Archives for the month of: October, 2012

From a studio bound summer spent looking inwards I plunge straight into cultural overload.

Metamorphosis, Future Can Wait, New Sensations‘The Majesty’, Christian Marclay’s ‘Everyday‘, Joana Vasconcelas, Chris Hawtin, Lindsay Seers ‘nowhere less now’ plus 11 films in 10 days at the London Film Festival.

The predominant theme of many of the films we saw this year was the resilience of women. In the most dire of circumstances and oppression women across the globe fight their battles by whatever means they can to cope with what life has dealt them. Political or religious conflict and its fallout was also a strong theme. The great thing about the London Film Festival is seeing the same human emotions played out in every language. Most life affirming and poetic was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.

Last year All Visual Arts staged their big autumn show in the decadent shabby grandeur of Portland Place but this year due to some last minute shenanigans it had to be moved to the crypt at One Marylebone.

The lighting was challenging.

Polly Morgan at Metamorphosis

The works were spot-lit in the darkness causing severe shadows to block the work on approach and bleaching detail from afar. Viewing became a dance.

Dolly Thompsett ‘Guarding the Ruins’

A terrible photo of this painting but it illustrates the echoing of the black arches in Dolly Thompsett’s painting with the arched architecture of the Crypt.

I was drawn to this painting of beautiful vine entwined ruins, misty horizons with sweeps of iridescent glitter although I found it almost too sugary.

It is the same attraction that Raquib Shaw exerts on me I think, the telling of some mystical fable but in this case there is no balance of the grotesque to counteract the sublime, the primates are not tearing each others eyes out.

Another painter whose work struck a chord with me was Hyojun Hyun at Saatchi’s New Sensations show.

Hyojun Hyun at New Sensations

Scenes of neglect are transformed into transcendental experiences in paint through the use of light, creating magical scenarios ready for a midsummer’s night dream to play out.

A less subtle use of light and glitter to create spectacle was employed in ‘The Majesty’, a horticultural installation by artists Tony Heywood and Alison Condie for Cityscapes. Billed as a reconfiguration of the show garden ‘Glamourlands’ from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which evolved from a picturesque landscape portrait of the Dorset coast above ground, into a subterranean fungal landscape of the sublime below ground. ‘Glamourlands’  featured a landscape of excess created from gold carbon and jewel encrusted forms. Directly after the Chelsea Flower Show it travelled to The Old Vic Tunnels where it became ‘The Majesty’ –  a new landscape with additional sculptural elements within a spectacular underground setting.

The Majesty

We were offered face masks on entering the space as there was a possibility of  poisonous spores emanating from the fungal growths, this along with the cordon of flames and the lake like puddle preventing approach made us feel like explorers braving hostile lands to visit some glittering shrine.

Going underground again, partially anyway we made a quick visit to this years Serpentine Pavillion designed by Ai Weiwei and Herzog and de Meuron.

I was disappointed to find Haunch of Venison has moved from the airy splendour of Burlington Gardens to smaller premises on New Bond Street.

But Joana Vasconcelas did not disappoint. Her steam iron water lily ‘Full Steam Ahead’ was a wonder of engineering – hissing puffs of steam into the room it was the deadliest of flowers and the pendulous sculptures snaking throughout the gallery were magnificent explosions of embellishment.

I wish I had known about her exhibition at Versailles last year it would have been wonderful to have seen that but I had to make do with leafing through the catalogue. Her vision of scale is inspiring and I am very jealous of her large warehouse sized studio spaces and teams of technicians.

Christian Marclay took his signature splicing of film clips to create a visual stimuli for a group of musicians to overlay a soundtrack echoing the rhythms and emotions in the images. Like an improvised jazz session the musicians fed off each other as well as the film in a sustained assault on a climax which is never reached. The collage of images repeat an action stripped of its own narrative with the same action from many films until what might have been an insignificant moment becomes something portentous.

