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!

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.