Photograph of mundane domestic setting – beans tin in washing-up bowl

Contemporary art photography - mundane domestic situations

 

Photograph: Heinz Beanz tin in washing-up bowl. January 2018.
This photograph is from an ongoing series in which I photograph mundane scenes and objects in everyday domestic settings. Other photographs in the series show such things as cup rings on work surfaces, shadows of soap containers cast by lightbulbs.
The photographs are all aesthetically pleasing (to me). One of their purposes is to show beauty in normally overlooked situations.

Abstract composition of geometrical forms: circles and squares

Abstract art - composition of geometrical forms

 

Abstract composition, created 2012.
The composition is a study in confinement, with the geometrical forms in the composition seemingly squeezed into the space within the composition. The angled square in the composition touches each side of the frame, which itself is a square. This adds to the composition’s sense of confinement as the image has no specific top and bottom and can be viewed in any orientation, giving the impression of ‘no way out’. Not only that, but the square format suggests that the enclosed square and its accompanying circles can almost possess a degree of freedom of movement by being able to rotate within the frame – a form of movement that in reality possesses no more freedom than does the movement of a hamster in a wheel.

Zip wire/ski lift proposal for Tate Modern Turbine Hall

Tate Modern Turbine Hall - zip wire installation concept

 

A concept for an installation in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, incorporating a zip wire or ski lift that traverses the turbine hall from the top of the east end to the bottom of the west end (thus utilising to the full the cavernous space within the hall). Date: 2017

En route from the top to the bottom the wire passes through the centres of a series of huge coloured rings that are suspended from the roof of the hall. The rings are positioned so that they create striking configurations when viewed from different positions on the floor of the Turbine Hall. Particularly impressive sight-lines would be from the west entrance to the hall and from the platform. The rings are linked together by struts that subtly fuse the rings into a single entity.
Use of the zip wire/ski lift would give the audience the opportunity to ‘fly’ through the centre of the artwork – an opportunity that to the best of my knowledge isn’t possible with any existing art installation.
As with many of the installations in the Turbine Hall, the audience interaction is an integral part of the work itself.
In the diagram I have added the option of a walkway that rises up from the hall’s floor in order to give earthbound members of the audience the opportunity to pass through one of the rings.

While at one level the zip wire is a reference to the current culture of organised and managed entertainment, especially adventure-orientated entertainment such as the zip wires in the various tree-top adventure centres that now exist in locations such as public parks and the Eden Project, at another level the wire can be seen as a physical ‘communication cable’ that allows people to override the normal laws of physics that keep them earthbound and to enter the artwork in an almost supernatural gravity-defying way, the cable being a physical analogue to the electrical communication cables used in digital technology that allow people to enter extraordinary but controlled virtual spaces.

The concept references several works associated with the Turbine Hall: One Two Three Swing! by Superflex, Test Site by Carsten Höller and Marsyas by Anish Kapoor. I think the Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson’s in there too.

The Human Body as an Alien Lifeform – contemporary moving image art

   

 
 
This is an early version of a project that I’m working on: it shows a video of a hand in which the video is flipped as a mirror image in order to create a strikingly bizarre image resembling an alien creature.
The video is an attempt to highlight the way that even the things that we treat as totally normal and mundane are in fact full of strangeness and wonder.
In the video I’ve used the simple technique of mirroring something as a way of removing it from its normal context. Thus I’ve made something that is as familiar to us as our own hands (which are rarely outside our field of vision) look disconcertingly alien and other-worldly, like something we’ve never seen before. Who’d have thought that you had such things stuck on the ends of your arms? It’s all a bit disconcerting really.

Art and science: abstract animations concerned with the creation of complexity from simplicity.

Proscion. March 2018

A piece of abstract digital animation that uses my technique of overlaying multiple copies of the same image made to move relative to each other in simple ways and to interact with each other so that, for instance, the colour displayed in the resulting image changes.
This “starburst” animation is composed of multiple overlaid copied of a 36 pointed star.
A key motive behind these video animations is the linking of art and science through the exploration of the creation of complex forms from the interaction of simple forms, with particular reference to the creation of the incredible complexity of the universe from its incredibly simple building blocks. There’s more about this here: Complexity from simplicity: contemporary artworks.

