As you can see , the DVD is now on display on the front page of the site . I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and for many people I’m sure, a welcome New Year of 2010 – the last one has been a strange one , when we saw many of the foundations of this society in which we live start to rock and become unstable . So here’s to a better New Year ………..
The ‘Sleepers’ exhibition now has dates – please see news section and today I re-record a vice over for the opening sequence in the film and then its all finished . The artwork for the cover is also done and dusted so copies should be printed soon , phew ! Reactions so far are very good , those who have seen a rough ‘finished’ cut . Everything seems to be finishing at the same time as I’m also taking the final ‘Sleepers’ paintings into Waterhouse and Dodd today . Its a good feeling getting things finished and then waiting for feedback from the various projects but it also throws up the question ‘what next ?’ and that is something that is going to occupy me for the next few weeks ……
My last show of the year is coming up at the Pan Art Fair in Amsterdam – see news section . Next exhibitions will be the London Art Fair , Islington with Waterhouse and Dodd in January 2010 . Followed by my solo exhibition ( ‘Sleepers’) later on in that month at W&D . I will also have a new opening section to the web site featuring work from the ‘Sleepers’ exhibition , plus a short clip from ‘Falling Between the Floorboards’.
I started the film over a year ago and I started making the new paintings about nine months ago but now, at long last, I’m relieved to say things are close to finishing . But it has been exhausting , though hugely enjoyable experience – especially the film . I always refer to this process as ‘being in the zone’ – its a necessary if not vital position to adopt . But it can play havoc with your personal and social life as you are constantly inside either the paintings or the film . This time it has been at its most extreme due to completing a film at the same time as an exhibition . I have been going to bed thinking about them and waking up , often in the dead of night , with ideas for shots or paintings. The exhibition has as its theme ‘sleep’ and for want of a better phrase ‘the twilight hours’ . So, to really immerse myself in this theme , I started to get up about 3 or 4 in the morning to experiment with working in this transient state . I was surprised by how mentally alert I was – and I did do some good work – but I remember the feeling of exhaustion around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Again this was interesting – to paint whilst almost falling asleep . In my research for ‘Sleepers’ I read accounts of armies in the war marching whilst exhausted and due to the rythmn of the march they were literally ‘walking asleep’ . These accounts, I believe , are the only ones of human beings being asleep whilst upright . We all naturally fall over if we ‘drop off’ , unlike say , horses who can sleep standing up . Its a fascinating area, after all we spend a good portion of our lives asleep . I have combined these ideas with a trip I made to Norway last winter – this was a field trip to explore ideas around twilight . I chose the period when the days were very short -often only 4 hours of daylight , but a lot of the time was in an odd twilght world hovering between the two . These paintings are all under the generic title of ‘Four hours of daylight’ . Expect the unexpected , they are quite different from a lot of previous work . I have been experimentng with dyes, mixing these in with the watercolour . The effects echo the visual feel of Norway in winter under snow . One time whilst walking through very thick snow down the main shopping area in Oslo, I remember looking in at a shop window selling what we would call Fair Isle jumpers . There were rows and rows of these things – they are the ones with a strange decorative pattern on them – usually at the top . Turning away from the window and looking across the road to a park I saw the same patterns repeated in the snow laden branches of the trees – it was a strange visual experience . But this goes along with my theory that people dress to blend in with their surroundings or they take in the imagery they see everyday to the extent in comes out in their designs . Almost a form of animal camouflage – like zebra stripes that only make sense when viewed at sunset – the dangerous hunting time – when zebras can be seen on the horizon next to small trees or bracken . I have seen film of this , and they really do blend in with their background.
