The aim of this blog is to share my experiences of collaboration.

Although the majority of my time is spent making my own work, I keep getting drawn back into collaborations… why do I enjoy them? Why are they difficult? Why are they satisfying? I hope to try and work towards answering these questions in this blog.


During 2011 I was particularly inspired by:

Christian Marclay, The Clock
Opening Night, John Cassavetes
Lands End, Ruth Claxton
Luc Ferrari, Electronic Works
Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker
Breaking the Frame, Surgeon
Origami, Akira Yoshizawa
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pulse Room
Ai Wei Wei, Sunflower Seeds
Thee Oh Sees, Block of Ice
On the Improvement of the Understanding, Spinoza
Radwan Moumneh: Colin Stetson, The Stars in His Head (Dark Lights Remix)

Thanks to everyone who collaborated with me and to anyone who exhibited, commissioned, published and/or in any way worked with me this year – I am very grateful to you all.

See you in 2012!


… then, I blew out the candle

With a beautifully circular piece of lucky timing, I got to celebrate the opening of Kindle (my solo exhibition at John Rylands Library) with a trip down electronic memory lane… I went to see Plastikman live and – what with the opening sample being so appropriate and all – I pretended he did the tune quoted above just for me.

Anyway, I’ve been working with Untitled Gallery and JRUL for over a year to create Kindle and I still can’t quite believe it’s all installed and the show has started. I’m now preparing for the artist’s tours – the first of which happens next Saturday – and whilst going over various scribbles in my notebook, I found this quote from Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” (a book which has provided much inspiration for the show):

[The library] was then the place of a long, centuries old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

Yet again, the usefulness of collaboration suggests itself – as a visual artist you spend years turning looking into seeing, but what about the importance of turning hearing into listening? No listening, no dialogue. No dialogue, no ideas. No ideas, no artwork… and no artist.


Well, it’s been over a month since I wrote anything here and I feel so bad for ignoring you, blog! I’ve just been too busy. Sorry. Although I’ve known since the start of summer that it was going to get bad, I didn’t realize quite how busy autumn would be…

I can now relax (a little) as one project has reached its conclusion. Last week, I was lucky enough to attend The 2011 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting ceremony, which took place at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. There were ten shortlisted plays and four awards up for grabs. I was there because thanks to a recommendation from a curator, I had designed the awards.

The design process was an unusual one for me, as I had to work to a tight brief and be sensitive to the needs and expectations of both the Royal Exchange and Bruntwood. Luckily however, the representatives from both parties were lovely to work with, I had the aforementioned curator looking out for me and we built up a good working relationship. I had to take a deep breath when I was told the awards had to be made of metal (last time I did any welding was on art foundation!), but this did at least give me the opportunity to go out and meet with metalworkers and learn about that process again.

Because of the very tight schedule, I didn’t get to see the finished pieces until the day of the ceremony. I had been to the welders to supervise the trophies being put together the week before, but they then went off for powder-coating and I was busy working towards other looming deadlines, so although I’m sure I was nowhere near as nervous as the playwrights, I did feel anxious all the same on the day.

The ceremony itself was lovely – the audience was treated to scenes from each of the ten shortlisted plays and I could see why the judges had had such a difficult time choosing four winners. By the time they came to the announcements, the tension was all encompassing – I could see the ten finalists shifting nervously in their seats; even I had a bit of a sweat on and it was nothing to do with me! Eventually, congratulations and praise were heaped on the four deserving and talented winners – Janice Okoh, Alistair McDowell, Gareth Farr and Louise Monaghan. The awards were handed out, not one of them got dropped and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.


We’re living in a time when people of all persuasions have become bolder than ever about the ways they choose to express themselves: with a colourful palette of possibilities, You are the Artist, You are your own Subject, and no matter how fearfully you begin, you become fearless in the process
MAC Press Release – Cindy Sherman campaign

I’m still unsure about Cindy Sherman’s collaboration with MAC cosmetics. On the one hand it’s a relief not to be presented with stereotypically unattainable images of “beauty” in a make-up campaign BUT it still makes my stomach a bit churny and I wonder why…

For starters, despite being an “Artist”, “my own Subject” and a long-time fan of Cindy Sherman, I am still the wrong target audience for the advert. Whenever I have tried to wear make-up, I’ve found that rather than feeling confident behind my mask, I feel hugely self-conscious and uncomfortable. I feel like a fraud and I feel claustrophobic.

What I have always admired about Cindy Sherman’s photographs is her ability to present a cast of characters we recognize and possibly even relate to. We are able to do this, because she shows us what we are (even if it is sometimes grotesque). Her work reflects, rather than preaches. Her photographs show us what we can be, but never what we should be. However, in the shift from Art to Advertising, this is no longer true. In this collaboration, her images work to tell us what we should be – they preach, and I hate being told what to do or how to be. Even though Sherman’s stylings are unusual-ish within the narrow confines of the cosmetics industry, the underlying message is painfully bog-standard: it is only by buying the product that the consumer can be “better”… all her usual subtleties around identity and image disappear in a (powder) puff of smoke.

I have always equated “fearlessness” to overcoming pressure, not succumbing to it. In the end, that remains true even if the pressure is coming via an Artist whose work I usually admire.


We allow no geniuses around our Studio.
Walt Disney

I’m busy nicing up my new, bigger workspace for Rogue’s Open Studios this coming weekend. As well as the 100 or so artist rooms in the building, there are also two exhibitions opening: Lucienne Cole on Floor 1 and Tom Antell on Floor 4. If you happen to be in the North West, please come along and say hello!

Preview: Friday 8th October, 6-9pm

Open: Saturday 8th October, 11-6pm
Sunday 9th October, 12-5pm

Rogue Artists’ Studios
66-72 Chapeltown Street
M1 2WH