Saturday, 23 April 2016

Scissors, paper & glue!

Teachers on a limited materials budget throughout the land rejoice as the variety of things you can do with a sheet of cardboard and bottle of PVA is demonstrated with staggering, inventive aplomb in Michael Beutler's 'Pump House' on show now at Spike Island!

Michael Beutler 'Haus Beutler' (2014/16) Mixed media.
Industrial alongside low budget materials such as paper, string, sticky-tape, cloth, timber and yes, copious amounts of PVA glue are used by Beutler and his team to create large-scale, ambitious and immersive spaces. For his first solo exhibition in a gallery in the UK the German born artist tailors his work to fit the former Tea Factory space that is now Spike Island; here cardboard is rolled, scrunched, wrapped and overlapped to create walls, panels, lights and free-standing architectural forms or prototypes. The resulting work is temporary and bordering between the precarious and surprisingly robust as the limits to how these common-place materials can be recycled and manipulated is inventively explored. Its professional amateurism let loose, in what is the first of what I anticipate to be many more oxymoron’s used to describe what Beutler has achieved in bringing Pump House to Bristol's Spike Island. 

 'Tea Factory' (2016) Card, dye, rope, metal pipes, pulleys.
Cardboard painted tubes in one area of the gallery, titled ‘Tea Factory’ are one example of how play and low-tech experimentation with paper to create structure and form can become vastly transformed when the boundaries of scale and volume are pushed; the throw-away nature of these materials now becomes more sculptural, more weighty and architectural. Are they arches, bridges or Christmas crackers, I'm contentedly uncertain...Walls within ‘Haus Beutler’ (2014/16) become abstract, patch-work quilt like collages, blurring the distinction between abstract surface and structure. All of it is a form of serious or extreme play. I.e. If you could take a humble rag rug or toilet-roll archway/bridge and make another one on a grand scale then it adopts a new sense of purposefulness, celebration of the material properties the materials contain. For example cloth is malleable, can be stained, stretched, scrunched, compacted; it has a tension to it, all of which are properties that in Pump House are adopted into large scale building techniques (the cloth becomes bricks for building).  
It is always refreshing to see art that is fun and walking in and around Pump House feels like being a participant more than a spectator to the work; watching other people inhabit these unusual paper-lined walls feels like being in the art work. As previously alluded to I also like the contradiction of everything in the spaces looking very hand-made and unpolished yet being aware through watching the video pieces (dotted throughout the installation) that it has actually taken a huge amount of team work/effort to create all the stuff in it. It’s a testament to making and the construction and attributes that come with a creative process.
'Haus Beutler' (2014/16) Mixed media. (detail)
I promised myself I wouldn’t write about comparing the work to Phyllida Barlow here; I will not compare Michael Beutler to Phyllida Barlow. I will not compare Michael Beutler to Phyllida Barlow. I will not compare Michael Beutler to Phyllida Barlow....But, I think it is almost impossible not to see similarities between the two artist’s works!!! I’m sorry. Originality being only undetected plagiarism aside, both artists use low-grade materials to create abstract, often unstable looking forms that can be walked in or around by their audience. I think the crucial differences between the two being that Barlow is more of a painter and Beutler is much more context and process driven; the materials often coming from off the site they are built in and thus transformed back into their original environments in an altered state; the central piece in the exhibition alluding to Spike Island’s original use as a tea factory also echoed in the use of tea-bag bricks throughout. The processes of how the components in his installations are made is also often more ingenious than the result and within Pump House a variety of Heath Robinson style contraptions which have been designed to mass-produce walls of wavy, shiney corrugated card are displayed alongside the resulting constructions themselves (and believe me they are quite wacky, but they do the job they were designed for!). I think Beutler wants the audience to know how it’s made and part of the creative challenge is him devising these contraptions made from bits of wood and sticky-tape that enable him to quickly produce larger volumes of surfaces and components to build with.
Humour aside, I was in no way demeaning this exhibition when I called it ‘professional amateurism’ because that is exactly what it is, taking low-tech, low material and transforming it into something new, arguably extraordinary,  which retains the look of a DIY mentality. On a smaller scale these things could be classed as amateur but the installation here is so complex in its variety and volume that it must take a team of organising, planning and professionalism in order to pull it off. It reminds me also of Spartacus Chetwynd, a Turner Prize nominee whose work also sought to challenge the definition of ‘amateur’ within art and critique it as a pure, unpretentious form of creativity rather than as a negative; the perceived ‘lack of skill’ in a work of art is a kind of skill in itself. Beutler’s installation shares some of those ideas I think and possibly may make people consider how we define ‘skill’ and what expectations that creates in terms of how we perceive skill and production within art.
Michael Beutler’s ‘Pump House’ is on at Spike Island Bristol until June 19th 2016

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Own Executive Meeting!

In May 2014 'Herman the Chameleon'was sold as part of Musgrove Park Hospital's biannual 'Art for Life' auction, otherwise known as 'Art on the Block'. Two years on and we're back with 'Executive Meeting' a silverpoint and ink drawing. (For more info about silverpoint click on link at bottom of this post**)
Mine is one of eighty-six artist's blocks featuring genuinely exciting and brilliant contributions from Somerset-based artists that include; Louise Baker, Michael Fairfax, Elizabeth Earley, Jon England, Sara Dudman, Michael Tarr, Andrew Davey, Richard Pomeroy, Peter Messa, Jane Mowat, Gordon Field, Tim Martin and Fiona Bradford to name but a FEW! It is a great way of owning a small, affordable art work and I strongly recommend viewing them all before making a decision. Wonderful stuff and all money in support of a very worthwhile cause!

