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.

During 2018 I worked with other artists, curators, the public and professionals from across disciplines to develop ideas for new work about life in the Anthropocene.

Now, in 2019, my main focus is on developing ideas initiated during the earlier stages of the project through drawing, making and installation.


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It’s not every week that you get to travel with a bunch of great, friendly, broad-thinking artists to see some fantastic international contemporary art in an extraordinary city, but that’s what happened to me last week when I visited the Istanbul Biennial with a-n’s Artists Council.

Earlier this year I was really honoured to be selected as one of the members of Artists Council, an advisory group tasked with feeding in to a-n’s policy and strategy making and ensuring that artists are kept at the absolute heart of everything a-n does. The Artists Council is made up of a group of artists of all ages and backgrounds from across the UK  reflecting the diversity of a-n’s membership. Generally speaking they’re a pretty dynamic bunch, so it was especially exciting to spend five days in their very good company and get to know them a bit better.

We also met up with a delegation from East Street Arts in Leeds and some really useful conversations were had and links made as we bumped in to each other throughout the week in galleries, restaurants and on the Biennial boat.

Monster Chetwynd’s Hybrid Creatures installed on the island of Büyükada

Over the course of four days we were treated to a  packed programme of visits to galleries and museums to see some outstanding artworks from familiar and less familiar names including Monster Chetwynd and Charles Avery, Phoebe Cummings and Ernst Haeckel, and artists new to me such as Eva Kot’atkova, Pia Arke and Haegue Yang.

Above: detail from Simon Fujiwara’s installation, It’s A Small World

Art highlights for me and many others were Simon Fujiwara‘s fantastically memorable installation, It’s A Small World, and Mika Rottenberg‘s film, Spaghetti Blockchain,  both of which managed to draw me in with their quirky humour and superficially seductive aesthetics to hold me in thrall while the dark undertones of the work unsettled my mind.

Above: Still from Mika Rottenberg’s Spaghetti Blockchain.

The great value of the trip though really lay in the relationships which were cemented, the conversations about art, artists and arts practice, and the shared feeling that as artists we can all work together to support each other and maybe help to make the world a better place.

 


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It was great to finally get the boulders installed at Holding The Fort*, but even though I had prepared myself that the work which had seemed so big in my studio would appear much smaller in its new context, it was slightly disappointing to see that happen in reality. However, never one to turn down a challenge, I’m ready to start to think about how to up the scale again in the autumn when current projects end.

A highlight of Holding The Fort for me though has been the opportunity to make another piece of new work in situ – a site-specific drawing which took place over two days. The idea arose from the fact that Newhaven Fort is made from approximately six million bricks. I find it hard to imagine what six million bricks look like, so I decided to try to count the bricks in one room in the Eastern Magazine. Although I haven’t managed to add up the final tally yet the work has taken on a life of its own in the cell-like space and the smudgy markings on the bricks are reminders of the passing of time.

One of the things I love about my job is the sheer variety of it all, and this couldn’t have been better demonstrated than over the past few weeks when I traveled seamlessly from the dirty, messy and physically challenging work of this drawing and the boulder-making, to the necessarily clean-hands/clean-worktops environment needed for framing. It was exciting to frame nearly twenty new drawings ready for the next thing – an Open House ** which is part of Artwave Festival in East Sussex which opened today. And next week will be different again as I will be spending six days in the Open Studios which are part of Towner Gallery’s Art School programme. Watch this space!

*Holding The Fort is at Newhaven Fort until 26 August

**Fairways Collective Open House is at 5 Fairways Road, Seaford, BN25 4EJ, 11:30am to 5pm, on the 18th and 31st August and 1st September.


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Well we all know the weather has had a big impact this week with yesterday being the second hottest day on record and super-high humidity contributing to storms and downpours. Well to be honest, I know in the overall scheme of things this is only a small thing, but I am actually really suffering from this weather disruption at the moment. For the past four weeks the weather has been firmly on my side, allowing me to spread out of the studio and into the garden while making my boulders. Fantastic! The warm sun has been my friend, making many litres of glue and paint dry quickly and speeding me towards the impending installation deadline. But now, with the exhibition rapidly approaching this weekend, the weather has turned against me!

Yesterday I failed my self-imposed deadline for finishing the work when soaring temperatures slowed me down and evening storms put paid to late work. And now under dark skies and with final coats to apply, here I am blogging, while waiting for paint to dry. (The note on the tin said “Do not apply in more than 85% humidty”…)

Oh well.

On a more positive note, in a brief interlude from boulder-making, I spent a brilliant morning with artist Vicki Painting a couple of weeks ago. Vicki is a photographer and we worked together to realise an idea I’d had in my head for a while since developing my cluster work at the Milton Street and Martyr’s residencies earlier this year. Here is the result:

Photo by Vicki Painting from a collaboration with Judith Alder.

The finished boulders will be at Holding The Fort from this Sunday 28 July to 26 August come hell or high water.

More of Vicki’s Cluster portraits can be seen at the Open House we’re both participating in as part of Artwave Festival next month.

 


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Isn’t it always the case that after a reflective period of quiet making and drawing, gradually and subtly, everything changes and before you know it, all of a sudden it’s deadline, deadline, deadline!

At the moment, I am mostly making boulders. The aim is to make ten boulders  (five in progress, five to go, two weeks left…) for the Holding The Fort exhibition which I’m part of at Newhaven Fort. Why boulders you might ask? It began a few years ago with my Improbable Experiments With Growing Stones when I speculatively made a couple of big “rocks”.  I’ve been feeling ever since that there was some unfinished business here.

Growing Stones from 2014

On my first visit to Newhaven Fort a few weeks ago I spotted this:

The idea of a rolling barrel of petrol bouncing down the 72 steps to the caponier, along with the location of the Fort built into the hillside behind a chalk cliff, triggered a particular line of thought about rolling stones, blocked passages, cliff falls and the boulder which chased Indiana Jones down a tunnel in Raiders of the Lost Ark. So I decided to make at least one boulder big enough to block one of the narrow entrances or passages at the Fort.

Newhaven Fort hosts one of those vintage museums that remind me of the museums of my childhood which were filled with quirky displays and hand-made flocked model landscapes.  I’ve always loved this spirit of improvisation and am happy to adopt it into my work. It has also helped me maintain my policy of using re-purposed or surplus materials in my work where possible and social media has been a great way of sourcing surplus chicken wire, blackboard paint and cotton bed-linen – some of the essential materials for my boulder-making. It’s been great to get into a routine of messy, hands-on making and the weather has been kind allowing me to spill outside the studio as the first boulders begin to take shape.

 


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Every now and then the generous people at Martyr’s Gallery in Lewes offer an opportunity for an artist to take over their space for one of those very special, no-expectations, no-strings-attached developmental residencies. Their version of this amazing gift is called “Fresh Air” and I have been most fortunate to have been the beneficiary of the most recent Fresh Air Residency. So far I’ve had eight working days in the space and still have three more to go, making work I would not have made had it not been for this opportunity, at this time, and in this space. The secret of course lies in the combination of an empty, uncluttered space, and an uninterrupted stretch of focused time. Two weeks usually is just about right for me, and I’ve learned to set out with a definite starting point and a clear focus, but an open mind and enough flexibility to follow where the work leads me.  Here are some images of the installation I made. It feels like a 3D sketchbook of ideas – a step on the way to something else…

…and here are some of the drawings I made. They seem to be attempts to make visual representations of some of the ideas I’ve been thinking about – ideas about human augmentation and manipulation; the merging of man-made and natural, and the meshes, networks and webs that are an integral part of every aspect of life, nature and technology in the 21st century.

 

 


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