“365” – the final piece in my #BlackSquares365 project
Today is the last day of #BlackSquares365, my every-day-for-a-year serial art project. A couple of days ago Paul Newman, the brilliant graphite artist, suggested I finish with an envelope. I woke up early this morning and thought (quoting Roy Harper), “He’s right! He’s right: I’ve not done that one for ages! Little bugger.” Paul was alluding to two previous projects of mine: #Letter365 and The Binding Grid of Creative Connection.#Letter365 was my second year-long art project in which I created an artwork from scratch each day, sealed it in an envelope and sent it to the gallery. The envelopes were displayed as an installation and only opened if and after they were sold. The Binding Grid of Creative Connection was created whilst I was in residence at my solo show at Black Swan Arts, Black Squares, Black Lines & Black Magic. It was a celebration of the connections I had made on Twitter with other artists round the world. 72 artists contributed a total of more than 150 4” square artworks, their takes on the theme of the show. Paul contributed a drawing to The Binding Grid, in response to which I made an envelope along with a statement of possible contents. To this day Paul does not know if his drawing is/was in that envelope; he doesn’t know if I erased it.
So, today, I have reprised that work. Paul cleverly connected my previous black squares work with a previous serial art project. I can add in additional connections to previous work and long-standing inspirations and influences. In particular there is a reference to the last chapter of Richard Brautigan’s “Trout Fishing In America”, about which I made a small sculpture (involving Letraset, which I have started to use again in #BlackSquares365) when I was at art school, probably in 1973! The sealing wax was a feature of #Letter365 and I have reintroduced it here: it should have said “bee” (I’m a beekeeper) but I panicked when the wax started smoking (we have lots of new very sensitive smoke alarms at the studios now!) So, I have cleverly connected this piece to the work Paul was talking of and have rekindled in him, I hope, that terrible angst of not knowing the whereabouts or condition of his work. I thank Paul for giving me this opportunity and for all his support and help over many years.
So my final piece ends the series with some unknowns and who knows if it even meets the criteria I set out at the beginning, but I like it a lot and it’s a fitting end to a decent project in which I made some pretty good work, stretched myself but didn’t fret and found the discipline the easiest of all the time-based projects I have done.
“Traces” will feature work by me and the immensely talented Sharon James. Both of us explore the traces of things past and endeavour to create something more beautiful from subjects that are sometimes not so pretty. Sharon James’s latest works are concerned with what has gone before in her own history and in the world around her: investigating matters both deep and superficial. On the one hand, her autobiographical work explores her black identity and links to slavery through a series of drawings and paintings; on the other hand, she has developed a series of digital drawings/collages that deliberately aim to produce something quite different and beautiful, an antidote to what is often quite a dark subject. As most of you know, for some years I have been exploring the notion that nothing is ever completely eradicated. Usually my work is directly inspired by the patterns and processes in our landscape, but much of the work I have chosen for “Traces” focusses on human conflict and the sad fact that wars and discord will always flare up again and the causes can never be covered up or eradicated. I will be showing some of the pieces created for the “Artists On Conflict” show in Woodstock plus some other work where you can see the links to both my Black Squares work and the Erasure pieces. “Traces” continues until 11th May with the gallery being open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10am – 5.30pm.
“A Few Lines About Dora And Dale” Ink on Saunders Waterford paper 559mm × 762mm
I have been somewhat remiss of late in updating this blog and it is some months since I have done so. This, then, is to address that failing with regard to some recent successes in open entry competitions.
I am especially pleased to be showing “A Few Lines About Dora And Dale” (above) in the Society of Scottish Artists Annual Exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh. I am told the competition is vigorous and the selection process is rigorous so I feel proud to have had work selected. I am sad that I have not been able to arrange a trip to see the show, especially as it looks a really impressive show from images I have seen and is beautifully curated with plenty of space rather than the too frequent “cram as many as we can get in” approach of many open shows. The work looks interesting too! Many open shows get clogged up because members get automatic selection. That doesn’t seem to be the case at the SSA: work is selected on its merit. As a member of the SSA (yes I know I am not Scottish nor do I live there, but any serious artist can apply to join) I also get to show some small works in the 30×30 selection. The show runs until 17 January 2019.
The other two prestigious open exhibitions I was selected for recently were the RWA Open, Bristol, and the Black Swan Arts Open, Frome, Somerset.
