The road we walked before

The road we walked before

The road we walked before

The world I grew up in was very different. Pre Reagan and Thatcher, shocked by the extremities of the 1939-45 conflict, and still remembering prewar economic depression, it seemed there was a consensus about the social duty of the State. Working, health and housing conditions were on the rise, as was disposable income. It was a time of great struggles, for race, sexuality and gender equality, and it seemed that there were great victories. Facsism had not been defeated but its greatest influence was on young football hooligans looking for a fight. Overseas travel had become much more affordable, and the world seemed to be opening out.

Fast forward to now, and all that I believed was happening seemed a falsehood. How short our memories, that we have allowed ourselves to turn against each other,Β  that we have allowed our democracies to be highjacked by naked self-interest, and that once more we see the return to the idealogy of the bully. How thin the facade of our humanity that to be Black, Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Disabled or simply a woman places us under threat once more, that to be from a different country invites suspicion and hostility. Do we really walk blindly through the world once more ignoring that which does not directly affect us, condoning hate by our lack of censure, content to benefit from the discomfort of others, indeed to celebrate that discomfort? Were we pretending all along?

At a recent party, I suggested that we could learn a lot about now by looking at our past. The notion was scathingly dismissed, after all history is manipulated by the victorious and hence unreliable. True, but while memories may be short, our understanding of the rise of totalitarianism in the 1920s and 30s has yet to be overwritten.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

( Martin Niemoller 1946)


John Wilkinson – July 2018



As I mentioned in my last blog, I am working on a major new project, and I’m glad to now be able to announce it. The project has the working title (and hashtag) KurbArt, and brings street art and gallery art together by presenting public art pieces in a gallery style, separately hung to a common top line, with title/artist plaques next to each. The end result will be 13 murals running along a 400 metre wall, with work by 5 different artists.

I am producing 7 of the works, and the pictures above are work in progress images of a series I am calling Figurescapes. Broadly referencing the elements – though I have chosen Space rather than Air – these figures will be cut out and mounted to the wall. Two of my other 3 murals will be normal landscape ratio, and the final one an abstract pattern arrived at by cutting a large landscape into slices. To give a sense of scale, the figures shown are 3 metres tall.

The project is being sponsored by an imaginative developer, Citu, as part of their Little Kelham project. The brief they gave us was very loose, simply requiring that the murals paid heed to their brand values of sustainability, innovation and technology, and a commitment to tackling climate change through reduced carbon emissions. We have all approached this in different ways; the Figurescapes, and one of my landscape murals, will also highlight the importance of people to place. I aim to do this using people shaped empty spaces as well as the figurescapes to invite the viewer to place themselves in the environment.

This is a very exciting project, which will be unveiled on the weekend of the 28th/29th April 2018. I’ll post more teaser images as work progresses, next up is Water, and when that’s done I have 3m x 5m and a 3m x 7m murals to complete, which will reflect the change in the area from a decayed brownfield site to a living environment. Watch this space πŸ™‚


Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet


Work in progress – untitled


As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m currently doing a residency project. This is at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet in Sheffield, a working industrial museum that was donated to the city in 1935, and opened as a museum in 1970. I am there 2 to 3 times a week for most weeks until October 9th, and during my stay aim to produce 14 paintings. The works will mainly attempt to show the site as it was in its working heyday, engaging viewers with the working conditions prevelant at the height of the industrial revolution, though some will be drawn from the life of the Hamlet as a museum, and one or two will be my response to the various artefacts scattered around the place.

The plan is to hold an exhibition of the works during November/December 2016, subject to being able to mount the works securely without damaging the fabric of the buildings.

The site is a fascinating place to work, and I have been greatly enjoying working outdoors in the gaze of the visiting public. Capturing the place has been a challenge in many ways; I’ve been engrossed in historical research to establish missing architectural details and get a sense of the lives of the workers, and as an artist I’ve had to move away from my usual style and into the realms of realism – of which more in the next blog πŸ™‚ The response from the public has been gratifyingly positive, with many visitors taking an interest in what I’m doing, and admiring the result.

One of the exhibits is the Jessops Tilt Hammer, which was donated to the site in 1939. This behemoth sits at the entrance to the Hamlet, and is a complex mix of curves, lines and shapes formed in iron and wood, and painted black. The work in progress is the result of 3 days of sketching in pencil, charcoal and paint as I grappled with trying to capture the essence of the hammer. This is the first attempt I have had at depicting it on canvas, and I have chosen the colours of rust and the chaos of steam to express the shapes and vitality of this truly impressive relic of Victorian industrial technology. I hope you like the results so far πŸ™‚

A whole lot going on

Development Opportunity

Development Opportunity

Wow, it’s been a busy 7 weeks since I last posted. Started or completed a group of new paintings – Development Opportunity is the first in a series I’ll be doing exploring the loss of social housing in the UK. I’ve introduced a couple of new techniques into this one, and am rather happy with it – so much so that I have another painting based on it on the go with a different subject.

