I spent this afternoon packaging up my On The Surface body of work ready to journey south to Oxfordshire (where it was made) as it has been selected for inclusion in a group exhibition at Wilcote Art near Finstock in Oxfordshire. The venue is hardly the Turbine Hall, but I’m really happy and honoured to have been selected to exhibit alongside some really interesting interdisciplinary artists (all female, coincidentally, and all of new to me, bar Nimmi Naidoo, whose work I’ve admired before). Amongst them are Nimmi Naidoo, Katherine Glynne-JonesHelena Fox, Natasha Solomons, Margaret Godel, and Sue Tucker. The theme of the show is Journeys, though I have no idea what the other work on display will be – looking forward to it!

Finstock’s located between Oxford and Chipping Norton. The exhibition is open on the 21,22, 26, 28, 29, and 30th May from 11am to 6pm, excepting Thursday when it’s open 11am to 8pm. The exhibition has been coordinated to coincide with Oxfordshire Artweeks.


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

Paper Ghosts and Analogue Photography in Oxford

Paper Ghosts is a photography exhibition by Kim Shaw showing at Art Jericho from 27 February to 31 March 2014… and the works in it look stunning! Some sit somewhere between soft pencil drawings, and monochrome watercolours, whilst others evoke a feeling of technical drawings, or  studies of urban landscapes.

The exhibition comprises a collection of four series of photographs, you see, and each feels distinctly different, to the extent that it could be an exhibition of work by four different artists, which is interesting given that Shaw shot all of the images on a primitive analogue camera, a Holga made famous (and trendy) by Lomography and the boom in smartphone filters and apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic.

The Old Vinyl Factory Project is a series of analogue images that gathers together works executed over the past 18 years, and in which the viewer is deserted by an audience that now largely embraces the digital world; Lilliputian Landscapes (2002) play with scale making the macro appear as micro; The Humidity Series sees Shaw explore the wild beauty of fog on Highland beaches and burns, the River Thames and Cherwell, and condensation permeating the hot houses at Kew Gardens, and Pin-hole Flowers is a classically and deconstructed series of images, presented dot by dot. Jenny Blyth, director at Art Jericho commented, “Shaw’s work is quietly beautiful, wistful yet contemporary.”

Shaw is currently a resident artist at Kew Studio, London, but despite coming from a photographically inclined family she started off life studying journalism followed by a career in advertising – perhaps it is this background or the commercial, brief-based photography of her family’s past that enables her to skip from subject to subject, style to style with such ease!?

Here’s a sample of some of the works on display at Art Jericho as part of this exhibition…







… and if this whets your appetite for analogue (which the people of Oxford seem particularly keen on at the moment following on the tail of the pretty popular, even if I do say so myself, Exposed LiveFriday that took place at the Ashmolean in July 2013, and I co-curated with Lomography London) then be sure to check out the forthcoming Oxfordshire Artweeks associated exhibition, Lo-Fi, taking place between 3 and 25 May at O3 Gallery, Gallery at the Old Fire Station and The Jam Factory, which will see aesthetic effect prioritised over digital accuracy in a series of exhibitions and workshops that will explore and celebrate creative analogue photography.

p.s. The Shop at the Old Fire Station sells some Lomo stuff if you fancy getting snappy yourself!

Sacred water

It’s 3rd Feb… and the water keeps on coming. All waterways are swollen to bursting, and dangerous, almost across the entire country, and more flood warnings have been issued today in Oxford. It’s incredible, just incredible. Figures show that parts of England have had their wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago.

Anyway, this is making me think about water in a different way. Ordinarily carefully preserved and measured, weather reports are showing polluted, overflowing excesses of water. Wildlife conservation is one of the things being blamed for water channels not having been sufficiently dredged over the past few years, and consequently unable to channel the quantities of water properly.

I’ve been thinking about water butts, and containers – vessels that we usually use to capture and contain ‘good’ water. My thoughts have turned to preserving this ‘bad’ water, and the various layers of history that it’s churning up in something that viewers might be able to relate to on a domestic level. I like the thought of the physicality of the selection below that I’ve found online, and that I’m considering using for my Wait ’til it Settles installation that’ll form part of the Inspired by the canal exhibition at the Jam Factory. I like the idea that, with some effort, they’re portable, so people might move them around in a restaurant environment, unsettling the waters. And I like the thought that, in the event of an emergency, one might wait til the muddy waters settle and then syphon the clean water off the top – ignoring the history, the old, settled murky water, and hoping for the best for the future.

