Friday, 16 August 2013

Why am I an artist?

Why am I an artist? I don't know if I really have a good answer to that. A better question, at least to begin with, might be 'Do I want to be an artist?' It is a straight and yet hard question. I am pretty sure, most of the time, that I do indeed want to be an artist, although I don't know that I am always capable of being one. Certainly it does not feel as if I have been one for some time now, with my artistic life lying somewhat dormant.

Being an artist is about the only thing I can really remember ever wanting to be (other than a spaceman, which did not last far past the end of Return of the Jedi). I've been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. However, there is a world of difference between having an aptitude for something and being able to do it as a career. Being an artist is not simply about being able to create the work, and goodness knows that is enough of a challenge in itself. Being an artist is to be a small business, requiring a whole host of business-related activity, all whirring away behind the smiling face of the artist, or the works created.

It's a hard road to travel and one that pretty much requires an almost sociopathic level of self-belief and drive enough to circumnavigate the solar system. I exagerate, of course, nevertheless the point holds, in that self-belief and drive and essential. Without them, paintings, when they get made, build up slowly in storage and the world has no idea that they are there. Viscous negative cycles commence.

Once again, I am writing in the third person, but I am fooling no one. Why am I an artist? It's a good question. I'm going to need to think about this some more.

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Boundary

A few weeks ago I relaunched my Etsy shop, to showcase my new linocut prints of vintage cars. I decided after much deliberation to change the name of the shop from the rather prosaic Stewart's Shop to The Boundary.

Usually when naming things, I prefer something straightforward and descriptive, hence my earlier shop name. However, having decided that I wanted to brand my shop in a way that made it distinct from my fine art, clearly something different had to happen.

I settled on The Boundary because, to begin with, it is simply where I live: on the old boundary between Leith and Edinburgh. (For a long time these were separate towns, however as Edinburgh grew to a prosperous city after the Second World War, it swallowed up many surrounding communities.) Of course my physical location is not particularly relevant to an online shop, yet The Boundary handily also described something of what I do. Given that I create what some might call fine art as well as craft art, it does rather seem that standing with feet in both camps I am on a boundary.

With two reasons, then, and the fact that I like how the words The Boundary look, I settled on the name. Next, I'll need to try to generate some attention for my spanking new shop. That, however, is entirely another story…

Friday, 2 August 2013

Never the same one twice

I've had something akin to a recurring dream for many, many years now. The dreams don't come all that often – sometimes years can go by without one – and they don't come in the same form each time, however there is a common element in each of them. They are the kind of dream that sticks, that stays present in my consciousness once I have awoken, a message from the subconscious.

© 2010 Craig Munro & Stewart Bremner
The dreams are of aeroplanes, although never the same one twice. They always crash and I, on the ground below watching them, try to avoid being hit. Sometimes it is just the one plane, sometimes the sky is full of them. They crash and explode, past the horizon, in the city, in a river or a school.

It finally occurred to again today, after having another of these dreams last night, that it might be time to consider these dreams as material for my paintings. It has been a while since I last painted and at this point I need something to rekindle my painting fire. I've no idea if these dreams are it – for I cannot imagine how I abstract art and plane crashes could ever be brought together – nevertheless it is something to consider and that is better than nothing!

Friday, 26 July 2013

The only constant

I've only made one painting this year. It has been seven months and I have made one painting. At the beginning of the year, I took some time off after a very busy few months at the end of last year. However that was months ago and in another country and I'm home now and all I seem to do is watch my studio gather dust.

That one painting I made was finished three months ago. On a piece of twelve by twelve inch panel, I painted and I hacked and I slashed. I made marks. They were in part angry. That anger is somewhere else now and the painting has been finished for so long that, like my studio, it has become dusty. I have lost my momentum.

A few days ago, I showed that painting, along with the ones from the end of last year, to Steven Heaton – the director of Cross Street Arts where Megan and I had our two-person show in May. It was good to see all the paintings again, however for me it was not a positive experience. I became aware that all of this work, with the exception of three pieces, has been sitting in my store since I made it, slowly sticking to its bubble wrap.

Perhaps this would not be so bad if I had any other shows lined up. Sadly, I have no shows lined up and I am not even looking for any. It is not just my momentum that has diminished, but also my motivation. I simply do not have any. I have all but stopped being an artist at this point. I am not happy.

