Category Archives: General

Blake, Cornell, and Marlow, all in one evening!

I had a glorious evening at the Royal Academy of Arts last week. After a busy week, I had the pleasure of starting my Friday evening in the splendid surroundings of the Reynolds Room for an in conversation with Sir Peter Blake and Tim Marlow. They were discussing the work of Joseph Cornell and relating Blake’s interest in collecting to that of Cornell. The event was part of a programme of events running alongside the fantastic exhibition Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust.

Sir Peter Blake and Tim Marlow in conversation

I have long been an admirer of Blake’s work and also fascinated by his collections. I loved the Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at the Barbican Gallery earlier this year in which a sample of his collection and artwork featured and The Museum of Everything’s collaboration with Blake back in 2011, also displaying some of his magnificent collections.

I’ve always been a collector, or perhaps more accurately, a hoarder. Both of my parents are hoarders so I don’t think I stood a chance! I believe that there’s a correlation between hoarding and creativity. The reason I can’t call myself a collector is that none of my gathered categories are large or precious enough to really call them a collection, except for my obsession with masks. I’ve made bodies of artwork about collecting but on the whole, I can justify most of my strange accumulations (and behaviour in general for that matter) by saying “it’s for an art project”. I’ve even got my family involved in the madness, collecting flies from windowsills and saving pepper seeds for me.

I was therefore very interested to hear Peter Blake describing the distinction between his and Cornell’s collecting. Blake collects things that appeal to him for the sake of making a collection and having them. They may well inspire and artwork and he enjoys appropriately appropriating the work of those he admires. And of course, one of these artists is Joseph Cornell. Cornell was also an avid collector of objects and maps and things but these accumulations were for the purposes of making things from them. They were carefully categorised but so as to facilitate his making.

Sir Peter Blake

I’ve loved Cornell’s work ever since I encountered it many years ago. I love it for it’s immediacy and accessibility. You don’t need to be an art-world aficionado to understand it, in fact that might even hamper someone’s appreciation of it. One simply needs to look and allow themselves to enter the world he’s created for them to explore.

Sir Peter Blake first encountered Cornell in the mid 1950s. He talked about acquiring his first Cornell box from a dealer or ‘procurer’ as he put it! It was a swap for a painting from Blake which he never quite got around to doing. Cornell’s work rose greatly in worth and the box was taken back. Apparently the plaster at the back had begun to crack a little and Blake wasn’t sure what to do about that anyway.

With their timeless quality, I can’t help wondering if they look even better today with a bit of decay.

I learnt that Cornell never studied as an artist and worked as a textile salesman before losing his job in the Great Depression. He made work through collage and his own unique assemblage that came naturally to him.

Blake described his own artistic practice as tree-like. The trunk is a figurative painter, and the branches follow explorations into engraving, etching, sculpture, and so on.

Blake talked about Tony Curtis who was a fan of Cornell and collected 6 of Cornell’s boxes before starting to make his own! Blake has also been inspired by Cornell but his versions are more subtle appropriations. He showed us an example after the talk which was a real treat to see.

I took delight in visiting the exhibition after the talk. It was amazing to see so many examples all at once. I felt transported into Cornell’s imaginary world.

Joseph Cornell 'Pharmacy' 1943 at the Royal Academy of Arts

How amazing that Cornell never travelled. He knew the world and beyond so well through his extensive reading and fascination with maps and star charts. It feels as though his art making was his exploration, escaping so far beyond his local streets with his own imagination. He cared for his mother and brother and it seems as though there’s a sense of yearning, nostalgia, and oppression in his art. Expansive worlds confined within restrictive boxes.

Cornell’s intuitive and poetic way of making art shines through. On exploring the exhibition after the talk, the sense of these being little Wunderkammer or Cabinets of Curiosity shone through. Not big, show-off displays but little private universes. Cornell achieved everything I hoped to in my ‘Surface Views‘ series but didn’t, perhaps because I was thinking too much or even because I was attempting to cast grey magic…

Cornell enjoyed the surreal art of the time but denounced the ‘black magic’ of it’s subversive and erotic elements. He, instead, wanted to cast a ‘white magic’ with his work of the innocence and games of youth and that sense of discovery with open eyes.

The whole evening made me feel transported by white magic.

Turps Painting Programme Show 2015

Turps Painting Programme Show 2015

We would be very pleased to see you at our Turps end of year show, opening Friday 10 July at Turps Gallery. We will also open our working studios so you can have a nose through all the other stuff we’ve made, and are currently working on, over the last couple of months.

We hope that this approach of displaying a taster in the galleries and then seeing a real snapshot of the whole practice will make for a more interesting visit than turning everything into a degree show style format.

We’d be delighted if you come and join us for a drink and see what we’ve been up to as a result of our year of painting at Turps. The Turps Painting Programme is a studio based professional practice mentoring scheme including friendly and honest talks from visiting artists alongside mentoring from the team of truly excellent mentors.

