Art in the Environment, Cornwall

contemporary art in the environment - intervention in the landscape, Cornwall

This work consists of a length of brightly coloured cord hanging over the branch of a hawthorn tree in a patch of woodland in Cornwall.

The simplicity of construction of the piece is important. The observer will hopefully notice the almost total lack of endeavour required to create the work, while also noticing the (hopefully) relatively high aesthetic payoff as a result of that endeavour.

The two bright vertical lines formed by the work contrast sharply with the dark shadows and the tangled and twisted branches and twigs of the hawthorn and  blackthorn in the wood.

The fact that the cord creates two hanging lines gives the cords an increased presence when compared with a single hanging cord. They seem to resonate against each other and create a more concrete effect than would be achieved with a single one dimensional strand.

A lot of land art and other art in the environment strive to use only natural ingredients in the composition of the art, good examples being the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. This work however consciously uses artificial material in the form of nylon paracord.

The placing of brightly coloured plastic into the environment refers partly to humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the natural world. This is partly a message about the despoiling of the environment by our endeavours. The fact that the nylon cord is simply draped across the branch of a tree helps to reinforce this message, as the cord acquires qualities associated with the detritus of our throw-away consumer society. The fact that the cord is plastic reinforces this further, and the fact that the straight lines of the cord are cutting through the organic forms of the woodland gives a slight sense of violent imposition.  However, the brightly coloured plastic looks quite pleasing in some ways and to some sensibilities, so the work is also saying that humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the environment has a positive side to it (but also that just because something looks nice doesn’t necessarily mean that it is).

In fact, where would we be without the artificiality that we impose on the environment?  The artificiality that we create is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. Would you like to live without the electric and electronic devices that populate your life? (The coloured cord could easily be a length of electric cable). The main problem is that we just create too much artificiality. Hence some of the ambiguity in this piece.

The use of coloured cord in this work was undoubtedly inspired by the work of Fred Sandback.

Nought and cross

contemporary art abstract geometric design

Nought and cross. 2017

A digitally created work consisting of diagonals and circles.
In this work I was chiefly concerned with the effect of creating discontinuous diagonals. The circle helps to focus the attention onto the centre of the image, where all of the action is taking place, as well as adding a degree of three-dimensionality and formal variation to the image.

The perception of pattern – join the dots

contemporary art and science - intricate pattern perception from dots

I’ve just created this image this morning, inspired by a book that I bought a couple of days ago at the Wellcome Collection (an exhibition space that merges art and science, and a place that I strongly recommend a visit to if you’re in London). The book is Art Forms in Nature, which depicts the astonishing drawings of German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1918).
The edition of the book that I purchased (Prestel, 1998) has an introduction that includes a diagram by David Marr (1945-1980), a British neuroscientist who worked extensively in the field of visual processing.
The David Marr image, shown below, was concerned with the way in which the human eye (and brain) will scan images seeking out understandable patterns. The image (which I’d never seen before as far as I remember) reminded me very much of some of the images that I’ve produced myself, both in its form (arrays of dots) and intension (the generation of ambiguously decipherable interlocking patterns).

David Marr visual processing dot pattern
(Image reprinted courtesy of The MIT Press from Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information by David Marr, ©MIT 2010, figure 2-5, page 50)

Naturally I was inspired to deconstruct the David Marr image so that I could then try to create my own images based on what I found. The image at the top of this post is the first result.
After studying David Marr’s image I worked out that a simplified version of it could be constructed from multiple versions of the basic element shown below, with each element placed at an equal distance from the adjacent elements.

contemporary art science pattern perception

I call this image a basic element, but that’s slightly inaccurate.

When you look at this element you probably see a centre dot surrounded by a ring of dots with lines of dots radiating outwards like rays.
However, this ‘basic element’ isn’t really a basic element at all, because I created it from an even more basic element, this being a row of thirty three dots in a straight line. Six copies of this row of dots were then distributed about their centres in a clock face fashion.  See the image below. So in some ways the element in the image above isn’t really a ring surrounded by rays at all – it’s actually a set of six lines of dots.

