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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Reflections on a memory

Reflections on a memory

Reflections on a memory

Last year I stumbled across the old Guest & Chrimes steelworks in Rotherham, part demolished in a wasteland behind the football ground. The site has inspired a number of paintings, and the first of these is Reflections on a memory. The painting is intended as a comment on the sense of loss and isolation that permeates Britains deindustrialising North and Midlands. The works arising from my visit to the site will form part of my next exhibition, Pathways, which will open in Gage Gallery in July.

 

Returning to rust

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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.