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.
A work of environmental art in the form of a representation of the Earth in a kitchen waste bin.
From most angles (as in the image on the left, above) the bin looks like any conventional kitchen bin: however when viewed from the front (the image on the right, above) the inside of the bin gives the impression of being a dark void (due to the darkness of the bin liner). Visible in the void is a glowing representation of the earth, created as a back-lit image. The Earth seems to be suspended in the vastness of outer space, almost as if the bin was a portal to another dimension.
The work carries the message that the human race is treating the earth with contempt and that we are effectively placing the planet itself in the rubbish bin.
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.
Work created January 2017, Cornwall.
Shoes with teeth: January 2017
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).
Drawing machine. Barograph, ink. January 2017
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.
Shoes with mirror image: January 2013
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.
Odd shoes reflected in a mirror: January 2013
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.
Mirrors and screws: March 2017
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.
Mirrors and hand. October 2016
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.
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.
Ceramic and spanner. July 2015
The ceramic head in this sculpture is held in the jaws of the spanner by a thin wooden rod that forms the head’s neck.
It is uncertain whether the head is trapped in the jaws of the spanner or whether the head and the spanner form a single entity, with the spanner as the body (The shape of the spanner suggests a seated or crouching body). This tension is part of the appeal of the piece.
Workshop tools such as spanners and hammers are a recurring feature of my sculptural work.
Colour Discontinuity 2: March 2017
A colored rod reflected in a mirror, positioned so that the reflection of the rod coincides with another rod of a different color on the other side of the mirror, creating an ambiguous optical effect.
A study in the perception and interpretation of ambiguous visual stimuli.
Colour Discontinuity 1: July 2015
A coloured rod reflected in a mirror so that the reflection of the rod coincides with a differently coloured rod on the other side of the mirror, creating an ambiguous optical effect.
A study in the perception and interpretation of ambiguous visual stimuli.
Defaced/refaced statue. June 2015. Classical statue, marker pen
A humorous work consisting of a headless classical statue with a cartoon-like face drawn onto the oval form of the neck.
Part of the humor of this piece is the juxtaposition of opposites – the elegant and timeless form of the classical statue in contrast to the crudeness and immediacy of the contemporary head.
The piece also contains dark humour and an unsettling quality due to the fact that the drawn two dimensional head is occupying the surface created by the decapitation of the statue’s three dimensional head.
The drawn on face also has the appearance of graffiti, so it could be said that the act of giving the statue a face is in fact defacing the statue. The word deface literally means to remove the face (as occurred with the vandalisation of statues in the past), so the fact that the act of adding a face to a statue can be interpreted as defacing the statue is ironic.
The Oppressor Impaled by the Oppressed. June 2015. Hammer, nails, plank.
A sculptural piece consisting of a hammer nailed to a plank of wood.
Part of the concept behind the work is that the hammer is being empaled by the objects that it normally hits.
This is partly a metaphor for oppression and rebellion, and it’s also a study in irony.
How did the nails come to be impaling the hammer? Were the nails hammered into place by another hammer? In this case the nails are not the downtrodden oppressed rising up to overthrow their oppressor using their own power, but are more like the followers of another power (another hammer) that may turn out to be as oppressive as the hammer that’s been overthrown.
Other versions of this piece have the hammer on a horizontal surface, such as on the top of a plinth. Other versions use different numbers of nails. The vertical version shown here is in some ways more disturbing than the horizontal ones, as the vertical format gives more of an impression of the hammer being violently empaled rather than simply nailed down. It is also disturbingly suggestive of a crucifixion in Christian iconography.
28 Disks (detail): Abstract moving image: February 2015
An abstract moving image work from a series in which multiple copies of a single shape move and interact using simple computer algorithms, creating complex shapes.
In this work 28 disks follow circular paths. Where even numbers of disks overlap they present white, while where odd numbers of disks overlap they present black.
To see higher resolution videos and more information about this series click here.
Here’s a photo of a fox’s skull that I took recently.
Nice abstract sculptural quality I think.
I expect the fox would be very pleased to know that its head had been put to such worthwhile use.
Like most of my images on this site, if you want to use the image please contact me, as the images can’t be used without payment. Thanks.
For a long time I’ve been interested in the way that the landscape is transformed by the effects of sunshine and shadows, and by the way that we often hardly notice the extent of the difference between the two (other than by a general feeling of pleasure when the sun brightens things up – here in cloudy Britain anyway). The scene filmed here in the grounds of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, hopefully captures some of the transformational effect of sun and shadow as the sun emerges from behind a cloud (and then goes in again).
The various people in the background add a surreal air to the whole scene.