My first blog ‘Keeping It Together’ came to a natural end when I moved in to my studio. ‘Keeping It Going’ picks up where that left off. Will I be able to maintain a blog at the same time as being creative in the studio? Will it help or hinder my practice as an artist?

www.katemurdochartist.com

Follow me on Twitter: @katemurdochart

August 2016: See also my new blog, ‘Keeping It Moving’

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-moving


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I’ve been looking back at blog posts and not for the first time, this quote by the late activist Harry Leslie Smith, leapt out at me:

Keep faith in love, friendship and democracy & never surrender your human light to the darkness of demagogues.’

The quote was taken from one of Harry’s own new year tweets, not long before he died. I’ve aways felt inspired by him; a good, principled man and an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. It feels ever more important to me at this time, to stay in touch with messages supporting democracy, with hope and optimism at the heart of them.

In 2017, I ended my New Year blog post with the above quote. Two years later, I mentioned it again and went onto write about ‘copying it and sticking it on my fridge door in the hope that seeing it enough will help keep me focused and perhaps, more optimistic about the future of a world that currently feels so fragile & fragmented.’

And yet … five years on, and here we are, at a point where, day by day, the future of the world feels increasingly more fragile and fragmented. The Russian invasion of Ukraine a week ago was described as ‘both a tragedy and a humanitarian disaster in the making’ in a news headline I saw yesterday. As the conflict rages on, headlines such as this reach us and daily bulletins of disturbing events become the norm, we are reminded of how much is outside our control. There are questions, too, around the authenticity of some of the reports coming in – how much of the news is fake, what is the truth?

Collectively, feelings of acute helplessness grow and we turn to doing what we can. Art in times of war and conflict, in situations where human rights are being violated, sometimes acts as a form of resistance – a way out. Expressions of hope and optimism become the perfect antidote to the horror and pointlessness of war.

Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine and have become a symbol of solidarity. I remembered this morning that I had some paper ones in storage and rescued them from a box in the attic. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them but right now, they’re laying on my late Nana’s dining table, in my living room. As someone who witnessed many wars throughout her long-lived life and whose younger brother was killed in the Second World war, I wonder what she would make of the state of current world affairs …

I can visualise her now, sitting in her armchair, quietly shaking her head, condemning the horror and futility of war and expressing compassion and sympathy for its victims, just as so many of us worldwide are doing.


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lovely jubbly:

British informal, used to express delight or approval: fish and chips and a few beers on the way back from a match – lovely jubbly! (from lubbly Jubbly, a 1950s advertising slogan for Jubbly, an orange-flavoured soft drink; adopted by comedy writer John Sullivan in his BBC television series Only Fools & Horses.’)

I always love a good story. This report about an error on thousands of pieces of royal souvenir china caught my eye recently and made me smile. A spelling mistake on thousands of pieces of platinum jubilee merchandise celebrating the Queen’s jubilee this year refers to the ‘jubilee’ as ‘jubbly.’ It’s a word that’s used a lot in the ‘Only Fools and Horses’ sitcom, primarily by Del Boy himself – ‘lovely jubbly’ is a classic phrase of his.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-60218573

I love the fact that something such as the manufacturing of royal souvenirs, so revered and admired in certain circles, should fail so spectacularly. And in this particular case, to top it all, to be compared to one of the UK’s most iconic working class characters in the shape of Del Boy (for those who don’t know, the character created by John Sullivan for his ‘Only Fools and Horses’ sitcom, brilliantly played by David Jason).

It also called to mind a piece of my work, ‘Mugs’ which I made for the ‘Push the Boat Out’ exhibition at the Art Academy, London in 2018. This piece highlighted another major royal merchandising mistake which resulted in mugs with images of the wrong prince next to Meghan Markle being produced. I quickly snapped up a royal mug with Prince William situated next to Meghan! You can see it on the top shelf next to a mug depicting William, also next to Kate.


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I was surrounded by some amazing colourful art over the weekend and it’s helped me feel more optimistic than I usually do at this rather drab, grey time of year. It also felt good to be out and about again, visiting galleries and having proper, real life conversations with other artists after a long time of not doing so. As a result, I feel more inspired and motivated than I have in some time.

First stop was to see Paula MacArthur’s amazing, vibrant paintings in her solo show, ‘Still Light’ at the Rye Art Gallery. I was once again struck by artist Graham Crowley’s description about Paula’s paintings in his essay from 2014:

‘Light is not only the subject matter and content of Paula MacArthur’s luminous and rather exquisite paintings but it’s also their medium. Paula’s paintings draw us into the now. For most of us; light can be many things, but for Paula; it’s a celebration of the senses and an affirmation of values. This isn’t simply a celebration of light but of life. The key to this sort of achievement is transformation. This is one of the principle elements that distinguish painting from illustration. This is the transformation from paint into light and space. A kind of latter day alchemy.’

What lingers after seeing these extraordinary, luminous paintings is a sense of joy. This is a celebration of light, life and love.’

None of the photos I took on the day do Paula’s work any justice and in honour of her ‘luminous and rather exquisite paintings’ I won’t include my poor images here. Best go to see the show for yourself if you can, or click on the link below for improved images of her work.

