Look Up!

So, sometimes it’s impossible to shake off an idea. An idea for a piece of work just stays in your head, often goes through various changes as time and thoughts progress, but the concept remains the same and stays with you.

Well, I’ve had a yellow disc dangling from the ceiling in three different studios now, a blue sheet draped in the air, and a kaleidoscope tacked to a window. They relate to a series of three sculptural works all inspired by the perspective offered by time spent in the great outdoors.

The Sun Never Stops Shining is a bright yellow transparent disc that towers overhead offering shelter, and a space for reflection. Through the grey days, life’s difficulties, and hard times some things remain constant, wether one’s aware of them or not – the sun never stops shining. Get out, soak up some essential vitamin d, feel the breeze on your face!

Similarly, Look Up! offersa place to shelter, to gather, to chew the fat, and contemplate. A place to look up from one’s smart phone, to interact with real people, real environments, in real time.

The kaleidoscope idea (working title, Chasing Rainbows) is far from being fully resolved, but it won’t go away. I just know that I want to create a piece of sculptural work that uses prisms to catch and reflect light. A piece that can be approached from any angle, and reveals the “magic” of daylight – the beauty that exists in the simplest things – the beauty that exists in nature!

A Dream of the Sea

I’ve curated an exhibition that’s currently up at The Witham arts centre in Barnard Castle. It’s called a Dream of the Sea – the title was inspired by an old friend’s email address, I was at art school with Duncan, aka adreamofthesea@XXX, and he was a dream in himself – bursting with iridescent fun and wild imagination – an amazing guy, and a fascinating artist. Anyway,  the words A Dream of the Sea have always captured my imagination, and I so when I sat pondering a fitting programme of exhibitions for my role as Visual Arts Coordinator at The Witham this title sprang to mind. Barnard Castle is about as landlocked and agricultural as rural gets in the UK, but the vast majority of us ‘dream of the sea’ and of escapism – not least when the days are cold, long and dark, yet our anticipation of  Summer and coastal adventure is piqued by the Spring Equinox.

So here we have it, an exhibition called A Dream of the Sea that opened on Thursday 2, and continues until Saturday 25 March 2017. The exhibition spans the Gallery, Dispensary Gallery, and seeps/laps into the Shop at The Witham, admission is free, and access if from 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday to Saturday.

It’s a group exhibition, and clearly I think all of the artists involved in the exhibition are talented and their works have merit; however, there are a few whose work makes my heart skip a beat. Introducing Mark Sofilas…

Mark’s sun-drenched scenes of the Mediterranean make my toes curl with excitement – I can almost feel the sand between them, feel a warm coastal breeze on my shoulders, taste the Capri Rosso linger in my mouth, and hear the hum of  grasshoppers amongst the scrub-land. His works are so fantastically evocative place; of relaxed, romantic hillside works on  balmy evenings, of a refreshing swim or boat ride out to sea, of the brightly coloured, unfamiliar, charming flora bursting through sandy soils. I adore them!

Mark Sofilas lives and works in Leeds, some more about him…

“I am originally from Western Australia but migrated to the UK in 2008.  I was an illustrator with over 20 years’ experience in the advertising industry but took the opportunity, on moving to the UK, to turn to fine art, something which I had always wanted to do.

My paintings are very heavily guided by the emotions a particular scene or moment evokes in me. It’s this feeling that I try to convey to the viewer. It might be something as simple as smoke drifting from a chimney pot or silhouette created by a particular light source. It may be the strength or history, which emanates from an everyday object or piece of architecture.

The body of work I’m displaying here [in A Dream of the Sea] is inspired by a recent visit to Italy, featuring The Amalfi coast and the Isle of Capri. I have tried to capture the intense light of day and the magic that intensifies under the cover of night, in this wonderful part of Italy.