I don’t own a car and I don’t drive . There seems little point when I live in central Brighton but also I tend to get around by bike or walk . I took my bike, which is not that old, into a ‘bike store’ to get it checked over and have new brake blocks fitted . A fairly simple task you would think . Not only did it take for ever to have it looked over but then some young , over confident guy rang me up to say that really it wasn’t worth doing as it needed new brake cables, blocks, gears and countless other things . He said they would do it for a stupid sum . My reply was forget I will pick it up . Thinking I had a dead bike I decided to try some guys around the corner who had a small business run from a garage in a mews – Gee wiz I think they are called . They were real nice guys who immediately checked it out , said the bike was fine and they would change and clean the breaks and I could have it the next day – all for £15 ! No stupid paper, labels etc , just take it in and they hand it back . Moral – never trust the corporate outfits – they are there just to milk you of your money . Lets hope this recession spawns more start up businesses that can keep a level head as to how they go about things .
Amsterdam opening went well , the Major seemed a live wire of a guy, much younger than you would normally come across.
The Aalsmeer show opens its doors today but the official opening is on Saturday at 4pm if anyone is in the area . I don’t normally extend invitations like this but as my gallery has it on their web site then I guess its ok . I will be there but sadly my film won’t – more post production this friday . Its been a long time in the making but it’s great to get to the stage of discussing the artwork dor the DVD cover . Anyway , I hope I might some people on Saturday – it should be an interesting show .
I have been told off by Judith , who is my Amsterdam dealer ( art not drugs) – apparently Aalsmeer is only 30 minutes away . Every time we go somewhere by car in Holland it seems to take twice the time it should – so there we go, I’m sure it’s not Judiths’ driving. And also the Mayor is honouring us by opening the exhibition . The last time this happened was a show in Lubeck , Germany . The Major gave a speech and then turned to me and asked questions in German . Hope the same thing doesn’t happen again . The great thing about Holland is that most people speak excellent English . All this is great for us Anglo Saxons, but it certainly makes us lazy when it comes to languages. And I’m as guilty as they come .
Back from a number of trips so I have been a bit slack with the journal and news . The next outing for the paintings will be in Aalsmeer, Holland in October . This will be at the Kunst and Cultuur centre in Aalsmeer – about an hour out of Amsterdam – from the 8th October to the 115th November . I have been trying to get the film finished to be ready for the show but I don’t think I’m going to make it , there is just too much to do .
I will also be exhibiting in a specially curated exhibition as part of the Milan Trianniel in Italy in November . These will be a charity exhibition to do with Aids . More news when I have it . The new paintings are also proceeding at a fast pace – I’m on a roll with these- and the first reactions are excellent . I’m combining some new techiques and subject matter, maybe a few suprises .These will be exhibited at my next solo show in London early next year. Again , further details soon …….
Back again from Italy, but this time the Venice Biennale and boy, was it hot . Some of the art was hot as well , I think I enjoyed this one more than many other Biennales but also because of a visit to the new Pinault museum at the Punta Della Dogana . The latter knocked me out and I’ve seen many over the years and you half expect the cynical aspects of your character would take over . But this was superb design and architecture where the surroundings didn’t compete with the art but instead complimented it . There were also some great works there such as the Sigmar Polke room and the Charles Ray sculpture but you could tell any artist worth their salt would love to exhibit there . I also went to the Palazzo Grassi which I have visited before . Not so good , maybe an anti climax after the Punta except the new Richard Princes ‘Kooningesque’ paintings were superb .
It was a great visit, I came away energised with Art again and grateful I was an artist . That might sound a touch trite but it really was a genuine feeling …. I wanted to rush back to the studio to make paintings again . Also the Biennale was not wall to wall or booth to booth video . As much as I like video/film, it is a time demanding medium which leads me on to the beef i had with the British entry or really I guess the English one as Wales, both Irelands and I think Scotland were all represented separately . The problem for me was the presentation of Steve McQueens piece . I didn’t get to see it in the end because it meant waiting in the heat of 35% for the timed performance. This seems to go against the notion of a video installation where you can drop in and the decision to stay and see it is yours . I always thought that was the difference between art film/video and cimema type films . I think he had created a piece of cinema in the pavillion with a captive art audience . I saw many people walking away, and I couldn’t blame them, they just didn’t want to stay and wait in that heat – if you have already visited thirty or so other pavillions before this one you are already feeling the effects . ART OVERLOAD .Never mind the vast size of the Arsenale . The Arsenale had some really good works in there by the way . Back to the Giardini and the one I thought should have one was the Polish pavillion – another film projection piece but superbly realised with great sound.
