Saturday 24 October 2015

war (buildings)


The sculptures are part of a larger scale version which is being made up out of lots of small buildings. These are made using cut up photos from war zones. Most of them are of deserted and wrecked towns which have been bombed. The eventual sculpture will hopefully be made up of lots of buildings which can then be arranged on the floor to be walked through like a lilliputlian scene of desolation.

Box and cup (a gift)

Monday 28 September 2015

Riot in a jewellery box

Its a play on the idea of jewellery. It doesn't act as normal piece of jewellery because it is meant to be exhibited in its box, not worn. The images are ones of the London Riots which have been a theme in my work in the past.

Monday 7 September 2015

Syria Film (The Sky is Falling)

This is a collaborative between Dave Stephens and Will Stephens which was made in response to a photo that was sent to Will by a Syrian Refugee who he met in Berlin.

The project started out as a series of sculptures by Dave Stephens which then inspired this film, created by Will (with creative guidance from Dave), using Cinema 4D.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Phyllida Barlow at Fruitmarket Edinburgh

Phyllida Barlow at the Fruitmarket is a revelation. 

I first came across her work in the British Art Show 5 exhibition about 15 years ago where her work stood out amongst the other work, which had a tendency toward the bright and difficult to ignore, as being quite understated and very much hand done. Rather like the type of materials that you might find on a Blue Peter show, ‘and here’s one I did earlier”, Barlow’s work was immediate and temporary in the transient way that children make environments for their toys out of shoe boxes and glitter tubes. No worries about anybody seeing the making process everything being up front and yet, like a present, holding a person to ransom about what is hidden or can be revealed.

Since that initial encounter with Barlow’s work I have seen it at Hauser and Wirth on Piccadilly in London, where the deserted bank building had been transformed completely, including a ladder into the loft where you witnessed hanging sculpture which was reminiscent of, again, the kind of make do and mend christmas decorations that anybody brought up in the 50’s is used to dragging out of boxes each year in all their faded glory.  

And then of course there was the Duveen Gallery installation at the Tate last year that exploded everybody's preconceptions of what installation sculpture really was. The gauntlet had been dropped. Mischief was afoot.

So, a trip to Edinburgh was inevitable, a sort of pilgrimage for want of a better term, certainly a purpose. The Fruitmarket exhibition is something else again. It stretched over two floors but also included hanging pieces above the customers in the cafe and small hand done gifts in the gift shop. Barlow doesn’t just create an installation, she inhabits a space. Like a team of squatters or people digging a mine shaft underneath your house.

The exhibition stretches over two floors and each level begins to impose itself on the other. The upstairs gallery has one large installation dominating it, the structure being so imposing that you are forced to walk around the outside of it. Gaps appear in places, impregnable and yet enticing and, like a child at the sea shore encountering a cliff that appears impregnable, each crevice becomes an entrance to a fantasy world of caves and adventures. Stretching yourself into the negative space gives your a framing view of the outside world. Occasionally the structure seems to form corridors or tunnels but these seem to extend to nowhere and leave you stranded in the heart of the sculpture as if an uninvited guest. Uninvited is the right metaphor because even when you are inside these cracks, you feel excluded and  somewhat externalised. Kind of like a gate crasher at a party who finds himself alone and ostracised to the kitchen. A slightly Gormanghast type of experience, the structure is an obstruction, a growth that has taken over the space, filling it and then beginning to ooze out into other spaces, a barrier. The stairwell that leads into this space has already been invaded making you duck and weave to avoid the obstruction.

The downstairs exhibition could be related or detached, feeling like parts of the upstairs had broken away, escaping into the space in a bid for freedom. It is difficult to tell exactly how many pieces are on display or “inhabiting” the space. They relate and interact in a way that presents a visitor with a kind of visual obstacle course, an old curiosity shop of ideas and juxtapositions.

The exhibition is called “Set” which is a clue within itself. As I clambered around and amongst the large scale piles and objects there was a theatricality about the approach which seemed to work with the overlap between sculpture and the illusionistic space which occurs within a stage set. In the Fruitmarket you are asked to look at a structure both as an inside and an outside. Unlike a traditional stage you are never asked to ignore the reality of the materials that are involved. In fact you are constantly expected to see both sides of the set at once. These materials are throwaway, lightweight and in many ways, fragile. And yet they are being combined with the more substantive qualities and visual support of such things as plaster and cement. They create the illusion of strength but are actually layered on in skims to emphasise the lack of reality.  

The backs of pieces are often exposed like the back of stage theatre flats which even have words left on them to add links to their past life. The word Caro occurs more than once, which indicates that in fact the wood started its life as a packing case and probably one that housed a past exhibition of the sculptor Anthony Caro. This of course opens out the question of where Barlow exists within the context of contemporary sculpture. The reference to Caro is intentional, a conscious choice to  associate herself with someone from the recent past who throughout the 2nd half of the 20th century dominated the British art scene by being hailed as the harbinger of a new kind of sculptural modernism.  It is well publicised that Barlow until recently worked at St Martin’s college as had Caro in the 1960s. This reference feels even more personalised in that St Martins is really seen as the centre for the development of British sculpture from the 50s onwards. Caro and Barlow’s commitment to this educational stance ties the two together within an ethical methodology. 

Obstruction is probably the key word for this exhibition. The illusion of reality that you get with the space that is created ties in with essentially a theatrical approach but also how materials can take on a number of meanings. Modern sculpture has had a preoccupation with structure and truth to material. Performance art to some extent broke this down and reintroduced the aspect of imagination and the idea that an art work can be lived in as well as looked at. Barlow is conscious of these developments. Her sense of meaning is tied in with the narrative and as such the viewer is a central aspect of this story. There is a strong sense of time, space, place and identity woven together into the language involved. 

