Saturday, 30 June 2012


In a few days time, Megan Chapman and I will be delivering our new body of work for exhibition at the Art Center of the Ozarks. Creating the series has been a hard job and one that was not made any easier by the heat of the Arkansas summer. Up close against the the work in the confines of the studio, it was hard to get a sense of what we had been making. However, tonight as we varnished all fifteen of the paintings, we began to realise just what we had created and a sense of satisfaction began to manifest. Time and again we found ourselves commenting on how much we liked the particular piece being varnished. It was a good feeling.

We are nomads
Mixed media on board, 12x12" / 30x30cm
© 2012 Megan Chapman & Stewart Bremner.

Originally, we had intended to make more than the fifteen 12x12" pieces that we are showing. Knowing the space that the exhibition was to be held in, we originally estimated that somewhere between twenty to thirty pieces would be needed to aqequately fill it. Yet as the body of work progressed and its complexities revealed themselves, we realised that making more than the fifteen would needlessly complicate the series and that was something that these intricate pieces would not suffer. We further realised that by showing this smaller number of paintings, each piece will be given more impact, pulling patrons deeper into each of their universes. Quite simply, it will demonstrate clearly our conifdence in this work.

In a few days time, we will be hanging these pieces at the Art Center of the Ozarks. It hardly seems like any time has passed since we started this work and yet it has been almost two months since we took delivery of our expertly-crafted panels from local makers Perrodin Supply Co. It seems hard to believe what we have created in that time, pieces that neither of us could have created individually.

While a place called home might not exist for us temporally, a place called home absolutely exists when we paint.

A place called home
Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner
July 3-27,
Art Center of the Ozarks, Springdale, Arkansas

Reception: Tuesday July 10th 6-8pm  
For more information visit

Friday, 22 June 2012

Brother, can you…?

This morning the temperature in sweltering Arkansas has dropped a little, after yesterday's occasional rainfall. Sitting next to an open window, under the ceiling fan is pleasantly comfortable. It would truly be a lovely morning, if only I didn't have this awful taste in my mouth. Clearly, I could easily remedy this if I was to brush my teeth, however it is sadly not the only thing that is blemishing my morning. This blog entry is also blemishing my morning, as it has done every day for a week.

Completed this week: Sleeping on planes
Mixed media on board, 12x12" / 30x30cm
© 2012 Megan Chapman & Stewart Bremner.
All rights reserved.
Astute observers may have noticed that I did not post an entry last week. I tried, I really did, but I could not wrestle the damned thing to the floor. It kept beating me. It wouldn't stop writhing around and I could find no way to finish it. There was also the glaring fact that the writing was not very positive, at times even swinging towards not at all positive. To be fair, I have written in a manner that could be taken as negatively in the past, although in those instances it was in the form of art criticism and so entirely justified. This time it was something else entirely.

The badness began with a long, long paragraph…

With the global financial world and the corporate structure surrounding it being proved to be exactly the monstrously immoral, life sucking, poor crushing, baby eating, behind-closed-doors oligarchy many have long believed it to be and our governments actually conspiring to make things worse for the majority while continuing to allow our democracies to be defiled by the viciously greedy few, a few who day by day seem less human and more like parasites incapable of seeing that the body they live on is dying, for most of us life is becoming every day more difficult. Each trip to buy food finds us choosing between cheap and almost certainly health-endangering genetically modified food, or eating healthily but being hungry. At the same time there is the constant dread of the arrival of the next artificially-inflated power bill and the worry about exactly how the rent will get paid this month. News pages are filled with the latest government restrictions and cuts, while bizarre op-ed pieces add fuel to the fire, screaming for even more restrictions and deeper cuts. Facebook feeds fill with petitions, letting us know it is not just one government that is screwing its populace to placate the rich and the powerful and the corporate, but all of them. Pay increments vanish, fixed year on year to effectively produce pay cuts and benefits dry up faster than clear-cut areas of rainforest turn to desert. The environment looks like it will soon be, or even may already be, so badly damaged that there is vanishingly small hope of ever again experiencing something as radical as 'seasons'. And our governments look on and not only do nothing but instead through their actions cause the damage to happen more quickly, in order to speed up the pace of which all of the world's remaining resources are turned over to the control of the rich, the powerful and the corporate. Not only are we all screwed personally, our world is clearly being treated just as brutally and it is hard to see how any future generation is going to deal with the treachery of our 'elected' elite. The flimsy curtains of democracy are falling from the corridors of power, revealing the hard faces of paid security, barring the way to the real power.

