So I’ve been in one of those stuck periods, what I like to call ‘fallow times’, waiting sort of patiently for it to pass. I haven’t been doing myself any favours, by filling my time with the day job, the family, the dog, lots of things really which are not the studio. It seems my work comes in splurges, bursting out of the frustration which builds when nothing I’m doing seems right, so I know I’m on the right track.

As today is my birthday, Happy Birthday me, I’m jolly well going to the studio now, and am excited to crack on with the piece I’m working on for the upcoming Waterloo Sculpture festival in June. Sneak peak here. After all, as my fantastic foundation tutor Phil Tyler pointed out all those years ago, the only way to find out what you’re doing is to do SOMEthing, ANYthing, until it becomes clear.

The irony of this is that despite making work about my anxiety around my digital life, it was a podcast yesterday which was the kick up the bum I needed. The TV and escapist films I  watch with the kids – digitally rented of course – the books I read – The Circle and Farenheit 451, Margaret Atwood, etc – all reflect my fear of the effect we are having on the planet, and that I am becoming more connected to folk online that in person, but I think this podcast gave me a little faith in using this screen to improve connections, that it’s not solely a substitute.

Happy days. (today, anyway)

@2_by_3 with Alia Pathan and Bex Massey

We decided to organise ourself as 2 by 3 as a structure within which we could explore similar interests in sculpture, objects and presentation. This resulted in our first show Death of Intention which explores the roles of objects and space in how we experience and interpret the world written about by Walter Benjamin.

The fluid process of producing this show resulted in a open and new installation which feels autonomous and optimistic. The time to curate and install together has given it the feel of a residency- an event which is often characterised by noticing the luxury of being able to prioritise and focus on your practice, slightly removed from the demands and distractions of daily life. Over the course of four days we had two days to initially install our proposed work, and the remaining time allows for experimentation and exploration along the themes proposed by Benjamin, around the themes of barriers, obstacles, agency and negotiating space.

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Alia Pathan works predominantly in time-based media, presenting thoughtful digital film and media installations which explore the deapths of human experience and connection. For Death of Intention she has thought about the deliberate construction of an apparatus we can use to experience her media work. Materials and construction are common themes in all the work presented in the space, and this work Peter, Pixel & I, uses carefully manufactured structures and objects to invite us to move around the work, explore as much as we dare. I can avoid looking at a film of a medical procedure if I stand to one side, choosing to be selective in how I look at it, mimicking the official policy towards the market in such procedures during the soviet era which informed this work. In thinking about the official ‘blind eye’ which was turned to the doctors and ship which worked in international waters, the artist has also produced a silk flag which simultaneously interrupts the space and provides a backdrop to the films. The luxurious surface invites me in as much as the printed design of eye operations repels me.

In the next space the heavy contrast of cast iron sits on the back wall, spelling out the image of a cat in raised characters which could be read blind. The Cyrillic ‘shhhh’ form in the Center, once I’d had it translated for me, suggests the silent complicity of the operation of duel systems.

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Bex Massey is skilled painter of photorealistic images, who has always considered modes of display beyond the sole canvas. In the past she has used leaking daylight, objects as props, and juxtapositions with mass produced materials to support her paintings. For Death of Intention she has not dispensed with paint altogether, but here it has taken  a supporting role, used to highlight physical elements which allow for the themes to prevail. The combination of crafted objects with organic elements gives the work the same slightly precarious sense seen in earlier  works.

The main space holds two pieces, ‘Seasonal sculptures’ number one still employs abstract canvases, balanced one on the other here,  as a backdrop to a cast object. The painted reproduction of a pineapple is topped with a regular a top sliced from the fruit. The pineapple is colour and pattern- matched to the canvas, whilst the colour of the pineapple top is reflected in the section of artificial turf which supports all parts. This limited palette ties the selected objects together, somehow making sense of the variety. The slender vertical presentation gives a poetic sweep to the assembly.

Seasonal sculpture number 2 consists of a junior school chair supporting a slice of watermelon. The chair has been restored and repainted in white on one side, fluoro pink on the other. The pink is reflected in the flesh of the watermelon which has been remade whilst still presented in a piece of cut peel. The organic elements in these Seasonal Sculpture series lend a sense of tension and termporality, making me want to cherish the looking while I can, before they topple or rot away. The simple bright colour on the child’s chair lends an element of playfulness to the work, which is tempered for me by the faux offering of the fruit.

