The universe within….

A large part of my work this year is about encapsulating the universe within.   Close your eyes for a minute; within each of us is an endless space – there is nothing, there are no ‘things’ – there are no boundaries.  This space can be peaceful and full of potential – it is the universe within.

This has been the focus of my painting recently too.

Below is the latest digital picture I have produced which found it’s source in a peaceful Norfolk Broad.    I am planning to exhibit three of these pictures on large canvases later in the year.



Fine Art has left the building……

The exhibition is over.  The room is empty.  The project that has consumed the last six months every waking thought is packed away in bubblewrap and I am left a little bereft and wondering what to do.   So how did it go?

Over the 15 days the exhibition was open, we had 1028 (adult) visitors which is an incredible achievement.   It was always interesting watching people viewing the work – a mixture of art lovers who had come specifically and parents of children at Action Stations who wandered into an alternative universe from the noisy child centred activity around us.

Of the ‘walk ins’ it was clear that some were not used to seeing an art exhibition but in the spirit of wandering around the Dockyard perhaps, they gave it a go and had a good look round.   It was very rewarding to feel that we may have challenged some beliefs about what fine art is all about.

We had some favorite moments, like when a child asked his Dad what my 3D installation ‘Opportunity’ was.   “That’s art Henry, that’s art” he replied 🙂


And when we had a bone fide (and rather handsome) celebrity visit who was presumably just visiting the dockyard with their kids for the holidays, but it was lovely of him to drop in.

A couple of kids were unruly and we had some damage to a couple of things (luckily repairable) – but we always knew that was a risk but the benefits of having so many kids (not counted in the numbers above) see the show out-weighed that completely.


For my own stats, we were keeping record of the number of times that Being Present was triggered and how many people saw it through to the end.  I always knew that a 2 minute art performance would stretch many people as the average time someone will stand infront of a piece of art is usually measured in seconds!    I’m still working on the data but will post figures soon.

The raffle was extremely successful – 6 original pieces of art from the artists – there was something for everyone as entrants could prioritise their favorites.  In the event, when the raffle was called, everyone got their first or second choice.   Jenny Walden, Associate Dean, at the University of Portsmouth was there to receive her winning piece from me which was lovely!


Jenny Walden receiving her raffle prize 

So what made our exhibition so successful?  I put it down to two factors.  Firstly, location location location!  We had a wonderful space in one of Britain’s top tourist attractions – that was a great move!  Secondly the effort and expense we went to for marketing – it was the lion’s share of our spending but worth every penny.  I was always gratified by people coming in with one of our fliers, or who said they heard about us on Twitter or who had read about us in the local paper.  And of course we were on the Big Screen too!

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Exodus on the Big Screen, Portsmouth Guildhall Square.

You can see a virtual Exodus exhibition here>>



Day 3 – ups and downs :)

Day 3 – hanging day – I was awake at 5.30 I was so excited!   Everything went really well, there were a few hiccups, but there always are.   I changed my hanging order when I saw the work in-situ, Victoria suddenly started moving entire walls around (to great effect!) and the health and safety woman from Uni had a few changes we had to make but otherwise it’s good to go and it all looks amazing!

I had my good camera with me today so the quality of the images has improved too!


10 Reasons to see our Fine Art Exhibition

Think you’re not a fan of ‘fine art’? Me either, until I started studying it and started to ‘get’ what it is.   Here are 10 reasons you should come to our exhibition and see for yourself.

  1. Fine art gives a new perspective on your world – a different angle. It’s all about looking at a subject through new eyes.  It’s been shown that you don’t have to like a piece to be changed by it.  And if it causes any emotion in the viewer it has done a good job.    The aim of any artist is that you come away from an exhibition looking at the world slightly differently.
  2. But is it art?   You can spend a lifetime trying to define what is art and Marcel Duchamp was probably right in insisting that ‘everything is art’ – and that’s why fine art shows cover such a wide range of works – installations, video, sound, digital and the more traditional photography and painted pieces.  Fine art can be subtle and gentle or loud and brutal – it’s more about the why than the what.   What is the artist trying to convey?

    However there is a huge gulf between what you’d hang on your livingroom wall – an aesthetically pleasing subject / composition / colours etc and fine art that seeks to explore aspects of humanity – sometimes uncomfortable subjects; but important ones.  If you are lucky the two areas overlap.

