Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Pineapple of my Blogging Career!

In the age of the email it is sometimes all too easy to forget the simple pleasures of sending or receiving a postcard in the mail. The ‘Wish you Were Here’ exhibition of over 200 artists’ postcards including Carl Andre, Richard Long, Dieter Roth, Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Ben Vautier, Gilbert & George, Susan Hiller, Gavin Turk, Ruth Proctor, Aleksandra Mir, Julie Cockburn and Mark Wallinger amongst many others collected by Jeremy Cooper should inspire even the most prolific instagramer that the humble postcard isn’t dead yet!
 A poll from 2012 revealed that only a mere
16% of British Holiday makers abroad sent postcards back home  in favour of social media.
Should we be concerned?  I presume environmentally speaking there is less carbon footprint to the electricity and power gone into sending an email than the air miles and transport required to send a postcard?(...It’s an interesting thought that I wouldn’t hazard guess how much it may influence people’s means of communication) Whilst not at the heart of its intentions,  ‘Wish you were here’ at Hestercombe in addition to presenting a showcase of artists’ postcards throughout history may also convince you that there is indeed still a place for both; that there is a skill and an art to postcards that supersedes digital modes of communication.
Peter Kennard & Cat Phillips 'Study of a Head XI' 2013
Despite my own interests in writing online I actually still do and enjoy sending postcards to unsuspecting friends as well as receiving them too. I even create my own to send! I think artists and designers have naturally continued and somewhat bias of me to say, but also naturally enjoy the creative challenge of either designing a card or writing on one. A traditionally A5 sized canvas of card or paper to work with, and even less room if one factors out the space for the address and stamp.
Is it possible to convey big ideas, thoughts and messages in such a limited space? You bet it is!
 Their less instantaneousness and time and thought that goes into their creation are in themselves skills that are worthwhile not neglecting. A postcard as Art offers fantastic parameters to make work, to be inventive and communicate. As such they continue to be used and inspire generations of artists today.
Such is the breadth of Cooper’s collection, some 200 of which are presented at Hestercombe Gallery as there is so much variety. As a whole it reads as a ‘Who’s Who’ of the art world, an anthropological archive of art history  from Robert Rauschenberg’s postcard featuring artist’s signature on a square of cardboard box, Susan Hiller’s ‘rough sea’ series of postcards of stormy British coastal scenes, Andy Warhol, Rachel Whiteread and Steve Butcher’s collage (pictured below right) mash-up of Piero Della Francesca’s ‘Duke and Dutchess of Urbino. Surely too many for one man to own alone so why not share them with an audience of many in what has been a nationally touring exhibition and book. There are cards here which are satirical, political, painterly, conceptual, minimal, jigsaw and place postcards. Postcards made of lead, toast, glass, with spoon and card crossing the whole art spectrum of media. It is a lot to see and take in! The show as a whole has a lot more to offer than pleasing nostalgia and though small contain some powerful art works that offer insight into broader ideas within a given artist’s practice.
Steve Butcher 'Wedding Portrait' 1989
I enjoyed some of the more word-based postcards in the exhibition, such as Graphic Artist Sarah Maxey’s ‘I’m at the Pineapple of my Career’ and many of the political cards such as 'Study for a Head XI' by Pat Kennard and Cat Phillips (pictured above right). Commercially speaking artists' postcards are a great art form to collect as they reproduce well in printed form and are easily portable. My only criticism is that it was hard to see some of the wall mounted framed postcards closely due to a double-hang and that’s not a reflection so much on my own height but the sheer number of postcards in the exhibition. The overall affect however is a joy because due to their familiar format they are artworks in which people can closely relate to. The scale and one-liner nature of many of them also make some of the ideas more graspable, the format is almost within most people’s means to have a go at creating themselves if so desired. I think it has the power to inspire a lot of people and generate an insight into artist’s ideas/practices. Incidentally, I am yet to find an artist who hasn’t at some point created an artist’s postcard so this is a collection that is set to continue growing! 

Currently not in Jeremy Cooper's collection, postcards from 'Routes, River, Rail' public art project in
 Taunton from 2010 in which I invited people to alter postcards of Taunton with what 'they would like to see'.
 (Pictured Tim Martin 'Where's the River?' 2010)
‘Wish you were here’ is on at Hestercombe House Gallery until February 28th 2016

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Keep on Swarming!

September 23rd 2015 marked the release of my own version of an artist-led visual arts zine, ‘Swarm’ #1. Here are some of the responses so far...

