I have started learning to speak Mandarin.  I’m really excited about it.  In fact I’m pretty excited about everything right now.  On Thursday last week the stress turned to excitement and I felt that great achievement/when a plan comes together/isn’t life great/isn’t art great euphoria and remembered why I put myself in these challenging positions despite the stress that comes with them.

I met with Kirsty Hall from the Victoria Gallery and Museum as I will be running a short painting with oils workshop there alongside their Liverpool Biennial exhibition by Susan Forsyth.   Susan has made these ‘Art Sheds’ which each contain an object to draw or paint and really lovely materials to do that with.  The sheds are pink with a golden roof.  They are funny but the exhibition is serious as well.  She has accompanied the sheds with a room of wall based artwork which she chose out of the VGM collections.  They are just pieces that she likes and sometimes with a Liverpool connection.  Susan has also written something little about each one and why she chose it.  I think it’s an all round successful exhibition and people have been making art in the Art Sheds and when they present it to reception they get a medal.  It sounds like the public are interacting really well with it and hopefully it will inspire them or they will learn something or both.  Anyway the meeting with Kirsty went really well and I went from being a bit unsure to knowing exactly what I’m doing and being confident about delivering the workshop.  It’s on October anyway so I have ages to plan.


Then straight after that I met with Eric the Chinese PHD student to speak about doing a language exchange, but actually we just started doing the language exchange there and then.  Eric is very clever and a nice guy and a very good teacher seeing as he’s meant to be a mechanical engineer.  I have been practicing the words he taught me.  Mandarin is hard, especially getting the pronunciation right.  Letters can have different accents on them which change the way you say them and can give them all completely different meanings.  Eric is not really called Eric, he’s called Zhixiang but Chinese people often give themselves western names to be helpful to us, so he said I need to choose a Chinese name for when I go there.  Eric has come up with Ruo Xi which means ‘the sun light during the sun rise’.  Isn’t that nice!

After my Mandarin lesson I walked back through Liverpool in the beautiful sun and saw the amazing giant girl from the giant spectacular asleep in ChinaTown which only added to my excitement and just confirmed my view that Liverpool is the best place in the world to live.  Now I know that may sound like a bit of an unfounded megajump however I have thought about this for some time and I do think I could construct a good argument if you take all areas of a city into account including the country that it is in, music, comedy, art, diversity, food… Andy says my theory is unjust as I haven’t tried living in any other countries but I am never going to live in all of the other countries, that’s just not possible, but it shouldn’t prevent me from fighting the Liverpool corner and then challenging anyone who thinks they can think of a better city to give a counterargument.

We saw the Giant Spectacular again on Friday and Sunday.  Here are some photos.  I had a great time on the Sunday, they are magical!

Ok finally, I am preparing for my commission with SevenStreets for Liverpool International Music Festival.  Andy helped me today to make a frame that will hold it up and I am filled with relied that it worked.  Andy’s dad really needs to take the credit as he designed it.  Am I just as bad as Hirst getting the minions to paint the spots and Emin handing over the stitching?   Still more to do but it’s coming together.  OMG I’ve just remembered I forgot to pick up my laser cutting!!


But I do think it is important to write about what I’m doing and also to review where I am up to with all the things I am meant to be doing, so I’ll use this blog post to do that.  I’m far too busy to write this blog post because I am pretty much booked up until I go to China for 3 months on 31st October, which means I am pretty much booked up until January 31st 2015.  That’s ridiculous.

I have all these things to do and more:

China Residency – Get passport renewed, get visa, get jabs, research Guiyu more (E-waste recycling capital), finish reading Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter and his most recent blog posts, work out where Andy and I will travel to when he comes to visit, learn Mandarin.  Well attempt to learn some anyway.  I am meeting with a Chinese PHD student on Thursday to discuss doing a bit of a language exchange.  I met him through http://www.mylanguageexchange.com which I would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning/practicing a language.  There is also a Meet Up in Liverpool for people who want to practice Mandarin and English.  If you don’t know about Meet Up already have a look http://www.meetup.com it is really good for finding like minded people to spend time with.

You are Here commission for LIMF – I was asked by David Lloyd who writes for the blog Sevenstreets http://www.sevenstreets.com  to be part of a commission to commemorate the centenary of World War 1, which is a collaboration with musicians and accompanying art which I will provide.  It is a one night only event, I am making an installation, including a huge free standing piece using Perspex, I have never made anything this big before, I have never made an installation before, I don’t know how to make it stand up, I am way out of my depth, it is a fantastic opportunity.

More info about You Are Here is here http://www.limfestival.com/limf-commissions/you-are-here you need to buy a ticket in advance if you want to come.  Before I was asked to do this I was already a massive fan of Bill Ryder Jones so I also slightly star struck about the whole thing.  If you’ve not listened to him I suggest you do.  Anyway I have so much to do before the event but also a badly timed holiday, friends and family visiting to see the Giants http://www.giantspectacular.com (will be amazing though!) and proper job to go to as I’m currently doing 2.5 days a week covering in my old job with Adullam (actually really nice to be back for a bit)

Here is a teaser of some of the work I am making or You Are Here.

