Friday, 30 November 2012

Panama Dreams

Panama Dreams
40 x 50 x 3.5cm
acrylic on canvas

My latest portrait, of a well-travelled gentleman. I took the mid-purple base layer of paint as my starting point. It has been allowed to sing through the cool greens and blues to create a certain vibrancy. Actually I'm particularly pleased with the neck scarf, which was already patterned and multicoloured before it was successfully Kisby-ised.

Paul's partner was also delighted with the result, I've been told. She thought it captured his exact likeness as well as his "complexity of mind, the boy with-in, the joy and the stubborness". Well, his unique dress sense and lively face were clues to his character in this case.

I'm led to believe Paul has twelve siblings, so hopefully I'll be commissioned for an epic recreation of Leonardo's The Last Supper, haha!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Art in a pickle

Yesterday The Independent proclaimed that Damien Hirst was in a bit of a pickle as his art prices plummeted to only $600,000 for one of his 'spot' paintings. Oh how my heart bleeds! Most of us can only dream of getting a tiny weeny percentage of that price for our pain and toil!! This rather sounds to me like a price correction, something that has happened to other valuable assets since the current recession began to bite.

Damien Hirst respresents both the good and bad of the art world. He is evidently a confident, creative personality whose work often deals with the great imponderables, of life and death. I remember seeing his blood-spattered crow paintings at Hoxton's White Cube and found them imaginative and interesting. On the other hand he seems to have become lost in his own ego and tremendous wealth, producing things that are enormous, shiny and vulgar. His giant pregnant females look like the very worst examples of public art, while his diamond encrusted skull showed him unashamedly flashing his 'wad'.

The Independent article also reveals again how the art market often operates like any other market. Hirst's dealers have been shown to stockpile his vast output to keep prices artificially high. There are allegations that his representatives are bidding up his prices at auction events. Testament again, if any were needed, that art has been transformed into a tradable commodity, while artists are providing a (admittedly slow and inefficient) factory line of desirable products for the public. Thinking about it, maybe Hirst is deliberately attempting to reveal to us the worse aspects of the world of art. Otherwise I'm not sure whether we're being pickled or stuffed!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fauvism in the blood

I mentioned to my father last week that I was reading a book about Fauvism. He immediately blurted out the name "André Derain". This was apparently the only artist name he could remember from his school education, in the dim midsts of the twentieth century. There must be something distinctive about Derain, because he is probably my favorite artist. I particularly like his 1906 painting of his friend, Henri Matisse.

There are other reasons I can identify with Derain. He initially trained as an engineer, before dropping this in favour of a career as a painter. He seemed to be a person who led by his heart and his head, finding painting sometimes a stuggle, a lengthy cogitative process. I rather like his 'warts and all' attitude to his subjects. Like several other of the Fauves he did not shy away from painting 'reality', for example the clutter and jumble of traffic on the River Thames.

But judging by my father's selective memory, maybe my enchantment with Derain has been passed to me in my blood!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Beaten by a Naked Woman

It is seldom a reason to celebrate when one's mother is strung up in public and beaten by a naked woman. However, in this instance I'll celebrate with a clear concience. My mom's portrait was hung in the open exhibition at "Ink Spot", Cardiff and I've just found out the painting won second prize in the people's vote! If I don't say so myself, the standard of entry was very high.

And the naked woman? Well, the first prize went to a very respectable painting of a nude.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Spot at Inkspot

October 2012 is a busy month indeed. My favorite art cavern, Inkspot (in a re-used church on Newport Road, Cardiff) is holding an art competition to coincide with the Made in Roath event. Entries will be diplayed in the first floor fine art materials shop, between 13th and 20th October. Entries are subject to a public vote, with the winner getting a prize.

I've entered my orange portrait, The Fig Tree, into the event. If you're passing by, do drop in and cast your vote. Preferably vote for mwah!!

Friday, 5 October 2012

At the Beech

Submitted, almost before the paint was dry, to the Made in Roath open art exhibition at The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff (opens October 10th). This painting is more 'chocolate box-y' than I normally prefer, but I thought it would prove a good contrast to Closing Down Sale (also submitted).

The copper beech tree in the background is an amazing specimen which I've always loved, located in a picturesque South Oxfordshire village.

At the Beech
acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 x 3 cm

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Closing Down Sale

Meanwhile, back in the provinces, my latest painting rolled off the production line last week. It is of another corner shop, Meeks, in Roath, Cardiff. Its rare original frontage may soon be no more, because the landlord is reclaiming the building for 'development'. The shop has been open for 100 years, another victim of 'progress'.

