A Fragile Harmony

I have always been curious about things I knew were there but physically could not touch or feel. One of those influences are stories, history. Tales both real and fictitious that form national and community psyches from which the “blank” canvas of every child learns, developing their genetic inheritance to create their character and moral outlook as they reconcile lives events to those stories. That influence is something that much of the time informs the art I make and as the world becomes more integrated and stories overlap that repository of influence is continually evolving as humanity records and relates current events into tomorrow’s histories.

A Fragile Harmony evokes the fragility of an individual existence in the face of death yet tries to show how we all see the human history. How we can only see humanities overarching psyche from our own limited viewpoint missing so much and the impossibility ability to truly stand in another’s shoes and see with their perspective and experiences, we can only bring our own existence to a perceived understanding of their history. That understanding can be a challenge and fear of change can make our own perspective a safe haven which we defend.

There is also the ongoing development of that repository of stories. Great people have made immense contributions to improve the human condition but there are also darker events in that repository and that is also a fragile harmony, with a plethora of tales both ancient and modern, classical and banal of good versus evil. As the peoples of the world continue to integrate through the internet and social media and we learn of other cultures and ideas which can be illuminating but current events would demonstrate the darker side as some continue to exploit the current media to defend their own perspective with little concern for the ensuing conflict be it physical, verbal or mental.

 The steel ball in the work hints at the overarching Human Psyche, that thing I can’t touch. I can touch the steel ball but the property I liked about it is I don’t really see it, what I see is a reflection or everything around it, it’s shape is defined by the distortion in the reflections. The centre which I cant see contains everything that has historically contributed to todays repository from primitive man through Roman and Greek Classics, the Renaissance to the internet. It has been developing since man could talk and tell stories and I like to think of the centre of the ball as full of lost and forgotten stories that still influence what it projects today.

It is an opposite quality that drew me to the clear acrylic balls for the heads of the butterflies, they do not reflect the surroundings be by refraction when you look at them you see the colours and vague shapes of what surrounds them on the inside surface. They are like individuals who internalise and develop the ideas, images they come across.  

So the Steel ball is a representation of all that human history reflects and the acrylic heads our own internalisation of what we experience.

The whole piece has been developed over about eighteen months, the first piece I acquired was the central piece of wood to which everything is attached, I had it about a year and was still wondering what to do with it when I acquired the second pieces of wood from which the butterflies are shaped, because of a deformity in the trunk they were already almost wing shaped. It then took only about thirty minutes for the idea to develop, the next steps were purely the making and developing the overall visual impact I wanted for the work. That took about three months as I gathered components and worked out ways to combine them that added to the meaning I wanted to place in the work.

It was Fate, that brought me here ………


Fate: The Three Moirai.

Oil on Canvas, with found watch dials and sand built into the frame, Image size: 49,5 x 39.5cms., Fame size: 69.5 x 51 x 5cms. Completed January 2020, inscribed bottom left, signed on the land the tangle eft side of the canvas on stretcher frame.

The Moirai were three ancient Greek Goddesses who embodied the destiny and fate of everyone. They were Klotho, the spinner who spun the thread of life, Lahkesis who allotted the portion and Atropos who cut it short.

The three ribbons in the work allude to each of these facets of life and the tangle we struggle with daily. The spheres are symbols of life and living, and whilst much of the time I feel in control of my destiny the more I look back the more I see how much chance and circumstances play in our lives. Some choices we make will be successful and seem to be made completely by our will but they are also dictated by the circumstances around us at the time, and at other times it seems we cant achieve or get to where we want to be because of circumstances beyond our control.

in a few parts of the image the ribbons purposely do not follow the correct visual path and seem to go through what should be the solid vertical stripes of the background.

On a personal level I have never really had a destination or sacred achievement in mind for my life, just seem to enjoy the journey, but it is extremely important to me in my own way to try to leave the world a slightly better place than when I arrived all be it in a small way, and it will be a small way!  Sometimes when I see what is going on in the world I wonder if making art is a positive contribution, but this world is a wonderful place, so I keep trying. I am aware that for a great many people this is not the case but when I think about the complexity of the natural world with its diversity of species, the ability of man to create history through language and learning, (animals don’t have histories), and to develop the world though politics, this world, this universe never ceases to amaze me, and the very fact that I exist, given the random nature of reproduction over generations never mind the last three or four millennia or many generations is remarkable and able to contemplate this world and universe is something that inspires me. The world I aspire to better is more than just the physical world but the world as imagined by all humanity, how we see and deal with each other, how we see the universe, who decides what we are taught, how : and annotated by humanity. Making sense of this imagined world is what interests me and inspires me to make work.

