artworks by artists associated with the art collective HWAT.

Britten’s Birthday Bonanza
21st – 27th November 2013
Aldeburgh Gallery
143 High Street
IP15 5AN

aldeburgh has become synonymous with the life & work of benjamin britten, a lasting legacy of international cultural importance to a once small fishing town on the suffolk coast – and a boon to local trade & tourism.

a leisurely stroll from the car park situated next to maggi hambling’s scallop sculpture (created in response to britten’s peter grimes) along the shingle beach is an idle pleasure later rewarded by the finest fish & chips to be purchased at the very other end of town… never one to push the boat out…

the liminality of sea, shoreline and shingle, a sliver of silver-green sea glinting in sunlight, or the percussive crashing of the waves, rain strumming over the marshes, the dramatic ever-changing skies, all nature’s moody atmospherics, playing out a performance indifferent to us…

benjamin britten was born in lowestoft, further up the suffolk coastline (his childhood home is now a fashionable B&B), and after studying & working in london and travelling to america, he later settled in aldeburgh with his artistic muse & partner, the singer peter pears (their final home, the red house, is now the location of the britten-pears foundation).

in 1948, with the support of peter pears and the writer eric crozier, britten established the aldeburgh festival, an annual event which attracted musicians and performers from far and wide. in 1967 the festival relocated to more spacious surroundings in the conversion of a former maltings building in the nearby village of snape. the new concert hall was officially opened by queen elizabeth II, who later returned to reopen it in 1970 after a fire destroyed the concert hall in 1969 just before the opening of that year’s festival.

the snape maltings complex is now the centre of aldeburgh music: a year-round programme of concerts and performances in tandem with a creative support and education programme for performers and musicians. snape is also the location of the snap art exhibition, and there are some impressive outdoor sculptures too (as written about previously).

suffolk was a source of much creative inspiration to britten; places of significance to britten’s music are included this interactive map of britten. there is more information about benjamin britten, peter pears and the special britten centenary celebrations at these websites:

Britten-Pears Foundation: http://www.brittenpears.org/

Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Centenary: http://www.brittenaldeburgh.co.uk/

BBC Radio & TV programmes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=britten

BBC Radio 3’s Britten Centenary weekend:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:

[Ariel’s Song, The Tempest, William Shakespeare]

a mug's game

Wednesday 10 April 2013

hello reader, this is my all-time favourite mug…

artist studio mug shot

[mug shot]

it’s a hornsea (lion) mug dating from the 1970s, a design created out of cut-up & collaged newsprint typography. unfortunately, i put this mug in in the microwave one day and after that it became a little bit crazed on the inside, and it was later resigned to a more solitary mug’s life in the artist’s room.

some glimpses of other things i have been pondering on lately…

corrugated metal sheets

[shed : stored]

artist studio - corrugated iron shed

[shack : stacked]

wood bark panels sculpture - artist studio

[wood : engraving]

i like the idea of living in a rustic cabin in the middle of the woods, but i’ve been floored by the resolution of this piece. this is another woodwork artwork i started last year. when i realised i would probably never get the opportunity to present it in the right context i (sort of) gave up on it, because its visual aesthetic largely depends upon the neutrality of a white space. i also realised i was making it for no other reason than i wanted (or needed) to, and maybe it doesn’t have a particular place to be right now.

artist studio - wood bark art sculpture

[wood, work in progress]

some people may deride the clinical whiteness of the typical gallery space, but if art is to have any element of transcendence from the ordinary then perhaps it needs such an environment for its debut into the world of contemporary art, one which is conducive to looking & experiencing firsthand, for the invocation of thoughts in response to the expression of the artist’s ideas – or so i once thought. on more than one occasion i have visited a local commercial gallery to see a ‘publicised’ exhibition only to find the work has already disappeared from the white walls (sold out).

interestingly, a few months back i bought (quite by chance) a secondhand copy of robert smithson’s collected writings, and shortly thereafter i read this:

A work of art when placed in a gallery loses its charge, and becomes a portable object or surface disengaged from the outside world. A vacant white room with lights is still a submission to the neutral. Works of art seen in such spaces seem to be going through a kind of esthetic convalescence. They are looked upon as so many inanimate invalids, waiting for critics to pronounce them curable or incurable. The function of the warden-curator is to separate art from the rest of society. Next comes integration. Once the work of art is totally neutralized, ineffective, abstracted, safe, and politically lobotomized it is ready to be consumed by society.

