Art and science – ants as a superorganism
Artist’s impression. January 2020 Based on a digital work from 1990
A proposed art installation or mural showing multiple images of ants crawling across an art gallery wall, with the ants grouping together and coalescing into the form of a single gigantic ant.
The work depicts the concept of the superorganism, in which multiple individual organisms of the same species (in this case ants) interact by a process of synergy to give rise to a collective body that can operate in ways that the individuals can’t. The individual organisms within the superorganism usually display a degree of division of labour, where the individual organisms can’t survive for long on their own. Human civilisation can be seen as a form of superorganism.
A work from my series of animations depicting radiating forms expanding outwards from a central point of emergence. The work is linked to my interest in the process of creation on a cosmic scale, such as the creation of the universe at the Big Bang or the expansion of a star or other celestial object.
The work is ideally viewed on a large screen.
This work was exhibited in the London Group gallery, Waterloo, London in December 2019 and the Penwith Gallery, St Ives Cornwall in February 2020.
Flight and Freedom
Video. 2min 56sec. November 2018
A video about freedom and its opposite: limitation or confinement.
Freedom is expressed by the unconfined wheeling flight of the crows. Limitation is symbolised by the inert, motionless statue around which the crows are flying.
Pathos is a major ingredient of the work, because both the birds and the statue have wings, but only the birds can fly.
The unconstrained flight of the birds only serves to emphasise the fact that the statue is rooted to the spot.
The work is a comment on the desire of the creators of the statue (us) to have the power of natural flight, and their obvious inability to have it.
The statue is on Alexandra Palace in north London.
Wings of Stone, Wings of Feather
Video. 2min 13sec. November 2018
A video about flight, showing crows flying round a statue.
Both the birds and the statue have wings, but only the birds can fly.
The wheeling, swirling motion of the birds only serves to emphasise the fact that the statue is a lumpen object rooted to the spot.
The work is a comment on the desire of the statue’s creators to have the power of natural flight, and their inability to have it.
The statue is on Alexandra Palace in north London. It’s probably made of concrete.
A sculpture showing how I feel the human race is treating the planet – by putting it into the waste bin.
The sculpture consists of a standard kitchen waste bin, lined internally with black material and with a back-lit image of the earth at its base. The result is the illusion that by looking into the bin you are looking into outer space as though through a porthole in a spacecraft, with the earth appearing to be floating in the distance. The kitchen waste bin was deliberately chosen as the reciprocal that contains the earth because of its banality, to emphasise how we are depleting the earth’s resources through mundane consumption.
A Leaf Changes Colour in Autumn
Leaf, acrylic paint. September 2018
A maple leaf painted blue with red polka dots.
The leaf had fallen from the tree in autumn.
The inspiration for this work came partly from the fact that the leaves on the trees were changing colour in the autumn, prompting me to think of changing their colours in other ways.
In previous years I’ve painted acorns and suchlike in unusual colours.
Like a lot of my work, this work is involved interacting with and responding to the natural environment.
Random Squares and Concentric Rings
Digital. October 2018
Abstract art based on circles, squares and rectangles.
A major compositional feature of the image is the relatively random distribution of squares on one side contrasted with the very enclosed and restrained concentric distribution of the rings on the other side. This is a deliberate contrast between randomness and constraint. The fact that the squares all have their sides horizontal and vertical is a deliberate feature of restraint imposed on the relatively randomly positioned squares.
The rings are not perfect circles. This is partly to disrupt any preconception that they should be perfect circles, especially in an image that’s composed of basic geometric shapes.
The use of squares and long thin rectangles is probably influenced in part by Mondrian and the de Stijl group.
Travelling Glomeris Marginata
Video. Near St Ives, Cornwall. October 2018
The creature in this video isn’t a woodlouse, it’s a pill millipede, of the species glomeris marginata.
It’s climbing up the outside of a door frame.
I was struck by the way that the millipede seemed to be gliding along its course up the door frame as though hovering slightly above it, as its multitude of legs are concealed. I also like the armour plating, which, along with the hovering, makes the creature look like either a high tech machine or an alien. Or a hybrid of both. The feelers help too.
Cluster flies on a window
Video. 17 sec. Near St Ives, Cornwall. October 2018
When I made this video I assumed that the flies that it features were house flies that had been feasting on a rotting animal carcass concealed somewhere within the walls of the building. The sinisterness of the insects was intended to be a feature of the video.
Since then a bit of research has informed me that the insects were in fact harmless cluster flies (pollenia rudis).
Cluster flies enter buildings on autumn evenings in search of shelter from the worsening weather conditions. Then the following day they sometimes want to get out again, as in the video.
