To the Light exhibition is something that has been a year in the planning. A lovely lady called Heather came to visit me at my studio this time last year to see my works on the riots, she was intrigued by the subject matter as well as the materiality, the shatterings of glass. What transpired on this event was another interesting conversation. Heather works for a famous creative advertising agency Bartle Bogle and Hegarty http://www.bartleboglehegarty.com

BBH spearheaded by Heather and Mareka had been involved in a positive campaign after the riots. http://keepaaroncutting.blogspot.co.uk/

Aaron Biber had had his barbershop destroyed in the riots, even his barbershop chairs were stolen (see…the link to chairs also came from his story). The indefatigable Heather and Mareka Carter and their team helped raise £35, 000, working with Kay Horne and Businesses in the community to also distribute further the donations that came. An inspiring act of positivity as well as the Dan Thomson clean up riots. Heather (who also happily bought a piece) was passionate about me showing the riot paintings as a collection of work- a solo show. I had already toyed with the idea but had yet to start research into spaces but now with a supporter behind me I felt a greater sense of purpose and got down to some research and proposal writing.

The question of where and with who….The threads of this story based in socio-political sources meant it needed to be placed carefully and be in a place that had wider possibilities of engagement with the issues surrounding the work and it was clear that the exhibition should geographically be related to the places where the riots had occurred, (site-specific) and after not very long I discovered Bruce Castle Museum, a beautiful gem of a 16th Century Manor. I submitted a proposal and in a hop skip and meeting (which believe me isn’t usual) was offered a show with Bruce Castle for 4 months (what a luxury!) in 2013. On my way to the first meeting with the curator Deborah Hedgecock I had no inkling of what the Museum would be able to offer me in terms of support (financial and otherwise) and made a list of things I needed to ask; from transport to marketing, to opportunities to teach and grow which is all very essential to be prepared to ask about in any exhibition opportunity.

An overriding concern I had though with exhibiting Bruce Castle was that it is housed in Haringey Councils website – which of course has certain restrictions and with all council websites has a density of material and a limit on what can be put on the website. Bruce Castle is not allowed to do social media (because of council rules) which is so important for exhibitions and engagement. I want to get people involved in this exhibition in so many ways. I voiced my concerns to Heather and she was quick to come to my aid with her amazing team at BBH. Through their support I am having a website built especially for the exhibition. www.Tothelight.co.uk which is at its first stage at this point as well as assistance in marketing. Essentially the website is a landing page at this point, but with their genius team this website will grow and become interactive; there will be a podcast that I have recorded with them for the exhibition and there will be a way in which others can leave thoughts on the works and their wider concerns on the website so that what is being built is a rich tapestry of memories, emotions, thoughts about not just the riots, a legacy and archive about positive constructive ways to repair spaces, places and people. I don’t know what I did to get such a team of maverick angels on my side but I am thrilled. Massive thanks to Alex, Ali, Mareka, Ian, Adam, Isobel at BBH.

You can read a bit more about activities at To the Light show here, as we await the next release of the website here

And thank you to all those who have been reading so far- was rather surprised and delighted be in the top three bloggers! Next week I will be hanging the show…..


I havent quite finished thoughts about chairs..

Annabel Tilley asked if I would be interested in painting an 18th Century chair ( this is her area of expertise) and I said not at all. These modernist chairs were particularly symptomatic of my other fascination which I explored in my older works of 1950’s social housing and these chairs were about continuing that conversation in a different way. Modernism has been important to me in the sense of a utopian ideology…one aspect of which is that if we could change buildings and make them better for people to live in we could inherently change the people that lived within these spaces. The failings of these ideologies and how that occurred holds a strong curiosity for me.

There is a palpable sense of loss I wanted to achieve in some of the paintings of chairs..In the riots, chairs were taken out of context, used to smash into buildings as well as stolen…
A few visitors to my studio said that the chairs as well as the glass paintings had ‘monstrous delicacy,’ and these paintings have been described by many as ‘disturbing.’ which again reflects back on the vulnerabilities and fragilities of the human condition..more of that to come…


I am taking you on a journey To the Light, taking you through stages of my practice, thoughts, and considerations. After my last blog about what treasures lay in spaces and rewinding time, I met an artist with whom I started a conversation about the start of this work, about previous works of social housing and dystopia, about perspective and geometry and we analysed space and time and its complexity. The conversation is part of the work as well. An investigation in which I found new ways to look at possibilities in work and in making work, complex conversations and languages. He sent me imagery and source materials from 1950’s architectural books which has been fruitful.

