Thursday, 27 February 2014

Agnes Martin: With my back to the world

'With my back to the world' is a documentary about the painter, Agnes Martin. Shot over a four-year period, it ends in 2002 when Martin entered her 90th year. Footage of Martin working in her studio in Taos, New Mexico is mixed with interviews with the artist in which she covers topics such as Minimalism, inspiration and isolation, as well as discussing her working methods.

Towards the end of the documentary Martin describes beauty as "an illustration of happiness". 

This statement made me reflect on my work, and reminded me of a discussion at 1 Royal Terrace that centred around the difference between prettiness and beauty in relation to my Brimming exhibition. I believe that beauty comes from within whereas prettiness is something applied to the outside.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

How to succeed at Art School - animation by Thomas Slater and Andy Baker

As you may know, I am the Project Researcher for a project funded by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) called The Anatomy of Employability. It is a collaborative project between Glasgow School of Art and Bucks New University.

One of the concepts we have been thinking about is success.

What is success?

What makes a successful artist?

How do you measure success?

I have just found a witty short animation by Thomas Slater and Andy Baker which provides 5 rules to follow in order to succeed at Art School.

Blanton Museum of Art presents Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt

Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWittFebruary 23–May 18, 2014

Blanton Museum of ArtMLK and Congress
Austin, Texas

Eva Hesse, "Untitled," 1968. Gouache, watercolor, 
silver paint and pencil on paper, 22 1/8 x 15 1/4 
inches. Private collection. © The Eva Hesse Estate. 
Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Curator: Veronica Roberts

Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt celebrates the close friendship between two of the most significant American artists of the post-war era: Eva Hesse (1936–1970) and Sol LeWitt (1928–2007). While their practices diverged in innumerable, seemingly antithetical ways—LeWitt's art is associated with ideas and system-based conceptual art and Hesse's is associated with the body and her own hand—this exhibition of approximately 40 works will highlight the crucial impact that their decade-long friendship had on both their lives and work.

In 1970, immediately upon learning of Hesse's premature death at the age of 34, LeWitt created a wall drawing filled with "not straight" lines as a way of paying homage to the organic contours that were a hallmark of Hesse's art. Organized by the Blanton, the exhibition will take this wall drawing, Wall Drawing #46, as its point of departure, while also revealing the way Hesse's approach to making art had vast-reaching implications on LeWitt's work. Included are wall drawings, sculpture, painting, drawings, prints, and correspondence between the artists. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Every kid needs a champion

At the moment I am studying for a PGCert in Learning and Teaching: Creative Practices. The course material is very interesting, and has encouraged me to think about numerous educational issues including what kind of learner I am, what methods of teaching suit my way of learning, what makes an excellent teacher and how learning should be supported.

I have watched a number of inspirational TED talks, and found a playlist of talks about education particularly relevant to my current studies.

In her talk titled 'Every kid needs a champion', Rita Pierson argues that the relationship between teacher and student is very important. She suggests that teachers should admit their mistakes to their students, demonstrating that they too are learning and closing the hierarchy between tutor and pupil.  She also emphasises the importance of focusing on the positives rather than negatives in order to install a sense of hope and encouragement in the child. 

"Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be."

Make Stuff Be Happy

Friday, 21 February 2014

Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson

A friend sent me this image of an installation by artists Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson.

I am attracted to the balance of colours and the crystal-like structure.

I have struggled to find much information about the artists and their work, but through my research I did find a few images of their drawings, and appreciate their relationship between the drawings and the sculptural installation.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

On play

When reading about the Atelier Public event to be held at GoMA, I came across some interesting notes 'on play'.

playful curiosity
joyful reconstruction
play absorbs
PLAY SATURATES – a volatility in what play does that means it can be an escape from the norm
pure play has no rules
play transcends boundaries only to engender new ones
Proliferation of meaning of play renders play to mean nothing…can we work with play and no fixed meaning to work constantly int he present so that meaning is continually constructed?
Play is considered truthful
play to develop the self in social form
play guarantees modern values and attitudes
Play puts us in contact with the world
Play as aesthetic regulation and presentation
The destructive act – is it play or a reaction against repression?
Play is the ‘precondition’ for meaningful work
play implies freedom
curation implies constraint – crafted to give a rich and meaningful experience
play / institution as a site or production – cultural production is that what we are doing
play – an intervention of irrational thought into the layout of the norm
play forgets all moves that came before and destroys to begin again
If we look at play can we evolve a new way of experiencing art & translate the experience of art beyond the spectatorship of art?
Play as failures within the institution
Lessons of the camp in play…. Joy Division…. with the understanding that play is not necessarily something good
Learn to play love games… ie: operate in the space between love and existence and offer everything that is different…more eperiential and affects existence
‘Art is breaking rules – if you don’t break rules you don’t make art’
Make new rules
There are rules that hold the games and rules that transgress the game
PLAY creating conditions for unruliness and overstepping of boundaries
Institutions create the meaningful space for play to happen.
All museums are playful – they work with the space between the viewer and the object
Conditions for Play – conditions for questions – a moment in time…
Our use of play can be seen a colonial or patronising… do we seek t o claim it for a more grown up or serious canon… can we every just leave play to the children/experts
Play – openness and incompleteness& desire not to be finished


