Category Archives: Reviews

APT Open Studios – inspiring!

After a visit yesterday to the amazing APT Studios in Deptford I was inspired to have a paint. ¬†It’s been a while and I really have to make the time – I love doing it – either in watercolour or acrylics, it’s a great afternoon when I can lose myself in a painting.

The two acrylics in this blog were done this afternoon ūüôā

The studios are at Canalside and such an wonderful location Рa bit of a rabbit warren but always something interesting to see at the next turn.  Yet again when I was thinking about what really appealed to me it was the abstract paintings Рand yet I always try to paint things more figuratively myself Рhmmm, a lesson there!

The following artists really made an impression:  Clyde Hopkins , David Webb, Arnold Dobbs, Lou Smith, Gillian Best Powell (I was sad to learn on the train going home that Gillian passed away earlier this year (not much older than me), I was particularly taken with her work and had collected some leaves on the way home to experiment with), Laurence Noga, Stephen Jacques and lastly Heather Burrell Рher sculptures were wonderful and you will see an influence in one of my paintings here!

This is only a small fraction of the work that impressed and inspired me, but I can’t list them all – please do take time to look at their websites and also to go to the next open studios at APT – you won’t be disappointed!

Sunday morning dream

Of course, the reason I was there in the first place was that Victoria Alexander, fellow MA Fine Art Student was a guest artist at APT and it was great to see her work in a different location and to catch up!

Victoria Alexander with her kinetic piece.

And who knows, you might find me posting more paintings here in the future!

Electronic Superhighway at Whitechapel Gallery

Yesterday we had a lovely sunny walk over to Whitechapel to go to the Electronic Superhighway exhibition. ¬† ¬†I wanted to go just to see the works, but also because I’m planning my own¬†electronic / digital piece for the¬†MA Fine Art show I wondered if I would get any inspiration.

The exhibition was superb.    Such a range of electronic works going back 50 years Рhumans are so creative, as soon as computers and electronic devices came along, we found a way to be creative with them.    I enjoyed the early stuff particularly, partly because I remember the monitors and printouts but also just for the sheer creativity shown with a new medium.   The exhibits were bang up to date with thoughtful pieces about anonymity on Facebook for instance (Douglas Coupland).

One of my favorites was the painted concentric circles on canvas (Peter Sedgley Colour Cycle 1970) that are then lit by rotating colours, which makes the work look digital Рbut it was done 50 years ago!   It was quite mesmeric.

The HTML gallery amused me – as a web designer in the 90’s I loved the jokes played with the code here – only wish I’d thought of it ūüôā

I found the exhibition fascinating, amusing, thought provoking and very inspirational.   We both came away with ideas for our work.  But more than that, the exhibition gave me confidence that my piece will fit right in to this genre.

Well worth a visit – it closes on May 15th so be quick!


Calder’s Sculptures and a Sunny Afternoon

I went to see the exhibition at Tate Modern yesterday¬†showing Alexander Calder’s performing sculptures. ¬†I had no expectations of what it would be like but I left Tate Modern very excited about what I had seen.

I loved his work Рthe delicate way he managed to abstract the human body with his wire sculptures was perfect.   The sheer simplicity of how he had bent a few wires and so accurately captured the curve of the body Рmale or female Рwas masterful.   One of the things that caught my eye the most was how these sculptures threw interesting shadows on the wall behind.   It added immensely to the interest of the pieces.   (See Calders website for more here >)

I got so animated at one gorgeous sculpture and was gesticulating so enthusiastically that the guard had to come over and ask me to stop as I had set the alarms off! ¬† I hadn’t even heard the beeping!

The other part I admired the most was the simple abstracted moving mobiles. ¬†(His friend Marcel Duchamp coined the term ‘mobile’ in 1931 – Calder had called them ‘kinetic abstractions’) Their delicate, almost other worldly floating discs were surprisingly ‘moving’¬†and left me feeling something deeply emotional that is still¬†hard to put my finger on.

There was a great deal of work in the exhibition that showed the various avenues Calder had ventured down, some more successfully than ¬†others – in my opinion the very simple abstracted shapes worked best, some of his pieces¬†were overly fussy – I just don’t think he¬†needed to add the extra details. ¬† ¬† There were sketches, test models, paintings and sound sculptures.

A whole room was dedicated to highly coloured sculptures with painted panel back drops which was innovative and intriguing, but most of all, reminded me so much of the later work of Matisse (the gouache cutouts of the 1940’s) – I am sure he must have been an influence. ¬† ¬†Calder was influenced by Mondrain also. ¬† The pictures below don’t reflect the bursts of wonderful colour there were.