The programme focuses on painting, encouraging wide ranging dialogues on the subject in an increasingly digital world where I feel that the pleasure of the slow act of observing and encountering a painting in real life will never die.

Many of us, including myself, have gained so much from the experience, that we are continuing next year.

The show will remain open over the weekend of 11 and 12 July, 11am-5pm. I’ll be around on the Sunday from 11am-2pm and at the opening. It’s also possible to view by appointment only on Wednesday 15 July. If you’d like to come along that day then please let me know and I can arrange for someone to show you around.

Art Car Boot Fair, Brick Lane, Sunday 14 June 2015

Art Car Boot Fair 2015

This Sunday 14 June I’m taking part, along with my Turps Banana Studio Programme peers, in the Art Car Boot Fair just off Brick Lane.

We’d love to see you there for this fun event where you can snap up incredible art bargains as we raise funds for the bar for our end of year show next month. Other bargains can be snapped up from amazing artists including Gavin Turk, Sir Peter Blake, Tracey Emin, Polly Morgan, and Bob and Roberta Smith among many others. It’s well worth a visit!

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015

I’m proud to announce that my quirky painting ‘Norman’ has been selected for this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Norman hides in plain sight. People walk past him and don’t realise who he is or what he’s been through. But when people see him, he reveals his secrets. He shows the fragility trapped behind his hard, masculine, weathered exterior. Is he just a workhorse, a utilitarian object or do his battered ribs show the life he’s led and survived? A badge of honour. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Once discovered, Norman has stories to tell from all that he has learnt, all that he has seen as a fly on the wall whilst the world acts out oblivious….

It was selected by art heroes Bill Woodrow and Alison Wilding for the Sculpture Room located in the Royal Academy’s Lecture Room, the first gallery on the right as you enter.

Varnishing Day, Royal Acedemy Summer Exhibition 2015

This year’s theme of colour devised by Michael Craig Martin gives the exhibition a joyful atmosphere. Perhaps some of the works compete against their colourful backgrounds but I like the invigorated atmosphere of the show.

I like how my almost monochromatic painting sits rather surreally against the sky blue walls of the Lecture Room. When I showed it in Turps Gallery for our interim show, I displayed it incredibly subtly, near the toilet door, and very low. It was tucked way below one of the ventilation grilles that inspired it. Many people didn’t notice it as a work on display but I was playing with observation and realisation.

'Norman' at Turps Gallery

I’m thrilled that it’s been placed so prominently in the Royal Academy and given such space in a generally jam packed salon hang! That the audacious humour of the piece was appreciated and for it to be hung with such prominence in such an establishment is an honour and a delight.

Just to the right of me are further art heroes Cornelia Parker and Richard Wilson!
The Summer Exhibition opens tomorrow until August 16th. If you go, please keep an eye out for Norman #1029

Varnishing Day, Royal Acedemy Summer Exhibition 2015

If you can’t make it along to the exhibition, then you can see everything in the exhibition on the new browsing feature on the RA website. You can find my work by it’s catalogue number 1029.

Turps Spring Show at No. 4A Gallery in Malvern

Each of the Turps Painting Programme participants will be showing a painting in this warm and intimate space in Malvern. If you’re in the area, we’d be delighted if you come and see the exhibition.

Private view 23 April 6.30-8.30
Exhibition 24 April – 15 May
Weds 12.30-4pm
Thurs/Fri 10am-4pm
Sat 10am-1pm

No, 4A Gallery
4A North Malvern Road
Malvern
Worcestershire
WR14 4LT

Turps Interim Show 2015

Our Interim Show for the Turps Studio Painting Program 2015 opens on Thursday 19 March 6.30-9.30pm. Each of the 16 painters will be showing selected work from our year on the Programme so far.

The Turps Studio Programme, affiliated with the wonderful Turps Banana Magazine, provides a dynamic structure of: mentoring, peer-led learning, talks and visitors within an open studio environment.

This intensive and supported one year programme stimulates conversation and debate, through discourse and practice, advancing individual development.

– See more at: http://turpsbanana.com/art-school#sthash.UaHdKNkd.dpuf

Surface Views

I suppose that with my interests in art and psychology, it’s natural that I’d be fascinated by how people move around an art gallery and how they engage with the artworks. I love noticing things that hide in plain sight and noticing how people react to things they’d usually ignore in the context of an art gallery where one it attuned to observe and contemplate.

Estate of Serenity, Oil on hinged board, 2014, 70x60x20cm

I decided to make a body of artwork encouraging the viewer not just to look but to see.

The scale and nature of the paintings encourages a private, voyeuristic experience of the erotically banal. Rather than hitting the viewer’s peripheral vision with a large painting I wanted to create structures that encourage the viewer to come closer and engage with the painting one at a time.

Invitation, oil on hinged board, 2014, 60x20x20cm

These “Surface Views” explore surface through form, inviting the viewer into a personal space in order to contemplate memento mori through urban decay. Where nature attacks the city, we are reminded of the transient beauty and the poetic beauty of imperfection.

