Friday, 27 February 2015

The Front Row debate - Are artists owed a living?

An interesting discussion...

Are artists owed a living? John Wilson hosts a public debate with dancer Deborah Bull, playwright Richard Bean, economist Philip Booth, commentator Ekow Eshun, sociologist Tiffany Jenkins and an audience at the Hull Truck Theatre to mark the launch of the BBC's Get Creative campaign and to open a national conversation exploring the relationship between the state and the arts.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Jez Riley French

A couple of weeks ago, sound artist Jez Riley French gave an artist talk at Newcastle University. He spoke very honestly and openly about his approach to making work and shared his working methods with us. He brought along a number of different microphones that he uses to record his work.

I found it remarkable to listen to the sounds of structures such as bridges, particularly so as he does not edit the footage in any way.

Following his teaching at the University, Jez contacted me asking whether he could provide a link to my work.

Here is a link to his post which includes a little mention of my artwork!

Jez' website is

and his blog can be seen at

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Many thanks to all who came to the preview of SNIPPET

I would like to thank everyone who came to the preview of SNIPPET at Newcastle University last night. There was a great turnout, a really good atmosphere, and people were very generous with their comments.

Here is a little insight into what was a brilliant evening.

A fragment. A glimpse. A squint to unveil the work of artists exploring painting, sculpture, textiles, sound and video. Geometric colourful shapes along with abstract moving images and experimental sculpture are brought together in SNIPPET. The works shown are manifested from the tensions between painting and sculpture, society and technology.

A central feature to this exhibit is the artwork emerged from the exploration of new approaches to the artists’ usual practices.

Whether they are textiles or paintings, Mirela Bistran’s works start guided by instinct and intuition. Then evolve into journeys of emotions and feelings expressed through lines and marks or cut-outs and stitches. Sometimes playful, sometimes shy or bold and other times solemn and melancholic, they take on a personality of their own.

Starting with collages, Jodie Dunnil creates 3D models that help her understand the depth and illusion she later represents in painterly images that inhabit a space between figuration and abstraction. Her methodology explores the representation of space on a two-dimensional surface introducing sculpture and exploring ideas of perspective, depth and angle.

In a burgeoning momentum of excessive technological consumerism and electronic mediation, Bartira Sena's work attempts to juxtapose the idea of nature, spirituality and technology. Her installations create situations in which we experience alternative cultural representations.

Helen Shaddock’s playful approach invites us to enjoy surfaces, textures, forms and colour. Process is a central aspect to her practice, whereby she strives to make art that embraces chance and the unpredictable. Objects made from coloured plaster are juxtaposed with other, more mundane materials such as cardboard. Her work investigates dynamics between the audience and the space.

Yein Son is concerned in finding the right balance between consciousness and unconsciousness. She depicts images from the theme of absorption in art. Her artwork narrates with a confident mark, a very fluid and dynamic story that seems to have endless possibilities. In her new paintings, the atmosphere becomes more enigmatic and calligraphic.

Liying Zhao is motivated by her life experience and emotions which become the main characters in her artwork. She is interested in using video and different kinds of materials to create an illusory sense. The contrast between the real and the fantasy becomes more dramatic and amusing in her current artworks.

Interested in the bond between art and reality, Tan Zou creates documentaries about household affairs and level of societies. Currently based in Newcastle, the artist creates narratives through film and photography in an attempt to grasp the significance of her own experience in between two different cultures.

Qingchan Li explores the complexity of human emotions with an emphasis on enigma and horror. The artist uses different shapes and patterns to explore the delicate mental activities of human beings. Using simple shapes she presents us a video in which the sound takes on the main role. The purpose is to embark us on a frightful experience.

Monday, 23 February 2015

SNIPPET introduces...Li Qingchan

Li’s exhibition work
Title: bouncing balls
Exhibition place: tic room
Contents: 3 projection, a 5-min video
Work statement:
Li wants to use different patterns of bouncing balls moving to explore and show the mysterious human mental world and the complex human emotions, such as horror, frightened, unknown, etc. In the tic room, the overwhleming audio and abstracted moving images will build an amazing atmosphere.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

