Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Art, Music and Poetry at the “Noughtie” Exhibition

Saturday, 14th November, I was at the Reception for a group exhibition by Clinton Kirkpatrick, Emily Mannion and Kelly Ratchford at Studio 23. Very enjoyable! In addition to the paintings, there was some music provided (sorry, didn’t get their names) and poetry by Séamus Fox.

"As Far As I Can See", by Clinton Kirkpatrick.

Some work by Kelly Ratchford

A few of Emily Mannion's drawings.

Séamus in full swing, background hangings by Kelly Ratchford.

The Exhibition is on until 28th November at Studio 23, The Cutts, Dunmurry Industrial Estate, Derriaghy, BT17 9HU.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Merging "Studio 23 NI, Creative Collective - The Blog" into my ArtMagic Blog

I set up a blog about activities linked to Studio 23, which was open to all members of Studio 23 to contribute to. However, that hasn't really taken off, so I have transferred my writings from there to this blog, where I will put all my future comments about Studio 23 activities.

Originally published: Sunday, 9th August 2009 in the Creative Collective Blog

Unfortunately, I am a bit late with this as the preview is already over! I have only seen some of Jill's jewellery at her place in Studio 23 but, judging from this, the exhibition at The Fountain Centre should be worth a visit. Below is the information about the exhibition that I received from Jill.

The Craft & Design Collective presents ELEMENTS, an exhibition of contemporary jewellery featuring new work by Fiona Kerr, Garvan Traynor, Jill Graham and Rachel McKnight, at Space CRAFT, the group’s Shop/Gallery/Exhibition Area, up the escalator at The Fountain Centre, College Street, Belfast, from Friday 7th to Saturday 29th August 2009.

The Preview takes place on Thursday 6th August 2009, 6pm to 8pm.

Four of Northern Ireland’s leading Jewellery Artist/Designer/Makers have come together to make new work based on their own unique interpretations of the four elements; Air, Earth, Fire and Water, “We decided that we would like to put together an exhibition that not only challenges us to make new exciting work based on the elements, but would also challenge the viewer to think differently about jewellery.”

Fiona Kerr will explore the element ‘Fire’. Fiona combines beautiful stones with precious metals to stunning effect. The primary themes in her work are light, colour and movement. There is a discreet kinetic element to many of Fiona’s pieces.

Garvan Traynor will explore the element ‘Air’. Garvan specialises in hand crafted, custom designed jewellery. He uses platinum, gold, silver and precious stones in a distinctive and ingenious way. He transforms geometric, manmade structures into contemporary jewellery design.Jill Graham will explore the element ‘Earth’.

Jill works only in precious metals mainly sterling silver and 18ct gold. Her main source of inspiration is from organic structures and elements of plant life. She also likes to explore the themes of layering, movement and texture.

Rachel McKnight will explore the element ‘Water’. Rachel uses polypropylene, perspex, rubber and silver to produce original and innovative jewellery. Simple and uncomplicated shapes and the idea of duplicating these shapes also form the basis of Rachel’s jewellery.

Shop/Gallery/Exhibition Area
9b The Fountain Centre, College Street, Belfast, BT1 6ET

Friday 7th to Saturday 29th August 2009

Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 5.30pm

Further Information
Contact: Jan Irwin
T: 028 9032 9342
M: 0779 327 9161

About Space CRAFT
Space CRAFT Shop/Gallery/Exhibition Area is a non-profit taking social economy enterprise managed by the Craft & Design Collective designed to enable the purchase of work made by emerging and established Artist/Designer/Makers.

About the Craft & Design Collective
The Craft & Design Collective is an independent membership organisation formed in 1997 by Artist/Designer/Makers for Artist/Designer/Makers, to help raise the profile, manage and facilitate the development of Craft, Applied Art and Design.