Over time I’ve discovered that I can best achieve this by exaggerating/enhancing colour, manipulating perspective slightly and pushing shape and form to arrive, hopefully, at a nicely balanced place, where the image created has not only captured the physical qualities of the scene, but more importantly, the feeling of the occasion… I take photographs of my subjects, but like to rely on memory and imagination, the ultimate goal being, to recreate exactly what I’m feeling onto a flat surface.

I don’t do preliminary drawings, instead I prefer to adopt a more organic approach and design the paintings as I go. This helps the end product retain a freshness and feeling of spontaneity. I always have an image and mood in my mind’s eye that I’m trying to put down and I find that working this way allows me to be flexible and go with any happy accidents that more than likely will occur. It’s these little surprises that I can adopt and learn from and take into my next painting.

I enjoy the journey that this direct and unstructured approach takes me on and find that it enables me to either get close to achieving what I had in mind and heart or on occasion, arrive somewhere unexpected but as rewarding.”

Contrastingly, in both geography and medium, I also adore the work of Lee and Jill Brewster.  They are a couple who live and work in Hurworth, County Durham, and have been working together since graduating in 1991.

They’re showing a new body of sculptural furniture in this exhibition that initially appears too tactile and sculptural to have any functional merit in the domestic or commercial setting. Yet when one sits down with it, touches it, works with it, it tells a story of enjoying and embracing nature with all its seemingly restrictive undulations… that aren’t actually restrictive at all, but refreshingly comfortable, and perspective enhancing. In short, I DESPERATELY want the desk and stool in my home!

Lee Brewster studied furniture design at Loughborough college of Art and Design and is currently studying for an MA at Teesside University in Future Design. Jill Brewster studied surface pattern and textiles, also at Loughborough, and then completed an MA in Creative Multimedia at the school of computing at Teesside University.

“We design and make sculpture, furniture, structures and buildings in response to specific environments. We are interested in making sustainable and emotional connections with nature using structure, texture and pattern.

Our current work is a response to our local environment, specifically the North East heritage coast, the theme of the sea and water frequently appears in our work. We work predominantly in wood and enjoy the free workmanship it allows us, making decisions about structure and aesthetics during the making process.

We are advocates of using responsibly sourced and renewable resources to achieve sustainable futures and promote socially responsible design. Our objective is to design objects and processes that enable a sense of wellbeing, and ultimately improve people’s lives through an emotional connection with nature.

The sculptural pieces of furniture included in this exhibition areinspired by our research into coastal environments and the pattern and textures left behind by the action of the sea.”

Other works in this exhibition that really ‘rock my boat’ in a positive sense, include a series of fabulous illustrations by Katie Edwards.

One of my very first memories is of walking between gigantic sand-dunes on holiday in Morocco. I was two years old, but I guess the landscape was so far removed from my norm (the North York Moors) that the memory stuck. The above print reminds me of the Isola San Giulio, an island within Lake Orta in Piedmont, northwestern Italy (where some friends got married a few years ago). What I adore about Katie Edwards’ work is the playfulness, that awe-infused sense of the extraordinary that is intrinsic to all of her illustrative prints.

There’s a sense of child-like wonderment to her work… as a child when I thought about our place in the world, in the universe I used to wonder if the universe was merely a tiny speck of dust in a giant’s pocket. It’s THAT freedom of imagination that I love about Katie Edwards’ work!

Perhaps inspired by the fantastic setting that she lives and works in… Katie designs and creates her conceptual illustrations from her studio located at the foot of Lake Windermere in the Lake District, using traditional photographic and silkscreen printing techniques.

Katie’s screen prints focus on conceptual ideas, symbolism and metaphors, and her screen printed illustrations reflect her enjoyment for the natural world, evoking thoughtfulness and humour. Katie’s innovative juxtaposition of elements often result in a surreal, humorous or thought-provoking image.

The original silkscreen prints are created from Katie’s most popular designs and developed as a limited print run. Each one being a unique, hand-crafted piece of art, individually printed, signed and numbered by the artist.

