POSH, anthropomorphic wires?

Yes, long before Victoria Beckham sashayed her way into our consciousness as Posh Spice, I had a tyrannical headmaster who terrified and taught us stuff in almost equal measures.

One of the lessons which stuck with me (along with speed-reciting of the 9 times table for fear of being combusted by the Times Table Dragon) was his understanding of the origins of the word posh; Port out, starboard home, which was how the better-off colonialists sailed out to India and the Empire, back when that seemed like a good idea. That way you travelled on the shady side of the ship, out of the blazing afternoon sun – the port side (left if you’re on the ship) heading south, and the starboard side (right hand side on the ship) when you head back north.

I have been thinking about global trade of goods as I made the work for Nothing Endures But Change, which is part of the Waterloo Festival. The colours I have used and the orientation of the work reflect that mythical description of the word: I think a lot about the trade in power and privilege which dictates where all the stuff we buy is manufactured by lower-wage workers. This ongoing exploitation/natural flow of capitalism and industrialisation (depending on your politics I suppose) (and how guilty I wake up feeling that day) seemed to be relevant in the context of class and status, and the questionable title of posh which some are labelled with.

Then when I looked into the name further, it seems the origin is more interesting, stemming from the street term for money which was used by criminal gangs in the 19th century. This feels a bit like reclaiming the word, it being used as slang for wealth, rather than as a sort of put-down. The fact that the myth about the ships headed for Asia has proliferated almost reinforces the system of class and entitlement which the underworld operated (operates) apart from. So that’s a fortuitous reference to start with.

Then, in the making, to cheer myself up (and ease the guilt I felt as I considered what had been shipped where on the pallets I’ve used) I made all the wires point up. Is it possible to have cheerful, optimistic wires??

I hope you can join me on the 6th for a walk round the sculpture garden, I’ll see you there at St John’s Churchyard, 73 Waterloo Road, SE1 8TY from 6 pm.

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Owning our own

Well the new data rules have successfully flushed out all the mailing lists I willfully granted may email address to over the years, flooding my inbox in the short term, promising me a more serene future… although I have no legal know-how to chase down the inevitable exemptees from distant lands… my favourite notification came from the fabulous folk at Who Gives a Crap loo roll (check them out, they are cheap and plastic-free, support excellent charity work, and are amusing)

The email took ages to load so I thought it looked like this:

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I thought ah, brilliant, they are so right-on that they dont need to update their policy, they already do all the right things.

Then when I checked back, it was indeed a data use update, but included this pic, so all good.

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I’m enjoying the reactions I’m hearing about the new opt-in rules. Hardly anyone seems to appreciate what I see as a pivotal moment when organisations (including yours truly, a humble artist just trying to invite you to things) have to be transparent about the fact that they hold our data on file. Today it’s worth noting that most of the websites I use on a daily basis (social media) are based on a genius business model : make a platform, then have the users spend their time populating it for us, then gather lots of useful facts (data) about them which have a market value. Bingo. We do their job for them and are grateful for the oportunity. Yes they provide us with a service, we get to write random tomes and share our interesting pics to friends out in the ether, but it’s worth reclaiming your own value in the process. They need us more than we need them.

Just a thought. Happy long weekend. May the sun shine on us all.

Thank you for reading btw. Here is an invite to the next oportunity to see my work, from the 6th June at St Johns in Waterloo, part of a show with The London Group & Friends at the Waterloo Festival this year: Nothing Endures but Change.

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The Principle of Sufficient Irritation

The London Group President’s Prize show 2016 at the Cello Factory with Martin Heron and Darren Nisbett

Last year November my work was selected for exhibition in The London Group Open, which is a biannual event showcasing the work of current members alongside the same amount of works by selected contemporary artists. The membership is thriving, with around 90 members, so the show was spilt into two parts and hung in a salon style.

The current main gallery used by the group is the Cello Factory on the Southbank. As the name suggests, it is a converted space with high beamed ceilings and skylights. The award of this space and the time to work in it meant that I was able to conceive a piece which is much larger than previous works. 


