I’ve been working on a collaboration with Michael Borkowsky for the Liverpool Biennial. We’ve been planning on working on a project together for years, and eventually came up with the idea of basing it on Leviathan, the Biblical sea monster described in Job.
At first we didn’t know what direction the project might take us in, but we have arrived at the idea of an installation. We are drawing our inspiration from cryptozoology, alchemy, natural history and Biblical references.

Leviathan has interested me ever since I first came across a reference to him in the Bible a few years ago. I have a fascination with the sea: I love its otherworldly quality and, for me, it embodies the idea of the sublime, it being both beautiful and terrible. I read quite a lot on the subject of sailing and circumnavigation, and I find the stories terrifying. I’m intrigued by the idea of the landscape of the oceans changing quickly, raising up great mountains beneath a tiny ship, which disappear into deep valleys. The surface itself is liquid, and yet solid enough to smash a vessel to pieces. It seems like sailing through a nightmare, from stormy seas, to the maddening calms of the doldrums, where sailors drift for days, or weeks on end, waiting for the slightest breeze to get them moving again.

Personally I am scared of the sea because of the dangerous creatures which lurk there. I used to snorkel when I was on holiday, but one day I just lost my nerve for no real reason, and have never dived again since. Snorkelling is such an amazing experience, like flying over a different world which is covered by a layer of silver film.

All this contributes to my fascination with the sea, and I see Leviathan as being the embodiment of stormy seas.

Our project, Reviving Leviathan, seeks to find the “real” sea monster. Job explores the idea of being able to control Leviathan (which it seems only God has the power to do), and this idea translates directly to the idea of being able to control the stormy sea.

You can see our project as part of the Liverpool Biennial at Arena Gallery, Liverpool, from 10th – 20th July, along with more great work by other SCIBase artists. The opening is Thursday 10th, from 6-8pm.



Thoughts on Religion

I was quite young when I realised that I didn’t believe in God. I had always gone to an Anglican Methodist church school, yet they failed to install any sense of belief in me. I remember the church being so bland and plain. Everything was cream with just a few embroidered banners on the high walls of a modern building. Perhaps it was the lack of ornamentation that meant I didn’t feel divine inspiration, but either way, when I was asked at about the age of 11 I said that I didn’t believe in God or Jesus. I guess I just didn’t feel that the Bible stories we heard held any more truth than other moral stories we were told as children.

These days I’m fascinated by history and religion. I try to imagine a dull medieval world in which the common person lived, and then the glorious Technicolor wonder that they must have experienced when seeing an east facing stained glass window in church in the Sunday morning sunshine. It must have inspired a sense of awe.

I didn’t choose to not believe in God, I just absolutely don’t. However, I believe that everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions when it comes to religion, and I don’t feel that being an atheist should mean that I have to be disrespectful to other peoples beliefs. Quite the opposite in fact! Surely, I should be able to look at, learn about, and respect other people’s beliefs, just as I would expect people to respect my own thoughts on the subject. When I make work it’s like thinking out loud for me. I feel inspired by religious art work, particularly medieval religious art work. I borrow and I explore what I come across. I think that, as an atheist, it makes sense to borrow imagery from various religions, just as religions have always found inspiration in the art work of other religions.

As far as I see it, following any religion can have its pros and cons. However, I think that the sense of comfort that religion can supply when faced with bereavement, (or any dire circumstances in fact) is undeniable. It is this aspect of religion in particular that I feel leaves me out in the cold with my atheist beliefs.


Thoughts on Death

I’ve been unhappy for a while with the content that I put into my blog. The problem is, because I tend to work on several ideas at once, I end up just writing about what I’m up to, rather than being able to concentrate on any particular project or theme. The thing that connects all of my projects though, is my interest in death and religion.
Although these interests drive me to produce work, they are not something that I particularly talk about. Generally I prefer viewers to find their own meaning in my work, without laying out my thought process. However, following my exhibition, I do find that people are interested in my thoughts and views, and my blog seems like the ideal place to talk about such things.