My video in the London Group Open Exhibition 2017

This video, titled Spyk, is being exhibited in the London Group open exhibition, 7th November to 1st December 2017.

Spyk. 2017

The video is from my series of videos in which multiple copies of relatively simple forms are rotated at different rates to each other, thus generating complex forms. There are more of them here.

The London Group was founded in 1913 by a group of artists including Lucien Pissarro, Henri Gaudier Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Walter Sickert, Duncan Grant and Wyndham Lewis. Its aim was to be an artist-based group that could act as a counter-balance to establishment institutions such as the Royal Academy. Current members include artists such as Frank Bowling RA, Anthony Eyton RA and Dame Paula Rego.

Sculpture created from mundane material

contemporary abstract sculpture - geometric forms from mundane materials

 

It’s hard to tell how big this sculpture is from this photograph.

The square ends of the two blocks from which the sculpture is composed could maybe be a metre across. In fact they are closer to five centimetres, as the piece is created from lengths of two by two wood (two inches by two inches).

The work has a strange relationship with scale. It’s small, but it could be big.  If there was a zoom facility for three dimensional objects that worked in a similar way to that on computer and phone screens, where you simply touch the surface and drag in or out to change the size,  this sculpture would beg to be dragged just to see how it worked at different scales.

At it’s actual size this sculpture looks as though it’s happy at the size that it is, while somehow containing the spirit of a larger sculpture. In one way it gives the impression of being a large object that is somehow being perceived as being small, as though viewed through the wrong end of a telescope .

As I mentioned, this work is composed of two pieces of two by two wood. This is a common size of wood sold in long lengths in timber yards for use in general construction projects. This sculpture came about when I picked up two short scraps of wood that each had been cut at 45 degrees at one end, and placed them on  a work surface on their angled faces. They instantly acquired a dynamic and vital presence.  Due to the manner in which they rested at an angle they looked as though they were embedded in the surface with part of their form submerged.

One of the things I like about this work is that it is made from extremely simple components – two pieces of wood from a builders’ merchants and a bit of acrylic paint. Yet it doesn’t look like a work created in the spirit of ‘detritus art’ in which the work is deliberately created to proclaim its origins in the flotsam and jetsam of contemporary culture (Artists such as Philidda Barlow, whose work I like greatly, and Abraham Cruzvillegas come to mind as good exponents of this genre). In fact this sculpture could almost be mistaken for a tiny example of the ostentatiously highly engineered work that are quite common in modern sculpture.

Art in the Environment, Cornwall

contemporary art in the environment - intervention in the landscape, Cornwall

This work consists of a length of brightly coloured cord hanging over the branch of a hawthorn tree in a patch of woodland in Cornwall.

The simplicity of construction of the piece is important. The observer will hopefully notice the almost total lack of endeavour required to create the work, while also noticing the (hopefully) relatively high aesthetic payoff as a result of that endeavour.

The two bright vertical lines formed by the work contrast sharply with the dark shadows and the tangled and twisted branches and twigs of the hawthorn and  blackthorn in the wood.

The fact that the cord creates two hanging lines gives the cords an increased presence when compared with a single hanging cord. They seem to resonate against each other and create a more concrete effect than would be achieved with a single one dimensional strand.

A lot of land art and other art in the environment strive to use only natural ingredients in the composition of the art, good examples being the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. This work however consciously uses artificial material in the form of nylon paracord.

The placing of brightly coloured plastic into the environment refers partly to humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the natural world. This is partly a message about the despoiling of the environment by our endeavours. The fact that the nylon cord is simply draped across the branch of a tree helps to reinforce this message, as the cord acquires qualities associated with the detritus of our throw-away consumer society. The fact that the cord is plastic reinforces this further, and the fact that the straight lines of the cord are cutting through the organic forms of the woodland gives a slight sense of violent imposition.  However, the brightly coloured plastic looks quite pleasing in some ways and to some sensibilities, so the work is also saying that humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the environment has a positive side to it (but also that just because something looks nice doesn’t necessarily mean that it is).