Closing Down Sale
acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 x 3 cm

Monday, 24 September 2012

Open Art House

Blechynden Studios, W10
My annual pilgrimage to the London Open House took place this weekend. These days I have a foot in both architecture and art... and I found myself visiting a purpose-built block of artists studios, an Arts Centre and an art gallery.

Blechynden Studios, on the edge of Notting Hill, claim to be the first purpose-built block of artists studios in London, completed in 1999. They looked the part, but the resident artists complained that the opaque glass walls let out too much heat, made worse by the fact the landlord ran out of money during construction and didn't install heating of any kind!

There was a wide mixture of locally produced art on display. My favorites were the colourful paintings of Gabrielle Seymour, of course. Much of the remainder did not appeal, though with my fascination for graveyards I was drawn to Clare Burnett's set of vibrant aluminium grave 'silhouettes', created for an installation at West Norwood Cemetery.

Next was the brand new "Yaa Centre" by Foster Wilson Architects, creatively hidden behind Victorian mews in Maida Hill. Beside the clever and rugged architecture, the visit was an unexpected introduction to the resident Caribbean steelpan orchestra. Downstairs yet another surprise was the Artist-in-Residence, a trained engineer and photographer, who created impressive carnival masks on intricate wire frames.

Lee Jiyen 'Wherever you will go'
My final stop, conveniently close to the coach station, was the famous Saatchi Gallery. The building combined a vast classical portico'd frontage with a modern, multi-level extension to the rear. An oily smell pervaded the ground floor, filtering up from Richard Wilson's intriguing "20:50", a ...erm ...whole basement gallery half filled with a confusing mirror lake of black sump oil!

Throughout many of the remaining galleries were works by a number of Korean painters, sculptors and installation artists. Top of my favorites were Lee Jiyen and her incredible people-infested photographic montages. Equally enthralling were the clever 3D painted images by Hong Sung Chul, painted on taught string.

After all that, I needed a good snooze in a darkened National Express bus!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Multicolour Sweet Shop

Acrylic paint on canvas
25 x 25 x 3.5cm

One of my favorite views in Cardiff, a small shop on a very acute corner in what used to be called Cardiff Docks. It's not the most salubrious area, somewhere architecture students will go to study 'urban grain', so a multicolour makeover was a reasonably difficult challenge.

The result seems to be quite successful, if I don't say so myself. The red car and the passers-by help to add a bit of scale. For the fans of clutter there is street furniture, posters, fire alarms and a satellite dish...

Buildings have faces and characters so I guess you can describe this as another portrait. In that case it's a fusion of my many black & white pen & ink street scenes and my technicolour painted heads!!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Burel Bath

A few days ago I came across Richard Burel, a self-taught mixed media artist, in Bath. Bath is one of the most attractive cities you can find, generally built from the warm yellow bath stone, which makes it a particularly attractive subject to paint.

Burel's paintings were gorgeously rich and detailed, every one of them a colourful graphic creation. They particularly appealed to my architect-trained sensibilities! In my view, the various numbers and lettering incorporated into the composition are well suited to a city-scape. After all, even a city as rarified as Bath is buzzing with shoppers, commerce and graphic information. I have to say, I admire an artist who portrays modern life 'warts and all', with vehicles, shopping bags and other debris.

One of my next projects will be a city-scape painting or, at least, a recognisable detail of my home city.

Burel's website can be found at

Monday, 4 June 2012

I'm not colour prejudiced but...

I'm not colour prejudiced but... I don't use black. Well, not until now. It's the sort of thing you are told in your teens, that black is unnecessary because you can make greys and dark colours by combining complimentaries. I took it all in and it served me well. I worshipped purple and prussian blue, amongst other deep hues.

When I was 17 or 18 and living in Pembrokeshire I was a big fan of the paintings of John Knapp-Fisher. He often portrayed bleak and angry coastal scenes using a combination of black, blue and orange, with all sorts of subtle shades of grey in between. I wrote an essay about my favorite artist, using these colours and got soundly told off in front of my fellow students, for writing something that was bizarre and illegible. It probably had a lasting psychological effect!

Well, I thought I'd live dangerously and try a black background in my most recent, strongly coloured portrait. I think it works well, thank goodness. It could be the beginning of a new Kisby oeuvre, or Black period...

Monday, 28 May 2012

We are not amused!

Off With Her Head

acrylic paint, badge and bakelite switch on canvas

28 x 35 x 6.5cm

Thankyou to those that encouraged me to paint her maj's portrait to mark her 60th anniversary of ...inheriting plenty of prime real estate and nice jewells. How could I not oblige!!

It also gave me the opportunity to recycle a lovely old light switch, which certainly won't conform to Part P of the UK Building Regs, but is the sort of beautifully made object that you won't find anywhere in your local D.I.Y. shed.