pattern perception in visual processing

Just one more thing.
When you look at the element above you see a clearly defined inner ring of dots and probably a less obvious secondary ring of dots created by the innermost dots of the rays. These ‘innermost dots of the rays’ are only ‘innermost dots’ if you choose to define the dots that are closer to the centre of the figure as a separate entity (a ring). In truth all of the dots in the image have the same status (other than that of their position), all being simply dots in lines, it’s just that the ones closest to the centre most easily form a ring when interpreted by our brains. Our brains can interpret the second set of dots as a secondary ring because you can, when you concentrate slightly, see that they are linked into this formation by association with their neighbours, although more loosely  than is the case with the emphatic inner ring.  What you won’t notice though is that the next set of dots outwards also form a ring, as do the next set and the next set all the way out to the end of the rows of dots. You can’t see this because for all of the dots beyond the secondary ring the dots are too well separated for the eye to associate them with each other. Somewhere in the space between the secondary ring of dots and the next dots outwards a threshold is crossed at which the brain can’t hold the dots together as a ring – the association is snapped.

It’s interesting that this post was intended to be about the relatively complex image at the top of the post, but I’ve spent most of my time dissecting the simpler image of the underlying element.  Fortunately, the points that I’ve made about the underlying element are exactly the points that can be applied to the more complex image, and thankfully without the excessively complex structures within the complex image conspiring to befuddle the brain.

Mirror-based artwork – multiple reflections inside a cube creating the illusion of the word “OXO”

contemporary art mirror cube multiple reflection illusion

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:

contemporary mirror OXO Cube base

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.

contemporary mirror based OXO Cube

Pen and ink drawing from my sketchbook (and from my subconscious)

contemporary art drawing from the subconscious

Pen and ink on paper. Height: 2.5inches/65mm

As an exercise in creativity I make a habit of sitting down occasionally and just drawing whatever comes into my head, giving the process as little thought as possible. I call it “drawing my subconscious”. I do the drawings in pen and ink on paper, usually in a notebook that I reserve specially for the purpose.
This image is a scan of yesterday’s effort, drawn on a sunny afternoon while sitting in a wood full of bluebells in the very pleasant grounds of Hatfield House, a stately home dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. As you can see, my surroundings had little impact on the workings of my subconscious. Which is a bit worrying.

Apple ‘brand identity animation’ with a similar feel to my own animations

I was interested to see during a shopping trip into London today that the current ‘branding animation’ that is running on all of the Apple computers on show in a department store that I visited had something of the look and feel of some of my own animations (shown below).
This is probably a coincidence. I can’t imagine that the designers in Apple’s branding department were trawling the internet and happened to come across my work. And then chose to adopt some of its style. Although you never know. They have to keep their fingers on the pulse after all – although I’m not sure how on the pulse my videos are, as the video that the Apple animation most resembles is several years now.
The Apple animation, which I can’t find on the internet, and therefore can’t point you towards, features the leaf on the Apple logo detaching itself and replicating itself to form a rotating circle composed of multiple copies of itself, changing size and colour but always retaining a degree of graphic simplicity.
The animation sequence to me had something of the feel of of mine. Of course it may only be me who sees any resemblance, due to my heightened sensitivity towards the design factors of the work I created. My work uses circles rather than leaf-shaped lozenges, my circles interact where they overlay while Apple’s simply overlay, and mine are different colours, but that’s not much of a difference in my book.
Assuming that there IS a resemblance of some sort I’m not sure whether to be pleased that a company of Apple’s status is using a similar style to mine, and thus validating it, or be annoyed that a company of Apple’s status is using a similar style to mine, as people would inevitably say “Your animation’s inspired by Apple’s, isn’t it?”.

A longer version of this animation, with more variation in the movement, can be seen here: Animation

Shoe reflected in a mirror – the art of illusion

mirror based art - a shoe reflected in a mirror

This is a trial version of a piece of contemporary art that I’m working o

n, based on a pair of shoes and a mirror. The shoes are positioned so that the reflection of each in the mirror coincides exactly with the other shoe on the opposite side of the mirror, merging the real shoe and the reflection of the other shoe into one.
Like a lot of my works that involve illusion this one explores the line between reality and our interpretation of what we perceive.

Circular rainbow – moving image artwork


A simple moving image artwork experiment featuring a rainbow forming a circle.
I created other, slightly more complex, versions of the emerging and disappearing rainbow, but decided that this simple version was the best, giving a degree of simple tranquility to the concept, as befits the subject and the aesthetic simplicity of the circular form.



Spontaneous watercolour sketch

Contemporary art watercolour sketch - spontaneous painting from the unconscious

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.

Dog poo bag discarded in art gallery

contemporary art - dog poop art

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’.

contemporary art - dog shit art