In fact, where would we be without the artificiality that we impose on the environment?  The artificiality that we create is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. Would you like to live without the electric and electronic devices that populate your life? (The coloured cord could easily be a length of electric cable). The main problem is that we just create too much artificiality. Hence some of the ambiguity in this piece.

The use of coloured cord in this work was undoubtedly inspired by the work of Fred Sandback.

Nought and cross

contemporary art abstract geometric design

Nought and cross. 2017

A digitally created work consisting of diagonals and circles.
In this work I was chiefly concerned with the effect of creating discontinuous diagonals. The circle helps to focus the attention onto the centre of the image, where all of the action is taking place, as well as adding a degree of three-dimensionality and formal variation to the image.

The perception of pattern – join the dots

contemporary art and science - intricate pattern perception from dots

I’ve just created this image this morning, inspired by a book that I bought a couple of days ago at the Wellcome Collection (an exhibition space that merges art and science, and a place that I strongly recommend a visit to if you’re in London). The book is Art Forms in Nature, which depicts the astonishing drawings of German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1918).
The edition of the book that I purchased (Prestel, 1998) has an introduction that includes a diagram by David Marr (1945-1980), a British neuroscientist who worked extensively in the field of visual processing.
The David Marr image, shown below, was concerned with the way in which the human eye (and brain) will scan images seeking out understandable patterns. The image (which I’d never seen before as far as I remember) reminded me very much of some of the images that I’ve produced myself, both in its form (arrays of dots) and intension (the generation of ambiguously decipherable interlocking patterns).

David Marr visual processing dot pattern
(Image reprinted courtesy of The MIT Press from Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information by David Marr, ©MIT 2010, figure 2-5, page 50)

Naturally I was inspired to deconstruct the David Marr image so that I could then try to create my own images based on what I found. The image at the top of this post is the first result.
After studying David Marr’s image I worked out that a simplified version of it could be constructed from multiple versions of the basic element shown below, with each element placed at an equal distance from the adjacent elements.

contemporary art science pattern perception

I call this image a basic element, but that’s slightly inaccurate.

When you look at this element you probably see a centre dot surrounded by a ring of dots with lines of dots radiating outwards like rays.
However, this ‘basic element’ isn’t really a basic element at all, because I created it from an even more basic element, this being a row of thirty three dots in a straight line. Six copies of this row of dots were then distributed about their centres in a clock face fashion.  See the image below. So in some ways the element in the image above isn’t really a ring surrounded by rays at all – it’s actually a set of six lines of dots.

pattern perception in visual processing

Just one more thing.
When you look at the element above you see a clearly defined inner ring of dots and probably a less obvious secondary ring of dots created by the innermost dots of the rays. These ‘innermost dots of the rays’ are only ‘innermost dots’ if you choose to define the dots that are closer to the centre of the figure as a separate entity (a ring). In truth all of the dots in the image have the same status (other than that of their position), all being simply dots in lines, it’s just that the ones closest to the centre most easily form a ring when interpreted by our brains. Our brains can interpret the second set of dots as a secondary ring because you can, when you concentrate slightly, see that they are linked into this formation by association with their neighbours, although more loosely  than is the case with the emphatic inner ring.  What you won’t notice though is that the next set of dots outwards also form a ring, as do the next set and the next set all the way out to the end of the rows of dots. You can’t see this because for all of the dots beyond the secondary ring the dots are too well separated for the eye to associate them with each other. Somewhere in the space between the secondary ring of dots and the next dots outwards a threshold is crossed at which the brain can’t hold the dots together as a ring – the association is snapped.

It’s interesting that this post was intended to be about the relatively complex image at the top of the post, but I’ve spent most of my time dissecting the simpler image of the underlying element.  Fortunately, the points that I’ve made about the underlying element are exactly the points that can be applied to the more complex image, and thankfully without the excessively complex structures within the complex image conspiring to befuddle the brain.