SNIPPET introduces... Liying Zhao

Liying Zhao is currently an MFA student in the stage 1 at Newcastle University. She is a painter whose practice is primarily concerned with her daily life experience and personal emotions. 
She tends to look in her own back yard, capture and dig deeply into her present, specific and potential mood and feeling she is undergoing, represent through painting, drawing, video, installation or words recording. Someone said that she is like a butterfly because she seldom staying on one flower for a long time. In fact she has been working closely with the periodical emotion, thus once she jumps out from that emotion, the exploration of that emotion of works will not to be continued. As a result, sometime viewers can hardly find out an apparent and coherent clue of the theme of her works. However, there is a clue of her long-term motives of lives can be find when combining these disparate works together into a big picture.
Currently, her works are searched into the relationship of uncertainty and ambiguity between man and woman. The work of research is separated into 3 main parts using three elements say branches, fingers and lines, representing separately through painting, video and drawing, to demonstrate her understanding and feeling of this ambiguous interaction.
As to the development of personal style, it is transforming from graphic image into abstract lines and mark making. In the meanwhile, the notion of ‘title’ is emerging in her mind and showing up by her works. In her previous works, she always tried to tell the whole stories to viewers, but now, what she wants to show is the ‘title; rather than the content of the story. 
For her, the process of experiencing and finding is enjoyable and inspiring, and in this stage, the most cheerful thing is looking for new points ceaselessly rather than sticking on one point. This process of experience, finding and representation is not only an important way to keep life fresh, but also a way of self-criticism and self-definition, to find out who she is.

SNIPPET introduces... Tan Zou

Title: Flowing Lands
Exhibition place: Little project room
Contents: 9 video sequences (5 for UK, 4 for China)
6 pictures (3 for UK, 3 for China) 
Work statement:
The distance between China and UK is about 8800KM, it is hard for those countries people to know each other very well, people just have a fuzzy concept to each other. I want to put these two remote countries in a small space by displaying videos and pictures, which maybe can help audiences have a quick look on both China and UK.
Exhibition way:
Maybe I will use two parallel walls to display China part and UK part respectively.

SNIPPET introduces... Mirela Bistran

Mirela Bistran
My practice is fed by the way I perceive the world around me, my beliefs, memories and feelings. Together they make up my life journey, the sense of belonging, of identity, of feeling at home with myself.
I have a particular interest in finding the right balance between free, gestural brushwork, sometimes unplanned, and the fine, delicate and intricate work of precision. The colours play a very important role; they almost have their own story. And by that, I mean that they always express feelings, very often in a narrative way.
A major part of my art is owed much to chance, the subconscious and to dream imagery. I would make rapid sketches directed by instinct and intuition using inks and pencils on paper. Very often these sketches are the beginning of a journey of emotions and feelings expressed through lines and marks that come to life following each other. Sometimes playful, sometimes shy or bold and other times solemn and melancholic, they take on a personality of their own.
The imagination dictates the tools I work with. At times they are embodied in fabrics, buttons, scissors and threads. Most of the fabrics I use are dear to me, they retain memories. The process is the same. It starts like a spontaneous game and evolves into a passage of structured layers interacting with each other.
At intervals I use cardboard, wood, recycled materials to build objects

Friday, 20 February 2015

SNIPPET introduces... Yein Son

SNIPPET introduces... Bartira Sena

SNIPPET introduces... Helen Shaddock

SNIPPET introduces... Jodie Dunnill

George Clarke's Amazing Spaces

I rarely watch television, but a friend recently recommended a programme called George Clarke's Amazing Spaces on Channel 4 (available on 4OD), and I found it fascinating.

"Architect George Clarke explores the extraordinary world of small builds, where people turn tiny spaces into the most incredible places to live, work and play. He even tries making a few of his own."

One episode features HiveHaus, a new modular building concept developed by Barry Jackson.

The Hivehaus is suitable for a wide variety of environments, and is based on the hexagonal honeycomb structures built by bees. The compact living space is constructed from identically proportioned ‘cells’ that can be joined together by any of their six sides to create a connected cluster or ‘hive’. This system offers a high level of flexibility and enables a bespoke expansion of the house as it grows with the individual users requirements. Each piece has an internal floor area of 9.3m2 and is designed to be used as a specific work/live space. i.e. office, lounge, kitchen, bedroom or bathroom cells all have uniform internal partition walls (with or without pocket doors) that can be added or removed as needed.

