Reading the letters at the front of this month’s Artists’ Newsletter, I thought I was reading Artist’s and Illustrator’s Magazine, not AN! Don McNeil’s letter provoked a lot of feelings in me. It is true that current art taught in colleges is based more on ideas, but skill and the craft of making are still taught on many courses. I don’t agree with a lot that Anthony Jones wrote in his letter, but he did hit the nail on the head referring to Patrick Heron’s idea of “visual presence”.

When I was studying at the RCA (PEP in the Printmaking Department) Chris Orr said something profound which confirms this: “The image must be shit hot”. The Printmaking Department was an exciting place to be – etching for example, such a traditional technique yet imbued and synthesised with a quirky, innovative approach encompassing other forms of expression: performance, installation, sculpture…

“Visual presence”, or “shit hotness”, is the elusive element of the work I strive for; I suppose my work is not only about ideas but about the process of putting paint on a surface or, with regard to my videos, translating those formal concerns into the moving image.

I come from a traditional education in drawing, painting and art history. I was fortunate to have drawn from life one day a week for seven years (from A’ Level – MA), it was an integral part of my practice and discipline. At the moment my work is landscape-based, some would call it abstract. What role did the hours measuring and dealing with line, form and composition play in the development of my current practice messing about with paint and video?

It is not common-place to study life-drawing anymore. Is it important? What effect has the demise of life-drawing had on the work being produced today? Conversely, if the work is accuratelty drawn but lacks “visual presence” what value does it have?

Ian McKeever wrote this in his collection of essays In Praise of Painting: What is it about certain paintings, that they are able to get right under the skin? Often they are the paintings which one would least expect to do so. How and why do we find such intimacy with certain works? At times it feels as if they had been painted specifically for oneself. They leave the mass and weight of art history behind them and become an inexplicable part of one’s life.

That sums up “shit hot”.


I was pleased to hear that 700is Reindeerland is showing one of my video stills as part of their experimental video-art festival. I plan to go to Iceland in the future to make some work, it looks a really inspirational place.

I’m not too sure my career as a film-maker is going to last much longer. . . I bought a new Mac Pro (new to me) so that I can effortlessly make videos, just one problem: I can’t use my editing software on it as it’s not compatible – so now I’ve got to buy new software which will cost more than the computer – anyway, at least the keyboard is lovely and shiny and chic.

Also my video-camera is broken, the LCD screen is just black, so it is impossible to change the shutter-speed etc as this is selected through the menu on the screen; back to painting for me then, paint brushes are pretty reliable and cheap to replace – at least it’s warm in my studio at last.


The layers and layers of primer on the canvasses are finally finished – painted a couple a day, rubbed down inbetween each coat. This afternoon I decided to create vertical lines using glue and sand, but before braving the Narnia that is my studio (-10 outside and not much warmer in the studio) I thought I’d look for some exhibiting opportunities on here and on Axis – nothing that immediately needs attention, but whilst browsing I stumbled across Graham Crowley’s interview on the John Moores.

I know Graham from the RCA and he helped me a lot, he talks sense – here’s what he said about applying to the John Moores:

Yes, of course I’ve applied again this year. I hope there’s something on the CD that I’ve sent in and that they get to see an image, and then I hope that I get through to part two. That’s all you can do. As an entrant you have to be stoic. Don’t get suicidal because you didn’t get the judges approval. Move on. I’m sure your readers are familiar with this experience.

There have been times in the past when I’ve looked over a list of judges and thought I don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance. You have to think strategically. It’s expensive; you’ve got the work, the transport, the entry fee. Above all though is the emotional investment. I’ve made masses of bad commercial and strategic decisions during my career. You have to treat the only other resource you’ve got – your time – as precious.

I didn’t apply, neither to the Summer Show – for me it is logistically complicated working in the Pyrenees. I have submitted in the past and have had to depend upon favours from friends and family to deliver and collect works. The time I was accepted for the Summer Show they didn’t hang it, so it was almost worth the effort.

Things would be different if I lived in the UK, but here I am, free to do what I want (well, that’s what I’ve decided, of course it’s not true), even paint every day if it’s not too cold.

My studio is strangely empty as I managed to off-load a lot of my old stuff in the sale I had. It is quite a strange feeling, cathartic, but also unnerving; it is as if keeping the old stuff was some sort of crutch, comfort in past work – the paintings I’m going to make this afternoon will be like starting from scratch and I like that idea. The work must look ahead rather than just fit in with the old.

I hope to become engrossed in my ‘quiet’ paintings, form some sort of relationship with them and see how things develop, maybe make some new friends who don’t mind that I haven’t applied to the big open exhibitions.