For those in peril..

Flier

My first solo show in a gallery since 2014, and my most ambitous project yet. For those in peril.. will include 18 paintings, 4 sculptures and an ambient audio backing, and will take the viewer on a journey from Liverpool to Murmansk and back, seeking to evoke a sense of what it was like to sail on the Arctic Convoy runs of 1941-45 as an ordinary merchant seaman on a general cargo vessel.

The Exhibition is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the sailing of the most famous convoy, PQ17. Central to the exhibition will be a series of paintings presenting the journey through the eyes of an ordinary merchant seaman engaged in the Arctic Convoy runs of 1941-45. The sailor will not be identified in order to avoid over personalising an endeavour that more than 66,000 sailors participated in, with over 3,000 losing their lives as a result. However, the journey depicted will be that of the SS Navarino, a 4,841 tonne general cargo ship typical of the British merchant fleet at the time, and sunk from the middle of PQ17 on the 4th July 1942. Whilst the magnificent efforts of the Royal Navy will not be ignored, the exhibition is intended as an homage to the work of (extra)ordinary civilians who, on unarmoured and largely unarmed merchant ships, ensured that the essential equipment to keep the Russian front supplied kept flowing in one of the most important and least known theatres of the Second World War.

I have planned the exhibition as an installation constructed from discrete forms. In so doing I hope to explore the possibilities of overcoming the limitations of narrative art through the chronological arrangement of journey pieces, and the careful placing of ambient works. The painting I have chosen for the flier is Starshell Nights, which will be placed roughly at the midpoint of the journey, and can be seen without text below.

Starshell Nights

Starshell Nights

All are welcome to the opening event, if you can’t make that day the show will run for three weeks, and it would be lovely to greet you there 🙂

 

 

Prelude

Prelude

Prelude

2 days out of Hvalfjord, weather and visibility worsening. The SS Navarino highlighted by the evening light, struggling against the rising seas. An eerie beauty hides the cold, spray freezing to razor shards of ice, driven by the relentless wind.

Another development piece for my next show, getting close now (7 weeks to go 🙂 ) and I’m really looking forward to it.

Alpha

Alpha

Alpha

Development work on my forthcoming exhibition themed on the Arctic Convoys of 1941-1945 continues. Alpha hints at the threat from German surface raiders to the convoys and references the Tirpitz, who’s short sortie on July 3rd 1942 was enough to cause the admiralty to order the convoy to scatter and the escort to turn back.

Quite pleased with the looser feel to this piece, in developing work for the exhibition I am constantly trying to balance the narrative component (which leans towards representation) and my more expressive style, without doing a Turner 🙂 The exhibition will use paintings, sculpture and audio effects to create an installation comprised of discrete stand alone works that combine to convey a diachronic experience – a tall order as the elements are all synchronous but I’m fascinated by the possibilities, in particular of challenging the traditional concept of an exhibition.

I shall be showing a much larger version of Alpha in the show, where I hope it’s looming presence will contribute a sense of unease to the viewers. The show, titled For Those In Peril, is by way of an homage to the thousands of merchant navy seamen and women who risked and gave their lives to maintain the defence of the USSR, and the members of the Navies of Britain, Russia and America who defended them, in possibly the most important and least regarded action of the fight against fascism. It opens on June 23rd, at Gage Gallery, Sheffield UK, and will run until July 12th, hope you can join me there 🙂

 

 

The Dead Telly Set

The Dead Telly Set

The Dead Telly Set

2015, and I’m walking on a beach in Majorca, and stumble across a TV screen lying in the sand on the tide line. Fantastic, I thought, I’ll use that image. Fast forward to 2017, fake news is all around, opinion is presented as ‘alternative facts’, logic, science and rational thought overthrown by dogma, bigotry and hate. Seemed the perfect time to create this, sometimes you just have to laugh.

 

 

The Wasteland of Your Desires

the-wasteland-of-your-desires

I viewed the news that the Republicans were threatening to withdraw from the Paris Accord  and dismantle or scrap the Environmental Protection Agency with some alarm, and more than a hint of concern about what this might mean. Of course, I understand these are moted actions, and yet to become real, and I understand that the people behind the moves are long time climate change deniers, a fact that I somewhat bizzarely find comforting.

Comforting may seem a strange word here. I chose it carefully, because even climate change deniers in the White House, bad though that undoubtably is, can be fought against. The alternative that reared its ugly  face in my mind when I heard the news was that the battle, even the war, has indeed been lost. That the environmental destruction we have wrought has meant that we have reached the tipping point, have squandered our ability to ameliorate our impact on our planet and are now gearing up to fight the resource wars that will surely be one result of the impact of global warming.

Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I think there is enough that is evidently and indentifiably wrong with the way we coexist in the public and verifiable domain, and feel no need to go chasing after alternative facts. However, I do struggle to understand the existence of climate change deniers. There are vested interests in operation, but I doubt that an emerging technology would have enough backing to mean that 97% of scientists would support it’s attack on the fossil fuel industry, a long established and extremely powerful lobby. I do find it easier to believe that there is a recognition of how fragile the consumption/sustainability balance is, and a strategic difference of opinion about how to respond. It is my fear that the new administration have decided that global warming is a fait accompli, and are thus responding to it, giving up efforts to ameliorate against it, that inspired The Wasteland of Your Desires , another work in what I am starting to consider my Pathway Series.

