Friday, 30 May 2014

Ana Bidart

Once again, my good friend Gary alerted me to an interesting artist to investigate. 
Ana Bidart is "interested in drawing: its possibilities but most of all its impossibilities."

I have only seen her work on Behance, but will do more research and hope to share more of her beautiful and mesmerising work.

Impractical data series

Impractical data series

Impractical data series

On going drawing

Colour separation

Colour separation

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Another installation arrangement option

Unlike within my drawings posted yesterday, the image above shows the frames in a scattered layout. A scattered layout could exist within a given frame, such as within a defined section on a wall, or it could mean that the frames literally have no boundary.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Thinking about installation of drawings

I am thinking about ways in which I could display my recent drawings and collages. I am conscious that I want the way they are exhibited to complement the nature of the drawings, in effect being a form of drawing itself.

In this layout, all the drawings are the same size and fit neatly into a specific area.

In this layout, the drawings are of different sizes, but are aligned so they fit neatly into a specific area.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Liz West blog

I really enjoy keeping up to date with the work of artist and fellow lover of colour, Liz West by following her blog.

A while ago she disclosed that she felt stuck, and so with a little advice from her Mum, artist Jenny West, she developed a project to help her be playful and generate work in a free and open manner.

'Construction project' was intended as "a two or three week project of consecutive days", but has occupied her for a couple of months. During this period, every day Liz was in her studio, she had to construct, document and deconstruct a work using only materials that were already in her studio. 

Liz writes, "I felt liberated from the constants I felt I had, able to move freely around my mind in order to explore ideas, respond to space and in the selection of materials I choose."

This exercise demonstrates the creative potential in following rules. I regularly construct rules that i have to work with. Rather than being restrictive, I find that a degree of narrowing down can be liberating. I liken it to looking at things with a macro lens; focusing on a smaller section can reveal and enhance, offering a new way to understand and interpret the world. 

Rules are one way of exerting control over what can otherwise be overwhelming.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Paying artist launches

The Paying artists campaign and website was launched on Monday, and has already gained lots of 
well-deserved support. If you would like to add your own support to the campaign, follow this link

The website contains a concise and comprehensive report about the need to support artists, case studies of galleries showing good practice, information about what change is needed and how to support the campaign.

Here is the foreword to the report:

Without artists there is no art.Artists are the innovators from which great art emerges and on which our society’s well-being depends.

It is through artists’ ideas, experiments and ingenuity that creative ideas and products
are made manifest.Art by its nature presents a wide range of levels of engagement and participation for people and audiences.Artists thrive on such engagement as an essential ingredient to feed what is their continuous, life-time’s dedication to a creative practice.

The world is always looking for new ways of seeing.Art practice – the collective performance of art making between materials, artists, artworks, galleries and people -
is an inter-disciplinary reflexive process that enables us all to rethink and re-imagine our realities, which creates cultural value.

Paying artists is about transforming opportunities for artists, galleries, funders and policy- makers alike. In removing the financial barriers faced by many artists, it will give publicly- funded galleries – and the public themselves – access to quality art which covers the spectrum of human experience.

It will bring value to the investment of all who fund the arts by encouraging and enabling diversity and equality of opportunity for all artists now and in the future. In doing so,
it will play a direct role in ensuring we retain our reputation here for supporting creative talent and delivering world-class art.

Now is the time to demonstrate in the arts how much we value art and value artists.
By working together to define and adopt practical steps and frameworks for good practice, we can safeguard and strengthen the symbiotic relationship visual artists have with publicly-funded institutions and with the communities and audiences they collectively serve.

a-n The Artists Information Company / AIR Artists Interaction and Representation

May 2014

for more information visit

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Gallery withdraws unpaid installation 'opportunity' in response to protests - a-n article

Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery has responded to widespread criticism from artists and withdrawn an advert for unpaid volunteers to help install a forthcoming exhibition by Glasgow artist Jim Lambie.

Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh has responded to comments from artists and withdrawn what was advertised as an unpaid ‘one-off opportunity’ to install Jim Lambie’s Zobop floor piece at the gallery. The Glasgow artist's solo exhibition, which opens 27 June, is part of the Scotland-wide Generation programme, celebrating the last 25 years of artists’ practice in the country.

A statement sent to a-n from the gallery said: “The Fruitmarket Gallery pays its information assistants, installation teams and all artists working in our learning programmes, the Edinburgh Living Wage or above. In this instance, we thought in good faith that we could offer a one-off short term opportunity that might interest people in our audience who have some free time and are interested in joining in with an installation for a few days.

“We have listened to comments, wholeheartedly support a-n's Paying Artists Campaign, and withdraw the offer. We will use paid installers to install the piece.”

Originally posted on its website and Facebook page on Monday, the advert asked for up to eight people to commit to working a minimum of six days each over a 12-day install period. The volunteers, who were to work a 9-5 day alongside the gallery’s installation staff and artist’s assistants, were offered lunch, an exhibition catalogue and an invite to the show’s private view ‘as a thank you’.

Immediate response

The response on Twitter and Facebook to the advert was immediate. ArtistMorgan Cahn wrote: “I just can’t fathom why Jim and the Fruitmarket wouldn’t want to pay some young artists for this. That would be an excellent opportunity for THEM to put money and knowledge into their community.”

Glasgow artist Janie Nicoll said: “It seems like really bad practice dressed up as an opportunity.” Edinburgh-based artist and lecturer Alan Holligan added: “The immediate problem with these kinds of unpaid opportunities is who is available to take them up. One of the wonderful things about paying people is that it democratizes the opportunity by opening it up to those who cannot afford to work for nothing.”

Artist Kevin Harman, a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, recalled being paid for installing a Lambie floor piece during his second year at college: “We got paid £6 an hour, it was a good experience, which I wouldn’t have been able to participate in if it was unpaid as I had to earn some dosh to pay for rent, materials, etc…”

Commenting on Twitter, Joanne Tatham said: "Payment for such work sustains artists and the communities now celebrated by the #generation project." Glasgow-based writer and artist Fiona Jardine (@fdjardine) wrote: “This kind of work underscores the Glasgow scene we've heard so much about... Why can't #Generation @fruitmarket support it?”

Asked by a-n to respond to this specific question, the gallery, which is one of Creative Scotland's regularly funded venues with a grant in aid for 2013-14 of £666,600, said: “The Fruitmarket Gallery has received £3,000 from Generation towards our exhibition. This is in addition to our regular funding from Creative Scotland, which is the only regular public funding we receive, and accounts for around 50% of our costs. The rest we raise.

“Our entire existence and programme supports artists and audiences in Scotland and beyond. We are proud to pay the Edinburgh Living Wage or above to all our staff, and entrance to our exhibitions is always free.”

Creative Scotland comment

Asked to comment on the issue of unpaid volunteers, a spokesperson for Creative Scotland said: “Creative Scotland is supportive of the Paying Artists Campaign. This campaign reflects the principle laid out in our 10 Year Plan of encouraging better levels of remuneration for artists, in order to ensure that Scotland is a country where they can live and work and that their contribution to all or lives is recognised.

“Voluntary positions do have an important role to play and can often present genuine opportunities for people to gain valuable experience in the art, screen and creative industries, to learn and to make a contribution on their own terms.

"In parallel to this, we will be working to encourage the organisations that we fund to develop clear policies around volunteering and to ensure that trained, practicing artists and creative practitioners are always paid fairly.”

Monday, 19 May 2014

Scottish Artists Union website gets a new look

Over the last year, the Scottish Artists Union executive committee have been working with Glasgow-based web web-designers, Level Pages to give the SAU website a bit of a makeover, and to make it easier for the exec to add new items and update it.

After much hard work and a few inevitable glitches, the new-look website is up and running. We are still making minor corrections, but please do have a look at it and let us know what you think.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

SAU invites you to a Scottish Independence Discussion Forum

SAU presents "A Scottish Independence Forum" in conjunction with Stereo's Living Room: Exploring the Referendum."

