Stranded Object: art and climate change

contemporary art and global warming - abandoned marooned form

Stranded Object
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: art installation composed of dog poo bags

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.

Fin – an addition to a rock formation, Cornwall

contemporary art - concept drawing for sculpture in the landscape near St Ives, Cornwall

Fin
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.

Stone eye

surrealism in contemporary art - giant stone eye

Stone eye
Ink, gouache, digital. July 2018

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..

Hammers – photomontage for sculpture in the landscape, Cornwall

contemporary sculpture land art - giant hammers

Hammers
Photomontage, Cornwall. June 2018

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.

contemporary sculpture  in the landscape - oversized hammers

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.

Square and circles : gouache and watercolour

contemporary watercolour and gouache abstract art - black square with red circles

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.

Mixed media (watercolour and plastic)

contemporary mixed media abstract art - watercolour with plastic

Mixed media (watercolour and plastic): July 2018.

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.

Art in the environment, Cornwall

art in the environment - abstract sculpture near St Ives, Cornwall

Transience
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

contemporary surrealist photomontage - wellington boots with arms emerging

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.

Shoes with extended laces – photograph

contemporary photography - shoes with their laces extended - slightly sinister

Shoes with extended laces
Photograph. June 2018

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.
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A surreal alignment of heads

surreal photography - strange alignment of heads

An alignment of heads
Unretouched photograph. May 2018
A photograph of two people standing in a way that makes their heads seem to merge in an unsettling and humorous way.
The bizarre, surreal effect of the photograph is enhanced by the uniform bright red background and the colour the clothing. The photograph was taken on a ferry between Oban and the Isle of Mull in Scotland, May 2018.

Sculpture – translucent sphere on a marble column

contemporary art sculpture with translucent sphere for light effect

Translucent sphere on a marble column: 1993; height: 20cm
An abstract sculpture that uses a translucent resin sphere on the top of a marble column to capture the effects of the light.
In the photograph the sculpture is positioned on a slate base against a rough painted granite wall to give the work a robust organic feel.

Buttercup field with hidden object

Buttercup Field
Video. 27sec

A video of a field of buttercups that contains a hard-to-see object.
The object is revealed at the end of the video.
The video is on a recurring theme in my work – an investigation into perception, reality and illusion.
The video was taken near St Ives, Cornwall.

Spoiler alert – the nature of the object in the video is revealed in the next section.
The scene in the video contains, on the ground amongst the grass and buttercups, a square mirror. The mirror is hard to see partly because of the distracting proliferation of buttercups, but mostly because the mirror is positioned so that the light from the sky doesn’t create give-away shadows or highlights (buttercups that are reflected in the mirror can look abnormally lit compared with the rest of the buttercups if the angle of the light is incorrect).

The work is filmed in an almost cliched, very peaceful and calming field full of spring flowers, which to me makes a nice setting for a work that at its most pretentious can be interpreted as being a prompt for questioning the nature of reality. At its least pretentious however, it’s just a nice visual joke.
Mirrors and reflections are common features of my work, as can be seen in the Mirror Art section of this site.

Anthropomorphism and a kitchen sink

contemporary art anthropomorphism - a sink plug hole that resembles the eye of a cyclops

Anthropomorphic kitchen sink: Photograph: June 2015

A slightly disturbing (to me) photograph of a kitchen sink. The texture of the sink’s surface along with the staining round the plug hole and the shape and position of the overflow give this image an anthropomorphic quality, giving the suggestion that the plug hole may be an eye while the overflow could be a nose or a mouth (or a mixture of both). If this sink does indeed resemble a human face the fact that the face only has one eye in the centre of its head suqqests a cyclops.
The plug hole and overflow can also be seen as being suggestive of other orifices.

Study for Square Floating in the Landscape

Study for Floating Square
Video. 36sec

A gray square floating in a clearing among bushes in the countryside (near St Ives, Cornwall).
The video is of an early study to assess the potential for the concept.
Finished works based on the concept would consist of squares suspended in the environment in positions where members of the public would encounter them, such as along pathways in sculpture parks. The locations of the squares could vary from trackside positions that are below eye level, at eye level and above eye level, where the squares would be seen to move relative to the landscape as the observer walked past. Squares could also be positioned high in the air, sometimes directly above the track, so that they are constantly silhouetted against the sky.

The square in the video, which seems to be floating in the air unaided, is of deliberately uncertain substance or nature. What is certain is that due to its shape, its colour and its position suspended in the air, the square is not a natural part of the environment.
One concept for the work is for the squares to be coloured with a non-reflective black (see image below) so that the floating squares could almost be mistaken for black portals out of the universe and into a featureless void.

Art in the landscape - floating black square in landscape
A video still showing a floating black square that may be interpreted as a “hole in reality”

Abstract watercolour painting: White Circle

abstract contemporary art watercolour painting - white circle

White Circle: May, 2018.
An abstract watercolour painting that plays with the tension between the absolute stable state of a circle and the chaotic state of the rest of the image.
The perforations along the edge of the paper are an integral component of the composition, being part of the disruptive tension in the work.

Ceramic sculpture – organic form

Modern ceramic sculptural form

A ceramic sculptural form.
The work is slightly suggestive of a fungus such as a stinkhorn, although the work was conceived as a purely abstract sculpture.
The sculpture is 25 cm tall.
Created in 1995.

Below is a view of the sculpture from above, in directional lighting. This view shows well the dramatic differences that differing viewpoints can make when viewing three dimensional artwork (or anything else for that matter).
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Modern art ceramic sculpture - organic form

Ceramic sculpture

Contemporary ceramics - clusters of coloured ceramic cones or filaments

A group of works composed of clusters of coloured ceramic cone-like forms.
The forms are individually rolled by hand as cones and are then distorted to create a sinuous waving effect. They are each between 1 cm and 25 cm tall.
The forms were conceived as purely abstract, however they have an organic feel to them and have something of the suggestion of marine or aquatic organisms about them. They could be worm-like creatures emerging from the sea bed and waving in the ocean currents.