Archives for the month of: June, 2013

I have been looking at moss. It gets everywhere.

1306 mossy trees

I found an interesting blog that puts moss in context historically…

‘This soft plant pre-dates just about everything that surrounds it…older than ginkgo, older than Turtle Island, older than the very first tree, quite possibly older than the dirt itself.

The moss pre-dates the very notion of history.  Because the moss comes from an Earth that would be completely unrecognizable to you and me, completely alien even to the trees themselves.’  Read more…

1306 mossy wall

Then thanks to Giovanni Aloi Founder and Editor in Chief of Antennae, the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture my attention was brought to the news that ancient mosses are returning.

‘Frozen mosses that were buried under glaciers 400 years ago have now been regrown. Surprisingly, the hardy “bryophytes” required no special techniques to regenerate. That means they might be candidates for colonizing extreme environments — even in space.  During the Little Ice Age, which occurred between the 16th and 19th centuries, massive glaciers moved in and covered various regions in the Northern Hemisphere. These glaciers slowly retreated throughout the 20th century, and the rate of ice melt has sharply accelerated since 2004. The substantial glacial retreat is now revealing beautifully preserved vegetative communities, says Catherine La Farge, a bryophyte botanist at the University of Alberta. “It’s kind of like a blanket being pulled back, allowing you to see what the Little Ice Age was like.” ‘ Read more…

1306 Moss

So maybe my work should be looking at ‘Return of the Moss’ not ‘Return of the Forest’.

It’s not quite such a dramatic image. I have been looking at some impressions of the first trees, there were a bit fern like.

Fern looks so primordial. I have been working on making stencils to screen print over the ice collagraph. Using the scans from the ferns I pressed I have added an embryo as a harbinger of what is to come.

1306 Embryo

Every summer Ochre Print Studio opens its doors for an Open Studio Exhibition and I usually help curate this.

Lots of work arrives from all the members. We line it up and start looking for connections.

Ochre Print Studio

Ochre Print Studio

Also need to fit my own work in.

Yellow Sky

Yellow Sky

Subluna and Graft i

Subluna and Graft i

Went to see ‘Disgraced’ at the Bush Theatre. Set in New York. Today. Corporate lawyer Amir Kapoor is happy, in love and about to land the biggest career promotion of his life. But beneath the veneer, success has come at a price. When Amir and his artist wife, Emily, host an intimate dinner party at their Upper East Side apartment, what starts out as a friendly conversation soon escalates into something far more damaging.’

Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar

Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar

This blog from Paul in London sums it up nicely

‘Over the course of 90 minutes everything that is civilised and awfully respectable about two New York couples is gradually undone and at times the conversation is so frank and uncomfortable ‘. ……Read more

The characters reflected a fast retreat to their roots when under pressure, to the lessons of their parents to shared histories and a sense of belonging.

It seems origins are very important and potent.

Look at the moss slowly spreading, changing the climate and allowing new growth and eventually the advent of man.

It was a good exercise for me to give a talk at the Robert Phillips Gallery in conjunction with the Surrey Contemporary 2013.  Time to think about my own origins and how they influence my work. I dragged out old sketchbooks and notes to refresh myself on the ideas that have led me to this point.

I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to talk for. I started by talking a little about my own background – growing up in the countryside – living in the city and how this has made me very conscious of the difference between my contact with nature then and now. Also the influences of the ecological call to arms on my feelings about the natural world and my love of the urban landscape.



 ‘Binformation’ always provokes lots of discussion so that was a good piece to be able to discuss. Rubbish is remarkably personal, it’s something we all produce relentlessly and often harbour guilt about. So it can be comforting to think that maybe in millennia that layer of plastic will turn into something beautiful to be mined.

While doing a bit of research for my talk at Riverhouse I went back to some old sketchbooks from Goldsmiths days and pulled out his quote that I had come across at the time. Those feelings that once everything was better go back a long way.

 “One thing is sure. The earth is now more cultivated and developed than ever before. There is more farming with pure force, swamps are drying up, and cities are springing up on unprecedented scale. We’ve become a burden to our planet. Resources are becoming scarce, and soon nature will no longer be able to satisfy our needs.” Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus Roman theologian, 200 AD

I have been falling in love with Angela Carter again. Reading ‘Nothing Sacred’ and marvelling at her insight of 40 years ago.

1306 angela carter

Writing on the discovery of the idea of the Sublime she looks at the industrial landscape of Bradford and notes the seductive attraction of grit and grime heralded by the art-house films of the fifties appealing to the romantic who was not born and bred in a back to back house.