These seems like “grand ideals” but they are in fact just life.

About the Work: The work is oil on canvas in a handmade frame with old pocket watch dials built into the top of the frame, the first of which I found on the beach nearby. Time is a human construct and has to pass for the “Fates” to act so the hands there are no hands the dials, there are four hands on the bottom left of the frame hinting at different timescales as to how and when things occur. In the painted image there are a few parts where the ribbons purposely do not follow the correct visual path and seem to go through what should be the solid vertical stripes of the background.

A Quiet Word ….. in your shell like!


Shells (01-04) in frames


I was collecting these with my grandson when I noticed the small kidney shape that is found in each shell, it is like they all have a very similar start in life but end up completely different because of the circumstances through which they develop. The circumstances may be very similar but the outcome for each individual is so different. It is the nature or nurture argument; I always think it is a good dose of nature followed by a great deal of nurture and that nurture is not always good. I listened to a scientist explaining the forces from which the entire universe developed recently, only four of them apparently, (this is one view only, I suspect there are many more), they are 1. The Strong Nuclear Force, 2. The Weak Nuclear Force, 3. Electromagnetism and 4. Gravity. It amazes me how such a complex place like the universe can develop from only four forces, where do mathematical formulae come from, were they created in the event they call the “Big Bang” or did they exist before, I have so many questions I will never know the answer to but I keep on looking and it is that search that I enjoy and invigorates me.

It seems there are so many examples of how our own lives develop but the shells one I found close to hand on the local beach, the ridges on the shells mark the passing of each year, the kidney shape the visible starting point and then washed up on a beach to be ground down to sand by the action of the waves. Kandinsky spoke of the “spiritual” in art he writes,” In each picture is a whole lifetime of fears, doubts, hopes and joys. Whither is this lifetime trending? What is the message of the competent artist? …To harmonize the whole is the task of art”.

This set of four paintings are my humble effort to show my own spirituality, that is not a religious spirituality, but a spirituality born out of experience and being, I cannot nor do I know from whence this comes but it is something I do experience, it is something inside me that art,  objects, places and people amongst other things that inspire me to make art.

Below are larger images of the individual paintings in their frames:



I’m Back!

Acrylic on panel

It’s been a year and two months since my last post, I have a condition called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, but was lucky enough to get on the transplant list and was given a left lung transplant in June this year. It has been a slower recovery process than I anticipated but I have been drawing regularly and the image above “September Evening, at Chapel St. Leonards” and is the first painting I have completed since the transplant. I live by the coast, I have for the past 30 years, and so I have used imagery and memories that were close at  hand to research and draw upon. A few friends have had beach huts here and I have enjoyed many good days with them on the beach. The image below “Beach Huts, Chapel St. Leonards” is the second completed from a series of six I will complete.

Acrylic on panel.

Hope you enjoy them and if you have any comments about the work would love to hear from you. Both images are Acrylic on panel and measure 50cm x 50cm.

In the New year I have plans for two exhibitions in 2020 and a couple of Open Studio events, so keep looking in for info or indeed follow me and I will keep you up to date.

In Search of the Purple Fish.

“In Search of the Purple Fish”.

A contemporary sculpture and assemblage.


“Our English word purple comes from Latin purpureus, which comes from Greek porphyra, a noun denoting the purplefish. This sea mollusk, properly the purple limpet or murex, was the source from which all purple and red dyes were obtained in antiquity. But the purplefish had another name in ancient Greek, namely kalche, and from this word was derived a verb and a metaphor and a problem for translators. The verb kalchainein, “to search for the purplefish,” came to signify profound and troubled emotion: to grow dark with disquiet, to seethe with worries, to search in the deep of one’s mind, to harbour dark thoughts, to brood darkly”(1).

I first came across the term “in search of the Purple Fish” in Anne Carson’s book Float. In the section “A Right to Remain Silent” the text varies slightly but the explanation and source is what started this piece of work. I think it was the idea of a colour expressing the depth of ones thought that appealed to my painterly intuitions.

