This watercolour sketch was an exercise in creating something without any preconceived idea about what I was about to create.
It turns our to be a slightly sinister landscape, in the centre of which there is something that may or may not be a living entity. Originally this object looked more like a strangely shaped rock, but the addition of colour to it removed it from the rest of the landscape and turned it into something separate from the landscape. The blue dot in the image, which is just a circle of coloured paper placed on the image, gives the possibly living entity an air of sentience, as it seems to be contemplating a strange sun in the sky.
This is a piece of art that I created recently that’s inspired by frequent unpleasant encounters with dog poo bags while out on walks in the countryside.
On one walk along a popular track up a mountain in Wales last year the poop bags were so frequent that they inspired me to conceive of the idea of a path lined with an avenue of poop bags. I’m looking out for a suitable venue.
For the work in these photos it was a small step to move a single bag from the countryside to the art gallery. The question is, is it a real dog poo bag or not? All that I can say is that it’s described as being ‘mixed media’.
The image above is an example of work from a series that I created specifically to explore concepts from the worlds of science and philosophy.
The original motivation behind the work was a wish to devise a visual means of expressing the concept that our incredibly complex universe is generated from the interaction of extremely simple fundamental forces that underlie the cosmos.
The image explores the generation of complex forms from simple forms. The image is composed of two identical grids of regularly spaced small circles, with one of the grids positioned one above the other and rotated so that the arrangement of circles on the two grids are at different angles to each other, meaning that they overlap.
A simple algorithm is applied to the overlapping grids that dictates that where the black areas of the circles overlap the blacks cancel each other out, effectively leaving white. See the two examples below, showing differing amounts of overlap.
The two simple overlapping grids of circles generate surprisingly complex patterns, forming multiple and various interacting rings, some of which are obvious while others are fugitive and seem to come in and out of existence as your eye scans the image.
What’s more, when the two grids are rotated relative to each other the whole formation of rings and patterns shifts and changes as the grids alter their positions relative to each other. See how the patterns in the image below aren’t the same as those in the image at the top.
The square grid in the image is a metaphor for the deepest, most fundamental and basic level of the physical universe, where nothing exists other than the simplest of all possible fluctuations in ‘nothingness’ itself (represented by the uniform circles).
Complexity and structure come into existence when this basic level of the physical universe – the grid of circles – interacts with itself, creating intricate forms that contain a new and complex internal structure. It is this complex internal structure that then gives rise to even more complex structures within the universe, for instance giving form to the elementary particles that act as the building blocks of the universe that we’re familiar with (while also giving form to the parts of the universe that we’ve got no inkling about, too) .
I like to think of the patterns in the images as metaphors for ripples in the fabric of reality.
A sketch of an idea for a sculpture, showing an umbrella mounted at the top of a conical structure that has short filaments protruding from it.
I have a fascination with umbrellas for some reason. I think it’s possibly due to a mixture of their slightly Heath Robinsonesque mechanical structure – the hinged flexible rods that are levered outwards to support a stretched fabric cover – and their pleasing form when in the open position. Not to mention their practicality. And the fact that they are, despite their mechanical intricacy, very much taken for granted and dismissed as objects of great mundanity.
My first ever published image was an absurdist redesign of the umbrella, published in the Sunday Times in about 1974.
This is a visualisation of a concept that I’m thinking of developing into a piece of finished artwork.
It’s a form of environmental sculpture.
The work will consist of a conventional domestic rubbish bin with a black bin liner inside it.
From most angles (as in the image on the left, above) the bin will look like any conventional bin: however when viewed from close up at the front (the image on the right, above) the observer will see that looking inside of the bin the blackness of the bin liner gives the impression of a dark void within the bin. Visible in the void will be a glowing representation of the earth. The effect will be of the earth suspended in the vastness of outer space. The bin will appear almost to be a portal to another dimension.
The idea of a mundane rubbish bin containing a portal into outer space is very appealing.
I haven’t yet decided how the representation of the earth in the bin should be realised. It could be a dimly glowing globe or it could be a digital display on a screen positioned near the base of the bin.
The work is an environmental statement and carries an obvious message – that at the human race’s current rate of consumption of the earth’s resources we are treating the earth with contempt and are effectively placing the planet itself in the rubbish bin. The message is obvious because there is no time for subtlety here! Think of it as the sculptural equivalent of an environmental campaign poster.
