im very happy to announce my next exhibition, An insect who dreamt he was a man at Studio Ninety will open on Sunday, December 3rd, 2-5pm. All welcome to the PV. Please do email me if you intend to come along.
I’m very happy to announce that I have recently joined the Artcan group.
“ArtCan is a charitable arts organisation that supports artists through profile raising activities and exhibitions, an open network of ‘likeminded’ peers, and practical support structures”. Read more about this great project at https://www.artcan.org.uk
I’ve finally got around to adding the new paintings at were recently exhibited in my 2 person show Snake Oil at the Lewisham Arthouse Gallery:
Since the beginning of 2017 I have been make paintings in limited editions. It begun with my recent project and exhibition, The Waltz, in which a set of 108 compositional variants were each made in editions of three. That is to say, I made each of those 108 paintings three times over. The outcome is that each one is exactly the same size, composition and colour, and made from the same materials. However each is inevitably slightly different from the others in terms of the manner in which paint naturally moves and settles. Brushmarks differ from one to another. Drips, how the paint pools, where it spills down the edges of the support, all these things serve to differentiate one painting from its two siblings. The paintings are numbered out of three, as the tradition of making a limited edition multiple dictates, and they will not be made more than three times each, again, adhering to tradition. Since then I have made a number of further paintings in editions anything up to twenty five.
I would like to explain a little about this, because it can come across as slightly confusing. Making artworks in limited editions is nothing new, however it is most common to edition artworks that can be mechanically reproduced to be entirely identical – prints, cast sculptures, artist’s books and suchlike. And often they are made by a third party. My limited edition paintings involve no mechanical reproduction whatsoever and are all made by hand, by me. As I said, within an edition they are all identical in size, shape, composition, colour and material, but the accidents of the hand and the natural behaviour of the paint serve to make each one slightly different from the rest. Again, there is a long existing president for artists to add to their editioned prints by hand, most usually by introducing colour, thereby giving each one its own unique element, but the bulk of the work will generally be undertaken by the printed image. Their hand colouring comes at the end as something of a final flourish. My approach is clearly different.
There are three distinct reasons I elected to work like this, and they stem from the most important forces driving my practice – my love of painting, my focus on accessibility and my desire to ensure that I can keep on painting as much as possible for the rest of my days.
As has been well documented, the number one focus of my painting is enjoyment. That is the reason I paint – I love the process of making a painting. This being the case, making two paintings is twice as enjoyable and making one. Making three is three times as enjoyable. Making four – you get the idea. If I make a painting I like, I can make it again and again and derive just the same pleasure each time. There is simply no reason not to.
Sometimes other people like my paintings too, which is of course very rewarding. My prices are set to be truly accessible so that if someone does like a painting, it’s relatively easy for them to buy it. The majority of my smaller paintings so far have been priced at £25-£30, which I’d like to think is a sum almost anyone can reasonably consider spending. Before I began making paintings in editions, it was not unknown for a number of people to express interest in one particular work and regrettably this would leave all but one person disappointed. So, by making paintings in editions I am now able to satisfy a number of the clients and collectors, which is of course a much more rewarding outcome for all parties. If there are more paintings out there and more happy recipients, then all the better.
Finally, there is the financial aspect. Needless to say, I intend to spend as much time painting as I am able. The more paintings I sell, the more money comes in to support my practice and my life. Selling paintings at £30 each certainly doesn’t make for a big income, but I am committed to my policy of pricing accessibly and have absolutely no intention of changing that. Therefore, making a single painting twenty five times over means I can increase the potential income, without the work becoming more expensive.
So, as you can see, these three points all serve to explain the benefits of making paintings in editions for me and for anyone else interested in what I make. It’s a win – win. Or a win – win – win if you like. However it has been put to me that there may be a downside to the approach – that the multiplication of a painting could possibly serve to ‘devalue’ it, presumably by denying it the traditional uniqueness that a hand made art object would be expected to hold. I don’t agree with this, and would question the use of the word ‘value’. In this context I assume it to be used in two ways – to describe the monetary value of the work, and to describe the value of the concept or work’s ‘status’. To address the first point, these things I make already have a relatively modest price. I don’t expect anyone buying my work to be thinking about financial investment, and if they are, £30 really isn’t too big of a risk. If it is, perhaps there are more important things to spend money on than paintings! My work does not exist in the ‘art market’ as such. It is not a commodity in the sense of any financial investment worth speaking of so I don’t believe that there being twenty five versions of a particular painting rather than one could possibly have any discernible affect here.