As the launch of Glasgow International (Gi) Visual Art Festival draws closer, one exhibition that is part of the Gi programme is about to open. 

20 FEBRUARY – 27 MAY 2014

ATELIER PUBLIC#2 is a re-presentation of a 2011 exhibition at GoMA where members of the public were invited to make artworks using materials available in the gallery. In the spirit of ATELIER PUBLIC, visitors are invited to use the materials to make new work, which will be installed in the gallery for other visitors to see. These materials may change over the course of the 13 weeks the exhibition is open, and the works may be used by others as part of their creative and playful practice in the studio. As in 2011, some artists  have been invited to work within the parameters of the framework of ATELIER PUBLIC#2 and develop the installation.
There are a number of events scheduled for the duration of the exhibition, and more information can be seen at:
The hashtag for Twitter, Vine, Instagram, and You Tube is #ATELIERPUBLIC, and you can follow us @GlasgowGoMA
I look forward to seeing the changing elements and creations throughout this exhibition, and am interested to see how the public interact with the work and embrace the invitation to contribute to the exhibition.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Completely coloured cast

Thanks to everyone who sent me colours and types of line for the stripes to my cast, and thanks to Nicola for helping me cover the cast in colour. 

Here's how these turned out on the cast

And here's how it looks like on paper

Apologies to Julie - dogtooth pattern was not possible as the cast is very difficult to draw onto

The Culture Show: Lego - The Building Blocks of Architecture

In the week running up to the launch of the new LEGO movie, this episode of The Culture Show investigates the phenomenon that is lego, the children's toy that can easily be enjoyed by adults just as much.

The programme features interviews with creatives who have been inspired by lego, be that through architecture or art.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Colouring up my cast

Thanks to everyone who has suggested colours and types of line for my cast. I have followed the suggestions in the order that they were suggested.

It is proving quite difficult to do intricate designs, and the pens react differently to the various fabrics that the cast is made from.

I will continue with more of your suggestions tomorrow.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Please help me brighten/stripen up my plaster cast!

Please help me brighten up my plaster cast! 

I'm going to 'stripen' up what is at the moment, a blank canvas of a pot on my foot, but the kind of stripy pattern and colours are up to you.

Please send me
1. a colour for the stripe
2. the kind of stripe e.g. thick stripe, dotted line, thin stripe

I will work from my toes to my ankle, and will follow the order of stripes in the order that I receive the suggestions.

In the instance that I do not possess the colour of felt tip that you specify, I will choose the colour closest to it.

Looking forward to hearing from you by email, twitter, blog or facebook

Having a different plaster experience!

So, my love of plaster has gone a little too far... Wearing it 24 hours a day is a bit extreme!

Somehow I managed to fracture my foot. Sounds odd, but I don't even know how. Anyway, here is the blank canvas:

Playing, Filling, Mixing, Brimming Exhibition text by Petter Yxell

Playing, Filling, Mixing, Brimming Exhibition text by Petter Yxell

1 Royal Terrace Committee member, Petter Yxell has written a textual response to my BRIMMING exhibition and the process of assisting me in the production of the work.

Listen to BRIMMING Recording - Helen Shaddock in Conversation with 1 Royal Terrace

The recording of the In Conversation event that was held at 1 Royal Terrace in conjunction with my BRIMMING exhibition is now available online.

I talk with 1 Royal Terrace committee members Ruth Switalski and Petter Yxell, covering topics such as the relationship my work has to sculpture and painting, my use of colour, working methods and site specificity. The conversation was then extended to questions from the audience.

Selected images of BRIMMING exhibition now on 1 Royal Terrace website

A selection of images from the recent BRIMMING exhibition at 1 Royal Terrace have been added to the gallery website.

