Apocalypse

A0FCB21C-6ED3-4C25-B204-8F7730ED075AOnce again I was planning to write something completely different today but decided instead to give you something to conjure with.
The thing that artists want most is inspiration and what I’m about to write has haunted me somewhat, creating a domino effect of thoughts and imagery, so perhaps if I can articulate this properly it will do the same to you.
Yesterday I needed a break from doing.
I had stumbled out of bed and spent the next six hours alternating between research, emails and art.
I was doing detailed work on a sculpture that required heaving a large, delicate and very heavy structure around whilst I contorted myself into sometimes painful positions to glue beads onto it, all the time wearing a sweaty uncomfortable mask to protect me from solvent fumes.
I went for a walk to stretch my screaming shoulder muscles and clear my head, and as I realised that I would be fully absorbed with similar work the following day, I decided to stock up on food and have a charity shop rummage in a shopping centre of a small suburb a few miles away.
It was a wet and miserable Sunday so the roads were quiet when I headed back home.
Crossing the road that lead towards the motorway bypass, I passed a car that looked as if it had started turning, changed its mind and then stopped, cutting off both lanes.
I paused on the other side of the street and looked at the silver Audi with an immobile man in the driver’s seat. He hadn’t moved at all in the minutes since I’d passed the car and now stood watching him.
A couple and their dog, the woman holding a full dog poo bag, walked by and as they approached me on the pavement I pointed him out and asked them if they didn’t think it was all a little strange.
The man said, ‘no, the car is just turning’ without breaking his stride.
I looked at the car and the driver still hadn’t moved, his hands immobile on the steering wheel.
There was no other traffic nor any other people to be seen.
It was that liminal time on a Sunday where everything is silent and very still, when everyone else is with their family having the ritual roast dinner followed by somnambulism and television.
I walked up to the car and saw a young, pale, Chinese man, still locked into position, and I asked ‘are you all right?’
He looked at me and nodded; he was crying.
I hovered for a minute then walked back to the pavement, watching and wondering what I could do.
The car started up again, then drove away.

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Making A Golem

4711C859-CC9C-408B-89D0-68E245CB3589I think I’ve established that the creative process, the ‘making’ is inherent to who I am. As you have probably ascertained however, I have a few issues with the promotional necessities of putting myself forward; creating the brand of ‘me’, so to speak.
Simply enough I’m a person not a brand. I’m feminist from a generation that finds a lot of conflict in creating a commodity of myself and I’ll put my thoughts on that out there before I go into a dissemination of why I exhibit and and sell the results of my creative process (which I believe is a different thing from packaging myself as a brand).
Of course creating a brand of oneself and by an extension whatever it is that you do or create (or vice versa) has been done for centuries before this social media ruled era; Albrecht Durer and his distinctive signature was probably one of the first self branded success stories and wouldn’t be considered to have sold out nor made a diminutive of his work.
I’m aware that creating a personal brand doesn’t mean sexualising yourself but I do know that there is a degree of image marketing that goes with the territory and through years of observation have noted that with the type of work I do, I would perhaps have greater success if I photoshopped off a few years, made my tattoos more evident, had a wilder image and wore more black.
However none of those things are,I feel,representative of who I am or what I create and I don’t feel it appropriate that either me or my art works should fit into a definition shaped box, even if the categorisation would make my work more relatable for the public.

For me exhibiting and selling my work is a natural progression from its creation.
I still work part time to keep a base level income going but the thought of making my living doing something I love is a dream and goal which my anarchic inner saboteur can often tend to run ramapage over; perhaps fuelled by some residual remnant of punishing Catholicism that sees this life as a martyred grey run up to the next phase where things are pastel peachy hued, or maybe some lingering low self esteem stuff that says I can only survive through the performance of duties that make me unhappy.

If I sell my work I make money to create more art, clear space in my shed/studio to put aforesaid new art works and also gain affirmation.
When I do it the right way and in a good frame of mind, promoting myself is simply another facet of the creative process, another pattern to be explored.
Recently I put up a blog about my problems with ‘having to’ use social networking platforms to put myself out there; ‘having to’ being the operative words. What I did to break that potentially destructive impasse was stimulate myself with some courses on the subject, looking at new approaches and working with people who were actually excited about the process, because excitement and passion are contagious.
It worked; when I’m passionate about something, I run with it. It’s the chores on the mundane middle road that I let the analysis destroy for me.

