In honour of finally changing my website name to my real name I have decided to change my blog name too, to the same!


Trace Elements will be on show from 8.2.18-28.2.18 at Deptford Does Art 28 Deptford High Street, Deptford

This is a three person show with Paul Anderson Morrow and Matthew Gould

For tickets to the private view on the 8th Feb or the In Conversation with the Artists hosted by Rosalind davis on the 24th click on the link below

At one level my paintings in Trace Elements are simply abstract works playing with techniques for developing a sense of space, a space you as the viewer might fall into, get a little lost and think your own thoughts.  This is a level I respect and value, and at some level it makes me reluctant to overload that experience with all the thinking going on in my head which allows me to reach this particular space.  Because actually providing a space to be, is central to this work.

However the other side of this coin is that there is a starting point to this work, a process I go through, which is about developing my sense of understanding in the world.  I am interested in the way in which people are affected by trade, the duality of that effect, both the development of wealth and of exploitation or in fact unexpected consequences, and in  who gets listened to in these circumstances.  The starting point of my work in Trace Elements, which at the time did not even have a title, was a bit of research about the history of trade in Deptford, so what is Deptford known for?  The death of Marlowe, Pepys extramarital affairs, Pepys business affairs with the Navy,  the victualising offices,  King Henry the VIII and ship building, with the end of wooden ship building the development of an international cattle market…(Steve Burden’s Pepys Estate works are really interesting in this respect, I came across his work the first time when I was showing with him in a group show at St Katharine docks).  Charles II is said to have passed through Deptford on his way back from France to reclaim the throne.   This is a place with a long history of trade and close associations with power, and its impact on ordinary people.  The scale is vast and the potential enormous, but I wanted something that linked into the history of trade, and pigments,  and its impact on people and place, and the thing that kept coming back into my view and taking my attention after a few blind alleys was the copper bottoming of boats.  In some ways this linked with my St Katharine Docks indigo works and this may well be part of the appeal: How technological developments that may appear morally neutral can be the spark behind the fire of world events which impact on the lives of people in dramatic ways.  So the story goes like this; historically there was a problem with the growth of limpets etc on the bottom of boats which increased their drag and reduced the longevity of the wood they were made of. Initially this was dealt with by treating or sheathing the wood with additional layers of wood and a kind of lining of treated hair, with the advent of longer distant shipping these methods were insufficient against the warmer water nevalis worm.  The Spanish developed  lead sheaths, effective against the worms but made the boats significantly heavier.  Charles II viewed The Phoenix at Deptford and approved sheathing of English ships with lead fixed with copper nails despite the problems acssociated with corrosion caused by copper, steel and lead in a salt bath of the sea together-galvanic corrosion- a process not understood at the time. Over the  years the process was developed and refined so that the sheath was copper and the fixings were made from copper alloys. By 1784 there was full scale copper bottoming of the navy which lead to a massive expansion in copper mining in Britain.  However because of the cost, merchant ships, that is trading ships, were much less likely to be treated in this way.  In fact the 3% which were, were employed in the slave trade, these ships went into nevalis worm infested waters, and the slave trade triangle routes were so profitable that the ship owners could pay for the expense. 80% of slave trade ships were copper bottomed.

The secondary impact of this was the massive expansion in copper mining in Britain.

SO how does any of this relate to the work I have made?  Well cobalt is a toxic by product of Copper mining.  Before the copper bottoming of ships most copper mining in Britain was done as surface mining, and the presence of cobalt was hazardous but with deaper mines it became more so. Cobalt presents in copper mine a  solid minerals which are toxic and as  gas with arsenic which is deadly.  The turquoise pigment in all these works is a cobalt derivative Cobalt Turquoise.

to bring it up to the present day cobalt is also used in our mobile phones and electric cars in rechargeable batteries which happily for the mining companies often also require copper.  The main seems of the mines are now in the African copper belt, where the Guardian reports the use of child labour and high mortality rates amongst the workforce.

So in the use of  cobalt pigments, the instability of cobalt, its tendency to easily form compounds with other metals is in part at the heart of its toxicity, and also the heart of why it makes such vibrant amazing pigments from blues to reds to yellows.

