In the studio


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Ethiopean PAX

Following on from two weeks ago, where I left a piece of work called PAX out for collection, I thought I’d give Free Art Friday another go.

This piece was made from one of those ramps that are used to keep cables tidy and stop people tripping over them. I don’t know what you call these things – perhaps someone will enlighten me. Anyway, it had been knocking around the estate for months, so I thought I’d use it.

I thought it would be nice to paint an icon, and I thought it might be nice to paint it with a black face (much more representative of the area I live in) – so I based this piece on icons from the ethiopean church, which has a really interesting history, if you’re aware of or interested in church history.

We’ll see what reaction if any this one gets. It’ll go out first thing on Friday 31st July 2008.

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White Van

She wasn’t very young. She’d had a life of hauling
things around. Her latest beau’s a fitter
that’s working hard enough to leave her keys
inside her un-attended. Then she went.

Abandoned and gashed along one side
she crashed out right in front of council flats –
a hidden part of Southern London – rare
that someone comes there just to hide.

And then the raping starts as kids break in,
go in and out her sliding door that’s on
the side, and open up the back with ease
before they rip the innards out and spread

the contents everywhere. The carpet tiles
and underlay, the grip-rods, scaff poles, tools
and spray paint cans all arcing through the air
and sometimes used to mark surrounding things.

Her owner came and rescued what he could.
He brought his brother’s bravado – useless when
the kids had gone for tea. The men could not
save her. Insurance men were called. They couldn’t

turn her over. Turn. Turn turn.
Turn. No. Battery: dead.

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PAX Update…

It’s now a week since I put PAX out as part of Free Art Friday, and in an effort to
to create a sense of calm and influence my environment in a small way.

It’s gone. It went sometime on Wednesday, although bizarrely the candles were left behind (although they’re gone now too, I think).

I feel a strange mixture of happy and sad. I got quite attached to it being there – I could see it from my window, and I would find it strangely reassuring as I glanced up from the laptop to look at it while working (click on the photo, and you’ll be able to see it – very small in a big space). But I’m glad that someone has them. I hope they’ve gone to a good home.

It was interesting to see people interact with it. On Saturday, two early-teenagers dressed from head to toe in chav pink came and sat there chatting and looking at it. A bit later a couple came and sat there whilst the girl combed and platted her boyfriend’s hair.

A little later in the week someone came and moved them slightly further apart, another stacked them all up into a pile, and finally they were gone.

I was sort of hoping they would stay there and colonise the space a little bit. It was nice to feel that I’d somehow claimed the space in a peaceful way – instead of it being a place where people come to hurt people it was a bit more calm.

I haven’t had time to make another thing to take it’s place, but I will. It’ll be Free Art, just maybe not always on a Friday…

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They came.

They came
straight in, no pause
“Now this I’ve got to see”,
she said and carried bags and
some coats to keep them clean from blood
and then the sound of someone being
kicked. A sound like sandbags. thud. thud thud. thud
as fifteen people set about him, trainers rain
the thuds along with “FOK”, “You FOKing FOK”, “You do
that for?” And probably he knows or doesn’t think he
don’t deserve it as he collapses on the floor
he needs to be supported by his mates but
instead they pick him up and take him with
and off they go and drain away. It’s
dark and quiet – peaceful now there
is nothing left to show for
this entertainment. Close
the blinds and up the
fear for all

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Urban Art Fair 2008

This weekend (just gone) was Brixton’s Urban Art Fair – an annual event in Josephine Avenue/Helix Road, in South London, UK.

The idea is simple – divide up the street into a series of “pitches” for a weekend in the summer, and rent out each pitch to artists to sell their wares to the general public – It’s one of those strangely idiosyncratic and anarchic things for which the Brits are justly famous.

Fairly inevitably, there’s a mix of the very very good, and the absolutely awful, but if you fancy yourself as an art collector, it’s definitely worth a visit, as you’re bound to find something to your taste. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for myself and the family, and my children are usually placated with a slap-up meal in the brilliant Negril – a Jamaican barbecue/restaurant across the other side of Brixton Hill. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a whole year for the next one, but sign up on their website for updates.

Like many also-ran artists, I knew of it’s existence but I’m kicking myself for completely forgetting to enter myself for a pitch this time around. Pitches are extremely popular and competition is fierce, so if, like me, you’re going to register for the next one, do it NOW and stay sharp!

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After a long week starting with a rather horrific incident on Monday, I thought I would try my hand at doing a Free Art Friday effort.

Free Art Friday is simple idea – artists leave out a piece of their work on the street for anyone to take on Fridays – some lucky sod gets a nice piece of work to hang on their wall for nothing. Art for the masses. Its a great idea, on lots of levels.

I thought I would take some of the rubbish that gets left on our estate, and make it into artwork. It might stop the yoof throwing it at each other or hitting other people with it or throwing it at cars – something I see pretty much nightly outside my window. This particular piece of board was once all in one piece – part of a table I think – that someone left out about 3 months ago. The local council with their usual efficiency have yet to take it away, and it has been dismembered into about four pieces in that time.

This is fine for me, as it leaves me the raw materials for a triptych. PAX is almost a prayer on my part for peace, which is something we could really do with for the Summer here. In an area where even the wardens are dreading this coming weekend (the first weekend of the school summer holidays), I’m hoping that art can create calm. I’ll leave it outside in the derelict playground in front of my apartment, where the kids often come to drink and smoke, and sometimes kick each other.

Of course, PAX could still be used for hurling at people and cars, but I’m an artist, and this is probably the best I can do right now.

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Meanwhile, back at the studio…

I had my first day back in the studio after a looooong time, yesterday.

I thought I’d go in and check to see if the creative spirit is still alive, or has gone off to go and haunt some other poor soul.

I can tell you that I can still make frames, and that the possibilities are endless. The ideas have come and created a log jam in my head, as there are so many of them. I don’t know where to start, which is a relief of sorts.
I once saw someone on TV (who paints as a hobby) saying that she has so many ideas that they are snapping on the heels of each other, and that anyone who is “sitting around waiting for inspiration” is either a liar or lucky to have that much free time on their hands.

Unfortunately the person who said that was Anneka Rice.

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e e cummings

e e cummings

I came across a good poem by e e cummings today.

I’m reading a compilation of his selected poems, and to be honest it’s been heavy going. I like the idea of reading something that is mutilayered, but in his case, it’s possible to have too many options.

As you may have surmised, I wasn’t looking forward to whiling away my journey in his company, but earlier today I read a poem that was so good, it made me feel bad for cussing him on Twitter this morning. I thought I’d share it with you:

hate blows a bubble of despair into
hugeness world system universe and bang
-fear buries a tomorrow under woe
and up comes yesterday most green and young

pleasure and pain are merely surfaces
(one itself showing,itself hiding one)
life’s only true value neither is
love makes the little thickness of the coin

comes here a man would have from madame death
neverless now and without winter spring?
she’ll spin that spirit her own fingers with
and give him nothing(if he should not sing)

how much more than enough for both of us
darling. And if i sing you are my voice,

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Ronnie Radcliffe 20th June 2008

11 days old.

I haven’t done any drawing for ages. Seems like a good way to relax these days.

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At last! I’m in print!

I got my first copy of my first ever poem to be printed today. Cool! As you can see, it’s been put into the book opposite a reproduction of the icon I did for the moot community, which is good all round, and pretty exciting.

It has been published in a book called “The Becoming of G-d” by my mate Ian Mobsby. He went off to the States yesterday to embark on a speaking tour to publicise the book.

He’ll be at The Episcopal Book Store, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017 later today from 4.30pm to 7pm, (if you’re reading this from anywhere near there do drop in, he’d love to see you) and then on to other parts of New York, followed by Montreal, Canada, Jamestown NY, Chicago IL, Denver CO, Vancouver in Canada before ending up in Seattle WA on the 1st of July.

If you want to catch up with him, check his full itinerary here, and be sure to say Hi from me.

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Two Brothers

I am important. To me
you don’t seem bothered. At all.
You don’t put time in – with me
it’s all work and business like.

I’d love to rescue a piece
of something useful from this –
the history shared by us then
has made us men, and shattered us.

I’m not important. To you
I’m part of brokenness. Trying
to live a better way. But
just tell me how you’re doing.

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We make money AND art

Beyond The Wilderness in the stairwellJane looking slightly manic

After much wrangling, haggling, and placing sealed bids in envelopes from 2 potential buyers, I’ve finally sold “Beyond The Wilderness”.

It’s not so much the thrill of selling the work, or even making the work per se, but the satisfaction of knowing that this life does work – that it’s possible to make a living doing the very thing that you love the most.

I’ve sold it to some patrons who are also good friends of mine (and who’ve also bought my work before). Most work gets sold through previous clients. I agreed to sell this work at a slightly reduced rate, provided that the client threw a party to welcome in the work, and invite 15 of her richest art-buying friends.

It’s funny – whenever you talk about art in relation to money, it always makes people laugh incredulously. As if artists shouldn’t soil themselves with the dirty business of money. It’s true that I would do it for free if I could, but the reality of life is that you can’t do it for free and pay the mortgage.

Anyway, it’s interesting hanging artwork in someone’s house. It’s a different thing to hanging work in an art gallery, as the work takes a different life. What I’ve always liked about this work is it’s physicality, and how you have to move around to look at it. The stairwell was the most obvious place for it, as it’s a place where people move, as well as look up/down at. It’s in the right place for being able to see glimpses of the work from a distance, as well as being able to get right up close. Jane was very accommodating, asking where I thought it would look best in the house. How do you answer a question like that? It’s not my house!!!

