Monday, 29 September 2014

Furniture reinterpreted as an artwork

Ive been looking at some quirky furniture designs, and thinking about how they relate to my work, and possibilities of display for my work.

Generous Interfaces for Cultural Collections - Mitchell Whitelaw

This lunchtime I went to a lecture by Mitchell Whitelaw in which he talked about Generous Interfaces for Cultural Collections.

"After a decade or more of digitisation, the collections of galleries, archives, libraries and museums are increasingly available in digital form. But I argue that our interfaces have not kept up; the standard search-and-list approach demands a query, shows too little, and discourages exploration. In this talk I will introduce and demonstrate what I call “generous interfaces”: rich, explorable, browsable representations of cultural collections."

The first part of the lecture focused on how digital archives can be organised to enable people to engage with a collection and explore it without having a specific area of research or academic background.

Techniques such as grouping associated material and providing images have been used to prompt people to discover different aspects of a collection that they would not have otherwise have looked at.

Australian Prints and Printmaking have an original way of showing their collection, grouped by decades and in the various types of printmaking e.g. intaglio, relief

Whitelaw questioned whether we can reintroduce serendipity into digitally, and used serendip o magic as an example

The second part of the lecture was about generative interfaces i.e. interfaces that make stuff

I understand this to be DOING something with the information, not purely presenting it, and therefore I see Whitelaw's role as an artist.

He has used software to follow rules to create an endless collection of images that he hopes will lead people to see the material in different ways and will make meaning.

The software chooses 5 images, applies different effects to them (there is a choice of 3 effects that can be used), and then blends these images together to form a new image. This new image can be sourced back to its original components, and therefore if someone sees the image and goes on to investigate it further, it can lead them to a new area of investigation that they wouldn't have otherwise visited.

Mitchell Whitelaw is an academic, writer and practitioner with interests in new media art and culture, especially generative systems and data-aesthetics. His work has appeared in journals including Leonardo, Digital Creativity, Fibreculture, and Senses and Society. In 2004 his work on a-life art was published in the book Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life (MIT Press, 2004). His current work spans generative art and design, digital materiality, and data visualisation.

Scottish Artists Union AGM

As I made my journey from Newcastle up to Scotland I wondered what the atmosphere would be like following the referendum. 

I did not detect a deflated atmosphere that I'd been warned about, but maybe that was because of the nature of the event that I was attending: The Scottish Artists Union AGM, at which I was giving the Treasurers report.
Amongst the routine AGM business, the Scottish Artists Union AGM agenda was filled with stimulating presentations and debate.

Firstly, Angela Kennedy, Chair of the relatively newly formed Artists Union England (AUE), presented 'Solidarity across borders, Unionism in the arts - Activism and working collectively.' 

Angela discussed the factors that prompted the formation of the AUE, and what they set out to do.

"Artists’ Union England is a new trade union for professional visual and applied artists.

We aim to represent artists at strategic decision-making levels and positively influence the role artists play within society.

We aim to challenge the economic inequalities in the art world and to negotiate fair pay and better working conditions for artists.

We aim to work with other unions, arts organisations, government bodies and cultural institutions whilst remaining both independent and transparent.

We aim towards consensus decision-making, an active grass roots membership and involvement over a wide geographical spread."

Angela talked about how artist members have requested that AUE investigates factors including sexism, ageism, disability discrimination, low pay and zero hour contracts, and commented about the universality of these issues, hoping that because they are not just concerns for artists, that this will attract more general support and backing from non-artists.

More information about AUE can be found on their website, and I am looking forward to getting more involved.

Chris Kelly's presentation about the annual SAU Members Survey provided good support for some of the things that Angela had been talking about. This, the third members survey to be conducted, provides good data about working conditions of artists.

Some key figures include:

- in the year 2012-2013, 67% of SAU members earned £5,000 or less (after tax), and only 21% earned between £5000-£10000 (after tax)

- 62% of SAU members consistently get paid less than the SAU recommended rates of pay

- 48% of SAU members do not get contracts consistently

Given this evidence, it is difficult to understand why people are questioning why artists need a union. We discussed the kind of direction that members want the union to take.