With representatives from both sides of the debate, this is an opportunity for SAU members to ask questions about the upcoming Independence Referendum and how it could affect the arts in Scotland.

6-7.30pm Wednesday 25th June 2014, at Stereo bar/cafe, 22-28 Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 5AR

All welcome!

More details to follow...

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Turner Prize Nominees Announced

I am delighted that my friend and colleague, Ciara Phillips has been nominated for the 2014 Turner Prize. 

Once again, Glasgow-based or Glasgow-educated artists feature heavily. Out of the four nominees, three are GSA alumni. Tris Vonn Michell , Ciara Phillips and Duncan Campbell are all shortlisted for the prize, awarded to an outstanding British artist under the age of 50.

Tris Vonna-Michell (Fine Art Photography, 2005) is noted for his semi-improvised presentations, often using slide projections, with an egg-timer to let him know when he has reached his limit. He has been nominated for a solo show in Brussels.

Ciara Phillips (MFA, 2004) is nominated for a two-month project at The Showroom gallery in London, where she set up a temporary workshop and invited artists, designers, and local women's groups to produce new screen prints.

Duncan Campbell (MFA, 1998) is nominated for his presentation at the Scottish Pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennale in which he screened the 1953 film Statues Also Die alongside his response – a film which featured choreography by Michael Clark and explored the commercialisation of African art.

James Richards is the final shortlisted artist. He graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 2006. He is nominated for his work called Rosebud which was exhibited in Venice.

Read what the papers have to say:

Mark Brown, arts correspondent, The Guardian

Nick Clark‎, The Independent‎

James Lachno and PA, The Telegraph

James Howe, The List

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Back in the studio

My studio time of late has been taken up with funding applications, writing, proposals and paperwork. Although I would like not to have to divert my attention from making, I accept that this is the way things have to be, and realise that in order to be able to continue making work and exhibiting, the administration and paperwork is necessary. At times, a break from making ones own work can be beneficial and prompt a period of reflection and evaluation, allowing ideas to flourish and reconfirm one's desire to make artwork.

It can be slightly daunting or nerve-wracking to begin making work again, even after a short pause. 

I am still teaching myself to stop putting pressure on myself, and to relax in the making process, acknowledging that there are no failures.

I've really enjoyed getting back into the studio, and have picked up from where I was, using colour swatches to make collages & small studies.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Launch of Artists' Union England

May 1st saw the launch of Artists' Union England, with a welcome speech to the trade union movement by Beth Farhart, Regional Secretary of the Northern TUC at the May Day rally held in Newcastle Saturday 3rd May.

Artists’ Union England is hosting two launch events, one in London and one in NewcastleGateshead. In London on 14th May, will be hosting a formal launch event at the Showroom from 7-9pm, with a presentation from the Chair followed by a panel discussion. In Newcastle, on 16th and 17th May Artists’ Union England founding members will be hosting a series of informal events as part of Newcastle Lates.
Please note tickets for the London event are free but must be booked online – please see link below.

Membership is open to professional visual and applied artists. From 1st May there will be a three-month grace period until 1st August 2014 in which there will be no membership fees. All members who join before 1st July will be invited to take part in a collective decision-making process to determine the initial priorities and annual membership fee. The resulting membership fee will be implemented from 1st August 2014.

AUE Trustee, Artist Margareta Kern describes why she believes a trade union for artists is so important. “In my own experience as a cultural worker/artist, I have found that it is often left to the artist to individually negotiate terms of a commission, a public talk, an education workshop, or an exhibition. This makes things appear personal, whereas in fact they are structural. Quite often, art organisations, which are increasingly under pressure to seek funding from private and corporate sources due to government funding cuts, are expecting an artist to work for speculative cultural capital, using the mythology of art (work) as pleasure, to not pay (or poorly pay). It is therefore really important to have a collective body that could represent artists for better and fair working conditions and rates of pay, and that could effect change more broadly across the cultural sector.”