There is a misconception, held by some, that an artist has to suffer to make art, that a happy artist does not work. (Van Gogh would almost certainly become an example for such a hypothetical 'some'.) It is not true. No one does their best work when they are suffering and, for an artist who has no strict deadlines to adhere to, doing any work at all is unlikely.

I'm going to stop using the third person now, before my sentences become too convoluted. I doubt anyone reading this is under any illusion about whom I am writing.

I have been suffering from depression for almost three quarters of my life. While there have been plenty periods when I have not been affected, it is nevertheless something of an unwanted fellow traveller, a comet caught in my gravity, always to return and cast its shadow. I saw the last bout of it off some years ago and for some time life was going along nicely, yet due to reasons that remain unclear, it returned a year ago. Since then there have been good days and bad days, although no free-from-it days.

My motivation to not just paint, but to do anything, has slipped, reaching close to a flatline. No drive, no ambition, nothing. I'm no longer an artist, just a man with a heavy salted snack food habit, surrounded by a lot of art. It is a situation that needs to end.

So. I'm taking steps. I want to be an artist again. I want to think and act like one. I want to make paintings and get them seen, get them out, out into the public eye. I realised again this week that without an audience it is hard to keep making art. Without some form of recognition, be it a conversation, an email or a comment in a book or online, a feeling of pointlessness can arise. My art is part or me. If no one sees my art, no one sees me.

Seeking validation from others feels like a weakness, the act of the emotionally immature. Perhaps it is, perhaps not. I think of other jobs I've had in the past, before I was an artist. Often in those my work was never complimented, however those jobs tended to be low-paid, and mindless, barely worthy or praise. A well-trained animal could undoubtedly have done them. In jobs where I was employed for my specific skills, I received compliments when I did my work well. Still, those were jobs and the work was simply work, not at all on par with painting. In my paintings I invest more of myself than I have in anything else I've ever made or done, yet when I am painting there is no boss around to compliment me on a job well done. I could as easily be shouting into a hurricane for all the notice the world takes. And why, indeed, should the world take notice? I have no right to attention or praise, no matter how much I may desire it. Without attention or praise, however, the urge to keep going diminishes. Without it, the motivation to keep getting my work out there decreases and without that, the chances of attention or praise grows less. It is a shrinking circle that is hard to break from and in the middle of an extended bout of depression I can see no exit sign. On top of that, I am my own boss and I do not ever seem to be happy with my work. Sometimes, of course, I think too much.

There are days when an endless spiral of negativity are all that I can see. Today, unlike so many blog Fridays this year, I am looking at the negativity, recording it and, in some small way perhaps challenging it.

I've been fighting to keep face for a year now. It has been hard and I am tired. I'm taking steps now. Small ones, admittedly, and maybe not yet steps upwards, yet they are steps. Things change and I know that I too will in time.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Hot hot heat

Over the past few weeks, I have been working on a series of linocuts, that will form part or all of a planned relaunch of my Etsy shop in the not too distant future. This week, my work rate has dropped notably. It's the heat, you see. There's a lot of it. It's all rather unexpected. Edinburgh is experiencing an unprecedented heatwave and my studio, facing south into the brightest summer sunshine every to hit this city (that I can remember), is Very Hot Indeed.

Just now I fetched the thermometer from my film developing cupboard (by which I mean the place I store my developing kit and chemicals, not the place where I develop film, which as you may well know I do in the kitchen sink) and it is reading a little short of 30ÂșC in here. It has never been that hot in here before. I read that it is easier to make linocuts when the lino is hot, however I dare not try. While the lino may well be softer, my brain is slower and the tools are oh so sharp. I'll wait until the room cools before I do that.

I'll leave with a competition, this week. Over on my Facebook artist page, I am nearing 350 likes. Everyone who likes and shares my page between now and 350 will be entered into a draw to win the lovely '51 Plymouth linocut print pictured. This is a one-off piece of art that I hand-inked after hand-pressing the print. Good luck!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Of necessity

Sometimes even when you're doing stuff all the time, it can feel like you're making little progress. The past week feels very much like this. I know I've been doing something, yet looking back it is hard to tell what it was. There is certainly no new artwork around, that I can see. All there really seems to be is a vague plan to do art business things, without anything as concrete as a timescale attached. A scribbled-on piece of paper, a spreadsheet and a lot of Facebook updates and tweets does not make for a satisfying week. Am I not meant to be making art?

