how to emerge? Drawing …

Spent three hours, yesterday afternoon, between London’s National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square drawing and looking, and all for free!

Aren’t we lucky. YES WE ARE!

I know we are in the midst of savage cuts. Cuts, cuts, cuts but, still …. there’s something amazing about being able to spend a warm afternoon, out of the rain, looking at Tudor kings and queens. Seeing the real thing. And a whole history of modernism, up close and personal, Monet, Degas, Pissaro, Matisse. And for nothing … not a penny [except TAX, of course, but it’s so worth it]

Then, squinting up at Nelson, I walk straight on up to Picadilly Circus and Regents Street -dodging Japanese tourists – to Saville Row and Hauser and Wirth to see the new Martin Creed show.

Fantastic, in parts. Still thinking about the colourful abstract paintings in the first gallery, and the Dog photos. They did made me laugh, and think of Crufts, dog-lovers, cheap birthday cards, and what a sentimental dog-adoring nation [not me!] Britain is, all in one. Presume irony reigns?

Then on to Gallery two, two doors down – a vast white space with a single revolving sculpture [or strong simple message]. And spent a wonderful hour contemplating Creed’s monumental neon sign: MOTHERS … and loved it. The word revolves slowly, then faster, up to 7 revolutions a minute, so you feel a light rush of air on your face. What simple joys, sketching and watching. The audience, students and the well-dressed, alike, drifting in off the street, intrigued.

Finally, a Nelson’s Column for Women.






Update: New Year’s Resolutions & January 2011

Giving up sugar

It is now 39 days since I last ate any sugar – chocolate, cakes, sweets, biscuits, sugar itself, etc. And far from feeling deprived, I actually feel liberated!

Perhaps, unconsciously, I am giving up things beginning with ‘S’ as I stopped using shampoo to wash my hair in September, instead using plain or rosemary infused water, and occasionally a pinch of baking powder.

In studio by 9am

Yes, most of the time, and it feels great!

Writing more reviews

I have written several which can be viewed at the link below, and really enjoyed the experience. It has caused me to think on a deeper level about artists making work today, printing and painting in particular, and how these new concerns and trends might relate to my own drawing practice.

“What I see in all the work is a sort of anti-painting; often colourful, sometimes grim, featuring out-of-context motifs, small windows of intense drawing, elements of wall-paper type decoration, out-of-focus objects and figures; and, occasionally, paint [usually gloss] thrown smartly across the surface of the canvas; a definite blurring between reality – the object, the figure – decoration, and a sort of grimey, plasticine-coloured abstraction.” Extract from my February review on Phoebe Unwin – www.a-n.co.uk/p/1086603/

More drawing

Yes, yes, yes and being fed by seeing more shows. Thinking and writing about them.

Walking & Talking

I do this three or four times a week with artist and writer friends. It is a great opportunity to discuss books we are reading and shows we have seen etc, as well as escaping out into the open away from being desk and computer-bound.

New Projects

Towner: I will be showing a new drawing installation entitled: Silhouette in the East Sussex Open at the Towner art gallery in April.

Jerwood: I am currently creating a new series drawings for The Jerwood Project Space which will be shown in July/August 2011. The idea is based on the traditional still life with a modern twist.

Core Gallery: Excited to be co-curating an exhibition called: Home at Core Gallery, Deptford with Rosalind Davis. I had the idea back in November, suggested it to RD, and off we cantered, with no backward glance. It has been a valuable time of new ideas and collaboration, an incredibly stimulating and enjoyable experience – particularly, the give and take, and slow build of ideas when you are learning to work with someone new. What has also been highly gratifying is that all the artists we wanted to work with, have come back and agreed to take part. Susan Collis, Delaine Le Bas, Rose Wylie, Lucy Austin, Peter Davies, Rich White, Kate Murdoch, Emily Speed, Freddie Robbins, Graham Crowley

Best Shows: Painting – Phoebe Unwin – Wilkinson, Vyner Street – until 6 March

Also really enjoyed The Salon Photo Prize at Matt Roberts Arts, Vyner St, until 26th February.

Reading: Fiction: Just starting We had it so good by Linda Grant. Non-fiction: At Home by Bill Bryson

Listening: When I am drawing Radio 4 and also, Radio 7 [soon to be renamed Radio 4 plus]. At the moment I am enjoying brilliant readings and adaptations of Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky

Looking forward to: High-abstract – an exhibition by abstract critical, a new organisation supporting abstract art.

This means I am going to have to think about, read about, and probably write about abstract art – something new for me. Already, I have reached for Alan Bowness’s compact tome Modern European Art* for a short refresher course on the birth of abstract art. The press release says: An exhibition of high-ambition, high-complexity abstract painting and sculpture 1960–2010.The exhibition will feature key works by artists Alan Davie, John Hoyland, Fred Pollock, Alan Gouk, Anne Smart and Robin Greenwood. A catalogue will be available with essays by Mel Gooding, Robin Greenwood and Sam Cornish.

High-abstract: Poussin Gallery, London – 11 Feb – 12 March


.* Modern European Art by Alan Bowness [London: Thames & Hudson, 1972]


Interface reviews: www.a-n.co.uk/interface/reviewers/single/16286





How to write?

Just received my February a-n Magazine and I see that on p.16 an extract from my New Year’s Resolutions (Blog 15) has been quoted:

‘See more shows and write more reviews. Thinking about what we have seen, and writing about it is good for us.’

What I mean by this is that the time, thought and analysis that goes into writing a review usually means that the writer has had to think about the work they have seen on a deeper level, and I believe this feeds into our own practice.

I am currently writing about difficult things because I want to understand them.

I don’t find the process easy. I don’t mean the writing itself, but working out ones ideas, what one wants to say, and how best to say it.

Writing is a craft where less is always more. One easily writes 1500 words, and then has to hone it down to 750. And it is this process of self-editing that is so liberating. As you do this you find the essence of your idea, the real thought behind your words suddenly becomes clear.

The easiest reviews can be where you feel something extreme, you love it or hate it, so that the passion carries you through. The hardest are when you feel nothing, the work is so mediocre [in one’s own humble opinion]. And one thinks: ‘What’s the point?’ For this work. And for looking, thinking and writing about work in general.

Mediocrity is a passion-killer, in all aspects of life.

Then, occasionally, you see something. Something that appears to come from nowhere, that catches you off guard, and momentarily, your visual thirst, and sense for seeing something new and good is quenched. It is that inspirational.

‘That’s how I felt last night about seeing the work of painter, Phoebe Unwin, for the first time. Put crudely, there is a David Hockney – on largactil* – about them, more faded, and of course more abstract, but still that wonderful awkwardness, the pause, the hesitation, the small steps, you feel in the painters mind as the brush moves across the canvas to capture the idea of an image, something just out of reach.’


*Largactil is an antipsychotic drug. Psychiatric patients taking it often suffer from restless limbs and the desire to keep walking on and on, using small shuffling steps, despite the lack of anywhere to go. This is commonly referred to as the ‘largactil shuffle’.

Part of the latter pargraph includes an extract from my review: ‘Phoebe Unwin: Between Memory and Observation’. You can read this review and others at Interface.



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