Chris Biddlecombe from the Scottish Artists’ Union says “After 14 years of being the only visual and applied artists’ trade union in Britain, the Scottish Artists’ Union are enthused and encouraged to see this artist group initiate the beginnings of a new trade union that will support and strengthen the position of fellow professional working artists across England. We look forward to discussing with them ways in which we can work together on mutually agreed issues and campaigns.”

The website has been designed by John Hill from LuckyPDF, and is live from 1st May 2014.

More information:
· Newcastle and London Launch events
· Becoming a member
· Founding members

Friday, 2 May 2014

Another reason to visit mimi

After it's success in Gi 2012, the Art Lending Library is leaving Glasgow and heading down to Darlington

Art Lending Library at Crown Street Gallery, Darlington

3 May 2014 - 5 June 2014

Art Lending Library. A project by Market Gallery and Walker & Bromwich.

The Art Lending Library brings together over 50 works by a diverse range of artists working across the broad spectrum of formats available within contemporary visual arts practice. The project has been made possible through the generosity of participating artists in gifting their works into the care of the library, to be made available to loan for the duration of the exhibition.

Join them in celebrating the opening of the exhibition with a ceremonial procession through Darlington town centre, accompanied by the Cockerton Prize Silver Band. The parade will be followed by a reception from 1pm until 3pm at Crown Street Gallery, where you will be able to join the Art Lending Library and borrow works to enjoy in your home, work place or community centre. The Parade begins at the Life Pulse sculpture on Blackwellgate, 12 noon on Saturday 3 May.

The exhibition runs at Crown Street Gallery, Darlington, from Saturday 3 May – Thursday 5 June 2014. For further details, and to see the artworks, visit

With works by Beagles and Ramsay, Chris Biddlecombe, Oliver Braid, Jemima Brown, Jasmina Cibic, Romany Dear, Roos Dijkhuizen, Jacqueline Donachie and Roderick Buchanan, Annie O’Donnell, Juan Pablo Echeverri, Laura Eldret, Peter J Evans, Graham Fagen, David Faithfull, Alec Finlay, Ross Hamilton Frew, Dryden Goodwin, Sandy Grant, Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope, Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, Henna Rikka Halonen, Ellie Harrison, Margaret Harrison, Dean Hughes, Kevin Hunt, Nick Kennedy, Gayle Chong Kwan, Tessa Lynch, Rachel Maclean, Tom Nolan, Nicky Peacock, Kate V Robertson, Andro Semeiko, Iacopo Seri, David Sherry, Calum Stirling, Pivli Takala, Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, Clara Ursitti, Mark Vernon and Ian Middleton, Yu-Chen Wang, Kraig Wilson.

The exhibition in Darlington will include a selection of new works. mima has taken this opportunity to support two locally based emerging curators, by working together to establish a group of 9 artists to invite to participate from the local region, nationally and internationally.

Chance Finds Us at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Chance Finds Us
2 May 2014 - 4 September 2014

Above image: James Hugonin, Binary Rhythm (IV) detail, 2012- 2013, Private Collection, USA, Courtesy the artist & Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh.

An artist led project by eight North East based artists who work across drawing, installation, painting and sculpture, who have all adopted systematic strategies in their practice. The artists in this exhibition all look at the opposition of order, intuition and the implication of the chance encounter. Artist include; Anne Vibeke Mou, James Hugonin, Alex Charrington, Richard Rigg, Rachael Clewlow, Sarah Bray, Peter J. Evans and Nick Kennedy.

My response – Michael Stumpf: This Song Belongs to Those who Sing It

Jenny Brownrigg, Exhibitions Director at Glasgow School of Art asked me to write a response to Michael Stumpf's current exhibition: This Song Belongs to Those who Sing It. 

I was honoured to be asked (if a little daunted), but thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. My intention was to avoid a review as such, but to write about my personal experience of the work.

