Silson Contemporary Art, Midwinter Show opens then moves online
Alchemy to Chemistry Collection in oils completed
Iasi Palace of Culture, Romania, Beyond Other Horizons exhibition and symposium (opens, closes and is extended to April)
Collect ochres receive the gift of graphite rods from my uncle and his farm in Yorkshire when visiting him.
Studio visits from from London gallery set up
Alchemy to Chemistry works on paper completed
The Other Art Fair London and The Affordable Art fair New York postponed
Responses Collection completed
Took part in V-Art Shows and Artists Support Pledge online
Started the Archaeologies collection
Started new commission piece
Studio visit from big London gallery cancelled
Highgate Contemporary Art Art on a postcard online show
Accidentally send a dancing boy to most of my followers on instagram
Learned how to use the internet properly
Took part in video interviews, virtual open studios and many zoom calls
Invited to join the DAC Artist Agency in the USA
Silson Contemporary Art, Summer Show and adoption as a gallery artist
Kahn Gallery launches on Artsper leading to my first sale in France
V-Art show online
Joined The Net Gallery
Invited to join Irving Contemporary Art Gallery in Oxford
Highgate Contemporary Art Unframed Exhibition online
Feature video in eporta
Highgate Contemporary Art on a Postcard online exhibition
The Other Art fair in London postponed once again
Collect mud-rock from the beach in Dorset in the brief interlude when we are allowed to travel
Complete the Metamorphosis collection of works on paper
The Other Art Fair London and New York cancelled
The Affordable Art Fair New York cancelled
Featured in The Net Gallery Magazine
Took part in ArtistsWalk, including being interviewed by a National newspaper who then didn’t publish the story!
Completed the Archaeologies collection
Completed the My Uncle's Farm collection on paper
Started explorations which are building into a new collection focussing on balance, connectedness and earth.
Silson Contemporary Autumn Winter show opens, goes online, reopens
Irving Contemporary Art Water | Land show, opens online then opens the doors
Paul Morrow my fellow artist and usual partner in mutual support and providers of grits started a discussion about a pop up in January
As we ease gently out of lock down, and as I signed off to confirm my participation in The Other Art Fair in autumn, with a note of caution, it is lovey to see the art world slowly waking up. I have updated my website with a new page of works in oil and acrylic making up the Responses Series, which during the next few days will also contain the plethora of works on paper I have made during this period.
the Responses series are made of carbon black, earth pigents and alizarin. Making them was a bit like a fugue state, they kind of walked nto the studio. made them selves, worked them selves out and walked back out again. I have currently returned to making work in the new Archaeology series which are very different.
What has been lovely is that in the last 10 days I have had three solo studio visits which I am able to do at a social distance in the studio, leading to a sale and a commission. If this is something you would like to do then please do get in touch. It is the best way to discuss things in a way that is not hurried, and where the client has my undivided attention.
On top of that I have some new collaborations which I am delighted to be embarking on at the end of a rather quiet period. So I,m now more than just showing with Silson Contemporary Art in Harrogate, I am delighted to have been taken on as a gallery artist, and have some new works on show there now until the beginning of September.
Added to that is a new collaboration with Tomson Construction Ltd, who are including my works in their beautiful interior designs.
Stay safe and I hope things are going well in this new normal.
I wish everyone well during this time.
It is with a heavy heart that I let you know that three of my shows have been cancelled due to the pandemic
The Other Art Fair London is rescheduled
The Affordable Art fair New York is rescheduled
The Iasi Palace of Culture is closed
Dates and times of replacement shows yet to be announced
If you would still like to see my work Here are the links to the catalogues of new work and to works available direct from the studio
I realise that I haven't posted here for a while so I am sorry if you have been waiting. so here goes for the usual stream of consciousness post, that comes in my blog. If you would lie a more considered way to follow me then please register for my emails which tend to be shorter and more to the point.
