The Art Car Boot Fair

I recently visited with Art Car Boot Fair and was so impressed with the event that I am compelled to commit some thoughts to paper (screen). For those unfamiliar, the Art Car Boot Fair is a one day art fair based in London that has been running since 2004. To quote their website “The idea is simply that the artists show up in person to flog their specially made just-for-the-day wares.”. This is true, but is an over simplification and, in my opinion, desperately understates the importance of the event for the artists involved and as a key alternative to the accepted art world establishment.

The presentation is pretty much exactly as the title suggests – it’s set up just like a car boot fair, complete with rickety tressel tables, cheap garden pergolas and, literally, car boots (or trunks to those of you reading this in the USA). It is unpretentious and without ego or affectation. The event is sponsored by car manufacturer Vauxhall, and although this is made quite clear, the commercial sponsorship fits well. It is present, but not overbearing. But the great thing about the sponsorship is that “unlike any other art fair, there is no financial transaction between the artist and the organisers. They simply show up and take what they make. The project is run on a sponsorship model and as well as funding the event Vauxhall also provide production funds…”. That’s right. The artists get to take home all the money they make. I’ve certainly never come across a deal quite like it. I’d call it trail blazing in its inception back in 2004 and in its ongoing support for independent artists. Take that 50% gallery commission!

Of course it doesn’t look exactly like a car boot sale. It looks like one that’s been put on by artists, because that’s what it is, so there’s all manner of elaborate displays, props, costumes, and just craziness in general. It’s utterly packed out (I understand people were queueing up almost 24 hours before it opened) and heaving all day, but also very child friendly. I took my 5 year old daughter and there were various creative activities for her to try out and lots of unusual stuff to keep her interested and entertained. Admittedly there were moments when parental censorship was necessary, but that’s what happens when the content of any one artist’s stand is entirely down to them. An absence of creative censorship is to be applauded. And anyway, we’re liberal artists darling. Live and let live. There was food & drink, live music and just a fantastic atmosphere overall.

So, queues not withstanding, a really great day out for the casual punter. But this is just a small part of the event’s significant value. In my opinion it’s deepest importance is what it offers the participating artists, and in particular those emerging artists working hard to achieve some success and recognition. There were various ‘household name’ participants who have been present most years. The likes of Gavin Turk and Peter Blake are regulars. Other big names were present, such as Bruce McClean, Polly Morgan, Vic Reeves and Bip Ling, and there were more. There were other successful artists whose names are perhaps less well known too, and then there were those to whom I would assume the event offered most – those relatively early in their careers, working to reach that elusive point when they can truly survive as artists. The great thing is that the Art Car Boot Fair offers them this opportunity – to participate in an event of significant scale and repute, working on an entirely equal footing with some very high profile people. It felt democratic. Gavin Turk’s stand was no larger or more polished than anyone else’s. Vic Reeves was sat under an awning and had propped his paintings up on a table and around the floor, in just the same way everyone else had. It really felt like it was all on a single level and I consider that a real triumph of equality – something that is in desperately short supply in the art world.

For the art loving public one of the main draws of the ACBF must surely be the accessibility of the work. In general things are priced well below what one would consider the accepted norm for the art market. Even works by bigger name artists sit at a price point well below what would be generally expected. Again, a fantastic approach and something for which the event has become known. Whether this was originally the intention of the organisers, or if the participants have, over the years, taken it upon themselves to initiate and perpetuate this approach, I honestly don’t know, but genuinely, often unusually affordable art is now synonymous with the fair. On most levels it’s great. We came away with 5 pieces, including the very first painting in my daughter’s own personal collection, all for a total of £40. Bargain. There was work priced as high as £3000 and as little as a fiver, but for the most part prices I saw rarely crept above £200 and were usually below £100. It gives anyone at all the opportunity to be an art collector.