Another thing about showing, sharing and selling one’s art, whatever medium it might be, is its potential to help you find people with a similar vision as yourself.

I will not deny that is frightening to display an expression of your inner self to a wider audience than your shed/studio provides but it is a worthwhile risk as you connect with people who appreciate and resonate with your vision and this has an ability to take you out of the lonely place where an artist occasionally dwells.
Knowing that others understand your work (even if their perception is something that makes no sense to you at all,and with the pieces that I make I do get a lot of misinterpretation, some of it not particularly pleasant)can be incredibly strengthening.
Often when I do a presentation about my work I am asked questions about my creative process and belief’s and this probing creates realisations and insights on my own part which can be revelatory.
I work alone for long periods of time and whilst that is what I need to do and I enjoy it, taking me out of my safe zone can challenge and inspire me to be more.
I decided that my most recent show was to to be the last one in a particular venue and city where I’ve shown my art many times over the years and many of the people who attended it had followed and supported my art since I started exhibiting.Their presence meant so much to me, and the energy I gained from the occasion fuelled my ability to make some major changes in my life.
Through not just my art, but the promotion and sharing of my art, I’ve developed a sense of strength in self and also in community, and that is an immensely powerful magic that weaves power through my work to inspire forward movement.

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If I Don’t Remember You, Do You Exist?

D40076A0-D170-4BEC-9C1F-7E9B3F5B856AI’m hopefully in the final stages of an ear infection which has left me slightly deaf and feeling as if I’m trapped inside my head. It seems appropriate whilst I’m living in this introspective bubble to blog about memory, a concept which inspires so much of my art and writing.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of memory for years, trying to pinpoint what it is and how people experience and define it.
Personally I don’t have any memories pre puberty. After puberty there is a sense of knowing that some things happened that can be triggered by music and on occasion taste or smell, but for me, memory isn’t a visual experience but an intellectual, embedded and conceptual thing.
Floating and quite nebulous.

It’s ironic that my personal experience of memory is indistinct but I have a very strong sense of inherent memory and an awareness of stories that exist within objects and occasionally, people.
With people I suspect my insight is partially intuition based and partially a hyper awareness of appearance and stance which has been sharpened by life experiences and imagination.
As I’ve felt myself to be an outsider most of my life, I’ve found it necessary to watch people closely in order to maintain a semblance of right behaviour and I suspect this has meant that I’m more attuned to human characteristics than most.
Objects I’ve always appreciated if there is a sense of age or time or mythology within them. This is what has made me adept at finding antiquities and reselling them, as I gravitate towards inherent feel rather than visual appearance.
I will acquire something initially because of instinct (and of course because I like it) and then research its actual provenance. As I seem to be very good at this I set myself boundaries of operating within a very low price range, otherwise I suspect I’d be one of those people who live within such a cluttered environment they need to be dug out of their acquired detritus when they die. Some years ago I met the charming and very successful antiquities dealer Oliver Hoare. We discussed these ideas and he was on the same page as myself in that it isn’t the item itself that pulls one to it, but its feel that radiates an attraction of sorts.
An intangible glow granted by time.

I spent many years having to endure a multitude of hospital appointments and related invasive treatments, made all the worse because I hate the bloody places and they create a lot of anxiety and fear in me.
Before these visits I would visit charity, second hand and junk shops and rummaging amongst the old things, often donated as an estate of the dead, would invariable calm me.
All of those stories and whispers.
I believe bones and wood and natural objects also contain a tangible essence although their story line isn’t structured into an easily understood format as it operates outside most human standards of interpretation (I read once that we anthropomorphise trees, for instance, to make them comprehensible).
Human bones to a extent still hold a link to the aforesaid structured and easy to translate format, and the bones of pets, but not remnants of the natural and the wild.
However everything that exists and holds history wants and often needs acknowledgement. In a way is akin to the conundrum of whether a tree falling makes a sound if there is no one to hear it; it isn’t a question of whether something happened but more about how it is perceived and interpreted.
When memory is articulated, as interpretation is so personal, it will constantly vary but can’t be wrong, just a different angle of perception although there is always a common ground which is where things like atavistic consciousness come into play.
All of the pieces that I use as a point of focus in my art holds a story. The bones and shells and discarded jewellery, the remnants of roadkill, the broken ornaments and stopped clocks. I collect, listen and are calmed by them, then I fall into their various mythologies and integrate them into a new legend.
Just as history of mankind, of wars and events and happenings is considered to be written by the conquerors, true and intrinsic and emotionally experienced history is often, most correctly conveyed by the artist.