Food for thought, but of course it is worth bearing in mind that conspiracy requires capacity. Far more likely that the cynical self-interest of Populism will lead to the same end, unwittingly. Still the same end though, these are worrying times.

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to rust

image

The decision to create a particular painting is a complex process. What am I trying to say; what is the best composition to get the point across without either labouring it, or drifting so far into the realms of the obscure that meaning becomes lost; how big should it be; is paint even the right medium? There are of course many answers to all these questions, and none are necessarily right (or wrong).

My reasons for painting Lost Motion are, I hope, evident in the work. My reasons for choosing the style, colour palette and subject are less complex. I delight in rust, in depicting it, and in all that it implies. Rust speaks of impermanence, of decay, of the inevitable return of matter to element, of a recognition that our works are but a tiny scratch upon the surface of one of an infinite number of planets in an infinite universe. It’s also fun to paint, a challenge to get right but so satisfying when it works.

The other elements in the work flowed from the rust. I wanted a sense of massiveness, and the 140 x 103cm dimensions of this work help with that. I wanted a sense of an abrupt stop, and the use of organic materials to both build surface and also refer to nature’s gradual reclamation work helped with that. Just as well, it is also a challenge to use painting knives on a 3D surface, and part of the process was learning to handle my new 8″ and 10″ bladed knives, a gift from my Sister 🙂 Finally, I needed a device that suggested a relationship between the figurative and landscape/Industrialscape elements of the painting. Without the viewer even knowing what the object represented in the work is, the rust provides the clue.

Lost Motion is the third of my explorations into using materials within a painting, the second piece I have done this year, and the first of a new series exploring the complexities of our position in and the potentials of the technological age. I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed painting it.

Once, we took a stand

june-26th-heavy-weather

June 26th Heavy Weather

On July 4th 1942 a British merchant ship was sunk near Spitzbergen, torpedoed by german bombers. She was the SS Navarino, and was just one of 21 ships that were sunk on convoy activities in the North Sea that day. In total 84 merchant ships and 18 warships were lost on Arctic Concoy duty, and 2,773 sailors lost their lives as a result. The Navarino was carrying goods to Russia, goods that would help the Russians defeat the Nazi’s on the Eastern front, and ultimately ensure that the scourge of Facism sweeping Europe would be defeated.

Many ordinary people came together to ensure that victory, people from all countries, races, ethnicities and religons. They fought, and died, to preserve the freedom of people from totalitarianism,  and when the war was over determined that the Europe they had defended would not be the same. In the UK a post war consensus of high taxation, regulation and a strong welfare state emerged, working people were not prepared to accept the old order that had immiserated them throughout the industrial revolution. In a Europe sickened by the genocidal idealogy of Fascism after seeing the evidence of the Holocaust new constitutions were adopted that, together with the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights, enshrined an explicit set of civil and political rights for all persons within the jurisdiction of its member states, whether those individuals are aliens, refugees, stateless persons, or citizens.

Why the history lesson? Because now, once again, we have the spectre of a people demonised, of people caught up in wars not of their making being turned away from safety and succour because of where they come from. Of people already granted right to remain being refused reentry to the US after going on holiday, barred from their homes, jobs, families and pets. Donald Trump’s Muslim ban makes no sense. It has nothing to do with the war on terror, the countries of origin of the people affected are not the ones the 9/11 bombers came from, and the exclusion from the ban of countries that Trump has business interests in, countries that are major buyers of US arms, simply highlights his hypocrisy.

The ban is and can only be designed to ensure that the fear of terrorism instilled in ordinary decent people is converted to hatred. That the economic misery of the workng class suffering the loss of income and ultimately work as a result of the market logic of neo-liberalism is directed away from capitalism. This is a coldly calculated action to recreate the anti-Jew hysteria of 1930’s Germany, and it is heartening to see how much resistance there is to it in the US, and how much condemnation and expressions of solidarity are coming from ordinary working people in the States, and worldwide.

In the UK our prime minister refused to condem the ban, and has only suggested that she would ‘make representations’ if British citizens were affected. In a probably inadvertent mirror of Chamberlain’s statement in 1939 (The way Germany treats Jews is up to Germany, it has nothing to do with Britain) she commented through a spokesperson “Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government”    after going on to add that she disagreed with the ban. Wooh, strong words Theresa 😦

Faced with a world going to hell increasingly rapidly, and unable to escape or ignore the parallels with the rise of Nazi Germany, a rise fuelled by the unwillingness of people to challenge a hate fuelled idealogy until it was to late, my only choice as an artist is to speak out. Art itself cannot change anything, I am not so naive as to belive that, but I do believe that art can highlight the need for change, can serve as the mirror through which others can see a different view of the world. The convoy series shows a world in which people came together, and died together, to fight hatred, to preserve their freedom to do as they wished in so far as that did not affect anybody else’s right to do the same. It’s that spirit, and the one that saw the rise of the post-war consensus, that we need right now.