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Posts tagged “experience

Charting My Year of Change

2014 has been a joyously productive beast with a tenancy to provide moments of reflection and a degree of transiency. My practice has meandered from the virtues of re-imagining still-life to exploiting the art found within video games to considering the studio space as a viable means of expression.

My identity as an artist has shifted. With a view to dismiss the problematic notion of being considered simply as ‘that guy who makes paint out of food’ I sought new ways of investigating the creative process, including looking at the nature of the idea, ways in which artists interact with their materials and their spaces and investigating the tension between the studio space and the exhibition space.

My year – in the context of my creative practice – began in February, as I threw myself into holding my first solo exhibition. Ironically, this particular endeavour provided me with a new found respect for collaborative work, as the strains of doing everything yourself left me exhausted and unfulfilled.  Though it was a valuable experience overall.

March and April saw focus shift from our group exhibition in New York. SCIBase – a collaborative I’m a part of – was to hold an exhibition spanning two galleries in Jamestown, NY during April: Though of course the organisation and cash required to get artists over the pond required a great deal of planning. I cannot take much credit for the planning myself, I was just happy to be involved in this collaborative for the first time. Hopefully I will redeem such lack of direct planning with a collaborative I am trying to arrange for next year between SCI and Yorkshire Artspace.

There was a great deal of success to be found within our exhibition in Jamestown, not least because we became an example of a crowdfunding campaign that actually worked! Though, with regard to my actual practice, one thing became clear – My food based pursuits had reached a logical conclusion.

And so, to new directions: My work has always involved looking at ways to investigate creative processes and so, whilst the idea of ‘finding art in video games’ might have appeared to have come out of nowhere,  I would suggest that the notion of taking something, removing it from it’s context and re-imagining it within another space is a subject I have always been concerned with.

From May to October I acquainted myself with the subject of video games and, through two co-devised and co-curated exhibitions at Millennuim Galleries and Access Space, met several artists who themselves are concerned with the themes found within gaming. On reflection, the exhibition at Millennuim Galleries was probably quite insular; a lot of work had to be done – from finding a place for artists to drop off work to finding exhibition walls in order to hang the stuff! – and I believe this amount of work had a negative impact on the execution. Perhaps I am being a little harsh due to the stresses of being directly involved in the organisation of it, but the exhibition on the whole seemed to lack a little atmosphere and perhaps became disconnected from its source material.

The lessons learnt during the Millenium Galleries Exhibition were applied to the exhibition at Access Space – a much more coherent, well-received, and fun celebration of what gaming can be. It’s probably the highlight of my year, and it’s success has allowed me to develop lasting relationships with artists and arts organisations – something valuable to an artist still within the relatively early stages of their career. Credit too should go to Access Space, who – as well as thinking the whole thing was a bloody good idea – were unparalleled in their support and guidance. I really hope I work with them again.

As we approached Autumn it became apparent that the transition from food-based work to something else still remained. I returned to the source of why I had been looking at food in the first place; namely, in an attempt to disrupt the process of creating works of Still Life. I began to develop work around the Physical properties of items, the materials we use and the choices we make in order to form a relationship with those materials and so, the idea of the ‘Speculative Studio Space’ was born, almost fully-formed, to act alongside my upcoming residency at Bank Street Arts as a strong springboard from which to leap into 2015.

There was other stuff too, of course, not least mine and Sharon’s ‘Reviving Leviathan’ collaboration and the exhibition I hosted at Funky Aardvark Gallery, Chester. All valuable experiences and all contributing to a fruitful and productive year overall.

Indeed, it isn’t over yet. I still have paint for sale at Cupola Gallery. Yes, the whole year has passed and I’m still ‘that guy who makes paint from food!’ I’m more than happy to make it if people enjoy it though. I just don’t want it to be all I’m known for; which hopefully I’m not anymore.

Anyway the paint, made from chocolate, retails at £5. A great gift for those chosen few who are fond of both painting and chocolate at this festive time of year. …Oh, that reminds me, happy ruddy holidays everyone 🙂

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My Chocolate Paint for sale at Cupola Gallery, Sheffield

Reflecting on my Latest Paint-Making Workshop

Last Wednesday I held the first of three paint making workshops to be held at The Bessemer II Gallery in Sheffield.

As ever, the paint making workshop provided me with the opportunity to engage with local artists by sharing knowledge and highlighting the possibilities of paint, including how to create paint from everyday foods and the notion that paint is able to be considered the end result of a creative process.

I hope my workshops make people think a little differently about paint, enriching their approach to the medium and perhaps allowing them to explore ways of developing a relationship with paint in a way that will directly further and develop their practice. I also cannot dismiss the importance of the social aspect of the event, which can encourage collaboration, professional development and, dare I say it, friendship!

