Tuesday, 25 June 2013


…and I came home tonight to an e-mail from Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery offering me a solo exhibition of my paintings after an application to them that I recently made! They are offering me a slot from mid January to March 2014 in their White Gallery, which can house up to 50 average sized pieces. I’m thrilled. And how gratifying it feels to be offered a show instead of having to organize one myself for a change, but above all of that how gratifying it is that they wanted to.  I’d better get busy. It could be the just the opportunity I’ve been seeking to create some really large paintings…some more big stuff…and strange and fitting that it will be scheduled just at the end of my Arts Council funding.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Stepping Out...

'Sleep', oil on canvas, 150 x 180cms (selected for Worcester Contemporary 2013)

I was delighted to hear today that two of my paintings have been selected for the Worcester Contemporary Open 2013 exhibition, which opens on July 13th at Worcester City Art Gallery. I’m delighted because the exhibition has been approached differently this year with the entrants being purely selected instead of just the previous free for all which had two strands to it: a selected exhibition (the winners), and basically another show that exhibits everyone else (the losers). I’ve always ended up in the dangerous ‘everyone else’ losers pile before, and after last time decided I wouldn’t bother again. It doesn’t do your work any favours to end up in this other show.  But with this year’s change of format and some of high profile selectors from the region, I thought I would try again. And this year I won. Hurrah.

'Silence' oil canvas, 100 x 120cms (selected for the Worcester Contemporary Open 2013)
I’ve also been approached by an artist’s group from Nottingham in the last couple of weeks to participate in an ‘Edgelands’ themed exhibition they are curating in a new artist’s run space in the city. One of the artists, photographer Sian Stammers, came across my paintings on the internet, I think from the labels on the blog posts, and asked if I would be interested, and then took my work to the rest of the group who have also agreed they would like my work to be part of their project. This is a really exciting development, and will take place in October.  It will be great to meet and work with some other artists from outside the region. The exhibition itself was also inspired by the Simmonds-Roberts and Farley ‘Edgelands’ book, which seems to have caught a fire in many ways since it’s publication, and now I’m on board Sian suggested the idea of exploring where the fringes of the East Midlands meet the fringes of the West. I can’t wait, and am meeting Sian in a couple of weeks when she will be visiting the studio.

All this is more exciting than the experience of exhibiting at the Park View Gallery in recent weeks. How come I end up exhibiting my work at the only commercial gallery that asks me for advice about selling work? That’s their job isn’t it? Perhaps telling people that my work is actually there via the website, or at least your Facebook page may be an idea…Oh well, and on we go.

Other Notes: I’ve become really into Pinterest in the last few weeks: the online pinboards where you share your passions with others in the online ether. Whereas other people seem to have all sorts of weird and wonderful boards and themes, my passions seem to somewhat predictably just centre around painting. After initially being keen to just start an ‘edgelands’ themed board as a bit of ‘research’, I’ve now got seven painting inspired boards on the go. In many ways it seems like a bit of a game or nice distraction, and I find myself quietly addicted.  Here’s a link:

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Let's Do It For The Fans....

(this next line could be the start of a very long book…) One of the many problems with painting is that you just end up making all this stuff that, unless you are very lucky and can sell it, just accumulates and has very little interest to anyone other than you, the artist, and even you end up looking at stacked up against the studio wall, occasionally taking it out to have a look at it, only to wonder ‘what was I thinking of?

It’s during these times that it’s a good idea to recycle some of the stretchers: take the paintings off, roll them up, and store them somewhere, or even destroy some of them, and make room for more work that only you want to see. You can ask yourself does the world really need another painting but it’s probably best to ignore the answer and carry on regardless.  But I don’t want this in any way to diminish the act of painting and the role painting has. It’s as good a way as any, and far better than many, way to communicate with the world, and an endlessly challenging and satisfying thing to do, it’s just that sometimes when you want to make more paintings, and I always do, you have to face up to a reality check with all this stuff sat there silently in the studio, and make some decisions about it.  And remember it is just stuff after all and have a purge. 
I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I may not sell much of this stuff, but most of the time I do have the opportunity to exhibit it and make a fair bit of income from my practice in other ways.  Selling is not really the point, it is not a commodity, it’s my expression and this means far more to me. If you wanted to make money from it, well, maybe you should think about something else, or are missing the point.  Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying I chucked loads of stuff out of the studio the other door and it felt great…I feel better about making some more paintings now.

