I showed three recent paintings at the Cluster Contemporary Art Fair, held in the wonderful Oxo Tower Wharf on London’s South Bank. Thanks to everyone who visited, and sorry if I didn’t have time to speak to all of you. I was eager to show these paintings together; I wanted to gauge people’s reactions. When you work alone in your studio for months on end, it’s easy to start having nagging doubts: “Will they understand my paintings?” …or most commonly “WTF am I doing?” I’m not too bothered if people don’t understand these works, as long as they engage with them, and actually take the time to look at them. That’s all I can hope for.
“Surreal. The artist is on drugs”
Well, they certainly provoked a strong reaction, and mainly favourable. There were a few disparaging remarks, like “the artist must be on drugs” 🙂 Most of the visitors I spoke to were genuinely interested in the art on show, and I found it one of the most interesting events that I have taken part in. I took part in this event as I wanted to put my recent work in front of a real audience. Social media is okay for sharing updates, but there really is no substitute for real people looking at the actual paintings.
The artist and the model
It was a nice surprise having the model with whom I worked on the painting “The Gleaners” turn up to see the show. I have mentioned in a previous post how I was at an impasse with that particular painting, unable to resolve some difficulties. And then I found Catarina, who was fascinated in the project from the start. There is something special about working with a good life-model, with whom you have an understanding. There is an exchange of ideas, and very quickly I had a solution for my problem painting. What I love about this type of collaboration is that the solution is not something that I could have imagined by myself – it was a product of the exercise of working with a model, working through different poses.
This was the inaugural Cluster Contemporary Art Fair. There were certainly some teething problems, mainly related to their website and QR codes not working. The show looked good, was nicely curated, and they attracted a reasonable crowd. Turn out was better than similar events I have attended at the same venue, and the visitors were genuinely interested in art, and weren’t just popping in to keep out of the rain.
I must admit to being very pleased with where they placed my painting. I can see why they did it; the splash of red in my work sits nicely next to Ms Emin’s piece. The whole exhibition has been cleverly arranged with similar decisions throughout. It was an aesthetically pleasing experience going from room to room, and I’d strongly recommend a visit.
An even nicer surprise was when Ms Emin left a nice comment on my Instagram post. It can be a hard slog being an artist. Lonely and largely unrewarding, with prolonged periods of rejection and dejection just briefly interspersed with the briefest glimmers of hope. So it’s nice when someone from the Artistic Aristocracy says something nice to you. Thank you Tracey.
I’m very pleased to have my portrait American Dreamer accepted for the Turner Contemporary Open exhibition, due to open in Margate this Autumn. I’ve been based in Kent for a couple of years now (if you count a year in lockdown), and I haven’t had the opportunity to show my work locally. And it’s very exciting to be involved in a “real world” show again, hopefully with real people milling about looking at the art.
The drawings and photos from this sitting date back to the long hot summer of 2013 ☀️ I remember the day well. It was so oppressively hot, my model felt quite unwell. There was a power cut just as I set up the studio lights, so I had to quickly relocate the sitting to near the window in my lounge. Maybe because of the unplanned nature of the sitting (they weren’t the poses I’d been planning on), I didn’t really bother looking at the material for a very long time. I suppose it was the chaotic end to the Trump presidency that made me think again of that sitting years before, with a young model sporting a stars and stripes top. 2013 had been a period of relative calm and optimism: No cold war, divided nations, Capitol Hill riots, Brexit, Pandemic or Lockdown. Yes, 2013 seems like a different world. I am hoping, after what feels like a much darker and more challenging time, we may be heading towards a calmer, more hopeful future.
I’m very pleased to learn that my painting “I did not ask” has been accepted into this year’s ING Discerning Eye exhibition.
I did not ask
I did not ask my model about the scars on her arms. Despite working with her regularly and being on familiar terms, I never once broached the subject of those scars, and in my paintings of her I never showed them. A couple of years after this sitting I read the book “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara – a difficult and troubling read, but extremely moving. As I read about the main character’s self-harming and how his friends were all quietly aware of it, but never spoke of it, I thought again about my model bearing her scars in silence. That is what compelled me to find the sketches and photos from that sitting, and to produce this.
I think this painting is just as much about my own reaction to those marks on her forearms, and my awkward silence.
The ING Discerning Eye annual exhibition is a show of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from different areas of the art world: two artists, two collectors and two critics. The selectors choose both publicly submitted works and works by personally invited artists. Each selector’s section is hung separately to give each its own distinctive identity. The impression emerges of six small exhibitions within the whole.