The reality of juxtaposition.

It has been just over 3 months since my Degree Show at Wimbledon College of Art (UAL). I had so much planned once this was over, so many projects I wanted to get started but in truth I have been like a fly trapped in a milk bottle – buzzing around wildly but achieving very little. It has been said to me that in order to make progress it is best to focus on one thing at a time.  This is all well and good, but I think for many of artists this is just not viable. I need to earn some income, I need (and want) to produce some art, I want (and need) to collaborate, exhibit and experiment. I also have a family, so hence have all the activities and responsibilities that entails. So my mission in respect to my art practice these days is to try and focus on just a few things at a time, and to try to relax into it more.

I have recently been playing with making small collages, physical and digital. They have tended to try and evoke a sense of place, a quick escape route in my head. One is based in Spain; Andalucia region. I have juxtaposed and transferred images of photographs I had taken on past holidays onto a solid oak wood block that I had previously primed with a mixture of rabbit glue and marble dust. It is relatively small; approximately 27 cm square. In keeping with my usual practice, I painted and drew upon this. I wanted the surface and image to be deliberately rough and incomplete in parts – as if an artefact with the surface showing through in places – like touching the walls of an old city, the heat of the sun bleaching the paintwork and drawing delicate cracks upon its history.

The other is a ‘New Zealand’ digital collage -in a wildish sort of state. I am from New Zealand originally but have not been back there for quite a number of years. Living in London, whilst I love it, there is a reassuring primal ruggedness about New Zealand which I miss and wanted to capture.


It has been a particularly busy month. Family arrived over from New Zealand, my sons had exams and in the middle of this I was involved in 2 consecutive weekends of Open Studios.

This is my first Open Studios as previously I used to work from home. Now my studio is based in ASC Kingston with a community of other artists. It took up quite a lot of time preparing for this, so I have decided to make it the key subject for my blog this month.

The studio complex I am in is not particularly large perhaps compared to other studios so it is noticeable when not everyone participates. One can only encourage other artists to join in, but at the end of the day it’s not compulsory, nor should it be.

Equally in preparation for this, quite a lot of work has to be done from cleaning and sprucing up the corridors to the production of maps explaining how to find ones way around in addition to other marketing material. Our studios are part of a Kingston-wide art initiative called KAOS which plays a key part in marketing the different Open Studios across the borough.

Then there is there is the preparation of my own studio. I wasn’t sure how to approach it. Should I leave it as it and just continue working as per normal? Should I make it look like a gallery space and curate my work? Or should I go ‘salon style’ and display loads of work. It seemed to me that all 3 different approaches were used by the various other artists.

I guess the main question was – what was I hoping to get out of this Open Studio event?

I saw it as an opportunity to let the general public see my work, where it’s made, how it’s made and to discuss my approach and why to those who might be interested. I was keen to carry on working during proceedings but the main problem being is that I have a particularly small studio. There was never going to be a lot of room for people coming to visit, let alone for me to continue making work.

In the end I did curate the work on the wall as in order to give an illusion of space – I had to have it fairly clean-cut looking. I used the corridors to display my larger pieces. I was sometimes able do some work whilst people visited but had to plan it well and keep it small and contained.

We were lucky in that the weather was fine during both Open Studio weekends so plenty of people were out and about visiting the different studios. We had a good throughput of people pretty much the entire time with only a couple of (welcome) lulls around lunchtime.

The most pleasing thing I found was that most people were genuinely interested to hear me talk about my art. I was delighted when people would engage with me and I could discuss the various pieces, the why and how I did what I did. I didn’t really expect that. It was a suburban audience and I wrongly thought that they wouldn’t really be that interested. It was a rewarding experience because of this plus as an added extra bonus I sold a couple of small pieces. I also liked the fact that families visited and often the kids would respond positively to the work. I think this is because they could relate to what I am doing, my subject matter and the tools that I use.

What would I change next time? Not a lot, although I think I might also make some smaller prints and drawings as well which would hopefully provide some more affordable pieces for those who were interested in taking something away. I would also bring in a lot more food. It’s a hungry business and there was just no time to pop out and stock up on supplies!


Dividing up the space

Why as artists do we do what in our art? Is there always a clear answer? How much of what we do is planned and delivered according to plan and how much is instinctive or happy accidents as we work. My belief is all the above is true. As artists it can be a continual process of planning, experimentation, adjustment and instinct.