The work I have produced for this exhibition  works at two levels, in the making I have research and remembered the impact of the developments in Deptford on the history of trade and its impact on people through the development of the naval base by Henry VIII and later the Stuarts, the way in which technologies developed here fed into the most profitable parts of the transatlantic sea trade- slave trade.  The trade whose profits funded the developments that fed into the industrial revolution in Britain.

In “Disturbing the Bed” I am playing with the imagery of a disturbed river bed in the process of dock building, the disturbed beds of the wives of Henry VIII , the disturbed beds of the associated trades around docks, the disturbed beds of Pepys and his coiterie, the disturbed beds of the copper mines in Cornwall and other copper seems across the country, the beds that are distubed still in the mining of copper and cobalt for contemporary uses.

In King Kibold I am playing with the counter point of the beauty available from cobalt as a pigment and its toxicity and fatality in mining.

In these works I also use  earth pigments, ochres my universal pigment. Ochres have been used across the world, by all peoples and cultures. They are culturally transnational, and at the same time traceable to their geographic origins.  They have been spread widely through trade and sourced locally since prehistory. For me they are the link between people and the first traceable expressions of culture and imagination.  They are the people in my abstract works.

In the ICI series of works I use pthalo green, a pigment  developed  and owned by ICI, the ImperialChemical Company, a current Transnational Corporation with its routes firmly in the products of Empire.  Pthalo green is a permanent pigment, solving some of the problems associated historically with green pigments, a technological solution, following the history of the development from alchemist to local  chemist to global industrial  pharmacological companies.

In “Deptford Traces” and From “Deptford to Shooters Hill” I play with this notion of instability within the cobalt, with the processes that were happening in the development of Britain as a sea fairing nation,  and the instability of consequence.  In as much as I think that it is important to both understand the history of a place and how we got here, and also to understand that while that history could have been other, and our understanding of exactly what went on is hampered by hearing only certain voices, we have agency in acknowledging the  processes which brought us all here, that agency allows us more possibility for action  in facing what comes next.

The second level is to produce works where you can fall in,  and have your own contradictory thoughts…..


People wander across the neighbourhood slipping into any several of the 17 houses spread across from  Finchley through East Finchley to Muswell Hill.  Finding moments of beauty, a mix of works which appeal or don’t, intrigue, appall, little bits of delight, fascination or nothing muchness. When the art feels dull the interiors are still interesting.

The heat on the pavement reflects back up, distances are calculated, decided upon and the long walk is given up in favour of an ice cream, a trip to the paddling pool or replaced with a quick hop on the bus.

New conversations are broached, new relationships are made, neighbours from the next road, day trippers from Brighton, people come by and sometimes they don’t.  Towards the end of the second day, a couple fall in love together with a painting which touches them, a little piece of magic.

During the week, what these visitors don’t know is that the artists turn into visitors themselves, re-walking their steps, taking turns to host.

This evening I met the potter who made the little sugar bowl I have, the one whose lid I had broken,  and in an act of sweetness I was gifted a replacement.

Tomorrow the other exhibiting artists are invited here.

Next weekend it all starts again so come on over, then it will be over.


For my first collection at The Other Art Fair Bristol “The Bristol Presentiments 1770” series, I have chosen to use only the pigments imported into Bristol from January-June 1770.

I use historically resonant pigments in abstract works to create absorbing spaces. Spaces to fall into to get a little lost in and to remember.

By using these materials from a formative period in Bristol’s past I am creating quiet conversations with the viewers current lived experience and this period in Bristol and the surrounding area. The pieces invite you to fall into the spaces created in the work, making connections and getting a little lost in your own memories. These works are of this place, and of course are of the globe. This series weaves between lost pasts that have been elided and makes space for the untold stories of Bristol.

My background is in Art and Development Studies and I have a long term interest in the impact of trade on people and place.  There is a sense that “modern” Bristol began in the late 1760s and the early 1770s with the changing of the law allowing ships owned by Society of Merchant Venturers to participate in the transatlantic trade, the slave trade triangle.  Looking through the Bristol Presentiment papers of 1770, I chose the first six months that they were published, and made her images using only pigments which were imported during that time, they include indigo, ochres, vermillion, madder and lead white. The oil painting media that were also imported include linseed, linseed oil, turpentine, resin, beeswax, wood, linen and cotton.