So |I am currently working on a series called Alchemy to Chemistry, I have taken some of my most favoured ancient pigments and found their industrial revolution counterparts and built a collection from these. In particular I am using madder, vine black, bone black, ochres, indigo, ultramarine and their counterparts Mars pigments, French ultramarine alizarin, synthetic indigo and synthetic carbon black. The thinking behind this collection is around what rapid change does, the philosophies which arise in times of rapid technological change especially around ideas of time, notions of purity, ideas of subjectivity, objectivity and neutrality.
So in the provcess of working with these new pigments, I have had to learn how to use them.. they tend to be far more concentrated, so that a much smaller amount of pigment is required for any given colour. They are also more uniform. The way in which these pigments in particular were synthesised was by chemically analysing them, picking o t a key chemical colourant and reproducing that. Mineral and vegetable pigments actually conatain more than one chemical colourant, which gives them their variations. Ideas about light and the spectrum and purity came into play when the pigments were being developed. In using these pigments I have found a challenge in working through these differences, and it has made me think about the associated ideas surrounding production. these pigments in many ways were part of the developing ability to manufacture at scale and consistency.
the echoes with current technological change are also there, with any gain we get from technology what are the loses? With any idea of purity or consistency where is the beauty in imperfection. Is the standard thing the better thing? And in particular for whom are these developments beneficial?
Usually the pigments stories and their ancient roots echoes , at least for me through the colour. Is this poetry destroyed when the pigments are refined?
So recently I was chatting to Ann, who runs the beautiful Gallery 57 in Arundel in Sussex, (well worth a visit if you can make it down there), and she was talking about the transition between being an artist and an artist-gallerist, and how much she enjoys the process of curating a show, and that she hadn’t realised that she would. She is really good at it, her gallery is beautiful and has a calm emotional quality which is lovely.
It was a useful conversation to have before my Open Studios, so I have been thinking that my Studio needs to look like a working studio, I will be tidying up the floor so you don’t step on oily rags, and throwing out the rubbish, but I am not going to make it gallery like, it will be a slightly tidier version of how it looks when I’m working.
The living room of my house however will be gallery like,( hopefully). I am still deciding what to put up on the walls and what to have as available on request. I intend to have either my website or a flip book available on screen in the living room to view, so that if you can’t see something you want to see in real life you can ask and I can tell you where it is available or pull it out for you, or let you know that it’s already sold.
My kitchen wall currently is a bit busy, so I’m deciding if this is how it stays or if I take some down. My living room has things stacked as I make decisions.
come and have a look at what I decided in the end.....
I imagine that most of you who read my blog have met me at an event and talked to me a little about why I do what I do and why I use what I use. This blog post will give you a little more insight, and if you have ended up here without having met me, hello and welcome and it may all be new news to you.....
The materials I use are central to my practice, gorgeous pigments that have woven through our human story over time: From before the beginning of recorded history, up to the present there are colour traces of our interactions, cultural exchange and trade. The starting point for all my work is research, research into which pigments played a role in a place at a particular time, and how interactions between people of that place can be traced through the presence of the same pigments in other places.
I choose pigments from three sources. For indigo I will only use fair traded indigo and I source them from India and South America. For some earth pigments there are occasions where I have sourced them from the earth itself, in Scotland with the help of a geologist, and in South Central France from my brother’s garden and around there. This requires a great deal of patience and processing. The third supply is from the shops: Generally I use Cornellissen’s because of the high quality pigment they stock and the expertise of their staff, and occassionally I use Sennelier. I combine these with oil painting media of only the very best quality, from Robersons, Hardings and occasionally a siccative or two from Jacksons.
So that’s how I get hold of them, but how do I decide which pigments to use? Well any collection is based on research into how pigment played out in a particular history or geography (and descriptions of this are at the base of all the gallery pages on this website), so for example the Bristol Presentiments Series used only pigments that were listed as having been imported through Bristol Docks in the first half of 1770. I researched this using the Bristol Library archives where they hold the Bristol Presentiment papers. These were papers published in 1770 as a kind of Yellow Pages, listing who had imported what and distributed publicaly so that people knew what they could buy from which merchant. And the period or events I choose to investigate are those that have a resonance with the Now.