Or course, a successful art career needs both good art and business plans – either that or just a shed-load of luck and since I'm not feeling particularly lucky, I'll be needing plans. Right now, I think I'd rather just do some drawing.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Against a dark background

A few weeks ago author Iain Banks passed away, taken before his time by cancer. His work has been a part of my world for almost all of my adult life. He wrote and released a novel a year throughout his career and I am very sad that I no longer have that yearly marker to look forward to.

Last night I watched an interview with him, purportedly his last one, and it reminded me of how well he bestrode two literary fields. While his mainstream novels were critical and commercial successes, every second year he wrote science fiction as Iain M Banks and although those works did not meet the same level of success, they nonetheless were a game changer in their genre and something Banks was hugely passionate about.

Four drying limited edition prints of '51 Plymouth.
Among all the other feelings I have about his life, his philosophy and his work, there is something that is personally very inspiring in the way in which Banks carved out his double success. He proves that a creative individual can have more than one identity.

It is a dark and rainy Friday afternoon, at the end of a week that has not been overly troubled by sunshine. Following last weekend's Art Market, this week I made eighteen new linocut prints from three designs, adding to the other new ones I made last week. Planning for the Art Market brought home to me the realisation that my abstract art and my illustration are not necessarily suitable for the same audience.

Like Iain Banks, I have more than one identity as a creator. Unlike Iain Banks I do not yet know how to manage my differing identities. This is something I want to give some thought over the coming weeks. If anyone has any ideas, I'd be very happy to hear them!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Art Market time already?

Tomorrow is Art Market time again at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall and this is not a post I had imagined I would be writing. After a slight case of confusion over the application dates, I missed the deadline to apply to show. However luck smiled on me and a few days ago Nicole from the Drill Hall let me know a spot had opened up. It's been all action since then!

For the past few months, I've been thinking about making prints of late Mid-Century British cars. You know, the kind of car your dad drove until it had to go to the scrap year to be put down (surely it wasn't just my dad that did that?) and were always in the background of grim '70s television programmes. Cars with names like Anglia, Victor and Minx, cars the world has mostly forgotten. I've always had a fondness for those old bangers and now felt like a good time to go back and have a look at them.

So when the call came from the Art Market, I headed right along to the Greyfriars Art Shop for some ink, lino and new blades and spent the following twelve hours drawing and tracing and cutting and pressing.

To start with, I have made two designs, both small cars with big names and bigger personalities. First up is the Austin Mini, probably the single most recognisable British car. Minis are wonderful things and there are still a few on the streets even today. The second design is the Hillman Imp, something of a rarity these days and the last car ever manufactured in Scotland. When I grow up, I think I want an Imp.

I've got plans for more cars prints and ideas for doing more than just lino cuts, however for today that's all I'm revealing. If you're in Edinburgh tomorrow, do drop by the Art Market to get a glimpse of my new prints. I'm off now to try mixing printing inks to make new colours. See you tomorrow!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Through time and distance

It is Friday afternoon and I'm taking a short break from preparing for my newest exhibition, Through time and distance, which is a two-person show with Megan Chapman. Megan has ten new paintings in her half of the gallery, while I have ten of my Worlds Apart series in mine, fresh from storage.

Part of my part of Through time and distance,
mid preparations
All of our paintings are now hung and are more or less ready to show. Megan and I, together with Cross Street Arts director Steven Heaton are now making all the other final preparations. Megan is putting the finishing touches to her statement and I should be printing out and cutting our wall labels. Downstairs, Steven has sorted out the nibbles and made sure the gallery is clean and ready for visitors.

With four and a half hours to go until opening, we're well ahead of schedule and far enough away from it not to be nervous yet. Without those nerves, I'm looking forward to getting a chance to talk about my work with interested strangers.

Wish me luck!

Through time and distance
Cross Street Arts
114-116 The Standish Centre, Standish, WN6 0HQ
17 May – 14 June

Friday, 10 May 2013


Er-hm. Hi. Hello. Um, is this on? Ah. Right. So… art. Right.

I started a painting this week. No, seriously, I did. It wasn't exactly what I had planned, nonetheless I made art and that is to be celebrated (I'm told). Yes? Yes. Good.