As I say, this is good on most levels, but as you may have guessed I do feel there are certain drawbacks. Needless to say I’m all in favour of affordable art. The way I see it, the difficulty comes when artists whose work is highly collectible offer pieces at a much lower price than they would ordinarily be, particularly in this arena. I understand they do so in good faith and that it is arguably a defining feature of the fair, but inevitably the names and prices end up attracting low level ‘flippers’ – the equivalent to ticket touts – drawn in by the opportunity to make a bit of quick cash out of a big name. They go there to buy at the low price with the express intention of immediately selling on at a heavily inflated price, eBay being the general conduit through which to achieve this (case in point, as I write this 3 or 4 copies of Harland Miller’s Hate’s outa date postcard sized print, released at something like £250, are being offered at £3,700 just a week after the fair). There’s little to be done about this though. It’s first come, first served and those prepared to queue a whole day in advance will get the goodies. It just seems sad that like so many worthy causes, this well meaning approach can be easily undermined and abused by those with less lofty ideals, and that the beneficiaries of a good intention are often those looking to exploit it. Still, this is the basis of a capitalist business – buy at one price, sell higher. There’s little point moaning too much about something that cannot really be controlled. Think of it as unavoidably irksome in an otherwise very fulfilling scenario.

However the second drawback can be addressed. Going around the fair, I saw a mix of quality, speaking as objectively as I can. There was a fair bit of stuff I really liked. There was also plenty that, although it didn’t appeal to my personal aesthetic, was still clearly of good quality, which I can appreciate. Then there was stuff which I didn’t like and that appeared poorly or lazily made, and that I cannot endorse.

Physically the ACBF is a relatively small fair. No doubt there are many, many artists who would love to be involved, but are not (count me among their number). There are comparatively very few indeed fortunate enough to be offered a pitch. It is my opinion that those who are have a responsibility to bring with them work of a quality befitting the privileged status they are so fortunate to have been offered. My concern is that some artists invited to take a stand at the ACBF see the opportunity to sell lots at cheap prices as justification to produce ephemeral work quickly, carelessly, even disrespectfully. I saw a fair amount of work that appeared dashed off and as a result spoke of the artist’s apparent disdain for the event and those attending. It suggested an attitude that because it’s ‘art’ and it’s affordable, it somehow doesn’t matter that, frankly, it just isn’t that good.

One of the great things about the ACBF is the freedom it offers artists. No stand fee. No commission. No restriction on content (to the best of my knowledge). If you’re in, you more or less have carte blanche to present what you like to a large and very receptive audience. A rare opportunity indeed. Because of its inclusive, democratic, accessible, equal opportunity, establishment-alternative approach, it is unique and in my opinion is to be considered a national institution. However it is all these great qualities that render it open to abuse. I believe that any artist participating in the ACBF has a duty of care to do the very best they can for themselves and for the event, and that means making and presenting work of the highest quality they’re able. Ironically it is by not treating it like a car boot sale – an opportunity to flog all their unwanted old gear – that they can best serve both the fair and themselves. This event is built on a grand and worthy idea, but it lives and dies on the content, and that’s down to the artists. If, year on year, visitors perceive a drop in quality or a lack of effort on the part of the participants, they will stop coming, and that would be inexcusable. As it stands, the ACBF is a fantastic opportunity for artists to make some cash and some contacts, but it can only remain so if the content of the show as a whole aspires to the same high principles as the event itself. There can be no excuses.

I should conclude by saying that despite the concerns highlighted in that penultimate paragraph, they are minimal compared with the huge amount of exciting, interesting and great quality work to I saw, and my overwhelmingly positive response to it. I enjoyed the great work on the Turps Banana and Turps Alumni stands, a strange and fascinating performance/live art making thing with Bruce McLean going on with Worton Hall Studios, excellent individual artists like Geraldine Swayne, Frea Buckler, Bob & Roberta Smith and Ivan Black, live pulling of Billy Childish woodcuts with L13 Light Industrial Workshop and a bunch more besides. I honestly can’t wait to go again next year and have no doubt it will once again be a triumph. If you’ve not been before, you must. And if you have, well, you must again!