Achieving a first class honors in Graphic Arts and Design at Leeds Metropolitan University, Katie has since lived in London and Canada, working with clients such as The Observer; The Telegraph; Economist ; Psychology Magazines; Converse Shoes; National Australia Bank; Boothes Supermarket; Arla Dairy and Delta Airlines. Katie was awarded the Bridgeman Studio Award in 2014, for the illustration ‘Joy’. More recently, Katie was commissioned by E.H.Booths Ltd to create a piece of art in the form of a triptych for their new store in Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

In addition to exhibiting her work nationally internationally, Katie also enjoys success with work such as hand printed greeting cards, soft furnishings, t-shirts and tote bags stocked in galleries and arts centers across the country.

If you’d like to see these works for yourself, and many more beautiful works besides, then get thee to The Witham (3 Horse Market, Barnard Castle, DL12 8LY) before 4pm this Saturday! More info about exhibitions at The Witham here.

Oxford Vessels


Some people are born with a story to tell and a sense of the gift they posses that will help them to share that story; whilst others’ stories and gifts are more deeply buried. Through a project resulting in an exhibition in the Gallery at Arts at the the Old Fire Station, artist Georgie Manly has helped to access hidden stories…

Vessels is the new exhibition in the Gallery at the brilliant Arts at the Old Fire Station (sanwiched between George Street, the bus station and Gloucester Green) in Oxford that was conceived by artist Georgie Manly, and has been created in collaboration with Crisis (the national charity for single homeless people) and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

The University of Oxford Pitt Rivers Museum houses archeological and anthropological objects – collection upon collection of quotidian objects spanning time and cultures with several similar types of objects running through many of those collections. Enter, the vessel! The essential object that transcends time, class and culture. Used for eating from, drinking from, cooking with, containing, and occasionally as an objet d’art in itself – a vessel’s uses are limitless; which is why, when one doesn’t have a lot, one ensures one has a decent vessel.

Crisis clients have completed a 12-week course working with artist Georgie Manly to create a series of vessels made from earthenware clay that will be displayed at the OFS alongside Georgie’s own ceramic sculptural pieces that have been  inspired by the Pitt Rivers’ collection of early 20th century African animal traps .

All just a little bit of history repeating… Georgie has been passing down the art of simple hand-building clay sculpting techniques (see the images below) and teaching how to mix glazes, the likes of which the group has been admiring and studying on the various preparatory visits they have made to Pitt Rivers. 


Developing their own ideas around the theme of ‘vessels’, exploring material, process and concept, the group of Crisis clients have produced their own collection of individual and meaningful works in clay that relate to their own culture, needs, and experiences resulting in a highly original and personal installation of works.

Having recently taken up pottery myself, I can vouch for the absorbing meditative, primeval feeling of clay handling. It’s a process that really roots the artist in his work and on the earth – yet it’s so primeval that the process doesn’t feel like art, it feels like nature. Simply doing what you were put on this earth to do, what you need to do to survive. Whilst that’s clearly not true in this day and age, clay handling, much like digging earth with a spade, generates a curiously satisfying grounding sensation. I imagine that participating in a project such as this, studying similar vessels in the Pitt Rivers would also underline man’s basic needs and evoke feelings that we are not far removed from our ancestors, or brothers and sisters around the globe.

Like all exhibitions at the OFS, Vessels is free to view and opens on Friday 1 May and continues Saturday 20 June 2015. 


Meet Georgie Manly… On May 2, there will be the opportunity for the public to create their own works in clay, in response to the exhibition, with Georgie at Gloucester Green Market, from 10am to 4pm. This special event is aptly named Clay for All, and this entire project really does underline that clay really is for all.

On the Surface

I currently have some work on show in The Jam Factory in Oxford as part of sn exhibition called Oxford’s Sea View exhibition organised by Oxfordshire Artweeks. The exhibition is designed to offer a “taster” of the variety of work visitors might encounter at the Oxfordshire Artweeks open studios festival (the biggest and longest running open studio event in the country taking place this year between 2 and 25 May), and continues until 29 April… The work I’ve put in this show is called On the Surface – I hope you think it’s worth a look.