[robert smithson, the collected writings]

well, that nails the contextual argument to the clinical white wall of a gallery, and it brings new meaning to the term ‘art in the community’! – and so art often has to exist independently of these institutional limitations.

whatever the context (selling or exhibiting), every artist hopes for a good prognosis on their art (support & encouragement), and hopes their work (of art) has a life of its own. carefully administer a catalogue, an essay, a gallery talk, or a full-on interactive panel discussion, together with some general public engagement at regular intervals, will all keep the art (and the artist) alive and kicking. art’s consumers are also art’s life savers.

however, this leaves me even more befuddled about galleries & exhibitions, and the reasons for making or showing work…

this particular work evolved out of some ideas about nature’s means of regeneration and renewal, and a form of resurrection or symbolic reverence for something (a life) in the past, with an awareness of a separation from (its) nature heightened by the context. so too a relevance in the use of mundane building materials, respectfully returning them to their natural state. i wanted to recreate the presence or feeling of something (living) to recall the absence (or non-presence) of something (other). i had also spent some time at an old-fashioned woodyard sourcing oak for a family memorial commission, appreciating wood/nature from the tree to the table, as it were.

wood stacked blocks sculpture

[wood : blocked]

such notions of presence and non-presence are sometimes called hauntological:

the paradoxical state of the spectre, which is neither being nor non-being” (from wikipedia).

however, finding a precise definition of hauntological has proven rather difficult. i was interested in the artwork as a sculptural object embodying the spirit of something else, rather than a pictorial representation or illustration of a thing, which is (sometimes) the most literal means of conveying an idea about something.

a thing summons up another (non-present, or absent) thing. the absent thing becomes present and affects the meaning of the moment (the experience) and thereby the meaning of other things, for everything is inter-related through time and place, but this sounds like a crazy, oddball place in which someone like me will get “stuck” when making art, much like trying to connect all the dots – some confusion ensues.

the internet, as the always-on, social network, curiously also lures us into creating a presence to mark time passing, especially in the sharing of pictures, as if being in the moment – or perhaps more self-knowingly, on trend – drives repeated affectations of instant reminiscences about an everyday event (the now ubiquitous, sun-faded or vignetted photograph, for example – i remember 1978 – it looks just like instagram!). although the social networks’ daily updates, annotations and user timelines soon become an archive of our social discourse these life-historical waymarkers appear to direct the travel (and any passing interest) in only one direction – onwards!

there is little space for personal recollection, history or a sense of time when it is all too soon buried by the now and the next. paradoxically, this relentless need for nowness also needs quite a lot of our time – so when do we find the time to reflect on & reconnect the now with the accumulating thoughts, ideas and experiences of the past to bring fresh meaning to things? well, most artists try to do this (when they can).

i wonder if there is any hauntological significance to the process of ‘mediating’ a ‘subject’ for the purpose of making art, as all art has a subject, even if its subject is only itself. the painter mediates his/her choice of subject through graphical marks, gestures in paint, qualities of colour, texture, surface – but are artists mediating experiences or the experience of making the art? (it’s just a thought…)

does endless theorising about this sort of stuff merely embellish and refine the artwork for presentation to a specific audience? probably.

most interestingly, someone i follow on twitter recently wrote in an article, bad language, that words about the art often (need to) come before the emergence of the art:

The professionalisation of artistic practice, with its emphasis on artists’ statements and the academic blitzkrieg of the crit, has bound the act of making with that of describing, so that many works of contemporary art seem to enter the world backwards, text-first.

[ben street, bad language]

street goes on to say that the ‘text’ is also tantamount to a dress code in the art world, a protocol for professional inclusion, and a critical contribution to any discourse on contemporary art. ongoing discussions about art – between the artists (and the making of their work), their peers, critics & curators, gallerists and collectors – are crucial to audience engagement: the conversation has no absolute beginning or conclusion, it is revisited and revised (by the artist and others), as ideas and thoughts shift in emphasis and meaning, moving us closer to the surface of greater understanding.

therefore, presentation and context is important – assuming the art has been made to be exhibited somewhere (and not created in situ in response to a given location/space, which is the other story). sometimes too much stuff (interior architecture, crowds, texts) gets in the way of the experience, but not always (obviously). i saw an art exhibition in a disused industrial space (much like the original freeze exhibition), and although i didn’t need a text to experience the work, it was interesting to refer to. often critics and writers illuminate the artists’ concerns better, as if (at the very least) two minds are required to consolidate the work as art – and where one confidently leads the way others will surely follow – but to disagree or debate is also a good thing in art.

woodbark art sculpture

[wood : wood]

the small landscape of my personal art world changed and i am packing up this artwork along with everything else related to my art. the question i have long been pondering was answered. i am thankful to the mug for starting a conversation about purpose and value, although i see i have written too many words, once again.

sorry about the thingness thing…