The place I cannot go…

I have a recurring dream. In this dream the house, or place, in which I live has an area I cannot go. Sometimes the home is a modern apartment, other times it’s a converted factory, or a repurposed school, or a place I used to live, or somewhere completely alien to me. Every time there is a dark area in which I cannot go. It can be a lift shaft, a basement, a cellar in an old castle, a locked room, or an attic.

This place that I cannot go is always very damp. Sometimes there is water running down the walls and holes in the ceiling letting in the rain. It smells old and oppressive. The floor is difficult to navigate and I often stumble after a few steps of trying to enter. The air is thick and hard to breathe. This place is always small enough that I can see the walls but it is always windowless. There is only one entry in or out of this place.

More than anything though, this place has a presence. It has something here, living here, that doesn’t want me to enter. It does not make a noise and I cannot see it but I know it’s there. I can feel it. Often, when I know I am in this place, I turn back immediately. Other times I feel brave enough to enter and see if I can conquer this place. I am always aware that this is only a dream. Surely there is nothing here that can hurt me?

It is always cold here. I get goosebumps and as I try to enter. These chills suck all the heat out of my body and my legs freeze. I am stuck. There is no way forward. There is never any way forward. If I don’t choose to turn back and leave then something pushes me and slowly forces me back. I have goosebumps writing this now and remembering this place.

After leaving, my dream continues as it was before. The characters of my dream behave as if nothing untoward has happened. I have to pretend that I am okay and go along with the charade but inside I’m shaking. I walk past the door, the opening, the crack, to the place I cannot go and I know. I know that this place will return to me again and I will never conquer it.

When I wake I try to erase the feelings of this place from my mind. The only way I’ve found to do this is through my art. My art can feel uncomfortable, uncanny, unkind, but when I look at them I see relief and release. The faces I create bring me recognition and comfort because I feel they understand the torment of the place I cannot go.

You can see more of these images at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea until the middle of February or CLICK HERE to see more from this series.


Now Showing at Glynn Vivian Gallery Swansea

I’m really pleased to announce that two of my new series The Art of the Doll are showing as part of the Swansea Open at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea.

Simply titled One and Two they evoke ideas on the uncanny. To me, they are soothing representations of the things I dream, but others have told me they are just really weird and freaky and they’d love to stop seeing what’s in my head please.

I haven’t managed to see the show yet but I’m planning a visit very soon. Swansea is a massive hotbed of artistic talent and has a long tradition of expression so it will be great to see what the city has produced this year. The Swansea Opens runs until the middle of February so if you find yourself in South Wales then why not take a look.

The Art of the Doll

The Art of the Doll is an emerging series working and reworking doll heads with clay. The sculptural forms are temporary and exist only for the photograph before being destroyed and rebuilt in a different form.

Uncanny personalities evolve, diverge, and reform. The potential of this series is infinite and limited only by the raw materials and my own imagination. Future artworks exist in a temporary present before quickly becoming only a digital memory.

I’ve printed out a few of these for exhibition and am hoping to be part of the Glynn Vivian Open exhibition this year with some of this new series. Already four images have been created. You can see more on my The Art of the Doll page HERE.


Is it worth it?

After a long period exhibiting at The Workers Gallery “What is it Worth?” has failed to sell. The general consensus on price from visitors to the gallery is that this artwork is worth between £225 and £300. In suggesting it is worth this high a price visitors have themselves placed the artwork beyond their own purses.

Let’s just think about this for a second. I’ve asked people to state what price they are able and willing to buy for, and still they feel unable to buy art. Rather than ask for some greedy price far beyond the realm of what gallery visitors are able to offer, I turned it around and asked for a fair token price. I would have taken any price no matter how low. I’ll take a penny for it if someone really wants it on their wall and that’s all they can afford.

Is it the case that regular visitors to galleries expect art to be beyond their financial reach? If this is the case then artists can rarely hope to make a living at what they do. There are only so many wealthy philanthropists to go around. If you’re not lucky enough to find a rich patron for your art then you’re relying on the general public to make your art sales happen.

Are there simply too many artists and not enough buyers? The culture of going to galleries is within us here in the UK but we’re more likely to spend £100 on a night out at a local restaurant with friends than we are on something for the walls at home. Unless there is a cultural shift then a lot of artists will always be destined to be working other careers to finance their art. Your Friday night bartender could well be your Saturday afternoon gallery artist.