If you would like to commission me to make a piece of work for you, then feel free to e-mail me at

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A sonnet

I wrote this sonnet ages ago. I needed to find it again last night, so naturally I came here to look for it (hey, I don’t store these things!) and couldn’t find it.

I realised that I hadn’t actually posted it. Horror of horrors.

After frantic digging through old notebooks, I finally re-discovered it. So here it is:

The park I take my kid to every day
has always got a scar or two from nights
before when older kids graffiti spray
between the scooter runs and knifing fights
and bites were taken out of children’s swings
by fighting dogs to sharpen up their teeth.
The morning’s fallen leaves and other things
disguise detritus lurking underneath.
My little girl knows nothing of this world.
She loves the slide, the sandpit, climbing frames,
the roundabout from which she’s often hurled –
just innocent equipment for her games.
And over there beside the broken fence
she’ll carve a better space through innocence.

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When I were a lad, the internet was in black and white…

..and it would go off for two hours at midday, and we’d all stand up and sing the national anthem.

Hat tip ffffound

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Three Corners Music

Hi All! Sorry about the lack of blog posts – I’ve been on holiday for the past week, down in Frome in Southwest England, staying with relatives..

I stayed with my aunt (Caroline) and her family – I mention this because they are a very musical family who a) I don’t see enough of, and b) I haven’t done much music on this blog, so I thought I’d share their music with you:

Caroline and Nick have a CD out at the moment under the name “Three Corners”, a beautiful melodic work that is a mixture of acoustic pop and jazz, which you can check out here.

I remember reading about their band, The Impossible Dreamers in Smash Hits when I was about 14. The reviewer compared her vocals to Tracey Thorn, which is both flattering and accurate, in my opinion.

They also have a myspace page.

Nick also plays trombone in a band called “Blue Midnight” which you can find here.

And when they’re not doing all that, they’re hosting Acoustic Plus – a music night for various local talents to play. If you’re down that way, you should definitely check it out, as the quality of acts is very high.

Say hello from me when you go.

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Women’s T-shirts

OK, I need some help here please – a quick straw poll.

I’m looking into different t-shirt styles for the chess-piece designs for women. What sort of t-shirts do women like to wear? Do you like:

a) the racer-back vest style like this:

b) a strappy top like this:

c) or one like this:

or d), none of the above.

e) something else entirely (please describe!)

What do you reckon?

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Just got back from =SPICO= Private View

…and a great night it was. He’s put a lot of work into the show and it’s paid off. I’ve always loved Nic’s cartoony/street art characters. At first glance they look quite cute, but the more time you spend with them, the more unsettling they become – just like good art should be. The images have got a slight manga-y feel to them and are a mixture of painting and collage, some with newspaper, and others with post office stickers. My favourite was the one called “TING” – there’s something about the mania of it, with the gesture of the hand and the word “TING” in large letters that really appeals to me. Stupidly I didn’t get a photograph of it. Although it’s not easy shooting framed works with a camera flash anyways, so perhaps it’s better that I didn’t.

The show contained various small framed works, but the centrepiece of the show is the end wall of the room. It’s taken up with a floor to ceiling mural (in the photo above) that Nic did for a commission, which the owner has thankfully lent back to the artist for the show.

Apparently he’s sold about 5 of the works with another commission in the bag, so the kid done good. It might be worth picking up one or two of these before he takes off, as I really think he has the ability to go far. I wonder if he’ll bater a painting for one of mine..

Also – I had a nice chat with one of the co-owners of the venue, Paul Dungworth. The Fleapit is one of those lovely venues that London is all about – a real find, slightly away from the Hoxton crowd, but still unmistakably Old Street. As well as free Wifi, good food, good art, and good music, they have a great selection of unusual ales, which is right up my street. I had the Power Station Porter beer (never miss a chance to sample Porter beers if you can). I also bought my mate Tim a rather unusual Mexican dark ale. It came in a bottle that was possibly the most phallic I’ve ever witnessed. You’ll have to ask Tim how it tasted.

The show runs from now until 15th of April, so go see.

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My good friend and co-designer of t-shirts, Nico Yates has managed to get himself a solo show at The Fleapit, a bar/gallery venue in Old Street.

He will be exhibiting under his tag name, “=SPICO=”.

The Private View for his show is tomorrow night and he has asked me to let you all know about it. Not only is his work very good, but he will also be responsible for the music and general ambience of the whole evening at the Private View. During the rest of the show’s duration, you’ll only be able to see the works in the bar area, so for the full =SPICO= experience, you’ll have to be there tomorrow night. It’ll be a great event for all you Londoners who haven’t managed to get away for the Easter weekend.

The venue is The Fleapit in North London (details here.)

Nico’s Flickr Page is here.

He is also one of the artists who exhibited in Beyond The Wilderness.

The show is on from 6pm FRIDAY 21ST MARCH until TUESDAY 15TH APRIL, Private View Friday the 21st March 6pm – 11pm

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They called you Robbie.

That wasn’t what I called you back at school.
You had a different tag back then, with friends
and you and I were eight. You played the fool
at my expense in front of all the kids.

I want to hurt you

and now I have the chance. You’ve no idea
how often I returned to your assaults
that time. The sound, the looks, the memory’s clear
from frequent re-rehearsals ever since.

And now we’re older

I stop. Your face has sadness. Looking coolly
you don’t see me. I see your life is written
on your shoulders. A life of being a bully
with humour made you suffer more than I have.

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I’ve just submitted my first poem for publishing. It’s going to go in to a theological book, by a friend of mine called Ian Mobsby – the book is called “The Becoming of G-d” and will be published soon.

I’ve read a lot of the book, and it focuses on recovering a better understanding of the Trinity. It gave me the idea for writing a large chunk of the poem in dactyls, which have a kind of ONE-two-three rhythm, which I could then break up with iambs, as the idea of interjection by writing takes hold.

A dactyl consists of three syllables, with the first one being slightly stressed. Some example of where this crops up naturally in the English language are words like “Happiness”, or “Perfectly” you would naturally say “PERfectly” rather than “perFECTly”. Trying to construct an entire poem out of dactyls is a bit of a task, but I think it has some merit. Here it is:

On Friday nights we went to clubs
until we noticed something that
night when the three of them came and took
over the regular dancing. So

Did the Creator throw shapes on the
dance floor whilst dancing a salsa that
turned all the heads of the punters there?

Vogueing away while the other two
scattered. They took up their places but
somehow remaining together there

How the Companion perfected that
fight in a way that was calming them.
Making them friends from thereon until

Now. The Revealer is reveling
showing us all just a little too
much how its done by his lead for us

Dancing together while beckoning onlookers
come on and join us, and have a good
time. Doesn’t matter it’s happening.

Keeping the rhythm up copying
maybe looked easy as no-one would
dare to reject their advances then

in pairs we couldn’t make it work
and groups of us tried sussing out
as individuals put together
were fitting triplets into four time.

We stopped the dancing, getting going
on paper noting down what happened
as dancing disappeared while writing
and scrapping round some bits of paper.

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How to light an art show

A lot of people have commented to me how good the show looks, and how great the paintings look in their space. One of the great things about the SW1 Gallery where Beyond The Wilderness is showing is that it is properly kitted out with lighting track.

If you’re showing work, then lighting can make all the difference. There’s nothing worse than having a piece of work on the wall that’s stuck in a dingy corner. The piece doesn’t get seen, and the artist gets offended.

The joy of the lighting track is how versatile it is. In this case, the track is made by ERCO. If the piece of art on the wall is not directly under the light, you can slide the button round on the side at the top of the light fitting, pull it out of the track, and move it somewhere better.


Of course, the fitting itself pivots and tilts, so you can point it right at the work. It can be quite dramatic if you do that, but it does make the work look good.

At the SW1 Gallery, there are two types of light – spots and floods. The floodlighting (in this case the square ones) will light up the whole area that you are pointing it at. It diffuses the light over quite a wide area, so whilst the light is not intensely bright, you can give it a general flood of light that helps.

Spotlights concentrate the light in one particular place, which draws the eye to the work nicely.

If you look at the photo below, you can see how the spotlights light up the work nicely. For bigger works, you would probably want to put a few spotlights on different parts of the work, to make sure it is well lit-up, rather than just have one spot right on the middle.

The other thing about lighting track is that inside the track, there are 3 separate circuits. What this means is that you can basically have some lights on separately to others – and turn them on and off as you please. If you want to light up one side of the gallery one day and turn it off another day and light up the rest, then you can do so. Certain lights can be made to come on when you switch on Track 1, others on Track 2, and the rest on Track 3. You get the idea. To select the light to come on with a certain track, you have to twist the round button near the top which is mark “1”, “2” and “3”. Easy-peasy.


In practise, every time I come to do one of these (it doesn’t seem to matter what gallery I work in), the switches seem to bear little or no relation to what tracks light up with which light switches, so you end up experimenting until you work it out!

The only thing you need to be careful of is that you don’t put all the lights on one track, which will overload the circuit.

It took me just over half a day to get it all looking how I wanted – up and down a very tall ladder. Make sure you allow enough time at the end when you’re hanging. Get someone else to sweep the floor/write labels/touch up the wall while you’re doing it.

