How do you think our planet might evolve in the future? How can we keep up with the speed at which the world is changing? Can we really be sure science and technology will make the world a better place? These are some of the questions I’ll be asking in my new project, Once in a Universe.

In 2017 the invaluable support of a professional development bursary from a-n, and an informal partnership with the Printmaking department at the University of Brighton, meant I was able to learn some new printmaking skills and begin to develop new work which has formed the foundation for Once in a Universe.

I have now been awarded funding from Arts Council England for a period of R & D during 2018. I’ll be working with other artists, curators, the public and professionals from across disciplines to develop ideas for new work about life in the Anthropocene. The project will culminate in September 2018 when I will spend two weeks as Artist in Residence at Devonshire Collective‘s DC1 Café/Gallery in Eastbourne, testing out new work and planning a solo exhibition for 2018-19.


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That’s it. I’m ready. I’ve had my Christmas break and I’m ready to get started. Let’s go!

I’m excited to say that Once in a Universe will launch on Thursday 25th January, at Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne with a talk by special guest, John Cooper, Emeritus Keeper of Natural Sciences at The Booth Museum, Brighton. John’s talk, It’s just a matter of time… will take a look at the processes of evolution by natural selection and climate change, set against the backdrop of geological time. Artist Susan Diab will chair the evening and lead a discussion following the talk, exploring how our knowledge might make us better equipped to understand the changing present and work towards a better future. I’ve worked with Susan before, when she chaired an event for my last project, The New Immortals, and look forward to the post-talk discussions which she’s so good at teasing out.

Above: Susan Diab chaired a valuable discussion event for The New Immortals in 2014.

This is the first event in a series of activities which all form part of my research for this new project and I can’t wait to see where they take me. This part of the project is all about getting people talking about some of the themes I’m interested in and finding out about how people feel about the future: their hopes, expectations and concerns.

In February and March I’ll be working with some exciting artists to run workshops for people of all ages at The Devonshire Collective’s DC2 and DC3 workshop spaces in Eastbourne. I have been working with DC Programme Manager, Amy Zamarippa Solis, and commissioning DC artists to plan events which will create opportunities for people to join in practical art-making activities as well as providing an environment where conversations can take place. I’ll be attending all the workshops as a participant so I’ll be able to work alongside members of the public and chat while we work, creating a space for all sorts of exciting things to happen that can influence the way my own work will develop. The practical events kick off with a two-part Experimental Clay Workshop for people over 65 led by artist Claire Shoosmith. I can’t wait!

Above: a clay workshop at Eastbourne Studio Pottery (image courtesy of Claire Shoosmith)

In March I’ll be working with Eastbourne’s Fotofonty (aka Elizabeth Doak and Maja Jones) who will be running “bring a grandparent” Cyanotype workshops for kids and an older relative, and in April, Brighton based digital artist Alex May will be running an all day video mapping workshop using his bespoke software, “Painting With Light”.

Above: work in progress in the studio, experimenting with new materials to form clumps, concretions and clusters.

Once the workshops are all done, my main focus will be back to developing new work in the studio and continuing to research galleries and partners for a solo show for 2018-19. So much to look forward to for 2018 – and no knowing how things will develop. Exciting times.

 


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So all of this has been happening…

and this…

and then I had a tidy up and a re-assessment of the situation and decided just to carry on.

Meanwhile, good news arrived! First, my Pink Spread (a case of mistaken identity) got shortlisted for The Annex Collection Award and now appears on their website alongside some art I’m proud to be next to (www.tacuk.org/),

and then news came that I have, after much persevering, been successful with applications for funding for my new project, Only Once in a Universe! Woohoo! So enormous thanks are due to Arts Council England, East Sussex Arts Partnership and Devonshire West Big Local. I’m really excited to be able to embark on this project which has been in the pipeline for so long now and it means that I will be able to move on with some exciting plans to work with artists, curators and experts from other fields of knowledge, as well as the public, to open up new ways of thinking about growth, change and evolution in Extreme Present – “a time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future.”

The project will include a range of events and workshops in collaboration with artists Susan Diab, Alex May, Elizabeth Doak and Maia Jones (aka Fotofonty), Claire Shoosmith (Eastbourne Studio Pottery) and Amy Zamarippa Solis. The project will culminate in a two week public test space/residency at DC1 Cafe Gallery in Eastbourne in August/September 2018 and the funding will also enable me to work with curators Lucy Day and Sanna Moore to develop plans for an exhibition for 2019. How amazing!


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So time ticks by… what have I been doing?

I guess the reading and writing part of my brain has been quite occupied and in the studio I’ve still been tinkering with small things.

I have taken the bull by the horns and pulled out a slab of clay (yes, you read it right – CLAY), still in its original packaging, which has been sitting under my worktop for… oh, I don’t know… maybe 5, maybe 6 years. Maybe longer actually.

There are two reasons for breaking out the clay. One: I wanted to try making some of the little palm pebbles in natural clay (rather than the polymer variety I have been using), and Two: I’ve been challenging myself for a long time to make a mould (mold?) of my favourite stone, this one,

and try casting it in different materials.

