Ten Years as a ‘Proper’ Artist

This month 10 years ago I made a breakthrough within my work. The disjointed, erratic visuals that I was using to give myself voice suddenly came together. It was the first term of my final year of my BA degree. I can honestly say this breakthrough, and the momentum it was generating, made this one of the most special, if not the most special point in my life so far. Waged work, and the inevitable social pressures such environments put on you have tested my sense of self worth over the following years. But although I may not own, or even rent my own property, have a highly valued job, or a partner in crime as I head further into my 30s, I’ve still got my artwork. It’s still ploughing on.

Novmber 2006 to November 2016

 

 

Hope of The Nihilized

Hope of The Nihilized (2016, mixed media on paper, 90X125cm)

hope-of-the-nihilized-2016

This will probably be the last major piece of work I finish in 2016. The drawing attempts to look at the debased spirit of our times. If I were to give such a time a name I’d called it The Zeitgeist of Disbelief.

However, partly due to the sheer willing for a change of heart, for the sake of my and everyone else’s mental health, the piece is one of dark optimism. 21st century cyberspace technology has allowed the capitalist logic to creep into almost every moment of our lives. I believe it corrodes our spirit on a daily basis, leaving us ‘nihilized’ and unable to do anything but pursue dead end pleasures. There has been a severe epidemic of loneliness brought on by these technologies, on a scale never before imagined, never mind witnessed.

Yet these technologies also give us access to an unprecedented awareness about what is happening around the globe, potentially creating an intellectual body unrivalled throughout history. Although the information is often skewed, only consumed in sound-bite form due to the ‘fomo’ (fear of missing out’) effect of a society based on scarcity principles, there still now exists an awareness not only of of global injustices, (things we’d been led to believe were 20 century nightmares), but also an awareness of the fact that most others are suffering in solitude on a nightly basis just like ourselves.

Or so I hope. This piece speculates that although capitalism seems to have made a dead end out of humanity, it is capitalism that will inevitably have to end, hopefully leaving some tools to rebuild from the crushed spirit of the present.

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Stories From Time-locked Space. 3

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe:
Free-fall in Stasis (Barnsley, The First Week of Winter, 2016)   Walking back to the suburbs through an M1 junction-hinterland in the dark of a new winter. But nothing feels new. It’s late 2016. To Ride The Fine Line of Purpose on Placebos……

Century P.T.S.D

Century P.T.S.D. (2016, A3, mixed media on paper)

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Stories From Time-Locked Space. 2

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe:
Illusions of ‘otherness’ – Over The Pennine Horizon Darton-to-Wakefield-to-Mirfield-to-Huddersfield-Manchester-to-Leeds-to-Darton (Northern Rail-to-Grand Central-to-Northern  Rail-to-Transpennine Express-to Northern Rail). September 2016. “Today’s Manchester is dominated by the sounds of the trams. They beep, clunk and even scream as they turn on the tracks, in spaces so…

Fighting for Crumbs, at The World Transformed, Liverpool

I was very pleased to be invited to exhibit at The World Transformed, a 4 day festival hosted by Momentum as The Labour Party held their conference,  and the leadership election results were announced, in the very same city. It felt great to be taking our exhibition project ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) to the Black-E inLiverpool, to have our work in the same location as speeches by many figureheads at the forefront of a movement to push for much needed changes to the way politics is done and society is run.


#TWT2016 is about practising the new politics. We believe in a positive, future oriented approach to changing society. We believe in amplifying unheard, grassroots voices. We believe in broadening the definition of politics to include art, music and spoken word. We believe that politics is a bout more than just PMQs and Westminster. 

With Fighting For Crumbs being somewhat instigated by the ask to do something to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Redshed  (Wakefield Labour Club), we worked with the organisers of The World Transformed find a way of using ‘Redsheds’ to exhibit our work and documentary by Connor Matheson. Here are some photographs of the project.

The World Transformed – Liverpool, 24-27 September

 

I will be showing a few of my pieces alongside more from our recent Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberalism) project, at The World Transformed, an exciting event going off in Liverpool next week from the 24th to the 27th.

“The World Transformed is a celebration of politics, art, music, culture and community. Hosted by a coalition of grassroots groups and powered by Momentum, The World Transformed will promote a radical, positive vision for the future.

Running alongside the Labour Party Conference, 23rd – 27th of September in Liverpool, we will host over 200 hours of workshops, talks, art exhibitions, gigs and cultural events. While there will be big name speakers, we are particularly excited to host a range of inspiring grassroots groups who wouldn’t usually be able to exhibit at conference..

The vast majority of the festival will be free to attend. All of the festival will be open to the public. Information on tickets, accommodation and transport are coming soon.

THE WORLD TRANSFORMED

24th – 27th September.”

