Monday, June 29, 2009

These days are slow, work-wise. Things are humming quietly but I'm not feeling as driven as I was a few weeks ago.

Several things are about to click into place.

In a month or two I won't have much free time, perhaps for quite a while.

Well, that's the way I like it.

Different times, different rhythms.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Further thoughts on the UCA Farnham Summer Show

At the Summer Show I was keen to see what was happening in the Fine Art department. Overall, I was disappointed.

A few things struck me: one was the lack of painting - there were only 2 paintings in the whole Fine Art exhibition. The second was the conceptual nature of much of the rest of the work, with no obvious point of access into it. The third was that the artists were nowhere to be seen so there could be no dialogue with them.

In the Textiles department, the preparatory work and research was an integral part of the display, with the result that you could get a handle on what was being represented. Also, the designers generally hung around the exhibition and were willing to talk about their work. Perhaps the difference is that their work is more commercial and part of their development is learning how to explain ... and sell ... what they are doing.

If that's true, then I can only guess that the fine artists are not interested in personally presenting and selling their work.

It's not easy to read a picture. Or any piece of art. There's a visual language, set in a personal and cultural context, that needs to be understood - at least to some degree - if the work is to be appreciated. I know there's a school of thought that says a picture should be allowed to speak for itself, but I don't agree with that and it's not the approach I'm taking.

All this has made me think about what I'm doing.

For me, as I've mentioned before, it's about getting some ideas 'out there' to debate and test them - and hopefully improve them. My primary medium is the visual arts - though I won't be restricted to that.

I want there to be a conversation and a connection about those ideas. This may or may not result in a sale (though often it does).

I'm not sure a passive gallery display will ever achieve that.

I want to have conversations about my art in the studio, in a coffee shop, around the table ... preferably with lots of food and wine.

I'm figuring out how best to do that.

At one of my exhibitions, I complained that no -one asked me any questions or made any comments. Someone told me that they didn't think they were allowed to talk to the artist. I understand that - and the gallery environment can add to that sense of intimidation and unease. That's another reason I think it's important to find different ways of presenting art - at least in my case.

When I post my pictures on my blog, I don't do it like you're supposed to. The photos are pretty poor quality (though I want them to be better); I don't give any details of size, media, price or how to purchase should anyone wish to. I'm just giving a glimpse of what I'm doing and what I'm producing. I don't want my art to be reduced to a high-res image and a set of dimensions. I don't aim to sell art from this blog. I just use it to tell stories and give a bit of background and context.

I want to create environments and opportunities for people to see my pictures 'in the flesh'; to hold them, to touch them, to feel free to ask questions and make comments.

No pressure to buy ... just bear in mind that I'll die of hunger if you don't.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

University for the Creative Arts Farnham Summer Show 2009

I went to view this annual exhibition at the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham. Work was being shown from all the 3rd year BA students, and included Fine Art, Interior Architecture & Design, Ceramics, Glass & Metalwork & Jewellery, and Textiles for Fashion & Interiors. It was the last category that I was particularly interested in because my daughter, Jo, was on that course and was exhibiting her work.

The Textile Design course combines print and weave. Textiles are designed for fashion, interiors, fine art and architectural contexts. It's a very innovative course that develops practical design and production skills with a strong business orientation.

It has been interesting to see how Jo's thinking, experience and skill have developed and improved over the three years. She's also enjoyed the course and has often talked enthusiastically about the other students. I was looking forward to meeting them and seeing some of their work. According to the tutors, they were a particularly good group.

And it showed in the exhibition. It was amazing. There was so much variety, so much creativity. Different types of printed and woven fabrics displayed in many different ways and intended for many different uses. There were final samples together with many of the research elements. Some of this was in sketch books, photos, and videos. So many stories were being told and ideas being explored. Two that stood out to me were the girl who designed her whole project around smoking and cancer ... producing fabrics that were beautiful but that held a powerful message ... and the girl who printed onto dissolvable fabric and then threw it into the sea. The material dissolved leaving the design on the water and the rocks until that too washed away. She captured all of this in photos and on video.

All the students were artists, who had chosen to work with textiles as their medium.

The other thing that struck me was how much mutual support, encouragment, challenge and praise there was amongst the Textiles students. Although they were all highly individual - as people and in the work they produced - they'd created a real studio environment. I was envious!

