Collaboration, Ideology, and Symbiosis

I’m writing this whilst waiting for clay to dry on my latest piece for The Art of the Doll. As this new series evolves I will be adding more to my Instagram account rather than continuously updating this website. Follow me on Instagram HERE.

I’m still keen to go digital as far as possible with The Art of the Doll. I like the idea of turning something totally physical into a digital-only presence. The sculptures themselves have so far been only temporary, with all materials being recycled and reused to create further pieces in the series.

The theme throughout my art career has been one of construction and deconstruction. I’m happiest when I’m distorting, evolving, diverging, and reforming. I’ve always felt as if I’m working outside of time itself, in a strange and uncanny world only half visible in the shadows behind me. My art is starting to explore this temporal disconnect. I’ve always felt most comfortable to be on the outside looking in; a traveller passing through the daily norms of society on my way to my own space beyond.

This year, I’m determined to travel my art far and wide through collaboration with other artists and musicians rather than purely in the gallery setting. I want my creations to have an artistic, intrinsic, soulful value to others just as much as they do to me.

So far in 2020, images from my previous series Future Fossils have appeared in the music video for Nove Note in Nero by Goldbringer. If The Art of the Doll is to emerge in physical form then I want it to be through a symbiosis with other artists. Meanwhile, I’ll focus on making and remaking. I’ll get back to my clay then and see what strange opportunities emerge.

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Coming soon to USA, London, and Wales!

My own personal art practice is just that, it’s personal. I don’t mind where it exhibits or even if it does exhibit just as long as it’s out of my head. I create mostly for me as a way of expressing things I need to get out. I can’t always explain why it looks like it does, it just is.

Sometimes my art escapes and takes on different forms which is a great thing. I’ve always described myself as a renegade so I rarely hang onto one discipline or theme for too long. I’ll take the risk and experiment on ideas and forms just to see where it takes me. I like to include myself in a small selection of annual art shows which challenge my practice and encourage me to think beyond my current practice. These shows raise funds for charities and galleries but also challenge the perceptions of the general public.

So far 2020 has produced four such challenges. In April, I’ll be exhibiting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at TAE20. I’ve created a postcard sized artwork to be sold in aid of Horry County Disabilities and Special Needs. Then in May, two tiny mixed media sculptures will be showing at the Unsettled Gallery in London as part of the Sentinel Trees exhibition (more on that soon).

Also in May I’ll be exhibiting in London again as part of The Art of Caring. Now in its sixth year, this exhibition celebrates the work done by those in caring, nursing, midwifery and coincides with International Nurses Day. I’m putting the finishing touches on my submission for that this weekend so I’ll share the results with you soon.

Finally, I’ve already submitted the picture below for 6x6x2020 at Rochester Contemporary Arts Center in upstate New York. This collage from some of my old sketchbook material is one of three pieces which will be sold in aid of the gallery.

I’m also still showing here in Wales at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery as part of the Swansea Open until the middle of next month. 2020 is turning into a busy year for exhibitions already!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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