Busy August

Skye from Gairloch

Skye from Gairloch

Only half way through the month and I have so much on. Got back from the Scottich Highlands at the end of July, after a week of fanastic sunshine while it rained in most of the rest of the UK 🙂 This painting of the North-Eastern coast of Skye was done from a plein air paint sketch I did standing outside our tent at Big Sands in Gairloch, a lovely place, and one we hope to move too.

Sadly, I got back to discover that we have lost our gallery, Gage. This has been an integral part of our studio collective for 5 years, but now the landlord has taken it back for redevelopment – the harsh reality of cheap rents in an emerging area 😦  I am searching for a suitable replacement for the gallery, and attached arts education space, but there is a shortage of run down industrial property in the area, so we may have to move.

My recent show, For Those In Peril.. was a success, and I am looking for another venue to house it. I’ve got some interest, so I hope to be able to share some more good news with you soon (fingers crossed). Meanwhile I’m busy producing work to fill my stall in our marquee at Sheffeld’s Art In The Gardens event. This takes place over the 1st – 3rd September in the Botanical Gardens, and is always a fun event. This year I will be doing a series of landscapes, and Skye from Gairloch is the first of these. In addition I’m organising a pop-up art show to help promote a local club, to coincide with Nether Edge Farmers Market on the 17th September, and then helping put together the KIAC stall at Kelham Island Industrial Museums ‘Down By The River’ event on September 24th. And I think August is busy 🙂

 

 

 

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Last day of the show

exhibition2

Last day of my exhibition today – For Those In Peril..’ at Gage Gallery, Ball Street, Sheffield S3 8EN 11am – 6pm. 205 visitors to date, which is good for a show in the second floor of a factory complex in Sheffield’s industrial hinterland, and I have really enjoyed watching the way viewers have engaged with the show. The response has been fantastic, with ‘Powerful’ and Moving’ the most common comments in the visitor book, and seeing people taking the time to consider each piece, with an average gallery stay of 30ish minutes has been very gratifying . My most positive memory of this show though will be the two women who spent a good 5 minutes in front of each of the 24 works, talking. Naturally this got my curiosity. When they finished their tour, the younger one came up to me and explained that they were from Russia, and she had been translating the text accompanying the works for her Mother. She went on to say that they had been visiting a local street market and popped in on spec, and how happy they were to stumble across an exhibition about a subject that is well known and still valued in Russia, because it was the last thing they had expected. Made my day 🙂 Just have to find somewhere else to house it now.

 

 

The Troubadour’s tale

Desperate Measures

Desperate Measures

July 4th 1942, and Arctic Convoy PQ17 is under heavy attack by Torpedo Bombers flown from Luftwaffe air bases in Norway and Finland. The Navarino has already been abandoned and wallows ablaze in the water. The convoy is 240 miles east of Bear Island, and 800 miles still to go.

On the Panamanian registered freighter Troubador concern about a shortage of ammunition for the ships US Navy installed (and partially manned) defences has resulted in an inventive solution. On her deck she carries 3 M3 light tanks. These are armed with 37mm quick firing M5 guns, and the Troubadour’s hold contains armour piercing ammunition with tracer rounds, necessary against the well protected Heinkel HE-111 bombers the convoy faced. The decision was taken to break the seals on two tanks and the ammunition crates. 2 two man crews were assigned to man two of the tanks, and in this unusual manner she protected herself effectively enough to be one of the 11 merchant ships (of 36) that managed to get to Murmansk. Indeed, the Royal Navy were impressed enough by the approach as to recommend it to other ships in the convoy.

One of the more unusual tales of the Sea, it struck me in researching the story of the Arctic Convoys for my forthcoming exhibition just how inventive people are in the face of adversity. For merchant seamen and women, on their poorly (if at all) armed, and completely unarmoured ships the psychological impact of the unrelenting attacks of bombers and U-boats must have been huge. Human instinct tends to the fight or flight, and at 8 knots no ship can outrun an aircraft. It is admirable that in such circumstances creativity rather than panic rules, and I have titled the painting Desperate Measures in recognition of this.

Flier

 

 

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.