Lindsay Seers work is all narrative but is not a linear story. The past present and future entwine with the thoughts of multiple characters. Everything is connected but like in a dream those connections are just beyond grasp as they shift and change and merge. I wasn’t sure if I fell asleep or not, my eyes seemed to be open but I had those moments of falling from consciousness being tucked up in a warm blanket can induce. The haunting sea shanty played in the headphones ‘ the sea will take her slender body..’ over and over, a narrative from one side in Seers soft tone then someone speaks abruptly from behind, another voice is heard at a a distance, some music starts up and all the while the dual projections onto giant convex and concave spheres in the disorienting location of an upside down ships hull sweeps through history into a CGI future and back to the present. We were given a free book on exit, it is another layer to the whole experience and I have no idea what is true and what is fiction, this means the fantastical can appear to be reality and I like that. There are many things to wonder about in Lindsay Seers work.

Lindsay Seers at The Tin Tabernacle

In Seers work the explanation about the work is part of the work and so may be just a fiction as much as the work itself.

The artists conundrum – how much to explain? Chris Hawtin was concerned that his back stories to his amazing paintings and sculpture at Canvas and Cream in his ‘Predator’ show would shut down the work for viewers to embark on their own narrative journey. What came across in his talk however was his passion for painting, his dedication to research and the care he took to make sure the viewer was drawn into the fascinating clash of sci-fi and primitive landscape he created.

Chris Hawtin ‘Dredger’

Seeing all these other artists work has been really inspirational. What I want to bring to my own work from this is the idea to leave more space for the viewer to be drawn in.

I need to define the content of a piece before I start but then let the work develop more organically. I tend to plan things out very much beforehand and I would like to try to be freer in production.

So that is my plan.




After many weeks of research, collecting crates, working on images, printing, wiring and constructing it was time for the installation of ‘Syndrome’ at Shoreditch Town Hall – in the basement, a rambling rough space and perfect setting for this Illumini Event celebrating Charles Dickens love of the supernatural.

Dickens passion was the stimulation and nurturing of the imagination, to retain a childlike wonder in the world throughout life. As a small boy he experienced the frisson of fear from the grotesque and macabre tales his nursemaid delighted in telling him. Stories from the Arabian Nights with their supernatural imagery were also a big influence on his understanding of the power of the mind to create all sorts of fancies.

First day of installation was the delivery of all the crates. Now I have my wonderful Ford Galaxy I no longer need to hire a van every time I want to transport work.

It did take 2 trips though, so most of the day was spent sitting in traffic and negotiating the narrow streets and one way systems of Shoreditch while avoiding the congestion charge zone.

pre installation

Second day of installation – setting up – thinking it would take a couple of hours but finding it took all day of course.

Not having put them together before in entirety I had to decide how the light boxes would be stacked so that the 1 metre LED connectors would reach from one box to the next.

The LED tape is clipped into each connector – simple in theory but not when trying to see in a dark room even with a head torch while reaching around the back of crates in awkward angles – very fiddly and frustrating as lights flicker and die time and again. Then up the ladder to hang the organza panels which have been pinned to bamboo poles and are suspended from loops of monofilament attached to whatever we can find protruding from the ceiling. These old spaces are great venues but often stipulate no more holes to be made in the walls. I have to thank my ever tolerant Kevin for his help loading, unloading, carrying and holding stuff but most importantly for being on spider spotting duty and removing any before I get hysterical.

phobia alert

Third day is finishing touches – adding some bits of wood to hide cables, attaching torches to the wall for viewing the two boxes that are not lit internally.

‘Syndrome’ installation

Then helping Jane Webb, the curator with the rest of the show installation.

I find myself spreading glow in the dark cobwebs around her space while keeping an eye out for rats.

Jane Webb ‘The haunted rocking chair’

The basement is full of artists crawling and climbing, fixing and connecting and is slowly transformed from bare bricks to a kaleidoscope of interpretations on the supernatural – the Dickensian getting somewhat lost at times amongst a keen enthusiasm for all things spooky.

I become anxious that my work is not scary or dramatic enough. The room next to mine is filled with polystyrene severed heads daubed in red paint. Not very subtle. But at the other end of the space and spectrum is Jojo Taylors beautiful chandelier made of suspended cut glass artefacts and paintings made with impressions taken in smoke and soot.