Paula’s ‘Still Light’ show is on until March 20th 2022 and more details about the exhibition can be found here: http://www.ryeartgallery.co.uk/exhibitions-events

 

Alongside her solo show, Paula asked a group of contemporary artists to respond to some of the flower paintings held in the permanent collection in the same gallery. ‘Still Life with Flowers’ also continues until March 20th and includes artists Hermione Allsopp, Miranda Boulton, Graham Crowley, Rachel Lancaster, Angela Lizon, Paula MacArthur, Joe Packer, Narbi Price, Judith Tucker and myself. I’m delighted to be in such great company and very pleased with the pairing of my work, ‘Nora was deflowered by a man who worked at a soda-water factory’ alongside Mary Stormont’s beautiful ‘Orchids’ painting.

 

Hastings Contemporary gallery offered another explosion of colour with ‘Ignition: the exhibition’ which showcases art works made during the 2021 residency in the gallery and works from the archive by neurodiverse artists and makers from Project Art Works. The show continues until the end of February. To read more about it, click here:

https://projectartworks.org/exhibitions/ignition-the-exhibition/

 

Then onto see ‘A Generous Space’ exhibited over two floors of the main gallery. More than 300 works from all over the world were selected from the Artist Support Pledge (ASP) community, bringing online work into the real world. The amazing story behind this groundbreaking idea is best explained I think, by the founding member, Matthew Burrows in the following ArtReview interview:

https://artreview.com/how-artistsupportpledge-took-the-artworld-by-storm-matthew-burrows/#:~:text=In%20March%20the%20British%20painter,sell%20work%20directly%20from%20Instagram.

There was so much good art to see in the exhibition. It was clear that the work had been thoughtfully selected and placed and it was pleasing not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it. On top of all that, reminders that the Artist Support Pledge (ASP) community provides a ‘generous culture and dynamic economy in support of ALL artists’ added another whole layer of positivity while seeing the exhibition. My visit left me feeling inspired to prepare some of my own work for sale as part of the ASP community. It’s exciting to think about how that might play out. Details of how to apply can be followed on this link:

https://artistsupportpledge.com/

 


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Time waits for no one…

So many people who write blogs start their posts with references to time – how much time has passed since last writing, how inconceivable it is that it’s been so long and so on. I remember someone once saying to me how irritating it was and I sort of understood what they mean – who cares how busy you’ve been – people log on to read your recent blog post, not to hear how desperately busy, busy, busy you’ve been …

That said, a major house move six months ago, means I have been – exceptionally so! – and it’s got in the way of me being able to manage everything in the way I’d like. I haven’t written here for a while and I’ve missed it, particularly my usual end/start of a new year post which I always enjoy writing. It’s a time of year when I like to touch base here – to reconnect with an artist/blogger community that I’ve now been communicating with for the best part of 10 years. Recent responses to an article written by Stuart Mayes, Elena Thomas and myself about our experiences of long-term blogging was a positive reminder that we’re still connected – artist bloggers from the past, as well as people who are new to it on the a-n blogging forum. If you’re interested, you can read the a-n Q&A article (published last summer) in the link below. Thanks to Stephen Palmer for making it possible.

https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/a-qa-with-elena-thomas-kate-murdoch-and-stuart-mayes-artists-and-a-n-bloggers/

I sometimes feel slightly evangelical when I start on the merits of blog writing but once again, I find myself so grateful to the artists who encouraged me to start on this journey. Yesterday, when I started the process of updating my website, it reminded me how thoroughly this blog captures what I do – the coincidental stuff like visiting galleries, other artists’ studios, outside art trails, for example. Maintaining a blog for me is a substitution for keeping a notebook. I use the space for recording new ideas, some of which only occur to me in the process of writing – ideas to be developed, talks I’ve attended, new artists I’ve come across, the research I need/want to do, the conversations I’ve had and so on – an endless list of information, hard to retain in my head.

It feels good to be back and I’m looking forward to a positive start to 2022 through being part of a group show ‘Still life with Flowers’ at Rye Art Gallery, which opens on January 29th. To accompany her solo show, (details below) Paula MacArthur has selected works by nine contemporary artists in response to flower paintings from the gallery’s permanent collection.

https://www.ryeartgallery.co.uk/exhibitions-events

 


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All the Dead Dears’ Kate Murdoch, August 2021

The above work was created through selecting three vintage photo mounts. They were a part of a small collection that have been in my studio for some time. I’ve used some of them in the past, mainly as part of my ‘Domesticated’ series in which, for me, they highlighted the sense of restraint and restriction experienced by women, particularly in the 1950/60 era – fenced in, trapped within a world of cleaning, baking, motherhood  – struggling to free themselves from a lifetime of drudgery.

My choice of these particular ones for the above work was primarily for their colour. But the shape of each mount and how they worked with each other was also a factor in making the finished product as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Anyone familiar with what they are will know that there are gaps where the photos should be. They are reminiscent of the displays often found on the walls of grandparents and great aunts & uncles, each photo representing a family member – a tribute to their growing offspring, generation after generation.

I was drawn to these mounts with their gaping, vacant spaces at a point of trying to make sense of the daily Covid death totals that were read out in governmental press conferences. They were presented as if they were a mere statistic, but the fact is that every single one of those numbers represented a real person – a person who was loved & cherished and  would leave a gaping hole in people’s lives. All the dead dears, all the long gone darlings should never be forgotten.

‘All the Dead Dears’ was included in the ‘Silent Disco’ exhibition, organised & curated by Graham Crowley at his amazing Greystone Industries gallery in Wickham Market, Suffolk in August of this year.

 


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