Twenty five heads are better than one.

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.

Various editioned paintings in progress

Various editioned paintings in progress

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.
Tom Wilmott

www.tomwilmott.co.uk
info@tomwilmott.co.uk
Instagram: @tomrtwilmott

Shifting sands

Due to my transparent approach to pricing my work, many conversations I have had lately have revolved around this. Most any artist will tell you that their work is not made with sales in mind, and I genuinely believe that this is true the vast majority of the time. Nevertheless, aside from a very few cases, commercial success of some degree will be required and probably desired. Having someone buy your work is an undeniably satisfying thing, both in terms of the bank balance and the critical acceptance.

But buying and selling art is a funny thing. Pricing work is pretty much arbitrary, based on our own valuation of the things we’ve made. We may compare our prices with the upper end of the art market, or with our peers, or ask opinions or advice, but in the end there really is no frame of reference to guide us. By the same token there is no more information for anyone considering buying what we make. We are very much reliant on an encounter with someone who just happens to like our work and more or less agrees with our valuation of it.

Furthermore, the manner in which art is traditionally presented, marketed and delivered is very specific and based around an arguably excessive reverence for the object and exclusivity of general access. There is a perceived risk that trying to sell artwork in a way that is considered less “respectful” lessens its worth. Thankfully this is changing. Art fairs have never been more numerous, popular or successful. The majority gather together galleries, but there is a growing number that offer individual artists the opportunity to present their work, for example The Other Art Fair, New Artist Fair and Art Rooms to name just a few. It’s very promising.

Art is of course also sold online, again most notably through large operations like Artsy. They offer galleries another opportunity to market themselves and their artists, but also by sites that cater for the artist as individual. Saatchi Art is the most well known, but others are appearing, and I for one have noticed a far more personal approach from organisations such as ArtThou and CurateArt, both of whom have been contacting artists directly and meeting them in person.

I am one of a growing number of artists setting up their own personal online sales conduit (my webshop can be found here). Most artists are doing it all themselves and for me this is a fantastic opportunity to make work instantly accessible. And accessible is the important word. As I mentioned, traditional presentation, marketing, pricing and delivery are all geared to make art exclusive, but this does nothing for the majority of artists. In my opinion there is absolutely no reason or benefit for most of us as self sustaining to subscribe to this approach. I want my work to be available to as many people as possible, so putting it online is, as they say, a no brainer. Needless to say I welcome enquiries from anyone and everyone.

But simply making work available does not equate to making it accessible. This is where pricing comes into the equation. Any artist wishing to get their work seen will probably have a website and is likely to use social media. The value of both is undeniable and artists embraced the opportunity long ago. However if we are to make our work truly accessible we must also give serious thought to pricing, which is why my structure is entirely transparent (link).

I set up my webshop for 2 reasons. Firstly, honestly, and quite obviously, it’s a commercial venture. A sales conduit over which I have total control, which allows me to make my work available worldwide and which I hope will help fund my practice and my life. Secondly though, I genuinely want to make my work accessible, such that anyone at all may reasonably consider owning it. The webshop itself makes it available – it can be bought with a few clicks, and the pricing makes it affordable. Together availability and affordability equate to accessibility.

As I mentioned, I’m not the only one adopting this approach. Artists such as Jessica Wilson have been making their work available at affordable prices through web shops. Gabriele Herzog is doing something similar with her Sunday 88 project on Instagram. Chris Rexroad and Charlie Roberts’ Got It For Cheap and Kris Day‘s Papercuts follow similar models but gather together works by a large number of artists.

True accessibility: availability + affordability is growing swiftly and if the trend continues I believe has the potential to improve the way in which art changes hands in a very big way.

The Waltz – Review

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…

Installation in progress.