In terms of the developments in painting and mark making, Bristol was one of the first cities outside London to have its own colour-men, specialist paint and pigment suppliers, three are  listed in the 1775 street directory, along with three limners (expert paint makers and painters of miniatures) and seven painters, one china painter, twelve potters, nine dyers and a wide range of other craft trades related to these imports.

These abstract images are full of resonance.  Through the physical act of making these paints this body of work sits within a paradigm that is anchored within the geographical and historical context of Bristol.


This summer I have the delight to be showing at the Other Art Fair Bristol, my stall is paid for and I have booked a place to stay.  If you want to come along and don’t live near by the fair is in the Passenger Shed building really close to Bristol Temple Meads train station.

I have been researching the history of trade in Bristol and the work produced especially for the Fair only uses pigments that are on the imports lists of ships which docked in Bristol in 1770.  This is the beginning of the boom time for Bristol. In 1668 the government monopoly in the form of the Royal African Company of the transatlantic slave trade triangle was broken and Bristol merchants stepped in big time in the form of the Society of Merchant Venturers.  This transatlantic sea trade is the context of Jane Austin’s Bath elite.    The builders and the elites of Bristol and Bath made their money here in the 17-1800s.   And also notable are the non-conformist churches of Bristol which were central to the abolitionist movement in the UK, the Quakers and others who helped provide a platform for voices of resistance.  However it is strongly arguable that the reason for abolition in the end came down to the resistance of the enslaved people after a number of uprisings in the Caribbean.

So among the wide range of imported goods to Bristol in the year 1770 is indigo.  I have a gorgeous indigo. It is fair trade indigo from south India and it has this amazing red tint within the blue. Sensuous and lovely to mix, grind and apply it makes my heart sing.

Of interest to me in the collection of imports are ochres, red and yellow, madder, vermillion, pitch, tobacco, turps, linseed oil, wood, cotton, linen, lead white, Irish clay, sumac, saffron, pimento, beeswax, and  sugar.


This is what I learned this weekend: Selling art is watching people fall in love.

I watched people fall in love with work, the first person did it quietly and didn’t even want me to notice, a little relationship building quietly, hiding in the company of her friend while I spoke to other people. At the end of the Private View she came back and confidently came and bought the piece to take back with her to Australia.

With the second piece the buyer was scared and excited exactly like the beginning of a love affair, coming to and from the stand several times,  and then so delighted because her husband felt the same and they “never agree on art” but this time they did.

I saw others fall, eyes widening, irises blackening with widening pupils, but then their partners came along and didn’t feel the same.  So any talking I do gives context, but the paintings… they do it themselves.



As you can imagine I own alot of books about colour and pigment, so I thought I would review a few here, opinions expressed are of course my own…

Josef Albers,  Interaction of Colour, 50th anniversary edition, Yale University Press, USA 2006          Any one thinking about colour will have come across the work and writing of Josef Albers. this work is considered to be a classic of its time.  My very brief opinion of this book is that for a book about colour the presentation is dry. It reads as a series of lesson plans, which is fine if you want a ready set of lesson plans to teach about colour without using any paint at all.  While I think his work is truly beautiful in a stripped back minimalist simplicity, and a massive range of colour relationships are explored, they are approached in a rather puritanical systematic way, which I find too spartan to bear.  I have found this book useful by noting down the relationships he explores, but would not use his approach to exploring them in either my practice or in teaching.  I know that I am being sacrilegious to some, but I am bound to the sensuality of paint and painting.

N Easthaugh et al, Pigment Compendium, Routledge, 2013 USA My favourite Colour Book of the last year is The Pigment Compendium, this is a rather ramshackle book, like the old V and A museum as  it was when I was a student.  You can find the chemical structure of pigments here, their history, mythology, it is really useful as a research source for particular pigments, and as a starting point . Sometimes the text is rather wiwpediaesque in its eclecticism but I actually quite like that.

J Balfour-Paul, Indigo, The British MuseumPress, 2011, UK The third book I am going to recommend is published by the British Museum and written by the researcher and indigo guru Jenny Balfour-Paul.  Called Indigo, this is an overview with global and historical reach about indigo its qualities, trade relationships, and place in the geopolitical world. It is comprehensive and fabulous, and properly indexed so you can research further if you want to.  When I was researching indigo I kept coming across Balfour Paul in academic citations, and once I found this book I found my shortcut.

I think that is enough for now…happy reading.