Of course there is the alternative idea that visitors suggested a price in the hundreds to avoid buying my work. It’s a polite way of saying they don’t like it without risking offence. Instead of “Oh my god what is this nonsense!?” they’re saying to themselves “This is art and I don’t understand it. Rather than say I think it’s rubbish and then feel stupid I’ll compliment it and say it must be worth hundreds. After all, those artists I see on the TV do art I don’t understand, and that is worth thousands, so this must be really really clever art.” If that’s the case then I’ll nail a potato to a wall and charge you £1000. Is that what you expect from a gallery these days? Is that what you want? Really?

Yeah right…

Art, we have a problem. We’re failing to engage with the punter. We are failing to help the regular vistor own the things they like. We’re failing to help the artist make a tidy living out of their craft. We are failing gallery owners in making a living from their business. This is a simple failure to communicate and this has been going on for a very long time.

A few centuries ago this wouldn’t be a problem since only wealthy people bought art. Regular people were not expected to visit galleries. The working classes worked while the upper classes played. It is only relatively recently that ordinary people have been encouraged into the gallery environment. Today’s galleries have outreach programs welcoming the wider community through the doors. Contemporary galleries double up as community spaces, coffee shops, bars, and tourist attractions to help curators cover the bills. Now visitors have their Friday night out at the gallery instead of waiting until the following afternoon for their slice of culture. This is all great stuff. It’s a win-win for the gallery visitor and the curator.

But what about the artist? The artist is the last to win financially from their work. I seem to be the last to be able to cover my bills, if I can cover them at all.

After wrestling with this for a very long time I’ve finally decided to remove the idea of money from my artmaking. I’ve given up my self-employed status and am no longer working as a professional artist*. I’ll still make art and contribute to exhibitions but I will alter the way I engage with the art world. I’ll give to exhibitions that sell in aid of charities where I receive no financial reward. I’ll work on small art which I will leave in public places for others to find and cherish. I’ll create new pieces by recycling old pieces so that I am not out of pocket through buying materials. I’ll create and destroy and create again with the only evidence of the art ever existing being a digital photograph on my Instagram account.

So here it is “What is it Worth?” If you want it then go to the Workers Gallery next week and take it for a penny or two. Let me be your patron rather than the other way around. Let me help you to have the art that you want. The creative stuff in my head will continue to flow so if you like it then just take it. Knowing there is a happy art owner out there who wouldn’t normally be able to afford art makes it all worth it for me.

*I’m taking away the illusion that I’m doing ok out of my art and I’m working in the care sector instead. There is no future in making money from art but there’s a future in supporting the ageing population in being happy.

The Experimental Art Market

I’ve been considering the value of my art for a while now. I’ve been thinking about who buys art and how to communicate with buyers, whilst also deciding whether the buyer themselves is relevant in the process.

In August I created What is it Worth? which is currently hanging at Workers Gallery in Ynyshir. Here I am asking potential buyers to name their price and decide for themselves what my art is worth. I’m deliberately allowing viewers to name their price in order to allow the market to dictate worth. I have no idea if there are any bids or offers for this piece yet. Perhaps I’m priceless, or perhaps I’m worthless. The goal is to engage potential buyers in the process of valuing art and discovering what is a realistic value in the current economic climate.

At the opposite end of this experimental art market is the Venice Vending Machine project . I’ve been involved with Venice Vending Machine since its first inception back in 2011. All art vends at the same price, and through dialogue with the curator art buyers are rewarded with a tiny piece of art no bigger than a few inches in diameter. Art is dispensed at random, which brings a sense of equality amongst the participating artists. Gone are any high art ‘elitist’ notions. The playing field is totally levelled and everyone participating is equally valued.

This Vending Machine has travelled all over the world and the latest iteration of the project will be at Hamilton House, Bristol, towards the end of November. Artists are asked to consider what market and value mean to them. Entry into the Vending Machine is free so submit your art HERE.

The traditional art market has always been a game of chance. The buyer, the artist, and the gallery all have to match at exactly the right time to make a sale. Both the Venice Vending Machine, and What is it Worth? are subverting these traditional routes. I’m changing the dice and altering the rules of engagement to bring the value of what I create more in line with what real people in the real world can afford. That’s definitely worth something to me as an artist, I just hope the buyer agrees.