Have fun!

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How to curate an art show


OK, It’s been a couple of days since the start of Beyond The Wilderness, and so the dust has settled somewhat.

We’ve started a Flickr pool of photos from the weeks activities here.

The workload in the run-up to any show’s opening is always stressful, and exhausting, resulting in late nights, arguments, and last-minute emergencies. That’s the nature of this job. If anyone else is reading this who sets up art shows, or has set one up for the first time, then take heart – it’s not just you.

It culminates in the opening night, which is when you have to be nice to people, when you have the least energy to do so. If you don’t sell any work, it can be very dis-heartening. But that’s life. Keep going. You need to do more of these, and eventually it will start to work for you.

I’m now in the eye if the storm. Everything is pretty much up and running. And needs very little to maintain the day-to-day running of the place. The SW1 Gallery has it’s own staff in the form of the lovely Heidi, so I don’t need to be there every day. And because this is a team effort, there are some wonderful people willing to sit in on the show every day, and be a smiling friendly face.

The bulk of the sales of work tends to happen on the opening night, so we’re now relying on a certain amount of passing trade, to sell more.

I have to say, that there is a great deal of satisfaction from just showing work, aside from any sales being made. If I could do it for free, I would. The opening night was a great success, in terms of the lovely comments I got from people about how good they thought my work was, and how impressive the show is as a whole. The other artists were honoured to be asked, and had a lot of fun inviting their friends, and being complimented on their work.

Aside from that, people get to stand in front of works and think new things, and go new places. As an artist you can have people listen to what you’re saying (in the form of art) with undivided attention. People get to have a new experience that you have provided. You get the chance to meet new people.. The list of benefits for you the creator, or you the viewer is endless.

Earlier, I said I was in the eye of the storm. The other end of the storm is the set-down next Friday (the day after the Cabaret). Basically its set-up in reverse, but a lot faster. We had 3 days to set up. We have 1 day to set down.

Set down is generally a lot faster anyway – you’re not hanging stuff on the wall, and carefully judging where it goes, lining it up, making sure it’s level, lighting it accurately etc. You’re just taking it off the wall, wrapping it, ripping the screws out of the wall, sanding, filling and painting the remaining holes, and taking home the works that you haven’t sold.

It’s also the saddest time, as the show that you have put your heart and soul into is at an end. Until next time.

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Beyond The Wilderness. It’s up and on.

I just got back from my own private view, and I am absolutely exhausted.
The night was a triumph, and I was very happy with how it went.

However, although I am too tired to blog it myself, the venerable Jonny Baker has blogged about it already. So (for now) I’ll just send you there:

Lenten journeys

Also – he took some great photos which you can also have a look at here.

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Beyond The Wilderness. Setting Up. Day 2.

Well, today went a lot better than yesterday. I’m still absolutely wiped out though.

I was thinking of posting a photo of the works, as we managed to finish hanging the show (pretty much) today. But if I did that, you wouldn’t come to the Private View tomorrow night. Ha!

So, I just have to line up the lighting track so that the works are well lit up, and drop Jonny Baker’s photo down by about 5 cms. And then we’re done.

Oh yes – and label all the works. And tidy up this lot:

Fortunately, I’ve had the help of the lovely Doerthe Rosenow. She doesn’t normally look like this, but I think I’ve broken her spirit:

If you’re thinking of coming, then I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night.

The address is:

12 Cardinal Place,
Cardinal Walk,
Victoria St.

Basically come out of Victoria Station, head for Victoria Street. Look for the big glass building with the roof that drops down into a point at ground level. Go in past the shops, and up the escalator. The gallery is the SW1 Gallery, next to Wagamamas.

Private View is from 6 – 9pm. drinks are free. Readers of this blog are most welcome.

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Beyond The Wilderness. Setting Up. Day 1.


And so it begins. I started hanging the show today.

I forgot what this is like, as its been so long since I last hung a show.

I swear to God, I think sometimes people think the art just sprouts legs, runs to the gallery and leaps on the wall itself, all level and flush with ready-written labels next to each piece.

And they probably think that the works will shuffle themselves about into the right order so that everything can be seen, nothing gets hidden in a dingey corner of the gallery, and wherever you stand in the place, none of the works jar against each other, are too close together or make the other works look bad by comparison.

So, despite a nice start to the day, its been a day of people telling me they can help out, and then not doing so on the day.. People throwing extra work at me last minute, when we we’ve had months to sort it out.. Sorry Mike, I need that now, rather than sometime over the next 3 days like we already agreed… Sorry Mike, I’m not around tomorrow after all.

It would be nice to be able to get to a Private View with energy to spare, and able to talk to all the nice people ready to push the artists and the various events involved with a smile on my face, but HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL no.

I will be flush faced, sweaty, and un-able to string sentences together, whilst floating around opened bottles of wine, that I won’t be able to partake in because if I do, I will nose-dive after 2 sips. Even though alcohol will be exactly what I need by that point.

No wonder half the artists I know are on the Colombian Marching Powder.

More of the same tomorrow, no doubt…

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Beyond The Wilderness. Work-in-Progress. I call this progress.

I have made this part of the work by projecting a photo I took up onto the white canvas I was made earlier this week.

I had to work on the photo image a little bit first – I put it on the laptop, and worked on it with Photoshop to get it to three shades of grey. This gave it the strong graphic image, almost a bit like a screenprint. I then made up the different shades of paint using acrylic paint mixed with cigarette ash and soil.

The soil and ash have added to the tone of the paint, but have also made it really lumpy, making it impossible to paint a straight line, giving it a more organic feel, which is quite nice. You’ll have to see it in the flesh at the private view next week.

I can’t believe it’s only 5 days away!

Here’s the finished painting part:

Stuck in a traffic jam..

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The Big Bang Circus

I caught up with a friend of mine today, called Michael Teasdale.

Michael is a fellow artist who has been working away on a massive project for about ten years.

Well, it finally has a web presence. It’s called the Big Bang Circus. It’s still very much a work under construction, but I couldn’t resist telling you about it, as he deserves more recognition than he actually gets.

It’s an absolutely awesome work that threatens to take over his life (and more importantly yours) very soon. There are intentions to make a book/film/cartoon/universe/etc. The hook is that there’s a bit of a maze-like story to it, with hidden depths that you don’t find out about until you’re well and truly lost in it.

You can also see his other work at (also under construction), which I’ve not seen before. Don’t be put off by the mugshot of Mike, though. He’s really very nice…

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Beyond The Wilderness. Work-in-Progress. Still.

I did a little extra work today…

I sprayed the paving slab some more. I used the line-marking spray that surveyors use to mark the services and hidden pipes on the road before they dig it up. Presumably to stop some dullard workman putting his pick through a water pipe.

I also laid a couple of coats of white acrylic on the board for the painted image I’m making as part of the work. Acrylic is weird. If you’re using a good one like Lascaux, then it should settle and cling quite tightly to the surface you’re painting on.

This is quite normal for acrylic paint. Its hard to know whether to pile it on thick, or build it up slowly over time with thinner layers. I think the first layer I put on was a bit patchy and uneven. And settled down really well in some places and not so well in other places. So today I put it on quite thick. It’s settling down again, but is retaining the lines from the brush it put it on with (a $30 4in. sable brush, in fact).

It’s nice like that – it is paint after all, and the physicality of the paint is.. not important, but its a part of the work, and I’m not ashamed of it, so to speak.

We’ll see how it progresses. Tomorrow is going to be a big day for the drawing part of the image.

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Beyond The Wilderness – Work still in progress

I started work on another element of my commission for the forthcoming Beyond the Wilderness show in London, UK.

It’s a stencil, spray-painted onto a paving slab. I think it will go on the floor, tight up against the wall below all the other elements that I’m adding in for this piece. I like the idea of having something resting on the floor.

There’ll be more to it than just the white image though. I’ve bought a load of floor-marking paint – the sort that surveyors use to mark out all the major services on roads – electricity, water, cables, that sort of thing.

And as for the rest of the work – you’ll have to wait and see…

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The roof of my studio leaks like a sieve.


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Beyond The Wilderness – Work-in-Progress

I forgot to mention – I got commissioned to do another piece of work for this show. This is what I have made so far.

The frame is one of those “In Emergency Break Glass” frames, adapted for the purpose. I carefully cut up 3 cigarettes and stuck them together. Then I used some dress-making pins to hold it in place – a bit like butterfly collectors do.

It took me about 3 goes to get the cigarette thing right.

This is only a small part of the piece, so there is more to follow.

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Why are artists so damn flakey?

So, re: my last post: I’ve been chasing up artists to appear in Beyond The Wilderness – the show that I’m curating..

Time for a little rant: Way back when I was a young artist straight out of art school (far too long ago..!) If someone had presented me with an opportunity to exhibit on a plate, then I would have jumped at the opportunity like a grasshopper off a trampoline.
So why are people so reticent now? Some of the people I invited to exhibit have known for months that we’re doing a show, and now – 1 month before the show starts – I get:

“Ermmm… uhh.. I haven’t really ummm got anything to show..uhhh.”