The work is a development of a concept that I had in about the year 2000, when I produced several drawings of the earth falling into a wastepaper basket. The sculptural potential of using a real rubbish bin to create an illusion of outer space is a more recent development.
The emotional impact of seeing the earth floating in the black void of space inside the bin refers to some extent to the iconic photographs of the earth as seen from space as photographed by the astronauts in the Apollo moon missions.
A study for a surreal work composed of a pair of shoes with mouths and teeth. The teeth in this study were added digitally.
The shoes were chosen partly because the holes at the toe end give the impression of eyes.
An unsettling aspect of this concept is that it is normal for a person to put their feet into shoes – however these particular shoes look as though they would devour anything that was placed in their ‘mouths’. They are almost lying in wait for feet to be placed inside them.
This work may be interpreted as being a metaphor for the manner in which consumerism devours people (especially clothing and fashion consumerism).
A work composed of a barograph, the arm of which is creating a fine pen and ink drawing of a landscape.
A barograph normally draws a graph recording air pressure over the course of time on a sheet of graph paper attached to a rotating drum.
This barograph is in the spirit of surrealism and dada – it is a scientific instrument appropriated for the purposes of art (In C P Snow’s two cultures thesis this would count as cultural appropriation).
String Theory: Mirrors, cord and light source: January 2017: width 30cm height 30cm
A study for a work composed of mirrors that are configured so that they create reflections round a symmetrical axis and also create reflections in infinite regression.
The reflected object in this work is a single short length of coloured cord (about 40cm long). The cord is brightly coloured and is lit by a directional light source which gives the cord the effect of being a pulsating energy stream in a containment vessel, perhaps in a high energy physics laboratory.
A pair of shoes and a mirror, with the shoes positioned so that the reflection of the shoe in the mirror coincides exactly with the other shoe on the opposite side of the mirror, thus merging the real shoe with the reflection of the other shoe.
Like a lot of my works that involve illusion this one explores the line between reality and our interpretation of what we perceive.
Part of a series of works involving the reflection of shoes in a mirror, with the shoes positioned so that the reflection of each shoe in the mirror coincides exactly with the other shoe on the opposite side of the mirror.
In this work the shoes involved are not a pair.
This creates a double dissonance in the viewer. Firstly the viewer has to interpret the fact that the reflected part of the shoe is not part of the other shoe, and secondly the viewer has to interpret the fact that the two shoes are different (with the degree of difference varying depending on the position of the viewer and thus the amount of the shoe that is behind the mirror that is visible).
Like a lot of my works that involve mirrors and reflections this one explores the line between reality and our interpretation of what we perceive.
On a recent visit to the current exhibition of the work Robert Rauschenberg at Tate Modern I was interested to come across a work that I was unfamiliar with – Automobile Tire Print (1953).
Here’s a photo of part of Rauschenberg’s tyre print on a T-shirt in the merchandising section of the exhibition. Maybe the idea of the T-shirt is that the wearer will look as though a car has driven over them. If it’s an intentional joke, that’s quite witty for contemporary art (if a bit grisly). Rauschenberg seemed to be quite a fun loving person himself though, so it’s perhaps fitting.
I very much like Rauschenberg’s experimental approach to creating art, in this specific case particularly so because the technique that he came up with is one that bears a strong similarity to an idea that I thought up myself during my early days as a cartoonist, when I created the greetings card below for a series on the subject of leisure activities.
I drew this cartoon in 1994 using pen and ink. Rauschenberg created his Automobile Tire Print using paint and a car. He did it in 1953, so he beat me to it by a good forty years.
A study of reflections using mundane everyday objects to create interesting formations.
Here ordinary hardware screws are arranged to form a dynamic expansive configuration.
Screws lend themselves to this study partly because of their physically dynamic shape – large at one end and then tapering away at the other – and partly because of their intended purpose, which is to hold things in place – the exact opposite of dynamic expansiveness – which brings a slight touch of paradox to the work.
Anyone looking at the image who feels that I ought to have lined up the screw heads – it’s a deliberate act not to have aligned them, even though in real life I am an obsessive screw head aligner.
