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Open Call to Artists – Alternative Portraits

The deadline for this open call has now closed. 

An Open Call to submit work for an exhibition of Alternative Portraits.

Artists Michael Borkowsky and Sharon Mossbeck present Alternative Portraits, an open call exhibition of non-traditional portraiture to be run at Access Space, Sheffield, from 8th September – 4th October 2017.


We are looking for artists to submit work to us under the theme of Alternative Portraits. We are particularly interested in the use of new technologies, such as 3D printing and laser cutting, but this is not a requirement. We are looking for work which pushes the boundaries of traditional portraiture, or explores what portraiture can be. Please interpret the theme of the Alternative Portraits as you see fit.

The exhibition will be at Access Space, Sheffield from 8th September – 4th October. The exhibition opening hours will be Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm, and there will be a private view on 8th September from 5.30– 8pm. Everyone welcome.

The deadline for submissions will be Friday 4th August. Applicants will then be notified on Friday 11th August as to whether their application has been successful.

Guidelines for Submitting work

Please follow these guidelines for submitting work. We will only consider applications which follow these guidelines:

  • Artists may only submit one piece of work. (if a work is made up of separate components – e.g a painting made up of 3 canvasses – then we will still deem it to be one piece of work)
  • The piece of work submitted must measure no more than 1 meter across any given width
  • Regretfully, Audio/Visual or performance works cannot be accommodated
  • Please only submit work which is already complete
  • If your work is framed, please ensure that it is string-backed
  • If work has any unusual requirements (e.g. it is particularly heavy or needs hanging in a particular way) please tell of how you would like this to be done
  • We cannot accept applications received after the deadline (4th August)

How to Submit Work

To submit work, please email up to 3 images of the work you want to show to along with the following:

  • Your name
  • Your email address
  • Your home town/ city
  • Title of work
  • Materials used
  • Dimensions of the piece
  • Price (if you wish to offer the work for sale)
  • A statement of no more than 100 words (this may be included in the exhibition alongside your work)
  • Date when the work was completed

Hand in Dates

Please note that the venue for handing your work to us is different to the exhibition venue.

If your submission is successful, you will have between 11th August and 2nd September to get your work to us. You may do this by doing one of the following:

  • Posting your work to Exchange Place Studios, Exchange St, Sheffield S2 5SZ
  • Delivering your work in person to reception at Exchange Place Studios, which is open weekdays from 11am – 4pm.
  • We will be present in Exchange Place Studios from 11-4pm on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September if you’d rather hand your work to the organisers in person

When you deliver your work to us, please ensure that it is as specified in the original submission, complete and presented as you wish it to be exhibited and, if framed, ready to hang. We cannot be held responsible for work that gets lost or damaged in the post.

Collection Dates

Please note that the venue for collecting your work from us is different to the exhibition venue.

After the exhibition you can collect your work in person from Exchange Place Studios on either the 6th or 7th October, between 11am and 4pm.

You may also make arrangements for us to post your work back to you. If you wish to do this, we will require the correct postage and packaging costs to be paid to us in advance, and you must allow the expected delivery to be between 7th October – 7th November 2017. You may wish to consider handing us a stamped addressed envelope when initially handing work to us to ensure a quicker return delivery.


Your work may be up for sale. Access Space don’t take any commission but as a charity ask that, should you wish to donate some of your proceeds from sales to them you may do so, but you’re under no obligation.


Thank you and good luck! ~ Michael and Sharon

Thinly Spread – Artistic Endeavours Away From Food

The connotations associated with food and the re-imagining of still life paintings will always occupy my endeavours. However, for the time-being, I’d like to reduce the time and energy spent on considering food in order to pursuit other facets of my career. And so, from now on, I will spread my workload around three different websites.

‘Somewhere Between Art and Food’ will continue to document exhibitions, workshops and creative practice involving food and paint making. ‘Finding Art in Gaming‘, on the other hand, will focus on an increasingly potent concern of mine: The consideration of video games within the context of fine art. It is a subject which I have always had at least a vague interest in, and it is an interest that has become more pronounced as I have begun to consider nostalgia, glitches and beta games – all elements which can be removed from the confines of gaming and highlighted as having artistic value. ‘Finding Art in Gaming’ will delve much deeper into my thoughts on video games within a fine art context. So why not pop over there and have a look? The site is in pretty early stages of development, and any visual content is lacking, to say the least. Though as I get more acquainted with it, and as I begin to hold exhibitions and events centring on video games, more content will be added.