And then there is the material quality of the pigment itself, how it combines with the different media, it’s chemistry, compatibility and incompatibility, opaqueness and translucency, colour fastness or fugitivity, evenness or otherwise of the coat of paint it will provide. Pigments do not all behave in the same way. You might for example use carbon black in ink with very speedy drying times, try it in oil and you must add a siccative or you will wait months for it to dry; Try a different carbon black, (there are a large number,) and it might give you a trnslucent splotchy surface where once you had an opaque even one. This is the alchemy, the place where however much you read about pigments and their qualities, however many colour encyclopedia you have swallowed there is no replacement for play, experimentation and experience. This is the place of joy and sorrows.
So I make my own paints, not just because it is a good grounding way to start my studio session each day, but because I use only the finest ingredients, I know how to make them so they will do what I want them to do, and because their provenance and history is so central to my practice, that opening that jar and handling the best quality of pigment is central to what I do.
This relationship with materials is the craft of what I do, and it has meant that I have been headhunted by Cramer and Bell for the Bergman and Mar “Makers and Craftsmen” Project in London. I will be showing and auctioned along side a range of other people who make art, furniture, ceramics, textiles with the same kind of relationship to authentic quality materials. If you are interested in visiting the curated show house please let me know and I’ll invite you along to the events when they are planned.
So May has been trundling along and we have the end of the month not far round the corner, and I have a few applications in process. One of which I had almost completed after hours of input only to see it dissappear with the wrong press of a button on the computer! I spent Monday afternoon with a migraine and today I have re-written the application but more sesibley to documnets rather than direct inputting into the screen. I have done this all before I should not be making these basic mistakes...so as well as the applications I have events coming up. I will have work on show in the Curious Duke Gallery throughout June, you are welcome to go and vists. Delivering my work to the gallery is one of my jobs next week. I addition I am slowly installing the display that will be on my walls for the Open Studios in the last weekend of June and the first in July. Please email for details. And slowly progressing in my studio are two bodies of work: The work from the Corby Glen Project using carbon blacks
And the work in the “Making Decisions in the Dark" series. Making Decisions in the Dark has arisen from the reflective process that making the Corby Glen work has prompted. So I made the proposal and did the initial ground work for Corby Glen two years ago. A two years that has represented a ground swell in support for my work and a measure of financial success. My work has developed in the subsequent years with the developments I have had in confidence, and and willingness to take more risks and take things further. the political landscape has changed too and put a little shot of urgency in there. In realising the contraints I put into the Corby Glen Proposal, by completing a bosy of that work now, I have been prompted to make a counterbalancing freer body of work along side of it. Work that is far more seductive in the making as it puts me in to a flow state. Such a flow state that I was only forced to stop when I ran out of space to dry work and canvas surfaces to out work on. And I wonder if the migraine I have been having is because where I really need to be is back in there reentering the flow.
“Making Decisions in the Dark” 2019, hand mixed oil on canvas, 100x100cm
In the last few weeks I have been in a position to collect and select pigments from geographically specific areas. I have been sent carbon black from a wood fired chimney in Corby Glenn. I have collected Ochre from the hillsides near Loch Tay and I have been given industrial carbon from Middlesborough. At the back of all my work is the way in which pigments playout in human history, how they hold the sotires of our interactions. The material trace left by human interaction in the form of colour.
I am currently working on a series of paintings for the Corby Glenn Project, and the pigments that seem to me to be most associated with that place are the carbon blacks made with wood. The building I will be exhibiting in was built by a 17th century wood importer. The family at the centre of the village arrived to build a Catholic church, and were carpenters, and still are, though also farmers. there is still a wooden mill in Corby Glen though now at the outskirts rather than the centre of the village. Wood is at the heart of Corby Glenn. And with the help of Graham, who requested and sent me soot from the local chimney sweep I have the basis for creating carbon black
Care has to be taken and I use EU regulation fine particle masks and cover the pestle and mortar with plastic sheet to make sure the dust doesn’t spread. Once it is made into paint it is safe . I did smell like a bonfire though!