‘The history of taste may well be that of the obscure and probably warped predilections of the bourgeois romantic intellectual gradually filtering down through the mass media until everybody knows for certain what they ought to like. After all, only a handful of eccentrics enjoyed mountains until a mountain got up and followed Wordsworth across a lake’.  New Society 1970

Despite the urban growth and industry of the northern city she finds there is still a direct contact with nature in the markets of Doncaster – ‘It’s cold and wet underfoot, here.’

‘Outside, among the fruit and vegetable stalls, it had started to rain in earnest and the cabbage stalks and shed lettuce leaves were turning to soup in the puddles. It’s very tiring, not being alienated from your environment.’

New Society 1976

1306 Grey collagraph

Much happier with the way my collagraph is going now that I have pulled back from all the colour I have been using.

Also I am getting much more detail in the image through careful inking. Thinking about all the changes that the earth has been through in deep time. So slowly.

Waiting for the forest to emerge.

130529 (1)

This is still work in progress which I intend to print over. I have been thinking about blocking off the image in parts with paper stencils before I print the collagraph to leave blank spaces to print on.

Making a template for hanging ‘Collected Thoughts’ at the Surrey Contemporary.

1306 laying out collected thoughts

This way I can just fix the paper up on the wall and tap the nails straight though.

I hadn’t been to the Robert Phillips Gallery in Walton on Thames before. It is a bit tucked away but a lovely space right on the river with a little café and terrace.

The gallery has high ceilings and lots of light.

1306 Surrey Contemporary - setting up 6 1306 Surrey Contemporary - setting up 1306 Surrey Contemporary - setting up 5 1306 Surrey Contemporary - setting up 4 1306 Surrey Contemporary - setting up 3 1306 Surrey Contemporary - setting up 2

It was good to meet the other artists and chat about their work.

Stephanie Wright told me about the nervous excitement she feels when slicing through her thrown pot to reveal the figure inside and the alchemy of using glazes.

Stephanie Wright

Stephanie Wright

Dave Richards demonstrated his website documenting the Museum of Modern Zoology where new hybrid species have evolved via his imagination from a fusion of technology and the animate, like the Makagadikadi big cat which shares its aerodynamic structure with a racing car.

Dave Richards

Dave Richards

Jill Flower explained the inspiration behind her sculptures using recycled papers and stitch to convey the seven ages of man (and woman) through a literary journey.

1306 Jill Flowers

1306 Surrey Contemporary - Private View 1306 Surrey Contemporary - Private View 3 1306 Surrey Contemporary - Private View 2

The Private View was really busy.  Over the tap tap tap of Mat Clark’s morse code installation on the obsolescence of the art object Alison Clarke from Surrey Arts welcomed everybody while Chairman of Surrey County Council, Mr David Munro thanked all the sponsors and wished he had a rosette to award to an artist like he did for the prize bull at the county show. The artists present were not sure how they felt about that.

1306 Subluminal

So glad we have at last had some sunshine, and ‘Subluminal’ which I have hung in our sunroom is doing its thing with the rays.

If I worked it out maybe it could even be a sundial.

Would be so great for the big piece ‘Incidence’ to have a wall that gets the sun rather than be in a bag under the bed.

Incidence e

Had great inspiration on the themes of nature in the urban environment at the Soho Theatre in the witty and surreal play ‘Pastoral’ by Thomas Eccleshare.


Nature is fighting back. The forest is returning. The army have been called in but are being pushed back by the speed and strength of the growth.

The south is being abandoned as buildings collapse and roads are swallowed up and the only escape is to evacuate to the north behind the big plastic wall.


It’s everyman for himself when the only game for dinner is one hedgehog between 6.

The man from Ocado can only regret his perseverance to deliver his goods at all cost.

Great staging and wonderful delivery from Anna Calder-Marshall as Moll blessed with the freedom that comes with age to say what she thinks (about ‘the fats’  and other blights of our time)

The weeds bursting through Moll’s carpet did resonate with me – ‘Emergency’ made while at Goldsmiths had a similar idea at its core but in this case it was the rubbish from landfill mutating and bursting forth.

Emergency 0

Some musical inspiration from Flaming Lips.

1306 flaming lips

Photo by Chris Boland

Blinding light show and space age silver sculptures.  Photography at

Wayne Coyne was ill and couldn’t really sing. He gave a moving speech at the beginning to say in the scheme of things what was going on at the Roundhouse that night was insignificant when children were dying at the hands of a hurricane. Real nature this time.

Also on a higher plane the soulful voice of Eska and her thoughtful lyrics.

1306 Eska

‘Seeds of her memory grew up from the earth….she’s in the flowers….’