Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Sleepless in Bath

Welcome to Alice Park, Bath – scene of the City’s yearly charity sleep out organised by Julian House, as being as close to a real life homelessness experience as possible? For ten hours or so I had the privilege of tasting what it is like to be homeless and sleeping rough in a Spa town.  That is if most homeless people have access to clean loo’s, round the clock warden patrols and a late night snack bar featuring not only almost hot drinks but also a comprehensive range of household confectionary.

Not knowing anyone I dumped my stuff in what later turned out to be mud and went off to explore the darkness. Away from the lights a man in a light coloured hoodie appeared to be hugging a tree – he was probably having a piss, except that I saw him again a few moments later next to another tree. Then it seemed like he might be following me so I turned to face him but he walked past me and off to make the aquaintance of a pretty Beech sapling. Adopting the mantra 'if you can't beat 'em' I relieved myself in a confident manner (it was dark) against the lower trunk of an unassuming Silver Birch before returning to see if my stuff was where I’d left it. It was.  

I got ready for bed, this meant putting on more clothes rather than removing any. I inched myself into my bag, pulled the duvet over me and drank the first flask of tomato soup before syncronising my iPhone with my inner clock, time for a couple of selfies before it was lights out. 

I lay awake for for an hour or three watching numerous stars and a brilliant half moon beating a leisurely retreat across the Heavens before making two decisions A) that I needed a piss and B) that I couldn’t be arsed to get out of ‘bed’ to do it. Moments later, having unbuttoned and unzipped handfuls of fabric I levered myself onto the edge of the mattress and having checked no one was shining blitz searchlights over my head I proceeded, with less aplomb than previously to pee into the unknown. Soon I was attempting to remove the couple of outer layers that had entered the orbit of my comet like urinary trail. I was actually warmer and more comfortable wearing less layers.

One shooting star and two hours later I awoke to find the duvet very damp (not what you’re thinking) for whilst the night might have been cloudless there was nonetheless a large amount of moisture in the air. I thought this only happened at dawn but this is still winter so it’s damp al the time apparently. I decided to eat my two energy bars but I was unable to undo the wrapper on the one bar so I stowed it away on a corner of my life raft and stared into the black for another couple of hours.

And then it was morning! I hadn’t been too cold or wet. It had been ok. I packed up my kit, nodded all manly like to to some fluorescent wellie wearing Guardian reader types before drifting off to find the motor. I texted Darling #1 to say fire up the Aga and that I’d pick up the papers en route before nosing my way along Bath’s late dawn limestone streets, down Lansdowne, up Southdown towards caffeine and a chance to loose myself in the weekend’s travel supplements.

And that’s pretty much it – except to say a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored  a terrific cause: Helen, Jane, Anonymous #1, Sarah & David, Glyn, Deborah, Carolyn, Nancy, Diane, Bev & Mark, Sue, Debs, Liza, Kim, Anonymous #2, Dof, Stephanie, Ann, Nat, Jenny & David – cheers guys! £200+ (and counting) x

Saturday, 1 February 2014

tonite let's all make love in Eve-er-sham

Ok, it's been a while since I've been here, not through lack of anything to report but more a case of losing my Google password and lacking the requisite willpower/nous to retrieve/set it. Anyway, it has been done and I'm back.

There's been a few changes - I have a new photo - a selfie no less, something I've been averse to, mainly because of comments, not bad ones, just comments.

To bring you up to speed Cheek by Joel currently has a show at Evesham Arts Centre - tonite let's all make love in Eve-er-sham; 6 stylishly packaged evocations of everyday brutality carried out by gangsta's wearing an assortment of straw boaters. It's on until the latter stages of this month so if you're in the area go and check it out - but be sure to phone ahead since despite being housed within a school they're not always open.

Next up is a show at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design (BIAD) from the start of March and continuing for two weeks. This I am excited about and am having plinths made specially. The show, provisionally untitled, will consist of sculptures/constructions I've been making for the past 10 months or so, beginning with the micro billboards but now branching out into utopian/dystopian public structures - examining duality of purpose/meaning.

And then at the end of May/start of June I'm curating a show to be included within Fringe Arts Bath annual festival - check it out and please get involved if yo have work that is appropriate. My bit's called Exchange & art, here's a link: http://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/exchange-art/

The flag? - knew you'd ask, it's from last years Supernormal festival and was made by the talented Laurie Hooper based upon a rough sketch on the back of an envelope. Didn't get any decent shots due to lack of wind so 44AD Gallery here in Bath kindly let me set it up and get some shots. It's political and features a prism, go figure.