Jojo Taylor ‘The Lost and The Found’

Jojo Taylor

I am late leaving for the opening night as I struggle to gothify my white summery Victorian hat with black lace, fur and ostrich feathers leaving our bedroom looking like the cat has committed a massacre and arriving just in time to miss the evacuation of the building and arrival of the fire brigade. Luckily a false alarm triggered by some incense sticks but leaving Jane a little stressed. The audience, already queuing around the block when I arrived began piling in and quickly filled the space with whoops and screams from gangs of teenage girls. The plethora of performers (£4,000 worth)  booked for the opening night began plying their trades around the corridors, accosting, alarming  and delighting visitors with juggling, Victorian Quackery and magic tricks.

Chris Brown


People Pile

Cilla Conway tarot readings

I stood in my Victorian ensemble outside my room disconcerted to find a performer positioned in the dark corner of my space lighting up his suit and leaping out at people as they began to investigate the crates.

The visitors were having fun but being totally distracted from my work, running out shrieking – after a while I sent him packing. Scrooge indeed.

One surprise of the opening evening was bumping into Kat Hawker the beautiful curator from Bearspace who had selected my work for Exhibit C.  Kevin and I were just saying how different this experience was from Bearspace when she appeared before us. I was glad to have a chat. Kat said she didn’t mind the lukewarm Time Out review of Exhibit C and it was good that they had come at all. It’s only the opinion of one person.

‘Syndrome’ – the syringe

Illumini Events are all about inclusion and democracy.

Aardvark Productions – the body snatchers

Free entertainment for all, combining artists with prop makers and performers to break down barriers and get more people involved and engaged in art. Jane also has a strong interest in history so the venue, historic in itself is littered with information sheets on everything from body snatchers, abandoned tunnels to haunted pubs. There were walks, talks, ghost stories and performances all through the week.

A very popular spot was the dressing up room. I spent hours here invigilating and came away with an aching jaw from laughing so much. People loved it – the big frothy dresses, the wigs, tails and top hats – posing extravagantly and morphing into character – it was wonderful to witness.

Amazing how a costume becomes a disguise and you another person.

By the end of the week I was no longer hiding at the end of the corridor in my Victorian garb but out on the street handing out leaflets and encouraging those tentative souls who weren’t quite sure what to expect to risk a quick look round. Most were very surprised and thrilled by it all.

‘Syndrome’ Mr Wright’s feet

I was really pleased with how my installation came together in the end.

One friend had found it very unsettling and had to leave – I hadn’t expected quite such a strong response.

‘Syndrome’ – the séance

The room was perfect and had a natural chill from a large unseen hole through to the outside which also caused the organza panels to waft mysteriously.

I think a lot of people missed the peep in boxes and after 3 days one of the torches had been stolen anyway but guests were invited to borrow a torch or lantern at reception so the possibility was still there.

I have always liked there to be something left to discover in my work for those who look.

‘Syndrome’ – the cows, the doll

‘Syndrome’ installation view

I also had my light box ‘Entrance’ installed in a small annexe further up the corridor which it fitted into very neatly.


entrance n.1. an opening allowing access.

2. an act of entering.

3. the right, means, or opportunity to enter.

entrance v. fill with wonder and delight. >cast a spell on.

‘Entrance’ reflects on the shadowy workings of the imagination and the desire for a spiritual encounter. A glimpse across the threshold  between the tangible and the ethereal can cause us to stall in our everyday routine to consider the possibilities of the supernatural.

Illumini events always have huge ambitions and bring in a real mix of people so it is a very different but always fun experience.

It gave me the chance to create work for an unusual space and try out some new ideas.

Taking the show down had to be done in one exhausting whirlwind morning – it seemed a lot of work for a one week event but 3,200 visitors passed through in that time.

As we had a deadline to get out I did have to hire man with a van to get all the crates home. Annoyingly they charged £90 not the £60 I expected – £10 for the congestion charge that we didn’t need to go through so can’t recommend

Now just left with the problem of where to put them….