This lead neatly to Harry Giles' video presentation titled 'Politics and economics post-referendum, whatever the result'
Giles talked about the need to be prepared for cuts in taxes and in funding. He was recently artist in residence at Govanhill Baths, and was delighted at the way that different groups within the community had come together to work towards a single aim. He proposed that this would be a good model to follow for the unions, rather like the way that two communities (Lesbians and Gays and the National Union of Mineworkers) supported each other, as documented in the recent film, Pride, which I saw last week. 

Pride is a powerful account of a true story, and follows the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners campaign. It shows what can be achieved when different groups work together to essentially fight for the same basic human rights. 

Applying this to our current climate, we discussed how different unions could find a common cause in the interest of all the members. Such issues could include universal credit and different forms of discrimination.

The day was brought to an end with a short presentation by Jack Richardson on the Paying Artists campaign. 
"Launched on 19 May, the Paying Artists campaign seeks to raise awareness of the value of artists within publicly-funded exhibitions and gallery programmes.
Informed both by independent research into artists' perceptions of the value of the exhibition process within their practice along with data on their income from arts practice, and in-depth interviews with artists at a range of career stages and with curators and gallery directors about their approaches and practices, the campaign aims to secure the future of the visual arts in the UK through creating equality of opportunity for artists, based on their talent and potential for innovation rather than on their ability to self-finance their exhibitions when held in publicly-funded galleries.
The research and campaign, which is a combined effort beween a-n - The Artists Information Company and AIR - Artists Interaction and Representation, has attracted a groundswell of support from across the UK and internationally, highlighting artists' pay and working conditions as a "global issue"."
For more information visit

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Work installed in mystery location

Before I left Glasgow, I had a studio sale and distributed many of my sculptures. The piece above was originally a 'test' piece, but an individual expressed interest in it and I gave him the task of installing it in a mystery location.

Here it is installed, about 3m above the floor!

Have you seen it?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Settling in to my new studio space

Today my studio space changed from being bare white walls with a desk and chair into an active space with work, images and research on the walls.

It is beginning to feel like home now!

I am fond of the way that the light has effected the tones of the cork and see it as a kind of trace of time. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

New studio

So, yesterday was my first day on the 2-year Master of Fine Art course at Newcastle University. It was an intense day, with lots to take it. I met the other people on my course - there are 6 of us in the 1st year, and there are 8 students in the 2nd year. 

We met the current MFA course leader, Irene Brown, and Nadia Hebson who will be acting as the MFA course leader while Irene is on sabbatical for 9 months from September. Both gave us a very friendly welcome, and then we were allocated our studio space.

This is my new home!

In the afternoon we had a thorough tour of the department and facilities and then went through the course modules, timetables and handouts etc. Lots to take in!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Jealous Curator and Jennifer Sanchez

The Jealous Curator is "a curator who is inspired {and just a tad jealous} of amazing contemporary art, every day.

She has a BFA in Visual Arts {painting, printmaking, and art history}, and a post-grad in Design. She has worked as a designer and Creative Director for 14 years, but never stopped loving and creating art. 

She writes, "After decades of looking at beautiful contemporary art and thinking “Damn, I wish I thought of that”, I decided to say it out loud, and The Jealous Curator was born." 

The Jealous Curator writes daily posts showcasing artwork from around the world, and it was in one of these posts that I saw the work of Jennifer Sanchez.

I enjoy the layers, colours, pattern and composition within the work. I note how Sanchez has applied her work to different surfaces including fabrics and wallpaper, and it has made me think about how I could transfer my work to other surfaces and extend its reach.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

DREAMWORLD at The NewBridge Project


Helen Carmel 
Lisa Beresford
Jenni Hiltunen
Ninja Thyberg

NewBridge Project Space
Saturday 6th Sept – Saturday 11th Oct 2014

This exhibition is extremely pertinent as we are constantly bombarded with highly sexualised images, in, for instance, music videos, food commercials and clothing advertisements.