Well, fuck ’em.
There are plenty of other artists out there queueing up for the opportunity to show.
Good people.
Who know what they’re doing.
Like this lot:

So far we’ve got :

Jonny Baker
Clayton Sinclair
Alison Lilley Berrett
Jo Paul
Nico Yates
Geoff Plant

Tim Dendy
My Good Self
Adam Boulter
My Dog Sighs

I think its shaping up to be a great show. My only worry is that its mostly men, and mostly all white. It would be nice to get more of a balance. If there’s anyone out there who can fulfill the brief of the show, then let me know.

Remember, readers of this blog are most welcome to come to the Private View on Wed. 13th February, 6-9pm

Details are on the Moot Community Arts Website

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Beyond The Wilderness: Lenten Journeys

This is my next project:

I’m curating an art show as part of this event in Central London, UK for moot. It should be interesting, and I may diary the experience here if I have time. Curating shows is something I’ve done before, and there’s a real knack to it, which is difficult to pull off. Plus I’ve gotta make my own piece of work to go in somehow. Oh yeh, and I’ve managed to talk myself into doing part of the poetry workshop.

Should be fun! Readers of this blog are welcome to the private view on Wednesday 13th February.

Press Release:

Moot Community Arts in association with the SW1 Gallery, Victoria bring BEYOND THE WILDERNESS.
Identify your hidden desires, your soul’s yearnings and your long held hopes and dreams in the heart of the city.
Join us for BEYOND THE WILDERNESS – LENTEN JOURNEYS – end edgy collection of visual and performance arts taking you on a Lenten voyage of discovery.
it’s your chance to unleash the poet within, the artist inside and explore your spiritual hunger with others on a similar path.
BEYOND THE WILDERNESS comes from Moot Community Arts and contains:

  • A two-week Lent spirituality course, Tues 12th Weds 20th Feb 08
  • An Art Show, 14th to 21st Feb 08
  • A performance Cabaret, thurs 21st Feb 08
  • A Poetry Workshop day, Sat 16th Feb 08

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My body’s wracked with never-ending pain
I try to swallow through a swollen throat
another cup of honey, lemon – hot,
my bed is soaked and heavy with my sweat.

I shuffle sadly to the nearest doctor
with all the sadden pathos of an opera
to plead my case for need of medication
and hope I do not need an operation.

I’ve watched through every DVD I have
and then again with commentries. I blow
my nose again and clear away more snot
that exits from my nostrils day-glo green
the likes of which is normally not seen.
My scrunched up tissue tower nears the ceiling
and no-one understands the way I’m feeling.

I crawl back into bed to sleep again
I don’t believe I’ll ever feel the same
my body’s wracked with never-ending pain.

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I didn’t say the thing you thought
I said. You misinterpreted
my words with “should”s and “ought”s.

No WAIT. We’ve gone to something else
instead of what it was. I’m still
a little angry. What she tells
me isn’t that. You’ve made me ill

with this. I’m going to thump you in
a minute. Just a minute. Let
me say what I’ve been trying to
say from the start. It was something
vital. Something helpful for us.

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Happy Christmas Everyone

I tried to write a poem this afternoon whilst shopping in Knightsbridge for my relatives.

The result is pretty dreadful, but hey – It’s Christmas. Even poets can’t be bothered sometimes. Now I’m off for a mince pie.

Have a good one everyone, and thanks for reading.

I’m walking through the nicer part of town
away from home and all my normal cares.
The streets are not too full with handsome people
I take it in, and no-one minds my stares
For once I am happy

The shop assistant doesn’t want to work
on Christmas Eve (he drew the shortest straw)
But doesn’t mind me asking simple questions
A Happy Christmas smile is on his jaw
For once I am happy.

A simple present bought with little fuss
brings all my shopping to an end.
Returning home to make my wife her dinner.
Next year I do the whole shebang again.
For once I am happy.

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Leonardo’s Helicopter

Leonardo da Vinci, being the sketch book fiend that he was, invented a helicopter. Clearly the man had far too many ideas, and not enough time to make them all. (The experts think it would have worked, by the way).

The other day I was stuck in traffic on the A3 in London, and I thought… If Leonardo had been stuck in traffic on the A3, he would have made damn sure that he had time to build that helicopter, and get it working.

Come to think of it, he would also have sued the ass off Dan Brown for writing the bloody DaVinci Code.


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Finished Commission

So the moot icon finally got its first outing last night.

I think it looks ok. It looks better in the dark…!

There’s still a bit of tidying up to do – some of the lines need dealing with, and the impact glue that I used to stick the chalice on with has has oozed out slightly, but otherwise, its fine.

I’m not averse to altering it further, actually. The initial reactions to it have been favourable, but I think it may need a little evolution as people get used to it, and respond to it.

We didn’t process it out into the mass like I’d hoped, but we will. For now, it’s just good that people get to see it and get used to it.

Here’s how I made it:

Intro, Pt.1, Pt.2, Pt.3, Pt.4, Pt.5, Pt.6

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Moot Icon Pt. 6

I was going to title this blog post “Loss of Perspective”…

I’ve found it quite difficult to decide where to put the perspective, and tried it about three different ways – first with the centre somewhere in the middle of the table, then in various other places before finally deciding to centre it on the head of the figure in the middle. Which kind of make sense, thinking about it.

Now that’s finally settled, I just have to paint lots of very straight white lines, and frankly I’ve got performance anxiety.

And there was me thinking it was going to be finished within a week…

Still – I’ve photographed it without the overhead lights on this time, which gives you a better sense of how it looks. Nearly there….

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Drawing Restraint – Matthew Barney

Drawing Restraint 9 2005.jpg

I went to see Drawing Restraint, a show by Matthew Barney, at the Serpentine Gallery in London this afternoon.

Matthew Barney’s work is very good, and I’ve been a fan for a long time. Its the kind of work that you can keep going back to over and over. It never gets boring and each time you go back there’s something new that you didn’t notice before.

It has to be seen to be believed.

Try this – one of the biggest pieces is a series of 30 – 40 foot slabs of petroleum jelly in various states of solidity, lying on, under and around 1-inch 8×4 slabs of plastic, topped with a great big long thin chunk of ambergris (or whale vomit) encrusted with prawn shells, speared with a plastic harpoon trailing a plastic rope that runs off to join up with other works in other parts of the gallery.


Spend some time there. Walk around it. Smell it. Once the full force of its physical impact has registered you may find that other ideas and thoughts appear. Barney’s work often has mythological links and references, sometimes using masonic symbols in his work. Its quite intimidating if your not familiar with the lexicon, but its a great incentive to go and find out more, and I find his work thoroughly thought-provoking and educational.

If you’ve never seen his Cremaster cycle of films, I recommend that you watch at least one – they are the most heavily laden symbolic events that I’ve ever seen, and there you’ll get a true feel for his work.

The works in this show make me think in terms of whaling and the various ethics involved, of Moby Dick, and of oil-industry by-products. Whaling was once a much-used resource that has fallen out of favour. There are also interesting thoughts to do with escapology in this show. Much of the work focuses on the physical act of attempting to draw drawings whilst being prevented from doing so (hence the title) – trying to draw on the ceiling by bouncing on a trampoline or scaling the wall with climbing gear, or trying to draw on a boat that is being tossed about in rough seas – all of which are documented on video, and the results displayed for you to peruse – alongside Barney’s trademark photos of satyrs.

I’m always intrigued by artists who create a whole environment rather than just a finished work on a wall that stands alone, and Barney seems to be able to do this well without resorting to huge projected images in darkened rooms, un-like many other artists.

You know what? I’m going to give up trying to explain this to you, because I can’t. It’s too awesome for me to describe. If you only go and see one show this year, then please, please see this one.

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I Cannot Tell, Verse 1

This is my take on an old hymn – I’ve re-arranged the words to make a poem of lament. To me, this is a little more real than the usual triumphalist bullshit.

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I Cannot Tell Verse 2

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I Cannot Tell Verse 3

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I Cannot Tell Verse 4

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Doris Salcedo’s Crack

I’m sitting in the main turbine hall of the Tate Modern, looking at a giant crack in the floor. This is the new work by Doris Salcedo.

The first thing you notice about it is it’s very obviously made. It looks quite cartoony. Not at all natural. It runs the length of the entire turbine hall, right from the door-post to the other end, and under a glass wall out of sight, maybe into some office space that we don’t know about. In fact, it runs right under Nicholas Serota‘s desk. Probably. When you look into it, it’s got bits of metal buried in the concrete. I don’t know how much concrete you’ve seen in your life, but normally concrete has stones and “bits” in it – with steel rods for re-inforcing, so it’s obviously not the real floor.

I’ve already seen some dumb student land flat on their face because they tripped over it, and I’m wondering how long it is before health and safety come and put barriers everywhere. It’s a very physical presence, and slightly disturbing (how did she do it? Did they raise the floor? Is the structural integrity of the building compromised?)

So, we’re in a turbine hall, that’s now a museum of modern art… turbine hall… power…? Dividing between those who have and have not…? Am I warm…?

On picking up the leaflet, I’m told its about racism. Huh? Well, the turbine hall was built around the time of the greatest imigration into British society (rebuilding after the war, 1947, etc.) Its called Shibboleth, because the word “Shibboleth” means “a word used as a test for dectecting people from another district or country by their pronunciation; a word or sound very different for foreigners to pronounce correctly.” Modernity is a European construct that excludes non-Europeans, etc..

Oh, and the bits of metal in the crack, are suppoesed to be like the chains of slaves.