I’ve opened an Artfinder shop which you can find here –Β My artfinderΒ to which I’ll be adding more work over the next few months.

I’ve been busy at the studios in a different way as well. As the spring bank holiday approaches, so does our annual Open Studios event, and to prepare for it I and a couple of other members have repainted all the floors and had a huge clear out. We’ve also had the lighting upgraded, and the whole place almost looks respectable πŸ˜‰

Having a lot of work in stock means that I can respond quickly when the need arises, and I now have 7 paintings in an exhibition at The Gardeners Rest Pub on Neepsend Lane in Sheffield. A real pop-up this, got the call at 11.30am on Friday and had the work over there and installed by 12.30pm same day. The show will be up for a couple of months, so do pop in if you’re in the area πŸ™‚

Finally, I have negotiated and begun a residency at a Sheffield Industrial site, which I will write about in detail in my next blog. In the meantime, I can tell you that I will be producing 14 works from this, to be exhibited in November-December, including one feature work that we will record and share progress on over the period. It’s a good experience, and I have spent the past week working on drawings to capture the site, and help me decide what I will be doing for the feature painting from the residency.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon πŸ™‚





It’s grim up North

A couple of years ago a good friend and fellow artist, Paul Dearden, invited me to exhibit in Rotherham In a joint show – Alluvium – of local artists. The exhibition is a good example of the type of cultural event that occurs outside of London, and of the ‘can do’ attitude that I have experienced in the North. The exhibition takes place in a repurposed space, brought back to life by a group determined to ensure a viable creative hub for performance and the visual arts (Rotherham Arts Renaissance). This is far from unusual, and I have seen many shows and events in the towns and cities of the North taking place despite the absence of an established cultural infrastructure? Typically these shows are organised by the artists, who also promote them and often invigilate them as well, and every week I receive invites to many through social media. These are high quality events, and have also left me with the feeling that there is a distinct flavour to the Northern arts which distinguishes it from what I have observed of the London arts scene, and I urge people to seek it out and see for themselves what happens outside of the cultural cachet of the capital.

This year marks the third time I have shown with this group, and for 2015 I have decided to show a group of works which, while still linked to the industrial series, use colour to distance themselves from the natural landscape. The four pieces I have included are shown above, and I feel they sit very well together. The exhibition opens on Friday 6th November 6pm – 8pm and runs for three weeks. It’s at the Old Market Gallery, Market Street, Rotherham S60 1NU, and includes work by 14 artists. Well worth a visit, it’s lively and expressive up North πŸ™‚

Fuel for Growth

Fuel for Growth

Fuel For Growth

Hi all.


It’s been a while since I wrote, been very hectic recently. My show with Paul Dearden went well, the work was well recieved and I sold 4 paintings, which is always welcome πŸ™‚

I’ve been very productive recently, as I work towards my next show, Voices From The Wilderness. This is a joint show with John Ledger and will be the first public viewing of my Tryptich, …ou la mort,Β  which I’m excited by πŸ™‚ There will also be quite a few new pieces, and Fuel For Growth is the most recent of these. Another quite small one, but quite a challenge to get right. I hope you enjoy it.







Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage

The closure of Hatfield Colliery two weeks ago, and that of Thoresby Colliery on the 10th July leaves one deep pit open in the UK, Kenningley, which is due to close by the end of the year. The arguments for and against coal as a source of energy are complex, but whatever its future, in the immediate it is still relevant, as is our capacity to extract it. That Britain will still need coal, with 15 coal fired plants being fitted with carbon capture devices and burning 50million tons of imported coal annually, is not in question. That these pits, and many others already closed, are sitting on an estimated 200 years of coal supply is also not in question. The economic insanity of destroying the UK’s primary and industrial capacity in order to destroy the unions is well documented, its impact still it seems poorly understood. It was necessary to allow the new economics of Reagan and Thatcher, and imported coal is cheaper because it’s largely dug by ununionised labour in dangerous conditions. All these things are a backdrop to the social cost of the collapse of industry, the communities destroyed, and life torn apart by the harsh reality of having the only economic reason for the existence of your town or village removed. It is this that I have focused on in my latest painting, as a reminder that lost jobs can be lost lives.

I completed ‘Collateral Damage’ whilst invigilating our current exhibition – Elemtents of Place’. It’s very useful having an exhibition space attached to the studios, and this is the second work I have finished over the course of the show. I will report back on this in my next blog, but overall the show has been well received and so far I have sold four paintings, which is always a boost πŸ™‚

Cheers. John