Monday, 27 May 2013

Upfest 2013

No prizes for guessing what this post is about. It has been an exceptionally busy week for the arts with three posts in the last few days instead of the normal one a week. You're in for a treat with this post as its going to be less words and more images!
On a gloriously sunny Sunday I attended Bristol's Upfest (Urban Painting Festival) for the first time. Had only heard about Upfest this year, as happened to know someone in it (name drop alert!), Martin Joiner, whose work I have snapped and included here, thanks to him for the info. Camera in hand I left Temple Meads toward North Street arriving firstly at Dean Lane Skate Park where there was street art going on as far as the eye could see. This was to only be the start of what was the biggest graffiti festival I have ever seen (turns out, that apparently Upfest is the biggest of its kind in Europe?). Running since 2008 this year's Upfest ran for three days over the bank holiday in May 25th -27th and featured over 300 artists painting in venues the length of North Street from the Tobacco Factory, Bar BS3, Spotted Cow and North Street Green. Sponsored by those, 'oh so smooth, beautiful' but expensive POSCA pens (any one who has ever wielded one will know what I mean). The event is free but with money from brochures going towards children's charity NACOA (National Association of Children of Alcoholics).
The festival had a really busy but a brilliant atmosphere, especially around the market at the Tobacco Factory which was packed. There's a constant thrum of music from live DJ sets and haze of paint fumes (part of me does wonder on the environmental impact on the fumes...cannot be a good thing) or possibly the 'coolness' that seems to literally linger in the atmosphere; combined with the opportunity to watch paintings in progress in the gardens/buildings and outdoor spaces along the street; all making for a lively experience. Work wise, it seemed to me that there was a lot of text based New York subway style art which I feel is a bit 'old hat' now in the sense it is what graffiti 'used to be expected', but there was also plenty of illustrative and imaginative stuff going on; some representational, some not. Techniques from the more drawing-based and painterly to collage and stencil work varying on ambition and scale. Also encouraging to see mix of ages as well as male and female artists. Overall a really exciting day, not so good that I got pretty sun burnt and possibly intoxicated by the paint spray fumes (which always helps forget the sunburn, I feel!) but still all worth it for a day of seeing some excellent art work. Below are a few out of what could have been many more highlights...

The large, slightly diseased looking cat is a definite improvement from the sneering green-eyed lady that was there previous.

Some photo-realist work at North Street Green

Up yours, or perhaps down....(Martin Joiner) 

Whilst some of the work is done directly onto buildings or shutters, most is temporary and on boards, like the above. Hence the opportunity to see many artists at work at once.
The Upfest gallery

Is this the work of Agent Provocateur? At Bar BS3.

Some more of Martin's handiwork on the shutter of Rare Butchers of Southville.

Graffiti that responds to the place. Same colours-nice!
Whilst you may have missed Upfest this year some of the work can still be seen gracing the walls of buildings throughout North Street. And for more info on all of the above please check out:

Sunday, 26 May 2013

'Passing Through' - The Musgrove Gallery

I'm currently exhibiting a painting made especially for the exhibition, 'Passing Through' at The Musgrove Gallery. All work is for sale. Please check it out!

'Passing Through'

21st May - 15th July

"As you pass through the Musgrove Gallery does something catch your eye or draw your attention? Do you stop and investigate; look and explore? Are you in a hurry and just 'passing through'?"

"The artists have created works which reflect and express ideas of movement, journeys and transportation to echo the movement through the gallery. Many of the works are long and thin, so you can enjoy them as they form part of your journey as you pass through -they almost travel with you!" 

The Musgrove Gallery, First Floor Queens Building, Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton. TA15DA

(above) Natalie Parsley 'A Bicycle for Fernand Leger'
"In response to the theme of ‘Passing Through’  I wanted to create a new piece of work that explored creating a static image out of parts of bicycles, wheels and gears/cogs from watches as signifiers for time and movement. The resulting painting is a semi-abstract composition influenced in style by the work of Fernand Leger and inspired by shapes derived from the mechanisms of bicycles and clocks."
 (above) Louise Baker 'Wagon 4'
 (above) Linda Mattock 'Spirit Dance Drawing' (Close up)
"Drawing on her previous experiences Linda's work is inspired by observations of people, particularly in movement. Using complex layering of marks to capture the illusive and fleeting moment in time, her work produces semi-abstract images that express the energy, atmosphere, drama or stillness of the experience. Works exhibited include studies of broad choreographed movement, as in the drawings and paintings based on concepts and expression of spiritual dance undertaken in St Paul's Cathedral in collaboration with Ballet Rambert."

(above) John Brooks 'Swing Bridge S2'

"My work as an artist/photographer features the world around us viewed in an alternative way, one that seeks out the extraordinary that lies within the ordinary. Parts of the environment by which we are surrounded are often overlooked despite being plainly within our view."

 (above) Lydia Halcrow 'Living map of the city'

"As we walk through a place we leave behind traces of the paths we have taken, spills of food and drinks on the pavement, traces that erode other marks and leave new ones behind as they overlay with other people's journeys on foot. They hint at how we navigate the city, who was here before us, what route they took. My paintings and drawings use layers and erasure to link to the processes at play in the city, developing over time to create an alternative map of a place based on my experience of walking through it, day after day, collecting traces of what people leave behind."