Venice , with the new mayor is getting it right again . I wish it were a cheaper place but, hey, I guess that is what is called a visitors tax . Back to the studio now and work on the new paintings and more on the film and then Italy again in a few weeks .
Back from a glorious if not very humid week at the house in Italy . Though we had perhaps one or two more meals than I should have at our favourite restaurant – Picolo Mondo, in San Vito in Monte , which is technically ‘our village’ . There is a closer one – Migliano and that too has a restaurant the castle but Picolo is fresh fish from Friday to Sunday . All of this in the middle of Umbria half way up a mountain . So that means a stringent diet of tennis from now on to off set our pleasures . I will have several works on show at Art Hamptons , New York this weekend , one or two are new ones . Otherwise I’m now fully into work for the next London solo show and they have turned the corner and starting to look good.
Just booked to go to Venice for a few days for the Biennale . I try and do this every two years , it’s possibly the most exhausting couple of days you will ever do but as an artist ‘if you don’t have any input, you won’t have any output’ . It is important to get the buzz of what is happening and at times you come away thinking ‘what the hell was that ?’ but then there just maybe something around the corner that will blow you away . This time I have also booked a good, quiet hotel in the Dorsodoro , behind Peggy Guggenheim’s place . I like the restaurants around there, so important after the art overload . It’s also two minutes away from Francois Pinaults new space in the old customs building at the very point of land . What a location . I like the way the mayor of Venice is accommodating Pinault and indeed embracing contemporary art . Venice could turn into a museum city of the past – a relic, but this is breathing new life into the place . Looking forward to this visit – it will be the first time of being in Italy for a long while which is not at our house . I will have to get used to being a tourist again .
Italian weather seems to have come to Brighton with the beaches packed out with lobster pink Londoners and tanned , lithe Europeans . The English don’t tend to look too good with their clothes off and down here we see all shapes and sizes descending on us . The ones from London have the palest skins , you can spot them a mile off – plus often the worst dress sense . I always find it odd that for a nation with such a strong visual culture – at least of late – many of us seem to dress in the worst possible way . Or is it that we tend to see people down here with less clothes on – and that makes them seem worse !? When we are in Italy we see all manner of different styles in our local , more provincial town . Lots of black and gold and sparkly outfits . They also like wearing clothes with English slogans on – but I’m not too sure if they understand the meaning of them . I have often seen ‘Sex Beast’ written across a middle aged woman’s chest (on a top, I should say) and others like ‘Take me hard’ which I saw on a young girls T shirt , or ‘Spank me’ . Bet her parents didn’t know . Its hilarious to think they may assume these are sophisticated phrases or do they see it as chic street culture ?
Recently heard that the ‘Kite’ exhibition which has now been on tour around the worlds museums for over 30 years, is scheduled for Cuba next year . It has been a great shame that the exhibition never made it to the UK despite the Goethe Institutes best efforts .