With over 130 members the Craft & Design Collective is the biggest Craft Network in Northern Ireland. We are dedicated to the promotion, representation, understanding and development of Craft, Applied Art and Design in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Visit our website for further information about us, our members, and the events that we organise

Originally published: Sunday, 21st June 2009 in the Creative Collective Blog

“Yesterday’s News”, Clinton Kirkpatrick: Safehouse Gallery, 25 Donegall Street, Belfast

Clinton in front of his paintings, Colour Field(s) 1-8.

I went to Clinton’s Reception Evening at the Safehouse Gallery on Friday, 19th June. I had seen a few of his paintings before at his studio space in Studio 23, Dunmurry, but this was the first time that I had seen his work properly presented and “en masse”. It makes a major difference to see work in the right setting. I particularly liked the display of eight of Clinton’s painting that I photographed with him in front. Each of the Colour Field paintings is for sale individually (and good in its own right), but they would be stunning if they were kept together and displayed in the same way in a modern, possibly minimalistic, room.

The exhibition organiser, Danny Burke, giving a brief talk introducing Clinton’s work. He is standing in front of two of Clinton’s paintings, “What Lies Beneath” (top) and “Slightly Ajar”, (bottom).

A lot of Clinton’s work is semi-figurative and powerfully coloured, making reference to the visual culture of today, its news flashes and headlines. I would consider that it is well worth a visit before it closes on the 9th July.

Originally published: Sunday, 3rd May 2009 in the Creative Collective Blog

James Millar, at The Whalley Gallery, Holywood, Co. Down.
James Millar, in front of one of his works.

Last Thursday, 30th April, I went to an exhibition of work by Jack Pakenham and James Millar at the Whalley Gallery, Holywood, Co. Down. I like the work by Pakenham, but my main reason for going was to renew a friendship with James Millar, with whom I had lost touch over the years when I was teaching in Cookstown.

I met James first when I was just about to leave art college in 1976 and I got to know him quite well (in 1978, I painted his portrait), but a few years after I had to move to Cookstown I lost touch. However, I still retain my admiration for his work. James was deeply interested in pyschology, particularly the work of C. G. Jung, and this has inspired much of his oeuvre. The show is of particular interest because it is exhibiting important pieces of his work from 1975 to the present. Of his more recent work, I particularly liked a linocut, “Circus Act II” (so did someone else, as it sold very promptly). James appears to be gradually acquiring the recognition he deserves, but I would still consider that his work is grossly under-valued - which makes it a good time to acquire some of his pieces!
"Circus Act II", by James Millar. 24 x 36 inches, linocut.

Originally published: Sunday, 5 April 2009 in the Creative Collective Blog

“Passion, Love and Revolution” at the Grand Opera House, Belfast

In the evening of 1st May, I went to opening of a group art show in the Grand Opera House. Two large, dramatic paintings on paper (plus one smaller one) should have set the opening mood for the exhibition but, unfortunately, these could only be displayed on the walls of the restaurant at the back of the foyer, so they were easily missed on the initial entry into the building (I only discovered them on the way out).

It’s a long time since I have been in the Opera House but, on inquiry, I was directed up the stairs to the second floor. There I was greeted by a young lady who marked me as attending the exhibition by tying a strip of red cloth around my arm and I received a red stamp on the back of my hand, all very suitable for an exhibition entitled, “Passion, Love and Revolution”! I was then shown through a black curtain into a large darkened room, where a short, grainy black and white film was endlessly repeating. Shortly after this, the show was duly opened by the curator of the show, Liam Brendan de Frinse with a few, well-chosen words and his reading of a short poem written by another member of Kult Pulp Productions, the group behind the show.

Kult Pulp Productions is a bunch of professional artists, some well-established, some just emerging, coming from a wide range of different specialities. They desire, and I quote, to demystify art by “making it more accessible, beautiful, affordable, exciting, fun, different, and above all radical.” One nice little idea, which certainly made it more fun, was the availability of badges, all different, which were available for purchase. The badges were sometimes witty, always decorative, and generally unusual. I liked the badges which, at only £2 each, allowed one to pick up a small, but meaningful souvenir of the exhibition.