I will be adding further documentation to my website shortly.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Playing with Paint at Turner Contemporary

Late Night Live: Paint and Play

Jeremy Bailey (Toronto) will present his newly commissioned interactive performance which takes playful inspiration from JMW Turner’s interest in the power of landscape and the physicality of Helen Frankenthaler’s approach to painting. Amidst a record year of floods in the UK, Famous New Media Artist Jeremy Bailey imagines a new league of heroes, working day and night to re-imagine land where the sea has swallowed it. He has developed The Future of the United Kingdom, a revolutionary new software that enables artists and the public to be these heroes, using their bodies to create fantastic landscapes in a post-apocalyptic flood zone. The software will augment the user's body by virtually wrapping them in a Japanese videogame-style Gundam suit, complete with terraforming plasma cannon and cloud painting missile brushes. Like the paintings of Turner and Frankenthaler the results will be revolutionary. 

For more information
What's on | Turner Contemporary

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Mapping the Brimming Units

I am delighted that I have sold some of the individual units from my Brimming installation. I will never exhibit the installation in a different context as it was made specifically for 1 Royal Terrace, but I do feel happy to let the work live on in a different way, as individual units.

I have kept a detailed log of the work, and am mapping where each of the units ends up. 

I have requested that anyone who owns a unit, sends me two photographs. One photograph of the owner with their unit, and another photograph of the unit in its new home.

It is going to be very interesting to see where each of them go to, and I look forward to receiving the photos.

If you are interested in owning a unit, please email me

My aim is to rehouse each of the 49 units and track where each and every one gets to!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Embrace the unknown

I found the following blog post about uncertainty fascinating:

Stop Making Plans: How Goal-Setting Limits Rather Than Begets Our Happiness and Success

“Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities — for success, for happiness, for really living — are waiting.”
“The job — as well as the plight, and the unexpected joy — of the artist is to embrace uncertainty, to be sharpened and honed by it,”Dani Shapiro wrote in her beautiful meditation on the perils of plans. But while embracing uncertainty may be the cure for our epidemic of anxiety and the root of the creative spirit, it remains an art enormously challenging and uneasy-making for the human psyche. Instead, we try to abate the discomfort of uncertainty by making long-term plans and obsessing over everyday to-do lists.
There is hardly a better time than a month into a new year to behold the disconnect between our plans and our reality as even our most vigorously intended New Year’s resolutions crumble, despite all that we know about the psychology of self-control and the science of forming new habits. Indeed, of all the disappointments in life, there is hardly a kind more hazardous to happiness and more toxic to the soul than disappointing ourselves as we fail to live up to our own ideals and expectations.
The solution, however, might not be to further tighten the grip with which we cling to our plans — rather, it’s to let go of plans altogether. So argues British journalist Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (public library) — a fascinating look at how our conventional approaches to happiness and success tend to backfire as our very efforts to grasp after such rewards generate a kind of anti-force that pushes us further away from them. This counterintuitive, counterproductive proclivity is particularly palpable when it comes to plans and goal-setting. Burkeman writes:
What motivates our investment in goals and planning for the future, much of the time, isn’t any sober recognition of the virtues of preparation and looking ahead. Rather, it’s something much more emotional: how deeply uncomfortable we are made by feelings of uncertainty. Faced with the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds, we invest ever more fiercely in our preferred vision of that future — not because it will help us achieve it, but because it helps rid us of feelings of uncertainty in the present.
Indeed, Burkeman argues that we make a gobsmacking number of major life decisions under the duress of our discomfort with uncertainty. He offers a “potentially mortifying exercise in self-examination” to illustrate his point:
Consider any significant decision you’ve ever taken that you subsequently came to regret: a relationship you entered despite being dimly aware that it wasn’t for you, or a job you accepted even though, looking back, it’s clear that it was mismatched to your interests or abilities. If it felt like a difficult decision at the time, then it’s likely that, prior to taking it, you felt the gut-knotting ache of uncertainty; afterwards, having made a decision, did those feelings subside? If so, this points to the troubling possibility that your primary motivation in taking the decision wasn’t any rational consideration of its rightness for you, but simply the urgent need to get rid of your feelings of uncertainty.
The reason we do this is just as counterintuitive as the fact that we do: Rather than a failure to choose the right goals, it has more to do with the artificiality with which a goal singles out a specific aspect of life and attempts to separate it from that immutable interconnectedness of everything, which the poet Diane Ackerman so memorably termed “the plain everythingness of everything, in cahoots with the everythingness of everything else.” This, Burkeman reminds us, triggers the law of unintended consequences — any attempt to alter one variable in an even marginally complex system is bound to affect a number of other variables.
In considering what it might mean to lean into uncertainty and embrace it, Burkeman cites the work of psychologist Saras Sarasvathy, who studied the essential qualities that successful entrepreneurs share. In her extensive interviews with forty-five such people, who all fulfilled the same criteria for “success” — a minimum of fifteen years’ experience in launching businesses and at least one company they had taken public — she found a profound disconnect between the cultural trope of the innovator as a goal-oriented go-getter who brings her concrete vision to market and the reality of what these successful entrepreneurs did have in common. Burkeman writes:
We tend to imagine that the special skill of an entrepreneur lies in having a powerfully original idea and then fighting to turn that vision into reality. But the outlook of Sarasvathy’s interviewees rarely bore this out. Their precise endpoint was often mysterious to them, and their means of proceeding reflected this. Overwhelmingly, they scoffed at the goals-first doctrine of [management theorists Edwin] Locke and [Gary] Latham. Almost none of them suggested creating a detailed business plan or doing comprehensive market research to hone the details of the product they were aiming to release.
Instead, at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit lies something else entirely:
The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur … isn’t “vision” or “passion” or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with. Rather, it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.
Sarasvathy has come up with a set of principles that underpin her anti-goal approach, which she calls “effectuation.” Her model distinguishes between “causally-minded” people, who take a specific goal and apply to it all available tools in order to achieve it. “Effectually-minded” people, on the other hand, consider the tools and materials at their disposal, but use them as a springboard for envisioning what new directions might be possible. Burkeman offers some examples:
The effectualists include the cook who scours the fridge for leftover ingredients; the chemist who figured out that the insufficiently sticky glue he had developed could be used to create the Post-it note; or the unhappy lawyer who realises that her spare-time photography hobby, for which she already possesses the skills and the equipment, could be turned into a job. One foundation of effectuation is the “bird in hand” principle: “Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: what you are, what you know and who you know.” A second is the “principle of affordable loss”: Don’t be guided by thoughts of how wonderful the rewards might be if you were spectacularly successful at any given next step. Instead — and there are distinct echoes, here, of the Stoic focus on the worst-case scenario — ask how big the loss would be if you failed. So long as it would be tolerable, that’s all you need to know. Take that next step, and see what happens.
Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities — for success, for happiness, for really living — are waiting.
The Antidote is a wonderful read in its entirety, existentially necessary in our age of constant striving after concrete results and absolute assurances. Complement it with Alan Watts on the wisdom of insecurity.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Better late than never...BRIMMING Preview in The Herald

