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.

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.

This is My Life 2017 “Projections”

This is My Life 2017 “Projections ” Exhibition opens at the Embassy Theatre this week.  The portraits were created by the students of Linkage Community Trust using digital projections and traditional painting techniques. There are 19 portraits in the exhibition and the work can be seen until the end of August.

It was a pleasure to work with the students and staff at the Spilsby Unit.

           

This is My Life, an exploration of barriers.

This is My Life, an art exhibition and event at the Embassy Theatre Skegness, opening the 21st of September 2016.

Your Invitation:

Open invitation to the opening of the Art Exhibition "This is My Life"
Your open invitation to the opening of the Art Exhibition “This is My Life”

About: This is my life is an art exhibition and event which seeks to explore all aspects of disability through the eyes of those who struggle with various conditions. Our hope through the exhibition is to help those who struggle with various conditions to build a “wee” bridge from their side of the gap which makes it easier for us all to enjoy life within our community. To do this, two artists myself and Jason Wilsher-Mills have been working with various groups to help people to create images and texts which reflect how they feel about their lives or there place in the community. This includes the family and friends of those living with the condition as they are also affected by circumstances. The work created in theses workshops will be shown at the Embassy Theatre Gallery alongside work by six prominent disabled artists in the exhibition “This is my Life”. The exhibition work of the six artists is curated by Shape Arts, a national organisation which promotes artists living with various disabilities. Sometimes within a system people talk to you, make notes, record details, which are important to create programs to help but it can seem that although you have been heard, no one is listening. This exhibition seeks to reintroduce the personal human experience back into the conversation. Some of the work may not seem profound in its imagery; the profundity is born in the maker how the work is made and the memories the image records.

What: The Exhibition of work will run from the 21st of September until the 12th of November and will be opened on the 21st of September at 2.00pm with a large digital projection of the work created in the workshops with Jason Wilsher-Mills, after the digital projection which will last approximately twenty minutes there will be a new performance work by the students of Linkage supported by Rhubarb Theatre which will last again approximately twenty minutes. After this Jason Wilsher-Mills will give a brief talk on the Disability Discrimination Act banner that he was commissioned to make for the Houses of Parliament where it is on permanent exhibition, a second copy of the banner will be on show during the exhibition.

The exhibition will then be officially opened.

Participants. The six artists in the exhibition are artists, Simon Raven, Jason Wilsher-Mills, Rachel Gadsden, Tom Shakespeare, Brigitte Mierau and Natalie Papamichael, who all face challenges

through various disabilities. (Individual artists details are given in the additional information notes). Alongside the work of these artists will be work created by students from Linkage working with Jason Wilsher-Mills and work created by sufferers and supporters from Lincolnshire’s Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Cafes and other groups working with artist Malcolm Tait.

The event has been generously funded by Arts Council England with strong support from Magna Vitae and The Embassy Theatre Skegness. Also crucial in producing this first event is Shape Arts who curated the exhibition and Rhubarb Theatre who supported the creation of the new performance work.

To view some of the work that will be on show at the exhibition go to our sister blog https://thisismylife.live/

See you there 🙂

 

The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers
The Kindness of Strangers

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 was a holder for a mobile phone to use it as a Sat Nav., it turns out I didn’t need it.

So the work is about my journey, all the places I have been to that are prominent in my memory. 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. Such a small kindness but always remembered.

About two and a half years ago 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.

Other views can be found in Gallery 5: Making and Assemblage

Archimedean Spiral

Spiral

I have always been fascinated by the relationship between the precise formulae  that exist in the abstract world of mathematics and the imprecise way they translate into the natural or real world.

The spiral this image is based on can be described by the equation     is named after  the 3rd century Greek Mathematician Archimedes.

The original line for the spiral is taken from an exact computer linear drawing of the spiral but as I widened it to a central ball, the precision is lost as I create the image by hand. The sections in the image like the central ball are simply creative and intuitive processes as I build the image.

I wanted to incorporate natural spirals into the piece so as I live near the beach decided to use shell found on Anderby Creek beach. The work is framed in wood from an old palette which has been sanded down and waxed. The idea on how to incorporate the shells into the work comes from a Jasper John work  which has a target as the main image but four small cast heads are incorporated into the top of a similar frame structure.

 

All Things Pass

All Things Pass An assemblage of found and bought objects, (61cm x 45cm x 45cm)
All Things Pass
An assemblage of found and bought objects, (61cm x 45cm x 45cm)

The Beginning

All my small assemblages start with a single object I find and what is on my mind at that time, the found object that inspired this piece is not in it , as it progressed it seemed to take something away from the emotional response I have to a piece of work as it grows.

This is the original object:

The missing object
The missing object

The piece was originally going to be suspended by being held by the sixteen threads that form the conical shape coming from the mast, the holes I drill in the piece can be seen in the object, my creative process never seems to follow a linear path and as I worked on the piece it became less and less relevant but it is the original object which inspired the conical shaped thread format.

About the piece:

I was reading a poem All things Pass by Lao-Tzu (6th Century BC, from translations adapted by Timothy Leary) about the time that I found the object,

All Things Pass.

All things pass
A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass
A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass
Nor a sunset all night
All things pass
What always changes?

Earth ….sky…. thunder….
mountain ….. water…..
wind ….. fire….. lake…..

These change
And if these do not last

Do man’s visions last?
Do man’s illusions

Take things as they come

All things pass.
About the work:

The main premise for this work is the idea that I see in the future possible options the sixteen threads pass through a Perspex barrier and reach three different destinations; I think I exert some influence on the possible futures I see for myself but influences outside my control frequently means I alter decisions and although I make those decisions it is the outside influence that has made me choose.

It is the juxtaposition between what I see as certainty within me and the vagaries of fate that in youth I challenged but now in later life seem to enjoy as I accept that “all things pass.”

 

The Objects:

The cream coloured plastic section which supprts the mast and rigging was found on Chapel St. Leonards beach when I found the original object.

The wooden steps to the plinth supporting the found plastic in made from driftwood found on Inch beach in Ireland. The same wood was used to make the ships skeleton which can be seen below the clock.

The Clock mechanism comes from a carriage clock that was a gift to my wife and myself by customers in a pub we used to run in the 1980’s.

The wood to which the winding handles are attached come from the shores of a loch in the north of Scotland.

All the other objects are bought.