Friday, 24 May 2013


"And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be, A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me," - Fleet Foxes 'Helplessness Blues'

Discovered this book in Tate St Ives this week, Todd McLellan 'Things come apart'. I'm always on the look out for things that inform my practice and offer new ways into thinking about how I make decisions in my work. Essentially this book is a collection of various everyday objects that have been painstakingly taken apart, piece by piece with every component laid out individually in a grid-like formation whereby it is then photographed. In another series of photos the same components are then dropped and photographed mid-fall, resulting in a fragmented image that looks like a distorted almost Cubist version of the original thing.

Need I elaborate more as to why I am particularly interested in this book? I will anyway. The images in this book are visually beautiful in their crispness and forensic-like accuracy in how they've been executed as a result they are also mesmerisingly captivating; just seeing the number of pieces alone that make up what seem to be fairly simple objects such as a mechanical pencil, a torch and padlock makes one realise the intricacy, attention to detail and engineering that goes into the most everyday of things. I ponder if that is the 'art' of good design and engineering; that things appear simple in their design but are in fact complicated in their simplicity through either many parts that make up the whole or the engineering that has been undertaken to get to that 'essential' form.

Pah! But less about design and more about the art.
It also unravels some of the mystery of, 'how things work', each bit having to work with another in order for any function to happen at all and without going into it too deeply here, the metaphorical associations that it implies around ideas of how people/society/governments etc function is also very interesting (if not rather more deep, and problematic when I only intended on keeping this brief!). This is a book for anyone that has ever found a screw, washer, pin, cog and said, "I wonder where this goes?" Its for those who like to stare in awe at hundreds of bits and pieces, not knowing how they come together and think, 'Wow, that's an IPad?!' Its for devourers of shape and form, like me (I am beginning to realise that it is 'shape' that makes me tick, in the same way that some artists are entranced by colour, surface, line, pattern or texture. I am drawn in by the shape of things, their form and the negative space they create against another shape. Don't get me wrong, I'm still interested in colour, line and surface as well, but I really think that its shape that is the first thing that I look for when choosing something to draw or that I find aesthetically pleasing). I am in luck as there are shapes in abundance here, this book offers up a cornucopia of shapes. Similarly, the way in which the pieces have been displayed (as I already mentioned) gridded and in an order of sorts. Each piece gains an importance/status of its own like a fragmented relic to which the presentation looks like one of archaeology or archiving. How do we interpret these objects? Do we see them in formalistic terms as a series shapes of colour and surface? (I'm reminded of the flat pack style paintings of Frank Stella) Or if you didn't know the original form that these components made then how would you read each piece, what new possibilities and functions could be created from those same bits? See also artists, Mark Dion, Lisa Milroy and Sophie Calle if this sort of thing appeals.

Perhaps the other important thing this book highlights is our desire/need to understand, make and fix things and sets a challenge of, 'if it can be taken apart -then so it can be reassembled together' as a way of addressing 'throw-away' culture. In short, if you could see all the bits that went into making that toaster would you be so quick to throw it away when it stops working? Similarly, if offers an appreciation for the objects it depicts that extends the idea of 'only noticing an object when it stops working' when in fact should we notice/appreciate them more when they are working? See Richard Sennett, 'The Craftsman' and Matthew Crawford, 'The Case for working with your hands'.
I'll never look at flat-pack furniture with the same degree of annoyance ever again!  

Check out the artist's website at:

Monday, 13 May 2013

Spike Island -Jessica Warboys

Sunday 5th May - Jessica Warboys' 'Ab Ovo'

 Jessica Warboys’ paintings (although she doesn’t consider herself a painter and some of the work is film/sculptural) are on display in the Spike gallery space until June 16th. Featuring three large ‘Sea Paintings’ of unstretched/unframed canvas that were made whilst the artist lived in Cornwall using the sea to soak the canvas and scattering pigment over them before returning them to the sea to be ‘set’ by the salt water. The description that they [the sea paintings] become, ‘records of their own making’ affected by the saltiness of the water and topography of the beach as it picks up folds and creases on its surface is interesting and can be seen in the staining and incidental-looking mark making in the work. Monumental in scale, like Rothko’s that had been taken for a walk, I can only imagine what it must have been like to physically haul these out of a wavey Cornish sea. The canvases are grounded in how they are hung in the gallery space, touching the floor as though re-connecting them with the earth and I particularly I enjoyed the way they were hung on the wall, no stretchers, frames or mount board –they were simply tacked to the wall with staples and it was this kind of low-tech approach that made them all the more earnest and appealing in my view.  I didn’t dwell so long on the films and sculptural works in this exhibition, preferring to immerse myself in the pigmented, sculptural surfaces of the canvases.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Get Connected!

Wonderful! Its that time of year again, for end of year shows -please go and check it out!
Fine Art Foundation Degree Show
Discover emerging artists from Somerset College
The Market House (side entrance)
Fore Street, Taunton, Somerset TA11JD

Viewing Hours:
4th -11th May 2013
Monday-Saturday 10am - 6pm (Closed Sunday)