On the Surface draws on my interest in the personalised nature of decision-making, of pathways in art and life, and the way that one’s environment can dictate direction. I’ve developed an interest in sea over the past few years – intrigued by the moon, magnetic forces, the seabed, and tides. The idea of greater forces being at work dictating behaviour on the ‘surface’, and a path on the surface that most are totally oblivious to both fascinates and frightens me. 

Frequently drawing upon Lacanian theory I’m interested in the layered nature of understanding, this is represented in my work in Oxford’s Sea View exhibition through isolating the surface, allowing viewers to consider what lies above and beneath the sea’s surface and how that surface is influenced by wind direction, daylight, and other weather conditions in turn dictating pathways on the surface. In short, the work is a visual allegory for the necessity of, and the difficulty in, gaining a 360 degree understanding to fully comprehend a situation, and make informed decisions as a consequence.

In this exhibition I’m placing emphasis on the mystery, depth, force and beauty of the sea’s surface, whilst also inviting the viewer to acknowledge the enormity and influencing factors of what lies beneath and above. The images were taken of various seas mainly around the UK, most of which I photograph from a kayak or boat. The driftwood was beachcombed on the northern coast of Scotland. I really like the idea of this once landlocked organic matter adapting to its environment – once a tree, then perhaps make into a fence-post, only to find itself being taken by the tides, bobbing on the surface of the sea, later to be washed ashore, gathered up and repurposed acknowledging its brave lifecycle.

All works in this exhibition are for sale through The Jam Factory – 01865 244 613 Here are a few rubbishy snap shots of the work taken on my mobile…


On the Surface (i)

  On the Surface (ii)

  On the Surface (iii)

  On the Surface (iv) 

  On the Surface (v) 

 On the Surface (vi)


On the Surface (i) – £270

On the Surface (ii) – £260

On the Surface (iii) – £260

On the Surface (iv) – £275

On the Surface (v) – £160

On the Surface (vi) – £150

… and THIS is why I love Artweeks!

Amidst a sea rolling with giant waves it’s easy to become disorientated, and faced with the Oxfordshire Artweeks guide it’s similarly tricky to orientate yourself. You’re desperate to dive in the enticing waters, but you’re not sure what kind of an experience you’re going to encounter, as the offer is simply overwhelming.

How to find the needles in the haystacks? Separate the wheat from the chaff? Find those diamonds in the rough? Sometimes I think you’ve just got to dive in and hope for the best.

I hadn’t been to Charlbury until last week. What a charming place it is. Bigger than I’d anticipated; and, that Friday, full to the rafters of Artweeks activities and guide grasping gad-abouts, hubby, off-spring and I included. In and around Charlbury we saw some good art, some ‘fun’ art, some inoffensive living-room ‘art’, some garden art… and at venue 161 we saw some stunning art.

Venue 161 offered everything one really wants in an Artweeks venue. A ‘Through the Keyhole’ style insight into who lives in a house like this. Turns out two artists who’ve recently relocated back to the Cotswolds from the Isle of Wight do. They were both exhibiting in different parts of their house, and exhibiting in the glass house in their back garden, which was once home to a hot tub, was the nephew of one of the artists. The artists’ work was unrelated, the welcome was warm, the exchange was fun, and the art was interesting… In a really good way. Practicing artists, at different stages in their developing careers, working through their concepts, and happy to chat to curious visitors about their processes and inspiration. The artists I’m referring to were George Taylor, Janice Thwaites, and Tim Collard – click through to their websites, and return to check their work out as part of the Oxfordshire Artweeks Christmas exhibition in November (there’ll be more info on the Artweeks website in due course), or get in touch with George Taylor through his website as he offers private studio visits by prior arrangement.

