Since completing the Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs I have been thinking about what to draw nest, and whether it’s something I should continue to do. My practice is changing and I’m trying to think about how some of the concerns played with in the Digital Rain series might be carried across – translated – into paintings. The drawings that engage with art historical works might be considered a separate strand of my practice that relate to my PhD research and that perhaps it should be retired. I’ve thought about this but now and again I see something that catches my eye and cries out to be drawn.
That happened when I was in the Courtauld Gallery in London recently. A small grisaille by Bruegel (again) attracted me and I began to think it might be worth having a go at drawing it. As it happened I visited the Courtauld again soon after and the idea was confirmed.
So, here it is: ‘After Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery”. I like the subject matter as it condemns people for judging others.
I’ll keep adding to the image as new panels are completed. If you’re interested in buying this, let me know. The final drawing will be A1 in size — 594 x 841 mm — made up of eight A4 panels. £150 and it’s yours (unframed).
Image taken from the weareoca blog, which I recommend you look at…
As I’m sure many of the regular visitors to this blog know, I am a tutor in Drawing / Painting / Fine Art for the Open College of the Arts. Recently I was interviewed in my studio at Bloc in Sheffield as part of the ‘creative conversations’ strand the OCA is running to mark its 30th anniversary. It’s about half and hour long and gives an insight into my thought processes and what – if I’m honest – I think students should be up to…
Click on HERE and you’ll be taken to the vimeo site where the film is posted.
I am delighted to announce that I will be having my first solo London show at the Green Rooms Hotel in March. On display will be around forty of the Digital Rain images that have been produced since autumn 2016.
Please join me at the opening on Thursday March 1st from 7pm, no further invite is required. The exhibition runs until Tuesday 27th March. It’s in the foyer / bar area of the hotel and consequently open much later than normal galleries.
Getting There: Green Rooms is located opposite Wood Green tube station, just 12 minutes from King’s Cross and 20 minutes into Central London on the Piccadilly Line:
GREEN ROOMS HOTEL
13-27 STATION ROAD
All works are 30cm x 30cm and all are for sale. Framed prints at £90 each, and unframed prints at £75.
More About Digital Rain
Digital Rain is a collection of digital collages in which diverse visual material is collided. The starting point for the work came from linking the so-called refugee crisis of 2015 to historical and cultural events that led to that migration. Soon after starting the series in Autumn 2016, I began including images taken from 1970s science fiction, art history, and contemporary and Classical culture. The myths and stories that underpin European civilisation (whether Classical or religious in origin) are full of brutal acts of violence and of migration and travel, especially across and through the Mediterranean.
Making these pictures is a way of working through some of the historical connections through visual manipulation and juxtaposition, presenting the events of today as part of narratives that have been playing out for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Including visual quotations from dystopian movies implies the likely ongoing prevalence of these issues.
The resulting images are at times bewildering as they rely on sometimes spurious connections or respond to a news item that is now forgotten. Making Digital Rain is a messy and speculative process in which images are deliberately forced together challenging the audience to make sense of something that is, at heart, incomprehensible.
In the same way that each image is a collage the images, too, are forced together to draw out links and similarities across the collection. This, too, can be disorienting as iconography can be used in different ways in different pictures, subverted with humour, or taken seriously.
I hope that people enjoy connecting the dots and that the complex issues that underpin and drive the work become evident, even if that takes three or four glances.
The exhibition at the Green Rooms Hotel is showing less than ten per cent of the larger Digital Rain collection, which can be found on Instagram.
More About The Green Rooms Hotel
I am delighted to be showing this work in such an exciting setting. The hotel offers bunk rooms as well as conventional single, twin, and double rooms, as well as suites. Basically, there’s something for everyone. The great thing is that artists qualify for a discount if they want to stay here.
Don’t just take my word for it, the hotel is getting some great press. The following quotes are taken from the PRESS page of the hotel’s website):
“This new arts hotel in a converted Art Deco showroom is a bargain by London standards… Green Rooms is a well-connected simulacrum of east London at a fraction of the price”.