The sense of dashed hope of nourishment continues in the next room, where chips are referred to by potted yellow flowers. They are potted in McDonald’s fries pots, supported on a crafted shelf against a slash of red and yellow on the wall. The movement of the first piece is here, and the simple palette too.  These sculptures are a departure for the artist, yet the unmistakable lineage is plain to see, which I find really interesting. How this happens and what we do with it is one of the questions we asked of ourselves in creating this show.

Drawing work and ideas out of the usual métier into something more 3D, sculptural, interactive, invites a different experience from the viewer, just as it is a new way of thinking and working for the artist.

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Personally, the work I presented seems to be stretching my practice from both ends: the multiples which make up AQI (air quality index) are bookended by a working circuit of power cable with exposed bulbs and contacts in one direction, and by gestural canvases in the other. The circuit is one of the most quiet, distilled works I have shown. It’s fascinating watching how it is interpreted, as I try and gauge if it is pared back enough, or too much… The concept seems to be communicating itself, with the audience spontaneously approaching and activating the work. The cooperation and interaction required to complete the circuit is a new explicit element, whilst the execution of the basic materials themselves keeps the focus on the object/materials themselves.

The oil and wax paintings are physical interpretations of some of the imagery I collected during my residency in Beijing last September with Red Mansion. The abundant stimulation and input of all senses which I experienced will continue to feed my work, but in flattening it into two dimensions, I am distancing myself from what was an intense physical and emotional period, and this allows me to better process it objectively.


Death of Intention @2_by_3

After the scale and formality of the launch of the Red Mansion prize exhibition in March, my emotional involvement with art school and my investigations there paused. The quiet space this left slowly expanded, as I relaxed my vice-like grip on planning for the future. But physics declares that nature abhors a void, so in this space other plans were able to take hold.

The hard work continues, conversations start, and common threads emerge. This re-examination of our practice and dominant interests are keys in to new plans and work. One such conversation has resulted in 2 by 3, a collaboration with Bex Massey and Alia Pathan, in which we think about the sculpture in our practice today, the evolution of our making as it follows these interests. Representation, display, communication, physicality, are all explored in our inaugural exhibition, which has been our first opportunity to get our work in one place.

Creating these opportunities to install work differently, and try out new things, feel key to our process. They’re key to a lot of processes. The time spent curating and installing, the play that allows new things to happen, and an informal atmosphere which feels supportive, all allow for conversations, critique, experimentation. The autonomy of the exerience is refreshing. It’s an antidote to the niggling hangover of the fantasy studio syndrome, the one I’m quick to warn others against, but which applies just as much to myself: that fantasy which makes it tempting to say that the perfect space/funding/time (delete as appropriate) would free me to make x y or z.

The reality is always that the work is now. It’s what happens wherever it is you find yourself. Artists I have met in the past have talked about filling sketchbooks during a monotonous commute, or of presenting an MA show made entirely on the college photocopier after the money was gone and a supportive tutor gave you his credit. Louise Bourgeois began exploring her vertical sculptures on the roof of her New York appartment using wood scavenged from the streets as she walked her baby in the pram.So we continue to make work with the tools to hand, and to install it in places we are able to access. To carry on showing, talking and thinking, trying to share our investigations into where we find ourselves and what we are thinking about today. Getting feedback and new angles from new people, and each other, moving things further.

Tracey Payne Breathing Space Eastbourne

Thinking about sea air and escape from the metropolis I set off to find Tracey Paynes work in The Labyrinth in Eastbourne. The name of the venue should have been my first clue that, as always with Paynes work, all is not as it seems.
The Labyrinth is a little Victorian shopping arcade which has somehow survived development by secreting itself away and changing as little as possible since the last time a bustle was worn down it. The businesses occupying it have changed, but the commerce goes on, it is very much alive as a space.
Installed in a new truncated art space being explored by Curious Projects is a work which is also alive and breathing. Made from contemporary sail material in vibrant orange and sky blue, Breathing Space rises up at me from behind the glass bay shop front and catches me unawares. I had actually walked past it at first, though the colours didn’t go unnoticed. I turned back to peer in at the deflating form as it slowly slumped back below the windowsill.
Suddenly it sprang into life again, taking a deep motorised breath, filling out and rising above my head. This optimistic expansion, this deep intake of air was contained against the panes of glass. It climbed and climbed to no avail, displaying it’s cheerful colours pressed against the limits of the space. At last, as it occupied as much room as it could, it conceded, turned off, stopped trying.
The title and the location suggest optimism for space, and this is the commodity in most short supply here. This duality is often seen in Paynes work, most recently at Art Lacuna and at the Camberwell Salon at Unthank Artspace. The playful materials and installations have the joy of possibility in them, and manage to remain beautiful and enticing even as they exhale: they never do escape.
This determined attempt to occupy the space, the repeated thwarting of it, but ongoing tries nonetheless makes Breathing Space a work which I spent a good while with, ever hopeful of its success, ever entranced by its withdrawal.