“Tyrian purple may first have been used by the ancient Phoenicians as early as 1570 BC. The dye was greatly prized in antiquity because the colour did not easily fade, but instead became brighter with weathering and sunlight. Its significance is such that the name Phoenicia means ‘land of purple.’ It came in various shades, the most prized being that of “blackish clotted blood”. (2)

It is also an idea that has always accompanied humanity, that introspection, as we seek to understand ourselves and our place in community, society, nation and the world. Something the greatest minds have laboured with; that artists have explored, composers and musicians come so close to touching and although it is something which I cannot explain or answer it is a joy to have that sense of being that the search stimulates.

About the Work: like most of my work the initial idea springs from a simple or small intuition or recognition of something which is outside the normal perspective or meaning of an object or text, something I see differently.

This piece began with the piece of dead wood which reminded me of outstretch arms (see below), but it became someone crucified, when a family member found the piece of wood that became the crucifix, but although I use the term crucified it has nothing to do with crucifixion but the idea that most things are on a spectrum, when it comes to ideas nothing is precise the placing of the outstretched arms halfway between the cross and the base, it is whether the idea is worthy of raising up to the top with merit or lowering to the base to be lost.

outstretched arms

But this was a search for the “purplefish” and so I wanted something to make that journey on so I created something that reminded me of the bridge of the “Star Ship Enterprise” that bold went forth to explore the universe. (below).


The old fashioned chair on the flight deck is taken from a painting by Van Gogh which has his pipe and tobacco on it, a whim on my part and a nod to my painterly self. Also I heard the painting of the simple rustic chair as Van Gogh’s homage to the poorer and overlooked in our society.

Below the top deck is a section which is loaded with pebbles (see image below), that the figure in the piece is collecting this is a reference to all the personal opinions, grudges, biases, loves, affinities both good and bad that we gather through life and influence how we look at others. These are important ideas that we use to be who we are but can sometimes hold us back from seeing what is really before us.

flightdeck_detail 01

The final part of the work is the light which is in a Perspex ring case which is guilded (roughly, I did not want perfection) and painted with a transparent purple paint. The light is connected to a PIR motion sensor so that it comes on automatically when anyone ids detected near to the work. It stays on for a minute then goes off but will come on again if anyone stays in the vicinity. The sensor can be seen in the image below in the crate being dragged from the sand.


The light which can be seen in the image above, also shows the distressed guilding of the perspex casing.


I could spend a great deal of time explaining in more detail the meaning of the work but even when I who created the piece goes onto explain about the work I seem to loose the essence I saw when I was creating the work and hat I feel when I look at the work now so I will stop here, adding only that I like the idea that as long as the light continues to come on humanity continues to exist, unless of course it is not a person that triggers the light but the cat!

(1) Anne Carson – from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent” from A Public Space, Issue 7 / 2008

(2) Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple

The Kindness of Strangers

“The Kindness of Strangers”

(An assemblage of wood, sand, bought and found objects, dimensions in cm.: W26 x D30 x H43)

This work began life as a piece about place, there was two reasons for this. Firstly a curiosity about the influence place has on who we are and secondly the object that started the piece on which the glass bowl is held is a holder for a mobile phone to use it as a Sat Nav. in a car, which I bought but it turns out I didn’t need it.

There is a theory and idea with which I have sympathy that we are very much shaped by the landscape and environment in which we develop, but the more I looked at this and my own feelings it was not so much the landscape that shaped me but the other people I met in those landscapes. Especially those who have been many who have shown me a great deal of kindness and support in many ventures I have undertaken.

So the work is about my journey, all the places I have been to that are prominent in my memory, but not just place names, names of buildings, descriptions of places without names and of some of the people I have met. It is like life is a mechanism that has been churning out events and circumstances I have responded to and they have influence the places I have gone to or lived in.

However the more I got into the piece I discovered that the places that most readily came to mind were places where I remember meeting someone who influenced me, and so on the back of some of the place name in the glass bowl is a record of who that person was. The one that springs most readily to my mind frequently even today after about fifteen years was a meeting with a priest in Padua, Italy.

I was visiting Venice and on a day trip to Padua to look at the paintings in one of its famous churches saw that there was notices everywhere to say there was no photography permitted.  Not a problem I enjoyed the paintings and in the afternoon went to view some paintings in another church.  I was walking round the church with my camera hanging around my neck and this priest came up to me pointing at the camera, I hastily babbled “Non” “Non” which the sophisticated amongst you will realize is French, the only two Italian words I knew were “Si” and “grazie”. Anyway I kept trying to make this priest understand I was not taking photographs, without much success because he kept going on at me, he obviously did not speak English, and I did not have a phrase book.  This seemed to go on for a long period which was probably only about seven or eight minute but when you seem to be at loggerheads with someone it is a long time. Anyway after the said eight minutes in desperation the priest took my camera in his hand and proceeded to take photographs saying Si Si! At last the penny dropped and what he had been trying to tell me for the past eight minutes was that it was OK to take photographs in this church. What struck me was that having decided to do me a kindness despite the language barrier and my lack of common sense he persevered until I understood, most would have given up after about a minute.  A small kindness but always remembered.