Elsewhere are is out in the real world, where it ought to be.

Never better
Mixed media on postcard, 10x15cm
A few days ago, The Rock Trust's 2013 postcard exhibition opened, which has two pieces by me in it. All the proceeds from the event, which is an auction, go to the charity and with the very central location of the gallery in Edinburgh, there is no excuse for missing it. You don't want to miss seeing the only two new paintings I've finished this year (so far)!

Tomorrow night, far away across the Atlantic and over half of the North American continent, Megan Chapman and my joint paintings will be going on show at the lovely Boswell Mourot Fine Arts in Little Rock. The show is titled Arkansas artists and their works, which worryingly seems to imply that I have become adopted by that arboreal state. (Eek!) I'd very much like to be there to see it, especially since some of the pieces will be having their commercial gallery debut! If you're out and about in central Arkansas this month, please stop by and let me know how it looks.

Lastly, a week from today, I will be joining Megan at the opening of our two-person show Through time and distance at Cross Street Arts in Greater Manchester (which is confusingly Up North, while being down south from where I live). Megan is hard at work putting the finishing touches to her new pieces, while I am going to be bringing most of my Worlds Apart series out of storage for a whole new audience! I can't wait to see how they look together. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A tale of sound and fury

A few days ago, I walked out of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art so angry I could hardly speak – vibrating, nostrils flaring, teeth locked, brows knitted – angry enough to step out in front of, and face down, a speeding car on the pedestrian crossing outside. I left with a desire to never ever return to the gallery. I left hating art.

The SNGMO's current exhibition, From Death to Death and Other Small Tales features pieces from the gallery's collection that have been mixed together with a Greek billionaire's private collection, to "create a new dynamic context for both collections." The show intends to "discover the diverse ways in which 20th and 21st century artists have approached the subject of the body."

There are a lot of big names on show here, enough to make the show almost a who's who of the last hundred years of contemporary arts. In this sense, it is an impressive exhibition to visit in my home town, doubly so that it is free. Clearly, I should be thankful to have the opportunity to be allowed to see such stellar artworks, plucked from the firmament and brought down to lowly little Edinburgh. Sadly, I am not thankful.

The exhibition is, for the most part, a cold dead thing – the title, of course, should have been a clue. It is one long, insipid and uninspired in-joke, with a few good pieces that serve only to highlight the paucity of talent on display elsewhere. Works that are so puerile as to become utterly vacuous, rub shoulders with pieces dense and unfeeling enough, that the bodies which inspired them could only have been corpses. It is an unhappy, uninspired and uninspiring view of the world and ourselves. While it might seek to find something universal in our bodies, it instead finds only darkness and self-obsession.

Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain', 1917
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that it only took us just over 30 minutes to take in the whole exhibition, including a return to linger over five small and beautiful Francesca Woodman photographic prints. I have never walked around the gallery faster. Dust flew in my wake. I may never have seen most of these pieces before, however I have seen similar from the same shallow end of the art pool, where shock and spectacle have become the all-encompassing point. I've seen the like in modern and contemporary galleries across the country. Finding Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain' a little past the half way mark in the exhibition made for the ironic centre to the exhibition: an artwork whose sole merit is the in-joke, elevated to high art: the clear forefather of much of the work on show here.

Witness the found objects, exhibiting as much worth as a pair of discarded old shoes in a gutter, such as Joseph Beuys' 'Felt Suit' (1970); the ugly forms typified in twenty embarrassingly poor Tracey Emin scribbles; Picasso's 'Nu Assis' (1969) that comes across as the barrel-scraping of a dirty old man; the numerous video art pieces – a medium that is singularly hard to engage with – and a whole room covered in a black wallpaper, patterned with toilet wall cock 'n' balls and lady's spread legs. The viewer is not so much left pondering their body and its time on earth, so much as the more prominent question of why is much of this called art? There is little creativity on show, while it is hard to imagine the artists having taken anything even close to a delight in the making of their work. Almost all that is on offer is cruel irony, a sneer from on high. If I wanted to be this depressed, I'd stay in bed with the curtains closed and have our endless winter rewound and started again.