I feel the concern over concept or status is entirely about the individual’s perception of the work and the way in which the art object in general is so often revered or elevated above its intrinsic existence. In the case of my paintings the ‘concept’ (and I don’t particularly like to use the word in this context, due to its potentially pretentious associations), is very simply it’s aesthetic form. Shape, size, composition, colour. No amount of repetition can diminish this, and in fact I would argue that to be able to make a direct comparison between two or more ‘conceptually’ identical paintings in fact brings to the fore the beauty of the idiosyncrasies and natural behaviours of paint. These little differences only serve to highlight the unavoidable uniqueness of any painting, no matter how hard one may try to duplicate it. The ‘status’ of the work does not lie in it being more than bound pigment on wood or canvas, just because it is seen as an art object. I have no interest in or intention to claim that my paintings are any more than the sum of their material parts. In fact it is the very nature of their intrinsic corporeal features that give them a value at all – that of an object that can poke the viewer in the eye with a raw, sensory pleasure.
Thus this notion of ‘devaluing’ the paintings through repetition does not hold water for me. Unlike a word rendered meaningless through extended spoken repetition, my paintings do not diminish in duplication. In fact I would say it’s possible that quite the opposite is true. The more there are, the better they serve the purpose for which they are made.
A huge thank you to everyone who attended the opening of my exhibition The Waltz last week. The turnout was great and I was absolutely thrilled and humbled by the overwhelming positive response I received. For those who didn’t make it there are some installation photos below, but the show’s still on through until May 5th at Darbyshire Frame Makers. Open weekdays only, do let me know in advance if you plan to visit so I can either come and meet you there, or if that’s not possible, alert the chaps at Darbyshire to your imminent arrival.
I plan to begin putting a selection of the smaller works from the show up for sale on my online shop quite soon, which will be priced at £30 +P&P each. More info on that in due course…
As some of you may be aware, my father passed away in October last year. He was 66. Needless to say, it has been very hard for my mother, my sister and me. I wrote a tribute to him, which I read at his funeral, and I can be quite affirmative in saying that doing so was helpful. It covered many aspects of his character and life. It was a private thing, meant for his family and friends, and I have no intention of repeating it all publicly here, but there is a part which is particularly relevant to the things I do choose to send into the world both virtually and physically, and it is this I wish to touch on now.
To say that my father was a great influence on me seems obvious, but still, the specifics are pertinent. He introduced me to painting – the pursuit I love most. The thing I work to build my life around. He gave me something that I will love and pursue forever. What more can a parent do for their child but to provide them with a source of lifelong joy? A joy that cannot be lost, nor even diminished. I can only hope I may be able to do similar for my daughter. In some way, everything I make now is in tribute, or in thanks to him whether I am conscious of it or not.
He was deeply intelligent, vastly knowledgeable, sharp, witty. One could possibly call him a polymath and whilst his modesty and self image would never have permitted him to accept such a label, his ego would have been quietly assured of its suitability. I have not inherited his ability to absorb information, but from him I have acquired a protective arrogance countering an insidious self doubt. Unshakable belief and deep fragility battle for supremacy, neither conscious of their mutual dependence and collaborative levelling of the whole, or the fragility of the structure they antagonistically fashion. We travel a narrow path, he and I. It can be treacherous at times, we have both had occasion to stumble, but have managed to self right, or be righted, and go on. I take comfort from this. Anyone may fail at any time. Most everyone will at some point. But, not everyone will get up, accept their failure and try again. It was in him to do this and I thank him for passing that on.
And it is these qualities we shared that form the foundation of my lasting tribute to him. He claimed as his own a phrase from the antiquarian book trade, the industry in which he worked for most of his life, to apply to himself – with all faults. In simple terms it means sold as seen, or that an item offered for sale is flawed, damaged or suchlike, and the prospective buyer ought to be aware that there are imperfections in advance of making a purchase. For dad though it meant ‘take me as you find me’. He was well aware of his own imperfections, but was able to accept them and face the world as he was. Latterly I have found it necessary to do similar, and his phrase, with all faults, is now inextricably linked to me too.
The statement stands alone, but I have also made my own addition. In connecting it with a second aphorism, are we found, it is read in a number of ways, all of which are valid:
With all faults are we found first refers directly to myself and my father. We were flawed in similar ways and have both strived to overcome the resultant problems.
It can also be read as a more wide ranging statement. It speaks of everyone. We all struggle with something, and are encountered as we are. Whether we choose to hide from or conceal these imperfections, or wear them openly, none of us are free of them. The statement is a universal truth. A leveller of sorts.
There is a third function of these words too: Here we are, warts and all, found with our faults, and that’s ok. The statement is a reminder that tolerance and acceptance are virtues to be pursued. It’s not always easy to be tolerant and it’s certainly difficult to be virtuous, but a reminder to be accepting of the bad you may perceive in others or yourself can help to leave you open to the possibility of seeing the good too.
These are the readings of the phrase in this format, however the statement can be reconfigured to appear as a question: are we found with all faults?.
