Friday, 26 October 2012

A time for change

Change is the only constant. It is a cliché, yet as far as I can tell is nonetheless true. Certainly it is a true constant in my work, in as much as it is in my life and over the past few years, the changes in one have often been reflected in the other. In this respect my work has to an extent been quite inwards-looking. I believe there is nothing wrong with this, in many ways it can be seen as the starting point for any good work. Knowledge of self and the self portrait are both fine and long-standing traditions in many forms of art.

Here and no further
Mixed media on paper, 24x16cm
There comes a time, however, when looking inwards is not enough on its own and it becomes important to engage with the outside world. While I have done my best to always allow for the influence of the outside world in my abstract work, I have not as yet engaged with it directly. In recent weeks this has changed.

I have been working on a series of small paper paintings, that follow on from my recent panel paintings. Conceived, like all my small paper works, as both a means of building and conserving momentum and at the same time to create affordable pieces, these paintings went somewhere unexpected.

I realised, as I was working, that I was no longer simply commenting on and interpreting myself and my place in the world, I was also commenting on and interpreting my opinions and ideas about the world at large. There is a very good reason for this and it returns to the idea of change.

In the past I have touched on my political beliefs about the world at large and the need for change in our society, with particular regard to politics and the hoarding or power by a small percentile of our population. In Scotland, currently, there is real potential to begin to effect some of that change. This potential for change lies in the independence movement.

In two years time, a referendum will be held in Scotland to determine our future status. I believe the result of that referendum will see Scotland leave the United Kingdom and return to being an independent sovereign state for the first time in more than three hundred years.

As a smaller nation, without such cultural baggage of imperialistic world domination, or an entrenched, mendacious and jaundiced ruling elite and with a population that has repeatedly, over decades, demonstrated an overriding belief in social democracy, I believe we have a chance to create a just and fair society.

Send her victorious
Mixed media, 16x24cm
My interpretations of and reactions to the campaigns leading up to this uniquely and historically important referendum, are the opinions that have come to inform my recent work. While I passionately believe in independence for Scotland, I am equally, if oppositely, passionate about these campaigns. In particular, I am appalled by almost the entirety of the mainstream media, that has been utterly partial towards the unionist movement.

Not a day passes without publication of either a groundless scare story about a particular aspect of an independent Scotland, or a smear story against the independence movement and in particular the Scottish National Party or Alex Salmond. (For the record, I am not an SNP voter and no fan of Salmond.) First Minister Salmond is painted as the sole figure behind the 'separatist' movement and, among other things, has been likened to a host of mass-murdering dictators (even once by a respected BBC journalist). It is poisonous and despicable behaviour, whose only intent is to distill fear in a populace that might otherwise think for itself and not stand by its betters.

Being someone who in the past has been involved in the media, as well as someone who spends a lot of time reading and thinking, it really should have come as no surprise that the independence debate leached into my work. Nonetheless it was an unexpected event, although one that I have to admit that I am pleased by. It feels to me that there is a satisfyingly full weight in the debate as a source of material for my paintings.

There is of course a potential in making such work for alienating those who are disinterested and also creating divisions in those who are. It is a risk that I believe is work taking.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Art market!

Tomorrow is Out of the Blue's Arts market. I've been preparing for this for a while now, with almost all of today being devoted to making final tweaks, to bagging and tagging and making a mock up of my table. I'm very happy with how it is looking and am surprised by just how much colour there is. The table is full of lovely, affordable art, with something for every budget and I hope every taste too!

I'm taking a wide range of my abstract paintings:
  • Three of my small Worlds Apart abstract paintings on panel – these are the last three small ones left in this country from this popular series.
  • Four of my early abstract paintings on canvas – none of these have been seen in public before.
  • Seven Hidden messages abstract paintings on paper – this has been a very popular series, with almost all of it now sold out. This might be the last chance to snap one up!
  • Six Post process abstract paintings on paper – they're orange and they're on paper, what more could you want?!
  • Eight Mirror world abstract paintings on card – painted last year while I was visiting Arkansas, these have never been shown publicly on this side of the Atlantic.
I'm also going to be showing some of my illustrations:
  • Eight of my Fading glory cars – I love these so much that I don't really want to sell them. Don't look at them!
  • A whole bunch of my For the love of the lens camera illustration limited edition prints – these wee beauties are both very affordable and very colourful. You'd be a fool not to want one!
  • Many, many of my animal greetings cards and just about as many of my Edinburgh greetings cards. There are not a lot of these cards left and I won't be printing any more of them, so now is a good time to get your hands on them.
The market runs from 11am to 5pm. I'll be there for the whole day, so please do pop along and say hello and see if you can find some space in your life for some art!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Sales, a market and Picasso and the Modern British

See our joint pieces fly!

Last weekend, Megan had her yART sale, that featured all of her available work and our joint pieces, as well as the small selection of my work. Much like the summer's opening East Prospect exhibition, the turn out was not as high, however those who came very much appreciated and engaged with the work. This, truly, is the most important thing for any exhibition, from an artist's viewpoint. We want people to see our work and to think about it and to talk about it!

From four thousand miles
Mixed media on board, 12x12" / 30x30cm
© 2012 Megan Chapman & Stewart Bremner.
Very excitingly two of Megan and my joint paintings sold! This means that from the fifteen paintings we created earlier in the summer, only four are now left for sale! This is brilliant news for us and great validation of the work we created. I know that I am not alone in wanting to thank everyone who has supported Megan and I throughout our adventures and especially those who have bought our work.

