Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cardiff : Characters

Just got back from a brilliant photography exhibition entitled "Cardiff : Characters" by Dan Green (check out his website here). The photos are a fascinating selection of people regularly seen around Cardiff. I walk around Cardiff a lot and I see many of these characters in the background, but suddenly they are brought into the foreground and add to the richness and texture of the city. Somehow you can never see Cardiff the same again after seeing this exhibition. Unfortunately it ends tomorrow. But Dan has big plans for extending it and making it an on-going project.

As part of the exhibition, Dan - together with the production company widelode - has edited together some of his video clips with the people and the sounds forming a funky soundtrack. Hopefully it will be available on DVD soon because it's well worth a watch!

As Cardiff takes a new shape with the development of St. David's 2, this exhibition helps us to remember that the city is all about the people. And in the days of stylised shopping centres, it's the characters who make the place.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Red Dragon Craft Fair

For a great review of the last Red Dragon Craft Fair, and an intro to a lovely blogger, visit:

Friday, May 16, 2008


I’m reading “Hot Button Marketing” by Barry Feig. One chapter, in particular, struck me as being pertinent. It’s about a group of people he names “Revaluers”. I’ve taken his basic idea and recast it in the light of my own experience and relationships.

Revaluers are the 50-somethings who are entering into yet another phase of their lives after having had the idealism of youth, a desire to “make a difference”, a career and sometimes a family. Now they’re taking stock – revaluing.

Retirement is on the not-so-distant horizon, but they’re not ready for it. They have too much health, energy and a desire still to get something out of life. At the same time, they are more aware than ever of their frailty and mortality as they see themselves or their peers succumbing to ill-health and death. Children are growing up and leaving home, marriages are failing and parents are passing on. They never really thought about all this and didn’t particularly plan for it. Neither are they sure they’re ready for it. The question that’s beginning to form - much as they don’t want it to – is “Is that it?”.

All their lives they’ve had to make hard decisions based on what they were told they should do, often finding context and meaning in organisations, structures and relationships. Now they’re reaching – or have reached - the stage that they can begin to revalue their lives and invest freely without having family to support or others to answer to. They are no longer young, but not yet old. They are in transition. They are revaluing with a mixture of regret and anticipation.

Their big questions are, what are they going to invest in, and what are they transitioning to. No-one prepared them for this and they’re not sure they know how to go about processing the decisions necessary. It’s a scary thing to have to discover it for themselves, with no-one to tell them what they should do and where they should go.

Not that they want to be told anyway. Not any more.

Any future plans need to be based around their value-system (that many have paid a high price for), a high level of trust, and a more consultative, collaborative approach. They won’t respond well to the ‘hard-sell’ – they’re a bit weary (as well as wary) of it. They don’t want to be talked at; they want to be talked to.

50-somethings are one of the largest groups moving through society at the moment. And it seems nobody quite knows what to do with them – although the marketers are moving in. They may not be sold to but they can still be seduced.

I have no conclusions about this. I just think we need to talk about it. Over and over again, these three words keep coming back to me:

Connection; conversation; collaboration.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Boyle Family

The Hayward Gallery in London showed "Beyond Image: Boyle Family" in 1986. I vividly remember going with my son. It was a formative exhibition in terms of my development as an artist … and it seems to be still bearing fruit today … perhaps more than ever.

(As an aside, I don't think I was developing as an artist in those days. But the seeds were sown then and are now coming to fruition. 22 years later. I'm a bit freaked out by that.)

“Their aim was to duplicate 1,000 randomly selected portions of the earth's surface. Darts were thrown blindfold into a map of the world to select the sites. Then they would travel to each location and throw a T-square into the air and make an exact duplicate - usually a six-foot by six-foot square - of the spot where it had landed; the process of making these simulacra, which involved materials such as sand, mud and ice, remained a closely guarded secret.”

Whether the selected patch of the earth’s surface was the desert, a field or an urban street, they would produce an exact replica of that space and hang it on the wall. How they reproduced it is a secret but involved making a resin cast of some sort. It was simply awesome to see these patches of the planet. I remember, too, that while Steve and I were there, one of the artists came over and starting chatting to him and pointing out things in the picture. The level of detail and realism was extraordinary.

Now, I wouldn’t claim to be in anything like the same league. But I am trying to capture something of the earth … what some call ‘the land’. I go to a place, take photos, make drawings and grab handfuls of whatever I find there to bring back to the studio and make up into some kind of a picture. My process isn’t to reproduce it exactly … I’m a bit more
abstract expressionist than that … but to capture something of that emotion that sometimes hits us when we are in a particular place and time. And to attach value to the land that we walk on and often take for granted. And not just the glamorous stuff ... often the common-place will do. I quite fancy the idea of exploring the urban environment too.

A project I am planning for the near future is to take this process into North Wales. I don't know the area and have only been there once or twice, so it would be interesting to see whether and how I connect with it. I would like to spend some prolonged time there, drawing, taking photos, collecting materials with a view to holding exhibitions up there after I have produced the pictures. The project will be called "Siaradwch i'r Wlad" ("Speak to the Land").

Later, I'll have another go at Mid Wales (a painful place for me), then maybe mosey along down to Spain and see what kicks off there.

Sounds like a plan, eh?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Currently Reading ...

For my birthday, my daughter Jo bought me "On the Way To Work" by Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn. It's a series of in-depth interviews with Hirst.

And I am so into it!

I'll probably be referring to bits of it as I go along and here's the first:

Big on my mind lately is money ... the HUGE lack of it. Do I produce art for the money? Well, I've painted (on and off) since I was a kid so probably not. But it is what I do now. I need to live and pay the rent so I want to trade art for income. There are many other reasons why I want people to own my art but I'll tackle those at another time.

Here is Damien Hirst's take on it:

"I find the money aspect of the work part of its life. If the art's about life, which it inevitably is, and then people buy it and pay money for it and it becomes a commodity and manages to still stay art, I find that really exciting."

"I think, in England especially, people are anti any kind of success really. You're struggling and you cut your ear off; they like that kind of an artist. Whereas if you're making money ... They'd rather you were working on a building site and painting in a garret somewhere. I'd say that's a problem."

For me, art is my work and it's as much a 'proper job' as anything else. The fact that it doesn't pay well (yet) is because my business model isn't working and needs adjusting - just like any other business that is not trading well. But that's part of the creative process - producing the art and 'getting it out there' - for people to see it, own it and be affected by it.

One of these days I'm going to empty the bin ...

Don't worry, it's only paper. At least ... I think it's only paper. Mind you, it does rustle sometimes ...

Friday, May 02, 2008

New Works (sounds posh, eh?)

I've made some new pieces for the Craft Fair coming up this weekend ... three pictures and two bowls made out of paper.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The next Craft Fair at the Red Dragon Centre in Cardiff Bay will be on 3rd - 5th May. Come along and say 'hello'.

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