Monday 25 October 2010


This weekend the Student Christian Movement and the Taizé community held a joint conference in Manchester. Most of the action happened at the enormous chaplaincy centre, but on Saturday evening a service was held in the cathedral.

That's a lot of students sitting on the floor of the cathedral. Towards the end of the service everyone lit tapers, so I had a go at painting in the dark with one hand.

Friday 22 October 2010

Bridget Riley


Southampton City Art Gallery, 17th September - 5th December.

Bridget Riley's retrospective exhibition has been on the road. Over the past year or so the collection has been shown in Liverpool, Birmingham and Norwich. Now it's at Southampton City Art Gallery, from 17th September to 5th December.

Those waves in my linocut (in the post below) remind me of Bridget Riley's famous black and white striped canvases from the 60s. Her pieces were instantly successful and engaging and entered the imagery of Swinging London. People respond to them in different ways, and sometimes have difficulty viewing them as pieces of art. They often seem more like optical illusions and colour theory, tricking the eye and creating movement. I find these perfectly valid and satisfying in an exhibition, which is why I'm glad to have seen the show both in Birmingham and Southampton.

The exhibition shows three or four rough periods of Riley's work, in chronological order. First comes the early monochrome precision and then the shimmering colour palettes ("June" almost invokes an actual scene). The final section is two huge canvases from recent years, combining surprising colours and comparing straight lines and curves, always with razor-sharp edges.

The Birmingham show was all in one room, to Southampton's three, which separate the time periods rather ruthlessly, even if the chronological flow is intended. However, the third room, isolating the two largest pieces, opposite each other, provided the best venue to give the work time (I'm considering a dissertation on the importance of a good gallery bench for the public appreciation of art). They could be on a boardroom wall, but the nuances of colour and the positioning of curves and verticals seem too specific.

This makes the show sound like a scientific treatise in optical theory. I'm content to enjoy that aspect, but it is really a riot for the eyes (particularly the second room). The meditative aspect is brought out in the video at the end of the exhibition. David Thompson's 1979 film shows Riley at work with numerous assistants, carefully adding lines and placing shapes (and I wish I was one of them); combined with lingering shots of water and branches; and clever filming that replicates the movement of the eye over the paintings.

If there's a progression over-all, I'd like to say that Riley loosened up, but a quick look back at the start shows that the playful streak has been present from the start. Every stage is dazzlingly clever and literally dazzling.

I was in the Art Gallery at noon and had forgotten about the clock tower's chimes. The melody is "St Anne", the most common tune for "O God Our Help In Ages Past", written by Isaac Watts, born in Southampton in 1674 and celebrated in Watts Park, over the road from the Civic Centre. I love that connection and trail of associations - which I needed my mother to unscramble.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Birthday Lino

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. I made a two-colour linocut voucher, so she can have fun at the Lakeland shop.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Black Icons

A quick one before I dash back to the university to retrieve my diary. I was helping to collate a mailout for the Millais Gallery.

Anyway, the main entrance at Solent now hosts a full exhibition of prints by Ed Brown and Ryan Gillett, commissioned to celebrate Black History Month (November). Each piece shows a different historical figure and some fun use of text. The work was created and exhibited in part last year, and gained a bit of publicity. Now they're all on show and I went along to the opening because I trimmed and framed the set, and was assigned to help Ed with the setting-up of his degree show in June.

Here is Marcus Garvey on the banner and the two ends of the display.

Saturday 16 October 2010


I cut this lino block last year and printed it in restrained shades of grey. This week I printed a number in yellow on red. Andy says he'd buy it for his wall.


I've just been on a brief trip to Winchester for a craft fair featuring Cat's stall for Harris Craft greeting cards.

Here is The Eclipse, close to the cathedral. I would call it my favourite pub in Winchester but really I need to give the others a fair trial in the name of research.

Friday 15 October 2010

The Cult Of Less

Here is some work from a one-day project on my Illustration degree course. To produce an image in a few hours is a daunting thing, but realistic and highly improving.

The tutors gave us all a choice of three editions of a weekly column in the Guardian Weekend magazine, requiring an illustration of 105 x 105 mm. The Guardian has played a large part in this module on editorial illustration.

I chose "Is the 'cult of less' simply an exercise in obsession" - and we did not see image that accompanied the article in print.

After the 10am meeting we were sent away to work on ideas and present a rough image to the whole group at 12 noon.

Here are three of my sketches:

I tried to push myself beyond the immediate associations, and this was the most popular with the tutors:

This is the stage, in a professional job, when the client can change their mind about the specifics of the brief (and could still elect against the final image when they receive it). My tutors made suggestions for every student - in my case, the wonderful idea of shaping the showcase as a head. Now we had two hours to produce a final image. These are just two of the many rough variations that came out of this stage:

To send the image to the client it would need to be scanned in and edited, but I stayed with physical work, scaled up from the original dimensions. It was a real rush and I'd like to do more to my piece, but the exercise is about what one can do in the time. The final frustration was the smudge of blue in one corner from hasty work with the guillotine.

At the group meetings it was interesting to see how many of those working on the same article had come up with similar concepts, although they were executed in different media. Geoff Grandfield's published image shares elements with my and others' pieces.

These projects are excellent for spurring me to work and process concepts faster. We'll have another in a couple of weeks, meanwhile we have similar briefs on a one-week timescale.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Italian Tongues

Trentatré Trentini entrarono a Trento tutti e trentatré trotterellando.

I started learning Italian today. The teacher gave us a tongue-twister. I think it means "Thirty-three people of Trento entered Trento and all thirty-three toddled".

Friday 8 October 2010


Jon, today I have written your name lots of times because it should be everywhere, universally recognised as the name of a man of wonder and a deserver of big dinners.

Your challenge today is to evade the rogue spies. Only the sharpest suits can repel their fearsome bullets.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Angry Art

This week's project brief is to produce a cover image for the Guardian G2 supplement, to accompany a lead article about anger. I need to research angry art (the tutor's starting points were Francis Bacon, Arnulf Rainer and Otto Dix); think up graphical representations of rage and, perhaps, start flinging paint around like Brian Topp.

Before that, here is a brief personal moment from a few years ago. I was ANGRY.