Sunday, 29 November 2015

Minimal Intervention Piece #1

I'm not sure that my sculptural work qualifies 100% as assemblage. It's true that most of my three dimensional pieces employ the use of found materials, but unlike traditional assemblage, where found objects are often merely stuck together (I'm in no way deriding assemblage – in fact many of my favourite sculptures are assemblages), in my work I feel the need to manipulate the materials to a certain degree, in order to make them my own. Even with my box/tower structures, I find it hard to just take existing boxes and use them as they are. I still feel the need to create them from scratch; from bits of old wood – which ironically makes it look like I've just used pre-existing boxes.

One of the problems with using found objects in artwork is that sometimes one comes across a piece of material that is just perfect as it is, and altering it in any way might even go as far as to lessen its artistic merit. And as an avid collector (read 'hoarder') of materials I often find bits of flotsam and jetsam that fit just this criteria.

Even though there is a long and respected tradition of artists exhibiting found objects exactly as they are, or with minimal intervention, and declaring them pieces art (Marcel Duchamp taking a urinal, signing it 'R.Mutt 1917', and calling it Fountain, being probably the most famous instance), I'm still not sure that I would call my found pieces art in the same way that I'd call my more laboured works art. But maybe that will change once I start showing them. In fact, I'd love to organize a show of artists' collections of objects. Although, thinking about it, I'm pretty sure that the Barbican Gallery did something similar to that last year - oh well!

For now I'll just be content calling these my Minimal Intervention Pieces. I've collected quite a few of them over the years, so I think that it's time that I finally started showing them – even if it is just on my blog for now. This first piece (I'll post more over the coming months) currently hangs above my bedroom door and is made up of two objects that were given to me by two separate friends. One half of the piece is a vintage, leather and steel, child's baseball mask, and the other is a pair of old horns – probably antelope. I'm not sure why I originally put the two items together, but to my mind, they produce something greater than the sum of their parts. And isn't that what art is about? (so maybe they are artworks after all).

Friday, 27 November 2015

Weekend Two of ICADF 2015 (Opens Tonight)

Just a quick reminder that I'm exhibiting eight of my sculptures at weekend two (opening night tonight - pop along if you're in the area) of the Islington Contemporary Art & Design Fair 2015 at the Candid Arts Galleries directly behind Angel Tube station in Islington, London.

The fair has run over two weekends, with tonight seeing the start of the second of those weekends. My work is displayed on the upper floor gallery (not far from the bar, so you won't missed them), and will be there till the fair closes on Sunday night. As you might remember from an earlier blog post (or if you made it to last Friday's/weekend's event) I was also exhibiting in the more contemporary art side of the fair last week. This weekend's part of the fair has more of fashion/textiles/jewellery/furniture/ceramics/glass design products slant but Candid have asked if they can keep my work up for this one too. Maybe my sculptures don't quite conform to the theme of this half of the fair so let's just pretend they're furniture – just don't try to sit on any of them.

I'm planning to get there shortly after 5pm (probably nearer to 6pm knowing my punctuality) so I look forward to meeting, chatting to, and sharing a drink with as many people as possible. There's no need to RSVP to this one – just turn up, and feel free to bring along friends. I hope to see you there.

Islington Contemporary Art and Design Fair

Private View: Friday 27 November (5-9pm)

Weekend Two: 28 – 29 November (11am-6pm)

Candid Arts Galleries
3 Torrens Street
London EC1V 1NQ

Free admission

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Dino Tattoo

It's not every day that I receive a message from someone saying that they think my work is so amazing that they made it a part of them, so when I do, I definitely take it as a massive compliment. A few days ago I was contacted by a chap called Xavier Parrie, saying exactly that.

At first I thought maybe Xavier had had a tattoo done of one of the drawings that I made for the 'tattooed' element of my latest sculpture, Tattooed Tumour Box (currently on show at the Islington Contemporary Art and Design Fair 2015, from Friday 27 to Sunday 29 Nov.) – an idea that I've recently been toying with myself. My father was a tattooist, and I've always fancied having tats myself but, being an artist, I'm acutely aware of visual relevance so I knew that firstly I'd have to have to come up with something that was personal to me, design it myself, and then find a tattooist that I trusted to render it exactly how I wanted. It's only now, with the collection of drawings that I made for Tattooed Tumour Box, that I feel that I finally have the imagery that I could live with on my own body. Although, to be honest, I probably won't get any tats now. I love them on other people but am no-longer as excited about getting my own – maybe I waited too long.