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Memories Have Teeth

 

 

A0A7B1B8-9905-4A4F-A59D-4FE21ED5C34FSo ostensibly today’s written ramble isn’t about art but as it is about an artist’s life, I think that should create necessary leeway for a bypass in blog focus
Yesterday I had six dental crowns taken out, with a view to replace them in the near future.
Six dodgy old crowns which were well overdue for removal and that were causing all sorts of nasty problems.
Finances prevented my rectifying this at the beginning of the year when they first started moving around and generally acting up. The delay was partially due to money (I have dental insurance which I set up many years ago as the NHS weren’t able to supply the means to look after my life abused teeth, so although I only to pay lab costs for any work done, it is still a substantial amount of money) and partially fear.
All my offending teeth are in the upper front of my mouth and though I have friends with missing and ‘English’ teeth, and I have let go of many aspects of vanity as I’ve aged, I am not ready to let go of my six front teeth and poking around the offending items seemed a bit of a risky business.
So I sold various books and household items and raised the amount which my insurance didn’t cover and I’m finally in the clinic’s waiting room together with an elderly man and an elderly woman, sitting separately, opposite me.
For some reason, we all, three strangers, started talking on an incredibly open and personal level.
The man was a teacher who had come over from East Germany in 1972, and never went back.
He spoke of family members who had been shot by the Stasi, and of the many jobs he had undertaken in England as he had struggled to support his family.
Queuing up outside the Austin factory to do a night shift which paid enough for the family to survive for weeks, working casually as a hospital porter and initially studying medicine until he released that it wasn’t financially viable and he switched his focus to teaching languages.
The woman who had been widowed with four young children when she was in 30’s spoke of her husband’s death and her struggle to raise her children and nurture their individuality and how she succeeded to the extent they grew up to be brilliant, highly successful and pugnacious to the point she didn’t actually like them.
Truth to tell I didn’t contribute much to the conversation, just listened and asked the occasional question or interjected with a comment or two.
I left them to have a very intense three hour session with the dentist, filled with drilling, tugging and clouds of rancid tooth bone smoke.
I saw the first four crowns lying in a dish (a Hong Kong dentist in the early 1990’s replaced my drug and bulimia addled front teeth after which I avowed never to binge/vomit again, and I didn’t), followed by the next two crowns (an NHS dentist, Mr Smiles, in the late 1990’s when I had just left a treatment centre with advanced damage to my remaining teeth caused by drug use and neglect; after these were replaced, I never used drugs or drank alcohol again) and thought that maybe this will mark a new era for me.
I staggered out of the surgery with my temporary crowns, which despite placement at awkward angles and looking as if I’d been eating white bread sandwiches and not brushed my teeth, and though feeling as if I’d been on a three day tooth grinding rave session, I felt slightly better now that the poison was taken out.
At reception I once more saw the elderly woman and as we said goodbye she clutched my hands and said she felt as if we had strangely and suddenly become, old, old friends.
So perhaps writing about my dental visit is very much about my art, because it is about memory captured in objects and bones and how that memory can create reactions and revelations, and that, is very much what my art is about.

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The Artists Janet and John Do Social Networking