  3. At our exhibition you can find out how knitting may help with feelings of anxiety and how the sound of knitting needles clattering is soothing.


  4. Find out what mindfulness looks and feels like and try out the electronic interactive digital artwork that aims to demonstrate that peaceful place that being mindful can access. And what has all that got to do with the Gosport Ferry?  Watch the tide falling under Forton Bridge, Gosport, in real time.
  5. How did women manage to serve in the 18th Century Navy disguised as men?

    PAM 5

  6. See work exploring geometric patterns and the visualisation process for neurological sciences.
  7. What do our treasured possessions say about us?  Why do we keep them and feel their significance?  Why do we hold on to physical memories?
  8. Learn more about the stigma of mental illness, especially anxiety – and what is inside the tent?!
  9. There will be the opportunity to win some art by the artists, to buy many of the pieces on display and additional work that each artist will be bringing along. Plus you will have the chance to meet the artists and to quiz them about their work.
  10. Sadly this is the last MA Fine Art show in Portsmouth so it really is a one off opportunity to come along and challenge your thoughts about what a fine art exhibition is like.    What have you got to lose?!


At the very least it’s worth it to see our amazing location within the fabulous Action Stations (first floor), Portsmouth Historic Dockyard from August 20th to September 2nd 10am – 5pm and admission is free.

There is also an exhibit at Eldon Art Building, University of Portsmouth – more details to follow.

Some work explores an adult theme and is not suitable for children.

If you would like to attend the opening night (Friday 19th August) you can book your free tickets here:


Worth a visit to the BA Fine Art Degree Show in Chichester

A group of us from MA Fine Art in Portsmouth took a trip over to sunny Chichester today to checkout the art on display by Chichester Fine Art students.  So glad we went, it is a great show (on over the weekend – don’t miss it!) and we picked up some tips for our show as well.

The work on display was beautiful, and so much to see from each artist.  Some of the pieces are huge and some are tiny and delicate.   There were some very moving pieces and some very skilled ones.   A great show in a wonderful location.

As for tips for our show, we liked the catalogue, the shop, the cards, the work for sale, talks from the artists and the sheer boldness of the displays – I think our show will definitely be influenced by some of these 🙂

First prototype digital piece – Being Present

Just shown a prototype of my digital art piece to some people who had very little background in what I was trying to achieve.

“It’s just like thoughts rushing through my head!”

Excellent!  Exactly what I was trying to convey.

“I liked the colours”

Not quite as profound but at least it’s aesthetically pleasing as well as thought provoking!

I am pleased that most people seem to ‘get it’ – our brains do not all work the same and with this art piece I am showing how my brain works, so I have to expect that other people will just say “Huh?” to it and that’s OK.

It is called “Being Present” and aims to show what mindfulness can do to calm the brain.  I am very excited about showing this in August.

It’s taken a great deal of work to get it this far – I can only claim the artistic inspiration, the hard work has been done by a lovely programmer, who has been very patient getting the lights to do what I want them to!

The next job is to make it interactive using motion sensors.  Watch this space for updates.

(The featured image above is a screenshot from a test video I took yesterday, it’s not easy to capture!)


Postcards and business cards delivered!

Very excited to have taken delivery of my postcards and business cards for my next two exhibitions.    Ordering online always worries me when I can’t see proofs and talk to the printer, but I am very impressed with

Below are the 3 pictures used:


Mindfulness on the Gosport Ferry – the subject of my MA Graduate Show in August.


Do not crush the daisy – a series of found signs that control us – to be shown in May.

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A monochrome mirror selfie for my business card.

Catherine Harper, Land, cloth, body and culture

I blogged recently about Georgia O’Keeffe as an inspirational women artist (for International Women’s Day in March) but in the last week I have attended talks by two equally inspirational women.    It has taken me a few days to collect my thoughts as I was so impressed with their lectures – I have divided up the post into two (see Mandy Webb post here)….

Catherine Harper

Catherine is the Dean of the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries; Professor of Textiles at the University of Portsmouth and last week gave her inaugural lecture at the University – Land, cloth, body and culture.

Her synopsis of her art practice over the last twenty five years was shocking, fascinating, amusing and deeply moving.   I have huge admiration for anyone who can put so much of themselves into their work – the art is always richer for it.   Her work covers the ‘places inbetween’ in Irish and Northern Irish gender and identity, in intersex and anatomical drag and in  fabrics of death and desire.    Huge subjects, but tackled in such a way to make the audience think twice about a subject they may not have much knowledge about or may have felt they understood already.