Art on the Block is a charity art auction raising funds to improve the environment at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton.  You can support this event by pre-bidding on line from 11th April until 9 May 2016 or you can attend the auction which takes place in the Beacon Centre, Musgrove Park Hospital on Tuesday 24th May 2016 at 6pm.

Reknowned local and international artists have created works on A5 blocks, including painting, drawing, print, glass, collage and sculpture.


Lot 34. Natalie Parsley, 'Executive Meeting' Silverpoint, ink. (2016)
Good luck choosing your favourites!
If you feel compelled to be within a chance of owning my block, 'Executive Meeting' then please place your pre-auction bids for Lot 34, here:
* Find out how last year's auction went at:

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Drawing a Week 2015-2016

Back once again! What began with the 'Drawing a Day' project in 2013* continued in a moment of madness for a second time in 2014** and in 2015 evolved into the more manageable, 'Drawing a Week' 2015-2016!
February 27th 2015, Mono print and ink on paper.
Despite having finished it in December last year I have been uncharacteristically slow in getting this sketchbook scanned and uploaded online, this is largely due to the fact that I don't feel that everything I produce needs to be made public. Sketchbooks, to most artists are generally quite personal or private things and feature often the most honest and rawest work; some of which is ugly or badly drawn and other works experimental and full of an integrity of purpose. 
Against that better judgement perhaps, I've eventually decided to present this project here. Though genuinely still a bit reluctant to do so, I value the opportunity to reflect on them through writing this post and comments from the public and peers more than my insecurities of sharing them to a wider audience.
What a year 2015 was! I'd made the decision to do at least one drawing a week, in my A5 Sea White of Brighton, sketchbook -this was as consequence from wanting to allow more time to produce and experiment with the work as well as be able to produce more work outside the sketchbook. In fact images that began life as tests or drawings in these books have grown and continue to be starting points or references to new work I'm creating at present. In variation to last year 2015's offerings were in a much wider range of media, from pencil, to ink, mono printing, silverpoint and watercolour (though often a combination of a few). This was in my view the most successful aspect of the 2015 drawings and the re-introduction of mono print significantly gave a rekindled sense of life, expression and depth to my work. Nothing still quite matches mono printing, for quality of line, chance and sensitivity in my opinion. 
March 5th 2015, Mono print and ink on paper.
Other changes to the 2015 drawings were that they were considerably more open to chance in how I experimented with media, allowing the medium to dictate the drawing rather than the other way around.
 The subject matter for the drawings followed tangents of thought that were parallel to work I was creating outside the sketchbooks, so for the first time last year work I was making outside the sketchbook was fed by work I'd previously done and vice versa [probably most evident in the mono print works/tools]. They had a bit of a dialogue which I'd like to develop further this year.
 The mark-making and type of line was expanded upon from the previous 'drawing a day' projects which was mostly due to the introduction of silverpoint which forced a broader depth of layering/mark-making to happen and has impacted on being more experimental with marks during mono printing i.e. applying different pressures of line to create different thicknesses.   
Working bigger has also significantly changed the intensity and surface of the drawings from previous years allowing for more surface/texture/background and detail.
Whilst I feel marginally my drawing continues to improve there are still many aspects I aim to develop which include; 
Working more/if not entirely from life: In many ways the better drawings have still been those drawn from life (i.e. real objects, things). There is a 'flatness' that comes from drawing objects, animals, things from photographs or off a screen. Similarly a sense of movement or resonance from drawing actual objects may bring a new challenge or perspective to the work -sense of immediacy or 'lived' moment that could invigorate my drawing. Its a challenge that slightly daunts me, but would be an opportunity to really demonstrate my passion for the 'remarkable everyday'.
May 28th 2015, Acrylic ink/pencil on paper.
Cylinders: Just a small observation, but an important one. I seem to struggle with cylinders! The bases of paint cans, cups, bases of round or curved objects etc. They never look quite right, even when I think they do -I don't notice it until looking back on it much later. I'd like to improve drawing this form as well as perspective and 3D forms generally.
More experimental: So far I have been almost solely representational in my consideration of 'what a drawing is' but conversely one of the more interesting drawings from 2015 was the below image; a completely playful experiment made by rolling a ball covered in ink inside a tube. I'd like to try more non-outcome based or preconceived ways of drawing and instead play with ways of making marks. This wouldn't be to abandon the representational stuff but I think it would open and loosen-up my way of drawing that may worth trying. 
Work bigger/different paper/outside of sketchbook: I think working outside of sketchbooks is a lot more liberating in terms of having a freedom to make more marks, stain, pour, paint etc. I also prefer the tautness of paper outside a sketchbook to print onto. So more experiments outside the sketchbook and on different papers.
Develop threads of thought: It has to be said that all previous drawing projects seem erratic in their subject matter and tone; going from the political to caricatures or illustrations. In many ways as touched upon earlier, not many are directly observations. Whilst this form of spontaneity has been very  cathartic I am conscious that it leaves many ideas or ways of working undeveloped. My suggestion is to take a starting point and work from it continuously evaluating and learning as I go in order to refine or explore ideas/mediums/subjects in greater depth rather than treating imagery to the equivalent of fast-food!

January 21st 2015, ink on paper. 
Overall however, I have already been actively making work during 2016. None of which as yet is sketchbook-based, interestingly, so I am keen to reinvigorate this thread to my practice but want to approach it with the new suggestions mentioned above and see where the work takes me. The dark sincerity remains for me that drawing is still a pleasure and a mystery that is very integral to my practice and my overall sense of being/purpose. 
Therefore I am once again pleased to present the 'Drawing a Week 2015-2016' project below where you can put to test all my above observations and hopefully draw your own conclusions...

Created with flickr slideshow.


(Note - you can either watch the flickr slideshow here or if it doesn't work on your phone/tablet then please click on the link below)
Watch the slideshow and/or click on the link here: