Interesting Times.

There is a lot going on at the moment. I have now officially enrolled! The M.A. Fine Art course which I chose is further afield with a different uni but it was time for a change. I can’t wait for the official start of term, later this month.

Last week, I went on a trip with other students to a few galleries in Newcastle. The International Print Biennale was on, (see HERE), and did much to remind me how much I’ve missed my printmaking. My fellow students were OK, too 🙂

As expected, I won’t get a studio at university. Fortunately, I secured an unbelievably good deal for a space where I can work at my own pace on whatever I want. (Away from home, I have the discipline to do my art – it’s great). I’ve been trying out a few ideas and getting my mind back into creative mode. I’ll leave you with a picture of a recent purchase, i.e. 3 slightly ‘tired’ ex-shop display bases which cost just over ÂŁ4 at auction.

Loads of possibilities, there, I think.

Big deal!

There is less that makes us different than makes us all the same. I base a lot of my artwork on that principle, i.e. exploring all the things we have in common. I am not religious. Usually, I avoid the subject but something has caught my attention. Nothing to do with paedophile vicars or abusive Christian homes for unwed mothers,orphans, etc.

**Stops to metaphorically sweep those stories under the carpet**

I have a real problem with hypocrisy and discrimination, especially when religion is used to excuse, nay condone it. The man in the image, below, is Nicholas Chamberlain, the Bishop of Grantham. He’s been causing quite a stir after confirming that he is gay and currently in a celibite relationship. Big deal! It’s certainly not illegal so, if it’s consensual, that’s fine by me.

To those ardent Anglicans who have criticised this honesty, shame on you. In modern times, religion is far from people’s priorities. It conflicts with many aspects of known science and natural history. If religion wants to be more inclusive, it needs to be more representative of the congregations it’s supposed to serve. And before you start spouting off about sinful behaviours and eternitities of damnation, surely that’s between Nicholas Chamberlain and his God.

[Click on the image for the full story].

Art is a Cheap Target.

Yesterday, THIS story appeared in one of the local newspapers. It announces the Council’s intention to vacate the building which currently houses the City Library and the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art. People are understandably angry and outraged but it’s being justified by the need to make savings. (Yes, that old chestnut). The fact it has been conducted behind closed doors, in secret, does nothing to reassure myself that it’s completely unavoidable.

Some semblance of the library is due to relocate within the city. The future of the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art seems much less certain. I know that Art can be very subjective. (I cerainly haven’t liked everything the NGCA has shown). But, with no big budget, the gallery has stuck to what is contemporary with admirable integrity.

When I was at University, I got my first opportunity to exhibit at the NGCA, courtesy of a scheme to develop new talent. I was one of a number of students’ whose work was shortlisted for consideration. It was later chosen to go on display in the library space. This was what I call my ‘Pinocchio moment’, when I suddenly felt like a real artist. It genuinely changed my outlook and future plans.

I wonder, what value does the City Council put on that experience? How can they even quantify it? Art has been shown to improve quality of life but it’s not deemed to be essential. Cost is not the same as value. They don’t know if or when the next Andy Warhol or Cornelia Parker might show up at the NGCA but future prestige won’t pay for the street-lighting or refuse collection of today.

Art is a cheap target.


Things NOT to say to an artist.

Honestly, I have heard a lot of the statements, below, more than a few times. For the most part, they’re not said to offend. Nevertheless, they are still a bit patronising, demeaning or downright rude. You wouldn’t ask a doctor if they did medicine for a living, would you?

This is by no means exhaustive but there hereby follows a few things which you really shouldn’t say to an artist:

  1. You’re an artist? What do you paint?
  2. Do you do it as a hobby?
  3. Do you do that for a living?
  4. Do you not have to be good at art to be an artist?
  5. Can you paint me a picture to match my curtains?
  6. That’s…er…interesting.
  7. Is it finished?
  8. What is it meant to be?
  9. I don’t understand that ‘arty farty’ modern stuff.
  10. I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s proper art.
  11. Is it supposed to be that colour?
  12. My grandaughter is really good at art and she’s only 4!
  13. I wanted to be an artist but my parents made me get a proper job.
  14. You don’t really need a degree to be an artist, do you?
  15. What do you call that artist who did the paintings of women/ buildings/ rivers, etc…?

A Note to Would-be Art Students.

It’s been happening all day. The stories of exceptional students who have achieved multiple A* results for their G.C.S.E. exams in more than your usual number of academic subjects. (Much respect to those people). If you got what you needed or expected to follow your dreams, well done to you, too!

My own exam results were very ordinary. At A-level, I didn’t even do Art and doubted I would ever get into university to study the subject. But I did. And I did quite well.

If you love Art, (or any other subject), let that passion drive you. Immerse yourself in the subject, take advice, ask people for their own experience and don’t go fretting. There’s always more than 1 way to skin an orange.

Equal Opportunities.

A couple of weeks ago, Time Out magazine ran an article by Eddy Frankel. (Admittedly, if Teesside University Fine Art hadn’t shared it on Facebook, I would have missed it). Frankel slated the lack of exhibitions dedicated to women artists’ work in London galleries between September and November, 2016. And rightly so. If you want to read the article, (beware of strong language), see HERE.

Why does this happen? Are there less women artists? (I think not). Could it be (bad) habit, i.e. the way it’s always been? Is it just business; the viewing public don’t demand strongly enough to see work by women artists? Maybe it is just blatant sexism.

Last year, I wrote this blog entry about an exhibition of prominent French artist, Louise Élisabeth VigĂ©e Le Brun. I particularly liked a comment by curator, Joseph Baillio. He was asked to address the belief of a now deceased art critic that women can’t paint.

Baillio said, “You don’t paint with your sex.”



Beware of the Angry Artist.

I start my Postgraduate course in a couple of months time. As a part-time student, I won’t get a studio space, hence the reason why I’ve been desperately looking for one. Anything that is local is very expensive with somewhere between ‘zero’ and ‘very poor’ disabled access, (which I need). I’m a student, not planning on becoming a professional artist quite yet so I couldn’t reasonably earn enough to meet the costs. I thought I would have to content myself with staying at home, making art that is small and practical on the kitchen table rather than do what is in my heart.

The good news is, I did find somewhere. The bad news is, we have had to vacate at short notice. Not because the landlord has found a suitable alternative tenant but because the local council has denied the project any relief from payment of the rates. In spite of the not-for-profit status of the artists group, the fact that they passionately pursue their belief that everybody should have access to Arts activities for free, and that the premises offer real opportunities to people from disadvantaged groups, (eg the disabled and low-incomed), they have said the business rates are owed in full.

You might not believe me but I did have a life before Art. Before the kids and mortgage came along, I worked in finance jobs in the south of England. Some of that time was spent in a high-street bank call centre. However, for the most part, I worked in local government and dealt with Business Rates.

(Don’t go to sleep yet!)

Imagine my surprise when, 20 years later, I find myself dabbling in Business Rates again. Not for payment but all fired up and doing it out of principle, (although not the boring form-filling, just helping out with a bit of advisory stuff). Personally, I suspect the Council is trying to wriggle out of any obligation they have to cover the cost of the allowance. It sure does stick in my craw! After all, we can tick all the boxes on the council’s list of qualifying criteria.

Anyway, the director of the group has submitted our appeal with a long list of all the real and obvious reasons why we should get the rates relief. Hopefully, it will succeed.