It’s been a year since my daughter was born; that, and the building project we embarked on at the start of the year, have been swallowers of time.  As a prelude to starting back in the studio in the new year, I was determined to make it to the TEGN exhibition hoping it would be inspiring as I begin to crank into gear again. I was not disappointed.

Any exhibition would benefit from being approached as I did, through wintry beech woods by bike, the twisting verticals of the skeletal trees slipping away in their subtle monotones.  But this one needed no improvement; it was top class, eliciting in me a combination of the desire to seize drawing materials and start working, and a feeling of trepidation at the enormity of the task of reentering the artistic sphere.

I had been invited by Paule Ducourtial, one of the participating artists. Paule had some beautiful and subtle drawings on Japanese Bunko Hitachi paper, the product of a research trip to Angkor Wat. She uses black, white and cream to wonderful effect in her drawings, focussing the viewer’s attention on the intriguing forms she presents and the materials used.  I was struck by the thought that it is the endless possibilities for combining material with form that link drawing and sculpture so closely.

Lis Nogel’s ‘Ved Stranden’ stood out for me, a wonderfully bold statement of a drawing; a self-contained, suspended structure that was apparently derived from a landscape.  It had the brain baffled for scale and the clever use of three or four colours subdivided the subject into ‘zones’ that played into each other, vying for weight and attention.

I also liked some of Nils Erik Gjerdevik’s intriguing paint flourishes on paper, evoking something deep sea or outer space, and Ken Denning’s heavily worked, immutable canvases resembling musical manuscripts.  Ronald Burns is an artist I also saw at the Grønningen 100 year exhibition.  His fish and seaweed were straining at the limits of the frame, overrunning the mount, with elements on tracing paper pressed up against the glass.

For sheer exuberance Ole Sporring’s fecund flights of the imagination made me wonder at the contents of his mind, and for jaw dropping technical excellence it would have to be Karin Birgitte Lund, with her exquisitely rendered, though for me rather boring, still lives in pastel shades.

There was something for everyone here, from epic commentary on the plight of economic migrants to comic strip easy graphic style, a thoroughly rewarding show which reminded me, as if I needed reminding, that in the field of drawing just as in other artistic endeavour, the bar is set impressively high.


Another few months have rolled past; our daughter is now three months old and we are starting to get out and about a bit more.  Unlike last time when I was looking after a baby, and my son and I used to go all over researching materials and processes to build House of Cards, this year will be dedicated to something less art related, though creative in a different way: the planning and (we hope) completion of an extension to the house we have bought in Denmark.  In some ways it may inspire my practice. week I intend to visit Denmark ‘s oldest stonemasonry yard, for example. But today’s visit inspired me to resume this blog because it provided the sort of unexpected and  pleasurable encounter with an aspect of Danish culture, that I want the blog to be about.

I had to visit a window showroom on an industrial estate off one of those drab ringroads through the middle of nowhere that the Danes do as well as we do.  Usually one speeds along in a car glad to be going through as quickly as possible. Today, with my pram in tow and going via public transport, I alighted at the appointed stop, consulted the map on my mobile and set off down the hard shoulder  (bike path as this is Denmark) to a footpath that was supposed to be there. An unlikely gap in the fence led to said path which proved to be a path through a so called ‘haveforeningen’ (allotments).  Here, feet from the dual carriageway, was a little oasis.  Little gardens, some with gnomes in attendance, and charmingly post boxes with the owners’ names on by the gates.

Admittedly it looked a bit sad on a chilly March day, but it still cheered me no end to stumble over it, and to think of the ideal that lies behind such a patch of land: every person, no matter how poor, should have access to their own corner of earth to cultivate and relax in.  There’s no doubt that Denmark has its rich and poor; just the previous day we were visiting the high end Garde Hvalsoe kitchen showroom …super stylish and super pricey (at £50,000 a kitchen, way beyond our budget), and I get the impression that, as in Britain, the divide between rich and poor is growing in Denmark, but this little allotment was still encouraging in its respect for the social welfare ideal.  Unlike on British allotments, the Danes often have a little ‘summer house’ for sleeping in on their allotments and one of these; perfectly trim and well maintained with its dark wood and yellow window frames summed it up: Paradise, it said by the door.


