Nightlife

Nightlife

Nightlife

The area my studio is located in, Kelham Island, is a rapidly changing place. When I got to Sheffield in 1990 it was a decayed landscape; half derelict factories, some still housing light industry, set among the wasteland of it’s industrial past. Nobody lived there, after sundown it’s main visitors were the kerb crawlers and their targets, and the drug addicts seeking a space were they could be undisturbed and (relatively) safe. It wasn’t radically different in 2012 when I joined Kelham Island Arts Collective. There were some new build flats, a trendy cafe and a posh restaurant had replaced one of the greasy spoons, but it was still possible to take low rent spaces in one of the many crumbling factories, an ideal (and perhaps typical) location for artists.

Fast forward 7 years and though the surface looks the same behind the facades much has changed. A plethora of housing development has meant a large resident population, and there is a strong sense of community emerging. Much of the development pays at least lip service to the visual identity of the area’s history. New businesses emerging these days are micro-breweries, craft bakeries and the like, and sympathetic zoning by the local authority means less pressure for change of use, protecting the existing light industries. Day and night the Island is much more vibrant, pubs, cafes, restaurants and wine bars abound, and post sundown the visitors much more wholesome (if no quieter). Indeed, the area has recently won an Urban Renewal Award. Let’s be clear – this is not gentrification. No one lived here,  there has been no clearance, either of industry or residents. As an artist it’s a great place to be, and in painting Nightlife, I pay homage to the intelligent redevelopment of brownfield sites.

 

 

 

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It’s been a while

Against the tide

Against the tide

Shocked that I haven’t posted anything since July last year, or updated the Artworks section to include all of my last 15 months output. Take it as a consequence of the the realities of life as a self-representing artist. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are my main media platforms, and attractive to me because they seem to require less consideration (yes, I agonise over every word, and knowing that it’s unnecessary doesn’t help 🙂 ). Anyway, I will update this site over the next month, and for now here’s a painting I completed last July.

Against the tide fits into a new series I’ve been working on, Pathways, and will feature in my next exhibition, in July. The painting is a shout out to anyone who feels disconnected in an everchanging, bewildering and often hostile world. You are not alone.

Back on the street

Battle of the giants final40pc

Battle of the Giants

The requistioning of horses during the 1914-18 war gave Sheffield’s industry a considerable problem. The horse was still the main means of transport, including that of moving goods and industrial plant around the City. One company came up with an unusual solution to the problem; Thomas Wards, a scrap dealer, leased an elephant from a menagerie in the city, and used her to help transport metal scrap and machinery around Sheffield, a vital contribution to the war effort. The elephant, Lizzie, was reputed to have overturned a steam traction engine, and I have depicted the aftermath of this, and placed the event in front of the Sheffield Tramways power station that is now the site of Kelham Island Industrial Museum.

In the 1980’s I worked for a community murals organisation in North London. We created murals in schools, hospitals, and a railway station, great fun and I learnt a lot. Now, 29 years later and I’m doing the same again, and loving it. I had been wondering for a while how my current, industrial inspired style would work as street art, and have  been given the opportunity to find out thanks to an exciting initiative generated by the Kelham Island Community Alliance (KICA Facebook page).

The Kelham Island Arts & Cultural Heritage Trail started as an anti-graffiti measure, with a particular focus on telecommunications cabinets (those green steel boxs that have become such a feature of street furniture). It was recognised that taggers were less likely to spray over street art, and so a project to generate murals on all 27 of the cabinets was born.

The brief calls for artworks reflecting the cultural, environmental, industrial and social history of the area, and the individual boxes are sponsored by local businesses. The cabinet I painted is sponsored by a company called The Suit Works, who have a very positive approach to tackling unemployment (a subject very dear to me) – check them out Suitworks website

The Suitworks are a social enterprise, and were able to sponsor the cabinet due to support from Jerry Ibberson, whose family were Sheffield Cutlers, at the Violin Works in the centre of town Brief history of Ibbersons.  In recognition of this, I have include a Violin in the painting, propped up in the bottom R/H corner.

Waterwheel

Waterwheel

Being a 3d work, I had and interesting time coming up with a cohesive design. One side panel references the River Don, the power source that enabled the growth of Sheffields industry.

BOTG Tram end

Sheffield Tram on Mowbray Street

The other shows a Sheffield Tram coming down Mowbray Street, appropriate given that the central panel shows the power station that generated electricity for the tramways network in the city.

So far three cabinets have been completed, and you can see them below. From left to right the works are by me, Simon Wigglesworth Baker, and James Croft. I also have a commission for a 4th, and we expect more to be completed over the next year. An exciting initative and one that I’m proud to be part of. I would like to thank KICA for the opportunity, and once again the Suitworks and Jerry for making it possible.

The first 3

My, Simon’s and James’s cabinets brightening up Ball Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

 

 

New Series

unloading-murmansk

 

The Abbeydale Exhibition is up until December 31st, I have 5 paintings in a show in Rotherham, and an affordable art fair and exhibition to curate at the end of November, and a commission. What better time to start work on a new series 🙂

Unloading – Murmansk is the first in a group of paintings that will be drawn from the experiences of ordinary men and women serving to support the Arctic Convoys of 1941 – 1944. The paintings will be exhibited in July next year, to commemerate the 75th anniversary of convoy PQ17. This series continues the focus on untold history that is an emerging theme within my work. We know much about the Royal Navy’s role in the convoys, less about the civilians who played the most essential role in an action that arguably won the war. Thankyou for looking and I hope the painting engages you 🙂