Right. This is a particular bug-bear of mine. How are you supposed to get that? The problem is, some one at the Tate has written that as an interpretation, and it becomes the authoritative one. There’s the fascism right there. The leaflet says “Walking down Salcedo’s incised line, particularly if you know about her previous work..” Well, I don’t.

It’s a great work for people to walk around, trip over, drop things in, sit by, and so on, and so on. That’s ok. It doesn’t need a leaflet to tell you what to think about it. I’m also a bit pissed off with the security guard jackboots that have been pacing around me since I first sat down and open this laptop up. Grr.

I’m going to start a new tradition. When you see this work, come and drop a coin in it, and make a wish, like a wishing well. I’ve already dropped the first pound coin in, as you can see from the photo above. My wish is that art would get better, and that people would stop crowding work with their own interpretation. Heal the cracks, you might say.

On a lighter note, I just can’t resist a good innuedo. I’ve been trying to hold back for this entire post, but I can’t contain myself, so here goes.. I’ve been to see Doris Salcedo’s crack. Her crack was a lot of fun. Lots of other people had fun too. At the same time. It’s quite a deep gash. It’s huge. I could spout forth on her crack forever. I saw right into it. Etc., etc.,…

If you think of any other good ones, let me know.

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Untitled – a poem


The thought has come to me before
at times I want, at times of stress
like now. I look at flowers grow
too beautiful for words, I think
about their death. And mine. Amongst
a thousand others. Hidden here
this garden quietly grows between
the city’s noises, roads and buildings,
as if some grass could halve the pain
we know we have to carry knowing
that death will bring us to a stop.
I sweat blood.

The thought has come to me before –
my life has been a gamble, not
on rolling dice like these two here.
I’ve understood experience
as something bringing change to this
short life. I might be wrong. I think
of everyone I’ve known. The women
are here. My friends have gone away.
Their lives are finite, too. And how
remembered will we be? Too late.
There’s nothing I can do about
it now. My breathing is erratic.
I’ve finished.

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Art London


So, I went to Art London this afternoon, at Royal Hospital Chelsea. Art London is a collection of galleries under canvas in the centre of London, UK, and it runs until Monday. There are a few events like this throughout the year – Frieze, the Affordable Art Fair, and the London Art Fair (which is a LAF a minute).

They’re spaces for selling work. And that’s all they are. This is where the art meets the commerce, and its these kind of events that are re-vitalising people’s interest in art, whilst creating a problem at the same time

Basically, someone has realised that if you set up an art fair in the middle of Chelsea, charge some medium-to-big-time successful galleries a shit-load of money to exhibit there, take a commission on any sales, AND charge the punters £12 just to get in, you stand to get very rich indeed.

What this means is that you and I go in, and are confronted by a) hoardes of paintings placed far too close together for you to look at them properly, b) hoardes of people placed far too close together for you to look at them properly, and c) Chelsea pensioners.

It’s a bit like a guitarist playing 50 of his songs at you all at the same time, and then asking you if you want to buy his latest album. “I don’t know! I have a headache!” is the correct response.

It’s a shame, because there are some genuine curiosities here, that might repay the time and effort of waiting and looking, but it’s far too exhausting to make that effort worthwhile (the best stuff seems to be on the right of the marquee as you go in).

The prices are a little more out of reach than something like the Affordable Art Fair, and the quality is not as brilliant as it could be, in my opinion. I suppose I should be networking, but the people running the stands look like they’re there because they have to be, rather than because they want to be. (I mean really, look at the photo).

The one to go and see is the Frieze Art Fair next week. The prices will be out of my league too, but as a snapshot of good contemporary art, it’s second to none. There are bigger name galleries there, the paintings are placed at a decent enough distance apart for you to look at them, and the people there are far more interesting to look at. Plus the quality of the work is about 100 times better.

Roll on next week.

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Moot Icon – Work-in-progress Pt.5

OK, those of you who are following the progress of this work, (it’s the icon I have been commissioned to make for the moot community) will understand what I mean when I say that I think I’ve got this back from the brink of disaster..

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you can chart the progress of this work here, here, here, here, etc.

I dealt with the issue of the table and seats being too vivid with a black wood patinating wax. I realised that the colours need to be more muted in keeping with the tone of the work. Its tempting to think that bright colours can be wonderful and eye-catching, but sometimes a more sombre tone can be better – in this case, if I’m doing an icon that is going to be used in a reverent and quiet way, then it makes sense to have more muted colours – its much more sensitive to the end use of the thing. So the wax has made the colours look a little less obtuse. The blue fairy lights are enough colour.

However, I also realised that the whole thing had become a bit too floaty and ethereal, and that it needed something a bit more solid about it. So I’ve picked out the edges of the table with white gloss paint. Obviously, I’ve just tried out a small part of it – the table needs feet, for one thing – and I’m going to paint the edges of the blue cube “seats” that the figures are sitting on, too. The lines will be a bit more stricter and straighter when I’ve finished with it, but I think I’m finally back on track, and I’m well pleased (as Chas ‘n’ Dave would say).

The white paint kind of looks a bit like chalk marks on a school blackboard, which I suppose could raise issues about didacticism in religion. Nice thought.

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Bus to Work – a sestina

Waterloo Crater 1

It’s pretty easy here. I’m sitting still.
The engine chugs. I regulate my breath
whilst watching passing fathers. There’s his son.
They’re on their way to school. The bus moves on.
A new electric car draws up. We move.
It’s left behind. It’s stopped at lights that changed.

That building site’s a mess. It hasn’t changed
there’s always something happening, but still
the same. It never alters. Will they move
the cones? We’ll hit them soon. Too close! My breath
stops. Beamer driver has to try it on.
It’s grey. The forecast says there won’t be sun.

I try to focus. Jesus Christ. God’s son
is meant to help me persevere. I’ve changed
the way I think. I want to switch it on –
the peace they say you get from God. I still
myself and somehow can’t. If prayer is breath
I’m blocked. By what? A small unknown won’t move.

That cyclist doesn’t want to live. Just move!
These people think they’re it. They think the sun
shines out their arse. She needs to draw a breath.
She’s talked so long without a pause, she’s changed.
She’s gone a purple-red. Good God! She’s still
not breathed! So loud! Wait. Did I turn mine on?

because… Well, if the meeting isn’t on,
this journey’s wasted. What the…? Did he move
my bag? He looks a nutter. Just keep still.
I can’t quite see his face because the sun
is in my eyes behind his head. It’s changed!
The sun came out! It’s lighting up my breath.

I wake most mornings feeling short of breath.
The thought of work no longer turns me on –
the daily route to work that hasn’t changed,
the place I live because I never move –
it’s everyday, but just because the sun
will rise, and stop my body lying still.

And will the breath of God return and move
me on? And resurrect me like the sun
today? I wait each day un-changed and still.

Sestinas are difficult – the idea is that you have to re-use the last word in each sentence in each verse – but in a different, set order (in this case “breath”, “on”, “changed”, “move”, “sun” and “still”) and then you have to use them all in the last short verse of 3 lines (again, in a certain order). I’m making it sound more complicated than it is, but it’s easy to follow when you know what the pattern is. But a bugger to write.

Its great fun, because it can force you to make disjointed sentences that make the poem sound like the ramblings of someone slightly un-hinged, or in this case, the disjointed things that you might think about on the bus.

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New designs

After some feedback from various friends on how the t-shirts look, I have created a couple more products:

The “bishop” T-shirt is now available in good liturgical colours: black and purple.

Also, the “King” T-shirt has been altered, and now says: “It’s good to be the King…”:

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11.37pm – Villanelle


A shadow hovers from the past
tonight. And as I lay in bed
I feel my heart beat just too fast.

I turn. I wait. I think it passed
I need to know. I check it’s dead.
A shadow hovers from the past.

Some things grow to be too vast,
and as those things press in my head
I feel my heart beat just too fast.

And when I think that I’ve surpassed
the creeping, cold, despairing dread
a shadow hovers from the past.

A different thought that might contrast
but thinking back to what was said
I feel my heart beat just too fast.

And as I give it up at last
and put it down to how I’m bred
a shadow hovers from the past,
I feel my heart beat just too fast.

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Chess Pieces Do Unspeakable Things. On a T-Shirt.

And finally….

We’ve launched our t-shirt range.

Mik-a-Nik t-shirts was founded in 2007, when textile designer Nico Yates and artist/poet Michael L Radcliffe started doodling on Post-It notes with a felt marker. To see the resulting t-shirt, click on our webshop:

The t-shirts are all 100% cotton, except the Fruit of the Loom t-shirts which are 95% cotton, 5% lycra.

We will be keeping an eye on the site, and if there’s anything you think we could improve, we’d love to hear from you. If there’s any special orders you’d like, then let us know and we’ll try our best to accomodate your wishes.

We hope you enjoy them!

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You think you know, but do not know me well
I found another place, another hell
It’s mine, and mine alone, you cannot touch it
The secret place where only I can dwell.

My thoughts were pure, no mediation needed.
Concerned that all my thoughts would go unheeded
I ran away and hid in public places.
How ignorant. You’re proud that you succeeded.

Acceptance only happens when you’re solo –
you’ve got the time to play it back in slo-mo
and realise you made the better choices
than those accusing you of greater lows.

A confidence appeared from God knows where
a loneliness that’s hard enough to bear
and friends appear, concerned, and bring temptations
as power shifts from things no longer there.

This is my first attempt at a “rubai” form of poetry. The form grabbed me, as its origins came from the need to pass around subversive information without being detected. I think there may be more verses, and it needs a little work.