It is a strange thing to be buried inside your work . That is where I am everyday whilst working on this show . I suppose the equivalent is an actor ‘in character’ or a musician who says they are into the groove , or maybe a dancer – flowing in a trance like state , or perhaps a writer who says that they inhabit their characters and ‘ the book wrote itself’ . This is the condition that all creative people aspire to, to do what they need to do . At the start of any given project – art, music literature etc there is a circling of the scene , a pacing of the cage , a weighing up of the whole thing before committing and diving in . But at the stage I am right now, you are still not really sure if you have taken the right path , if these things really are working or not . Am I repeating myself ? Are they any good ? Are they alive ? Do they mean anything ? What am I saying etc etc . I’m never too sure if this is of interest to anyone who looks at Art – do they really want to see the workings or does it enhance or spoil the finished article .? When I was younger I was always fascinated by the minutiae of what artists did – I wanted to know what they had for dinner , who they met , where did they go in the evening , who they slept with – but then I was totally obsessed with the idea of being an artist , that is what I wanted to be . I used to read books on Picasso and imagine living the life he did , I was in that book , pretending to be an artist. To say I was myopic was probably an understatement ! But this has always been the case ever since I can remember . There may have been odd diversions along the way but there really didn’t seem to be an alternative path for me to follow – it was art school or nothing . I was always told it would be too difficult to work solely as an artist , to live off my work – everyone said it was impossible unless you were David Hockney ! This was back in 1968 when I first went to art college . But I was still told the same thing in 1973 when I left . Now I’m unemployable, I have no work experience ! My CV for work is zero , but my CV for exhibitions goes on for three pages .
C’est la vie.
Head down in the studio of late . Today I’m aching after many tennis matches over the last few days – and as I’m gluing a new painting on the floor , getting up and down is met with numerous groans . The works are slowly coming together but as usual, this early stage is an odd one – sometimes you feel as if you are achieving zero and then other times you are pleased with the results. We are are also grabbing odd days for editing the film – when time allows it . Again , another slow process but there are already a couple of sequences which have knitted together extremely well . More updates and news soon ……..
It has been an odd, unusual but frantic time here at the studio . For some reason – I think it’s down to working on the film – the floodgates have opened with a spate of creative activity that has not happened for a while . Ideas are just coming thick and fast , usually in the night which is destroying sleeping patterns . It also means I’m more often than not up at 4am writing down complex ideas in the studio but once a door is opened it’s difficult to shut.
This has happened to a limited degree in the past when I have had a film on the go at the same time as a show but this is exceptional . I hope I’m not building up the film too much but the ideas going into it are certainly strong . We will see if this is the case in the final edit which is now some time off due to the amount if imagery which is needed .
Research, help needed ; I’m looking for the most boring town or place in the midwest of America . I have been asking my American friends and they have kindly given me a list but any suggestions, more than welcome.
I will be exhibiting for the first time at the Dubai Art Fair in March – see News .
Could be interesting though we had to be careful on which works to take .
Another quick visit to Amsterdam – we went to Aalsmeer to visit an exhibition space for a show in October . It will be similiar to the ‘Fragile Lessons’ exhibition but including the new film ( when its finished) . Otherwise it is bearing the cold and head down in the studio with new ideas / new work . At this early stage I have to remind myself that future exhibitions always start this way – slowly and in a sort of zig zag manner until I find my feet . There are a couple of things working but it hasn’t kicked in yet .
The title of the film is now ‘The Colour of Water’ . I’m looking forward to the serious editing – often wake up with possible ‘cuts’ in my head . I like this feeling of being inside the film or inside a painting – I talk about this in one of the interviews .
We have started a rough edit of the film – not too sure how long this epic will be, anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes . It is looking good, however, watching endless footage of myself wittering away can be disturbing. The editing of the interviews I have really left to my editor Gus as I need a more objective stance . It is odd watching yourself say things – you tend to focus in on all the small gestures that you didn’t know you made when talking . Gus had assured me that most of my shots will be replaced by other footage -leaving just the audio . That’s a relief anyway .
January 2nd 2009
2009 – what will it bring ? Most of us seem to facing the most unpredictable year for a long while, even more so for those in the artworld . I can see a return to art that has substance once more – this doesn’t mean it has to be retrograde or return to traditional values and conservatism . But it does mean ‘works’ which have integrity, maybe a sense of spiritual value – no doubt, less high profile / less media friendly than before . But for many artists I know they will be looking at the year in terms of survival – are people still willing to go out and buy works of art ?