Take it easy.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Pan's People Person

Is there a dirtier, more grotesque part of London than Elephant and Asshole? Even the dirt and filth has seen better days. Good job then that I was going to the antidote, the nearby Cinema Museum, a rarefied building with high ceilings, beams, comfy sofas and reasonably priced ales and lagers. I was there to come face to face with my teenage self, lost for however long but about to find itself mirrored in the lined faces of the three remaining members from Pan’s People’s classic line up, the one featuring Babs, Dee Dee, Ruth, Louise and Cherry (not forgetting Flick of course). And there they all are on a giant screen playing clips from their heyday, from black and white 60s clips to glorious mid 1970’s technicolour jumpsuits, hotpants, mini skirts and mutts that refuse to ‘get down’. All too soon the dream was over; Pan’s People gave way to Pan’s People’s People (Leg’s & Co) who in turn begat Ruby Flipper before the world moved on and left these classically trained go go dancers in it’s wake.

I bought a beer, a coffee - and I bought the book that tells their story and Ruth and DeeDee both signed it. They were both very gracious and wrote lovely messages. DeeDee asked me where I was from and said she too had come from Bath, or a village nearby which I was unfamiliar with. For a reference point she asked if I knew Trowbridge, and remembering Morrison's I exclaimed 'it has a supermarket', thinking that the late middle aged woman in front of me probably liked nothing more than pushing a trolly round on her afternoons off from being a former lust object.  At this point she must have read my mind because she lost interest and began chatting to someone else.

 The talk began – it was all very genteel with inoffensive questioning and I sensed there probably wouldn’t be any exposes of former Radio 1 DJ’s leering down their youthful decolettages. In the interval I collared the iconic Babs and we exchanged a few pleasantries whilst the grandee of popular daytime dance held her glasses on with one hand whilst signing with the other. She then introduced me to a nearby chap as being the author of the book. I said that whilst I hadn’t read it I was sure it was a terrific read. What I should have done was ask him to sign it also but I was so overcome with long forgotten Thursday night feelings that all I could do was focus on lovely Babs. I feel bad that I didn’t but the deed is done.

But it took me back to a time when as a young teenager growing up in West Bromwich the highlight of the week was Top of the Pops, and more often than not the highlight of TOTP was Pan's People, and I shall forever be grateful for the splash of colour they brought to many a dull and uneventful Thursday evening in an unprepossessing Black Country town.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

I Heart Art

Attended a PV last night in a large city situated somewhere between Bath and Portishead. Took ages to get there and when I did I parked in a side street and, strolling past a small gaggle of artist types stood outside gesticulating at each other, courted a couple of suspicious glances. Inside I bought a cup of flat ginger beer, set my mindset to mingle and wandered through to the arty bit. 12 people stood around chating intently, another couple of glances – perhaps they think I’m a dealer, or a critic, how exciting! 

I didn’t really understand the work and I wondered if even the artist did; videos both projected onto walls and diplayed on monitors, dialogue hard to make out over the chatter, some seemed speeded up (the films) and some didn’t (the guests). On a table were some books for us to look at, possible clues as to what was going on or else waiting to be returned to a library.  

I finished my drink quickly and tried to imagine bubbles going up my nose before not making any excuses to anyone and leaving. Exiting via the threshold I passed the same gesticulating gaggle, this time they ignored me. I reset my midset to comfort break and revved up my car to suggest it was getting into gear for a spin to somewhere further than Wells and, once I was out of sight, pulled up at a garage and bought myself a Ginsters Ploughman.  

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Emergency Third Rail Power Drip

The gallery on Platform 2 of Worcester’s Foregate Street station (you knew there was a gallery there, right?) has been turned (until November 9th) into Cedar’s Graffiti Supply Store, providing an opportunity for Worcester folk to dip into the ‘alternative’ world of street art.

ekta ekta

Curated by London based artist Cedar Lewisohn and featuring street artists from the UK and beyond it has paint cans and pens galore but there isn’t a till and you can’t buy anything - and anyway the cans are empty so don’t bother nicking them. There is no graffiti on the walls but in a corner stands an interesting placard, there’s a cover version of the Sgt Pepper LP cover by Pure Evil (that comes alive under neon) opposite a badly stretched canvas (which in context is not necessarily a bad thing) of what might almost be a ‘negative’ of a Michael Craig Martin painting; all perfectly positioned weights, delicate balancing acts and primary colours. Meanwhile a nicely detailed drawing of a railway station sits next to a monitor playing a video of trains whilst a rapper raps along to some hip hop music as clouds of graffiti roll across the screen.

