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.

Cathedrals

Cathedrals, (oil on paper bonded to fibreboard, 98cm x 110cm)

Cathedrals, (oil on paper bonded to fibreboard, 98cm x 110cm)

“Man is what he believes.” ― Anton Chekhov

Cathedral definition: the largest and most important church in the diocese, from Latin cathedra “seat”.

I have a cathedral; it is the seat of my views, my view of the world, and my interpretation of existence. The lesser churches within the diocese can present conflicting viewpoints, the Cathedral endeavours to provide a sense of entity, of oneness from these disparate elements.

I used to think that truths and ideals that form my cathedral were solid definable elements that engage to form a single whole; some contemporary philosophers dispute the existence of the “self”. I can understand that view because knowledge, learning, place, mood, circumstances and relationships, or changes within these deny me definable edges to the various ideals and belief that are my cathedral.

It is the paradox of the certainty and oneness I feel and the uncertainty of the views that form that certainty that was the primary driver in the making of this work.

 

“Speech is a mirror of the soul: as a man speaks, so is he”.

Speech_is_a_mirror_of_the_soul_02         Speech_is_a_mirror_of_the_soul_03

“Speech is a mirror of the soul: as a man speaks, so is he”.

The title for this piece of work is a quote by Publilius Syrus from approximately 100BC

Language is an integral part of my work this piece is the latest of many which explore different aspects of language.

“While names, words, and language can be, and are, used to inspire us, to motivate us to humane acts, to liberate us, they can also be used to dehumanize human beings and to ‘justify’ their suppression and even their extermination,”(1) Prof. Haig Bosmagiam

This work explores the oppressive nature of language in everyday conversation when we all defend our position of privilege within the societies we inhabit. Without a doubt some would seem to hold a disproportionate amount of privilege but we all enjoy some form of privilege over others, able bodied over the disabled, male over female, educated over uneducated are a few, things are improving but have still a way to go yet.

Language defines humanity, it sets us apart from all others species, some of whom with sound and body language can communicate powerful ideas and emotional feelings but the complexity of thought and knowledge that the human race has been able to harness and utilise through spoken language and the written word is remarkable.

What fascinates and challenges me is the breadth of possibility that language offers for inspiration or suppression as the orator so chooses. I find myself irked regularly at the put downs I come across in daily life, sometimes unintentionally but all too frequently with varying degrees of pleasure from the speaker.

 

This Festive season I have discovered the poem “Ulysses” [(1), see below] by Alfred Lord Tennyson, an inspiration to the older gentleman like myself when he says:

Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

At the other end of this spectrum is the dehumasing language of war as recorded in Tim O’Brien’s award-winning novel The Things They Carried O’Brien writes, “By slighting death, by acting, we pretended it was not the terrible thing it was… If it isn’t human, it doesn’t matter much if it’s dead. And so a VC nurse fried by napalm, was a crispy critter. A Vietnamese baby, which lay nearby, was a roasted peanut. Just a crunchie munchie.” (2)

I find it hard to comprehend the use of such language, even allowing for the harrowing circumstances that combatants witnessed, lived through and had to deal with. The poet Paul Celan whose parents died in the Holocaust and himself interned in a work-camp from late 1942 till February 1944 in an acceptance speech illuminates the importance of language and the developing influence it continues to impart on us even through the darkest of circumstances;

“Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, ‘enriched’ by it all.” (3)

Stepping back from the extreme ends of the language spectrum within the web of language and meaning through the spoken word we have to discern what is part of the picture any orator wants to give and see through the way things are parts of any conversation which reveals their soul.

This is one aspect of a complex web of thoughts and ideas expressed through language, there are people who with great humility and compassion seek to help the disadvantaged but the very act of singling people out for help marks them out as different and it is so easy for them to be seen as “lesser” human beings, I do not for a second propose offering no help to anyone disadvantaged in any way but it is important that in doing so we include “others” in society and meet all as equals.

The Work:

I enjoy the fact that you can take a group of unrelated objects and explore a concept or idea. When we see objects we see them as the word that signifies them, we do not see a group of filaments spun by an arachnid between twigs, branches or plant material; we see a “web” and also its metaphoric possibilities and when we put disparate objects together that potential for exploration of ideas and metaphor seems to grow exponentially. What is always nice is that the ideas, language and metaphors explored are always the viewers but some of my own remain within the work for the viewer to enjoy or dismiss as they see fit.

The Objects:

The Letters on the Stone: The letters on the stone come from word endings the ” ISM” on one side comes from e.g. sexism, racism; they are the ideas and there expression in language, the “IST” alludes to the person the sexist, racist amongst others.

The Stone: used in various metaphors, “between a rock and a hard place”, “things being set in stone”, also the physical appearance of metaphorical weight it brings to the piece.

The section of wood which holds the mirror. This is the object which started the entire creation of this piece, found and brought to me because of its unusual appearance, it has lots of small pinnacles or nodes which reminds me of a bed of nails and is the “hard place” in between a rock and a hard place.

The Mirror: hints at whether we are looking at of hearing reality or perhaps a reflection of or distortion of what is alluded to.