An example of one of my projects in the field of contemporary art exploring mirrors, reflections and illusions, here using a piece of cord that is reflected multiple times to give the impression of a closed circle.
This work consists of three mirrors creating a triangular box with the reflective surfaces facing inwards. The box is placed over a length of brightly coloured meandering paracord. The cord is laid so that the section that lies inside the triangular box is reflected on the box’s sides to give the illusion of forming a circle. The second photo shows the piece from a different angle to show the structure.
Three mirrors forming the vertical sides of a triangular box turn a hand into an alien creature. The hand is intruding into the box through an opening in the corner.
An exploration of how a familiar object (a hand) can be transformed into something completely alien purely by the use of simple mirrors.
A study of the familiar becoming unfamiliar via a mundane agency.
An example of how one of my works may look when installed in the foyer of a large office building.
The works in my Complexity series, which are mostly in the circular abstract form of the examples shown here, lend themselves very well to spacious office foyers due to the way that they work well at very large scales.
The works can be displayed as static images (such as in the form of large prints) or as very eye-catching animated images (either projected or on multiple electronic displays).
An example of an animated artwork is shown below. There are more videos here.
The amount of detail in these artworks is truly incredible, and cannot be appreciated when viewed on a computer monitor. The images below are details from several of the artworks to give an impression of the detail involved.
Below is a detail of the animated version of the image above. As with all of the animations the speed of the animation can be varied between slow (giving a calming effect) and fast (giving a dynamic effect).
Any corporate art consultancy that is interested in this work – please get in touch.
Art Gallery Exhibition with Height Discrimination (concept)
Photomontage with digital additions. August 2016
This is a concept visualisation for an art gallery exhibition or installation that only allows people below a certain height into the event.
Its purpose is to point out the prevalence of unconscious discrimination within society.
The work is conceived as a humorous comment on discrimination, especially some of the less high profile discriminations that are prevalent within society, such as in this case discrimination by height.
Taller people in general are more successful than shorter people (all other things being equal), however it’s a social imbalance that is generally ignored, unlike for instance the imbalances caused by race or gender.
This work deliberately disallows people who are above average height to enter a room. These people will probably feel a little bit miffed by this, and will wonder why they are being discriminated against.
A notice near the entrance will explain that in society in general greater height confers higher status and thus allows more doors to be open to taller people than to shorter people (even if they are totally unaware of the dynamic). This work seeks to point out this situation by having a door where the opposite is true.
It might be worth pointing out that you’d never see a notice above a room where people were being interviewed for the post of the CEO of an important organisation saying “No one below 5ft 5inches need enter this room”, because it’s very likely that no one of that height would get anywhere near that door in the first place.
A work concerned with art and society and sociology.
Anthropomorphic dandelion seeds: Pen and ink sketch: September 2015
A dandelion seed head in which the seeds have human form.
The image is disturbingly ambiguous. Is the fact that one of the seeds is drifting away from the seed head a sign of freedom or simply a sign of fate? It also looks as though it may be a suicide attempt (although the ‘parachute’ would prevent It being successful). And what can be read into the fact that the humans in the anthropomorphic seeds have no heads?
Breathing on a polluted planet. Digital image. First version: 1991; this version: 2015
A work concerning climate change and pollution.
This work is created in a cartoon-like style. There are several reasons for this. One is that I create quite a lot of cartoons (which have been published in newspapers such as the Guardian and magazines such as Private Eye), and another is that I think that the cartoon style is a particularly good way of communicating about subjects such as global warming, pollution and the various crises that are currently afflicting our planet. One of the appeals of the cartoon art style is that it generally lacks ambiguity, so its message is clear and unmistakable, which is very important with subjects that are as important and clear-cut as climate change.
Other contemporary art styles on the other hand tend to thrive when they contain a degree of uncertainty in what is being said, requiring the viewer to interpret the work as they see fit. Contemporary art that puts forward a message unambiguously can often tend to come across as rather dead, didactic and hectoring.
Also of course, cartoon art, due to its nature, can easily be reproduced in print or electronically without loss of quality (both physical quality and emotional quality), thus making it available to a much wider audience than most contemporary art – which can only be a good thing when the work tackles an important subject as climate change.