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Rum Royals

Their skins are taut, their eyes are bright – they’re royals.
I bet the most expensive balms of man
are slathered on each night, preventing boils
from ruining the smoothness of one’s tan
whilst one’s on horseback flouting hunting bans.
For this and other crimes, you’d best take note –
Republicans are desperate to vote.

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St. Thomas

On a good note, I think I’ve finally finished this work on paper.

It took a while. The thing looks quite stark, but I like that. It’s very arresting. Supernaturally so, I would say. A photo doesn’t really do it justice. Its impact is much greater in the flesh. I’m going to frame it sometime soon.

To me, I can see Thomas’ desire to measure everything, and test. I can see the struggle for perfection, and the route there. I can see St. Thomas in a contemporary way.

If you’d like it on your own wall, let me know.

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Moot Icon – Work-in-Progress (Pt.4)

There comes a time in the life of every painting when you think you’ve gone too far and buggered it up.

Today, readers, was that day.

Sometimes its just a perception on the part of the artist due to getting out the wrong side of bed that morning. Sometimes you really do bugger it up.

Anyway, its usually the biggest obstacle to getting a work finished. You like what you’ve done so far, you know you have to do a bit more, but you’re petrified of doing anything to it, because you’re scared of making the wrong mark. To the point where you don’t want to touch it. Ever again.

I think the saving grace is that the figures are so strong and threatening, that I’d have to do quite a lot to it to destroy their impact. In fact, its almost worth trying to tone them down, to leaven their impact a bit so that they’re not so overpowering.

I’ve also got to find some way to put bread and wine on the table that they’re sitting around.

Maybe it’ll look better in the morning.

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The Turner Prize – And the nominations are….

The Turner Prize has gone wierd again.

This year’s nominations include Mark Wallinger, and Mike Nelson, who have both been nominated before (and whose work I’m quite fond of), Zarina Bhimji, and Nathan Coley.

They’ve moved the whole she-bang up to Tate Liverpool.

There’s a retrospective show of past winners at Tate Britain.

Does any one know how much a train to Liverpool costs? Or should I just watch it on TV?

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Jochem Hendricks Show – Haunch of Venison

Just got back from the Jochem Hendricks show at the Haunch of Venison Gallery.

It’s a great show. The ground floor has a series of works on paper made by one of those machines that draws a line that follows where your eyes look.

On the second floor there are glass baubles that are half-filled with sand. They look like individual womens’ breasts, which is quite funny. There are also artificial diamonds surrounded by feathers on plinths.

However, on arrival on the top floor I realised very quickly that it was probably just about the worst show possible to take a 2-year-old to. It has 8 stuffed dogs all poised and looking straight at you as you ascend the stairs (see photo).

Our 2-year-old is very good though. She didn’t touch anything. Honest.

Generally fun though. He’s put together some things in a nice contrasting way, juxtapositions that make you feel lovely. Things created versus things that are natural. Its an interesting thought. Discuss.

One of my friends who came was wondering whether I was going to talk endlessly for hours about the work (like his other arty friends), but I don’t really like doing that. Good works tend to need bit of time for you to think about them. You can keep responding to them or getting new things out of them for a long time, but I prefer to walk away and come back another day – leave things time to settle. And this is a good show to do that with.

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Minor Altercation

But I’m not avin time for people like
that. D’you get me? Scuse me bein rude but
your bike’s there. How’d I get dis up the step?
I don’t think you got no sense. Thank you.

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My one and only Haiku

What is the point of

English poetaster tricks

by cunning linguists?



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Moot Icon – Work-in-Progress (Pt.3)

So, inevitably when you’re making paintings, the (literally) sticky topic of gold leaf comes up. I often put haloes on the characters in my painting, so I can’t really avoid using the bloody stuff. Its basically small squares of gold that have been beaten flat into sheets that are so thin, if you sneeze, they’ll disappear.

You think I’m joking. The first time I bought a book of gold leaf sheets, I cautiously peeled back the first page to look at one, and it disintegrated in front of my eyes, purely as a result of being exposed to the vapour in the air.

The process of adding gold leaf is called gilding, and there are two ways of doing it – water gilding and oil gilding. I don’t really bother with water gilding, as oil gilding is a lot easier – although if you can get good at water gilding, it goes on a lot more smoothly.

Basically, if you’re oil gilding, you put a liquid called gold size down exactly where you want the gold to go on your painting. Leave it to go a bit dry (so its sticky like scotch tape, not wet – usually after about an hour), then put the little squares of gold on. Getting the gold squares from the book to where you want them to go is usually pure comedy. You can’t pick it up with your fingers. It’s too thin. You have to get a big wide, flat brush about 15cms wide, breathe on it so it gets the vapour from your breath, pick up the leaf with that brush and then dump it on the painting in the right place. It will detach itself from your brush, and sail through the air like a feather in the wind about 4 times before you finally persuade it to go WHERE YOU BLOODY WANT IT TO!

For this work, rather than just put a perfect circle on the painting for haloes, I thought it would be interesting to dip the bottom of a paint tin in the gold size, and then put it onto the painting (that’s what I’m doing in the photo above). It’s still a circle, but it bleeds like when you put a coffee mug on a table. So now its got gold leaf on it, its a much more ragged circle, which is in keeping with the work.

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Gary Hume – American Tan

The new Gary Hume show opens today, 5th September, at White Cube’s Mason’s Yard gallery premises, right in the heart of Picadilly. It’s called “American Tan“, as are all the works are in the show.

I’m actually blogging this from the private view, as someone has rather generously not password-protected their wifi. I also wanted to take some photos of the inside of the gallery – more to capture the general ambience of the place, than to take photos of the work – but a very nice young fella told me I wasn’t allowed. No famous people here yet either, apart from Jake Chapman.

I like Gary Hume. I like him because he is a painter (and so am I). I like him, because, unlike so much work out there, his work is really playful. He clearly enjoys colour, and messing about with paint. I like his work because it has a sense of humour. Slightly cheeky, and sometimes a little dark, but there’s always something to raise a smile. I like his work because unlike many other works at the moment, its not made by ticking the right boxes, its not made by having a smart idea, and then phoning up fabricators from the Yellow Pages and “getting it made.” In fact, I like him so much, you might notice a small trace of influence in my own work.

I don’t know what he’s been up to since I last saw a Gary Hume show, as I’ve been away from the art scene for a while. Apparently, he’s been doing other things – things that you wouldn’t expect from his work. However, this one contains the sort of stuff that he’s known for, and then some.

The works are all great – I couldn’t single out one for praise. They’re basically sheets of aluminium painted with household paint, layered on really thick, but done to look like paintings of figures (ballerinas in this case). Very colourful. The surfaces are almost mirrors, they’re so glossy. There were also some works on canvas, which is a small departure – but these were lovely too… wonderfully rendered, soft and delicate somehow.

And then there were some simple sculptures – like ballerinas legs with cheerleaders pom-poms attached to one foot.

Go and have a look. It’s FUN.

And sometimes, its OK for art to be fun. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Bloody hell! I’ve just looked up, and in the time I’ve been typing this, its got REALLY busy. If I see anyone famous, I’ll let you know..

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Current Affairs Couplets II

It’s sunny now that autumn has arrived
The kids are back at school – and we’ve survived!

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Current Affairs Couplets I

The London Public Transport system sucks
The summer was nice weather for the ducks.

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RS Thomas – nailed it!

In a previous post here, I was attempting to write a poem about the poet RS Thomas.

It didn’t quite work, but after much wrangling, I think I’ve finally nailed it. It centres around the character of Iago Prytherch (I’m not quite sure how you pronounce Iago Prytherch, but I tend to pronounce it Ee-arr-go Prith-erk), who he mentioned repeatedly in his poems – I’m very pleased with the result. Here it is:

RS Thomas give it up, man!
Prytherch does not give a damn –
Did not really give a monkey’s
For your poets or their flunkies
exorcising guilty feelings
in a way that’s quite revealing.

Thing is, it’s quite boring, Thomas –
having this inflicted on us:
Rural worthiness and God
in a way that’s very odd –
My God’s in a place more urban –
More a universal version.

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Moot Icon Pt. 2

Aren't blue LEDs lovely?

Meh heh heh…

Oh yeh.

I did actually put the LEDs on temporarily the last time I was in the studio, but I wanted to surprise you. I’ve taped them on a bit better now – with a lot more of it. Making a feature of the gaffer tape also adds to the feel of it, I think.

Apparently there’s something about twinkling lights that encourages people to spiritual visions. I’m sure that Richard Dawkins would suggest that its all part of the way the human brain has evolved, and that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about God, yadda yadda… But there you go. It is what it is, and I’m happy to go with it for the moment.

Since I was last in the studio, the black electrician’s tape has come away from the wood a little bit. I’m slightly concerned, as I don’t want this to keep happening every time. It might just be the damp air – my studio has a lot of moisture in the air, which has lead to all sorts of problems in the past – and its impossible to heat it up sufficiently to deal with the problem.

I like the idea that the icon could look like a piece of wood found on a building side – with boot-prints all over it, coffee mug stains, etc. There’s something about the urban-ness of it that suits moot‘s ethos. The burntness is part of that. I don’t know how to depict the table, wine-glass or bread in that vein, though.

With chewing gum, maybe.