In the midst of this, I am an artist. I make art and I love art. A central tenet of art throughout the ages has often been beauty: both through the seeking and the documenting. For many, flowers are the epitome of beauty and yet, as the hardness of winter approaches inside the skirts of autumn, flowers are always the first to drop, petals shrivelled to wind-blown litter and dry stalks bent to the ground. So too when society faces hard times, artists, who are so often on the fringes, are among the first to feel the hurt. For artists, no matter what their media, art is a necessity. For the rest, it is often seen as a luxury. As times get harder and resources diminish, there is a strong chance that soon the majority will have a hard time legitimately having art in their lives. From an artist's viewpoint, that seems a life that is doubly poorer. Without visual arts, without music, without literature or theatre or film or dance of countless other forms, the world would be a harder and darker place.

In a world where I fear art is becoming simply a luxury for the few, I paint. I paint because it is what I am here for. I can imagine no life without painting. Yet reality is brutal and I wonder how much longer I can afford to have such a narrow imagination. I paint today better than I ever have. My work has improved time and again over the years and yet, and yet, this improvement is not matched in sales.

It is depressing to become reduced to looking at nothing but numbers. Nevertheless in a world where those ruling us with iron rods care for little else, it is difficult not to be dragged down to their base level. I paint better than I ever have and I sell less. It is a bitter pill and one that, sadly, I am not alone in having to swallow. Every artist and every gallery I know are feeling the pinch. Sales and special offers are springing up everywhere, sad signs of desperate times as backs are pushed hard against walls.

Around this point, the entry began to fragment, as I tried to conjure up some kind of positivity, or at the very least to tie off the bloody stump. I managed neither. Instead as the days went by and my usual Friday posting day came and went, the entry never got any nearer completion. It was already a difficult week, because in the face of this darkness Megan Chapman and myself had a body of work to complete for our upcoming exhibition. The above worries were exacerbating my own personal demons and then combining with the approaching deadline, a hot and sticky climate that I am still not used to and the subject matter of these new paintings, which from our current viewpoint was simply the feeling of being utterly unsettled. It was a hard week and the entry lost its importance, when painting had to take precedence.

Back here on a Friday, I am once again trying to pull this meandering entry together. After re-reading it, I still have fears about publishing it, fears that arise from the overt negativity.

My blog is my professional face, it personalises who I am as an artist, which helps both my career and my sales. From experience, I know that negativity does not sell, that no one wants to back a loser and that the internet is already full of shrill, self-centred whiners. I also know artists who do little but complain about their lot. This self-defeating tendency helps to give rise to the impression of the arrogant artist, who expects the world to unquestioningly support their needs. This seems a clear way of alienating patrons, who are unlikely to buy from an artist who, rather then being pleasant and thankful, loftily believes that the patron should buy their art purely because it exists. Simply put, moaning does not sell work.

Another fear about publishing this entry is that to publicly write that my art does not sell, will then make the idea a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is without doubt the most scary outcome. I know that artistic success is not one that is supposed to by measured by sales, yet without those sales the ability to create art quickly diminishes. When I sell a painting, the payment buys me more time and more materials to make more art. I do not make a profit by doing this, I make a living (or I try to). In order to keep making art, I need to sell my art.

Completed this week: Distance becomes us
Mixed media on board, 12x12" / 30x30cm
© 2012 Megan Chapman & Stewart Bremner.
All rights reserved.
Then there is the other imagined responses, the Van Gogh theory being the top of that list. This is the idea that one does not need to sell paintings to make great art, that one only needs the proper drive and the inspiration, just like Van Gogh. Of course while Van Gogh's work is stunning and rightly famous, the thing he is perhaps best known for is that he cut a lobe from one of his ears, to send to a lady of ill-repute. This is hardly something to aspire to and neither is his constant penury, his utter commercial failure, or his (resulting) early death by his own hand.

My mind also imagines the 'get a real job' and 'why should my taxes pay for your lifestyle' ranters. These ideas are so prevalent in online comment forms that I am tired of even thinking about my responses, those being that firstly it is one and, secondly, other than they often don't, if one is going to begrudge where taxes are spent, how about starting with the things that destroy the world, rather than make it more beautiful? How many artists could be funded for their entire lifetimes, by the cost of, for example, a weapon of mass murder that has no role in our world, other than to make politicians feel important?