Domestic water vessels 20 Litre Portable Collapsible Water Container with Tap Highlander 10L Litre Capacity Plastic Jerry Can Camping Water Container With Tap HIGHLANDER COLLAPSIBLE 20 LITRE WATER CONTAINER CAMPING

Whatever containers are used in the end, I’d like them to be as transparent as possible so visitors can see what’s within (exposing the interior of a canal – laying it bare); and I’d like them to be mainly different in shape and form, just as the water within them will be taken from different parts of the Oxford canal.

Painting a sobering picture – what does the future hold for art education, art schools, and artists in the UK? And a trip to London Art Fair…

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport announced in a press release on the 14th Jan that the creative industries contributed well over 5% to the UK’s economy in 2012, that’s well over £8 million an hour. The creative industries outperformed all other sectors of UK industry, and accounted for 1.68 million jobs in 2012, that’s 5.6 per cent of UK jobs. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller commented:

“We are committed to ensuring that the energy, innovation, skills and talent existing in this dynamic sector continues to translate into economic success, and provide a remarkable platform from which we can showcase Britain to the world.”

So tell me, Right Honourable Michael Gove Member of Parliament, Secretary of State for Education, what on earth are you doing? How can overhauling the GCSE examination system, and cutting out creative subjects be a good idea, not only for the future of creative industries in the UK, but for well-balanced individuals in society? The words short-sighted and lunacy spring to mind. I refer any readers to Bob and Roberta Smith’s Letter to Michael Gove MP of 25th July 2011 (see below and the link for the transcribed version)…


Bob and Roberta Smith (one man) launched the Art Party with Crescent Arts, Scarborough in 2013. The Art Party isn’t a formal political party, it’s made up of a loose grouping of artists and organisations all deeply concerned about the Government diminishing the role of all the arts and design in schools, and consequently seeks to better advocate the arts to Government (look out for Art Party the Movie, which will be released this summer).

I stumbled across a quote from Lord Puttnam, Chair of the Cultural Learning Alliance, on the CLA website and I’d urge us all to think long and hard about his words and the way that we (as individuals) vote and lobby,

“If we fail to offer our young people the opportunity to participate in the arts and culture, then we fail to support them in becoming the leading thinkers, innovators, creative business and community leaders of the future.”

Well, it would seem that the tumbleweed of failure to do just this has already started blowing over the UK. Government funding cuts and a move to banish art lessons from schools made 2013 a deeply sad year for creative education, and for the UK’s future more broadly.

Imagine being an 18 year old aspiring art student, and trying to make a case to your parent/guardian for going to art school TODAY. Imagine making the case in the context of huge cuts to the Arts Council, high tuition fees, and a cost of living crisis. It comes as little surprise to hear that, according to the latest available data from UCAS, the number of applications of students applying to study creative arts at university fell by 17% from 2011 to 2012.

Backed up by nothing other than my own observations I’ve always felt (perhaps controversially) that artists are largely those that have everything or nothing to lose – the determined offspring of the upper (mainly) and lower (occasionally) classes. Leaving the middle-classes to graduate from art school and move neatly into arts admin / arts management roles (after juggling a lot of part-time jobs and voluntary internships).

In short, it seems to me that this gap is only going to grow ever wider, popping out the middle classes (and probably the majority of lower classes too) like a ripe pustule, with increasingly fewer individuals given the opportunity to study art at school, fewer still prepared to ‘take a chance on’ post-compulsory arts education, a minute number going on to have a career in the creative industries, leaving the UK with a limping, dull and lifeless creative industry. Sounds ideal for all involved, doesn’t it? Nope, no it doesn’t… and thank goodness there are people out there kicking up a stink to try to stem this from happening (see a few links below illustrating this):

Design Week, Creative industries keep up attack on Government education policy
The Guardian, Let’s change the world for arts students in 2014
CLA, The Case for Cultural Learning

So, whilst all is not yet lost, it’s important to soldier on; and in the words of Shelly Asquith,

“Make more art! It sounds obvious, but creating work that communicates progressive ideas is the best way to influence our communities.”

I’m inclined to think that Bob and Roberta Smith might agree. So, what support networks are there out there for early-career artists? How does one make one’s case for going to art school to aforementioned parent / guardian? Well, it seems to me that certain tools, platforms, and networks are playing an increasingly important role in supporting early career artists, and artists throughout their careers… and the bonus is that many of these are open access, providing you’ve got sufficient nous and initiative to get involved with them and use them effectively.