There was some wonderful work…. one notice explained that when an exhibition came to New York, Einstein is said to have gazed at a single mobile for 40 minutes, lost in thought. ¬†I wonder what new ideas came from that reflection?

Half way round the exhibition, I had an epiphany of sorts – I use abstraction in my work, but I am not going far enough and being simple enough, I over complicate my work, especially the colours – I love colour and tend to bung in too many for good measure!

It will be interesting to see how this affects my future choices, but for now I am very pleased I went to see this exhibition.

Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks

After the Tate we saw the musical about the early life of the Kinks – it was brilliant! ¬†Like so many bands they had their ups and downs but the music was superb and even though we were in the very back row of the Gods looking straight downwards, it was a great show. ¬† Although after one particularly provocative dance number my husband leaned over and asked if we could be nearer the front next time! ¬† Worth catching if you love 60’s music.


Featured Image

Today’s image is part of a series I did when I was abstracting the fate of HMS Grafton for the Democracy Street Project.

Mark Anstee – living in the moment

Yesterday we had a visit from Mark Anstee who makes huge temporary artworks Рoften (always?) with a historical and emotional aspect, using wonderful creative ideas and incredible drawing skills.

It was a huge pleasure to discuss our forthcoming MA work with Mark before his talk, he had something pertinent to say about all our plans and I think we all took something away. We also had a quick philosophical “What is art?” and “What is art for?” discussion which was fun!

I asked Mark about my current bugbear, exhibitions that do not give the viewer much information in which to place the work before them. ¬† He fell on the side of minimalism, saying that the work should stand alone – leaving the aesthetics and feel of the piece to do the talking. ¬† ¬†I still disagree (as I have said before in¬†my review of Tightrope Walk and A picture paints a thousand words…), I feel strongly that the viewer has to be given some clues – the provenance – in order to more fully understand the significance of what they are seeing. ¬† ¬†It doesn’t need to be chapter and verse, just a nudge in the right direction.

I’ve quoted¬†Austin Kleon before:

‚ÄúWords matter. ¬† Artists love to trot out the tired line ‚ÄėMy work speaks for itself‚Äô but the truth is, our work doesn‚Äôt speak for itself. ¬†Human beings want to know where things come from, how they were made and who made them. ¬†The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work affects how they value it.‚ÄĚ

Mark Anstee’s Work

We then moved to the lecture theatre for nearly two hours of fascinating insight into Mark’s work over recent years.

Mark takes on projects that require meticulous and lengthy planning and in the delivery of them painstaking, backbreaking, monotonous practice.

To name a few.

I asked him why his works were so physically punishing¬†and he said “because they have to be done“. ¬†He seems driven to work in this way.

His works have a haunting beauty and are deeply emotional, all the more so because each one is destroyed as part of the installation. ¬† Mark feels strongly that most of his work can only be temporary – “All things must die” – he has no desire for his works to live on, which is an interesting stance as it is a human trait to want to leave something¬†behind. ¬† ¬†Mark appears to be living in the moment and able to move on to new work without being attached to the old – he culls his work regularly – and that strikes me as a very healthy thing to do. ¬† If we as artists get too hung up about what future generations are going to think then we will not do our best work. ¬† Mark also cites a very practical reason for his pragmatism – large art works are hard to move, store, maintain and curate ¬†and are therefore naturally harder to ‘sell’ (as a concept) – whereas a temporary, high profile art piece can be assembled, generate great interest but be dismantled and destroyed afterwards. ¬†The art is in the act and the memory not the object.

I was especially moved by the film of his work at ¬†Ypres – there was something so poignant about spending 72 days drawing 20,000 soldiers (each one unique) and then only two days crossing them out. ¬†My grandfather fought just outside Ypres at¬†Passchendaele, he was 15 and miraculously survived. ¬†[I wonder if any of Mark’s soldiers wore¬†kilts¬†which is what¬†my grandfather wore I believe ūüôā ¬† ¬†The featured piece at the top of this post is my response to going to Ypres to retrace his steps a few years ago. ]

Going back to my discussion with Mark about explaining a work to the viewer, I was moved by his explanation of the piece at Bluecoat Liverpool РRemoved and Destroyed.   I am sure that going into a space and seeing that incredible submarine would be moving enough, but how much more moving to realise the story behind it and to understand that each of the 2000 sheets covering the craft were Marks attempt to communicate (unsuccessfully) with the Soviet crew trapped inside.

Mark creates an imaginative narrative around each project which seems to enable him to play with the ideas away from his normal persona.   One project around Cursus, a neolithic monument on Salisbury Plain had him creating a whole culture around the use of the land there Рhe became the storyteller, because no-one knows what the monument was for, so he was free to dream and play.