Liverpool Biennial and John Moores Painting Prize – I have so much to say about this but it really deserves a full blog post.  I met with Paul Collinson and his wife Chrissy at the JMPP opening.  Paul is the artist I spoke about in a previous post who I emailed because I love his work so much.  Take a look at his website http://www.englandsfavouritelandscape.co.uk.  It was so great meeting them, they have been so good to me, offering for me to visit their studio in Hull and he’s put me in touch with a guy from a studios/gallery in Hull with a view to doing an exchange of some sort in 2017 when Hull is City of Culture.  I bought a mug with Paul’s painting on it from the Walker Gallery shop and it is currently my favourite mug which is a real accomplishment for Paul as I have a lot of very nice mugs.

I also really enjoyed the John Moores Painting Prize and have lots to say about it including questions relating to whether it is ok to using printing techniques in a painting but not reveal that in the description and whether that changes the value of the painting.

I am still to see the majority of the Biennial exhibitions and I am frustrated that I am so busy with making work that I can’t fit this in right now.  I’m going to visit this one on Thursday though as it has been recommended to be by Minako Jackson who has been involved with the exhibition doing some interpreting work http://white-rainbow.co.uk/WR-Miyanaga-Liverpool_press.pdf.  I will try and make time to write about this too.  Also I can’t speak about the Biennial without mentioning the Jelly Fish in Toxteth.  Not open for much longer and a must see.  It makes you feel really good about art and a joy to see local residents coming out with kids and dogs, some in pyjamas ready for bed (not the dogs) to see the shutters lift at 10pm revealing a disused shop window transformed into six tanks full of jelly fish. http://www.independentsbiennial.org/category/artists-2014/walter-hugo-zoniel

I also need to prep for two workshops and finish work for an exhibition at the Mall Galleries with New Lights and a joint show with Peter Appleton in the Reader Gallery in Calderstones Park, go to a wedding and a hen do and explain to a lot of people who want to see me that I don’t have time to see them until February 2015.  Time to get some work done.


It is always when I am most busy that I have a lot to say and want to write something, but I suppose that would make sense wouldn’t it?  Also the site has been down for a few days (it’s now 24th June) and so I don’t know when I will get to post this.

I’ve actually been busy because I’ve been doing the ‘proper job’ mostly, which is currently working for Liverpool YMCA.  I’m actually really enjoying it.  They get me to do all sorts, so in the last few days I’ve done support work, reception work, cleaning and admin.  It works out well when I do 7.30am – 3.30pm because then I can go home via my studio for a few hours and it feels like I’ve been able to make some progress.  Sometimes I can only work on a painting for a couple of hours anyway before it’s time to give it a rest.

This is what I am working on at the moment.  I thought I had finished it before but then realised it needed much more work and now I am happier with it.  I’m going to go back to another painting that I thought I had finished next.  This is all part of my ‘if it’s not just right, keep working on it’ theory and I feel that it’s paying off.


Yesterday I went to Metal for a meal with the shortlisted artists from this year’s Chinese John Moores Painting Prize.  Metal is an arts organisation based in Liverpool and also Southend on Sea


They currently organise the Liverpool Art Prize and I know them because I have been involved with Liverpool Art Month which runs alongside the Art Prize.  Metal are very good at getting people together on an informal level to talk about art.  They have an amazing kitchen (in fact the whole building is fabulous, it is part of Edge Hill Station) and so they cook a meal the guests sit at a big long table to eat and drink and talk about anything, mostly usually art related.  Jenny, who is the Project Manager told us that she thinks that the cooking bit is actually in her job description.

So I sat next to some of the Chinese artists and because I will be visiting China I asked the woman next to me to teach me some mandarin which was quite entertaining for both of us.   After the meal we had presentations from the Chinese artists about their work and this was incredibly insightful, especially for me as a painter.  I’m now really excited about seeing the shortlisted paintings in the flesh because they look like my sort of paintings and I liked what the artists had to say about their work.  There was a lot said by the artists about relating the paintings to their lives, which is interesting but more so because I am a westerner and the lives they are describing are unfamiliar to me.  It made me really excited about going to China.  I will have to get on with learning more than three words in mandarin.

When I visited the John Moores Painting Prize in 2012 I was incredibly impressed with the Chinese artists work, in fact I thought that much of it was better than the main exhibition.  The woman who I sat next to at the meal was actually a painter called Zhang Aicun.  She was unable to visit Liverpool in 2012 when she was in the exhibition as she was pregnant at the time, so she is now here two years later.   I wondered if I would recognise her work when she did her presentation and I did as the painting she had in the exhibition was one of my favourites.  It is of brightly coloured make-up, nail varnish and sparkly things and I remember looking at the painting at the time and thinking how incredible it was.


I was so excited to meet the artist and tell her how much I liked her work.  She gave me a hug which was very nice and I also liked that because I don’t think it would have happened if it had been a British artist that I was giving complements to.  It’s a shame there was such a language barrier, as otherwise I would have asked her loads of questions about her work.   I felt really privileged to hear all the artists speak about their work ahead of the exhibition and I’m really excited to see it.