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This is my latest painting which I have just completed. I was testing the magazine cover idea and have amended my new title to Review.  I think I am already aware when I look back over this year and review what is working and what is not, this will be a pivitol piece of work.  By using the union jack as the ground for the painting (and applying clear gesso) is already gives vibrancy and iconography to the image.  It plays with the instantly ingrained symbolism already ingrained into the UK psyche.  It screams cool britannia to you.  It could well be that the union jack will become by motif of choice, similar to Gordon Chung always using the financial times in his work.  The face was painted in oil in a day.  I am finding that the speed and confidence of the execution is adding to their power. The female guaze stares out at the viewer, very aloof, sexualised but also questionning and at the same time, closed off.  I am aware that this time, I have used the oil paint more effectively, allowing that gentle smearing that is so delightful to the medium to take over, it is a definate progress on the acrylic painting I was using earlier on.

I realise now that alot of the work I did last year was about loosening up my painting style and not really about representation.  I am now beginning to realise how much my painting style and confidence has improved as a result of this experimentation with abstract painting techniques.  I threw turps on what I thought was a finished painting and that stripped back some of the hair and the top left side of the face to reveal the union jack design underneath.  This was a critical decision and really worked in terms of painterly technique and using the ground to its full effect.  I think next time I can trial this again but next time in a more sophisticated, less dangerous fashion, by using cotton buds perhaps.

I added the ON SALE NOW at the bottom by stencil.  I felt that to totally make it a magazine cover was not needed so perhaps they are turning more into posters.  This is something I need to consider.  Does it need to be a magazine cover or does it just need to use the language of magazines of which we are so familiar already, the ubiqutious language of advertising and marketing.

I am interested in how this will be read by the audience but equally I appreciate that I need to continue to develop my own critical distance from my work so I know before opening to the public what the response will be in terms of reading of an image.

Pleased with this one as a progression of ideas piece, such as it is.





On monday we had Cally Spooner visit the university for an artist talk. She focused her talk on her current projects starting in 2013 and bringing it right up to date including work she completed 2 days ago.

She described how the collaboration and performance for her  musical developed from ‘And you were wonderful’ to grow and change depending on site specific requirements, current issues/gossip of the day and how this will develop into the near future into a film.

Her manner of presentation and thoughtfulness of her explanations in terms of her exploratory nature and line of inquiry was more than a success. I found it heartening as she talked about working at the Tate this year and taking part in the Frieze Projects (the  ’commercial’ films of dancers which I saw when I was there) that she was dealing continuously with the rolling thought process of creating a new artwork and I personally took heart with my own struggles for developing my own artist voice.  The experiences we have are all a melting pot for what we create already and throw into that the environment in which we are part, that is fast moving, intense, multi media, sound bite society.

I left the auditorium thinking this is a woman that wants to take risks, you can hear her brain evolving and working out problems, reasoning and developing all the time and relishing the challenge.

I had a tutorial with her afterwards and discussed my own line of inquiry. Her advise was practical and helpful with a few artists dealing with similar subject matter to research but the key message was perhaps less is more. The idea of a magazine cover at all may be not necessary. To appropriate and use found images from magazines and sound bite slogans that are universal to the viewer being empowering and opening may produce a more successful artwork.

Time to reflect and consider. An interesting day.



I was testing my 2 latest paintings in a crit group as per the intro image on which I am developing the theme of a magazine with the end game being to question how women, and I include myself willingly in this, buy into the multi-media message of women, to have a social value needing to be beautiful above all else and that this veneer of femininity and our increasingly sexualised society in which we are at best complicit.  I want to eventually by development of this theme poke fun at ourselves, not to cover the old ground of feminism but make a political comment on the irony of our self imposed limitations by using humour. Quite how I can go about this using slap lines is a work in development.

Anyway, the image on the right of the mock magazine was painted in oil very quickly in an hour or two wet on wet and it is that energy that gives it simplicity and dynamism, the overtly sexualised lips blood red and the red banner at the top.  It was described in crit. as Luc Tuymans in style so I had to admit, although I was aware of his work, he was not a painter that I had looked at in any great detail and if there was a natural link, then I had to look at it.

So cropping a found image may be an easy link to make but there are others as I found out.

My first discovery was that I mistakenly thought he was German given his historical subject matter of world war 2 references and national weight that this endorses upon the individual growing up in the aftermath of war, but he is in-fact Belgium (b. 1958).  His frequent use of source material from film, tv, print and other found materials is another link in terms of my current practice.

On the Tate video he talks about appropriating an image and translating this into the paint and how this becomes a different composition all together, referring to painting being on a ‘different time-span’, which I take to painting being a time based media, both in terms of its time of execution and the layers of depth taken from the resultant work upon the viewer as they visit the image again and again and another layer of depth is revealed.

I am also interested in his comments about the memory being inadequate which is ultimately frustrating and it strikes me there is a parallel going on here. If he is interested in memory, then his paintings, given their speed of creating are not true to life at all, but due to their minimalist, reduced white-noise simplicity, it removes the distractions of every day life until you are left with the bare essence of a thing alone and more and more I am coming to the personal conclusion that this is what painting should be about.

It tells me that I should keep going with the painting the figurative element in one-day as the essence of the figure may be enough, especially when I am transforming a glamourized image into a more complex multi-layered character using the paint to assist me in this respect by allowing the immediacy and rawness of the medium to have its say.