In short, the exhibition left me cold, much as last year's Sculpture Show did. Like that show, this features work conforming to the same narrow view of the world of art. Also like that show, this one is going to run for many, many months. Yet, where the Sculpture Show lasted for six months, this one runs for nine. It is in considering this final aspect that I became so angry.

I accept that there is a whole world of art out there that says nothing to me, does nothing for me and is made without any heart. I do not like it, yet I accept that it exists and that it will be shown and that there must be, somewhere, people who take something from it. I even admire the gallery for trying something different in their curation of these exhibitions.

What I find unacceptable is that the SNGMO has been given over to this narrow viewpoint for such breathtakingly long periods of time. In the past two years, these exhibitions have taken over the entire gallery for fifteen months. It is astoundingly arrogant: like it or lump it is the message. In the past, where one could visit parts of the permanent collection in the upper galleries, now one has no choice but to return to these exhibitions, or be deprived of museum level modern art for almost two thirds of the year.

I have been visiting the gallery for around twenty years. Today it feels like the gallery and collection that I have loved and thoroughly enjoyed for all that time has been changed into something that is no longer for me. Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps, simply, my view of art is hopelessly outdated and I am lost in an ancient back water in this post modern world. Or perhaps, even more simply, I just don't like art any more.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Something is still not quite right

'Below the surface' at the SSA
(bottom row, third from right)
Photo © 2013 Megan Chapman
Today I picked up my painting from this year's Scottish Society of Artists Annual Open Exhibition. Days like this are often ones of mixed emotion. There is an understandable sadness in taking work down and returning it to storage or the studio. We make our art to be seen and so taking it away from the eyes of the public is never a happy event. Added to this is the inference that the work has not sold, which has attendant to it worries about worth, as well as worries about paying the bills.

On the other hand, something precious we made is being returned to us. This may not seem like much consolation, however it is better than simply being depressed about all of the above.

The SSA show, which I was finally able to visit last week, was an excellent exhibition. With a wide range of painting, sculpture, drawing, printing and photography, it showcased what has clearly been a strong year in Scotland's creative arts. I truly felt honoured to be part of such a fantastic show. I was particularly pleased to note that conceptual art was at a minimum, with more of a concentration on objects that had actually been made by artists (which pleases me greatly). I believe this exhibition is one of the best I've seen in the RSA building for some years.

Sadly, not everything about the exhibition was great – lack of space was a glaring problem. The walls were crammed full, with many pieces so high up that it became very hard to see them. This was especially exasperating, because the calibre of work this year was so high.

Then there was the number of works on show. The SSA had again to team up with Visual Arts Scotland and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour, in order to be able to meet the costs of holding their annual exhibitions in the RSA. This meant that between the three exhibitions, there must have been around a thousand works on show. There was no way to take them all in on one visit – although with the exhibitions running to only three weeks, one visit was likely to be all that most could manage.

Clearly there is a problem here. The expense of hosting an exhibition of new Scottish art in the very building that was built to showcase Scottish art has become so prohibitively expensive, that no one of the three main organisations that represent Scottish artists are able to show on their own. It is a very sad state of affairs.

Being an outsider to the organisation-level part of the art community, it appears that the RSA is being difficult in this instance, although there is every possibility that I am making an incorrect assumption. However, what is clear to see is that the building is not used all year round, with it often standing empty for a month or more at a time. 

Is three exhibitions in three short weeks really the best that can be done to represent our thriving and vibrant artistic community in our capital city? The City Art Centre also stands partially-empty for months on end. It is quite dispiriting.

On which subject, let me briefly mention the current exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery. Whatever is in there just now, is of the usual Fruitmarket standards: insipid, uninspired, meaning-free dross, spread thinly around what is a lovely space. I left, as usual, feeling dispirited and wondering what the hell is going on with art.

I'm glad this combination only happens once a year. To see such great work over-crammed into one gallery, mere minutes from another that is empty in pretty much every sense is not something that I'd care to experience more often.

Friday, 15 March 2013

That sleep after flying thing

It's actually longer than this
After flying one fifth of the way around the planet to arrive back in Edinburgh yesterday morning, there was something of an interruption to my sleep pattern. When I finally got my head on a pillow, I saw with my eyes that the time was around nine o'clock in the morning, while my body told me that it was actually four o'clock and that it had been awake for twenty-one hours. Body confusion followed and sleep became a bit tricksy.