It is like life is a mechanism that has been churning out events and circumstances I have responded to and they have influence the places I have gone to or lived in.  In 2013 I was diagnosed with something called Pulmonary Fibrosis (it has a broad range of outcomes) and so the timepiece is indicative of the finite time we all have. But what I realized making the work is how little towns, countries and places influenced me and how much people have.

Chicken Run

Like many artists out there, I have a studio that can basically be described as a big shed. Which can be cold and damp and even with a heater is still damp, this is not conducive to the prosperity of my lungs who harbour a condition known as IPF.

So in this recent spell of inclement weather, I have remained in the house painting and drawing with acrylics and pastels. Why chickens, I don’t know, I have always liked drawing and painting animals and this is my first go at chickens. Looking forward to summer or just warmer weather and getting on with some other pieces I have in the pipeline.

The works are all mixed media of acrylic and pastel on paper and measure 40.5 cm x 38cm.

Homage to the “ordinary” life.

The Meadows of Asphodel, Maggie Louise.

Maggie LouiseThe Meadows of Asphodel, Maggie Louise. (Oil on Canvas, 41cm x 33cm)

About Maggie Louise: I came across the image below in The Times newspaper in March 2009, it was in an article by Helen Rumbelow about what can be the downside of Government intervention. Maggie was born more than 90 years ago the daughter of a tenant cotton farmer in the American south during the depression. A poet name John Agee was given an assignment by a New York magazine to get some “poverty-porn” for it’s well-heeled readers, the resulting book produce was “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”.

Maggie Louise

The original image from “Let us Now Praise Famous Men” from which I created the painting.

Maggie Louise was a bright girl and did well at school despite having to pick cotton to help support the family and had dreams to achieve things that would take here out of poverty. The cotton industry was failing at the time and instead of letting it collapse the government bailed it out with cash and one effect of this was to keep the tenant farmers in poverty. 50 years later another journalist Dale Maharidge went back to the area to see what had happened to the families and produced the Pulitzer prize-winning book “And Their Children After Them”. Maggie Louise had not been able to continue at school and had married at 15 and quickly became a young mother. At the age of 45 heartbroken to watch her own daughters having to do the same as she did as a child picking cotton, went out to a local hardware store, bought a bottle of rat poison and sat down and drank it committing suicide.

My interest in the image. We all have tragedy in our lives at sometimes, but I am often struck by how fortunate I have been, and the difficulty of the human existence lived by the vast number of the “ordinary” folk of humanity. This has always been something I have been drawn to. This is not to decry the heroic of this world but perhaps elevate the “ordinary” in lived lives to be the amazing thing it is.

This work is one which documents an ordinary but difficult life and is my little effort in praise of the “ordinary” and I hope that Maggie is content in the “Meadows of Asphodel”

The Meadows of Asphodel: in Greek legend the place where ordinary souls pass the afterlife.

AsphodelAsphodel Flowers.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives Homer as the source for the English poetic tradition of describing the meadows of the afterlife as being covered in Asphodel. In the translation by W. H. D. Rouse, the passage in question (from The Odyssey, Book 11) is rendered, “the ghost of clean-heeled Achilles marched away with long steps over the meadow of Asphodel.” In Book 24 in the same translation, the souls of the dead, “came to the Meadow of Asphodel where abide the souls and phantoms of those whose work is done. “Homer describes the experience of the dead souls and relates the meadow to its surroundings in these books and in Circe’s brief description at the end of Book 10. Asphodel flowers growing in the underworld is an idea that may predate Homer’s writings. (Source Wikepedia).

A Diversion, but a very enjoyable one!

The Young Sebastian

The Young Sebastian,  (Oil on Voile 76cm x 111.5cm)

I have enjoyed drawing and painting the human figure in many guises throughout my career, in most cases through a loose and expressive technique. It is as pleasure to introduce “The Young Sebastian” one of my grandchildren completed in a more traditional manner.