11ED3D04-118C-42E1-9A91-513387531B9E

It’s quite amazing that I’ve never written a blog about social networking before as it is such a dominant and conflicted part of my life.
I have no doubt others feel the same way about the internet with its powerful addictive properties, illusory glamour and the necessary obligation to engage with it.
My phone tells me that I spend an average of three hours online per day, much of it flicking from one social networking site to another and often mindlessly scrolling rather than actually interacting.
I’ve been an active member of the online culture longer than most as my father was part of the first wave of those who worked in IT and as a child I drew on discarded computer print out paper and still have vivid memories of dial up tones, AOL and early Yahoo chat groups.
Later my invalid mother who lived in Asia was very ‘on’ with new trends and would encourage us to use various of these to stay connected.
It was through my mother I first heard of facebook, Twitter, and Second Life for example, and a need to keep connected with family and friends whilst I travelled was what precipitated my initial setting up of a facebook account.
The irony was that in those early days many people who worked in IT didn’t have social networking accounts (in their own name anyway) as they were aware of data mining, government surveillance and other associative pitfalls.
Today the drawbacks of online interactions are well documented but ignored in favour of how necessary it is in order to be an active part of this society, without actually having to leave the house.
In my own passive and complicated way, I’m a stubborn and rebellious person who doesn’t like being obligated to do something.
All artists need to promote their work, and are cognisant that a reasonably large part of their time must be allotted to doing this.
I’m sure there are many creatives who use social networking in the right way and don’t see themselves losing hours of valuable creating time to extracurricular scrolling, but unfortunately I’m not one of them.
In the build up to specific events I have no problem with working with twitter/facebook/instagram etc; it’s a pattern I enjoy working with and that I find fulfilling and exciting.
However those times aside I generally find social networking superficial and shallow, which isn’t a good attitude. The long and short of it is I need to work with the behemoth and if I’m analytical and bitter it makes the process miserable and life is too short to choose misery.
In 2018 I did little social networking and happily lived my life to the full with few distractions, but the resultant loss of public interest in my art was both humbling and dispiriting.
Earlier this year I worked intensely on online promotion for my exhibition and I found it exhilarating although the accompanying acceleration of advertising and strangers popping up on messenger wanting to have long conversations with me was an unwanted consequence of this. After the show I’d burned out and stopped using these forums and when I did post again the algorithms had changed and I was seemingly punished for my lack of interest by decreased ‘likes’.
I love instagram as it is visually orientated and less inclined to flame wars and trolling (on my feed anyway) but sometimes I find myself looking at real life and thinking how I can frame it for online presentation, and that disturbs me and I feel it is then time to step away from the virtual and return to the actual.
So that’s where I’m at.
Part two of post exhibition analysis which may well be leading to revelation and perhaps even a gentle rebellion.
I’m well aware that moments of such rebellion can be career destroying and I really should just grow up, grit my teeth and get on with it as truth to tell, social networking is simply the fabric of these times.
However pissed off I get about necessary networking I’ve either got to roll with it, subvert it, or change what I want and how I’m willing to achieve that.

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An Analysis of An Exhibition: When Community Is Rebellion.

23A9E388-069E-4678-86CC-311F52109F55I always have a prolonged rest (or an explosive crash) after having an exhibition.
The buildup and preparation for such an event is draining and no matter how successful a show may be, the after effects of frenetic continuous work, crisis management, and consistent and intense socialising, inevitably hits me hard.
My most recent exhibition was probably my most successful and enjoyable, probably because I kept things simple with only one artist who I knew well showing with me and not too many pyrotechnics or performers involved.
It’s taken me longer than usual to write up feelings and observations this time for various reasons. Returning to my day job (no I don’t make enough to live on as an artist and writer and need to have a back up income) proved to be particularly stressful and after hours I simply wanted to be frivolous and wallow in books, movies and the art of others.
Invariably, post exhibition analysis also includes my casting a jaundiced eye over my own life, and I have other things going on at the moment which snowball this analysis into being an urgent and rather pressing concern, probably similar to the one I should have had when I left school but I instead bypassed by being a drug addict and alcoholic for 19 or so years.

Anyway, enough digression- time to move on to post exhibition analysis that does NOT include my own related existential angst.

I realised some years ago that events and exhibitions gain the greatest attention after they actually happen, as retrospective coverage is magnified by social networking.
Since my last show this phenomena has become more pronounced which makes sense as social networking has become exponentially more powerful.
Something related to this that has become more obvious and occasionally blatant, is artists and would be influencers who make an appearance at a gathering and publish this appearance online in a manner that makes it appear that they are involved or complicit in some way rather than simply an ambitious observer.
I think the same corporate attitude that has encouraged creatives to treat themselves and their work as marketable commodities and to make plagiarism acceptable also push this sort of behaviour as being necessary to achieve any form of success.
I’ve never been the type of artist whose events it is deemed fashionable to be seen at so perhaps I shouldn’t protest too much when I encounter this in my sphere, even if it is only people who want to appear on their news feeds with a happening sort of caption rather than appreciate my actual art works.