Anyway – back to Xavier. When I opened up the attachment that he'd sent me, I saw that he'd had gone for one of my quick-fire drawings of a cartoon dinosaur. There are some wonderful colourful tats out there and loads with amazing detail and shading work but my favourites tend to be the simple line drawn ones.
The original dinosaur drawing is part of a large collection of quickly-executed ink drawings, all made without any forethought of what the eventual images would become. I started this series of drawings a couple of years back as kind of creative limbering up exercise, and found it to be a good way of letting go of any preciousness over my sketchbook work, as well as great way of generating new and unexpected imagery – some of which I've gone on to use in other projects. At the height of the series I set myself the challenge of having to execute a minimum of ten drawings a night, before I'd allow myself to go to sleep. Pretty soon a big pile of sketchbooks grew up next to my bed.

A lot of the drawings from my quick-fire series re-emerged as the wall plaque pieces that I made for the pop-up event at the A plus A Gallery during the opening week of this year's Venice Biennale, and Dino was one of them. Basically, I went through my last twenty years worth of sketchbooks, selected various images, then reproduced them as drawings or paintings on hand-made plywood wall plaques. The dinosaur one, that you see here, recently sold but click here to check out more from the series, which I have called my Taster Menu (because I'm selling them at a fraction of the cost of my normal work they offer an affordable introduction level for new collectors).

Friday, 20 November 2015

Check Out Candid and Crypt This Weekend

This week has been crazily busy, preparing for the Toys (Are Us) exhibition at The Crypt Gallery (last day of the show is this Saturday, 21 Nov,11am-6pm) on the Euston Road, and the Islington Contemporary Art and Design Fair 2015 at Candid Arts Galleries, behind Angel tube station – but it was all well worth the effort.

The private view for 'Toys (Are Us)' was last night, and the one for 'ICADF 2015' was tonight (Friday). At both events I managed some long over due catch-ups with fellow artists and friends, and met some very engaging new people (i.e. 'new to me' - not children. Although I did see a few children at the 'Toys (are Us)' show, especially around my toy tower sculpture, 'Magnet').

When I arrived at The Crypt Gallery opening I was pleasantly surprised to find an old friend, Yoshi Kinetorori Mamura, AKA Yoshizen, taking photos (and being photographed taking photos) of my sculpture with one of his eccentrically modified cameras. For anyone who doesn't know Yoshi, he's a strange mix of photographer, artist, inventor, Zen Buddhist, and much more. His life story would make for a bizarre and fascinating movie (I could see Wes Anderson directing) but that's a story for another time.

This photo of Yoshi's (using a fish eye lens) shows me explaining something about my sculpture to three students from the Barbican. To see some of his more experimental pinhole photos from the night check out his blog.

As well as all the great friends who managed to make it to the shows (I'll resist naming everyone as it'll just end up sounding like the world's dullest award ceremony acceptance speech – and I'd make it even worse by forgetting to mention someone) I got chatting to several artists that I'd not met before, and found out about their practices.

One artist whose work I was particularly taken with was Simon Fearnhamm and his Skelemental bronzes. Simon sculpts and casts miniature and life-size skeletons – something that would normally be enough in my book to warrant attention, only as I approached his stand, at tonight's Candid Arts opening, I immediately spotted his version of one of the Children of the Hydra's Teeth skeletons from probably my all time, favourite childhood film, Jason and the Argonauts. Not only that but I soon found out that Simon had actually worked with the god of movie animation, Ray Harryhausen on the pieces, some of which are now in the personal collection of that other movie great, Guillermo del Toro.

Another interesting artist that I met with was Italian printmaker, Sisetta Zappone, who is also exhibiting at Candid Arts this weekend. I was telling Sisetta how much I missed etching and working with printing presses – something that I've not done since my college days, just before I switched from printmaking to sculpture. Fortunately Sisetta also teaches at the Thames Barrier Print Studio (apparently the cheapest open source print studio in London), and rather generously has offered to show me round the place. So if all goes well I may soon be working on a few small series of etchings – let's hope so.

Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos whilst at the Candid Arts private view tonight so all the images (excluding the one by Yoshi) are of some of the sculptures that I currently have on show at the ICADF 2015, but taken elsewhere. I had planned to pop into the fair tomorrow (Saturday) and take photos but I now have to appear in a video that day, for a crowd funding project that myself, two friends, and the chef, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, are to be involved in – but more on that one at a later date (I'll tell you about it when you're older).

'Nail Box' photo by Rosie Mayell

Islington Contemporary Art & Design Fair 2015

Not content with being in just one art exhibition this weekend (by the way, thanks to everyone who made it to the opening of 'Toys (Are Us)' at The Crypt Gallery last night – great crowd, great venue, great show), I'm also exhibiting eight of my sculptures at the Islington Contemporary Art and Design Fair 2015 at the Candid Arts Galleries, directly behind Angel Tube station in Islington, London.

The fair runs over two weekends and today sees the opening night for the first one. My work is displayed on the upper floor gallery (not far from the bar, so you won't miss them), and will be there over both weekends.

I'm planning to get there shortly after 5pm so I look forward to meeting, chatting to, and sharing a drink with as many of you lovely people as possible. There's no need to RSVP to this one – just turn up, and feel free to bring along friends. I hope to see you there.

Islington Contemporary Art & Design Fair
Private View: Friday 20 November (5-9pm)
Weekend One: 21 – 22 November (11am-6pm)
Weekend Two: 28 – 29 November (11am-6pm)

Candid Arts Galleries
3 Torrens Street
London EC1V 1NQ
020 7837 4237

Free admission

Friday, 13 November 2015

Toys (Are Us)

This Thursday (19th November) sees the opening of 'Toys (Are Us)' at The Crypt Gallery, a group show of artworks based around the theme of toys – or to be more precise, 'the impact of toys on human development, society and the environment'. The show has been put together by artist/curator, Kosha Hussain, co-curated by Chloe Dall'Olio, and features works by over twenty national and international artists.

As Kosha explains on his Tumbler page (when choosing the right photo for the flier), 'the concept behind the image is a homage to the short essay that provided most of the initial inspiration to the show. It is an essay written by the French philosopher and semiotician, Roland Barthes, titled… 
‘Toys’ that appears in his 1957 book Mythologies. In it, he talks about two main things, the transition of the materiality of toys from wood to plastic and as a result, the way it affects the child’s developmental relationship with the toy. But perhaps more interestingly in my opinion, he brings forward the observation that what most toys are, is a miniaturisation of the grown up world, of its institutions and systems, and what these objects of mimesis do is attempt to subvert the child’s unruly imagination, desire and sense of identity.' 

I joined the selected group a little late in the day which is why you don't see my name on the list of exhibiting artists. But never mind – I'll just assume the role of mystery, special guest.

As anyone who knows my work can testify, I like to play around with the theme of toys and childhood perceptions of adulthood, so for this show I'll be exhibiting my sculpture, 'Magnet', which is literally made up of toys. Magnet is the largest piece in a series of four wheeled, tower sculptures (the others being The City, Book Tower, and Fetish) that all relate to our obsession with objects and material possessions. All the pieces in the series have aesthetically over-sized wheels, intended as a comment on the mobility restrictions that having so many possessions places upon us as a species.

Whereas the other works in the series dealt with revered or fetish materials, Magnet was initially supposed to represent the disposable and worthless aspect of consumer society. Yet, knowing the quirks of human nature, I turned this notion of worthlessness on its head by incorporating several prized and sort after ‘collectables’.

Originally named Toy Tower the piece was re-named Magnet after its first public showing, when it became apparent that young children, and older toy enthusiasts, found it difficult to resist physically interacting with the sculpture. At its first exhibition four young boys actually managed to wheel Magnet out of the gallery before the invigilator spotted the piece was missing and hurriedly retrieved it before it got too far down the street. Hopefully this won't happen this time, especially since the show takes place underground (in the wonderfully atmospheric Crypt Gallery below St. Pancras Church – probably the coolest current contemporary art space in central London), and any potential souvenir hunters would first have to carry the piece up quite a few steps in order to leave the building. Fingers crossed!

Toys (Are Us) 
Opening 19 Nov (6-9pm)
19-21 November

Crypt Gallery
Euston Road