Reviving Leviathan, a collaborative project with Sharon Mossbeck, looks at the sea creature and seeks to initiate ways of considering how Leviathan can actually manifest itself. An upcoming exhibition, which deals with the theme of ‘drifting’, will feature visual renderings of Leviathan, and will consider the monster as a metaphor: An account of a descent into madness, or a refuge that exists in the wake of loneliness.

Any endeavours removed from the consideration of food will be highlighted on a new page on this very website: Michael Elsewhere will provide details of all non-food creative practices.

On a personal level, I’m bloody excited about all this. Whilst food will always occupy and intrigue me, I have been constantly looking, questioning, investigating and developing my food-based practice for over 5 years. So perhaps it is currently a little sterile, or has reached some kind of conclusion. New directions will allow my career to develop in unexpected ways. Ways even that could shift my focus away from creating work and onto curatorial duties. Plus the time removed from considering food will allow me to return to it fresh, ready to develop it in different and abstractly informed ways.



On Teaching

Why paint making should be for everyone.

Teaching. It’s a concept I have entertained since watching my year 7 art teacher painstakingly render an accurate yet grossly unnecessary drawing of a dentist’s chair and thinking ‘pfft, I could well easily do that.’

Not that I could draw a dentist’s chair with the same precision as him. In fact, in hindsight, the guy was probably a frustrated yet brilliant designer. But, even as an 11 year old, I did think briefly that the idea of teaching a craft looked fun – you got to do what you loved doing and you got to communicate with others the value of what you are doing.

Of course, what I was witnessing at the time was the teaching of school pupils under a structured syllabus. And I have taught before – In 2009 I belted out a few lectures about the history of British art to summer-school students who, frankly, would have rather been outside than in a stuffy lecture theatre being bombarded with information that they’ll either forget instantly or won’t even listen to in the first place. What concerns me in earth year 2013, however, is the idea of teaching people the practice of making paints: I envision this to occur either in the form of workshops or through guest lecturing.

The tools I could use to teach the joy of contemporary  paint making.

The tools I could use to teach the joy of contemporary paint making.

It is practice steeped in rich history, yet its appeal is diminished with the ease at which paint can be purchased. Yet I believe that it is important to develop a relationship with your materials: materials purchased from a shop contain no presence of an artist. They are joyless, and can be applied to a surface with dispassion, flippancy and disregard. They are a consumable product – untouched by an artist’s hand and, as such, without integrity or passion. If a tangible affinity with materials is established, then it will enable an artist to richly engage with a piece of work on a physical, tactile level.  Further, it will considerably develop an artist – allowing a more coherent communication to occur between artist and material and consequently, artist and subject matter.

I will take a conceptual approach to the teaching of paint making and communicate the idea of seeking new directions to achieve an established process – In similar vein to how I extract pigment from food in order to achieve a re-imagining of still-life. Indeed, the practice of producing your own materials is an art in its own right – it contains within it subject matter, craft and can be considered as a concept. I believe that the idea of communicating this and allowing people to engage with their materials has the potential to be extremely valuable and absorbing. Now all that’s left to do is the tiny matter of finding someone who’ll have me teach…

A Departure to the Countryside

Leaving food alone for a bit to think about trees instead.

Landscape. It’s a subject that – like still-life – can be given a bit of a kick up the arse in order to allow it to become relevant in the 21st Century. If we take into account my incessant desire to progress and embrace new artistic direction, it seems appropriate that a departure from food can emerge in the shape of re-considering landscape.

