Over the last year I have become increasingly disillusioned with spin: over-blown, uber-awesome events or works dripping with positive press and lip-service that don’t live up to the hype. This applies to other spheres of life too, most obviously is the massive u-turn by the Lib-Dem’s since they coalitioned. What can you believe?

It’s hard to find the balance right? Because you need to get the word out, and you want to convince an audience to make the trip, but go on too much and you just seem arrogant and self-aggrandising.

I still get stuck in the trap of being overly impressed with the sound of exhibitions/events/commissions/CV’s, but am slowly coming to realise that there (mostly) is no secret ingredient that I am not seeing – it just is what it is. For this reason, I absolutely do not read blurbs before I have looked at the work – because I am utterly seduced by words and the imagery they evoke.

Take Laura Belem’s work at Liverpool Biennial – it photographed beautifully, I mean so beautifully that it looked like an airy glass dream in the press shots. The description was a bit melty and lovely too as the work is based on an ancient legend. On seeing the work, I was completely underwhelmed – big black speakers filling my eyes and there was a teeny step all round that I kept stubbing my toe on or falling off a bit. The space was fairly small so it involved neck-cricking to look up above at the work and I couldn’t help wondering why the bells didn’t make a noise. Infact, they weren’t actually bells, they were just the cup of a bell without a clapper to make a noise. It’s like the difference between a book and a tablet – fundamental. Anyway, it was just a bit ruined by the oohing and ahhing going on in the press. Instead I was completly blown away by Danika Dakic’s film in the Cathedral. Dark, dank and claustrophobic, it felt ten times more powerful than Belem’s work and I couldn’t help wondering if this was to do with my own expectation rather than the work itself.


So yep,

Things to remember for 2011 #1 Just spend the time getting on with making the work and leave the advertising and prmoting as a firm second (or third, or fourth).

It is also for this reason that I always include all my crap jobs (including a stint in a chicken factory) since graduating when I am talking to students. Best that they know the truth and expect some graft and hardship – after all, my CV could be read as a pain-free semi-glossy career if you don’t read between the lines and int the omissions. So many omissions!


Time now for a bit of a break from politics… otherwise my head may explode!

So, instead, it is time for a yearly round up – just to get everything in perspective, take a deep breath, and remember that I have been working hard! It’s always easy to feel like there hasn’t been much achieved, so it’s good to put it into words.

What happened in 2010:

High points:

N.B. I have been nudged by my neice (very advanced and tweeting already at 7 months) to point out that her birth in May has made 2010 a stupendously happy and gurgling year. You can follow her here:


I finished the YSP bursary (finally!) and published a book for the end of the residency.
I wasn’t entirely happy with the book if I’m honest, but it was a good lesson – books need a LOT of time, a bit better knowledge of Indesign and book design oh, and a better printer.

A Curriculum residency at A Foundation
Met some great great people. Didn’t make great work, but it kind of set me up for future work, which may be as important.

Being shortlisted for the Liverpool Art Prize. I didn’t win, but I got to exhibit in Metal (love the building) alongside some really great artists.

Exhibiting in Milan with a very creative and supportive curator. Being invited to a group show in Lausanne as a direct result from this show. Loved doing the email interview with L.A. based curator Ciara Ennis too.

Cardboard Folly – I have wanted to publish an artists book with other artists’ work for a few years now, so it was great to get issue 1 done and exhibtited at the Bluecoat. I also got to know Emma Gregory better through this, always a good thing.

CUBE open – sold some work for the first time ever.

Applying for less things and getting offered more work without solicitation. LOVE this.

Spreading out into two studio space at The Royal Standard – this feels like a real work space and it works.

AIR Activism

Lots of travel.

Low Points:

Too much travel, too much driving.

Still not even making minimum wage, yet working most days.

Falling out with my usual printer and now I still need to find a new one. This was very upsetting and makes future book works a bit tricky. But perhaps I will find someone better, someone who really understands the difference between MATT and SATIN. It’s not the same ok?

CUBEopen – having work thrown away.

Not blogging as much.

Not getting to my studio enough.

Cardboard Folly – just wasn’t able to make this as gloriously as I pictured. Not enough money or time.

Not getting a couple of residencies I really wanted. There were other things I didn’t get, but for these I got very almost to the end of the application process, so it felt like a blimmin tease. I was almost booking plane tickets, let’s put it that way.

Doing Artists’ Book Fairs. Apart from meeting other artists, these have started to feel like a drain on both finances, confidence and energy.

Two car crashes.

The new government.

Family bereavements, ensuing probate paperwork nightmares and the incredibly sad loss of a 33 year old friend to cancer. These things are massive levellers and a much-needed reminder to appreciate every moment with loved ones.

To look forward to in 2011:

Going back to Japan (it’s 7 years now since I left my job there). Words cannot express how insanely excited I am about this.

The next Cardboard Folly.

My first solo show at YSP (I know, I do go on about this, but my head is saturated with it) next July.

Not to look forward to in 2011:

Being a walking art bomb/stress monkey in the lead-up to my first solo show, possibly resulting in divorce.

Yup, I think that’s it. Good and bad sides to everything pretty much, but I totally think the good outweighs the bad. Forgive the self-indulgence, but you should try a list too.

22.12.10 – p.s. My Husband has just threatened my wall chart with magenta crayon, so I would like to also say what an awesome, supportive and positive force he is in my life. I mean that, regardless of his childish behaviour ;D


I know Liverpool was rated #1 most deprived council in 2007, but I do wonder whether massive investment and capital of culture have made any difference to its current rating. I’m not sure it will reach out to places like Anfield where a lot of kids don’t even go into the centre.