Woman Mouth Stapled Shut (detail) 1988-90

I learnt some shocking things and understood a little better the deep collective agonies of being female in Ireland.    Some of her art is glorious and subversive, some uses humour and stereotypes to convey the message about gender issues.   Queenie; the knitting and ironing drag queen for instance.

Catherine Harper, Queenie O Queenie performances, Orchard Gallery and Derry City, 2001

The poignancy of Queenie washing the walls of Derry makes a huge impact – I find it incredibly sombre.


The Big Red (detail) 1994

Such beauty and sadness combined.   I am envious of the scale of some pieces – I do not feel I yet have the confidence to attempt something that makes such an overwhelming statement.


The Big Red (Dublin) 1994

Listening to Catherine, I understood a great deal about what makes good art good.  The passion, research, subversion and combining difficult subjects with beautiful objects makes for powerful pieces.   Before I tentatively entered the art world a year or so ago, I had no idea the work that went into a piece, the research, the practice, the background.  I know that many members of the public will look at art and wonder why it is art (I had that discussion with a cleaner at the art college only last week!) but when you are privy to the backstory, the artwork comes alive.

I realise that I have to concentrate my own practice on my personal experiences – just to attempt to express how I feel about being a human – goodness knows I have a rich vein of life experience to call upon!   If I am doing a piece and it is not about a strongly held belief / feeling / experience, then I should question why I am doing it.

I shied away from doing some darker pieces for my MA Fine Art this year because of the potential impact on my audience and whilst I still feel it was the right decision, I know that these pieces must emerge at some point in the future.

At the end of the lecture (which flew by!  I could have listened to much more) I turned to my fellow female MA Fine Art student and we both just said “Wow”.  And nearly two weeks on, I still think  “Wow”.

Find out more about Catherine Harper here and download her lecture notes (PDF) from Academia now.

All images ©Catherine Harper and shown with kind permission of the artist.


Mandy Webb – subversive artist

Mandy Webb

As part of our course we have visiting artists who come and chat with us and talk about their work – I have found each and every one an inspiration.    Last week it was Mandy Webb, a Portsmouth based artist who makes intensely personal and shocking pieces broadly around women’s issues and social issues, particularly dealing with and educating people about her HIV status.

Mandy graduated from Portsmouth a few years ago and it was interesting to hear about the progress she has made in that time.     Her work is so deeply personal and raw and in that there is also great beauty.   Like many artists her work also contains a great sense of humour.

The works ‘Fucking Kettle’ and ‘Too many pricks for my liking!’ deal with the wholly inadequate response by Social Services to her serious illness.  There is nothing subtle about Mandy’s brand of subversion!    The works make you gasp and laugh and then make you see the point she is making.   They leave you feeling a deeper understanding of the issues she addresses.

The dresses are incredible feats of imagination – the most famous is the “Red Ribbon Dress” which has been exhibited widely in order to bring awareness to HIV in this country. 6000 red ribbons commemorate the people who have died and the people who are surviving and coping.

Mandy will make art out of just about anything, condoms, bed pans and sanitary towels – she has no qualms!   Nothing is what it seems.   She showed me that art takes commitment, passion and flair – and that whilst it can be about deadly serious subjects, it can be handled with sparkle and humour too.

Mandy is opening her latest exhibition in Bristol from 05/03/2016 to 02/04/2016 called Addressing the Situation at Grant Bradley Gallery.

For more information see:  Saatchiart , Facebook and

All images © Mandy Webb

Course update

My work is going well, I keep feeling anxious about everything I have to achieve but actually it is ticking along.  I finished my series of photographs on the Gosport Ferry this week, I have 72 small pictures of people occupying themselves on the journey across Portsmouth Harbour.   My aim now is to be mindful on the trip myself. I tried this for the first time on Friday, on both crossings and it was such a relief to sit and be still for 5 minutes.  I felt really refreshed.  Since this is the raison d’etre of my research, it’s a good job too!

Did a portrait anatomy class this week – wow, unexpectedly hard work but great fun.   Only half finished but fascinating to learn how the muscles on the face build up our features.

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Featured Image

The featured image is part of an occasional series on negative and parental road signs.

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 – the 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 – male or female – was 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.