Central Station have published my text online.

Read it here

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Arts lottery funding imbalance 'requires urgent address', say arts leaders

Arts lottery funding imbalance 'requires urgent address', say arts leaders
Lottery funds have disproportionately benefited most prosperous and arts engaged communities in England, report reveals

The Guardian's Culture Professionals Network explains...

Last Friday The Place Report was launched. It argues that arts lottery funds are fundamentally different from grant-in-aid funding – those provided to maintain the core national cultural infrastructure – and it questions Arts Council England's (ACE) stewardship of those lottery funds, provided for different purposes and for far wider public benefit.

The report draws particular attention to five of the directions issued by DCMS for the lottery (pdf):

"Arts Council England shall take account of the following in distributing national lottery funds:

• The need to increase access and participation for those who do not currently benefit from the cultural opportunities available in England

• The need to foster local community initiatives which bring people together, enrich the public realm and strengthen community spirit

• The need to support volunteering and participation in the arts and community arts

• The need to involve the public and local communities in making policies, setting priorities and distributing money

• The desirability of ensuring equality of opportunity, of reducing economic and social deprivation and ensuring that all areas of England have access to the money distributed"

Other lottery distributors in England have acted upon similar directions to prioritise disadvantaged communities. ACE appears, at best, to have given the directions no priority and at worst, systematically ignored them, placing at serious risk of failure the local infrastructure of facilities, organisations and programmes that are the bedrock of national cultural life.
The Place report shows that the arts lottery has disproportionately benefited the most prosperous and "arts engaged" communities in England, often also those contributing least to the lottery. At the same time, some of the least "arts engaged" and poorest communities, contributing most heavily to the arts good cause, receive the least return.

Of England's 326 local authorities, the 33 where people are least engaged with the arts (10% of the total with a combined 6 million people) have received £288m arts lottery funds since 1995 or £48 per head of population (php). The 33 areas with the highest levels of arts engagement (4.8 million people) have received £1.33bn over the same period – over £1bn more and at £275 php.

Lottery proceeds are increasingly supporting organisations and regular programmes of work that were previously funded through grant-in-aid. That's a vital point when you consider additionality, the guiding principle that arts lottery funds should be for "new and additional" activity and not a substitute for grant-in-aid.

The largest recipients of ACE grant-in-aid are now among the largest recipients of arts lottery funds and many of these organisations are also the largest beneficiaries of private philanthropy and sponsorship of the arts. Arts funding has become a closed system.

ACE has argued that "subsidy per attendance" is a "more representative measure" of benefit from public funding, as opposed to measures of geographical distribution. What we've found is that affluent people who live within easy reach of major cultural institutions and who can afford regular attendance derive by far the most benefit from funds sourced from taxpayers and from lottery players.

Arts lottery funding to the five largest London recipients (The Royal Opera House, Royal National Theatre, English National Opera, Sadler's Wells and the Southbank Centre) totals £315m since 1995. This is in addition to annual funding of over £80m that between them they receive from taxpayers. These five organisations have received more arts lottery funding than the 33 local authority areas whose communities are least engaged with the arts.

In a time of austerity, cultural organisations with very substantial public funding and with the greatest capacity to raise resources from paid attendances, sponsorship and philanthropy might be expected to make a lower call on public funds.

The sheer scale of these imbalances in the distribution of arts lottery funds across the country and between beneficiaries requires urgent address. But how? The report offers a simple illustrative proposition of a tripartite framework for the arts lottery.

Respecting the directions, the proposed framework would operate through three programmes focused differentially on: the social priority of engagement with areas of disadvantage; the economic priority of dispersed cultural production; and the artistic priority of support for artists' practice across all disciplines. Decision-making would be devolved to appropriate structures operating at regional or multi-authority level with weighted allocations that recognised advantage and disadvantage in terms of geographical, economic and social factors.

Peter Stark, David Powell and Christopher Gordon are co-authors of The Place Report

ACE have responded to the PLACE report, and this can be read at