My point, in all of this meandering ramble, is that at a time when everyone is feeling the pinch, artists are likely to get hit harder and sooner. I'm not exactly writing "brother can you spare a dime?" but if you are someone who loves art, no matter what its form, you might want to consider doing something to help an artist. Go and buy a new book or see a play or buy a song directly from the artist or make a payment on a new painting or support a Kickstarter.

If we're all in this together, remember that society is an artist's employer and that we are all part of society. Maybe we can crowd-source our way to a healthier society.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Not just for one night only

The air was cooler and lovelier than we could have hoped for at five o'clock, when the East Prospect exhibition began last night. The air was also full of the magical sound of Sun Boxes. It was the perfect beginning to what became a wonderful evening.

The front room with works by Megan Chapman,
Jennifer Libby Fay and myself.
In one funky and (what I'm told is a) small house in the historical district in Fayetteville, Megan Chapman, Jennifer Libby Fay and myself hosted an international art exhibition. The show was comprised of more than a hundred pieces of art, including abstract paintings, textile works, photography, illustrations and multimedia works. All of this was fitted into the five rooms on the main floor of the house and was seen by a constant stream of friendly faces. Meanwhile Craig Colorusso was outside, moving his Sun Boxes around the yard to keep them in the patches of sun that passed through the surrounding trees, so that they could sing to the neighbourhood.

It was a fun night, full of conversations that were carried through the house on light summer breezes. As an artist, much of my night was spent talking about my art, which is something I love to do. However, I was also able to talk about other's art and share it with friends and with new acquaintances, which was a thrill.

In the back room with my paintings
and photography by Christian Demare,
Thomas Petillo and Craig Munro.
We had a great time and so, by all appearances, did out guests. It was such a good time, in fact, that we decided we really should repeat the experience. So for those that missed the show, or those who couldn't get enough, East Prospect will be back on Saturday 9th June from 11-4pm. If you're in Northwest Arkansas, you really shouldn't miss it.

Thank you everyone who made it along and everyone that I hope we see tomorrow. You've all been amazing and it has been a joy to feel a part of the community again.

(And here are those lovely Sun Boxes)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

East Prospect

The good thing about Fayetteville is that it is an easy place to make your own opportunities. There are a lot of creative spirits in this town, which makes for a receptive audience if you have the nerve and will power to try something. By all accounts, last week's experimental theatre piece, Alley 38 by the Artist's Laboratory Theatre, found that audience. Sold out on every night, not only was it a financial success if was also an artistic one. As an audience member/participant on one evening, I had a wonderful experience and look forward to the troupe's future work.

East Prospect exhibition
Thursday 7th June
In less than a week, artists Megan Chapman, Jennifer Libby Fay and myself will be having our own experiment. Since the ignominious demise last year of Fayetteville's most successful commercial gallery, the town has been left with a gaping hole in its cultural scene. For one night only, we have decided to fill that hole. However, we are not filling it in quite the expected manner: rather than staging our show in the usual stark, white-walled box, we have decided to have our exhibition in a residential home!

It seemed, when we first thought of it, a radical plan. Yet the more we thought about it, the more sense it made. All too often in the past we heard visitors complain "It looks so good against the white wall, but my walls are (such and such) colour" or "I don't have the space for art on my walls" and that was the end to their experience of art, art that may well have enriched their lives for years to come. By moving art away for those usual stultifying enclosures, we believe that it will make for a more personal and enjoyable experience. Not only will patrons be able to feel closer to the art but they will also see it in a real life setting.

Added to this, as artists and curators, we have access to a wide range of art and artists. It eventually became clear that not showing Fayetteville the kind of art it has come to expect would be the only wrong thing to do.

Our exhibition, East Prospect, will take place on First Thursday, June 7th and will feature a wide selection of art from national and international artists; artists from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, England, France and Scotland. On show will be abstract paintings from Megan Chapman, Steven Heaton and myself; fabric art from Jennifer Libby Fay; illustrative art by myself; digital and analogue photography from Thomas Petillo, Christian Demare, Craig Munro, Rob Kedward, Steven Heaton and myself; multi-media art from John Spurgeon and, not least, the fantastic solar-powered installation, Sun Boxes, by Craig Colorusso. All of the work, Sun Boxes aside, will be available to purchase and take home on the night and is priced to suit everyone from the serious art collector to students.

We believe Fayetteville deserves, and needs, to see this art. It has been too long since there was a show of this quality in town. I'm tremendously excited about the exhibition and I can't wait for it to happen. I hope to see you there!