Anyway, the work… it was all good, and all interesting, but George Taylor’s was exceptional (see the below images). You know that slap on the forehead between the eyes sensation? That shock encounter of something really quite special that takes you by surprise because you weren’t actively looking for it? That. I sneaked up on George, he was sat at his computer with his back to the exhibition space. This gave me time to roam, inspect and admire his work without that feeling of being ‘watched by the artist’, which is sometimes a bit uncomfortable, particularly if the work’s rubbish and you spend your time circulating trying to think of positive feedback that doesn’t leave you feeling like a liar. Anyway, as I circulated in his direction I found myself moved to exclaim just how much I was enjoying his work. The layers, the textures, the composition, the application of paint and pastels, the scrapes, the scratches, the scalpel cutting away and revealing unexpected colour combinations – bloody brilliant! All works imbued with a very specific sense of place. Waves and washes of atmosphere, abstracted landscapes and seascapes all with a very real sense of history and time. Many of them watery and Isle of Wight-esque, Taylor’s work is sensational, in the literal sense of the word. These sculptural, almost architectural, paintings take the viewer on a journey, they’re mesmeric, captivating. This is highly idiosyncratic, great painting. It’s the kind of work that you want to invest in, and that you want to invest time in. I can imagine discovering new aspects of it as it grows older with you – like an adventure that you and the painting would embark upon together. I could go on, I could definitely invest, and may very well do just that come November, and THIS is why I love Artweeks!

George Taylor a_DSC3602 (2) a6a (2) a12a (2)































Whilst chatting with George a mutual connection came up in conversation, Claire Reika Wright. We both remarked on how much we both enjoy the opportunity of revisiting artists’ work through Artweeks. Reika Wright regularly exhibits as part of Artweeks, and her work has come a long way in the time that I’ve ‘known’ it. When our paths first crossed three or four years ago Reika Wright was setting out on an experimental journey to take viewers on an audio visual journey using new media stepping inside paintings. Several years ago the work seemed a little clumsy, it was only in its infancy as a concept and Reika Wright was having to learn an entirely new set of skills to realise her ideas. And this has been a journey that she’s taken her Artweeks audience on over the years, and now it’s reached a highly sophisticated stage, and again she has exhibited as part of Artweeks showing off this progress to a local audience (she exhibits nationally and internationally) – see a couple of images taken from her work below… and THIS is why I love Artweeks!

The Eternal Flame Inverted-_xl (2)

Shadows 60x40 Dibond (2)


Next up I’d like to mention a catch it whilst you can multi-venue analogue photography exhibition, Lo-Fi, which continues at O3 Gallery, and The Jam Factory until 25th May, and at the Old Fire Station until the 14th June. This cross venue exhibition sees the various venues seek out artists that utilise a Lo-Fi, or ‘low-fidelity’ process. That is, their photographic practices embrace low quality exposure and prioritise aesthetic effect over digital accuracy. And the venues have unearthed some really great photographers, many of whom were unknown to me… again, THIS is why I love Artweeks!

The Jam Factory show features work by photographers: Marc West, Catherine Lang, Kazem Hakim, Ashley Good, Mirren Kessling, John Hamand, Anna Bruce and Youssef Sida. All of the work in this exhibition in the Boiler Room at the back of The Jam Factory is of a very high standard, almost entirely black and white, some collaged pieces, all possessing a sense of voyeurism, and perhaps a touch of 1970s espionage at times. It’s an excellent exhibition. However, the stand-out artist for me is Youssef Sida. Sida’s website doesn’t do the work exhibited as part of this exhibition any justice, so you’ll just have to hot-foot it over to The Jam Factory before Sunday night to see it for yourselves and make your own minds up!

The work shown below is by exhibiting photographer and curator of this show, Marc West.

ImageImageImage ImageImage

Finally, I’d just like to add, that people may think they know what they’re getting when they think about Oxfordshire Artweeks, the country’s biggest and oldest open studio event, but that’s impossible. New artists sign up to participate in Oxfordshire Artweeks each year, others dip out, and others take their work in another direction… and THIS is why I love Artweeks!