£$[We]€$[Can’t]$£[Take]£€[Any]$€[More!!]$£ (2016) is one of the pieces I will be showing

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JD Taylor – Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain

 

I’ve finally finished reading JD Taylor’s brick of a book ‘Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain’ published by Repeater Books. Admittedly I missed most of the section on Scotland, due to a large pen leak defacing most of the section – but there again, being a visual artist, who carries everything he needs even when he makes a short journey means rucksack spillages happen against best intentions. But I read most of this 450 page brick (although it’s probably more fitting to liken it to a piece of sedimentary stone, carbon dated to the British Isles in the second decade of the 21st century), and although it’s a large book, it’s pleasurable reading.

I started following JD Taylor’s blog after taking an interest reading his 2012 book ‘Negative Capitalism’, published by Zero Books. In 2014 I realised he’d been undertaking the sort of project that had become close to my heart in the last few years: assessing the social spirit of the times by traveling the land, and getting close as possible sense of what it feels like to live in the towns and cities of this country. I caught up with the blog literally just after he had posted about traveling through the area from where I was reading the post! And I was intrigued by what he was saying from then onwards.

JD Taylor didn’t go around the Island telling folk what was and wasn’t, he actually listened to what they had to say. Listening isn’t an easy thing to do, and I’m as bad as the next person for making interruptions before somebody has finished a sentence.  I don’t think it’s ever been easy to sit down and let somebody else explain how they see and feel about the world, but certainly not in times where there is an intense social pressure to compete against each other for economic survival. Listening thus requires our want for empathy to win over our gut feelings to get our opinion over before others can. But for those wishing for a future beyond the current inertia, telling rather than listening possibly entrenches the necessary one-upmanship of a social model based around scarcity.

I asked JD Taylor to come speak at a recent art and film project I was involved in undertaking. ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain)’ was somewhat a response to being asked to show my artwork in the Wakefield Labour Club (commonly known as ‘The Redshed’) as part of its 50th anniversary events. I’m not in the habit of carelessly flinging works up on walls, and I was keen to do something that spoke of the political mood and social spirit of these times, to contrast with what my friend, and Redshed stalwart, Sandra Huthinson, said was the spirit of 1966; one of political optimism, in spite of the troubles in the world. Taylor seemed not only to speak for the same generation as my own, but I thought his findings upon the roads of this island were closely in tune with the aims of our project. I’ve never asked a writer to speak at an event before so it was an initially daunting task, but thankfully Taylor seemed more than happy to take part, and it became part of a larger tour promoting his book.

Within the island-round journey taken his book unearths forgotten uprisings to challenge the assumption that our collective story is one of putting up and shutting up. There’s a disconnect between Here and There, that seems to become an Us and Them. As a northerner there’s a tendency think we are the worst treat by the powers that be, with the locus being London. This isn’t an unreasonable feeling, especially when looking at the half-century’s worth of diabolical infrastructural neglect over this region. But it’s not necessarily true, and Taylor’s accounts of Kent, as he comes to the end of his travels, leave me quite moved. As it seems that many of the people populating a county most think of as England’s green and pleasant land are as struggling and confused as anywhere else on the island – possibly even more so due to lacking a strength through identity that still gives many in other regions spoons full of spirit every now and then.

The overall conclusion in Island Story is a sense of confusion but mostly defeat. I think he’s on the pulse when saying “young people are worst affected by the peculiar “nowhereness” of the moment” – I’ve heard this misdirected into a sense of personal failure in many who were traveling through their teens and twenties especially since the financial crash. However, the conclusion is not one of eternal defeat.  Aren’t many of us more punch-drunk optimists than pessimists? One section of his conclusion particularly stirs my damaged optimism. Taylor says that

“this sense of inertia and in-betweeness suggests the accruement of desiring energies around the block. Gathering force yet unable to release, time is slowing into one interminable moment before the extraordinary happens, what few considered possible even a few moments before.”

Whether this is a good sum up of this great book, or more of a means of thanking  JD Taylor for speaking at our Fighting For Crumbs event, I’d strongly recommend this book to both my like-minded friends, and my not-so-like-minded friends – after all, the conclusion I hope the book gives you is that wherever we are we all more or less desire and worry about the same things in life.

 

 

(Stories From Time-locked Space. 1)

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe:
Leeds Under Pre-Digital Rain (2016) “Always a higher level of caution in your gait when arriving in Leeds on a Saturday – 52 times a year, not including Xmas and bank holidays – as if I’ve walked over a picket line for piss…

Fighting for Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) – Video Documentary.

This is our video documentary, crafted and produced by Connor Matheson/DEADIDEA Productions. It accompanied our recent exhibition. Please take a look.

Thank you for everybody who contributed to our crowdfunder earlier in the year.