I’ve just graduated, and for the three years of my degree I assumed that next would be a Fine Art masters, but it isn’t. Next is four exhibitions in a month, next is writing for a new magazine, next is working with artists to produce articles about their work, and next is also raising my six-week old son, born bang in the middle of final assessment and degree show preparations. NEXT IS NOW!


If the artist can’t get to a studio…

…the studio must come to the artist.

It’s been a little over a year since that fateful week in May 2012 when my degree show coincided with the birth of my first child. The subsequent brain-fog that left me without an original thought in twelve months (not that I think the baby part makes me any different in terms of having a post-degree lull) has finally lifted and once again my idle thoughts have begun to descend, emerging as word documents on the old gaffer-taped laptop, and are at last beginning to form coherent ideas in the space between the ends of my fingertips and what should be a studio wall. Only there is no studio wall. There is no studio, nor is there likely to be one before the end of the year, so I have had to improvise one.

With a number of new text pieces to work on, but nowhere to try them out, I have taken an old piece of work, Some work (2012), and painted the back of it white, in the hope that it will serve as a temporary studio wall. As it happens it’s not that much smaller than the studio spaces I had at university anyway. I am writing this post between coats.

My practice has been shifted around slightly, in order to manage my creative urges in the absence of a studio space. Recent new work (some complete – some in progress) has been of the ‘cultural artefact’ kind – a found empty biro, a sight so rarely seen that I have museumified it. I also took the most common spelling correction I have seen on places like Facebook and YouTube – *you’re – and painted it in acrylic on MDF. That little asterisk is really making its presence felt in the digital age.

There are other projects too, but it’s time for another coat on my one-walled studio, and the excitement of being back in action is too much to concentrate on finishing this post.


Since I graduated last summer I haven’t really had an opportunity to reflect on my practice, although it seems that every time I’ve sat down to do something, I’ve ended up looking back, trying to take stock of what happened, and where I am now.

Suffice to say not very successfully, because here I am attempting it again. But this time is different. This blog isn’t called NEXT IS NOW for no reason, it’s not supposed to be about what already happened, but what’s happening now.

There was a recent exhibition, Out Of Office, a group show curated by a friend, in which I showed some of my letterpress work from last year. These works have now featured in five different shows – Dis.Locate, Number 16, Grey Area, Meanwhile II, and Out of Office – that’s some mileage for three pieces of work. Most of those shows included other works too but here’s the big resolution…I think it’s about time I retired the letterpress stuff from exhibitions. Not least because they have become quite battered, what with all the posting and re-posting.

So that’s that decision made – no more shows for the same tired old letterpress work. Which means I now have to make new work. Which brings with it a whole host of new hurdles!

So watch this space – I have a timetable and I’m not afraid to use it.



I always felt I was an artist. At school I certainly was – I was the one that was good at drawing, but after leaving school I developed some kind of fear of not being the best, and so despite my instincts I avoided art for a decade. Then, on starting my degree in Fine Art at the age of 32, I wrote a mini-manifesto. The main point being that art should not be judged for its exchange value. I felt that since Warhol, but more so in the era of rampant capitalism ushered in by the Reagan and Thatcher years, the intelligence of art, the inquiry, the creativeness of thought that it encouraged in both its creators and its viewers, had been undermined by the market. Particularly in the UK by Charles Saatchi.

I still feel this way.

This led me to creating a body of work that has no monetary value; that could be owned by all, starting with short text pieces that became the property of anyone that had read them. Such work is as easy to share as it is to own – its physical nature was inconsequential to its meaning, so the work could be spoken and not lose any of its potency.

This ideology continued last year when I created Cards, a series of business-card sized works that were given away to anyone that would take them. The work held no practical business information whatsoever – I didn’t even sign them, I just wanted people to have them.

The text on Cards was created using letterpress, and it set me thinking about the medium through which I delivered my work. I realised that I could manipulate the format to influence the reading of the piece. For example – if I just write ‘exquisite tenderness’ on a blackboard, or on a wall in vinyl lettering, you might draw any number of conclusions about the phrase, it’s origin, and its meaning. If I take an A3 piece of good quality hand-made paper and emboss the phrase into it, I create a piece that might demonstrate the phrase in physical form. If I take a small business card sized piece of that thick, grainy paper, and hand-print the phrase onto it in crimson lettering then an altogether different reading appears – one of luxury or indulgence.

A consequence of using letterpress and paper that comes in enormous sheets is that I can work on editions – I can create a short print run of physical works each minutely (or markedly) different to the rest. I now find myself having work that is for sale, and having a bunch of people who seem to be pleased at pointing to my manifesto from four years ago, and my subsequent turn around, telling me that it represents a dropping of ideals; a lowering of standards; a changing of principles to suit my needs.

To such cynics I hastily point out that I was never against art that could be bought – how else does an artist earn a living, after all? – no, I was and remain against art that is elevated above other art because of how much money has changed hands in exchange for the work. That Damien Hirst can sell a collection at auction, without ever having exhibited it, for £111m is fine by me (although I’m not exactly shouting ‘Go Hirsty’ from the rooftops), but this and other publicity-seeking ventures do not a good artist make.

I will continue to make work that is free to all, because there is nothing better than sharing ideas, and that happens best when money is not involved. However, I also now have editioned work up for sale on Artolo – a new artist network, encouraging users to judge art on its artistic merits, and then buy it.

Don’t worry, it’s mostly cheaper than £111m.



A return to blogging in the form of an update.

The final time I shall mention him in the place where art should be: my son is now six months old, sleeping (like a baby), and I have managed a return to something approaching a reasonable amount of sleep.

I have left my energy-sapping, unsatisfying, uninspiring part-time job as a van driver, and am now pursuing a much more suitable career for an artist and writer. I work in the village deli.

