Wednesday, 6 July 2016


Sculptor Des Hughes
Through my membership of Eastside Projects’ ‘Extra Special People’ I enjoyed the opportunity yesterday to meet ‘1-2-1’ with artist sculptor Des Hughes at the gallery about my own work. I’d applied hoping that the common ground we seemed to share in our individual interest in transforming the everyday and familiar in our practise might be of interest to him and getting some valuable critical feedback on my current work.
Des Hughes, 'Do You Think Of Me Often?', 2011
I really like Des’s sculptures-they are right up my street. I enjoy the skill and craft of the work, but also the wit and imagination and all the different contextual and historical references that they explore, play and converse with, both materially and conceptually.  (You can see some examples through this post). 

I’m pleased to report that Des was exactly the same in person and we seemed to get on well. The conversation flowed easily for twice our allotted slot of 45 minutes and he seemed to engage seriously and have a keen sensitivity to many of the issues I am trying to explore in my own work. This was in relation to my own interest in the craft, materials and process of my work, but also pushing me to think more about the ideas behind the work, what I am trying to say, which is something I’m not as confident about. It all seems to have multiple possible meanings and associations, which is ok on one hand, but also hard to discuss coherently. We talked about my relationship with the places I’m depicting, with Des stressing that, for him, it was ‘all about the spaces’ in the paintings: the spaces that the trucks occupy and the spaces in the trucks themselves. I’m left thinking about that most keenly, and feel that my new large paintings are my attempt to explore some of those issues. 
Des Hughes, 'Rust Never Sleeps',  2015
I had taken three of the more modest sized paintings to discuss as well as looking at my website, which he had viewed before our meeting. Des was also very enthusiastic about the new black and white digital i-pad prints I have made, which I laid out on a long bench in the gallery. I’ve now made nearly twenty of these, and Des commented how he thought the scale of them worked perfectly, which is what I think, but you never know how other people will respond. I took these hoping to gauge a more objective response, as these digital works are a new development for me, and so I was really pleased by his enthusiasm., and we discussed how best to present them which is a dilemma I have. I hope to exhibit some of them in the group show I am putting together with Hugh and Andy in August. 
Des and I are the same age, and completed our Foundation Courses at Bournville College of Art in Birmingham at the same time. I recognised in him the same passion and commitment to making work that I have. He’s just managed to translate that into being much more successful as an artist than I have! (I’m referring to him being able to support himself full-time through his work).   

As I ate breakfast this morning I stared at my bookshelves filled with countless art books and monographs, which I can afford now, but also the countless small catalogues I used to acquire and read and take to the studio to inspire over the many years when I had no money at all but still painted as if my life depended on it. As I get older, you do wonder what it is you are doing and why, as I know I am never going to translate any of this hard work and conviction into anything more successful, and I think that gets even harder as you get older. And also you make all this ‘stuff’ that accumulates and accumulates, and yet I can’t seem to stop. Nor do I want to.

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Late Shift...

oil on canvas, 200 x 150cms, 2016
If you had been wondering what I’ve been working on in the last few months (though I don’t imagine anyone has!), it has been this large (200 x 150cms) painting. This is the third, and final, painting of this size which I had originally embarked upon for my show at Wolverhampton Art Gallery which was scheduled in May earlier this year. I had planned to create these three paintings specifically for the gallery space, and had stretched and primed all three large canvasses when I decided to pull out of the show. Still, having made the commitment to these pieces I was determined to see them through. I thought they would hopefully stretch and extend my work with this lorry theme into more challenging and formally complex areas. This has certainly been the case, particularly with this final painting which has taken me three months to complete.
 Artic Landscape, oil on canvas, 200 x 150cms, 2015-16
oil on canvas, 200 x 150cms, 2016

It has gone through many different, although often slight, stages to get to something I am satisfied with. It depicts a transport hub seen from the roadside above, with a large warehouse in the background and a line of trucks sitting at the edge of the interior space. The middle and foreground depicts a large, empty, concrete space with a group of pallets huddled together near the front. These ‘zones’ of space and the geometry have been very difficult to realize in terms of colour and treatment, and have been continually redrawn, repainted, rubbed down and tried again. I could never seem to quite get there.  At one point I thought I had got there and repainted the sky only to return the next evening to find the paint from this re- painted section had run all over the rest of it. Bugger.  In some ways though, I didn’t mind. I like how these disasters force you to think and push on again and resolve them. I don’t normally just touch up a painting to recover it, I tend to try something completely different, which is what I did this time. I repainted nearly the whole thing in about an hour and a half with lots of paint and large brushes. 

The painting is an attempt to explore more explicitly the abstraction in the image, but also approach an idea about the presence of an entirely man-made landscape scene and it’s otherworldly, alien qualities. It is obviously a place of human activity, but that also seems very absent too. Anyway…it’s hard just now to judge it that well having worked and lived with it for quite a long time. I know I am ready to leave it on its own at least.

Tomorrow, through my association with Eastside Projects in Digbeth, Birmingham, I am having a discussion/crit about my work with sculptor Des Hughes as part of their 1-2-1 scheme which I’m looking forward to. He too is interested in the transformation of the banal and everyday in his sculptural objects so I’m hoping it will be useful to talk with him.