still life

I love the calmness in the title ‘Still Life’, and I think of the things I make as 3D still life pics.

Watching the brilliant Gilbert and George on BBC4 last night I was struck by the clarity and logic of their thinking, and am inspired to re-approach the 2D with traditional materials portraying current technology, starting with charcoal. It’s good to get my hands dirty with nothing more than a board and a stick, no blow-torch required (today..).

Snooping around for other artists working along these lines, in addition to the fabulous G&G, I came up with this by the ‘Playful Painter’;

Great that this was painted in 2006 and the technology already looks outdated.

I think that charcoal and my ipad are going to be spending quite a lot of time in each others’ company over the next weeks…


Seam, Installation View 2007 Catherine Bertola.

Gold Leaf in Concrete Installation for ‘MOVED’ at Workplace Gallery
Dimensions Variable
Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery, UK
Looking at the YSP website I came across work by Catherine Bertola which I really like, so googled her and came upon the Workplace Gallery Website, which has an exhibition of her work on until the 23rd of September this year. I was flabbergasted to see her beautiful Seam works shown, and especially the pic above, which I have inadvertently managed to replicate!
My work A Few Small Repairs, 2011
I remember talking with fellow students about this when we started out, and frequent cries of ‘someone else has already made my work!’ would echo round those studios, proclaiming a mixed sense of frustration, jealousy and despair.
What’s the point if it’s already been done?
What’s the point if there are quicker minds than mine out there, so far ahead in their thinking than me??
BUT, as my foundation tutor (Mr Phil Tyler) used to say to us repeatedly, there is no such thing as an original idea, but each time it’s done you’re coming at it from a different angle, heading towards a different place. Nonetheless, there is not much point simple repeating work done by others (not to mention the legal implications!), but now these things make me really happy:
I feel validated that I’m on the right track, whatever that might be for me, and I feel really grateful the artist that has already made that thing I was thinking about has done it for me, thank you very much, which is nothing but helpful.
I am very much looking forward to visiting the Workplace Gallery next week and getting up close enough to really appreciate the workmanship which is clearly an integral part of Bertola’s work.
Fantastic that the show is on right at this moment!
Fantastic that Bertola is working with the overlooked, cherishing the parts of the world which aren’t ordinarily valued, including dust and cobwebs- this interest has clearly filtered into the world to be picked up by people (like me).
Now I can look at this work and think about why these things are overlooked, why there is poetry in celebrating them, and possibly even why the thinking is noticing them now…
I feel work brewing already… Thanks Catherine Bertola, thank you for your beautiful work.


Watching Manufactured Landscapes recently, I was stunned when it included the statement that there is more gold contained in one ton of scrapped mobile phones than in one ton of gold ore.

This notion of the value placed on metals and resources which I have been working on for the year seems to be becoming part of the social consciousness, and high profile artists such as Jennifer Baichwal, the documentary maker, and Edward Burtynsky whose work is the focus of the film, are contributing to the spreading of the knowledge. I am always amused when ideas which I think are genius and new, pop up elsewhere, having already been tackled by other more established artists. I like to think the ideas are floating in the ether, but more likely it’s inspiration which is borne of reading and looking at things over the years. I used to feel frustrated, cheated even, then I realised that it’s brilliant! All the work combined is easier to work on, to build on, as parts of the building are shared.

Back at the beginning of this year I watched Vik Muniz on TED and was reminded of having been introduced to his work by a previous tutor (Mr Phil Tyler). At the time I was struck by how he played with scale, making huge earth drawings which are visible only from the air, and making small ones nearby which can be approached and appreciated. I was making oversized building blocks, and recently have been making oversized SIM cards and sculptures inspired by the telephone wire.

This talk was related to his film Wasteland (as recommended by Joanna Brown) and it has really given me a new perspective on my work and it’s place in the world:

Whilst I am confident that I am not in a position to tackle large-scale issues of social action, my focus on materials and objects which I womble or salvage is able to channel that awareness somehow back in on itself.

Vik Muniz achieves this on a significant scale as his materials-based practice feeds back into the ‘material’ itself in this case the individuals featured in the project. It has stuck in my mind, and sustains me during the dark moments when, overwhelmed, I question the point of it all, art. Unquantifiable in the plain supply and demand terms of Keynesian economics, art nonetheless is able to straddle that world and the world of human values seamlessly. Presenting opportunities for the observer to acknowlege or consider things differently or more intensely than they would have done otherwise is a very valuable effect which drives my work.

In reclaiming and repositioning objects and materials, I can respond to them and their settings to cherish or challenge them. The process of putting the final work together for our upcoming degree show has crystalised all this for me, as my work has turned into a cherishing of the studios, gratitude and lament to times past, and a few small repairs to sustain it for the future.

Joanna Brown

Waiting to enter the space created a sense of anticipation- seats were limited- and the sense of occasion was palpable. On entering we are faced with a large construction occupying most of the space in the room, and around it are arranged chairs, one to each slot cut in the side of the construction. We take our seats, as if at a dinner party, but we are isolated from each other. Six of us sit, but each can only see their direct neighbors on either side. The outside of the construction is untreated, but smooth. The slots cut in the side are at about head height- it’s instinctive and natural to lean forward and look through to the interior. Inside every surface is painted white, and it is startling to see five pairs of eyes looking with you. Inevitably, as there is nothing else noteworthy inside, the others’ eyes draw your gaze, in particular those of the person sitting across from you. No other part of them is visible, nothing to distract or divert your gaze, only the eyes remain, looking back at you. Expressions are hard to read with no facial clues, but eyes widen and sparkle in reaction to this pure and intimate act of looking.

Kate Genever is Web-art, for want of a better word, the result of collaborating with Peak District farmers Ken Wilson and Brian Bellfield, in a year-long residency. This site brings together, match-makes and juxtaposes images, media and associations.

I first saw Kate Genever’s work at the RCA show in 2007, and it has influenced my own practice ever since, in particular the piece entitled ‘Neither work nor play’ which featured a ball of string with knots tied at small intervals along the length of it. It appeared to never have been unwound. This painstaking acknowledgement of the worthwhile futile actions we make really charmed me.