Congratulations go to Shaun Featherstone and his republican magazine, The Great Frock 'n' Robe Swindle, which is being distributed nationwide this week. It's nice to see an alternative to the official view being put forward. There is also a ...erm ...featured article by yours truly, based on a blog post below.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Painting for the computer age

One of my very rare trips 'oop north took place this weekend, depositing me in a cheap hotel opposite Leeds railway station. After surviving a family gathering I spent half a day taking in the sights of Leeds city centre. This combined family history with art, because the Leeds Art gallery was located directly below the Library.

The visiting exhibition at the gallery was of paintings by Fiona Rae. She rose to prominence in the '90's with the Young British Artists and creates some very accessible works of art, extremely colourful, incorporating elements from cartoons and popular culture. The paintings were cleverly built up, using a wide variety of techniques, utensils, computer printouts and the occasional line of text. I must say I enjoyed watching the video of Rae explaining her work, her studio set-up and her thoughts. She is clearly thoughtful and engaging, like her works of art.

Whether the paintings show a new art fit for the 21st century, as the exhibition blurb suggested, I'm not so sure. Rae had been increasingly using computers and collaborating with computer based designers. Perhaps this will be a new Pop Art for the noughties but, in my view, paintings are probably destined to remain in a rather anachronistic world of high art, however many pots of magenta paint are dribbled across the canvas.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

On her Majesty's secret disservice

My sideways swipe at the Royal Jubilee is coming on okay. I attached the 1950's bakelite switch to the corner this afternoon, a sort of 'topping-out' ceremony. The size of the painting has been kept quite modest, so the 3D elements don't get lost. I'm inclined to leave the finished painting in a rough-and-ready state - after all, if I'm arguing for less coverage of the event, I don't want to be spending more hours than necessary portraying her Maj...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Queen: Art and Image

The momentum surrounding the Queen's Diamond Jubilee has been slowly gathering pace in 2012. In preparation for an 'intervention' of my own, I've been making a stab at QEII's portrait. It's early days!!

Meanwhile the National Museum of Wales has a visiting exhibition about Queen Liz - "The Queen: Art and Image" - which ends this weekend. I seized my opportunity today, in a gap between rain showers, to head for the Museum to take a look.

I would have said there was a mixed bag on display ...but that might be misinterpreted as a crude shot at her maj, haha! There were the inevitable parade of royal family photos from the 1950's, '60's and '70's. But there were also some very interesting paintings and designs - kicking off with the Sex Pistols' 1977 "God Save the Queen" album cover.

It seems the Queen set about re-inventing herself after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. In 1998, artist Justin Mortimer created a painting called "The Queen", which appeared to rip her head off and float it above a stylised torso on a bright yellow background. According to the exhibition blurb "The public reaction... was adverse". Yet more challenging is the 2007 painting by Kim Dong-Yoo, "Elizabeth vs. Diana", where a portrait of the Queen has been created from 1,100 tiny hand paintings of Diana in blood red. I have to take my hat off to Kim for managing to make all 1,106 images to look exactly like Diana (and the overall image seen from the other side of the room looks recognisably like QEII).

In effect, the recent 're-invention' has officially allowed us all to see the Queen as human well as take not-so-subtle swipes at her ageing image. The gloves are off!!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Portrait March 2012

The Fig Tree

acrylic on canvas

30 x 40cm

This portrait is essentially what I was trying to achieve with my earlier self-portrait. The background colour (orange) remains a key component of the finished work.

I'm very pleased with it!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Pontcanna Gallery

Spring has arrived, the sun is shining so I decided to visit Pontcanna Street Gallery. I'd been tipped off that my friend Lynne was exhibiting there. To my delight another fellow college graduate, AndyLumbourg, also had some paintings on show.

I'm ashamed I've never visited Pontcanna Street Gallery before now. It is quite delightful, in one of the nicest streets in Cardiff, friendly, welcoming and busy. There were a number of well known Cardiff and Wales artists on display, including the paintily Mark Samuel (whose work I first noticed several years ago). It also claims to sell work by John Knapp-Fisher, who was a minor inspiration to me when I was a teenager living in West Wales.

Well, the standard is extremely high. I'll have to work hard before I've got a suitable range of paintings worthy of display here. Portraits of mwah probably do not have the required universal appeal, haha.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Homage to Rembrandt

I've always liked Rembrandt's moody self portraits, which seem to reflect a humerous honesty of middle age. So I've attempted something similar of myself, with mixed results. It is still missing something. My intended hunch-shouldered grimace has got lost somewhere and the vibrant colours maybe contradict the grumpy pout.

I'll probably write this one off and start anew!