“...a fascinating compendium of cool!”
“The book has been beautifully produced and I am delighted to have been part of your enterprise.”
“It's really good, love the way you've assembled it!”
“It's always good to see the variety of work produced by a disparate group of artists (or, similar but not the same as you say), so that in itself is fascinating.”
“I've been showing it off to a select few people and they've all thought the whole thing was amazing!”
swarm (n)– a temporary collection of bees, containing at least one queen that split apart from the mother colony to establish a new one; a natural method of propagation for honey bee colonies.
Through a competitive, megalomaniac driven act of plagiarism, 'Swarm' visual art zine was born. A shameless hybrid off-shoot of its 'sister' zine 'Hive'! 'Swarm' is a compact version of 'Hive' in which a group of artists are united together in producing a visual art zine of their work to a set theme proposed by the editor (in this example, me). Each invited artist produces X number of copies of their page (X = total number of artists taking part) and sends them to the editor who compiles the zines and sends each artist a completed copy back in the post.
Maybe I got greedy, maybe too ambitious, but being part of 'Hive'* had feverishly inspired me and that what the art world was missing was, well more art! The aim was therefore to make my own zine with friends whom I'd met/known over the years who could 'Swarm' together and celebrate each others work! On a perhaps more sentimental level it was also an opportunity to showcase the talents of my peers to whom I owe a great debt of admiration and thanks for continuing to inspire me.

The theme for ‘Swarm’ 1# is ‘similar but not the same’ and features the creative juices of the following: (as pictured left to right, top to bottom) Chris Chapman, Phil Kingslan John, Mike Calver, Helen & Ama Gatland, Sue Hazelwood, Paula Forster, James Marsden, Elizabeth Earley, Erin Awon, Mike Cawthorne, Faye Dennis, Scarlet von Teazel, Natalie Parsley, Claudia Haffner and Graham Seaton.
 Each participating artist also received a 'Swarm' badge (pictured above) and there are only 15 copies of the zine itself as it isn't designed to be reproduced or sold. The physical copy exists as a way of owning and participating in something that is unique and quite intimately special. To those involved its purpose to provide a fun outlet to make work, share it and discover new artists! However for the first time I have also uploaded an online version so as to share the zine to a wider audience. The quality of image and printed feel of the physical 'real' book of course cannot be reproduced digitally but I hope it will perhaps inspire others for what I hope will be a future edition of Swarm! 
You can view the Online version of Swarm 1# by clicking here:

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Four Eyebrow-raisingly Good Reasons to Visit Us This Art Weeks

Somerset Art Weeks 2015 has begun and if you were wondering where might be a good place to start then look no further than Venue 1, The Old Brick Workshop in Wellington. Yes, I am exhibiting as part of a group show here, but if the allure of seeing my work alone isn’t enough (and why not?!) then there are plenty more ‘eyebrow-raisingly’ good reasons to make some time in your Art Weeks schedule and visit us...

1) A Brand New Brilliant Venue in Wellington, Somerset Set in a former Brick Works on the Poole Industrial Estate; I can confidently say we are as proud of the building as we are the exhibition within it. Under the enterprising vision of local business woman, Alison Cosserat the building has undergone a radical transformation, largely of which (and with many thanks) at the hands of local builder turned artist, James Marsden along with tireless hours spent by Alison herself, exhibiting artists and enthusiastic volunteers in the form of family and friends. The building now boasts nine sizeable studio spaces divided between the upstairs and downstairs areas, a community area/gallery space and purpose built exhibition space downstairs. Every gloss painted door, chiselled-paint removed brick, concrete floor and plaster boarded ceiling, spotlight and wall tells a story. We’d love you to come in for a nosey!

2) Loads of Art! This first exhibition features well over a hundred works by fourteen artists* including painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, film and installation. In addition to our professionally curated gallery space there is also art work to be discovered in our corridors, upstairs and downstairs and in our community room gallery.  
*James Marsden, Anna Newland Hooper, Diana Pilcher, Debbi Sutton, Alex Conetta, Nicky Withers, Jane Mowat, Teresa Wilson, Ashley Thomas, Jane Kelly, Natalie Parsley, Alex Bangay and Judith Crosher 
3) We have Cinema Chairs in our film room! 
4) We also have a very fine looking propeller!
Duchamp's remark to Brancusi visiting the Paris Aviation Show, 1919; "Painting is over and done with. Who could do anything better than this propeller? Look, could you do that?"
Visit us and decide for yourselves?!
Venue 1: The Old Brick Workshop, Wellington is open now, everyday 11-6 until Sunday October 18th

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Art That You Really Really Will Not Have Seen Anywhere Else!