Jo's Project Aim was:

"To produce a collection of textile samples which will be used for menswear - playing on the contradictions between traditional and contemporary menswear and printed and constructed textiles; keeping an element of humour and surprise in my prints and fabrics.My collections demonstrate my varied influences such as tailoring, sportswear and streetwear. They fill a gap in men's everyday wardrobes for fashion forward clothes that are wearable in terms of design and also functional - protective, reversible, warm and comfortable."

(see some of her work at

I'm not at all biased, but her work was the best in the whole show. Obviously.

Much of the work from the Summer Show will be shown at New Designers in The Business Design Centre, Islington on 9th - 12th July. This is a commercial show where the best young designers from across the country exhibit their work and connect with industry professionals. For more info visit

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another 2 pictures

I'm still producing "Images of Earth and Spirit" pictures. I'm working with my visual language, with small variations each time as my vocabulary grows.

I have too many ill-defined thoughts to put into words, so I'm making art to find out what I think. My thoughts are visual, not verbal, though there is a constant commentary running through my mind.

I'm 'seeing' new (for me) concepts and constructs. I hope they will translate into some kind of reality in terms of how I see myself and what I do.

I know exactly what I want but, as yet, don't know how to do it. Actually, that's not true. I know how to do it, I just don't have the resources to do it at the moment.

When I go out sketching I'm working in a much looser style and using colour. That's how I see things. But there are still fences to get over.

I'm working on it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I'm out in the hills again - sitting beside a lake. It appears to be peaceful and calm, but the wind is blowing in the trees and the grass, and the ripples are moving restlessly across the surface of the lake. In the earth there will be all sorts of worms, bugs and creep-crawlies. (Just like in my car.) In the lake there will be fish, and ... errr ... other things that live in water. And while I can't see them, there are sure to be animals and birds around here somewhere.

It's a constant maelstrom of elements and creatures - all inter-acting, inter-relating and inter-dependent. It goes on day and night whether I'm here or not; whether I notice or not; whether I care or not.

It seems life's like that.

I've stopped here for a reason. I have a few things on my mind. I write two of them on scraps of paper, lift my hand and let them go. The wind takes them.

A butterfly flaps its wings in Patatgonia and I throw a few pieces of paper into the air in Wales. Who knows what the knock-on effect will be? What consequences will follow? Maybe my 'prayers' will be answered by some force or some fluke. Maybe not.

It was a special moment.

As I turn to go back to the car, I see a sign.

It says, "Take your litter home. Maximum penalty £2500".

That could go either way then, depending on who was watching.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

I've got worms

I first noticed when I was gluing sticks, grass, dirt and stones onto a piece of MDF at the side of the road in Mid Wales.
Something was moving on the surface ... wriggling in fact. I'd half glued a worm into the picture.

I now have carrier bags full of material I have gathered, in the boot of my car. When I open the boot, flies buzz around and worms are crawling.

Add that to the lingering odour of milk I spilled some time ago and my car is not a pleasant place to be.

Ah well.

Anyway, here are two more pictures from Mid Wales ... and there are more to come!

The reason I'm producing so much at the moment is because:

I'm working without excuses. I'm not waiting for the ideal circumstances ... or even slightly better ones ... I'm just "getting on with it", every day.

I'm also challenging myself more. I'm consciously doubling my output by working on 2 pictures at a time.

Next, I'm going to be thinking about how to package and present my work.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Things I need to know something about:

chaos theory
quantum mechanics
gaia theory
that thing where people are physically translocated (translocation?)

I've tried reading some books about them but they are all a bit too technical for me.

Sigmund Freud said, "Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me."

I want to read things written by poets and story-tellers.

I learned a lot about current scientific thinking from the children's books by Madeleine L'Engle. I'm looking for more of that kind of thing.

For instance, has anyone read books by Philip K. Dick? I'm not really into science fiction, but are they any good? Or can you recommend something similar?

For example, with regard to chaos theory I love the analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings in Patagonia and causing a storm in Pontyclun. I get that, though I don't understand it.

I don't want to understand ... I want to be intrigued.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Talking about dreams (as we were), here is an amusing article by Ariel Leve of the Sunday Times (do you think she reads my blog?):

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