People talk about post-graduates taking a job ‘in the arts’, but I always felt that the only job in the arts for me was that of artist and/or writer. Being the guy that works in the gallery and hopes to have a show one day was never going to be for me, I was always a sucker for the myth of the out-of-work actor waiting tables fifty weeks of the year, so now I appear to be living it.

Only I’m not so out-of-work as that suggests. Art-wise things have been a lot slower than in the summer, but there have still been three new shows featuring my work, in Abingdon, Oxford and Birmingham. The last two are with MadeScapes ^, a collective of recent graduates based in Bristol, Bath and Oxford, and although I am their Online Editor I still show work with them where appropriate, and will dedicate a future post to this aspect of my practice.

The main development of the past three months has been in my writing. I was awarded a professional development opportunity by Southwest and Wales arts collective Hand in Glove, and have been working with a mentor (Art critic and writer David Trigg) to polish up my writing.

The partnership has three stated goals:

1. To write a text, of between 500-800 words, to accompany a solo show by Josephine Sowden at Bristol’s Motorcade Flashparade in the new year.

2. To regularly write reviews and have them critiqued by David, with a view to improving my technique. To publish these reviews online, either on my own blog or on reviews unedited.

3. To visit a show with David, write a review of it and to submit that review to a national arts periodical.

The text for the Sowden show is coming along nicely – she makes work about the distance man has put between himself and nature, so my angle is the formation of selfhood in the urban landscape, the built environment, the artificial world. I assume I’ll be able to publish the text here once it’s out in the world.

So far I have written two reviews – the first, of Rona Lee’s That Oceanic Feeling at Southampton’s Hansard Gallery, started out as an informal blog post, but I sent it to David as an example of my writing. He pointed out the many assumptions I had made about the work, and reminded me to keep the needs of the reader in mind – “It is a re-view, so describe the work” – which was a great help. You can read my review here.

The second review I wrote, of Ivan Seal’s In Here Stands It, was again written as a blog post, and again made many assumptions and generalisations, but through Facebook I managed to strike up a relationship (relationship is a bit much – I commented on two of their posts) with Plymouth-based arts paper Nom de Strip, and they asked if they could publish it on their blog. Of course I accepted their offer, and emailed it to them immediately, explaining that I would be happy to amend it, so that it came across as more of a professionally written piece, but they published it anyway, commenting on it being not too precious, not too long, but still considered and well thought out.”

The trip to see a show will happen sometime in the new year, so I’m not even thinking of that at the moment.

Finally, on my mentor’s recommendation, I have applied for the Jerwood Visual Arts Writer in Residence position, so watch this space. In the meantime, back to the delicatessen…freshly baked Danish pastry anyone? No? Flapjack? Baguette?


This post was originally written on August 21st, 2012.

Since graduating I have been busier than at any time in my life, and that’s not just because three days before my final assessment my wife gave birth to our first child (a boy, name of Hamish, 6lb 3oz).

So, a run-down of what’s been happening and soon to be happening:

Site Unseen – 40 graduates from BathSpa came together for this contribution to the Truman Brewery’s Free Range event, an annual gathering of non-London university graduate works. I included ELVISLIVES, never, and exquisite.

Server/Browser – Twin exhibitions in Bristol as part of the city’s inaugural Biennial, shows put on by Madescapes^, an artist collaborative that I recently became a part of. I contributed some text, called #alwayson. I’ve also taken on the role of Online Editor for the group – follow @MadeScapes for more!

Paper Studios – Pop-up studio/shop in Bristol, and an exhibition featuring some of my work, namely ELVISLIVES and UNTITLED (I only fantasize)

Meanwhile ptII – Exhibition curated by Southampton University’s John Hansard Gallery, featuring work based around subtraction. My recent works exquisite and UNTITLED (And he was dead, everybody dies) are both included. Incidentally, that second piece was made in the first semester of my first year at university, which kind of makes me wonder if it was beginner’s luck or whether I have wasted my time and money on studies, and that I already had what it takes from the start. I’m going for beginner’s luck.

Platform 2012 – South West-based arts collective Hand in Glove invited me to take part in their graduate showcase event at the Bristol Diving School, along with around ten graduates from Bath, Bristol, and Newport. I showed Some Work and an #alwayson poster.

Arising from the Platform show was an opportunity to apply for Hand in Glove’s mentor scheme, which I did, and surprisingly won! I will be paired with a professional art writer from Bristol until June next year, so I will be bombarding that person with all sorts of articles from next month onwards. If I’m not a paid writer by the end of 2012, I’ll only have myself to blame!

Challenging Art is for Everyone – A Madescapes^ group discussion, with a live audience and Artolo. A nerve-wracking but vital event, which helped us put across our ideas to a non-typical art audience and which showed that non-art people are alienated by the language artists use – biiig surprise there.

On the writing front I have been blogging and applying for jobs, I was short-listed from about 400 applicants for IdeasTap‘s The Columnist role, you can read my submission here. Having read it back I already hate it, but being short-listed from that many applicants has given me the confidence to carry on applying for writers jobs. I have also been involved in some website editorial work that I am as yet unable to disclose. Oh, and I have written and edited a few articles for local NCT magazines, about being a new dad.

I have also had to turn down a couple of exhibiting and mentor opportunities on account of me having to pay for them, money being in short supply right now. But my plate is already overloaded anyway, and now more than ever, it is important not to spread myself too thin.

So there it all is, the busiest two months of my life, and at the same time as having to tend to a brand new baby, to be part of a team with a brand new mother, and bring in some kind of wage from a very dull and un-rewarding part-time van-driving job. But let’s not end on a sour note, life is the best it has ever been, and it’s only getting better.

So leaving my home town, going to university, and actually trying to do something has already paid off, big time!

Thanks for reading.