Tracey Payne, Breathing Space, 2014

Missing Narrative @BrixtonEast

Missing Narrative E-Flyer

Exhibition open: 30th July – 3rd August 12 – 6pm
Private view: 31st July 6 – 9pm
Symposium: 1st August 3 – 5pm

Brixton East Gallery

Visual arts often communicate something that is beyond vocabulary. Language is often inadequate, language is unable to translate the visual and the visual’s relation to words. [painting and music] “will always be over and above anything you can say about it.” Jean-Paul Satre.

Missing Narrative explores what is absent, something that is incomplete but perhaps implied. The idea of a work in transition exuding possibility but not actuality. The ‘mystery’ of the final coming together of elements in the artwork and viewer can become implicit in the narrative completing the works meaning. Philip Guston said “The painting is not a surface, but a plane which is imagined. It moves the mind. It is not there physically at all. It is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is what you see.”

Rose Bell
Mel Cole
Gin Dunscombe 
Cadi Froehlich
Clare Harford
Alice Kelway-Bamber 
Monika Kita
Sasha Morris 
Sue Stephens
Kim Thornton 
Billy Ward 

Guest Artists / Symposium guests:
Ann Course
Karl England
Rebecca Fortnum
Claudia Sarnthein
Gregory Williams

More guests TBC…

Choc full of Martin Creed @haywardgallery


I’ve never seen the Hayward so full of work. From the moment you walk in you are hit in the eye and ear and almost-but-not-quite the head. It made me smile straight off. Martin Creed’s work always does make me smile. There is a playful irreverence about his work, but he presents it to us all the same. I got the sense of him trying things out. The fact that he takes it seriously enough to stick at ideas gave the work an integrity which I found I didn’t get at all from a similarly irreverent David Shrigley at Hayward last year.

I couldn’t help comparing the shows in my mind as I walked around this one, but where Shrigley seemed determined to undermine his own work, which made me want to do the same after the first few pieces (you want me to take this body of work seriously? It makes me smile a bit, but seriously, how many one-liners can I take in one show?)
What’s the Point of It? is more of a stream of streams of thought, overlapping and repeating, which felt interesting to witness.
The work that almost-but-not-quite literally hits you when you first enter is the monumental revolving neon Mothers. The way it is shoehorned it into the space, sacrificing a walkway and giving you a squashy sofa to wimp out on is quite breathtaking. I prefer standing there and getting the hairs on the top of my head whisked up as it swoops past. When I first heard Creed talking about this work a couple of years ago,  Creed said it had to be large, “because mothers always have to be bigger than you are” and because “it feels like mothers are the most important people in the world.” This stuck me as respectful rather than patronising: I think it’s the ‘s’ which opens it up for all of us. We can all personalise the tribute I suppose. Motherhood being such an lifelong status, with all the paradoxes it presents – illuminating, intimidating, amusing, liable to bonk you on the head if you grow a bit more…. I could spend a lot more time with these ideas.
I did get to spend a lot more time with a lot more of Creed’s ideas, sometimes wondering why I was being asked to spend time with more than one incarnation of some. The stacks of boxes and iron girders, for example. But not chairs or lengths of wood. The everyday verses the sourced? The crafted versus the ordered from stock? Was it even that deliberate? Those inconsistencies I think were interesting, but in the room where light featured wasn’t so successful: the lights turning on and off were great: I think that added to the broccoli prints, and to Mothers, enhancing the features of both; but there was a projection on one wall which came on and off with the lights which felt clumsy. It seemed coy amongst work which was delighting in being straightforward and observational. It seemed to be a decision governed by practicality and I couldn’t get past that. The bronze peony in an unappealing vase sitting next to it also seemed out of place, much more of a material experimentation (the very long lasting flower made immortal although it looked quite dead… Material pun?)
The material puns were continued with the tape on the wall upstairs. A huge wall was meticulously striped in all different tapes. They weren’t holding it together, but they could almost have held it up. Made me want to fix a few walls in my house like that. Such a simple gesture, yet the hours of sourcing and the painstaking perfection of the application gave it substance. This was true of the walls in general, which are all painted in various ways, but with different paints or rollers or brushes which gave it more intention than randomness.
All of this pondering is rounded off by a room behind a wall glazed with different sorts of glass. (Following the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh made of different shades of marble, the wall of tape, even the rather forlorn wooden screen downstairs crafted from different types of wood, the uniform is made question by these explorations into material variations)
Behind the glass wall, the space is un-neatly divided in two: half the air there is in great big balloons (or possibly, slightly less than half- I think the static on my hair made one or two explode.) The megawatts of static might be an indication that I stayed in there a bit too long, but it was fun.
Fun, and unnerving too. Coming face to face with strangers you didn’t know were there. Laughing hysterically like a child at a birthday party fulfilling old fantasies of enough balloons to fill the lounge. Paying for it with a birds nest painful tangle on the top of my head. It brought to mind the immersion in Cildo Meireles’ Volátil talc room at Tate Modern a few years ago, or Miroslaw Balka’s How It Is in the Turbine Hall, the unsettling possibility that something might happen to you is never far from your mind. This foreboding gesture is echoed by the slamming piano lid earlier in the show, the stranded, animated car on a roof. This is a deliberate act, otherwise why not just fill half the room with one ballon?
The insistence of Creed to draw us into his way of seeing and exploring the world seems generous rather than imposing. The smiles and belly laughs balance the more reserved, quiet, reluctant moments. The bored looking pianist serenading us with every note on the keyboard over and over again seemed privately humiliated, yet he did it anyway ( I hope this performance style was in the job description).
Having enjoyed looking at Creed’s work ever since I was first introduced to it on my art foundation, I was really excited to see some pieces I’d only read about before. (I was so busy on the MA I didn’t make it to see Mothers at Hauser and Worth) I did miss any reference to the Bells from the cultural olympiad though. Hopefully this is due to it being ubiquitous now, what with so many of us taking part? Or maybe its just me who still has the ringtone on my phone?
The work feels like an ongoing process, rather than a fixed presentation, which I find really refreshing. As the 2 years of intensive fertilisation and replanting, which led to the agricultural show which was the end of MA show at Chelsea last year, start to really sink in, it’s heartening to be reminded that making art is a lifelong obsession in the wider world too. What’s the Point of It? Is more than just a title of a song, or a show, it’s a call to arms for making more work, to try and find out.