I have been completely inactive on this blog since returning to the studio after the Aarhus exhibition.  This is down to a couple of things: first a holiday with the family after the show, then after returning to the studio, my working as hard as possible to complete work before starting ‘maternity leave’.  In inverted commas because no-one is paying for it!  This time the studio has been sublet for a year, to Rasmus Sigvaldi, son of two Copenhagen institutions, Otto Sigvaldi (recently deceased) who would wheel a pram down the main pedestrian street (Strøget) in the 70s selling his illustrated children’s books clad in fantastical costumes made by his then wife, the theatre director Kirsten Dehlholm: 

I had high ambitions to make two large drawings before our baby arrives (due 17 November), but as always the process has taken longer than anticipated, particularly since it had been a break of almost two years since the last drawing of this series.  So it ended up being only one drawing, the next will have to wait until I return to the studio again.  Far from being Out and About in Copenhagen and London, for much of the next year, six months at least, I will mostly be Wheeling a Pram in Virum (the village suburb of Copenhagen where we actually live).  Suburb makes it sound far worse than it’s actually a wonderful green, area with forests and Denmark’s second largest lake, Furesø, at the end of the road, but it feels far from Hackney and Shoreditch which used to be my haunts.

I was glad to finish the drawing, though not entirely satisfied.  Unlike my earlier efforts in the series ‘What is not Told,’ the new work is far more organic:

For earlier works see:

I had intended to make the soft velvety core organic surrounded by a protective (spiky) shield that would be more geometric and more built up with Frisk film. But when it came to it, I couldn’t bring myself to use straight lines on this piece.  I think I should have made it more tentacular, so that the surrounding shield is less ‘square’, but it is as it is now.  The drawing is designed to be one of a pair, this drawing depicting withdrawal, sheltering oneself within oneself, the second one depicting an opening out, in which the core will become more prominent and the shield fading away.  But as in so many aspects of parenthood, I must once more summon patience, the patience to wait to continue with the work, while my attention and care is directed towards the little child we are about to bring into the world.

I hope to get to a couple of exhibitions this week in Copenhagen, before the baby arrives.  One (of up and coming new graduates at Gammel Strand) features Amalie Smith, whose video work I featured in this blog back in July.

Meanwhile, I leave you with invitations to two London shows, both featuring Katrine Roberts, a recent graduate of the RCA, and fellow graduate from City and Guilds of London Art School. She’s been shortlisted for the Griffin Art Prize this year and is also taking part in a two man show in the West London gallery Lacey Contemporary.

I can’t upload the pdfs for ‘security reasons’, but include a link to a video about Katrine’s work:





A bit of delay in the latest posting as it took me a while to work out my sub was due to Artists’ Network: the administration of modern life!

I wanted to post a review of Afgang, 2015, the graduation show of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art.  In Denmark people automatically do a five-year MFA course. This year the show struck me as widely variable in quality, with a few outstanding pieces and most of it relatively uninteresting.   A couple of big themes struck me.  One was that I am rather tired of seeing ‘identity’ pieces which present average artwork and expect us to be interested in someone’s personal journey.  It is hard to analyse what makes the personal universal, but there were two pieces in this show that didn’t succeed in engaging me.  One was two grainy films of Eritrea apparently depicting in some not very clear way the conflict there, accompanied by a dull voiceover of a young Eritrean youth brought up in London droning on about his ‘identity’.  Another a series of well executed but otherwise uninteresting photographs of a city I took to be perhaps Istanbul, given the muezzin recording that accompanied them.