Quite something really.

Monday 3 August 2015

4 x 4 Syria

My son was visiting Berlin and met a Syrian guy who he got chatting to. The Syrian was a refugee and talked a lot about the situation in Syria and how difficult it was living in a war torn country. When my son got back to England the guy sent him a picture of his town and said that the building in the centre was actually the house where he used to live. I was quite amazed by the way that some people have to come to terms with appalling conditions in their lives but also that we just take it for granted that it is quite normal to encounter these things on the internet or through television. Its the strangeness of watching the news whilst eating your dinner.
I have recently been working on a series of sculptures that are all based on building that are half demolished through such things as war. It seemed right to use the photo that my son had been sent as part of one of these sculptures. I will probably make it part of a series of 4.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Fossil (4x4).

In recent months I have been making small sculptures that are based on the grid system on a cutting mat. I am tending to keep them in sets of 4 with each one using the same picture. The small cubic individual structures tends to look like a building that is opened up to the outside. This is because each one was influenced by a newspaper picture that I saw of a set of buildings in a war zone that had been bombed and shelled so that parts of their structure were missing. The rock in the centre contains the fossil of what looks like a leaf which I found on a beach in Dorset. The photos are of leaves and ornaments from a Christmas tree.

Friday 26 June 2015


The window sculpture originally was a stand alone sculpture but has recently been exhibited with another sculpture which seems to complement it. In a way most of my sculptures at various times become entwined in each other. They are not necessarily a singular experience. Maybe they just inhabit the same world.

Thursday 11 June 2015

John Stezaker at De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill

John Stezaker films at De La Warr Bexhill.

The John Stezaker at Bexhill is pretty impressive but kind of straight forward in conception. He is known for having a huge collection of old post cards, presumably all sorted into categories such as churches and film stars. He has then photographed a category and literally turned each photo into a frame of a film. Using a 24 frame per minute timing, the film then hits you in the face like a visual stutter. 

You kind of know what is going on but can't make any visual form to it. Its like watching the movement of a tide where shades and tones seem to join together to give abstract form to the whole. This is the kind of visual form for musical serialism like the compositions of Steve Reich. Particles coming together to form a whole.

Probably the most accessible of the films involves a repetitive sequence of horses. These images come from a book of studs. They are very similar to each other in the way that the horses stand rigidly facing in the same direction with very little difference in their size or stance. This means that only the tonal qualities of their markings and the background changes radically. The actual subject matter, the horses, merely flicker and shimmer. Reminiscent of the early film experiments of Muybridge, the film almost creates the opposite affect. Everything moves apart from the horses.

On an adjacent wall the film projected concentrates on church interiors. In some ways this appears the most successful in the way that it seems to portray a comprehensive journey. The similarity of the initial imagery seems to drive the viewer’s eye into a form of tunnel vision as if driving through a motorway underpass or looking through a train window. Its kind of Luis Bunuel meets Willie Doherty. A journey that appears to transport us through both time and consciousness. 

It is this question of consciousness which seems to be the underpinning thing which governs the exhibition and comes to the fore in the last film. Based on Stezaker’s collection of postcards featuring film personalities, it is in fact the thing that hits you first when you enter the room. Because the subject matter of each individual frame has a complete structural difference the immediate impression is of being hit between the eyes by a scatter gun of imagery. A visual assault, kind of inducing nausea and panic in equal doses. As with all things that act on your central nervous system you have to come up very quickly with ways of coping with it in order to avoid an inevitable physical response. As all drunks know and anyone who has experienced the final dip of a shelter skelter, the only way to cope is to relax and go with it. Within Stezaker’s film there is a similar initial reaction. An attempt to focus on a central area within the film causes it to hit you in waves and creates more lyrical movement. There is a tendency within the mind then to try and focus on an individual frame, which of course is impossible. Did I see Charlie Chaplin in there? Was there a scene from High Society? Who knows.

In a way it is not important because in this case the medium really is the message. Its not dissimilar to the way that the actual mind works, the way memory is fragmented and then reassembled in order to make sense of the world. This is the raw material of memory presented in its entirety and in a way that questions how we deal and cope with our lives. William Burroughs experimented with these kinds of cut ups both with words and film as a way of questioning our acceptance of our consciousness. This kind of cut up is not a new thing in art and yet Stezaker seems to be putting a new lilt on it. It is a strangely British preoccupation which formulates itself into collecting the detritus of other people’s lives. Jumble sale mentality is embedded into the British psyche and no art college would survive without that fundamental obsessiveness of the collector . Essentially this is where Stezaker seems to come from. Out of the eaves of the art college and into the collective memory.

Monday 4 May 2015

willow pattern sculpture tryptic.

When we lived in Brighton a seagull kept eating the cat food from our cat's dish and also breaking the dishes. The dishes came from a set that my mother used. Kind of mock 60's willow pattern. Not quite Ai Wei Wei's ming vases but maybe they are really. Cross fertilisation of ideas through natural interventions.

Thursday 30 April 2015

landscape glasses

Again this comes from Landscape Walking. The structures are based on photos of a section of the landscape near Ditching Beacon.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Landscape in a Frame

This started from the film Landscape Walking which led me to work with a series of images that were generated from the location that the film was set in.
Link to film Landscape Walking :

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Framed Barrier

A couple of years ago I kept passing a set of road barriers in Brighton which just seemed amazing. There were dozens of them blocking a small lane between the houses. I kept putting off photographing them but eventually set myself a task of doing it. When I arrived the road workers were just beginning to take the barriers down. Almost fate really that if I had left it a few hours more they would have been gone completely. This piece is trying to contain the barriers in a space which is then expanding upon itself, a kind of barrier within a barrier.  Negative space contained within the centre of the structure as a kind of window within the framework.