El Tono and Nuria

Graffiti has been with us an awfully long time. The Greeks and the Romans weren’t averse to a doodle on the way to the Acropolis or the Forum and today find yourself in a men’s loo and as you settle yourself down onto a still warm seat your eye may well be drawn towards a hastily drawn penis, a phone number and perhaps an invitation to meet up for something mutually consensual. The joke here (intentional?) is that Movement is a converted Gentlemen’s toilet so the shift from illegal soul mate graffiti of yore to the legalised work on show is mirrored in the balance whereby what is acceptable within the gallery walls becomes illegal on the platform only a matter of feet away.

Cans and pens

So was acceptance into the mainstream always on the cards? From our safe European homes it might seem a romantic art form but consider the danger to life and limb; an art born out of necessity? Less emergency third rail power trip and more love on a branch line as street art, despite appearances seems less feral, less street corner territorial spraying and instead finds itself repositioned as work to be considered, at leisure in the rarefied air of the gallery. I imagine street artists viewed themselves as outsiders; maybe the prospect of a conventional art college education followed by a lifetime networking over Belgium lagers and salty snacks was not the agenda and that tagging a train and then imagining that image moving through the city’s dystopian shadows before bursting out into suburbian daylight to infiltrate the mindsets of the haves would not have been without a measure of satisfaction.

One station under a groove? Chris Stead

Making my way down the platform afterwards, sidestepping fresh faced commuters heading home to a tea of chicken nuggets followed by a blast of Grand Theft Auto’s vicarious living on Liberty City’s streets, I wondered if any of them were sizing up the train’s grubby exterior as having potential for a throw up. On they scrambled, all fold down bicycles and redundant umbrellas and the 17.32 to Hereford via Harlem, Lexington Avenue, Great Malvern and Colwall chugged out over the viaduct and into the late afternoon sunshine. 


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

STUDIO<>VISIT (or what I did on my holidays)

Thanks to everyone who showed up at the PITT gallery for the Garden party that was the culmination of my summer micro residency, the unveilling of work for the Nu Contemporary English Landscape Painting (NuCON). And a massive thanks to Nat for being a consummate curator and gallerista!

Beer was drunk, stuff looked at before we retired over the road to the Chestnut pub where we enjoyed the fruits of the Worcester Music Festival.

Also my first foray into reviewing should be in this months SLAP magazine, a write up of the Worcester Open. Hope it reads ok.

Today is also the sort of moving day into exile in Bath – the boss has gone on ahead to open the shutters and shake the grits out of the bedding, just as long as I get the drums down all will be fine. Nephew should be in situ to take over the reins at some point this week.

And tomorrow is my birthday – with a spot of life drawing pencilled in first thing. Start as I mean to go on.

The red dot = 'sold' 

What a nice chatty post this has been! 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Rokeby Venus's Arse

Just one day to go before this weekend's Garden Party show at the PITT Project Space. here are a few words about what I've been up to. 

The Nu School of Contemporary Landscape Painting (NuCON) draws inspiration from the Microsoft screensaver depicting a somewhat nondescript hill, possibly somewhere in the United State of America.

For some kids, hardwired into online status recognition, their head in the cloud in some inner city urban ghetto this might be the first hill they ever see; Mount Para for the digital age, the meeting point where nature impinges on a virtual world. For the older, casual browser however, this green unpleasant mound might have become the point at which, the laptop having pinged into life they are forced into a decision, to choose between googling leisure wear and/or an evening browsing t&a through dead eyes, glass of Merlot in one hand, unresponsive mouse in the other.

This is a conventionally sexual hill, a gently undulating yet threateningly tilting tit or belly, the latest in a line that links the Rokeby Venus’s arse, Courbet’s Origin of the World and Andrew Wyeth’s Christine’s World, minus house, barn and girl. It might even be called Depilation Valley, shorn as it is of trees, shrubs, not a bush in sight. Nothing to spoil the view: everything revealed, all concealed.

We wonder what is the other side of it, what lurks just out of sight to the right, over the brow of the hill, those hills in the distance, menacing, inviting. Silent.

How did this seemingly ordinary image become arguably the most recognisable landscape in the world; more famous than a Constable hedgerow, Turner Wheat field or Stubbs’ pony, in leafy arbours languidly resting?