Generally I think about death all of the time. This might sound morbid, but I don’t feel that way about it. I think of it as part of life, and something that, regretfully, awaits us all. I think that, once you accept that death is inevitable, it should make you want to grab hold of life and really make the most of what you have. We should stick two fingers up at death because he hasn’t got us yet, and make the most of each day. This is the point of view I have, although it can be hard to keep up a defiant attitude when faced with the loss of those close to us. It is this juxtaposition of attitudes that inspires my work and makes me question, and struggle with, my atheist beliefs.


Liverpool Biennial Project

I’ve been procrastinating over writing a new blog entry. I was going to write a reflection on my recent exhibition, but I’m not sure what more I have to say since my last post about it.
I’ve been stupidly busy since the start of my exhibition, which coincided with me moving house too. At the moment I have my whole life split between different places, as I’m between houses, and my computer is packed away. This makes it difficult to get things done, and requires a lot of organisation to keep important work or documents safe and close to hand.
So I’m glad that my exhibition is over, and that I have a little more time to sort out my personal life. It was good to get my work up on the walls though, and I got some good photographs of it (which I can better sort through once my PC is back in action). My next aim is to find somewhere else to exhibit my work, so please do get in touch if you’re interested.
Other than this, I’ve been working on a couple of projects with Michael Borkowsky. He’s been invited to produce a piece of work for the Liverpool Biennial, and we decided to continue work with our Reviving Leviathan project for this purpose. We’re currently researching Bible passages in which it has been mentioned, with a view to discovering the “real” Leviathan. Initially the project will involve gathering “evidence” of Leviathan. I always enjoy carrying out thorough research at the beginning of a project, so this one really interests me. We’re particularly interested in the idea of museum collections and fossils, after being inspired by a trip to the Natural History Museum in London last year.
The other project we’ve been working on is an exhibition of art based on computer games. This will take the form of an open submission later in the year.



Post Private View

The week before my exhibition was so hectic I didn’t have a minute to relax. I was even working while eating, and by the day of the opening I was completely exhausted. I had done everything I could to promote my exhibition, apart from handing out flayers by hand. This was because I didn’t feel the cost and time would be worthwhile for the few people that it might appeal to. Instead I emailed e-flyers to every group, company, gallery, publication and other relevant person I could think of.

Unfortunately the turn out at the private view was only small, but I had expected that to be the case. Having been to other private views there, I didn’t expect a big turn out, and the major benefit of holding the exhibition there was because the venue was free.

I’m hoping that there will be a steady stream of visitors throughout the course of the exhibition, and I’m also planning another private view for next Friday.
I think that one of the biggest reasons for a small turn out is the location. The gallery is out of town and in an area full of old factories. It’s a really interesting place, but it doesn’t have any passing trade. This is why I didn’t feel that paying for flyers to be printed would be worthwhile. The only people that would come would be people who feel very driven to come and visit.

The actual hanging went well, and I am very happy with how the exhibition looks. There is a bit of a blank space at one end of the gallery, but considering the huge space I had to fill, I think I just about got away with it.

I’ve had lots of interest online, and I do feel that the exhibition will achieve some success. One of the things I have benefited from is the opportunity to get my work up, and photograph it in a white wall environment. We will have to wait and see if anything else comes from it, but I am hoping to use these photographs to further promote my practice, and hopefully secure more exhibitions.

Getting ready for this exhibition has meant going down to the studio again. I haven’t spent much time there over the winter due to the lack of heating. The freezing cold studio is extremely unsuitable for my needs, as I sit very still painting for hours on end. Being in the studio again has reminded me of all the issues I have with it, from locks not working properly (I was temporarily locked in on Friday night until I finally managed to unlock the front gate, just as I was about to call someone for assistance), to the broken lights that have never been replaced. I’m trying to spend as much time as possible there, so that I can open up the gallery (there is no formal system in place to open up, and no opening hours for the gallery), but I found the experience of being there on my own over the weekend a little intimidating and I couldn’t wait to leave each day. I think that my time at that studio has come to an end, and I don’t really see any benefit of staying there. I think that realising I’ve outgrown my studio is all part of my development as a practicing artist.

The next private view will be Friday 11th, 7 – 9pm at Gage Gallery, Lion Works, 40 Ball Street, Sheffield