Yet another, but perhaps more self-publicising reason to visit our exhibition at The Old Brick Workshop this Art Weeks is to see twelve entirely new works I've created over the course of this year. After having a fairly substantial break from exhibiting anywhere, it is very exciting, enjoyably nerve-wracking  and important to me to have the opportunity to receive feed back and show new work again. They include some familiar themes of mine, namely tools as well as a few new surprises! [See:]
Apart from being a shameless plug for the exhibition this is the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing about that recent work in an attempt to understand it better and share a few thoughts on the making or thinking behind some of the work.

Natalie Parsley 'We Two Tools Together Clinging' 2015 Mono print and ink on paper. 24 x 32cm.

The more familiar tool related thread to my practice includes the work, ‘We Two Tools Together Clinging’ (pictured) inspired from Lee Lozano’s drawings of tools, depicted anthropomorphised locked in embrace or mortal combat [See: ]. The colour scheme unintentionally mirrors that of an early David Hockney painting, ‘We Two Boys Together Clinging’ whose title I have deliberately manipulated to fit my own. That is pretty much where the similarities end and recommend you visit the real thing as Hockney’s is an amazing painting!  Hockney’s references a headline from a climbing accident, "Two Boys Cling to Cliff All Night" which he propagandised into being about his own homosexuality at a time when it was taboo to shout about it publically/openly. I haven’t really assigned sexuality to the tools in my work, it could really be interpreted either way as I’m more interested in it being about a relationship of sorts rather than comment on gender specifically. The ‘clinging’ in the title of my work alludes to the human sense of ‘embrace’ as well as the function of clamps as a tool, to cling, hold or grip something. If assigning human attributes to inanimate objects in this work, the word-play of ‘tools’ could be read both literally about tools but also the derisive  slang of ‘being a stupid or socially inept person’. Rather than mockingly it can sometimes be empowering when such negative labelling is adopted by those it is originally intended to make fun of and there is a sort of strength in unity that these two ‘tools’ of any gender or social commentary have come together in a form of embrace. One could read it that way or of course, it could simply just be two clamps locked together! I enjoy discussion about the double or multiple meanings of art, how it is interpreted. At the very least that is what I attempt to do when I view or write about work I've seen. What is significant and important to me about this piece of my work however is that it is one of the first times I’ve used a title to manipulate the reading of a drawing I’ve created. That’s quite significant and interesting to me and will be something I think I will revisit again for future work.
David Hockney 'We Two Boys Together Clinging' 1961 Oil on Board. 48 x 60"
You can see my work as part of the exhibition at The Old Brick Workshop, Wellington. Open daily 11-6 now until Sunday October 18th

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Art Weeks 2015 Sneak Preview!

Exciting times ahead as we prepare for the opening of our Somerset Art Weeks 2015 exhibition at The Old Brick Workshop. I am exhibiting with twelve other artists but thought I'd give you a sneak preview of what my new work in this exhibition is about...
The exhibition opens 11am this Saturday 3rd October. Hope to see you there!
“Extremely weak. Fault of Pot. Seed”
On April 28th, 1992, Christopher Johnson McCandless hitched to the stampede trail in Alaska. There he headed down the snow covered trail to begin an odyssey with only 10 pounds of rice, a .22 calibre rifle, several boxes of rifle rounds, a camera and a small selection of reading material –including a field guide to the regions edible plants, the ‘Tana’ina Plantlore’. After surviving for more than 100 days McCandless perished sometime around the week August 18th from what was later believed to be starvation by poisoning. It is still uncertain whether the exact cause of his death was due to mistaken identification; the edible Hedsarum Alpinum (Eskimo potato) for the poisonous Hedysarum Mackenzi (wild sweet pea) or the mould which grew on these seeds during their storage inside a plastic bag. Despite the tragic circumstances of his death, McCandless’s story about how finding oneself sometimes conflicts with being an active member in society (actions which were deemed controversial to some) and inspiring testament to the search for enlightenment by immersing oneself into the natural world devoid of material possessions became the bestselling book, ‘Into the Wild’ by the writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer.
Nineteen years later, I discover the book for the first time in the local bookshop where I work as a Bookseller in Taunton. Inspired by everyday objects, my work in recent years has been dominated by the tools found in my Grandfather’s tool shed. Taking that same fascination of objects and the possible stories they hold, I have created drawings of the objects that McCandless took with him on his journey. I speculate that I am curious too, not in the materialism he chose to abandon but in the significance and essentiality of the few items he chose to keep with him. Ultimately I believe it is about how books can be as informative, influential, misguiding or deceptive as the illusionary, interpretive qualities of art itself.
 Never trust an Artist. Never trust a Bookseller!
 You can see my work as part of the exhibition at The Old Brick Workshop, Wellington is open daily 11-6 from this Saturday October 3rd until Sunday October 18th