Michael Asher “art often carries further across time than space.”

While showing at the Graduate show at Chelsea last month, I had a really interesting conversation about the materiality and installation of my work with the unfailingly generous David Cross, who recommended I looked at the work of Michael Asher.

The photo above is a newpaper reference to an ongoing project in Munich which ran from the 1970’s until 2007 when the caravan was stolen. As it moved around the city it occupies spaces, safe in the parameters of an ‘art project’, but each time it moved it’s location was swallowed by another vehicle or even building works. I read that he was delighted when it did get stolen, and said “art often carries further across time than space.”

Such is the nature of Asher’s practice that it is actually impossible to look at any of his actual work, and I never will, now he has passed away. All that remains are informal records and references to the projects: Part of his method was the stipulation that the locations of his interventions be returned to the state they were in before he worked there. He did not consider accompanying  documentation, catalogues, etc as artworks.

It reminded me of the work of Tino Segal which I saw at the Hamburger Bahnhöff in Berlin. A performer filled the space with song periodically, but we were able to chat to her in between performances- she explained how the artist fought not to be included in the catalogue, maintains no online presence ( a feat these days), and even refuses to sign a contract- all is done verbally. This audacious confidence in one’s own existence really stayed with me. By that I mean, I have in recent years considered my art to validate my existence- it gives me a motive and a physical proof that I am still here. If that were to evaporate, would I still exist?

With the Asher no longer living it adds a poignancy to the way I see his art, and makes me immediately consider how I see the artwork as artifact. This first came up during my residency at Grey Area last year: After I had found and arranged all the wires and cables according to what was in the space, I then formed them into a bundle- the discussion brought up whether this was a commercial decision, which shocked me as I hadn’t thought of it that way. The presentation was so ingrained in my thinking, I hadn’t questioned it. Which is why it was so good to face it.


With all the hype and expectations surrounding the graduate show, my thoughts ineveitable turned to the future, and how I would sustain my practice. The fable of the magic patron who might appear raises other issues such as authorship, autonomy and the heartbreak of parting with works I had actually fallen in love with over the months. All really interesting.
This possiblity, the sly expectation objectifies all works in the space.

My stubborn faith in the hanging work and the liberal use of the readymade felt must have been my subconsious shouting to step outside of the neat object presentation. I hope so anyway.

cadi froehlich MA show

Michael Asher

Michael Asher 1943–2012: Parting Words and Unfinished Work | e-flux.