This is my question and a response to a conversation I had with my dad over the summer. As I have said, he and I suffered with certain similar problems. Particular details were uncannily alike. He feared that our problems were likely genetic – passed down the generations and inherently ours. Then again it would appear that they came to the surface as a result of a series of extreme events – during times of severe difficulty. I don’t know how much of it to attribute to one thing and how much to another. It’s a nature or nurture question, therefore I ask – Are we found with all faults? Or do we gather them over time? It’s an important question to me because it has a bearing on my future, but I am also very much aware that it is an unanswerable question and, ultimately, not one that would change our course of action if we did know the answer.
Finally, there is the aesthetic input behind my tribute. Since I first encountered it at the Hayward Gallery 15 years ago the work of Douglas Gordon has been a great influence on me. Not specifically in what I make as such – his art bears zero resemblance to my paintings! No, it’s something less tangible. The atmospheres he creates, the suggestions and ambiguities he presents, particularly through text, and specifically his focus on a duality of character – the ‘Caledonian Antisyzygy’ if you like (thanks to Brian Robertson of Zembla Gallery for introducing me to that phrase). I find it all utterly compelling. He has often worked in the medium of tattoo, inscribing phrases onto himself and others. We will usually encounter them in the form of photographs, and I don’t know for sure whether the documentation alone constitutes the artwork or if it is the tattoo itself, but I love the idea of the permanence and impermanence of the works – tattoos are considered permanent, and to get one is often a big decision, but people are inherently impermanent, so tattoo as art irrevocably changes the person involved, but cannot hold any of the physical value associations that a painting, sculpture, print or whatever does. These works will not be archived or restored. They won’t be present in a retrospective show in 2117. They exist only as long as the ‘wearer’ is alive. They both transcend and remain slave to their own physical manifestation.
Now, I certainly don’t claim my tattoos as art. They’re a tribute to my dad, a message, a reminder and all the other things I have discussed, but they are also a nod to Douglas Gordon (I hesitate to use the word homage – too loaded). I have appropriated his style, format and the font he most often uses for his text pieces. On a very basic level, I love the aesthetics, which if you’ve waded through any amount of what I’ve written you’ll know is important to me. Going a little deeper, I would like to think I have been able to achieve some of the ambiguity and outre atmosphere he employs to such great affect. I understand much of his work is personally profound. This is certainly true of my tattoos as you have just read. Overall I suppose that the phrasing and clearly the sentiment are very much inspired by and for my father, whilst the presentation was heavily influenced by Gordon.
To wrap this all up I will describe a theory of dad’s that I have always remembered. You could call it a partial parenting philosophy. He believed that children should experience deep wonder – joyful things that amaze them and thrill them and, critically, transcend their ability to comprehend. Children perceive magic. Innocence carries them over the grit and dirt of reality. Unburdened by rational thought, understanding of the how and why, free from the demand to grasp the mechanics of life they are receptive to awe and this is something dad believed that we, as adults and parents, must ensure is not wasted, for it does not last forever. We have the ability to create lifelong memories of pure joy for our children. I know this to be true, not just because I have such memories, but because he gave to me the ability to perceive wonder where one could reasonably argue there is none. Painting, in of itself, is not an amazing thing, but his influence has given me the ability to be amazed and awestruck and deeply, viscerally moved by it. I can’t say that he gave this to me, or taught it to me, or that there was any one activity that caused it. I supposed what I can say is that he saw it and nurtured it and encouraged it. He drew it out with openness and enthusiasm, passion, belief and indulgence and in doing so, helped to plot the course of my life in a positive direction.
Exciting news! I have just launched my new web shop, where you will be able to buy some of the new paintings I make. At present I have just the 2 works illustrated below for sale, both are in editions of 10 and are priced at £25 + P&P each. Please click here to visit the shop.
The eagle eyed among you may have noticed that I’ve been fairly quiet for a while. Unfortunately I’ve not been at the peak of health and wellness for some time, but I am very happy to report that I am now much improved.
And there’s more. One truly unexpected result of my illness is that in recovery I have become the extremely fortunate beneficiary of opportunity and I intend to grasp it with both hands. I am taking the exciting step of making painting my full time pursuit. It will come as little surprise that I consider this something of a dream come true. I am utterly thrilled. I have no idea where it will lead, but rest assured I will be doing everything in my power to ensure it is the most positive move of my life.
My wife and I are in the process of building our shared studio at home, dedicating one room of our house to our new venture. We have spent too long sidelining our passions to accommodate the expected routines of the day to day. Not any more. We all of us get but one shot at life and I very much doubt that it yields much satisfaction if dreams remain forever unpursued. It’s a risk, of course. Success is far from guaranteed. But without taking that risk, failure is an absolute certainty.