The opening night of any exhibition is always a vital one and of course the free alcohol provided is part of oiling of both social ability as well as spending capacity.
In all my years of organising events I have never known such a tiny amount of alcohol consumed as at my last show, although the preview in itself went exceptionally well despite or even because of this.
Afterwards I researched this widely adopted new look sobriety as I tried to ascertain its cause.
I’d noticed that for some people it was akin to the abstinence that I myself practice as a recovering addict/alcoholic; however in many cases it seems to be a choice made by some younger people in order to have a measure of control over a life being lived in crazy times, a reaction against the excesses practiced by previous generations and finally, something that is now considered necessary to do in unknown environments as spiking of drinks has now become so endemic.

I’ve always been a believer that any art exhibition is a gift of sorts to the public, especially those that support the exhibiting artist. For me a showing of my work that means I try to give something beyond a visual experience of my work; talks or music or workshops- things that take the event beyond just a passively observed activity into something which is a two way affair.
In these times the world can too easily reduce people to feeling like a powerless bystander in life, so anything that recognises the individual and values their active presence and participation is both immensely valuable and actively rebellious.
O yes, of course I want to make money when I show my art although often I simply cover my costs, but my goal is also to create an interactive space which is exponentially inspirational.
How much longer I can continue to do this I don’t know and I feel this may well be my last organisation of such a thing.
A great part of my creative process is working with patterns in not just my art, but in the way that people interact and relate to what I make, and whilst I’m doing this for love and celebration of the creative community, in this era, doing such a thing has become an act of rebellion.

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HAKIM BEY IS MY HERO-MOVING BEYOND ART EXHIBITIONS INTO THE INSPIRATION ZONE

I was going to write a blog today on the plagiarism that is so rife within all parts of the creative world, but as I am teetering on the edge of that madness specific to participating an art exhibition, I thought that I would focus on that instead.
A continuous stream of consciousness babbling about where I’m at will be a relief and a pressure diffuser from the fraught undertaking of publicly displaying one’s art, and it may even give you an insight into why I continue to embark on such madnesses.

I’ve organised many exhibitions and events in my life of not just my own art but also work of other artists from a wide range of creative mediums, from film and music to performance and spoken word, and also of course, paintings and sculpture.

Every time, EVERY TIME, as I’m packing up at the end of the event and I realise my stress levels have been stratospheric and not once have I managed to have an in-depth conversation with someone as I’m invariably multi tasking, problem solving and disaster diffusing (do not light your cigarette by that gravestone, the fire poi performer has left 20 litres of paraffin there/I understand you can’t perform in front of the large audience that have come to see you because of anxiety issues, but please just breathe deep and give it a go/I know it will be incredibly effective hanging yourself from the apex of the building whilst you perform with flaming torches, and it will be especially interesting as you’ve never done something like that before, but my insurance won’t cover that/is there any way we can prevent the local homeless from shitting on the gallery doorstep at the start of every day, just before we open up?).

Exhibiting my own work is a nightmare in itself as the pieces are fragile and difficult to transport and invariably I have very little money to make the journey easier.
Like many artists I’ve been in the position at the end of an exhibition when I’m unable to transport all my pieces home as carrying them on a bus or a train is not a viable option (although I have undertaken long journeys on public transport carrying a large horse’s skull, stuffed dead crows, and spirit houses with monkey skulls sitting resplendent on the top), so in multi artist exhibitions there is invariably an end of show maniacal off loading and swapping of work.

Someone recently asked me why I still involve myself in such things, especially as they have heard me say so many times over the years ‘never again’. Well aside from my streamlining things over time so they are less complicated and less chaotic, one needs to exhibit work in order to sell it. Images can never fully convey presence.
Also it is amazing and exhilarating working with an area of space and placing your art in it to different effect.

My attitude towards exhibiting work has never been about product placement and sales, but centred around the more old fashioned concept of creating a happening, and trying to involve as many people as possible in the moment of magic.
I guess with that sort of attitude it isn’t surprising that I get stressed.

Craving the stimulation that occurs when you get a group of creatives together in an interesting venue then adding music and smoke machines and various other dramatic effects into the tension that inevitably occurs when artists put their soul on display, invariably leads to friction.
However from that friction comes stimulus, change and inspiration, and that is what it is all about, because for an artist, inspiration is everything.

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