I have continued to work on my studio study pieces. They are quite detailed so it is slow progress. They began with photos of the studio I was in at the time (I’m in a different studio now). My initial idea was to create pieces that communicated the purity and simplicity of my environment. However as I have worked I have experimented with slicing up the photographs I had taken, giving them both an abstract and design feel.

Why did I do this, I ask myself? Well, first of all I think it’s because the photos didn’t really give the ideas I had about the space justice. When I look, it is quite different to the flat image that the photographs depict. Even without turning my head or moving my eyes, I can see in the periphery but reasonably clear, all the surfaces in every direction. I am conscious of the different nuances and slices of light and shadow crossing the room and forever changing. The lines that connect the corners of the room, the floor, the ceiling, door and window break down into angles my maths teacher would have been proud of. When I took the photographs, I kept it simple and focused on the areas which had minimal objects. So the space in-between seems to reach out and expand into the room.

When I break up the planes and divide up the space in my pieces, it’s an acknowledgement of all these considerations. It’s a bit of a nod to Cubism; particularly the work ‘In the studio’ although rather than objects and figures being fragmented and abstracted, it is the space itself I have played with. It’s also a kind of abstraction as I have used shapes, colours, textures to depict a visual reality. However it is clearly not purely abstract, as in both pieces there are clearly recognisable features.

There is also a design feel to the work I think. This perhaps comes with the territory as I used Photoshop to manipulate my digital photographs. But also I have to some extent employed a kind of pattern and poster feel – particularly with the work ‘Studio door’. I like to cross that border between Fine Art and Design. I think ‘why not’ – life is not that simple that I can firmly restrict myself to either camp.

What is perhaps not obvious from these images of my work and can only be observed in real life, is that I have been very carefully and subtly working on the surfaces. This is what is taking me so long. Parts are digital, part are oil paint. In some bits, there is the slightest glimmer of iridescent mediums and in others a very slight texture from using marble dust. These may not register to the viewer unless they go close up to the work. I like the inaccessibility of this – unless a person decides they really want to study it, it will not be seen. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. The work is not trying to be elitist in any way, but be reflective of our everyday observations concerning detail and imperfection.

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I’ve been scratching my head trying to think what to write about this month. When I review the art I have been working on it all seems rather paltry, although I know I have been busy. This has led me to review more in detail, what actually have I been doing in respect to art this last month?

The truth of the matter is that the everyday tasks of an artist contain many things and not just the making of art.

It does involve doing a fair amount of admin. I realised that it has been a while since I had updated my website. This is something I believe is important to do. I needed to photograph all completed works for 2018 so far and then load those up. To be honest, I don’t include everything, only those I am happy with. I’m contemplating having a ‘work-in-progress’ tab on my website as my work tends to take a long time to make and maybe this might be something that other people may find interesting. I also needed to update both my ‘News’ and ‘Exhibitions’ sections. Also I think it’s important to review the whole site periodically and give it a bit of a prune. I ask myself the question – ‘is it reflective of the art that I make and clear as to why I make it?’

I’ve been entering a few open calls. This is always a time consuming task and very often it feels like I’m putting together a job application. It usually involves some research so that the piece I’m entering is a good fit. I don’t see the point in entering a large piece of art if the sponsors have a history of selecting small works or if the space that the exhibition will be in is tiny.

I have recently been involved in an exhibition in The Biscuit Tin Factory in Bermondsey so I was busy sprucing up the work involved for that to make sure it was ready to display. In March I had moved to a new studio and hadn’t quite got myself organised so I have been doing a bit of that – tidying, packaging art pieces carefully, labelling and so on. We are having ‘Open studios’ in June so there will be a certain amount of prep for that across the whole building so I wanted to ensure my own studio is near enough ready.

I have recently joined an artist’s group which essentially means once a month I walk around with some other artists looking at art exhibitions in London and then discuss the work. This is something I do by myself quite frequently but it’s good to do this periodically with other artists to get alternative input and opinions.

I’ve just got involved in interviewing another artist in my studio and writing the interview up which hopefully will be published and disseminated soon. I am very keen to do more of these interviews. I have been saying for quite some time I wanted to include writing as part of my art practice and I see this as one way of doing this. I like it as the attention is focused on someone else and their art. I suppose I would be acting as a kind of conduit and facilitator. I am interested in asking quite detailed questions about someone’s art and their practice and am hoping to avoid art-speak. I initially want to interview people in my studio complex as I’m conscious of the fact that buried away in the studios are all these artists, working intently and passionately on their art but ultimately little is known about them. I think in the vague plan in my head I would like eventually to extend this to other artists I encounter as I do meet some interesting and committed people who would be great to interview.