The Web: references the complex nature of language and its use,

The Moth: caught on the web hints at the vagaries of language but also the fact that we are trapped in having to use language with its potential for being misconstrued, inaccurate, the potential for lies etc. etc but with the eternal search for “truth” whatever that may be.

The Sand: again its metaphorical properties are what interest me, “shifting sands”, “drifting like sand in the wind” hint at the fluid nature of language in the way that the same words can mean different things depending on how they are spoken, the difference between what is said and what is understood.

The platform and rig: Language is human construct through which we see and create the world the platform and rig and the entire piece is a result of human construction and references this.

Concluding Statement: if you got this far, thank you for your perseverance and I hope the work gave you food for though, enjoy “Ulysses.” I now go to “sail beyond the sunset,” keep a generous spirit and have a great 2016.

(1) https://www.washington.edu/research/showcase/1983a.html

(2) Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (1809-1892)

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
 
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
 
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

(3) http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_language_of_dehumanization#sthash.jKvhXd2A.dpu

(4) from “Speech on the occasion of receiving the Literature Prize of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen”, P.34 in Celan’s Collected Prose translated by Rosemarie Waldrop, Thames-in-Hudson, New York, The Sheep Meadow Press, 1986.

 

Serendipity

Stations of the Cross l

Serendipity; The Stations of the Cross.

I recently decided to create a series of images based on ‘ The Stations of the Cross’ not for their religious implications but because they are part of a story or narrative that still influences today whether we are religious or not.

After initial research and sketches of all fourteen of the Stations I started the final image of the first in March this year and initially was pleased with the results, but on a visit to Scunthorpe to see Antony  Gormely’s ‘Field for Britain’ at the 20/21 gallery,  I visited the local charity shops looking for art books and catalogues, as is my normal habit and what should I come across but a book of ‘The Stations of the Cross’ for St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Manchester, by Norman Adams RA, serendipity one. Where was I going in two weeks with a group of friends to meet up with others, but to Manchester, serendipity two.

I had the images in the catalogue of the works but went along to see them, possible a mistake on my part, I had seen them in the catalogue but when you see them in the flesh they are remarkable pieces of work, so work stopped on my images as one compares what I would call the intangible value and power in his and my own works. Adams’ works is the most powerful series of contemporary spiritual paintings I have come across.

It has taken six months to move forward and having ignored my image for that length of time have come back to it and viewed through a clearer lens from my own perspective have decided to continue with the series.

The remainder of this text will I hope enlighten the reader on that perspective.

In so far as morality is more than the sum total of mores, of customs and behaviour solidified through tradition and valid on the ground of agreements, both of which change with time, it has, at least politically, no more support itself than the good will to counter the enormous risks of action by the readiness to forgive and to be forgiven, to make promises and to keep them. [1]

Action is, in fact, the one miracle-working faculty of man, as Jesus of Nazareth, whose insights into this faculty can be compared in their originality and unprecedentedness with Socrates’ insights into the possibilities of thought, must have known very well when he likened the power to forgive to the more general power of performing miracles, putting both on the same level and both within the reach of man. [2]

I have spent the last ten years trying to understand who I am, I have read renowned thinkers like Descartes, John Locke, Michel Foucault, Henri Bergson, I even ventured into Plato’s Republic; I have read mathematicians like Roger Penrose, scientists like Richard Feynman and psychologists like Oliver Sacks, add to this the innumerable snippets of insights and thoughts gleaned from today’s virtual resources you would think I should have the job cracked but no, I still can’t put into words who I am.

Whilst I have a much deeper understanding of the factors and influences that have shaped me, this part of me that I cannot show the world has taken on a spiritual dimension. It is this dimension, the influencing narratives, paradigms, hegemonies and pedagogy that I want to explore through this series.

These are not religious paintings, but I seek to have within them a spiritual value that touches upon that inner self, that life force, but also through perhaps one of the best know stories, that of Christ’s Crucifixion,  explore the mechanisms through which we all locate the ‘wee man’ inside us we call ourselves.

An important part of this series is a new area of interest to me, it is less about me and more of how ewe as individuals or communities and nations come together and how we use these mechanisms to interact with different peoples, how we live together and how we resolve different beliefs within the system of customs and traditions that have evolved.

The first ‘Station of the Cross’ is the Christ condemned, so in the image I use half the ‘Scales of Justice’ lowered down to suggest a judgment against someone, in the scale are the three nails that will be required for the crucifixion two small for the hands and one larger for the feet together in the shape of a crucifix.  These objects and there placement all have meaning in Western pedagogies.

The rest of the image contains sections which reference human feelings through metaphor, the blue could be water rushing towards you evoking flooding, torrents ideas that oppress the spirit, the brighter colours and lighter sections of the image reflecting more optimistic or positive outcomes both ends of a spectrum of feelings through which we make judgments.

There is much of the image that is the work of the ‘wee man’ inside me that is intuitive and spontaneous, that is a product of what I find impossible to put into words.

About the work:  The work is mixed media on primed paper, primarily oil but also charcoal. The image measures; width 105cm x height 115cm

[1] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958, University of Chicago Press, page 245 [par. 2].

[2] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958, University of Chicago Press, page 246 [par. 2].