‘Cloud’ is approx 4m x 4m x 3m and is suspended in the space, stopping before it reaches the floor. The salvaged wires are a mix of power, telephone and data cables, and have all been connected into one circuit here, with two tiny LED bulbs proving agency. This is an opportunity to experience a physical relationship to the copper cabling we are surrounded by and depend on for our life services, including communication, conversation, and data exchange. The material is unified by a small current, so the imagined past uses of the wires might bleed into one another, and have their current forms extended a little. They have been spared the scrap-mans’ smelter for now. 


I am also exhibiting 2D drawings for the first time, and I see those in terms of physical exploration too: Following my residency in Beijing I have been processing my experiences there in many different ways. One of the ways I have been trying to discover what this orange object is for is to draw it and draw it. No matter how closely I look I still cannot work out how it might be connected. They just stood on top of telegraph poles there as rare beacons of colour in the thick, flat air.



Martin Heron takes his background in large scale public art installations as a starting point which he is able to position his work against at 180 degrees. In contrast to large heavy works designed to live an age, here he salvaged scrap metals and allowed them to have some say in how they are treated. Martin manipulates his materials until they seem to have said ” stop!” They crease and fold according to previous marks, and colours in the form of paints and tapes respond to altered angles and lighting too. 
They protrude from the wall at intervals, giving an airy colourful illusion to their sharp edges. They are displayed at head height, which I feel places some of the responsibility for taking care back onto me, activating a personal interaction.



Darren Nisbett is showing a photographic series chronicling his exploration of abandoned and derelict industrial machinery. They are printed on guilted and textured metal, which transforms them into becoming relics themselves. They might be as decayed as their subjects. 

They are dark and imposing, mixing the mechanical with the possibility of the anatomical, and the scale of the original objects I hard to ascertain. Small clues suggest their enormity, and the dark row of frames moving along the wall of the gallery seems to have a mechanical rhythm of its own.
The three of us had not met before we won the award last year, but were instantly drawn to the shared interests of our work. We met regularly throughout the year to discuss the theory and practicality of staging a coherent group exhibition, and I think that these conversations paid off through what we have produced. The installation was well planned over three days, and went very smoothly. This luxury of time opened up our plans from an early stage:

As a photographer Darren knew he would show on the wall, and as a space based sculptor I was keen to exploit the height of the space. Martin makes sculptures which are often displayed on the wall, so the balance was struck. 

I calculated logistics and materials before I arrived, but was not sure of the final form the work would take. This was dictated in part by how the cables I chose behaved on the day, and in part by how the space was transformed when the wall works were installed. 

As the rich dark photography and the colourful textured sculpture went up, it became clear to me that my cables should only be black, and the coloured and white wires of my collection were packed away. I began with the heavy, smoother cables, a mixture of data and telephone wires, which draped more elegantly in the heights between the beams. As I moved lower to the ground the work narrows, but still appeared to be floating upwards, and so the lower section is made from solid core power cable which is more capricious.

I worked with the title in mind, as it was the only part of the making I could be sure of before I began. This is part of my explorations of the communication network and our interaction with it, and the hanging form gives a monumental presence to materials we customarily ignore or are insulated from.
I also produced a publication to accompany the exhibition, with writing by Susan Haire, the president of The London Group. 

This was made by Risograph, which is a relatively analogue technique in the field of printing; kind of a mechanical screen printing process which uses vegetable inks, banana paper and large drums to reproduce the images. This gives a warm tactile print quality which is often slightly off-calibrated reminiscent of hand production. It seemed relevant to the materials and interests included in the publication is presented in a limited edition package which also contains three samples of metals, one produced by each artist in the show. These are available from the artists.
To conclude the exhibition on Thursday the 10th of November we are hosting an evening of artist talks where all three exhibiters will be presenting their practice. Refreshments will be served. All welcome at 6.30 pm