Early source materials I was sent were images of modernist chairs. The chair in the photograph I had was held in the frame of a door and its window, a door to a new building that is full of possibility. I opened the door and stepped into another world….I started to paint chairs.

Whilst I painted the chairs Michaela Nettell printed a wonderful article within which I could not have found a better quote as to why it was significant to focus upon. “Its quite impossible to consider the building as one thing…its furnishings as another…The very chairs..tables..are of the building itself, never fixtures upon it. ” Frank Lloyd Wright

As I said in the previous post, Chairs are fundamental objects. My chairs just like the buildings are portraits of people. They are objects that carry humanity, feeling, history. They are in the paintings both fragile and solid. My investigations drew me further in through the shattered glass to the chairs, the tables, to interior spaces. I consider inhabitants, scrutinise their possessions, their structures, the stability or instability of their spaces. The walls in these spaces gleam and are imprinted with fingertips, breaths, whispers of existence.

The lines and symmetry of these chairs draw me in, it was a curious perspective challenge for me as well. I have painted several versions of this chair, over photographs and on canvases. In each one there are different interventions of paint and embroidery, different loaded spaces.

I blend masculinity in the chairs, their hard shapes with the softness and femininity of embroidery, the masculine and feminine unfold and embrace each other. They are bound together with stitching. They are scaffolded and held. “Threads that bind us…Hold us…Contain us. Bodies and psyches flit in and slip out…” Marion Michell. The chair references a loneliness, a certain torture in its suspense reminiscent again of Bacon’s chairs. Some of these paintings are extremely delicate, created on a surface of 10x14cm for which I use the smallest needle, the most delicate threads and cradle the chair in the palms of my hand as I stitch into it. It is a treasured chair, it has been given stability

The silver thread I use is so fine and difficult to use, you have to touch it delicately as otherwise the thread will turn into wisps. Threading one line at a time and guiding it closely so it does not find a way to snag and fall apart, it is laborious, slow, patient. I have to feelingly find where to pierce the canvas or the paper, guiding it slowly to its point of entry and gently moving it into a place of security, then pull it tight and knot so the thread does not unravel. There are many vanishing points and possibilities with threads. The thread in its action, intervenes across modernist spaces.

There is also a conscious referencing in using pairs of chairs about conversations. In reference to the riots the chairs are empty, the inhabitants disappeared, it also references the lack of dialogue that led to frustrations for to have a disempowered unheard voice, which is one of the most dangerous things to do in society. To not listen to the voices of society.


Part of my own discovery and development of works comes about through a variety of conversations with a plethora of different artists. At ZeitgeistArtsProjects.com we have an open plan studio at ASC in New Cross Gate, within that we have ten artists Graham Crowley, Kate Murdoch, Michaela Nettell, Rachel Wilberforce, Charley Peters, Shelley Rae, Henry/Bragg, Katie Sims, Kate Bowen (who has recently left to go to Burma) and of course Annabel Tilley. The open plan nature – we have no doors, allows for a cross fertilisation of ideas, to look at, be involved in smallways, talk about, discover and explore each others works. Interestingly as well within all of our works is some kind of investigation of space and architecture; whether architecture of body, soul, place or identity. I learn from them all the time and feel very lucky that collectively we have created a space of critical thought and generosity.

Graham Crowley, who taught me at RCA (when I was lost in the fashion and textiles dept creating paintings ) has continued to be a mentor ( and friend) and takes great delight into popping into all of our studios to look at our works and his words and directions and questions will appear over these blog posts.

Creating works from the starting point of the riots has been a massive change for me- (especially where I am now with my works) . As I went from the representational and literal buildings such as Reeves Corner, (which felt otherwordly in its depiction with its pink skies and the last wave of using print in my works- ) in many ways, I stepped closer to the buildings.