Friday, 21 June 2013

'The highway is alive tonight...'

Grown men and women wept as he announced that they were to play the seminal ‘Born To Run’ album in its entirety as a tribute to their late friend James Gandolfini. I could hardly believe what I was seeing and hearing as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band launched into ‘Thunder Road’ last night as the evening light faded over Coventry’s Ricoh Stadium, and the band went onto play every track in sequence from one of the greatest rock n roll records ever made in what was a an absolutely spectacular performance: it was so intense and immersive, as powerful as it gets, and this was about a third of the way into a concert where we had already enjoyed about twelve surprising, jaw-dropping tracks made up largely of audience requests.  There was magic in the Midlands air and then some. 

Peculiarly, from the opening ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’, sung by Bruce alone with just acoustic guitar and harmonica for company, with it’s line, ‘the highway is alive tonight’ to the rarely performed ‘Seeds’ to ‘Death To My Hometown’, I felt there was something in the evolving setlist that reflected Bruce and the band’s date with the Midlands and it’s post-industrial landscape, not dissimilar to Bruce’s own Jersey Shore, that reflected some sort of knowledge of the history of the area on the part of Bruce (if you look at the Glasgow setlist from a couple of nights previously you can see this too). It’s been often reported how he sometimes gives large charitable donations to deserving community organisations that he seeks out in the many cities visited by the band.

With a set that eventually totaled over three hours and where your every care and worry feels lifted from your shoulders as you holler along, raise your arms, dance with everyone around you as people did where I was last night, and a staggering 31 songs played I know I will never experience a concert, an event, an experience like this again, as you head out into the night afterwards feeling ten feet tall, grinning ear to ear, happy and high. It’s why I keep coming back for more. Long may Bruce and the E Street band continue…. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Residue....

A friend and colleague directed me to the work of award winning photographer Edward Burtynsky today. His powerful photographs taken on location around the world depict the ruin of man’s industrial development on the landscape. On his website he writes:

‘Exploring the Residual Landscape

Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.

  These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire - a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.’  -->

I found myself totally absorbed in the detail of the images, simultaneously drawn in and repelled at the same time. Their bleak beauty really depressed me- it’s a world none of us want to see, but it is the world we have created for ourselves, and these photographs represent the hidden price we pay but shun away from. Check out his amazing website:

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Ships Out To Sea...

I’ve just returned from a lovely break in South West Wales with my wife, Diane and our son, Isaac (I say ‘break’ in the loosest sense of the word, as holidays with a lively four year old are not exactly relaxing if I’m honest, but still lots of fun on the whole). We found ourselves in a caravan atop a hill overlooking the sea at Little Haven, a really beautiful, unspoilt stretch of coastline with some breathtaking cliffs and long, sandy beaches and wildlife. 
Strangely sitting silently each day and night in the sea were some enormous oil tankers, forever in view and scattered across the horizon. There were up to ten sat there on somedays serving the nearby refinery at Milford Haven, which is located here because of the unusually deep waters so the tankers can get close.  I found them quite ominous looking, and couldn’t help but feel drawn to staring at them. I made several sketches on my i-pad during the week that featured them sitting dumbly, unblinkingly in the dazzling,  sparklng sea. I made these last two one evening, wandering down to a nearby lookout to paint as the sun went down. 

They were both completed very fast in just half an hour, showing just how fast the light changes as the sun went slinking away below the horizon. Each painting contains several different recorded times captured in just the one image, something that you could only really do in painting.