More photos will be added as the piece changes and is worked on.

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sacredbooksdisplay.jpg (JPEG Image, 384×153 pixels)

I went to the “Sacred” exhibition at the British Library in North London today. The show is basically an exhibition of Christian, Jewish and Islamic texts alongside each other.

Its a nice idea that puts together the 3 warring Abrahamic faiths, and you can see visually how similar the traditions are without needing to understand a word of Arabic, Hebrew or English. It was a great chance to see some really early manuscripts, and get a sense of touching history. Texts that are so close to the source of faith.

It seems to me, that broadly, the older and simple the texts were, the more of God seemed to shine through. I think the lesson is that its tempting to think that opulence and verbosity are no less than the deity deserve – that we can somehow communicate or apprehend God by being garrulous – but actually, for me God shines through the simplicity of the Kufic Moroccan Qu’ran in a way that is out of this world.

Funnily enough, it was the Islamic texts that (visually) allowed God to flow out more than any other. The Islamic prohibition on the use of images has lent a kind of purity to the visual, that is not quite present in either my own Christian tradition, or the Jewish texts.

The only Christian texts that really breathed God for me were the Armenian “Lives of the Desert Fathers” (that figure is one of the most alarmingly striking images I have ever seen) and the Ethiopian/Coptic rendering of the Trinity for similar reasons. Both had an unfamiliarity about them that was refreshing, and inspired me to dig a little further into the Desert Fathers history. Although bizarrely, I can find a link to neither on the British Library’s own website. Maybe I’m just being blind. Put a link in the comments box if you find them.

As to the drawbacks of the show – Its amazing how easy it is to “gag” art by talking about it. The clutter of signs, explanation and multi-media is so excessive, that it really distracts from the things you’re looking at. Both the Mizrah and the Islamic marriage contract were partially obscured by signs telling you what they were! Its only a matter of time before you might as well have stayed at home and read about it instead.

As a whole the multi-media experience was centre stage. The actual texts themselves were scattered to the edges of the room. What the hell was the blue LED cone for? Such wizardry displays a lack of faith in the objects we’re supposed to be looking at.

I’m a firm believer in making things accessible to all, but sometimes there’s a fine line between being helpful and patronising people. Some like having the explanations nearby, but the things that tend to get written on these placards don’t help people develop confidence in their own responses to art. In my opinion, it’s just as ok to say: “its nice.” and move on, as it is to just sit there and stare for half an hour because you can’t take your eyes off it. If you’re someone who derives pleasure from knowing how things fit together historically, then a bit of explanation is fine – or just buy the catalogue.

The moral of the story?

Keep it Simple, Keep it Sacred.

UPDATE: I got a nice response from Rob Ainsley from the British Museum re: the texts that didn’t make it onto the Sacred website:

“You’re right, there isn’t a page for the Lives of the Desert Fathers on the website. We only had time and resources to put about half of the texts on display on the website (67 of 150 or so). There’s a complete list at

However, of the texts that were in the exhibition but are not on the website, we *may* be able to add some of the ‘most requested’ over the next month or two. (Not a trivial business, because we have to do things such as taking high-resolution pictures of the text). If so, LoDF will be on our shortlist.”

Its brilliant that the British Library interacts with the punters, and it shows that they have a real love for what they’re doing that is forward-looking. Cool!

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I made a little film for a service that moot did at the Greenbelt festival on Saturday night.

It uses the track “F.E.A.R.” by Ian Brown. This track is an old favourite of mine, and I’ve been wanting to do something with it for a while – it suggests so many things, the lyrics are really clever, and the music as a whole is very powerful. If you don’t have anything by Ian Brown, then I can recommend that you make a start with his Greatest Hits collection, as the man is an understated genius.

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Moot Icon commences


So, I’ve finally started the icon for moot. Whether it gets finished in time for Greenbelt is a moot point, but at least we’re underway..

I had the idea for drawing the figures by scorching the wood for quite sometime. It looks much better in real life than in the photo here (but then I do only have a crappy point-and-shoot camera).

Since I started it this morning, I’ve realised that it fulfills a lot of things – the first figure (top photo) looks really scary and intimidating on its own. God the Father. Very foreboding. It also sidesteps the gender/race issues that I mentioned before – not in a bad way, but in the sense that you can read things into the figure without those issues becoming an obstacle.

I also remembered that many of our images of God revolve around fire – the Holy Spirit’s “tongues of fire”, the burning bush, the pillar of fire by night, etc.. This touches on the idea of abscence and prescence – the prescence of fire, but the abscence of it too – the scorched wood that is left behind having been visited by fire.

It also reminds me of the Hiroshima figures – the dust shadows of bodies left behind having been vapourised by the atomic blast – literally blown away.

I’m not sure that the figure on the left works as well as the one in the middle – and the combination of the eventual three may not work at all, but we’ll see. I did think of doing a white line around the figure of Jesus, to make it look like a murder scene – sort of like the chalk line on the floor where the body laid before it was taken away.

But then, that might just be something that only happens in Columbo films, which would make my icon look a bit silly…

But then a sense of humour is useful in a painting..

Oh sod it, I don’t know what to do now.

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Pyromaniac tendencies


One of the great things about being an artist is that, if you want to, you can legitimately set fire to things for a living…

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To RS Thomas


This is another work in progress. I can’t seem to finish poems at the moment, but I think that this one might just stand up as 2 verses, as is. Any feedback would be welcome.

To RS Thomas

Iago Prytherch
doesn’t give a monkey’s.
He did not care
for poets or their flunkies.

He had a choice
as you did too
though we kid ourselves
that choices are something new.

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Work in Progress (Psalm 22)


I have started writing this poem based aound a re-interpretation of Psalm 22. Be warned – it’s not very uplifting.

Dull in the Morning

My God, my God
why did you forsake me?
why didn’t you save me?
why did you run from this?

I’m screaming
all day
no answer
all night

It’s alright
for you.
You’re the King.
Everyone loves you.
My father trusted
and you delivered alright
trusted and disappointed.

But then –
I’m a worm
not a woman.
Scorned by men
hated by everyone
mocking me
insulting me
shaking their heads.

You brought me out of the womb
then you made me trust you
from the breast onwards.
From birth
no choice
womb onwards
you have been my god.
But you disappear
at the first sign of trouble.

all around me
the strong smell of bullshit
suffocates me.
Roaring, tearing
their prey
opening their mouths
wide on me
poured out water
bones out of joint
my heart like wax
burning inside me
my strength dries up
my tongue sticks
to the roof of my mouth
in the dust
dogs surround me
a band of evil men
circling me
piercing me
I can see all my bones
people staring
they divide my clothes between them.

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I wore this t-shirt
when I was five.
It fit me better
back then
but I keep it now
to remind me that I’m still alive.

My t-shirt was smart
it was deep blue
when I look at it
it reminds me
of you.

I framed it
and hung it on the wall –
everyone who visits
can see a smaller me.

It’s faded now
but you can still see
past the holes.
And I am still convinced
that one day
I will wear it again
with pride.

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A plate full of dhansak
a plate full of pulao
a plate full of gobi..

For a mealtime
at least
a man who would be king
eats like one –
shovelling it down
like a Cnut
trying to hold back
the inevitable tide
like Cleopatra
poisoned by Cobra
he can feel his veins
more pulao
a piece of chicken
like Ghengis Khan
he attacks waiters
their poor service
naming each one:
or “Oi”.

A stuffed paratha
is presented
a peace offering.
Head bowed,
bent knee,
like Sherpa Tensing
offering to carry a burden
to cover the shadow of disappointment;
hot, lemon scented towels
wipe away the tears
please come again
10% service charge added.

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Strawberries, Rest & Motion

These small red fruit
are known as “strawberries” –
At least, that’s what I’m told.

But I can’t say “strawberries”
so I’ll call them “bodies”
as I’m barely two years old.

– a poem inspired by watching my daughter eat strawberries at lunchtime today.

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Smoker’s Prayer Movie

I made a movie to accompany the poem that I wrote.


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I Got A Commission!

Hurrah! This doesn’t happen often. The moot community has paid me some money to paint an icon for their use.

I’m really looking forward to doing it actually. It takes a lot to get a commission right. Enjoying doing it is key. There’s nothing worse than doing a commission that becomes a drudge or an obligation.

Its also important to have a clear idea as to how the commission will work out. Rublev’s icon of the trinity (pictured) has a long history with emerging church groups, and especially many of the mooters, so it seems only right to do something based on this icon, as a trinitarian understanding of spirituality is so important to this group.

I have an idea to make the “Father” figure a black man, as this is important for moot – we live in a city that has had a spate of shootings recently, and many are suggesting that the absence of father-figures in the lives of black families is a contributory factor. So I want to paint a positive role model of the black father, also to show inclusivity and acceptance.

The Holy Spirit figure will be a woman, as its known that the Holy Spirit is in some way a representation of the feminine side of God. I want this icon generally to reflect the inclusive nature of the community, and of God.

Problems: The image only has 3 figures in it, which limits how you can show inclusivity.

The inclusion of the black father figure could be a statement about the absence of God, which could be two-edged – it can be seen negatively as well as positively.

The use of a woman for the Holy Spirit could also be seen to be reinforcing negative stereotypes about women, though (quiet and hidden, there to support men, etc.).

