I’m a big fan of the artist, Yoshitomo Nara. He is hugely successful and popular in Japan, being treated like a Pop Star rather than an Artist. This is not the reason why I like his work. It is rather because he has created a world that is unique, special and strong. The characters he portrays may seem vulnerable but on inspection they have their own power that can withhold the (sometimes) corrupting influences of the outside world and grown-ups.
Although familiar with his work in print and on the web, (paintings, drawings, acrylic sculpture and ceramics) I think I have only seen one of his sculptures before when visiting the Japan Society in New York. So I was thrilled to see his works at the Dairy Arts Centre in London recently.
This was a major display of his work that included both large and small paintings, bronze sculptures, envelope drawings and detailed graphite drawings. When viewing his paintings and cartoon-esque drawings, I renewed my familiarity with his world, and reminded myself that I do, indeed respect and admire the strength and consistency of his vision. What really stood out for me though, were his graphite pencil drawings that I saw for the first time. These showed another side to his characters’ personalities, by using such a different mark (a fine graphite line) and working the surface intensively, he really adds something new to his rich output.
Many thanks to those who were instrumental in bringing this exhibition to our shores.
There is more information about Nara on Artsy.net here.
This week I was invited back to Bath Spa University to give an afternoon presentation about my work to the new MA students and also to demonstrate how I make things.
I used the above image to start my Powerpoint presentation, as I always like to have something to look at while I wait for other’s talks to begin. The plan was to keep the talk quite short (20 minutes or so), and use the remaining time for making.
It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed describing how my zen rogue drawings (such as the one above) developed and then how I struggled to translate them into three dimensions.
I took care to document and show my explorations, possibilities and failures, together with the final ‘finished’ pieces.It is easy to find professional photos of artists’ work on the internet these days, so I wanted to highlight the other areas of the making process that don’t often get shown.
This point was made apparent to me not long ago when I attended a presentation by Philip Eglin at the Royal College of Art, London. He showed us pictures of his studio in various states of tidiness/chaos and also images of work that I have never seen published. This was a huge inspiration to me.
Due to the pressure of time, my hand building demonstration was pretty fast, but this was good as I enjoy working quickly where possible. In this session, I turned out a quick press mould that I used this year for my small heads. Then I made a few pieces from leather hard slabs I had prepared the day before. This was exciting for me, as I haven’t used slabs for a year or so, and I can really see this technique offering a way forward for my figurative pieces.
During the slab demo I found myself mentioning one of my past tutors, Mo Jupp whom I consider one of the most talented people ever to touch clay (within the range of my experience). I was reminded of him the other day when I came across this video on vimeo.
Hopefully I will get the opportunity to visit other places where people handle clay and show what this wonderful and versatile material is capable of.
Phew! It has been a very busy time for me at Bath Spa University recently. Although the summer holidays are normally quiet, MA students like myself were putting the final touches to their work in time for the Degree Show that ran from Friday 19th to Wednesday 24th September.
Now the show has come down, here are a few photos of the display. I was also mentioned in a nice article by the Bath Chronicle. Link is here.
With the end approaching of my MA course at Bath Spa University, I have been working quite hard to finish pieces for the show. Therefore it was with a mixture of delight and anxiety that I saw that the Tour of Britain Cycle race would be finishing in Bristol one day, and later starting off from Bath. I was excited because, as a keen cyclist, I enjoy watching the spectacle of live events like this, but I was also nervous about taking time away from the studio. In the end, I saw the race climb Bridge Valley Road in Bristol, just a couple of kilometres before the finish in Bristol and then later in the week I watched the race head off from Victoria Park in Bath, just a few minutes down the road from my University.
Watching the riders in Bristol was very special for me as I love training up Bridge Valley Road. As a 16 year-old rider I would do circuits up this hill with my Bristol Road Club club mates. We would absolutely tear up the hill, racing each other over the top. I knew if I could go flat out up the hill in a 42×17 gear, and recover by the time I reached Bristol Zoo, I would be race-ready. So it was a real thrill to watch the race pass by. The leaders were absolutely flying, others near the back were going more slowly and seemed glad to be near the finish. I was lucky enough to get a bidon from a Belkin rider who jettisoned his water bottle while passing me.
At Bath, I was able to watch riders arrive in their team buses and cars, ride to the signing on/presentation area and generally enjoy the carnival atmosphere. Groups of enthusiastic local school children lined the opening circuit which took in Bath’s famous Crescent, a row of magnificent houses arranged in a curve behind a cobbled road that overlooks Victoria Park. Within the park, it was fun to see the teams arrive and unload their bikes ready for the off. I do enjoy the beauty of the bicycle, with its simple elegance and colourful possibilities. Many fans (including myself) were busy photographing the bikes lined up for use and hoping to glimpse the riders before the day’s stage (Photo gallery to follow).
I’ve just finished installing the work I completed for the final double masters module at Bath Spa Uni. The work was assessed today and will have to stay in place for a couple of days before the show opens at the end of the week to the public. Between wednesday and friday I expect to be frantically (?) re-arranging things and making extra bits for the evening.
The private view will take place on Friday 19th September from 6-9 pm at Bath Spa University, Sion Hill Campus, BA1 5SF. The official link is here.
It is a big relief to have them survive their first firing. Especially as I dried them rather quickly due to time pressures. The crank body is quite forgiving though as it is so groggy. I am very grateful for that!
I firstly applied some underglaze colour and engobes to the unfired heads before bisque firing to 1000 degrees centigrade.
Although the clay is designed for stoneware firings, I am not intending to take it up to complete vitrification. I am using it for its structural qualities and colour response. Hence I fired it quite low as I wanted to work on the surface with abrasives to smooth out surface blemishes. This is a lot easier if the ceramic body isn’t too hard. Later I may go up to about 1100 degrees but this is purely for colour and to make sure the engobes that I am using are totally fired onto the piece.
I went to Iceland recently to visit friends and touch up a mural I painted in 2009. It was a strange experience going over work from that long ago. It almost felt like someone else’s picture as I have been quite focused on my rogues and their development of late.
I was, and still am happy with the painting though. It had survived quite well the strong sunlight and abrasive winds, but not so the dampness on a lower wooden section, where some paint had peeled away.
Here are some photos of how it looks now.
If you are looking for a nice vegetarian lunch, soup or snack in Reykjavik, you could do a lot worse than visit Ecstasy’s Heart Garden, Klapparsig 37, 101 Rvk. Tel: +354 56 12345. They have a website here.
On Friday 8th August, my Rogues went on display at The Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery in Edinburgh (details here). It turned out to be a great event. My gratitude goes to Alan Spence who did a wonderful job of overseeing the programme and Mio Shapley who played the koto and sang beautifully. Here are some photos of the evening.