I have to always think about my next plan of work and what I would need to do to get this started. There does always seem to be quite a long lead up to before I put brush to canvas. It involves researching, photographing, writing, deciding on sizes and materials, bringing in supplies and then preparing my surfaces (which can take ages).

All these things are time-consuming. In the meantime I am still working slowly but surely on my current art pieces. I’m at the stage where I am not sure whether I like quite a few of the pieces I’m working on, but I find this can be a helpful place to be. It allows me to step back and see what else I would like to achieve and re-evaluate what is it I am actually trying to do. The piece I display here is work in progress. I’ve been through a range of stages with it and I have now passed the ‘don’t like it’ stage and on to the ‘oh…I know what I want to try now’ stage. The art piece is called ‘Colour flash’.


I am carrying on with my studio still-life studies. Originally I was going to take a no frills approach and keep it pure and simple. However as I look and as I work, I find it impossible to do so. Embellishment and elaboration start to creep in. The more I look, things suggest themselves to me in the form, the decoration, the interplay of light and shadows and the space in which the objects sit.

Having photographed the objects, playing with the digital photographs bring new possibilities. Cropping an image, focusing on one key bit can change the dynamics dramatically. I enjoy slicing up the space and introducing new shapes and shades of colour for no other reason than I can.

Sometimes it a matter of looking at the pattern within the shapes that I see, simplifying them, repeating them, manipulating them. Or it might be an intricate piece of detail on the surface of the objects I want to emphasise.

I’ve been specifically working on a series of very small works (5 inches square). Starting from the point of stretching and preparing the canvas, these small works are like little objects themselves. I transferred my manipulated photos onto them ready to start painting on the surface.

It’s easier to work on an image that has been changed quite dramatically digitally first than one where its remains true to the original source. It becomes something else in which I can study its properties and apply further transformations with paint. This introduces new aspects to explore. It creates a kind of mobility and physicality to the work.

I don’t like to think about it too much. Playfulness and experimentation is important. I’m working in a relatively small studio space but I find my work often ends up evoking places and patterns from other countries – places I have travelled to or want to travel to. These works become in a sense my way of being somewhere else.


My latest series of work is focusing on interiors and objects – specifically my studio and my home. So far I have been looking at my studio but to be honest, I’m not really sure what I’m doing. I’ve been trying to vaguely look at the basic structure and layout of the objects within my studio using watercolour painting and pen drawing. Everything is very loose – broad gestures of shape, pattern and composition. I started to represent certain objects with certain shapes so a kind of system developed. I may not pursue this to any great degree but I do find it rather satisfying.

I start to think about some of the famous artists and how they at some point as they work maybe they used a similar methodology – for example Matisse and Picasso to name just a couple in their development of their portraits and interiors and the simplistic lines and shapes they used to do this. Still life arrangements have and are constantly being used as a method for formal experimentation by artists the world over.

I also think about the work of the contemporary photographer Laura Letinsky – a particular exhibition I went to years ago at the Photographers Gallery in London has stuck with me (called Laura Letinsky: lll Form and Void Full). Her ‘post meal’ still lifes using linen covered tables, food, cutlery and crockery are oddly reminiscent of old masters paintings of old style banquets. However in Letinsky’s photographs the colours are pastel and muted, her shapes often appear semi abstracted, the stains left behind as important as the objects themselves, the importance of space and light. In fact there is very little food to be seen, more of a melancholy suggestion of what has been.

I like the idea of at some point emulating some of the ideas she has used here, the semi abstraction, the colour schemes she has used, the use of positive and negative space, using my studio as the basis. A studio space has its own sense of place. It’s currently freezing in mine and I work with a hot-water bottle stuck under my jumper. There is clothing a plenty, not just for the purposes of necessary rags, but to wear as layers upon layer. Domestic items one would associate from home have made their way in – cushions, dish washing liquid, drying up cloths and various assortments of teas and packaged soups. And fruit. Fruit gets everywhere – mainly orange and apples. It’s important to do something when I am contemplating the making, whether it’s peeling an orange or sipping a cup of tea. There is something beautiful about a studio. Its simplicity of objects sitting within the space. The climbing pipes, the splashes of paint, the surfaces of the walls and floor, the casting of shadows; the basicness of everything.

Like still life, the studio is a frequent subject matter for many artists. It’s a contained environment that can transport the artist to new places and new ventures. What’s more, it’s there, it’s real. There is a purity about it that can be explored.

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