You can find out more about Megan and my joint paintings here. Currently four pieces from A place called home and six from A question of chemistry are still available to buy.

Coming soon to the Art Market

Silent reply
Mixed media on paper, 5.25" x 8.5"
Out of the Blue's quarterly Art Market grows closer, taking place on Saturday 20th – only eight days away! I have been preparing for it over the past week, working out which paintings and other work I will take with me. I am planning on taking a few of my smaller Worlds Apart paintings, my remaining small paper pieces (one shown left), my car illustrations, my camera prints and my pop art greetings cards. With all of that on show, I think I might well have quite a bright and diverse stall!

I have also decided to create some new paper paintings. These pieces, which are currently still inside my mind, will be in keeping with my most recent work. While some of those pieces (you can see most of them here) deal with some dark ideas and themes, I believe that in a simpler form and on paper, I will be able to create some dynamic and eye-catching work – expect to see a preview here next week!

The Britons are coming!

Last weekend I took a trip with a friend to visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, to see their Picasso and the Modern British exhibition. This is again one of the gallery's larger exhibitions, covering more than one floor and encompassing a multitude of works.

Picasso was, of course, the big name draw and, on a sunny Sunday, the gallery was surprisingly busy. Naturally he was well represented in the show, with a fine range of the work he produced before the Second World War. It was educational to see some of his early post-impressionist pieces, as well as be able to see his development as an artist over this period.

For me, however, it was the modern British work that was the most eye-opening. For a long time, little of this work has merited much attention, so it is very welcome to see this selection in a major museum. While I understand the reasoning behind tying all of the work to Picasso (it's the money, naturally), at the same time I felt that the exhibition could have easily, and perhaps more successfully, stood on its own without him. Of course, it would almost certainly have created a far quieter gallery last Sunday and there's no money in that and out galleries do have to be careful, now that the nasty bastards are in charge again.

Wyndham Lewis, 1913
Pen, watercolour and graphite on paper
© Wyndham Lewis and the estate
of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis
The first of the British contingent I was struck by was Wyndham Lewis. I have been peripherally aware of his work since undertaking a series of Vortographs a few years ago. As the prime instigator of Vorticism (seen as a British offshoot of Cubism), I have to admit that there was some sense in showing his work along with Picasso's. I did not, however, confuse the two styles, finding something engagingly graphic in Lewis's approach that I'm not sure I've ever seen in Cubism. However, perhaps I am simply being patriotic (although this seems rather unlikely). 

Later in the show, a few rooms showed work that is seen as a reaction to a tour of the United Kingdom made by Picasso's Guernica, in the year's following that great painting's completion. (Apparently its last showing on this island was in a Manchester car showroom!) Here I found an artist I had not previously encountered, Graham Sutherland. The works of his shown, made in the years around the Second World War, were sinister pieces, sharp and angular and with hints of foreboding. They were reminiscent in some ways, of Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion‬, which was the splendid centre piece in the next room.

Green Tree Form
Graham Sutherland, 1940
Oil on canvas
British Council Collection
© The Estate of Graham Sutherland
By the time we reached the upper floor of the exhibition, I was beginning to suffer from art fatigue. There was so much to see in the show, that it became impossible to truly take it all in during one visit. This left me with the feeling that the exhibition was simply too big. Of course large public galleries regularly show more work than this, however in a curated exhibition such as this, there is more onus to pay attention to every artwork and read every wall card (there were a lot of wall cards). It made for an exhausting visit, not in any way helped by the unnecessarily dim rooms which made reading any wall card a strain on the eyes (not to mention the wayward shadows intruding across many of the paintings).

While I would certainly consider a second visit, to return to the pieces I enjoyed and pay attention to the areas I ended up bypassing, at £10 a ticket I really do not think that this is likely to happen. By all means, take this fantastic opportunity to see a unique collection of modern British paintings, just be sure to pace yourself (and take a head torch!).

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A market, a store, a studio

The most exciting news thing this week, was the email that let me know that I am going to have a booth at the Out of the Blue art market on October 20th! The art market is a quarterly event in the Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street, where local artists and crafters come together to sell their wonderful things. This is the first time that I will be there as a seller, so I am both very excited and not a little nervous too. Not elate because I've never had a booth on my own before (although I know Megan will be there with me in spirit).
I've got lots of lovely things for the booth, my paper paintings, camera prints, car illustrations and more. I really hope to see some of your friendly faces there!

This week also saw me launch a new range of prints, on the Society6 website. These prints are based on digital illustrations I made a few years ago and it is lovely to have them finally see the light of day – or at least the light of other people's monitors! These pieces share some similarities with the work that I created with and for Oddhero.

The interesting thing about Society6 is that they offer these illustrations not only as art prints, but also as skins for hand-held digital gadgets and laptops, as well as t-shirts and tote bags (although I have only made a few of mine available as the latter two). There may well be something for everyone.

The working week ended when I made a visit to look at some artist studios. It was an interesting experience and the first time I have looked studios in Edinburgh. I did so without really thinking deeply about it beforehand, viewing it as an experiment, perhaps a fact-finding mission.

Now having been on the visit, I find myself with more to think about than I had bargained for. There are as many good reason to work at home, as there are to work away from it. There is a lot to consider, although it occurs to me that jumping for the very first opportunity to come my way is probably not the best plan. More research would be a better idea.

There comes a point in all artist's careers, when one must make the leap out of the home studio. I need to consider whether I have reached that point.