"The NewBridge Project presents Dreamworld, a provocative group exhibition that will explore the use of sex as a motivator for consumerist desire.

The exhibition features performance and moving image work by international and UK based artists who present a confrontational, poignant and witty take on sex and body image.

Jenni Hiltunen’s Grind is a playful take on ‘Dancehall Queen Style’, a Jamaican dance fashion which became popular in the 1990s and more recently through ’twerking’. Grind uses provocative costumes, suggestive poses, roles and blatant sexuality.

Jenni Hiltunen (based in Helsinki, Finland)

Hiltunen graduated as a Master of arts from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2007 and as a contemporary artist from the Turku Art Academy in 2004. Hiltunen’s work explores the ambience of the present time: a pleasure oriented and individualistic world view and the understanding of reality through images. Recurring themes in her art are the “posing culture” created by social media and the internet and its pretentious way of existing in the world of entertainment.

Dreamworld will examine issues surrounding image, gender politics and sexual orientation. We are all exposed to contradictory notions of ‘appropriateness’, what is sexy and what is seedy."

Friday, 19 September 2014

Meeting Will Strong at The NewBridge Project

One of the first things I did when I moved to Newcastle was to meet with Will Strong, the co founder and co director of The NewBridge Project. He has worked with the organisation since it began in 2010 having graduated from Newcastle University. Will is an artist and curator who has shown work throughout the UK and internationally.
Will was incredibly generous with his time and gave me a tour of the studios, project spaces and gallery and gave me a broad overview of the art galleries and organisations in Newcastle. I would like to thank him for this, and congratulate him on his new role as Creative Economy Programme Manager at the British Council.
For more information about The NewBridge Project, please visit

The NewBridge Project
Supporting artists to investigate and challenge the boundaries of contemporary art practice
The NewBridge Project is an artist-led community comprising of over 80 artist studios, an exhibition space and book shop based in a 29,000sqft former office block in Newcastle city centre.

The NewBridge Project was established in 2010 to provide exchange and support in an engaged and discursive community of artists. The shared workspace is a critical and collaborative environment that allows artists to discuss and develop new ideas and projects.
The NewBridge Project Space provides artists with the opportunity to exhibit in a supportive space that promotes an experimental and critical approach to practice. The exhibition space is dedicated to exploring new and diverse contemporary art practice through a programme of regular exhibitions, screenings and events, supported by responsive talks, publications and broadcasts.
The NewBridge Project continues to develop in response to the needs and interests of its members.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

SAU Independence Discussion - Video footage online

On 25th June 2014 the Scottish Artists Union hosted an Independence Discussion Forum event at Stereo, Glasgow , chaired by Jim Tough, (Saltire Society), with speakers Sarah Beattie Smith, Ewan Morrison, Ken McLeod and Kevin Williamson.

Andy Kennedy kindly documented the event, which is available here now:

Thanks also go to the speakers and the audience for all their contributions.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Helen's Artwork Sale (in aid of MFA tuition fees!)

It may not look like it, but recently I have been having a sort-out in my studio. As I prepare to move to Newcastle to embark on a Master of Fine Art postgraduate degree at Newcastle University, I am packing up the contents of my studio and trying to earn a few pennies to add to the tuition fee fund!I have been debating what to throw out, what to sell, what to keep, what to put in storage, what to take to Newcastle etc. As I am not a good decision-maker, and a bit of a hoarder, this task has been very difficult!

TODAY I will be selling my artwork at a discounted rate, and there will be a variety of art materials that are up for grabs (any donations welcomed!)

Sunday 7th September

Studio 312,

3rd Floor,

Wasps Artists Studios,

South Block,

64 Osborne Street,

Glasgow, G1 5QH

When you are at the outside door, either phone me or buzz the buzzer and I will let you in. Then take the lift or stairs to the 3rd floor, where I will meet you.