My lens sharpened to look at more intense intimate spaces, tense spaces; the broken windows of buildings from the riots.

Michaela Nettell gave me a translucent piece of fabric for me, as I started these paintings of glass, it became part of a piece called Alias that grew out of Splinters – a close up.

I wondered how the vulnerability of the fabric and stitch could set off the violence of cracked/ smashed glass somehow and could be used to physicalise and evoke the sensations of violence of the riots and the fragility/ vulnerability in which we as people felt during that time. To also create a “tension between embellishments (embroidery) and depiction (painting). These paintings have an atmosphere that’s both tranquil/still – a sense of absence (after the storm…)- presence vivid in its method of depiction – presence.’ Graham Crowley

In Splinters, a friend likened it to a Hopper painting, a sense of cinematic, stillness, absence. A contemplative landscape of solitude.

There was also this wonderful review of the riot works by Tom Jeffreys of Wild Culture

“These quiet, blue works form a series of personal relics – “a kind of commemoration (the stitch being about reparation)”. There’s a note of the elegiac here – a contemplative sadness for a past and absent moment of violence – but also hope, beauty and a sensitivity to the individual (story/event/rioter/shop-owner). ”

Read more here.

Graham came one day and asked me about the voids in the shattered spaces of the paintings Butterfingers, Unknown & Splinters, he asked a pertinent question

‘ What treasure lays in that space.’ It led me to creating rich layered glazes in the voids, that gleam. Annabel considered this development as a space resonant of ‘Chardin & Bacon, a psychological space’ which they certainly are more and more. The question also led me to consider the following and this is a note from my art diary where I catalogue and order thoughts, words etc.

Windows=possibility of another existence. It literally seals interior and exterior worlds. They are about separations and boundaries. They are the orderly exterior of a building. A space between humans and humanity ( in this context). once broken and fractured, elusive buildings are no longer safe, secure spaces. Glass broken, loses its strength, it fragments and ripples, it cuts and splinters, it becomes a cobweb into which we can become entangled. In those spaces that have been broken we see signs of life.

The intimacy of objects, desired and stolen, a table a chair, important things. Tools of our works. Places to rest and think…

Glass reflects back at you…


To the Light Exhibition started with the idea of responding to powerful incidents, events, specifically, the riots of 2011. The staggering images full of violence and devastation. We have not been able to rationalise that which was so irrational in a satisfying way.

The paintings are a contemplation of violence and reparation. I made a painting of shattered glass and the things beyond. I deconstructed spaces with stitch and paint, I brought something feminine, protective, sensitive and tender into these violated spaces, the stitch is a poetic response to the violence.

worked through images, research and ideas to an end where I gave up the idea that I could rationalise this space, these actions, and these events. It led to me take these thoughts about irrational space to create paintings that became much more about psychological space, of disconnected and connected space, of incomplete spaces/ shattered/ deconstructed and reconstructed spaces… I went through the buildings to create new landscapes…where there was both dynamism and delicacy. These paintings are less about the literal spaces and physical spaces yet they allude to them.

I have drawn from other sources, architectural journals and taking photos of other buildings, their structures creating a rich painterly space, an articulation of space that doesn’t obey the rules of perspective or logic. An experience of shattered space / transparency/ reflected space of a glass. These buildings are landscapes of halls of mirrors, with form and shape reflecting and refracting upon itself which reminded me of the spaces of the glass windows that were shattered during the riot

The spaces I depict now in my work which has progressed on from the riots, is about unfolding possibilities, about potential as well as suspended space, where space is inversed, lovingly reversed. I created a space which has become safer, it is not barbed with glass, or shards or splinters or broken things, you step into it freely. The paintings are spaces in which you can breathe….discover…learn and unlearn…it is a treasured space…it holds tables and chairs sometimes…fundamental things on which we rest, work and talk.

Instead of a negative impulse of the underlying dislocation and rending of space I have turned this space into a creative positive outcome. The misrepresentation of space allows a powerful reimaginning. It is a challenge…A puzzle for you to understand.

So from more physical representations of buildings to this more abstracted space a thread runs through all these paintings. They are all connected. Through an idea about transformation, representation and reparation of space.