The other theme was that a lot of the show was ‘conceptual art’ this time round. Many of these pieces consisted of an unprepossessing collection of ill presented and visually unappealing objects, sometimes accompanied by a long text one was expected to read despite there being next to no incentive to do so, otherwise accompanied by a big pile of impressive looking technology that competed with and overshadowed the actual content of the piece.  This seems a shame and I was left thinking that even conceptual work has to engage the audience visually, aurally or in some way, in order to have a chance of succeeding.  Two works completely achieved this: Margarita del Carmen’s Aerotopo (pictured) which occupied a light filled space and intrigued immediately with a looping ventilation pipe that snaked out of the building window and beyond, a couple of speakers that invited you to listen, and a beautifully produced booklet containing an intriguing piece of prose – ambiguously fiction or non fiction, then a journal of the Aerotopo project which was using the insulation potential of the soil in the garden to ‘air condition’ the air inside the exhibition space.  A clever idea elegantly executed.

The other was Amalie Smith’s impressive video installation Eyes touching, Fingers seeing.  The video, on an apparently well trodden subject, that of sensory perception, combined a beautiful presentation – projection onto a curved MDF screen with matching curved bench for the viewer to sit on, with clever projection techniques – images overlapping, enlarging, reducing and segueing into each other beautifully – and a carefully researched, thought provoking and poetic text delivered by – I presume – Amalie in a tone combining mellifluousness with languid emotional neutrality.  We will see more of this young lady I am sure.

Lastly to be mentioned, a conceptual painting piece where Radmila Jovovic had dissected primed linen into its component strands and recomposed them gluing them together into perfectly zen minimalist square paintings and a more Eva Hessian small floor sculpture.   Simple but very effective.

An excerpt from Amalie Smith’s Eyes touching, Fingers seeing:

Since the spread of touch technologies, computer developers and salespersons no longer talk about a ‘graphical user interface’, a GUI, but of a ‘natural user interface’, a NUI, in an attempt to naturalize the interface, they have designed.  A NUI is intuitive and direct, they say. It is like touching the actual content.

If the metaphorical content of the desktop computer’s interface was the office worker’s desktop, what could the metaphorical content of these touch screen gestures be?  Do they resemble pressing the buttons of a machine or turning the pages of a book? Or gently brushing a lover’s skin?

The human brain has often  been compared to a computer, but the comparison goes the other way round too. The computer has a body; it has an eye, a camera.  And with touch technology it even gets a sensitive skin.  The skin has eyes, like a peacock’s tail.


I went back to Aarhus this week for a quick 2-day trip, doing children’s workshops, more like ten minute chats with groups of children (I have been amazed and impressed by how many schools and kindergartens have been bringing their groups to the exhibition).   I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, despite the fact that on Day 2, guess what?  It rained cats and dogs!   I found that the experience of having to try and engage the children with the sculpture, in not very much time, together with their questions and comments, was very focusing for the mind.  It really made me think about what I had really been doing with the piece was to try and find ways of representing ‘abstract’ qualities of personality, like shyness, self defensiveness, secretiveness, feeling ashamed of something and so on…   It was fabulous to see recognition dawning on some of the faces, when I got them to think about how you can represent a person other than in a conventional way of drawing a head, face, body, two legs and arms.

I also got to see the rest of the exhibition, and to take a wonderful bus ride round the bay to Ebeltoft, a picturesque seaside holiday village, where they have a fairly unique glass museum set up by Finn Lynggaard in 1986.  Lyngaard was a pioneer, who introduced the concept of the art studio glass (as opposed to industrial glass made in factories) to Denmark in the seventies, after being inspired by Harvey K. Littleton in the United States.   Glasmuseet Ebeltoft is currently showing an exhibition: DG15 40 Years of Contemporary Glass in Denmark.   I was interested in seeing it because I would like to try working with glass again; after doing a little glasswork on my foundation course, and have tentatively been talking with the curator of the exhibition, Torben Jørgensen about this possibility.

Back to Aarhus on the bus, the trip reminded me somewhat of the north west coast of Scotland, minus the mountains of course.  And I had a slightly disappointing fish and chip dinner by the river that runs through Aarhus which was uncovered recently having been cemented over in the 1970s.

Here are some photos of the rest of the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition which I saw the following day.  I was particularly impressed by the way these pieces sat thoughtfully in their environment, either reflecting it (literally or metaphorically in some way), and in some cases contrasting with it to dramatic effect.