So winter is (Finally) beginning to recede, buds are tentatively emerging from trees and, more noticeably, embalms associated with the spring are beginning to appear: Woodland creatures can now be found on crockery, floral designs began to emerge on garments and as I was walking down the street, I noticed a woman wearing a small acrylic pin badge cut into the shape of a fox. Bearing this in mind, a poem began to form mentally, which regarded the acrylic fox-shaped badge as an object which, despite being lifeless, still retained connotations associated with a fox:

The Acrylic FoxNow, bear with me – there is a point to all this. You see, my initial hunch was that this poem must be related, or relatable, to the notion of re-considering landscape. And upon pondering the relationship between the two some more it hit me – The fox in my poem is of interest because it is removed from nature: It becomes a component; an emblem that, through the medium of plastic acrylic, is able to transcend its surroundings and become a symbol, a fashion statement, an entity that becomes open to subjectivity and abstract thought. The fox is no longer an animal that is merely attempting to survive: It is instead a statue.

Can we apply this to landscape? When the components of landscape are removed from their surroundings, and applied to something else, what are we left with?

I propose that by manipulating these components just enough so that they are to become perfectly usable as paints, whilst still enabling them to retain their intrinsic natural elements, then what you will be left with would be a medium with infinite possibilities which can be applied to a surface and at once represent visually whatever subject an artist wishes, whilst also retaining the subject of landscape: Landscape will still exist – incognito, still and subtle – but embedded within whatever subject the paint is said to render.Paint Made From Soil and Bark (Oil on canvas board)

‘Paint Made From Soil and Bark’ (Oil on canvas board)

So basically, I’m doing what I did with food, only with landscape, except here I am regarding the components of landscape in a richer way. This, in turn, has allowed me to ask critical questions of my food-based practice. Why am I choosing the food I am choosing? Are the components of a meal more important than the end product? Does an audience consider the same food relevant as me? These questions would not have emerged if I did not take a slight departure from food to consider landscape: Therefore, my professional development may have stagnated. This confirms my belief that it is important to embrace whatever challenges come your way: If you don’t, you may end up creating things of no value to an audience.

On Studio Spaces

Why your studio space should be both embraced and confronted.

Upon my recent move to Sheffield, I have acquired new dwellings and, for the first time, a dedicated and personal studio space. No longer am I attempting to squeeze artistic practice in between bedroom furniture and household appliances; I have a space which exists for art and art alone.

Initial steps towards any kind of mark making have been tentative, yet bewilderingly so.  A studio space offers no danger. It will not retract at the thought of paint stains:  It will not scrape out your eyes should a charcoal crayon fall to the floor: It will not weep uncontrollably should it find itself in a mess. Yet I suppose human nature dictates that there is a certain satisfaction in having everything just-so.


It won’t be like this for long. Over the next few days I intend to bombard it with egg yolks, linseed oil, tea bags, vinegar and salted water as I re-embark upon the process of creating paint. Paint which will contain within it associations and experiences derived from food. Needless to say, the eerie sense of cleanliness it currently possesses will be wiped out of memory almost instantaneously.  Yet I think there is something to be said about the very notion of a studio space, or at least, how it dictates the art we produce.

Experience has thought me that, generally speaking, a smaller studio space equates to smaller scale work and less scope for the exploration of materials and concepts. But this is not necessarily a bad thing and possibly not even true. Consider this – an experiment whereby a painter who has spent several years becoming acquainted with a large warehouse of a studio is suddenly forced into using an attic as a studio. Space is no longer a luxury, and creative output will have to adapt to the environment.  Canvases will reduce in size and brushstrokes will be harnessed, yet such a meteoric and forced changed to the approach of painting will unquestionably open up new possibilities and directions. Particularly for a painter struggling with instigating a new direction, a change of studio could be a great source of influence.

This sort of change should be embraced and of course, it does not only apply to painting. I’d happily bugger off to a converted airport for a month to see what kind of monumental instillation could emerge, just as I would trundle off to an unused prison cell to see if any small scale and domestically charged delights could develop.

I guess what I’m saying is claiming ownership of a studio is dangerous as it can blinker creativity. Not being afraid to abandon the comfort of your own studio is healthy as it can lead you to directions that would otherwise be overlooked and could be of great value. Wow, I actually summed that up more concisely than I imagined. Not that you needed to know that. In fact, these last three sentences have all but undone my lovely concise work. Shame.