Friday, July 18, 2014

Traditions Futuristes – The Retroscope

The Retroscope is installed, for the first time, in the Maison du Patrimoine at Tusson, Charente, as part of an exhibition entitled ‘Traditions Futuristes’. It is a collaboration between myself and Lois Walpole. The objective of the exhibition is, essentially, to get the public to look at the building and the museum in a new way. What is the Retroscope? Quite simply, it is a machine that enables us to see into the past. It consists of two cones constructed from willow and lime mounted on a tripod. Whereas Copernicus and his mates would have looked through the smaller end hoping to find something of the future, the simple innovation of the Retroscope is that you look into the bigger opening, with its sun-like rays to see something of the past. It’s been immediately successful, because we have discovered the sun glasses and mobile phone that belonged to Marguerite D’Angouleme (aka Marguerite De Navarre). She left them behind when she stayed in the convent that was here in Tusson in 1547, following the death of her brother King Francois 1. Both of the items found were made in the 16th Century, the sunglasses are French and the mobile either Japanese or Swedish.

The Retroscope came about as a result of being asked to provide a piece for the exhibition at the last moment. We envisaged it to be installed in the main courtyard (in order to use some of the windows) and, luckily, no one else had claimed that spot.

The exhibition is open to the public until the 15th December 9-18h Tuesday to Friday and 14-18h at the weekend.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blue Landscapes and Pink Lorries

Listening to Grayson Perry giving the Reith lectures this year was very entertaining, although reviews were mixed. One snippet I picked up on was the result of a survey that was done in various countries which asked people what sort of art they liked. The response was overwhelmingly a landscape with figures and animals in the foreground and mainly in blue. This MIGHT explain why I don't bank in Jersey or the Virgin Islands.Maybe it's because I didn't learn how to do blue landscapes with figures and animals  at art school and my latest work doesn't fit into this category either.

I've embarked on a series of glue gun drawings called Pink Graffiti Lorries which, as you may have noticed, is, according to this survey, as far away from the ideal art of many people as it's possible to be. I started these earlier in the year before the Reiths - so  have I got an inbuilt contrariness to comply with what people would love to have hanging on their walls?
When I was an art student an aunt asked me if I could paint her a picture. What she wanted was a seascape with (yes) horses in the fore ground  and (yes) mainly in blue. I sensed a bit of beer money coming along so I started  to paint. At the beginning it was a bit horsey and a bit blue, but it soon mutated into a hellish scene with a dragon - like beast in front of a blood red sky. I wasn't able to buy a round that week. Not long  after, I did sell my first piece of work AND no-one told me what it should look like. So how does an artist decide what to do their art about?

Grayson Perry said that after a lecture once a student came up to him and asked him that question.He ummed and aahed  for a bit and seeing that she had an i phone in her hand he said 'Well I didn't have one of those. She has access to any image or information. When I started I had none of that." As I'm a bit older than Perry I also didn't have access to the internet when I started. So, maybe, as  More Mature Artists, we are not hung up on search engines and can look around and say, for example, I'm going to draw those lorries and colour them PINK! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rose-Tinted Glasses

Acupressure Techniques Julian Kenyon,Thorsons 1987
I’ve just read a review of Affecting Perception in Oxford Student Online which made good noises about the piece of work I had in the exhibition and though I’ve been in the art game for a few years now it still gives me a buzz when this happens. When the piece is so personal it’s even more satisfying when it resonates with others. I just hope the reviewer wasn’t looking through rose-tinted glasses.
A friend recently contacted me saying that he had heard that wearing rose- tinted glasses can in fact help prevent or reduce the number of  migraines and some research seems to indicate that it can be beneficial. Personally, if the demon light coming from an unexpected source hits me, I don’t usually have a chance of avoiding a migraine. Occasionally, if I’m really quick, the length and intensity of the attack can be reduced by clamping on to acupressure point Li4, which is in the web between thumb and first finger. I do both hands for at least a minute each.
If all artists who suffer from migraine wore rose tinted glasses when they were painting, drawing or whatever, they might well feel better but it might also make their art look better than it really is!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Affecting Perception: Art and Neuroscience

I’ve just returned from being involved in a fascinatingly different art project which may very well make me look at my artistic practice in a new way.

Affecting Perception: Art and Neuroscience is an exhibition and a series of seminars. It brings together examples of work by artists with different neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Autism, Asperger syndrome and, in my case, Migraine.

I was participating in a seminar led by Cosima Gretton (one of the curators of the exhibition)with Dr Klaus Podoll of Aachen university. I was reconnecting with Klaus Podoll after some  years as he has interviewed me and written about my work on many occasions since 1997. It turned out to be a very interesting and informative event, with good audience interaction. Although Dr. Podoll and I have communicated  often over the years by snail mail, e-mail and fax (whatever that was), by both being in the same room and in front of an audience resulted in a different dynamic. Him commenting on my work and explaining some of the more technical aspects of  migraine  was somehow more exciting and real. Unfortunately, we only briefly touched on the subject of Giorgio De Chirico, one of my favourite artists and almost certainly a migraine sufferer.