“Double Erasure: Winter Field” Multiply erased graphite on Canaletto paper 495mm x 695mm
I was delighted a couple of years back to have this piece, “Double Erasure: Winter Field”, shortlisted for the Wells Art Contemporary Awards. That was at the historic Bishop’s Palace at Wells in Somerset. I am doubly delighted that it is now selected for the inaugural show, “Connections” at the stunning new Wells Maltings cultural hub in Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk
It’s always great to be included in an exhibition but the reason I am especially pleased to be part of this show is my history with the North Norfolk Coast, particularly Holkham Bay which is just to the East of Wells-Next-The-Sea. Work about that beach and the landscape behind it sparked the idea of my Tidelines project (which I hope one day soon to fulfill) and was instrumental in me reconnecting to my art practice and subsequently committing to it as a full-time, professional engagement.
This piece is from my erasure and redaction work, rooted in the landscape and coastline, which explores how the traces of history and events are never completely obliterated but can still be read and forever influence the present. The marks are made and erased, made and erased, like the similar-yet-unique patterns in the sand are made and erased twice each day. This piece specifically relates to Holkham West Sands, the marshes behind and the Essex marshes where I grew up.
This Is Where The Party Ends Graphite, ink & Magic Tape on Snowdon cartridge paper 59cm x 84cm
I really like the energy of Bath’s FaB Festival and the Bath Open Art Prize that for me is at its heart, so I am hugely pleased to be included in a show which unashamedly includes work that is quirky and unusual. The show is on at 44AD from 25 May to 10 June 2018
“A Few Lines Where Once I Danced” Ink on Snowdon cartridge 59cm x 84cm
I am delighted that “A Few Lines Where Once I Danced” has been selected for the Bath Society of Artists show at the Victoria Art Gallery where it will be exhibited until 12 May 2018. It’s a particularly fine selection this year, well curated and hung, so worth a visit!
“For Musicians Who Like Art” Acrylic on concertina sketchbook A5 format approx 5m long
Last week I also finished this piece I spoke of a few of posts ago, “”For Musicians Who Like Art”. The title is a play on Andrew Hamilton’s “For People Who Like Art” and whilst it is not meant to be representative of the music it is inspired by it. I have a lot of ideas how I might progress this work – and other work related to music. I am aiming to start trying some of them out on canvas and in collage, today, and I am keen to try out some ideas as monoprints soon.
“For Musicians Who Like Art” Acrylic on concertina sketchbook A5 format approx 5m long
“Complicit l” Plant extract stains on Snowdon Cartridge 59cm x 84cm
I have been working on this series since the turn of the year. They are, perhaps, the most political works I have ever made. I have always tried to lead an ethically decent life: I’ve campaigned on ecological issues, been on marches, try to buy locally, gardened organically and yet I rarely openly touch on these issues in my work. In my collages and Tidelines work I have certainly hinted at my anger and despair at the way we dump things in the oceans and my titles for pictures give the game away, but this is the first time I have started to explore my conflicted feelings about our consumerism and it’s intertwining with a capitalist system which is clearly breaking society and our environment. At last, everyone seems to be talking about the scourge of plastics, a dream gone wrong, and what we can do to cut down on our use of it before it totally chokes life here on the planet. This has encouraged me to deeply look again at what I can do to use less of the things that damage our world and I find that it is almost impossible to be free of complicity.
So I am starting from the standpoint of a favourite quote from Beth Orton and am trying to “…learn the trick to turn|What’s not so pretty|Into something more beautiful”. I will be writing more about the series and the story behind these monoprints, but it needs a clearer mind before I do.
“Complicit l” (detail) Plant extract stains on Snowdon Cartridge 59cm x 84cm
“Art-as-art, Art-as-art, Yeah!” Pencil on Snowdon cartridge 59cm x 84cm
The title of this piece comes from Andrew Hamilton’s “For People Who Like Art” which I was listening to as I finished it off. The words of Hamilton’s piece are taken from Ad Reinhardt’s “25 Lines of Words on Art Statement” so my title is quoting a quote. I have been really caught by his music and I had already started work on an another piece (still in progress) inspired by though not trying to represent this composition, which I am calling “For Musicians Who Like Art”. Hamilton has a number of works titled, “For…” which echos some of the titles of another composer I admire, Morton Feldman. Notably, Feldman wrote “For Philip Guston” and “For Franz Kline” among other work about art or artists. So my title, “For Musicians Who Like Art”, is an echo of an echo. I will post more about this when i have finished it and have got some decent photographs. Andrew Hamilton kindly sent me the score of the piece and I am thinking about doing more work directly related to his music. (I also have it in mind to do some work responding to Meredith Monk’s work!)
If you want to hear my favourite recording of Hamilton’s “For People Who Like Art” by Crash Ensemble you can do so on SoundCloud