The Secret Art Sale 2019

I’m really pleased to announce that this weekend I’ll be showing at this year’s Secret Art Sale in Twickenham. It’s an annual show run by, and raising money for, The Environment Trust. This amazing organisation is a nature and heritage conservation charity based in the south east of Britain.

Now in it’s fourth year, this is an exhibition with a twist. All artworks are for sale and are only £40 each. All the money goes directly to the charity and the artist receives nothing. So you can imagine having a quiet time at the show and seeing something you like and getting it for cheap? Well sort of. In reality, it ends up a little less relaxed and a little more frenetic.

The show has been attracting some big names since its inception and this year is no exception. Celebrities and renowned artists show side by side with locals and students. The art is sold anonymously and you only find out who the artist is after purchase. This means you can bag something potentially worth thousands for only pennies. In previous years there have been queues of buyers waiting to get in. This year’s names include  Emma Thompson, Roger McGough, Ken Howard, Peter Davison, and Quentin Blake.

In 2016, in the first ever Secret Art Sale, one of my sketches ended up shown next to Mr Blake’s work. I’m not sure where my art will be this year and I definitely can’t tell you what art I submitted. You’ll have to flick through the catalogue of artworks yourself HERE and try and match what you see to the artists’ biographies HERE.

If you’re in the Twickenham area this weekend then it’s worth having a look. Best arrive early though. The queues of collectors and lucky visitors might beat you to a Melanie Honebone picture before you blink!

Obviously I can’t show you the art I’ve submitted so instead here’s a screengrab of four pieces from the Secret Art Sale catalogue. I think I’ve guessed two of the artists featured here but I’m not sure I should tell you…


Market Value

Last month I carried out a residency at the Workers Gallery in Ynyshir. I asked the question What is it Worth? to try and place a value on my art and the worth of artists. You can read more about that HERE.

Now this artwork is on sale at the gallery for an unspecified amount. This isn’t one of those ‘Price on Application’ deals that is designed to make you feel small. Really, I haven’t put a price on the artwork because I want you to decide on how much you would buy it for.

Let me explain…

Many years ago I asked a gallery if I could exhibit with them. They agreed but there was a very strange clause in the contract. This was a provision that the price set for the art would not change if this art was shown in a different gallery at a later date. I’m not entirely sure what their reasoning was. Perhaps they were thinking that to show the art cheaper elsewhere at a later date would undercut their business. I figured this price rigging was just unfair because different areas of the world have different markets. A pint of milk isn’t even the same price across one town so why should my art be any different? Needless to say, I walked away from the contract.

It got me thinking about fairness and cost. I know what I believe to be a fair price for work done. Minimum wage x hours taken + cost of materials = the very least you should get; but this doesn’t always equate to a realistic price for the buyer. A month making one piece should equal a month’s wages for me, but is there anyone out there prepared to give me a month of their wages in return?

Just who is your buyer and how will you match your craft to their walls? How do you make sure that nobody along the way is exploited? I’ve been to galleries so many times with the aim to buy and the price just isn’t quite right. Is it worse to walk away or to haggle? What makes me a good and fair buyer? I’m not sure if anyone knows the answers to any of these questions because the economics of art is so complicated. Here is an unregulated and unchecked industry run by lots of independent businesses. It’s a fluid landscape full of options and opportunities. Everyone looking to match up location of gallery, a buyer, and a good price, with the subjective craft and skill of the artist. Nobody seems to know the answer as to how they can make this happen so that everyone profits.

So, I am asking visitors to the Workers Gallery to offer a price for my art that they are willing to pay. It’s on the walls now and the price you pay is up to you. Just contact the gallery staff and tell them how much you want to buy it for. Naturally, whoever offers the highest price gets the art. It’s A2 sized, ready framed, and you can read a full artist’s description of how it was made HERE.

I don’t know how long this will be hanging around for. It might be after a few weeks nobody has made an offer beyond a few pennies, in which case this is what my craft is worth. Or it might be that between now and Christmas a steady trickle of offers drives the price up beyond my wildest dreams…

Over to you. What am I worth?
Visit Workers Gallery now at 99 Ynyshir Road, Ynyshir, CF39 0EN