Another episode featured a caravan that gets turned into a travelling theatre called The Wonderful World of Mr E. "Filled with weird and wonderful artefacts, the travelling show featuring puppets, music, clowning and story-telling, and entertains children at arts festivals across the country, teaching them about history and popular culture through the interactive props that are in the caravan."

Throughout the second series, George Clarke works on his own project, an ambitious, accessible, multi-functional tree house within the Calvert Trust, an outward bound activities centre for families with disabilities.

The way in which the furniture is contained within the treehouse is incredibly neat and space efficient. This wall panel contains cut out shapes that slot together to form seats, and a pull- down bed.

Opening some of the panels within this wall forms a table, shelving units and another bed.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Testing install options

With a week to go before the preview of the MFA and Culture Lab exhibition next Tuesday evening, today I began to move some models into the gallery. My casts are extremely heavy and require two people to lift them, so I have been using the moulds and scale cardboard models to give me an idea of how the forms work in the gallery space.

Of course, the exhibition is a group exhibition, and so the reading of the work will change in relation to what else is shown. I am very conscious that the space could easily become overcrowded, and so it will be a careful balance.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Beautiful spillage

A friend kindly sent me a link to this video, thinking that I would find it pleasing.

Oh how she knows me well!

Monday, 16 February 2015

SNIPPET - Preview: Tuesday 24th February 2015, 6-8pm, Fine Art Department, Newcastle University

A fragment. A glimpse. A squint to unveil the work of artists exploring painting, sculpture, textiles, sound and video. Geometric colourful shapes along with abstract moving images and experimental sculpture are brought together in SNIPPET.
Human emotions are expressed through subtle images creating an immersive environment. The works shown are manifested from the tensions between painting and sculpture, society and technology.
Artists: Mirela Bistran, Jodie Dunnill, Li Qingchan, Bartira Sena, Helen Shaddock, Yein Son, Liying Zhao, Tan Zou.

PREVIEW: Tuesday 24th February, 2015 6 - 8pm  
25th - 27th February 9am - 5pm 

Long Gallery, Project room, Tic Space. 
Fine Art Department. School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University 
Newcastle upon Tyne. NE1 7RU.

SNIPPET - Preview: Tuesday 24th February 2015, 6-8pm, Fine Art Department, Newcastle University

PREVIEW: Tuesday 24th February, 2015 6 - 8pm  
25th - 27th February 9am - 5pm 
Long Gallery, Project room, Tic Space. 
Fine Art Department. School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University 
Newcastle upon Tyne. NE1 7RU.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Sabina Sallis : The Source of Resilience : NewBridge Project Space : Exhibition opens Friday 20th February 2015

I am delighted to be working for Newcastle based artist, Sabina Sallis as her Artist Assistant.

Sabina is working on the final preparations for her solo exhibition, The Source of Resilience, at The NewBridge Project which opens on Friday 20th February (more details below)

Sabina Sallis : The Source of Resilience 

NewBridge Project Space

Saturday 21st February - Saturday 28th March
preview: Friday 20th February 6-9pm 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Magnificent Obsessions on Front Row

I have a fascination with, and am attracted to collections. The psychology of collecting interests me, as well as the method of displays.

Damien Hirst, Birds display

 Danh Vo I M U U R 2, 2013 (detail)

The new exhibition, Magnificent Obsessions at the Barbican in London is featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Front Row. The exhibition focuses on the artist as collector. Many post-war and contemporary artists are represented, including the possessions of Howard Hodgkin, Edmund de Waal, Damien Hirst and Peter Blake. The show's curator Lydia Yee gives John Wilson a personal tour.

Edmund de Waal from the collection of a private man, 2011

Sol LeWitt, Autobiography, 1980

Featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Front Row, 11th February

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Acting on an urge

Sometimes I have ideas or urges to do things that, at the time, do not have a clear reason or rationale behind them, but later these can be explained or understood.

I think it is important to listen to these urges and venture on the path of discovery and unknown as this opens up new possibilities and can be exciting.

Today I acted on my urge to create a three-dimensional foil shape.

I am drawn to the crystal-like qualities and the way that colours and light are reflected and refracted off the surfaces.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Second tetris cast is revealed

After the excitement of revealing the first of the tetris casts on Friday, today I dismantled the second tetris mould.

I had built a clay form at the bottom of the mould, over which I poured the layers of coloured plaster.

Removing the clay was a slow process!