In another project, he was an “asexual angel of death” and he created an incredible piece in an old Church, whilst dangling on wires for 25 days.

In writing this blog and collecting pictures for it I suddenly saw how much Mark is the art -his performance creating and then destroying the art is pivotal and makes it all the more moving.

I was interested to read on his website, a conversation about the Ypres piece where he said he has to draw “…on the line, I have to be in the moment” – that is exactly what my project is about, being in the Now and experiencing life moment by moment rather than worrying in the past or being anxious about the future as so many people do. ¬† That, to me, is mindfulness in a nutshell.

It was fascinating to hear how Mark made his work and the meticulous planning behind each one.  I think Mark and I could not be more opposite in our approach and I learnt a great deal from his dedication to getting a project right.  I am a bit too quick to act sometimes and do not put enough thought into my projects РI like to be spontaneous and move on!  Mark has shown me the value of stopping, pausing and staying in the moment with my art.

All pictures shown by kind permission of Mark Anstee and can be found on his website

See the film about Encounter at Ypres.

See the film about RedBlueRedBlue :



John Hoyland – Power Stations Review

After White Cube,¬†I went from Bermondsey to Lambeth to the newly opened Newport Street Gallery to see the exhibition of John Hoyland’s work – Power Stations.

I have admired his work for a while, but nothing prepared me for walking round a room with these enormous canvasses, in such stunning colours.

I found the exhibition very inspiring and quite breathtaking at times – I could see the progression in his work, from very controlled, to looser, to very loose and back. ¬† There are hard edges and soft edges. ¬†Simple shapes and more complex shapes, drips and gestures. ¬† I loved the colours – some of them really hit you, one of my absolute favorites was just grey and red (“29.12.66” – the featured image above). ¬† There was also a noticeable change in how he used the paint over the time span, with some highly textural and others thinner.

There is such power in how colours are placed next to one another. ¬† I was interested in the ‘void’ shape in the middle of several canvasses, where the uniform colour is at odds with the softer colours around it – these drew my eye constantly, to their nothingness. ¬†I want to use that idea in the¬†void paintings for my liminal project.

Below is a gallery of shots, just to give a flavour. ¬†As I said, it really inspired me to pursue my own totally abstracted work which I haven’t had complete confidence in. ¬† I sketched up a picture which would go with my liminal work on the coach home and will have a play with that idea over the coming days.

I found the exhibition very uplifting and emotional – and I am jealous of Damien Hirst being able to wander round any time he likes!

And after my experience at White Cube, I was very grateful for the small handout which explained a little about the show and the paintings.

Finally, I loved the building. ¬† Light and airy, it was well laid out and I liked the open walkway above gallery 2. ¬† ¬† But for me, the stars were the staircases at either end and middle of the long building. ¬† Modern spiral staircases that were so beautiful, I took as many shots (on my phone, in poor light…) as I did of the paintings! ¬† So, below, is a gallery just of the Newport Street staircases, superb! ¬†(Oh, and a chair, which I loved in one of the galleries, the simplicity of the design was just perfect.).

After a long day walking around London, a bench in each gallery would have enabled me to sit and really contemplate each picture for longer.   As it was I moved on more quickly than I might have liked.

The exhibition is on until 3rd April 2016 – and I look forward to seeing what is exhibited next at Newport Street Gallery – although I may well come back to this one again first.

[I have just seen on the website that there was a shop! ¬†I missed the shop! Damn…. ]

Tight rope walk – after abstraction review

Yesterday I visited White Cube gallery in Bermondsey for the first time. Obviously I was aware of the history of exhibitions there, but had never yet visited. ¬† I started by having a delicious coffee in the hippest cafe over the road (“F**kcoffee”- I gather they’ve had trouble with their sign!) before heading in.

White Cube is like nowhere I have been.  A vast white and grey space divided into three galleries.    Huge, bare, minimalist, beautiful and awe inspiring.   It makes Tate Modern look cuddly.

I had been recommended that I visit this show as part of my education around abstraction. ¬† What happened to figurative art after abstraction? ¬† In short, it became a lot more interesting. ¬† I’m glad I went, I got the message the show was trying to convey but I confess the actual show left me and my companion cold.

I knew from reading beforehand that there were some major artists here but when I saw the show, there is nothing to assist the viewer, no names, no titles, no background, no clues. ¬† My daughter was bemused, with no arts background at all it meant nothing to her – I wasn’t that far behind and I have, although no formal training, at least had a keen interest in modern art that goes back a decade or so. ¬† ¬†She wondered whether the art was meant to speak for itself? ¬† I have trouble with that concept because a piece of art is so much more than the aesthetic of the piece in front of you. ¬† That’s where the “I could have done that” attitude comes from.