Our level 6 lecturer recommended within a talk recently that we know about Turps Banana and following this lead, I looked at the website www.turpsbanana.com and discovered a painting magazine available twice a year that is written for painters, by painters. It is refreshing as it is UK based, relevant to what is going on in contemporary art today and features a number of articles on practicing artists with the conversation being very indepth about their practice. It may be a niche product but its bang on the money for me and it is great to read something helpful and encouraging dealing with the issues a painter has with their inner issues of concept and the paint itself.  There is none of the lifestyle and advertising features that you find in other magazines.  So more than happy to recommend them to anyone interested in painting. I ordered issue 13 and 14 which is out now and have managed to borrow 2 earlier back issues so is all good.  Sadly not earlier issue featuring Peter Doig but you cannot have it all.


Birmingham Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th of October

I had 2 days to wander round Birmingham and embrace the art scene. Although I managed to wander around quite well, I have learnt, never visit on a Monday as a lot are closed and go with a plan and be well prepared.  Firstly, although I have been to Birmingham on a day trip before it was the first time I really began to get to grips with the city and its art scene.  I had time to wander around and walk a great distance and drive around and it gave me a good insight into the art map of Birmingham.  There is a lot going on and the graffiti around the Custard Factory (which hosts some exciting sculptures) and surrounding area announces to all, this is the art area and its edginess comes across.   Next time, I would try and get into closed spaces by prior arrangements, to contact group artist studio spaces before going to see if I could gain access to the contemporary in Birmingham now and hopefully establish links.


Marcia Farquhar – Larger than Life (open until 7th November)

Firstly, thank you to the Grand Union for agreeing to open on a Monday in order for a number of us to visit at a time when it would ordinarily be closed.  I was a little confused at first as I wandered around the space but as I progressed, I began to piece together the clues, the books left scattered on the tiny chairs, the dvd titles, the doorway that was so short that even I had to bend down to get into the next room, the video of a woman’s face so big that you could see every pour on her skin, inviting you into the world of sci-fi, somewhat reminiscent of King Kong staring in a window of a sky scrapper to a terrified occupant.  The final part again plays with confusion of scale and disorientation where the head of an immensely tall lady is projected onto a solid body and spins slowly round in 260 degrees to play with our mind even further.  You learn later on as you watch the opening night video which explains a lot of the reasoning behind the show that it is the artist herself. On the video she introduces herself which standing on a box, cleverly disguised as an extension of her body in order to reach giant proportions and play upon the local tale of the lady who grew to an immense height after having a bicycle accident in her childhood, damaging her pituitary gland.

The artist speaks with such confidence, wit and knowledge that you instantly applaud her intentions and you regret you were not there on the opening night to see the show opened in person.


Symmetry in Sculpture – Zarah Hussain

Sadly this show as spoilt by the location of an children’s arts and craft table in the centre of the room so it was a very rushed experience.

True to Life? New Photography from the Middle East

Personal and political stories from the middle east looking at the role of women in society and how they are portrayed in the real world in which they are part.  Playful, joyful, honest and serious in equal measure.

Stephen Boyd – After The Gold Rush

 Stephen Boyd is a lecturer at Staffordshire Uni and he has had the opportunity to be involved with the Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham MAG and this show is the culmination of his residency. Stephen has presented at university talks about this show and his reasoning behind it so it was a full stop to see the work in the flesh. To be given a full room in which to present his work is a great honour and as his students we are proud of his accomplishments having heard of his research throughout the project since I joined the university 2 years ago when he was my first year lecturer.

The show encompasses painting, sculpture in the shape of a pin ball machine, printmaking and a cabinet of curiosities displaying his diversity as an artist and his response to the residency.

West Midlands Open

The show opened this weekend and features 67 artists, predominately of a painting or photographic medium. I understand the winners are decided at a prize giving this evening so I await with interest the result. Some of my favourites are:

Corrie Whyte

So good to see Corry Whyte as a Stafforshire University Fine Art student who graduated last year doing do well. From visiting his studios on Friday to seeing his work in the Open on Monday.

Paul Newman – Elephant Man

It was his playful use of canvas which I enjoyed most of all and the paintings refusal to stay within the picture plane but continue out and expand beyond the confines of the ready-made frame and as such adding a disorientating 3d movement-effect to the work.

Emily Sparkes – Untitled (I am still training) deals with queer studies in this large scale oil painting which stares out at the viewer demanding their attention, asking questions about society and contemporary issues of social compliance and difference.

Louise Blakeway – Self (watercolour)

Reminiscent of Marcel Dumas the scream with emotion and painterly execution.


The artist has asked that no photographs taken be used on the internet.

I have to come clean and admit I do not normally have the patience for video art but there was something about the work by Qasim Riza Shareen with his exhibition The Last Known Pose that I really responded it. It could be accused of being self-indulgent in theme but there was an emersion that takes place when you enter the space that cocoons you within his thoughts and experiences.   It was perhaps that there was sound, there were physical dresses and clothing displayed, there were videos and photographs but the key element on which it all linked was a series of love letters that have been written to the artist that have been appropriated and rewritten as the key to the whole exhibition.  This exhibition is as a direct result of the artist’s residency at the MAC and at the same time, there is also a concurrent exhibition running at the Cornerhouse in Manchester which, I understand from a colleague is along a similar vein. I need to write a review of an exhibition next month as part of a project and it strikes me to also visit Manchester and write a combined review after some more research may be an interesting concept.  I was also struck by the idea of relationships, gender, roles and society in cultures that are not westernised and how they are received by others. I know my research into this will make me understand the work presented more.

RBSA GALLERY (Royal Birmingham Society of Artists)

It was great to visit the RBSA so I know where it was and what they were about but in terms of contemporary art, this was not quite the mix required. That said, the works on display give a great round up of the artistic skill and capture the moment of the times in many Birmingham landmarks and local artists throughout the long standing membership of the RBSA should be honoured.