So, what does this mean for my practice? Well, in very basic terms, lots more painting! That’s the main aim. Also I hope more exposure, promotion and exhibitions, but critically… I think I’m going to have to ask for money in exchange for pictures! Shock horror! Don’t panic though. I still intend to maintain my free pictures project. I would hope that with extra time to paint I will be able to produce the same number of freebies as I always have and then add paintings for sale on top of that. We’ll see how it works, but rest assured your chances of getting something for nothing should not be diminished.
Initially I have decided to adopt the same basic pricing structure as I laid out to cover commissions (explanation detailed here and below). Naturally it may be subject to change depending on how things go, but for now it is an entirely transparent and, I’d like to think, fair pricing system based on a simple formula.
As always I would love to hear your opinions on this new adventure. It is one of the most exciting things I have ever done and, I hope, the beginning of an entirely new way of life.
Sale of the century
Since introducing the concept in February 2015, giving my paintings away for free has become a cornerstone of my practice. I have found it more defining than I had expected. For those unfamiliar, many of the paintings illustrated on my website have been made available for free. Anyone may request one by simply emailing me. You can tell which are, or have been allocated as freebies because they are annotated (FREE PAINTING) directly beneath the the title and description. Many have already been claimed so I can offer no guarantees of satisfaction and my only caveat is that recipients cover any costs incurred in getting their paintings where they want them (postage being the most common). If paintings can be easily delivered or collected for nothing, all the better. I always prefer to meet the recipients whenever possible.
Initially it was the case that I gave every single one of my paintings away. At that time painting was what I called an ‘involved hobby’. I had to fit it in around full time work and family life and as such sales did not enter into the equation. It was reward enough that the work was getting out there, however, in August 2016 I began painting full time, making far more work and started selling my paintings as well as giving them away.
But I remain committed to maintaining the free painting project. It has become so critical to my practice that to abandon it would be to remove a huge part of my ethos and much of what I believe differentiates my approach from the majority of the art world. My hope is that this project will benefit both myself and the recipients. Everyone likes a freebie and in a small way perhaps this gives people the opportunity to own something they might not otherwise have expected to. I benefit in that now and again my paintings are going out there and ‘doing’ something more than simply being another item dropped into the world of commerce.
The other side of the coin
Like many, many artists I aim to sell my paintings. It isn’t easy because, in terms of the basics of retail, necessity and purchase, art is a vague and nebulous thing. It is not a necessity like food. It is often a retail item, but whilst most people could tell you the price of a pint of milk, only a tiny percentage of the population are even vaguely aware of the market value of one piece of art versus the next. Artists are asking you to buy something you definitely don’t need, for what is usually a relatively high price based on the intrinsic value of the materials and can therefore very often seemed plucked out of the air. And more often than not all this is based on the intended buyer’s own entirely subjective aesthetic preference. Sounds a tough sell at the best of times!
I would like to be able to make this a little easier if I can. I can’t make my paintings essential to your life. They aren’t and never will be. I can’t change your aesthetics either. You’ll either like them, or you won’t. I can try to convince you, but honestly I’d prefer you trust your own judgement. I don’t want to try to talk you into something you don’t want to do. That doesn’t really help either of us.
So, the part I can affect is the pricing. Having worked in the art world for more than a decade I have some insight into how high end art is priced. There are various factors to be considered depending on the piece in question but the fact is that plucking a number out of the air does happen to a certain extent, and a four digit number is a pretty big one to invent in most anyone’s book.
My solution to this is to price my paintings based on an entirely transparent and easily calculable formula. So, let’s talk turkey. How much for a painting? It’s pretty straightforward:
Existing painting (one I have made by my own choice):
5 pence per square centimetre of surface area + transport costs = total price.
Production costs + 5 pence per square centimetre of surface area + transport costs = total commission price.
To better define these factors:
5 pence per square centimetre
Exactly that. For every square centimetre of surface area of the painting (height x width) I charge 5 pence (£0.05). I feel this is a relatively modest price. To put it into real terms a painting 25 x 20cm works out as 500cm2, so £25. A painting 100 x 150 = 15,000cm2 , so £750. In the case of a commission the client may decide the size (based on commercially available stretcher bars or wooden boards), so they’re in complete control of this cost.
Whatever it costs to get the painting where the client wants it. Sometimes nothing if collected in person. Otherwise postage or courier or airmail or delivery or whatever.
Production costs (applicable to commissions only)
Materials such as the stretcher, canvas, drawing pins, paint (if I need to buy in specifically) or anything else required for which I will incur a cost.
All costs are of course agreed in advance and in the case of commissions an up front deposit to cover materials may be required.
So there you go. I think that’s pretty clear, fair and eliminates a bit of the commercial art world’s smoke and a few of its mirrors, which is no bad thing in my book.