Robert Morris


Robert Morris has come up in a couple of recent tutorials, since I brought my studio work into college for projects and to prepare for the MA show. In particular, some work I imade curling salvaged copper pipes prompted a friend to show me an image of some work Morris made involving curled copper pipes and felt. I was standing on some recycled felt when I saw it. Yikes.
The felt Morris uses is similar to that used by Beuys. It is beautiful, and Morris seems to choose it for its weight, it’s light absorbtion, and for me it has a movement to it which contrasts well with his lead metal.
I think that when he curled those pipes he was thinking of giving them lightness and movement, just like the fibres of his felt. What was I thinking when I did mine?

Mine were curled by the force of the electricity running through my brain, my thinking and my arms as I adjusted to the new working space in college. They were given movement too, which I could hardly contain, as if they wanted to fly out of the window. Babak’s summation of the psychological elements of my work back I may proved accurate.
For me. The relationship between the materials is what dictates them. I have written before about the tang of the metal against the choking dryness of the felt. The well used, recycled, salvaged qualities talk of their previous incarnations and suggest the next.
There is always that familiar twang of terror when you see that someone ‘already made your work’, but I think it must be a sign of me gaining a bit of my own momentum that I can now recognise that what your work is now is built on all the foundations laid by all work that went before- and some of it which is happening now too. Our take on things are always different, and actually the differences help me to clarify what it is I am interested in.

Where Morris thinks about gravity, light and space, I am thinking about conduits and the human traces in materials. I do really like the physical scale and installation of his work in space, and the demands on the viewer as they move around it. I think that is something I would like to look at in my work at some point too.

Robert Morris
One of my tests for my show configuration

Ian Kiaer- Endless house- thought models for dwelling

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Ian Kiaer makes work about making work. He makes paintings which directly respond to Malevich’s black square as the death of painting. He makes sculptures and installations which evoke the poises of non-making versus the praxis of making. Thinking space is offered in abundance.
In a humble and unassuming manner he presented his career path, with works also becoming progressively less prescriptive. This quiet humility is contradicted by his ascent to international recognition, with works invited for the Istanbul biennial among others.
What I found really interesting, especially in light of having recently received assessment feedback on my essay, was how driven Kiaer is by his love of critical art history. Relevant contextual engagement is essential to offer your work as contribution to current critical debate, but Kiaers passionate exploration of early 20th century and late 19th century artists and philosophers really grounds his work in a strong foundation which adds volume and form to his ‘tentative’ practice.

Andrew Grassie, paint club talk 17/07/13

Graduated RCA at time of YBAs but resisted pressure to subscribe to ‘brand’

Paradox of setting rules of expressing himself despite not being able to express himself. (due to all the rules: copies of his own work, sometimes in others styles)

Developed into UFO pics, in which his paintings were the UFOs, paintings of the space, including his paintings of the space. Both looking at it, then later of the rest of the show from the perspective of his painting.

Then collected 60s/ 70s show catalogues and remained some installation shots. Changing our experience of the work, which the catalogues did anyway. Documentation. Usually the space between the lens and the pic is to be ignored in a catalogue, and his paintings further look at that space.

Worked with gallery in Vyner St and London based artists to borrow work, photograph it, return it, and in the end collage the works to present a proposed show full of established artist names, all big collectors and curators came, led to good ops for both!

This led to a show in the new art room at Tate, and international shows. Latest work paintings of art storage rooms and crates.

Ref. Q&A recorded online after Vancouver show.

Paints in tempera. Gives a very fly surface. Slightly masochistic as its so hard to work with, dries v quickly. But need to get into right frame of mind to begin working, crack the eggs.
His paintings are depopulated. No distraction or sense of being observed when looking at the work.
Has long held thought of a shed snakeskin, a lifeless facsimile of the actual thing. He aims to muffle the thing, to add a layer. As he decided he is a painter, years ago, there is always the question of what to do with that within the history of painting.
The paintings are ‘quieter’ than the actual photographs he now works from. He alters the photos, straightens verticals, etc, as lens based images are ‘too noisy’ with stuff going on. This muffles them. They may not be ‘correct’ visually, but it makes them quieter.
Ref. Simon Starling? In particular hi current installation in the Duveen Galleries at Tate. In stark contrast with the ‘quiet’ approach, as Starling has installed a huge projection with a very physical soundtrack. Starling also presents an anthology of artworks which were there individually, but are no longer, and some are even now destroyed. He did a show on a similar pretext at the Camden Art Centre. Grassie contrived his own show/ curation of objects, which were selected as they were curatorialy so disparate.