Anyway, this is an interesting talk, with an article reveiwing it:

Thomas Sevcik: Why Art and the Creative Class will Never Save Cities



I am struggling at the moment to concentrate on my work when there is so much to be thought about politically.

It’s the same when I come to write about art – lots of things feel a bit trivial next to the state of the country. Bad times are ahead (or here?) and daily there are news stories and facts to be read, which make me feel angry, sad and utterly helpless. I am also stunned by the reaction of a couple of my peers to the protests and the cuts in general, but this is likely because they are recently monied and have lost touch with their previously skint selves.

Whatever happened to empathy?

This blog in the guardian today


has really upset me. Given the state of Liverpool in the 80s – complicated, but lots to do with Hatton and his defiance to the Tory government by going over budget – it feels like complete deja-vu. Again there is a mixed Labour/Lib Dem council, although there are no militants like Hatton I don’t think? But anyway, can we not learn from the past? All the cuts just seem incredibly reactionary, rather than strategic, and I feel like a big bad-decision tsunami is sweeping over us with no warning and with nothing that can be done to stop it. Except protest that is.

I realise that statistics can be presented in very creative ways, but there is no getting round the facts gathered here:

Impact of CSR cuts on selected councils
In brackets = 2007 Indices of Multiple Deprivation Rank, where 1= most deprived and 354= least deprived.

25-37% increase:
South Cambridgeshire DC (350); West Oxfordshire DC (349); Tunbridge Wells DC (273); Uttlesford DC (347); Reigate & Banstead DC (322); Dartford DC (186);Harborough DC (344)

25-29% reduction:
Burnley BC (21); Bolsover DC (55); South Tyneside MBC (38); Hartlepool BC (23); Blackburn with Darwen BC (17); Copeland BC (78); Liverpool City Council (1); Sefton MBC (83); Doncaster MBC (41); North East Lincolnshire Council (49); Sunderland City Council (35); Hull City Council (11);Blackpool BC (12); Wolverhampton City Council (28)

30-38% reduction:
Barrow-in-Furness BC (29); Lancaster City Council (117); Hastings BC (31); Great Yarmouth BC (58); Pendle BC (44); Hyndburn BC (40)
Source: DCLG figures seen by LGC


Loved watching the Turner Prize announcement on C4 last night while also keeping up with the plethora of tweets on the student protests at the Tate.This is how social media should be! News from those on the inside, and tweeting back what we were seeing on TV, so everyone felt they knew both sides.

I thought this protest was a really smart move, not only because it was strategically placed at the best known art institution in the UK, but also at the most media friendly event. Not to mention the fact that it was peaceful.

The way the protestors had the education issue acknowleged live on C4, first by Nick Serota, then by Susan Philipsz in her acceptance speech wouldn’t have happened without the protest. Who knows if they had been planning to say those things – maybe Phillipsz, but the protest forced the issue, after all, what would we have thought of those people if they had ignored the chants from outside? That they were philistines of course. That they were complacent people made rich who were out of touch. Perhaps that they were now voting Conservative because it suited their newly lined pockets better *cough, Tracey Emin, cough cough* I don’t know about you, but I expect my company in the art world to be pretty liberal, open minded, and able to empathise with others less off – to see the bigger picture. Humanists basically. Luckily, they did support the protests, so hopefully we will see their support continue. One of the Otolith Group gave a speech outside too, but apparently she couldn’t get back into the party after doing this.

During a visit from the Urban Interventions project to Liverpool, I overheard the bar bill after we’d been to see a film screening together. My little head suddenly starting adding up entertainment – just for one organisation – and I felt like it might explode trying to fathom just what their budget might be. Massive. The Turner Prize was far far more swanky, and may be sponsored, but it all just seems in very bad taste given the current austerity. The contrast between the protest and those inside seems like a bit of a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation in many ways.

Some blog posts on the protests here:

Penny Red: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/201…

Charlotte Higgins:


Excellent quote from Ed Vaizey in this one –

“They have every democratic right to protest. I just wish they’d do some work.” Awesome.

It is time we stopped the schmoozing? That’s what people expect somehow isn’t it? Those being schmoozed to buy work that is. An opening has been the stalwart feature of exhibitions for as long as I’ve been studying or doing art. As a student in Edinburgh and London, they were amazing places to see art, talk to artists and also, get free booze. I never considered how much it all cost as it was so normal. But recently there have been far fewer free bars and instead of openings, there seem to be more closing events and events that mix viewing and talking – perhaps it’s already been changing. I made me think about my own show at YSP. We’ve talked about an opening event, but as their big exhibition is in Jaume Plensa in April, that will also be the one big event of the year; we’re talking helicopters an all. They need collectors to travel internationally and to do that, it needs to be glitzy.

After my recent experience in Milan, where there was no booze and just lots of targeted curators and artists, I have been converted. I loved actually talking about my work to people who were interested, not feeling that sinking feeling as I watched people raid the bar, stand directly infront of the work chatting about last night’s Corrie, dump plastic cups everywhere and then bugger off. I’m exaggerating, but you’ve all seen similar. Anyway, I plan to go Italian-style, but I might need a little glass of something alcoholic!

p.s. I sold my first ever piece of work from a gallery! The eggs (pictures) don’t need picking up at the end of the CUBE open! Amazing.