So, I know that my BRIMMING exhibition at 1 Royal Terrace has been and gone, but I've only just managed to get my hands on a copy of the Preview that was printed in The Herald (Scottish newspaper) the Saturday before my exhibition opening on 12th January.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

ArtsHub 2013/14 Salary Survey Report

The inaugural artsHub 2013/14 Salary Survey Report is the definitive online guide to UK arts industry salaries, career drivers, job satisfaction, funding and future outlook perceptions.

The report analyses results from an online survey conducted in October 2013 which was distributed to the arts sector and garnered 448 valid responses.
The survey found the profile of a typical person participating in the arts sector is a female, aged 34.5 who lives in London, is highly educated with a minimum of a undergraduate degree, and probably a post-graduate degree.
She most likely works for a privately owned small business involved in the Performing Arts or Education, usually from an office in an Administration position as a Specialist or Manager. She earns on average £19,876.00 per annum and believes her earnings capacity will be the same this year as it was last year and will continue to be the same in 2014. She will tend to have more than one job but no more than two. The majority of her income will come from the arts industry and she is not supported financially by another person.
Her average job tenure is 3.75 years and has had 5 jobs in the past 10 years, all of which have been in the arts industry. Every week she works on average 36.5 hours. She is motivated not by money but by her passion for the arts and overall enjoys good job satisfaction.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Wrapped and moved

Today was the final day of destall of BRIMMING at 1 Royal Terrace. All the casts were wrapped in bubble wrap and transported out of the gallery, into my friend's car and then driven to my studio. We then loaded the casts into a number of shopping trolleys and wheeled them into the studio. 

Unfortunately, the lift that connects the ground floor with the main lift is not operating at the moment, meaning that I had to transfer the casts from one trolley, up a few stairs and into another trolley.

With over 100 bricks being moved, it was rather a time-consuming and laborious task, but I am pleased to report that all work arrived safely without any breakages.

As I was filling and emptying the trolleys, I was reminded of a performance I did called Helter Skelter (video documentation can be seen on my website in which a similar cyclical process was followed, this time it being one of creation and destruction.

I was also reminded of a work by the artist Liz West in which she filled shopping trolleys with products of the same colour.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Image share

My good friend Gary regularly sends me images and examples of work by other artists that he thinks I will enjoy and have a reationship to my work. Receiving such hand-picked images is a real treat, and Gary's choice shows how well he knows me and my work. Please keep them coming Gary! Here is one of the most recent images I received.

I'm always delighted to receive recommendations and suggestions, so please do let me know if there is something you think I would appreciate.