Apologies, if you read my last post on here and I appear as though I’m trying to get the Oxford City Council Culture Team into bed. I’m not, but I do think that they’re doing a really great job at the moment. Last year, for example, they took inspiration from The Collect, Bristol (who run an initiative called Spoon Fed) and founded Create Oxford a peer-to-peer culture microfunding and collaboration event and network for creatives living and working in Oxford. Check it out – it’s brilliant, and a great way to raise funds.

In addition to this Oxford City Council’s Culture Team, headed up by Dr Ceri Gorton (previously a Relationship Manager with Arts Council England), also organises regular forums offering skills development for creative entrepreneurs, and informal arts marketing networking nights – so it would seem that local government are doing their bit to prop up the arts in Oxford. Then there’s Oxfordshire Artweeks, who are doing their bit too. Ok, so it’s a members only organisation, and it ain’t cheap to join, but it is the country’s biggest, oldest (and I’d stick my neck out and say most commercially successful) open studio arts festival and by Jove do you get your money’s worth from a promotional perspective, and Oxfordshire Artweeks does offer its fair share of hand holding too – check out their help and resources page, and sign up to become a member and find out about the introduction to social media workshops etc. that they offer.

I could go on about Oxford-centric stuff, but that wouldn’t be very helpful as all artists need to look further afield than their doorstep if they’re to prosper… and they need to think commercially (she says whilst hearing her Dad’s voice echo in her head “Do as I say, not as I do!”). Regardless, I recently interviewed Paul Hobson, the new Director of Modern Art Oxford, previously of the Contemporary Art Society for The Oxford Times, who commented on nurturing early-career talent, and the culture of sustainable arts practice:

“It’s about providing a platform for artists who’ve trained in a city, choose to remain living here, and want to be visible. It’s also about developing the audience for those artists and acting as a platform for them to have visibility in other influential centres, such as London. Where we are attracting audiences who are interested in contemporary art, there’s an opportunity to develop those into people who might also buy art. I want to look at how we can develop the economy and ecology of art in Oxford.”

Paul Hobson

Paul Hobson

With this at the back of my head I thought it would be interesting to trot along to London Art Fair last week to see what their exhibitors had to offer, and how they were engaging in this process on a more national and international level.

My first stop was the Axisweb stand #P27 (I noticed on Twitter that they were using #P27 to highlight the location of their presence at @LondonArtFair to their followers). Axisweb is the curated showcase for UK contemporary art designed for artists and art professionals. It costs £28.50 per year to become a member, and in exchange they help you make connections, find work/ commissions, and stay informed. I’m a fan of Axisweb, I think it’s a pretty invaluable tool, and this is why…

So what were they up to at London Art Fair? Well, busy doing a pretty good job at promoting and supporting their members from what I saw. I arrived at the stand to overhear an artist appear for one of the 1-2-1 surgeries that Axisweb were running with their members during the fair offering advice on how to improve digital presence.

Works by the following artists were on display at the stand: Clive A Brandon, George Charman, Tom Hackney, Virginia Verran (who was Axisweb’s Artist of the Month: November 2013), and Wendy Saunders. There was information available to take away about membership, and there was a plethora of information available to take away promoting Axisweb artists showing at other stands present at the fair, as well as further afield around London, online and on social media. Whilst that evening they were hosting a members party, providing a chance for members to meet and socialise whilst browsing the show – was there any free booze on offer, I don’t know, but regardless it felt as though members were getting their £28.50’s worth!

Axisweb aside, other stuff that I spotted that I thought would be useful to early career artists included The Catlin Guide, a hard-copy limited edition collection highlighting the work of forty of the most promising new graduate artists in the UK (according to Justin Hammond, selector and editor of the guide).

Photographers should check out the Crane Kalman Gallery in Brighton as they run an annual exhibition (un)imaginatively entitled Cream Graduate Showcase.

Another Brighton-based gallery, Ink_D, were doing a great job promoting the early and mid career artists that they represent covering labels in red dots through employment of the brilliant Own Art scheme. LOVED Paul Scott‘s work – check it out…

Paul Scotts cumbrian Blues Seascape.large

Visitors were literally crawling over one another to check out works (and by the look of all those red stickers invest in work) from the Young Masters Art Prize presented by The Cynthia Corbett Gallery. So in terms of getting yourself represented, make sure you’re on Cynthia’s list – Cynthia can sell!

In summery, there’s enough help out there, and in the words of Jimmy Cliff, You Can Get It If You Really Want, but you must try, try and try. Try and try, you’ll succeed at last!

To Michael Gove, sort it out before it’s too late and you ruin everything for everyone, dude! What you’re doing is not big, and it’s definitely not clever.