The gallery is a circular building which was originally part of Oxford Castle prison It’s a challenging space to hang an exhibition, having grey walls and a staircase down the middle and quite small. But the shape and intimacy was perfect for a show to do with the brain. Even without knowing that it was to do with neuroscience, the exhibition was compelling because there was an underlying feeling that the work came from a strange place, darker in parts than others. It would have been interesting for people to have seen it under the title Affecting Perception first and then again with the words Art and Neuroscience added. I know, too difficult but in a non recession world maybe…….

The exhibition is still on at the O3 Gallery,  until 31st March and the catalogue is excellent and informative reading.

It was great meeting up with Klaus Podoll again and we are going to pick up  working together - on the subject of ‘elective affinity‘- once I’ve got to grips with the concept!

Congratulations to AXNS collective for envisaging and realising a ground breaking event, which I was very pleased to be part of.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Rock’n’roll lifestyle without the Rock’n’roll money

Paint By Numbers Lorry 2012
It can be done. You need someone who is an expert at finding the best travel deals, good friends  dotted around the country who can put you up, generous parents-in-law, an ability to slum it and a bit of luck. I’m sure you can add quite a few other factors of your own. From the Charente to Shetland is over 1500 kms and there are various stretches of water involved as well. It would be no problem for Mick Jagger (sorry SIR Mick!) but for two artists trying to maintain the R’nR stylee in a recession it requires a lot of work-but it’s worth it. 

In France we have a fine old house, a garden for the veg, studios, nice neighbours, good light and a few little wineries who produce a good drop. Back a few years we were happy with that but then my mother-in-law intervened. Her mother was a Shetlander and my mother-in -law, being a generous person,  paid for us to visit the most northerly part of the UK as a gift. Basically we fell in love with Shetland and bought a peerie hoose with the remains of our money.

I think I’ve said it before, but so many people up there are artists, musicians, writers, poets, you name it, they are in Shetland  so there is a good buzzy creative atmosphere. We have just come back from over wintering there where the house is cheaper to heat and the weather was better than down south for a lot of the time. You can still get five seasons and more in one day (as Shetlanders say).  

We were participating in an exhibition as part of the Veer North artists’ group that we are members of. The theme was ‘Numbers’ and it produced a good show. Either or both of us do some teaching when we are there so we don’t travel for the sheer hell of it and as part of maintaining the R’n’R stylee we do let the cottage out when we are not there. 

I suppose some  might think we are being greedy but working in two places does contribute to the creative juice store, so it’s no bad thing..
Yes, it’s all my mother-in-law’s fault. Maybe she wanted a Rock’n’roll son-in-law so I’m doing my best to oblige!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Talking Migraine and Art

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life :1

I've never actively pursued an involvement in the world of migraine, but again I find myself involved in a related project , Art and Perception. In the past I have been in competitions and exhibitions, been interviewed and written about, having to relate my experiences  re art and migraine. When younger it was sometimes done reluctantly because I didn't want to be reminded of something that was, basically, unpleasant. As I have got older the attacks are less frequent and less intense so now I am not so reluctant to be involved. As part of Art and Perception I am looking forward to meeting up again with Dr Klaus Podoll an expert in migraine art, in an 'in conversation' on March 20th. It's probably the first time that I will be looking forward to a migraine event, possibly because I feel more in control of the beast, and hopefully It will be a positive experience for all involved. Dr Podoll has written a lot about one of my favourite artists, Giorgio de Chirico, so we will  have more than one topic in common. He has pretty well proved that De Chirico suffered from Migraine, which I didn;t know when I picked up on him, or did I,sublimanally? Now, I can recognize and emphathise with, much of his visual vocabulary.
It's a pity The Migraine Man triptych will not be shown in person (only as a copy) but the exhibition will include another triptych, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which has only been seen once before. It has emerged from a dark and remote part of my studio to see the light of day in Oxford.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Empty Handed

JJ Ignatius Brennan  The Artist's Hand 2003

One of the curators of the forthcoming exhibition being organised by AXNS (see previous post) has come back empty-handed from Glaxo Smith Kline.We have been informed by them that Migraine Man has been designated as officially  missing. GSK don’t know where he is.The fifth biggest pharmaceutical company in the world apparently does not have an official catalogue of it’s art collection, whatever that means.But they do have someone in charge of it! Does that mean that other work they own by more famous artists ,such as John Piper, is sitting around in unmarked cupboards, unopened for ages, or on a toilet wall in one of their many sites in UK?

O K, GSK didn’t spend a lot of money, by their standards, on buying Migraine Man, but they do spend a hell of a lot on commissioning well known artists for a new site, for example. I don’t believe that they pay cash and don’t have any documentation. Should I inform the Treasury that there might be tax avoidance going on? Whatever the case, this is pretty sloppy work by one of the biggest companies in the world. I also feel a bit insulted that they have such lack of respect for my artwork I put a fair bit of time into creating that piece and you always feel if someone thinks it’s worth buying they will make sure that it is seen by others. The exhibition being organized by AXNS is a case in point, where I feel it could have maybe contributed something towards the understanding of Migraine. But the public will have to make do with seeing a printed copy of it, which will not have the same impact.

I know that other artists have had similar experiences. Why do these big companies even bother to buy work by us lesser mortals when really they want only Damien Hirsts so they can sell them on when they feel like it?