This is why from around three o'clock this morning, I began thinking about ways of making glass negatives and cyanotypes and browntypes and building my own pinhole camera and making large negatives and creating art based on my Elegy paintings on tracing paper to turn into cyanotype prints (which are sometimes called blueprints) and building a medium-format enlarger and maybe a new project with Dr Craig and studio spaces and houses and traffic and a new painting and the cupboard and the time and the light coming around the window and then it was time to get up and then inexplicably eat three cheese rolls for breakfast.

So. I might have some vague plans to do something at some point, however until the jet lag is gone, I'm going to aim low and not expect much to get done.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Philadelphia, Little Rock, Edinburgh

Don't let them rob you of the only thing you know
and You know your problems ain't exactly new
at 110 Church Gallery in Philadelphia
 © 2013 Heavy Bubble
This week, I have seen photos from the two exhibitions my work is currently featured in. On the west side of the Atlantic, the lovely people from Philadelphia's 110 Church Gallery are very good at documenting their shows. I've borrowed one of their photos from their current show Natural Selection for this post. It is really nice to see my paintings in their space, as well as the people attending the exhibition opening. You can see more here – including my name on the window!

Below the surface at
SSA Annual Open
© 2013 Pat Bremner
On the east side of the Atlantic, my mum visited the Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition 2013 – apparently their 116th such exhibition – and sneakily grabbed a couple of photos of my piece, 'Below the surface' on the wall there (thanks mum!). Quite why the SSA and the RSA before them both think that my work looks best next to the floor is a something of a mystery to me. Not that this strange coincidence matters, because I'm thrilled to have been selected from among what I believe have been record high numbers of entrants, to be shown in two such prestigious exhibitions. I can't wait to soon see this one with my own eyes!

We took the quiet roads
Mixed media on canvas, 76x101cm
© 2013 Megan Chapman & Stewart Bremner
Also this week, Megan Chapman and went on a two hundred mile journey to deliver all of our remaining joint paintings (and three more of Megan's) to Boswell Mourot Fine Art, a lovely gallery in an upmarket area of Arkansas' state capital, Little Rock. There are only eight of our joint paintings remaining for sale in the world and, as hard as this is to believe, this will be their first time in a commercial gallery! We've got high hopes for their future! (I think, possibly, this also means that I am maybe, sort of, kind of, represented by a gallery in the US – however I might be over egging the pudding now!)

East Davidson
Cyanotype on paper, 6x6cm
I've been in Arkansas for two months on this trip, two months that have flown by. When I arrived here, I intended to take it easy, after a very full and busy year and I absolutely managed to do this: not only have I not so much as lifted a paint brush, I hardly even posted here. I did, however, manage to fit in some analogue photography experiments, shooting on film every day of my visit, hoping to document the typical American town that I once again found myself in. I even tried making some tintypes and a series of cyanotype prints, including the one here.

In the middle of next week, I will be returning to Edinburgh and, once I do, I suspect that I had better knuckle down. It may well be time to get serious (again)!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Two more new shows!

Below the surface
Mixed media on panel, 2012
Today, two new exhibitions that include my work open, on two different continents!

In Edinburgh, Scotland, the Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition 2013 contains my painting, 'Below the surface', from my current series Elegy for the end of an empire. The opening reception for the show was last night, which I was unable to attend due to currently being in Arkansas! I'm very much looking forward to heading along to the exhibition when I return to Edinburgh in a few weeks. I hope all of my friends and family at home will take a moment to pop into the show and check it all out – if it is anything like last year's, it should be great.  

You know your problems ain't exactly new
Mixed media on paper, 2011
Meanwhile, on the same side of the Atlantic as I, two paintings from my paper series Post Process are featured in Natural Selection, a five-person group show at the 110 Church gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 110 Church's space looks amazing and I only wish that my budget (and time) in the States would extend to a visit. Sadly, it won't. If by any chance you are in the Philadelphia area, please do stop by and tell me how the exhibition looks (or even grab a few snaps of it, if you're allowed!).

Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition 2013
March 1-26, RSA Upper Galleries, The Mound, Edinburgh, Scotland

Natural Selection
March 1-29, 110 Church gallery, 110 Church Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Mind the gap

There's been a long gap. This much is entirely evident. Simply looking at the previous entry below will confirm that the gap can almost be measured in months, although the gap in my mind is longer. That latter gap measures just how long it has been since I last felt engaged as an artist. More to the point, it measure how long it has been since I last felt like an artist. It has been quite a while. As I write this, I am resisting the urge to look back over the last few months of entries, to measure the gap.

Last year was a very busy year for me artistically. I created two bodies of work (one of which may potentially be ongoing) and co-created another. There were also quite a few shows. Somehow, in the darkening winter months, as 2012 wound to a close, my train seemed to jump its rails and slowly grind to a halt. Looking around now, those rails don't even seem visible, as if a heavy snow has fallen, blanketing the ground and covering the tracks. Perhaps the tracks weren't even there and in the way of a dream, the track was actually one in a forest and I've wandered away from it and the falling snow has erased my footprints. Lost in a forest, all alone.

Is this some form of artistic block? At present, I doubt it. In my mind a block of that kind is associated with a desire to create but not the inspiration, nor the necessary ability to do so. I could be wrong.

Where I am, instead, is lost in that snow-frosted forest, where no desire to create exists. I wrote earlier that I don't feel much like an artist, when the truth is that I don't feel like much like anything. I am currently a void. This is not a feeling I particularly want to share. Avoid a void. Nonetheless this empty, in between place is where I am.

While I know that making and sharing art is what makes me who I am, it is not something that I can simply force into being. I know full well that there are processes I can engage in, stepping stones I can stumble over, that will take me back to that place, yet even those are too much to ask.

Snow. Void. Blank. Empty. Flat. This is part of the circle, the revolving circle of creation, the snake eating its own tail, revolver eternal. I do not like it here.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

This week

This week has been a week of flying above the endless, northern hemispherical blanket of thick cloud, whitely shining above, darkly shading below, blue skies and glaring sun seen through small mottled windows. This week has been a week of crossings, the crossing of an ocean and the crossing of half a continent. It has been a week of four airports, uncountable departure gates, suitcases and carry-on luggage. It has been a week with security and immigration and customs and security and boarding passes, body scans, seats by the window and in flight entertainment. It has been a jet lag and head full of the cold week. A week of looking around and seeing more sunshine in the winter than I am used to, almost three more hours a day and coughing my lungs up and sneezing endlessly, nose running, sleep slipping. It has been a week of remembering how to be me when I am not being that other me and taking it easy while my body adjusts to a six hour time difference and sucks down vitamins and herbs and tries to run out a winter cold. This week has been a week when I returned to America, to Arkansas, to Fayetteville. This week has not been a week for art. I'll see what I can do next week!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The rest is just detail

Split, mixed media on panel, 50x76cm / 20x30in
Just like the start to every year in recent memory, this one seems to have arrived rather sooner than is believable. And now we're living in the teens and that seems, well, a bit odd. Do we now have to start being grumpy and staying in beds far too late? I hope not!

Anyway, enough of that silliness. First up, I am very happy to announce that I have completed five new paintings. With the exception of Split, which is shown above, these pieces were all ones that have been in progress for a few months. It seemed for much of that time that I might never find a resolution for these pieces, so that they could take their place as part of my Elegy for the end of an empire series. However I persevered, stopped being precious the parts of these not-quite-right paintings that I liked and managed to make them work.

By a thousand cuts
Mixed media on panel, 30x30cm / 12x12in
Finishing these pieces was a good way to round off a very full year and it was a year that was my most successful as an artist (so far). I'm planning, this year, to build on that success and although I haven't exactly worked out quite how I am going to do that, as far as I am concerned that part is just detail.

Some of the details that are already in place are three exhibitions that will be including my paintings throughout the month of January. As I have already mentioned, I currently have two pieces on show in the Snowflake Salon biennial in Philadelphia and one in the prestigious RSA Open 2012 in Edinburgh. Added to this, soon, will be six pieces in Edinburgh's Union Gallery. Their new exhibition, It's The Little Things, begins this Thursday, with the opening from 6-8pm. Sadly I won't be able to get along to the opening, as I will be 4,300 miles away, once again visiting Fayetteville, Arkansas!

My flight there leaves in a little less than 60 hours. As you might imagine, I have a lot of preparing to do for my trip and so I will bid you adieu now and be back here in a week time, a long way from here! Adieu!