The main group of pictures are exhibited in the Phoenix Gallery in the Opera House, so to get there I had to leave the darkened room, cross the landing and into a small corridor towards the front of the building. In the corridor outside the gallery were another couple of quirky touches. To the left, a small bag invited one to take a small piece of folded paper from it and to follow the instructions contained within. To the right, another bag, containing a small nest with some strange looking eggs, hung from a red ribbon.

In the Phoenix gallery itself hung about ten pictures, some figurative, some non-figurative. Several pieces appeal to me because of their references to Constructivist art, at the time of the Russian Revolution (before the communists hijacked it). Constructivist art broke new boundaries with regard to graphics and typology. The fact that the paintings were anonymously priced at £500 meant that the paintings were affordable as well as potentially a good investment (work by some of the participating artists normally sell at well above this price).
I enjoyed the exhibition. I enjoyed the quirkiness and inventiveness, the unusualness of a number of the things that were done. My worst problem with this exhibition is that it left me feeling hungry for more. Perhaps the only thing that would have satisfied me is something like the Frieze art fair in London, something capable of attracting large crowds of people for its entire duration. One where this show would only have been one of many and, as a result, have attracted an even more diverse audience. The feeling of excitement could be continuous and sustained. At the moment, if you want to get the “buzz” at an art exhibition, you really have to attend the opening night, full of people and chat (although not necessarily with the best view of the actual paintings!) However, this is when most art exhibitions are most truly “events”. Perhaps, someday, something like this will happen in N. Ireland.

At this stage I am going to digress somewhat. I am going to live dangerously and venture in some detail into one of the pictures that I particularly liked (which is not to say that my understanding of the painting is at all the same as that intended by the artist).
After Ché Guevara’s violent death in Bolivia, in 1967, he became something of a cult figure for students in particular (who were suitably distanced from the reality of violence and death in South America). The reference to “dissidents” gives the painting – possibly – a reference to modern day politics in N. Ireland. The word “questionmark” written out in full, rather than as a conventional question mark symbol, adds another little element, indicating – perhaps – that the statement has to be read visually, rather than literally. The use of stencil for the lettering, plus the deliberate distressing of the writing and of the surface – which makes it look ancient – gives another little twist, distancing the statement in time, even when other aspects touch it with a sense of the immediate. The little red star, like a signature, is the only element of bright colour, dragging the view down to the bottom right. Finally, a shiny black border, like the black border around an old-fashion funeral notice. What does it all mean? I suspect that you are being invited to weigh the elements for yourself, before you decide if it really means anything or if it is simply meant to puzzle you and to make you think! In any case, I found it an interesting piece.

In a blog I wrote some time ago I said that I thought that the language of much modern art is constructed the same way as most jokes, from statements which seem familiar and even banal – and which are then twisted to give a shock value. We laugh with surprise because we have been lead in one direction and yet suddenly find ourselves understanding the words as conveying a totally different meaning from the one we understood at first. I don’t mean by this that art is necessarily meant to be funny or should not be taken seriously, but it works in a similar way. Individual visual elements frequently appear familiar, straight-forward, even uninteresting – but are given new meaning and a “shock” value by being combined in unusual ways. You, the viewer, are invited to puzzle out the meaning, which may be subject to personal interpretation and is rarely obvious.