They may enter buildings in small numbers or they may enter in thousands. In the case in the video it was many many hundreds.
The flies live in the countryside, where their larvae feeding on earthworms. They aren’t a health hazard (as far as I know).
Knowing that the flies were harmless and had entered the building seeking shelter rather than being house flies fresh from a rotting corpse in the attic altered my view of them considerably, and I now rather like them, at least on the video. They are an inconvenience though.
I particularly like the way that the flies in the video are moving in an almost choreographed manner. It’s like a little piece of performance art.
The nice calm view out of the window (apart from a bit of wind) is in stark contrast to the dynamic motion of the flies on the window pane.
Black Square with Circle Removed
Gouache on paper. 30cm x 30cm. June 2018
Part of a series of abstract minimalist paintings of black squares with a circle missing from a corner, in this case along with the part of the square that is separated from the main body of the square by the circle.
This painting is a study of presence and absence. The black square has the quality of a solid, impactful entity while the white circle and top left corner give the impression of absence or negative space.
In other images the black square itself conveys a quality of negative space, suggesting a black void in the centre of the image.
This is one of my prototypes of a mirror-based artwork that I’m developing.
The work consists of four mirrors forming the vertical walls of a cube, with the mirrored surfaces facing inwards. Each mirror reflects the mirror opposite it, including the reflections in that mirror, so the reflections build up to form infinite reflections (or, more accurately, multiple reflections, as the reflections gradually fade due to light loss).
As well as that, where two mirrors meet in the cube’s corners each mirror reflects the other corner mirror, creating a different set of multiple reflections.
In this artwork the design on the cube’s floor forms this image:
In each corner of the cube the semicircle and angled line in that corner is reflected in the mirrors to appear to form the word “OXO”.
Each of these words “OXO” is then reflected infinite times in the other mirrors in the cube.
This artwork is titled “OXO Cube”, as it’s just too good a title to ignore.
A low viewpoint looking into the mirror cube, as below, shows the infinity mirror effect at its best.
Steel ball on ink sketch. 13cm x 13cm x 2cm. August 2018
A steel ball placed on a sketch pad in the centre of a radiating vein-like pattern. The reflections in the sphere give the effect of an eye-like form.
The work can be thought of as a study for a floor-based sculpture with a large steel sphere placed on a floor onto which the radiating vein-like lines are applied. It works very well at a small scale however, with the steel ball approximately the same size as a human eye. The intimate size of the small version makes this version quite unsettling, while a larger version would possibly be less unsettling but more visually intriguing (because the reflections in the ball wouldn’t invoke so precisely a human eye).
The initial concept came to me while working on a different project involving a steel ball (but not reflections) on a sheet of paper. I noticed that the reflection of the white paper and the room on the ball gave the impression of the white of an eye and the iris of the eye.
Chess: Black Holes
Wood, acrylic, chess pieces. February 2016
In this work I’ve created a chess set out of short blocks of wood.
The first thing that the viewer notices when looking at the work is that the chess board is fragmenting or disintegrating.
Less obvious however is that the chess board is composed only of the white squares. These white squares are the tops of the blocks of wood, the sides of which are painted black. It is the black sides of the blocks that give the impression of the black squares of the chess board. The seeming existence of the black squares is a visual illusion, as they are nothing more than black holes. See the photograph below. The illusion is as true with the actual, three dimensional chess set as it is with these photographs.
Part of the impact of the piece is in the way that the viewer only notices the ‘black holes’ of the missing black squares on the chess board after already being intrigued by the disintegrating nature of the board.
The piece has political overtones, in that it is partly about the disintegration of power (as symbolised by the combative nature of the game of chess) and the disintegration of order (as symbolised by the rigid grid of the chess board). It is also about more existentialist themes such as dangers that lurk in the world (the black holes as traps or stumbling blocks) and the nature of physical reality (with the holes representing the unknown parts of the physical universe (such as the actual black holes that result from collapsed stars). It’s also just a nice visual illusion, and thus contains humor as well as its more weighty themes.
The chess board contains no black squares – they are an illusion.
Watercolour study: stability and uncertainty
Watercolour. 20cm x 20cm. 2018
A watercolour painting created as part of a series exploring the depiction of simple, precise geometric forms (such as the triangle here) using techniques that introduce imprecision to the geometry of the image.
A study of order, stability, uncertainty and potential disintegration.
Ghost Pipe – optical illusion
Unretouched photograph. September 2018
An unretouched photograph of a single pipe inside a room near a window.
The shadows generated by the light through the window create varying dark areas on the wall that give the illusion of a second pipe – a Ghost Pipe.