This particular workshop went very smoothly indeed. I believe that each participant benefited from the event, learning how to make paint from food but, importantly, exploring how to apply what they’ve learnt to their own practice.

The second paint making workshop will be at Bessemer II on 8th October, and the third on on 12th November. The workshop costs £20, which includes all materials and refreshments. If they sound interesting to you, there’s still places left; so book ’em while you can!

Diary of a Non-Synesthete

As an artist, the life of someone with synesthesia – a condition which can basically be described as a mixing of the senses – is at worst intriguing and at best desirable. The ability to see the world differently is something inherent in all artists, but the ability to literally and consciously perceive the world in a way which is altered from what is seen to be ‘normal’ is something of great personal intrigue.

For me, synesthesia acts as an automatic form of artistic expression. I hope this statement isn’t offensive to synesthetes – I just mean that the inherent fundamentals behind the condition are able to describe a way of perceiving the world that can inform our understanding of reality. This is the very reason why artists wish to communicate their ideas, so something that does this anyway will always have the potential to inspire. But how can this inspiration be exploited in order to achieve something with artistic merit?

The problem lies in the fact that art can be seen as metaphoric – a tool which can be utilised to describe a sensation. Synesthesia, on the other hand, is a literal experience. With this in mind, I seek to embed the literal in my work, but by using foods with metaphoric connotations applicable to the condition.

A reasonable starting point is nutmeg. Yes, nutmeg. Whole nutmeg, when freshly ground, contains myristicin – an organic compound which induces psychoactive behaviour, allowing one to synthetically alter their perception of the world. This inherently allows a parallel to be drawn with synesthesia as, while there is an artifice in utilising chemical substances, they can nevertheless allow a non-synesthete to visualise sound, to touch colour and to hear scent.

Myristicin Meter (2013) Nutmeg on canvas. A way of describing the hallucinogenic effects of nutmeg.

Here, I have used the intrinsic characteristics of nutmeg and created a piece based on the sensation of eating. I suppose, in that sense, my work can be seen as describing the idea of synesthesia, and a tension exists between the condition itself and the fact  I cannot acquire it.

Let it be said, however, that being a non-synesthete has its own set of advantages with regard to my practice. It provides me with something unattainable, and the desire for something that is unattainable is a source of creativity – a go-to point when a particular avenue of enquiry is exhausted. I am also able to thoroughly regard all elements of the condition without specific physical attachment, which would have an influence on my overall intrigue.

Synesthesia is a way of seeing the world. In this way, it is similar to art: I just hope that what I create are coherent devices that synthetically create an experience akin to synesthesia, to raise awareness of the condition and, in turn, allow it to be applicable to the reality of a non-synesthete.

The Big Smoke

Last week I had a little nosey around London Village. It was a bit of a Birthday treat and it also gave me an opportunity to see some art and indulge in the stimulation that a big city offers – or at least is supposed to offer. Anyway this is what I found out:

  • Inspiration is everywhere. – As demonstrated whilst buggering about in the food court in Harrods, where an overwhelming and multisensory experience ensued. The air tasted of decadence as the scent particles of each offering fought to tantalise the nostrils. This was probably as close to experiencing synesthesia as a non-synestete can get without taking LSD. Scent appeared before me, and my experience of the place is remembered not through vision, but through smell. I will certainly exploit this experience in subsequent works of art.
  • Patrick Caulfield is a bit good. – I saw the Caulfield exhibition at Tate Britain. I love how he is able to capture the essence and atmosphere of something using simple mechanics. A size of a canvas is able organically to capture grandeur. Colour evokes emotions intrinsic to an atmosphere. And  simple form places the paintings within a physical and readily relatable realm. There is a simplicity about Caulfield’s work that speaks volumes.
  • It’s a lot greener than I remembered. – Yes, walking under a bridge you are smacked in the nose with a heavy burst of pollution and tramps tears, but when you emerge from under the bridge, a burst of greenery hits you – Such a juxtaposition of atmosphere can be embraced and utilised.
  •  There are lots of little hidden bits. – During my two days in London there wasn’t even a hint of the idea of using the Tube. Above ground and removed from the fear of having another man’s armpit in your face, you see more. Small pathways; buildings wedged between buildings; unbelievably small tea shops; roads of residential properties between two different coffee outlets; uncelebrated memorials and poorly conceived bus-stops. All of which is intrinsic to the vitality and beauty of the place
  • The Great Fire of London was cool. – It just was. As were Dinosaurs, as it happens.

Aside from my Harrods experience, I don’t really know quite what I can extrapolate from all this and apply to my practice. But there’s a real feeling that visiting London has equipped me with tangible experiences that can doubtlessly be applied to my work. When do I get to go again?

Obligatory photo of Big Ben that has to exist when talking about London and at any cost!

Obligatory photo of Big Ben that has to exist when talking about London and at any cost!