A piece of art is partly the aesthetic, but it is also the artist, the time it was done (there is a massive difference between a piece labelled 1915 or 2015) and the title. ¬†And every art piece has a back story. ¬†All these things form a jigsaw that gives a piece it’s magic. ¬†(I’ve talked about this in a previous post…)

Most of that was missing here and I can only assume that these exhibitions are put on for insiders. ¬†People who can recognise a Lucian Freud or a Picasso –¬†actually, I can, but I missed the Tracy Enim and I loved some other paintings but have no idea who they were by or the history of them. ¬†It all adds up to being very frustrating and exclusive and what I mean by that is that my daughter and I were excluded. ¬† ¬†Art should be for everyone and if that means that people in the know have to give a helping hand up for the rest of us then so be it.

My daughter quickly retreated to the Gilbert & George exhibition that was in the third gallery space – more her thing!

But I am glad I went, I got the point that Barry Schwabsky was trying to make about the increased freedoms that abstraction brought to figurative art and I enjoyed some of the pieces – but I could have got so much more from it if only there had been some narrative.

And I bought the beautiful book that accompanied the exhibition and shall enjoy reading it, but that does not make up for lack of info with the paintings.

(And unlike the John Hoyland exhibition that I will review in my next blog, they wouldn’t let me take pictures so this blog is rather lacking….)

My favorite picture was the one below РYellow Nude 4 from Gary Hume РI am grateful to be introduced to his work, it amused me that the one I loved best was the most abstracted of all!

Yellow Nude 4 – Gary Hume (2014)

Image from:

The Featured Image is one from nearby on the Southbank where there was a lovely festive market ūüôā

The exhibition is on until 24th January 2016.

Clare Strand talk – let’s have fun

I attended a talk this week by the photographic artist Clare Strand.  I had not come across her work before but whilst researching her I was really taken by the breadth of what she has done and the obvious sense of humour contained in her work.

Clare walked us through some of her projects Рit is always so enlightening to hear an artist explain the process, development and serendipity behind their work.

Clare works in several ways – photography, almost exclusively black and white (“colour is very busy”) and sometimes with what sounds like a huge collection of old cuttings and magazines – some¬†of her recent works¬†such as¬†10 Least Most Wanted and Research in motion¬†use research material as the subject of the piece. ¬† ¬†Clare explained how she pares down a work until it is in it’s purest form, and with her research pieces, she has pared the work down until the research is the work!

I have been relishing the research angle of my practice this term and I am excited to realise that there is such a thin line Рor no line at all Рbetween research and practice.

Clare talked about where her inspiration comes from, which is related to my creativity talk for Tuesday. ¬† She said “projects come to you when you are loose and free” and “free yourself up and you’ll be surprised at what could happen.” ¬† ¬†That sounds very much like getting in touch with the Trickster character or your free child within, who likes to play and has no rules. ¬† ¬†I will be talking about that in my presentation.

The biggest thing I took from Clare’s talk was fun. ¬†She really seems to have fun with her work. ¬†If something goes wrong, with a work, at a gallery… she finds it fun, hilarious even. ¬† ¬†She is not overly attached to her work, once it is ‘out there’ in the world she is curious about what might happen, and finds the results very amusing.

Screenshot 2015-12-05 15.08.39
My favorite picture from “Stumped” – I loved the silliness of this series and because I was not allowed a ‘girls world’ head in the ’70’s and it still bothers me ūüôā

Finally Clare talked about how she likes to exhibit – she believes that the viewer should be left with “room to wonder” and so she does not give too much explanation to her work. ¬† ¬†I understand what she means, however, I feel that if the artist gives too little of the reasoning, then the work becomes inaccessible to the average viewer. ¬† ¬†An example of this is her Skirts series – I had looked at this on the website beforehand and confess I didn’t get it. ¬† A black and white series of table skirts? ¬† But when I listened to Clare talk so enthusiastically about the work, it came to life (I had a lightbulb moment listening to her –¬†now I got it, or got something anyway), and I wonder if there is a middle ground – an artist could give enough information to give the observer¬†something to go on – but after that they can use their imaginations to make what they will of the work?

Clare Strand – from Skirts

Art, fine art especially, often seems very deep and worthy, and it was uplifting to realise that you can be a serious (and very successful) artist and just have fun!

You can find out more about Clare’s work on her website. (Pictures shown by kind permission of the artist).


Fantastic radio prog on BBC Radio4 here on Imagination.   Digital Human.

Featured picture

The featured picture this week is one of mine Рfrom a series I did this week at Castle Road, Southsea.  See the rest on my website.