The other pigemnt source I raided was the earth in Scotland. I visted my geologist partner in crime and we sourced ochres from the lanscape near to her lovely holliday house. She spotted the sources and we collected together. The process for preparing the pigment is more complicated and requires the removal of plant matter and silicates, so includes sieving, washing precipitating and filtering. I got some advice from my lovely friend Bina Shah who has a practice based on using natural pigments and is an old hand at cleaning them up... she explained to me about how to get the sand out. there’s a little animation on my instagram you can watch if you like by pressing the button below
And then there is a more biographical pigment... the Needham branch of my family were Sheffield cutlers and as a result involved in the steel industry. My parents came to see me on the way to visit my Uncle from the other side, and were chatting about his collection of carbon rods which he had bought when the steel works in Middlesborough closed down, so I asked if I could have a few. And they brought some back with them, so I have a very different grade of hard carbon from that, coated in copper, so will be able to make both another carbon black and verdigris.
I don’t usually process my own pigments in this way, I usually buy them from Cornellisen’s , or I buy fair traded indigo. However there is something very satisfying in this process for work which has a geographical specificity. Knowing that the materials which are traceable to the source actually come from a source which is local.
So what is it like on standing on your stand at an art fair? The work was made, the labels printed, the no-show van disaster averted and there I was five minutes before the doors open finding someone to check I had fully zipped the back of my dress...what’s it like?
The party music was on and the people started to arrive, loads of people, The Other Art Fair team had done a spectacular job of publicity and the place was buzzy and busy with art-interested people. The artists on the stands around me were all friendly, some people I had met before and some new faces, and that is one other thing about the Other Art Fair the artist community is lovely. I had had essential help from another artist friend Rachel Dein, in getting my stand ready and keeping myself together, a special thank you goes to her.
So there I was and people were queuing up the street and coming through the doors to an event I was part of. I was excited and nervous.
And then a magical thing started to happen. In the bustle, a person would slow down, stop, take time and look. A stillness fell on them, a focus entered their eyes, sometimes a blush would creep up from their neck into their cheeks, and in that moment I knew it was all right. I had done what I meant to do.
Eendraght, Hand mixed oil on canvas, 120x200cm work in progress
By the end of the second half of the 18th century a further level of use of force came into play as the rates of press ganging privateer crews into the crews of admiralty ships became more common with the build up of navy forces. Merchant ships on the transatlantic routes were involved in slavery, the crew might be press ganged, the ship captured by privateers or pirates, and the relationships between private traders and the state were complex and intertwined. The period of the Anglo-Dutch wars was broken by periods of trade and an uneasy peace, while the practice of capturing ships under licence did not entirely go away.
Echoes of the Privateers,
hand mixed oil on wood, with coppered edges
work in progress
So I am starting the year making work that creates spaces echoing with those particular stories of trade, of privateering, the slave trade and the kinds of violence associated with shifts in power and what happens when trade wars become real wars. When competing desires for money and power are left raw and unconstrained so only the most violent, most forceful will win, and power is in flux, and without accountable agreement.
These initial works are in indigo, but there will be others using red and yellow ochres, smalt and madder.
This is in preparation for the fairs that I will be doing in London in spring, The Other Art Fair which will be at the Truman Brewery in March and Roy’s People Art Fair which will be at Oxo Tower Wharf in April. Look out closer to the time for ticket links to both.
When the Fog Comes Down
hand mixed oil on wood with coppered edges
work in progress
All the works shown on this post are incomplete, and this is illustrative of the way that I work on collections. Hand mixing oils and using organic pigments requires long drying times, and layering and varnishing processes need dry lower layers. My studio is currently pretty full of work at various stages, surfaces being prepared, works on the go, finished, almost finished and only just started. While making a collection I like to work in this way so that there is a real relationship between the pieces, they flow into each other, influencing each other and enriching one another. At the point of writing I am waiting for the commissioned giant to be picked up and shipped out which will create more space in a couple of days time, allowing me to grow the collection some more.