Does the artist, in this case, approve of Ché Guevara? Does he approve of dissidents in general or in particular? We don’t actually know. Is it meant to force the viewer into forming an opinion of their own? Again, we don’t know. That is the thing about much art, it doesn’t set out to give precise answers, but it may be designed to provoke discussion and to give an opportunity to form opinions and to exercise taste and judgment – to like or dislike! Is this piece in any way about real politics or revolution? Or is it just tongue in cheek, making you wonder if it is about real politics or revolution and it is about nothing at all to do with either? Perhaps it is only about the qualities of paint and surfaces and the purely visual? I don’t know. You must form your own opinion!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New studio space at Studio 23

I have just moved into a new studio, a little bigger and better lighting, but it will take a little time to get it properly organised.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Go Figurative

My attention was recently drawn to a website for figurative artists called, "Go Figurative". I am not against abstract or conceptual art as such, but I do feel that much of this type of work has alienated the general public from art generally. Work which uses a "realistic" visual language has a much better chance of communicating to a wide audience, so it seems to me that a website promoting figurative art would be worth joining (which I have done).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Exhibition at the Canvas Gallery, 76 Stranmillis Road, Belfast

On Thursday evening of the 26th March I went to the opening of a group art exhibition at the Canvas Gallery, in Belfast, as I know one of the participating artists, Andrew Cranley (he has an art studio on the same premises as I do, at Studio 23). The gallery was crowded and there was an excellent atmosphere. The five participating artists were very different in their style of work, which helped to make it an exciting exhibition, but – for me – the most interesting work was that by Andrew.

What I find particularly interesting is his vibrant use of colour. The backgrounds tend to be made up from dabs and streaks of brightly coloured paint, with a layer of contrasting colour underneath, which gives a sense of movement to the paintings as a whole. Figures are painted much more broadly, which gives them a solidity which makes them stand out from the background. They tend to be static, frozen in a moment of time, while the surroundings shimmer and move around them. The result is a dream-like, magical quality in the paintings as a whole.

Andrew, in front of one of his paintings.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Sunset and Twilight", series of paintings

"Sunset, Rath near Comber", February 29.
Oils on canvas, 30cm x 25cm.

The first of the series has been completed. I have about six others already started and I am making good progress on them. Working in a proper studio makes a massive difference to me, so more in the series should be finished soon.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A new series of paintings

Being in the new studio is proving to be a considerable stimulus for my work. I still have a number of older paintings that I have to finish, but I have decided to primarily concentrate on a new series, all sunset and twilight scenes. My most recent paintings have nearly all been in a style I term "Experiential Realism", because I felt that my first priority had to be to "ground" myself and my art by working primarily from observation for a while. However, my original way of working had drawn on my imagination and unconscious mind for source material. This is still very important to me. If you like, they can be seen as two sides of the same coin. my internal world and my external one, both equally vital to my art. Twilight has always been considered a very unsettling period, neither day nor night, when anything could happen. It seems to me to perfectly symbolise my own need to balance and intertwine my external and internal realities. My intention is to put together a major exhibition of the series when it is completed (venue, as yet, unknown). I'll use this blog as a means of reporting on progress.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Moving into a new studio

First day with bare walls and floor!

My first blog in quite a long time! Things have been very busy for me and I have been finding it increasingly difficult to get on with my own work without having a proper – and permanent – space to paint in. So I decided that it was time to rent a proper studio! Studio 23 is an artist’s collective and I came across them when they ran a “Salon des Refusés” for work not accepted by the Royal Ulster Academy. I liked the setup and, as a new set of studio spaces were becoming available, decided that it I should take one of them. I started to move in two weeks ago. Very bare and uninviting at first! But since then, I have got the walls covered and I put picture rail around the top to make it easier for me to hang pictures and to vary their positions. The spaces were actually created by dividing up a large warehouse and so there is no ceiling, as such, to the studio. This means that, without further measures, it is almost impossible to heat! I have now put a “ceiling” of clear plastic over the top, supported by a grid of fishing line underneath. It still lets in the light but traps the heat. I am now very comfortable!

No ceiling yet, but getting there!

Since moving in, I have only just started to work. But I am very optimistic that being in the studio will help my art to develop better. It makes such a difference being in a place where there will be no interruptions, surrounded by your own work and being able to completely concentrate on painting! Hopefully, in the future I will have more to report on what I am doing, so I hope to get back to blogging regularly.