I hope that you are able to come along, pick up some art to add to your collection, and say goodbye to me!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Practice 360°: Practice and Pedagogy at Camden Arts Centre

Wednesday 10 September
6.30 – 8.00pm

Practice 360° is a series of talks for artists, considering the edges around what defines contemporary art practice. How can lifestyle, family and money have presence within the working lives of artists? Many artists support their practices through some form of teaching, be this in a workshop or academic context. How can this approach to livelihood inform practice and visa-versa?

In this session members of collective FLΔG talk about their perspective on the subject.

“FLΔG is a group formed at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2010, comprising of artists, students, former students, staff and researchers. FLΔG explores the relationship between art practices, art education, and pedagogy, looking at forms of knowledge production and dissemination in the art school and beyond.

FLΔG continues where the ‘educational turn’ in the art world left off, bringing re-examined art/ pedagogy dynamics back into the discursive arena and physical space of the art school, but also by engaging with galleries and related art spaces.”

In partnership with Artquest.

Artquest provides practical support to visual artists throughout their careers.


For more information visit

Artists U: a Movement for sustainable art practice

Artists U is a grassroots, artist-run platform for changing the working conditions of artists.

Their manifesto reads:

Make art. Don’t starve.
We want to change the conversations artists have in our heads, with each other, and with the world.
We push artists to build lives that are balanced, productive, and sustainable.
We are skills-based, not need-based: we work to empower artists to create their lives and their art.
We don’t give advice. We don’t do things for you.
Everything we do is artist-to-artist and free for all participants.
We started in Philadelphia and now we work in Baltimore and South Carolina too (and sometimes in other places).
We have two tools: group meetings and one-on-one planning sessions.

We offer those tools in three different programs:


12 artists are nominated and selected for a year-long program. Artist meet eight times as a group to look at specific topics: artist statement, grant writing, communications, etc. Each artist also meets monthly one-on-one with an artist facilitator to do her/his own planning work. Artists leave with: a two-year personal strategic plan; a new artist statement; a financial plan including annual income goals and hour, day, and week rates; and an administrative plan including schedule and resources.


Open enrollment. Three 2-hour workshops spread over three weeks. We look at: strategic planning, artist statement, and time and money management.


Free one-on-one planning sessions with an artist facilitator. You bring in an issue, the facilitator asks you a lot of questions. Our goal: turn challenges and dreams in to to-do lists.

For more information, visit

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Invite from The Glasgow Artist Guild

Monday night was the first in The Glasgow Artist Guild's programme of monthly events. Each month 1-2 guest artists are invited to give a lecture on their practice, with an open discussion afterwards. Each event is free, and open to the public. The events are informal and encourage artists and creative minds to network, discuss, and share contemporary ideas, perhaps leading to opportunities in the future. 

The Glasgow Artist Guild was founded in 2014 by Samantha Madonik and Philip Gurrey, with the intention being to create a networking experience for local artists. 

Louis Skehal and Craig Barrowman were the artists giving presentations. 

A State of Place

Louis Skehal is an artist living and working in Glasgow, a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. His latest work A State of Place, was installed in a large disused railway arch in Laurieston, Glasgow. Skehal was the first artist to display his work as part of the Artists in Arches (AIA) initiative. Other sculptural works have included a large-scale work in Easterhouse, Glasgow, consisting of two works designed to stimulate a dialogue between the Arts Centre in Easterhouse and The Glasgow School of Art, exploring perceptions of place, status and situation.

Solo Exhibition at the Pipe Factory, Glasgow

Craig Barrowman is a Scottish artist, currently a studio resident of the Pipe Factory in Glasgow. Barrowman also works developing collaborative projects and presents the work of emerging artists through the collective Stray Dog. His work was recently featured as part of Art in the Clay Pits, an outdoor sculpture trail located in Possil, Glasgow. 

Temporary Art School, 2012

For more information about Glasgow Artist Guild, have a look at



Glasgow Artist Guild have kindly invited me to present at a future event. I'll keep you posted!