Now I’m not very experienced at mould-making. I’ve done it a few times and learned a few different mould-making techniques, but the last time I did it, I remember clearly, was 2010 on my MA. Hmmm… I think I need a refresher class. So I spent most of a day watching online tutorials, reading about the materials I could use (plaster? silicone? latex?…) examining my stone for undercuts and trying to work out how many pieces I’d need to make a plaster mould in (plaster being my preferred material because I actually find the form of plaster moulds themselves quite fascinating – the last one I made was like a little plaster coffin).

So I got my clay out and started to wedge the stone in place, building my clay walls around it and calcualting that I’d need to make a five piece mould, but it wasn’t long into this process that I realised that my undercut and pitted flint just wasn’t going to respond well to being encased in plaster. At least it would be encased alright, but would it ever come out? Oh well… off to the shops for some latex then.

Meanwhile, I’ve been updating my website with a new home page featuring what is currently my favourite piece of new work, a small concretion of those sticky pink pebbles I mentioned a blog or two ago and I’m feeling rather chuffed with it.

What I’m not feeling chuffed about is yet another rejection e-mail from an exhibition opportunity I thought I might stand a chance at. That’s roughly a 96% rejection rate this year. Hmm… so I just had to take another look at Laura Fitzgerald’s lovely P45 video which never fails to make me smile. Here it is http://laurafitzgeraldfrominch.com/project/p45/

 


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“I’m confident that with the funding applications out of the way, I’ll be able to make a decision about next priorities and get stuck in!” That was the last sentence of my last blog – two and a half weeks ago. And actually, I have to admit that I don’t seem to have made a lot of progress. C’est la vie. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. I’ve been trying out some things, some collages, which haven’t been very successful yet but have opened up some new ideas. But I’m not sure I really want any new ideas at the moment – I just want to keep persevering with the old ones. So that’s mostly what I’m doing, with some thinking about the collages going on at the back of my mind.

As often happens I find myself disarmed by how much I’m drawn to the simplest of images. It’s hard to find the courage to leave them as they are; to know when something is enough.

In a different sort of development during the past two weeks, I’m very excited to have been selected as one of the artists to take part in a-n’s Writer Development Programme 2017-18. I’ve been spending more time than usual reading a range of different articles and magazines, as well as doing my first two writing tasks.

As part of my research for the writing tasks I also listened to some of the excellent Radio 4 series about “busyness”, Oliver Burkeman Is Busy. I would definitely recommend a listen – it’s worth making time for! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07w1dpx/episodes/player

There are a few great things about taking part in the writers’ programme. Apart from getting some fantastic input into developing my writing about art from some excellent people (a-n News editor Chris Sharratt, art critic and journalist Fisun Güner, and Frieze deputy editor Amy Sherlock) I will get to know seven other exciting artists from across the UK who have also been selected, and visit some great arts organisations who will be hosting our workshops. It’s going to be brilliant!


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It was a strange working week last week. My main focus was on completing my Grant for the Arts application plus some small applications for match funding. By the end of the week funding fatigue was setting in and I couldn’t wait to click on the “SUBMIT” button. But at last they’re just about done, and in fact two out of four have been submitted with the remaining two going anytime now.

What always happens in this situation is that I tend to lose focus on my studio work. Also, I’ve just finished a big drawing I’ve been working on for a while (not really very satisfactorily), so there’s a bit of a pause while I decide what to do next. There are several options: (time for a list here I think… some bullet points even)

  • start another big drawing and try to make it better this time (this involves some delaying tactics as I want to screenprint a coloured circle in the middle of the paper to draw onto, and this needs a certain amount of preparation to make room in my studio to print, but I have at least got my screen-printing equipment out. **stage one**)
  • carry on exploring materials for my palm pebbles (some progress has been made i.e. I’ve managed to make some that aren’t sticky now)
  • make a mould of my favourite stone (this option is also subject to delaying tactics as I’m not very expert at mould-making and haven’t done it for a long time – I have, however, achieved stage one of this process too, which involved getting myself a lump of clay)
  • finish my metamorphosis animation which I started in the spring – this is bottom of the list as it means using the computer in my house and I don’t want to work in my house while it is way too lovely in my studio at the bottom of the garden – perhaps I should officially put this option on hold until October…
  • start building a big rock-like thing…hmm… I tried this way back at the beginning of the Growing Stones project and it was moderately successful in a strange sort of way. It needs another go. Soon.

So, in this sort of unfocused limbo state I did what I always do – make a lot of cr**py little drawings that did nothing to improve my confidence or humour and really needed to go in the bin. Until… **small cheer**… these happened!

These are only tiny sketches but they happened very quickly (a good sign) and immediately felt like something that were something which is always encouraging.So next week is a short one and I’ve only got two days in the studio, but I’m confident that with the funding applications out of the way, I’ll be able to make a decision about next priorities and get stuck in!

 

 

 


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