Installation in progress.

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The Waltz. The complete set of 108 works installed.

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A selection of framed works.

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Completed installation view.

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The Waltz 2f (R12280) 2017 One from a series of 108 paintings in tempera, emulsion, acrylic & varnish on canvas 122.0 x 80.0cm (each)

With all faults.

With all faults

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

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?.

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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.

Shop

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.

Shop paintings

New Paintings.

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. I 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. I
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. II 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. II
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. III 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. III
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. IV 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. IV
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. V 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. V
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. VI 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. VI
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

Refit for purpose.

I have been painting pretty much daily for about 3 months now and it is fulfilling and has moved swiftly. Without other distractions I have been able to concentrate on it far more keenly than ever before. With the irrelevant and mundane things that used to waste my time discarded I can focus and ideas flow freely, can be explored fully, and are executed in a manner which, more often than not, pleases me.

I inhabit a different world now. That which has come before has formed and informed what I make and the way I make it. I have the time and opportunity to evaluate and analyse why I make things the way I do. I have been making small, abstract paintings for about 4 years now and production has been vigourous. For more than a year before that I made very little and prior to that I made, generally speaking, a small number of large scale figurative paintings.

When I made the significant move to abstraction it was in order to ensure that I could enjoy painting. I wanted to indulge in the singular joy of applying paint and the work was designed purely to afford me this opportunity, and it worked. At that time I understood it to be a simple thing. I love painting. I was unable to do it to any satisfactory degree in the form I had previously pursued. I had no means to change my circumstances and therefore the thing I could change was my practice. I redesigned it to fit into my life, such as it was, and by doing so I could paint again. Quite simple. Now though, I see things a little differently, or at least, being able to stand away and look back at things with some sort of overview, I believe I can see more of what lead me to reshape my painting as I did.

The truth is, since early 2013 I have not enjoyed life. I was not happy, but, and this may sound odd, I wasn’t actually aware that I was that unhappy. I shan’t go into detail, but I was busy – excessively so. I didn’t have much time to think about things like happiness, or to paint. At least I managed to figure out a solution to the latter! So now I look back on my change of approach as a far more profound attempt to inject some little joy into my daily existence. I wanted an escape. An indulgence, a responsibility free pursuit that I could be assured would give me a little pleasure and honestly, it did offer me that. Now of course, things are vastly different. Day to day life just does not compare. I can confidently say that I am much, much happier. There’s a way to go of course, as is the case for most everyone I’d have thought, but the direction of travel is clear.

What intrigues me now, is how my painting will respond to this change. The form it has taken until this point has perhaps been protective. It has taken the shape of psychological refuge, offering that little bit of respite from difficulty, but now that I have been pulled free of that I feel it just beginning to move in a different direction. It has served its purpose in its current form and I am excited to see where next it will go. There are already some new questions I am beginning to ask of my practice. Something more I want it to provide for me and, I hope, for others. It’s exciting, and I welcome the potential complexity that I have hitherto consciously and quite vocally eschewed.

I don’t suppose this is the sort of post most people would put out as they try to promote their ‘business’ (yuck). It’s not what you’d call projecting a relentlessly positive or ‘on message’ image, but frankly I don’t care about that. One’s experiences shape and inform one’s practice. It would be easy to spin it all with a cheerful grin, but it would not be honest and it wouldn’t cast the things I make in the right light. For those of us blessed/cursed with the creative urge it can be the case that we don’t really know what we’ve made until sometime after we’ve made it. If it turns out that what we made isn’t actually what we thought it was, well, tough shit. Give it all greasy gloss, present it with a forced smile and toe the line you drew for yourself if you want, but I’d rather be straight about what’s really going on or, if it’s not clear what’s going on right now, at least give my best guess about what went on. And if my opinions change, or I realise i got something wrong I’ll say so, because if i can do that, I think I’ll have a much better chance of seeing and embracing whatever comes next.