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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KurbArt

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 🙂

 

Playing with colour

Mythago Wood (absorbing) 36pc

Mythago Wood (absorbing)

I have always been entranced by myth, and take great delight in wandering through the remnants of the vast woodlands that used to blanket the British Isles. I am also an avid reader, and occasionally am inspired to respond to works that I find particularly powerful. So last week I decided to tackle a subject that has long engaged me, and play with a colour balance that I use less often. I also thought I’d work on a different surface, having become interested in the challenge of using palette knives on an unyielding base when painting the steel utility cabinets in July and November.

Mythago Wood is a novel by Robert Holdstock, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark fantasy. In it, the woodland is timeless, measureless and jealous of its boundaries. Here I have shown it in it’s full power, fighting back against human encroachment, and ultimately absorbing our endeveaours – as indeed is inevitable, surely whilst we are capable of inflicting grievous damage, we will destroy the conditions of our own sustainability well before we destroy all life?

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 🙂

 

 

 

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.