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.
Slightly unsettling heads created from empty plastic milk bottles.
Like many artists I have a habit of collecting waste and recycling it into works of art.
The sinister appearance of these heads, drawn as they are on post-consumer waste in the form of discarded plastic milk bottles, can be interpreted as a comment on the fact that we as humans are destroying the environment through (amongst other things) our profligate use of plastic packaging.
The fact that the heads also resemble the type of craft-play objects produced by children can be interpreted as alluding to the western world’s current tendency towards a philosophy of consequence-denying pleasure seeking in which the adults in society fail to take responsibility for their actions beyond immediate self-gratification.
Ink, gouache, digital, paper. 28 x 19cm. July 2018
This image, like many images that I’ve created recently (mid 2018) is a work that is largely generated from my imagination. Having said that, the original inspiration for the crescent-like form was a piece of toast crust.
The work contains definite ominous overtones. These are probably linked to the general atmosphere of foreboding that seems to permiate society at the moment (manifesting itself in such things as the election of Donald Trump in the USA and the swing of many European countries to the right). On top of this the phenomenon of global warming threatens to disrupt the earth’s entire ecosystem and to overturn all civilisation as we know it. Things have only just started to get bad.
The prime source of the foreboding in this work is indeed climate change and the fear of a devastated planet. The imaginary object in the image bears some resemblance to an organic form, possibly a part of an animal’s anatomy – perhaps a horn or a jawbone. The slender forms that protrude from what may be the teeth of a jawbone could possibly be legs, turning the form into something like an upturned crustacean. Whatever it is, the object has the feel of a decaying life-form. The object also has something of the feel of an unnatural artefact – perhaps a piece of rubble following the destruction of a building (with the slender forms representing metal rods in reinforced concrete).
Whatever it is, the object is abandoned or marooned on a featureless plain that probably represents the devastated earth following the ravages of climate change. The fact that the object looks very large is probably symbolic of the enormity of the threat that climate change represents.
Having said all that, the work was not created with any particular symbolism or meaning consciously in mind. I’ve worked backwards from the finished image to find its possible meaning. I’m sure that it also has meanings that are purely to do with the workings of my own brain.
Dog Walk: dog poo bags
Plastic bags arranged on path. Unspecified contents. Video. Cornwall. June 2018
A video of an art installation in the countryside that comments on the behaviour of some dog walkers.
The work features an avenue of discarded dog pooh bags.
The work was inspired by the experience of going on many walks in the countryside and coming across discarded black plastic dog poo bags: sometimes hidden, sometimes in full view. There’s a theory that the dog owners leave them there to be picked up on their return, however, many of them don’t do it.
The work was created near St Ives, Cornwall.
Update, 2021. This work has taken on more relevance since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as more people purchase more dogs, which in turn produce more excrement. The fact that some of the new dog owners are quite casual in their ownership responsibilities is reflected in a marked increase of discarded dog poo bags.
Photograph with digital drawing, September 2018
A photograph of a natural granite rock formation with a drawing of a fin-like object added to the photograph as though it is attached to the rock.
The rock formation in the photograph is on the Penwith peninsula in west Cornwall, a few miles from St Ives. The large rock on which the fin is drawn is a rocking stone, known locally as a Logan stone. The stone is said to move slightly when pushed correctly.
The image is a finished artwork, despite the fact that it resembles a concept study for a sculpture in the landscape. The drawing of the fin is deliberately inconsistent in terms of photographic realism with the rest of the image.
Having said that, the development of the concept as a sculpture is a possibility.
A sketch of a gigantic stone eye resting on the ground. A mysterious pipe-like cylinder extends upwards from the eye. A similar eye in the distance shows the pipe-like structure extending unfeasibly high into the air.
The eye and pipe bring to mind some designs of stove.
Perhaps the image is influenced by Celebes by Max Ernst, in which the rotund form was derived from a Sudanese corn bin..
A photomontage of a concept for a sculpture in the landscape.
The landscape in the photograph is the Penwith peninsula in west Cornwall.
The hammers are meant to project a sense of overbearing force, the fact that there are several of them possibly implying organised force (such as military force). Hammers, to me, have a certain anthropomorphic quality to them, suggesting a degree of human identity – a long thin body with a head at the top. The blank facelessness of the heads of the hammers in this image suggest a mindless power.
The concept also contains an element of humour directed at the art world, in that the massive scale of the work comments on the often gigantic scale of works of sculpture and other interventions in the landscape. Oversized everyday objects are a common feature in sculpture.
Black square, white circle, red circles
Gouache and watercolour, watercolour paper. 24cm x 21cm: July 2018
Ghis is a painting from a series that I’m working on that explores the dynamics of stability and instability.
The square in the image suggests stability, while the circles, with their lack of roundedness and their off-kilted positioning, suggest instability. The smoke effect adds to the sense of disequilibrium.
The painting has no specific right way up, which all helps with the feeling of precariousness that the work generates.
An abstract monochrome watercolour painting incorporating a plastic mixing palette.
The mixing palette is visible through a hole that is cut in the painting.
There’s a certain amount of humour in the use of the mixing palette in this work (to me at least). The palette is essentially a found object, of the type that was popular with the surrealists and other artists. This found object however was the actual palette that I used to hold the colour for the painting, so it was an incredibly convenient object to find. I just had to reach over and pick it up. I like the way that the palette isn’t obviously a palette, as an obvious palette in an artwork is a bit self-referential and solipsistic.
Wood and acrylic paint. Zennor Hill, near St Ives, Cornwall. 25th June 2018
A transient sculpture composed of lengths of painted wood battens (the type of wood commonly used in building construction).
The sculpture was created by positioning a small number of battens in the landscape, photographing them, repositioning them and rephotographing them. Then merging the photographs.
As a result the work has an interesting relationship with time. The sculpture never existed in its entirety as depicted in the photograph, each batten only being in position for long enough to take a photograph. The sculpture only takes on its final form when the twenty-five minutes that it took to position and photograph the battens are compressed into a single instant.
A work of land art, an intervention in the landscape, or art in the environment. The wood battens are about a metre long.
Wellington boots with arms
Photomontage. June 2018
A photomontage showing arms emerging from the tops of a pair of wellington boots.
The arms are sinking down into the boots, as though the footware is devouring the owner of the arms. The theme of predatory footwear is one that I’ve explored several times over the past few decades. Another example can be seen here – shoes with teeth.
This photomontage was created while I was exploring various options for creating a sculpture that included wellington boots. I feel that these boots have a strong sculptural presence, and I’m quite surprised how under-represented they are in the field of sculpture.
The image, which I think probably falls into the category of contemporary surrealism, is meant to be both humorous and unsettling.
This photograph shows a pair of walking boots with their laces extended away from them.
I took the photograph when I noticed the boots on the floor (they are my boots). The laces and the lighting from the window create a strangely unsettling effect, to me at least.
The photo was taken while I was visiting Oban in Scotland – on the same visit as this slightly surreal photograph.