Opening, Oil on board in found frame, 2014, 50x60cm

They create a paradox of entropic layers of paint depicting old paint affected by time and nature through trompe l’oeil. The depth of these layers is further distorted by the three dimensional form.

The implied use value of the visible hooks and hinges deepens the paradox.

Pipewerk, 2014, Oil on hinged board, 70x60x20cm

I investigate the way in which the banal and everyday can be humorously elevated through laborious scrutiny. My paintings playfully challenge our expectations of the urban environment and investigate the psychology of space. With attention, the most ordinary details can become magical or disturbing observations.

Pipewerk installed in it's site specific location...

Springboard

I’m showing new work at this group show of Wimbledon, Camberwell, and Chelsea graduates who’ve taken part in international programmes as part of our study at UAL. I was very lucky to take part in a residency at Tokyo Wonder Site in a group of 14 second year BA students from CCW accompanied by Professor Chris Wainwright in 2009. It was a life-changing experience that has affected the art I’ve made ever since and led to a string of wonderful residencies. The show opens this Tuesday 11 Nov at 5.30pm at the Cookhouse Gallery at Chelsea College of Arts, London, SW1P 4JU, and continues until Nov 17 weekdays 12-5pm

I’m excited to be showing the first of a new series of ‘folding paintings’ that explore surface through form with the hope of encouraging the viewer not just to look but to see. Laboriously transposing surface ruptures of paint, in paint creates a paradox I hope that you will feel drawn into. I’d love for you to see it in life and hear your feedback.

Art Vend

Back in 2011 I ran a project in Tooting Market called Market POST with members of POST Artists. We made artworks, ran workshops, and created exhibitions which responded to the market, its traders and visitors. One of my favourite projects was our Tooting Pound Shop, of which there are many, but we were selling artworks. This project made us far more approachable. When we had nothing to sell in the market, people just didn’t know what to make of us. Selling artworks for a pound made us approachable and started a dialogue with the market users that had, at times, been previously too difficult to start. It was interesting to see what sold. Original drawings barely sold but the greetings cards were snapped up. It was basically about use value. It taught us a lot about the setting we were in and how art was perceived. the beauty of this was, however, that it expanded the audiences to our exhibitions and people found our space more welcoming in the future having created this approachable dialogue.

Last year I took part in the most wonderful residency in Cordoba, Spain run by Beam in Wakefiled and funded by the Leonardo Da Vinci lifelong learning programme. One of my fellow participants was the wonderful Annie Nelson who is one of the artist organisers at Woolgather Art in Leeds. She invited me to take part in their Art Vend project. This involved a commission to create 150 artworks for sale at just £1 each which could fit into vending machines, the type where you purchase a plastic sphere and there’s a surprise inside. I loved the idea of the project and racked my brains as to what to make.

I was working in the ceramics department at Escuela De Arte Dionisio Ortiz, Cordoba during the residency so a ceramic piece seemed the perfect choice. The art vend concept made me question multiples as artworks. Thinking about the whole and the fragments. A jigsaw sprang to mind as a multiple artwork and how each piece is a part of a whole but what is its value in isolation. The project seemed to question the value of artworks and of multiples so an impossible jigsaw seemed appropriate.

I created a giant jigsaw with comprising 150 rectangular raku ceramic pieces that could only really be pieced together by checking their individual edition numbers on the back but that could hopefully be treasured as individual items with merely the potential of being a part of a whole.

This piece was created using a hot kiln and then sawdust creating plumes of smoke in 42 degrees centigrade Spanish sunshine!

Each piece was individually wrapped in their plastic shells for artvend with this advice slip: Welcome to The Colony. You now own one part of a 150 piece, nearly impossible, ceramic jigsaw. Each piece is uniquely handcrafted, yet part of a whole. Will you find your neighbours? Would you want to?

Woolgather Art are now celebrating the Art Vend project with an exhibition this December and publication including all of the artworks. If you are about in Leeds at that time, please pop along to the exhibition, and seize the opportunity to collect the final limited edition artworks at only £1 each!

Turps Art School

I’m utterly thrilled to be a part of the Turps Art School. Founded on the generous principles of the wonderful Turps Banana Magazine, written by painters for painters, the studio painting programme is for practicing artists wanting to invigorate their practice through critical debate about painting with peers and mentors.

We have excellent studio space in Elephant and Castle with a lively programme of visiting artists, mentoring sessions, crits, and studio time of course. There is the most wonderful buzz in the studios. Painters who are keen to be there, to make, to experiment, to learn, to shake themselves up and challenge themselves and each other, and mentors who are there because they love teaching, not because they are there for the money and begrudging the time they are spending away from the studio which I’ve experienced elsewhere. The atmosphere is one of progress, challenge, and excitement.

I felt it was just the right time for me to do something like this. All of the fees go to teaching and studio space. None of it goes to ridiculous levels of bureaucracy, Dean’s banquets etc. The course is run by people who are passionate about nurturing debate and encouraging burgeoning painting talent. We all feel an urgency in making work and pushing ourselves and learning from one another. Some very exciting things are happening!