You have to think about these things – If you get it wrong, it can be an albatross both for you as the artist, and for the client. (Think Graham Sutherland – Winston Churchill)

Its a bit of a minefield really, but whatever I end up doing, I think I’m going to stick with Rublev.

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It’s getting worse…

The photo I showed you of my “sliding painting” the other day has got worse – it’s starting to ripple all over.

Whilst this is ok up to a point and has given me some other ideas, I am going to need some flat area to paint on, or I’ll have to start again – which will then be my THIRD attempt to get this bloody thing finished.

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Now this is just spooky…

The darnedest thing happened when I was working on this painting….

I’m not that keen on the idea of art as therapy, or art as self-expression. I don’t think these concepts make for good work, and I think that the artists who espouse those ideas are being thoroughly disingenuous.

When it comes to making work, I have a different  approach – I tend to allow things to present themselves to me. As a consequence, the work that gets made is often far better than anything that I would want to make.

Anyway, I had just finished painting the carpenters square for the second time for St. Thomas (trying to find the composition). I stepped back from the drawing board and looked at the image and this weird sense of “presence” happened. Both from the painting, around me, between us and in the room.

I’m not sure that I’ve described what happened very accurately. That’s the best way I can really explain it, though.

You can’t always explain experiences like that, and sometimes you shouldn’t try.

So I won’t.

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Damien Hirst’s New Religion

If you’re not doing anything in London, UK, there’s an exhibition of works by Damien Hirst that is worth checking out.

The show is called “New Religion”, and can be seen at All-Hallows-On-The-Wall Church in the city of London until April 4th. The priest at All-Hallows-On-The-Wall is the Rvd. Garth Hewitt who I know quite well, and the show has been organised by a friend of mine.

Its a great show and a bit of a coup for them. Apparently after they’d hung it, Damien liked the show so much that he created a brand new triptych especially.

I noticed with a certain amount of chagrin that Damien has done a series of works on paper of the apostles, which is exactly what I’m doing at the moment.

Ah well. Mine will just have to be better.

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Square Tom

First attempt at St. Thomas.

This is going to be quite tricky, as the elements are so simple (two straight lines at a right angle) that you have to be really careful to get it right.

You have to keep trying until it falls into the right place, and you have to watch carefully so that when it finally does fall into the right place, you don’t carry on and paint all over it.

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The Perfect Screw

After much trial and error, I’ve finally got the screw exactly how I want it. Now I just have to make each screw as good as the last, 30 times over.

I wonder how much more innuendo I can fit into one blog post…

Watch the stats rise…..

Sorry I haven’t been here for a while by the way. Have been busy painting.. more to follow

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Sliding Paint

Flickr: Photos from Mike6

I’ve made up this wooden board by pouring black household gloss paint onto it, but its been lying flat in the middle of the room drying off for a long time. Its also been getting in the way.

I thought that it would be ok to stand it up ready to paint, considering that I did it 2 months ago. However, it has sunk on one corner. I might have poured it too thickly, hence the little problem.

Though actually, I quite like it, and it might work with what I want to paint.

We’ll see.

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Two screws

Flickr: Photos from Mike6

So I did a couple of screws today – properly. With silver leaf and everything. They’re quite hard to photograph, as the flash goes off, and just reflects from the silver leaf.

The screws are ok as they go so far, but they don’t look quite as good as the one I painted yesterday, and it was only when I uploaded this photo that I realised why – the previous one had a little glimpse of the bugle shaped part at the top of the thread. These ones just look like bizarre screw/nail hybrids.

Still – just another 28 to go. By the time I get to the last one, I’ll probably be getting it about right.

And then I’ll have to go back and start again and do them all properly. I think this one is going to drive me properly mad. I wish I’d start St. Thomas now – it’ll be just a square.

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Work-In-Progress (Judas Iscariot Pt.2)

Flickr: Photos from Mike6

Let the screws begin…. All 30 of them.

This is also on graph paper, but the graph paper is in imperial measurements – all the other apostles will be on metric graph paper.

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Work-in-Progress (Judas Iscariot Pt.1)

Flickr: Photos from Mike6

So now I’m doing Judas. I want to do 30 screws, and silver leaf them. I did the 2 versions of a screw that you can see above, and then went downstairs to the office, to test them out on people.

“Which one looks more obviously screw-like?”

2 people said “The one on the left”, and 2 people said “The one on the right.”

Funnily enough, it was the British who said the one on the left, and a Russian and an American who said the one on the right, so I wonder if that says something about UK sensibilities.

Probably not.

However, on further consultation, the general consensus was that although the one on the left could be seen to be screw-like, 30 of them on a page would somehow detract from their screw-like-ness. The one on the right would make more visual sense, so that’s the one I’m going with.

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Why I kicked a painting

Flickr: Photos from Mike6

Finally I’ve finished.

This work was started last year, and its taken me until now to finish the thing. If you go here, you’ll see me kicking a painting. I was kicking the bottom part of this painting, which is made of stainless steel, before spraying it and bolting it on to the rest of the painting.

It’s painted with a very glossy household paint, which is why I had to photograph it at this funny angle – shooting a glossy surface is like photographing a giant mirror – the flash goes off, and all you get is your reflection.

Junia is mentioned by Paul in the New Testament as an Apostle (Romans 16:7). She is believed to be a woman by many, and yet this is the only biblical reference to a female Apostle in the Bible.

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Work-in-Progress 6 (St. James-The-Less)

Flickr: Photos from Mike6

Ok, I think we’re there. It looks better this way up, and I’ve added screws. It will need a bit of tidying up and precision. Then all I have to do is save up enough cash to frame it.

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St. James-The-Less (Work-in-Progress Pt. 5)

Flickr: Photos from Mike6

My wife said “It looks a bit short….” But on this occasion, she was referring to the length of the saw I had painted. The last one (below) had the blade of the saw off the page, as I had centered on the handle, but as she quite rightly pointed out, it just looks like a saw with half a blade.

So…. Another resize, and repaint, and there it is. I’ve started to make it a bit more definite, too. It looks quite cartoon-y but that’s ok.

I’m also wondering if it would look a little better the other way up: vertically (portrait) rather than horizontal (landscape). It is a portrait of St. James-The-Less, after all.

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Work-in-Progress Pt. 4 (St. James-The-Less)

St. James-The-Less 4 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

There – measured accurately from a real saw and scaled up. I like the idea that you can see the previous versions underneath. Now the work really starts.

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Work In Progress Pt.3 (St. James-The-Less)

St. James-The-Less on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

My first stab at accuracy. You can see it’s better, but it’s not quite right somehow.

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Work-in-Progress Pt. II

Today was a good day in the studio. I’ll post some photos in a second.

After trying not to be accurate, I tried instead to be very accurate, and the thing looked a whole lot better straight away.

I then realised that trying to paint a picture of a saw from memory was not going to work, so I walked across the studio, picked up a tenon saw and started measuring it and drawing it on the graph paper in perfect scale. Three times bigger than the real thing, of course. The only thing I don’t like is that its a modern plastic handle one, rather than a wooden handle, so it takes a couple of seconds for people to go: “What the hell is that? Oh yeh, I see it now.”

Of course, I’m not that accurate at the best of times, so it came out with lots of “personality” (for “personality” read “lines that aren’t straight”).

It still needs a lot of work, but we’re on the way.

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St James The Less (second attempt)

stjamestheless2.jpg on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

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St James The Less (first attempt)

stjamestheless1.jpg on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

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A Painting-in-progress

I started a painting on graph paper today. Its an idea I’ve had for a while. I like the idea of painting on graph paper. It reminds me of old school maths books from when I was a kid.

I’m painting a saw. The first attempt was ok – just messing around with bright colours and trying to get it accurate, but not too accurate.

Then I realised that although I’ve got this huge piece of graph paper (40cm x 80cm) I’d only used a small part of it bang in the middle. So I started again, this time filling the whole page – and on top of the one I’d already done.

The result is a bit of a mess, quite frankly, but experience has taught me that you shouldn’t give up on these things too quickly, so I’m going to wait for it to dry and then carry on.

I’m think of calling this piece “St. James The Less”

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The Smoker’s Prayer

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This poem seems appropriate for the day.

As this flame ignites
tobacco and paper
so ignite me
with your consuming fire

Breathing in
this mix of good
and bad air
this quickening death

Breathing out
as I let go
both the things I cannot cope with
and the things I can
a temporary relief

And as I stub this cigarette out
I remember that I too
will one day burn no more

For dust I am
and to dust I will return.

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Kicking a Painting


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Acre Lane

Walking down the street
One day
I separated
I was crying
divided in two
a casual observer
watching myself cry
beside myself

What’s the matter?       
I casually asked        (No Reply)
Not knowing how long
This division would last   

Mildly anxious            (Keening)
wanting to join in
enviously detached

Building annoyance       
Look                    (Accept me)
what is this about?       
No patience

I give up               
this puzzle
wasting of time            (Breathing space).
a nonsense           

And I think I am whole again.

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Inside the artist’s bag

Inside the artist’s bag on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

People often ask me; “Why do you always carry that bag with you?”

You’ve just gotta have a bag. My whole life is in that bag. Moleskine Notepad contains drawings, thoughts and ideas (“IMAGES AND IDEAS!”), phones, wallet, iPod, glasses, reading matter, cards, colored pens, keys, the lot (plus the camera, which, obviously, I’m using to take the photo, so I can’t show you). If I don’t have anyone of those things, I go into a panic.

So now you know.

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