The Sunday Telegraph
“A first for London: a budget hotel that’s part social enterprise… Cool, utilitarian and laid-back, it feels more Berlin than Wood Green”.
“With art studios, a performance space and residencies from London’s hottest chefs, Green Rooms is shaking things up in N22”.
“There’s substance behind the stripped-back style at Green Rooms… In this age of sensory overload it’s deeply refreshing to have all the excess taken away and a form of hospitality that focuses on the essentials in such an inspiring way”.
“Green Rooms ticks all the boxes to become a real hub for artists and creatives… The restaurant is nice and busy, and the interior design – which gives the place a lot of character – is drawing people in”.
Since taking on a studio in which I can make a mess and use oil paints, I have been trying to work out exactly how I might use paint to generate images, especially in relation to the still growing Digital Rain collection. My idea was to explore how an ‘analogue rain’ might be made, but first I needed to understand the medium. Aside from that I have been going through workbooks and chopping them up as well as rescuing abandoned drawings and ideas to see who they can be repurposed.
While I am aware that I have developed a practice founded on drawing works of art by others and have has some success in that, it is clear to me that I need to generate something new and not just repeat the work of others. I also know it’s not as simple as that. My repetitions were designed to explore a set of ideas and, during my PhD research, served that purpose well. I’m keen to drag old work into the new and to find ways of recycling imagery as well as physical things that remain unsold.
The image above is an almost complete pencil drawing I made of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes The Poor Fisherman covered in red oil paint (diluted with a lot of linseed oilP and then overlaid with a network of lines in marker pen. It’s an experiment, bit I’m pleased with the way the drawings shows through and with the way the marker pen lines sink into the paper, aided by the oil. I think I’m on to something.
Years ago I stopped painting. I dabbled a little when I began my PhD research (and even had one piece shortlisted for the John Moores painting prize) but soon tuned to drawing as my primary way of making work. Part of that decision was convenience; getting into the studio wasn’t easy and I needed to make work at home and preferably in he evening and at weekends. That meant developing something relatively clean and not too big. Hence the multi-panel drawings.
Since completing the PhD my work has become more complex and colourful. The collaboration with Chris Graham opened up the possibility of art historical references free-associating with more contemporary global issues. The Digital Rain work has been a place to explore picture-making and has been a rehearsal for something material. In short, I’ve been thinking about turning to painting for a few months as a way of addressing the territory that Digital Rain covers. To do this I have taken a studio at Bloc in central Sheffield. Initially I simply played with the paint to see what it could do, or rather what I could do with it. over the past couple of weeks I have begun to make work that seems to be more resolved, and which is pictured here.
At the moment I’m letting my nose and the material enquiry guide my work, but I am already beginning to think about how these things might make their way into the world. I hope you like them.
I recently completed (and sold) a drawing of Pieter Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs. It’s the same size as the painting — 117 cm × 163 cm — and made up of forty-eight paper panels. As with the other large multi-panel drawings I’ve made, I don’t smooth out the joins in the work but allow the grid like structure to subtly show through.
It was a great piece to draw as there is something of interest in every part of the work. Each panel stands up as worth looking at. By making this I’ve become aware of all sorts of detail I might otherwise have missed.
It’s full of visual representation of proverbs and saying. Some are well-known and still familiar to us (the guy in the bottom left hand corner is banging his head against a brick wall, for example) and easily understood, but some are more obscure.
There’s more information about the painting and the proverbs here.
Since October last year I’ve been making the Digital Rain series of work. It’s grown and grown – too big to post here in detail, but I post almost everything on Instagram and Twitter, so you can follow my progress there.
Last weekend I made a fifteen minute video that explains how I made one of the series – posted above – and posted it on YouTube. My speech is a bit clipped as I had to slightly speed it up to upload it. When I started making it I didn’t know what I was going to make which is in line with the improvised nature of the project.