Saturday, 2 November 2013

Artitecture - What Do Artists Do All Day?

Interesting to see Wales-adopted artist Shani Rhys James is being featured in a new BBC4 edition of "What Do Artists Do All Day?", to be broadcast this month ...though unfortunately hidden on a channel that few people watch.

Not long ago Shani had the accolade of being the only living artist featured in Rolf Harris's TV series "Rolf on Welsh Art", so is clearly becoming a tele-genic art celeb!

I won't begin to claim credit for this success, but I came across Shani's work several years ago while I was studying Architecture at Cardiff University (and I more recently wrote the Wikipedia entry about her). For a 'primer' design project I studied a number of local South Wales artists and their workspaces. I then used some of my observations to imagine what Shani Rhys James' workspace might be like. This was before the days of Google Street Snoop and I only knew she lived in mid-Wales, possibly in a coverted barn building. Some of her paintings are VAST in size, so I conjectured her workspace was barn-like in size and character.

My work of 'artitecture' (pictured above) was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, with a graphic, descriptive element as a concession to the clinical white-and-balsawood world of the architecture school. In my view, my other works of 'artitecture' were better works of art, being based on actual locations, contents, measurements and observations. But it will be extremely interesting to see whether my predictions about Shani's studio were in any way correct!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Open Studios West

Had a fabulous afternoon today visiting artists' studios in Pontcanna and Riverside for the second year of the Cardiff Open Studios weekend. It's a great opportunity for artists across the whole of the city to invite members of the public around their workspaces, especially good for artists outside the "Made in Roath" catchment zone.

Pontcanna has the amazing Kings Road Studios which has been established for 20 years, now has a couple of dozen resident artists and an on-site micro brewery, would you believe! I was offered a mug of tea and a cake and had a nice chat with several of the clever and hugely talented occupants. It surprised me how many of the resident artists I'd seen or heard of before - this is obviously a hotbed of Wales talent.

Riverside claimed several hidden gems, including photographer Kim Fielding esconced with several other colourful characters behind the doors of the long-closed Wells Hotel. The building itself is impressive, retaining its old weathered pub signs. It even has its own resident ghosts, a pair of murdered nuns.

Finally I had the privilege of visiting the studio of Jacqueline Alkema, who I've known by sight for years and was one of the judges at 2013's The Gate Open Exhibition. Her paintings are simply delightful, tremendously thoughtful, multi-layered and brilliantly crafted.

It's just a shame the event is so poorly publicised. I found about it purely by chance and most visitors were already friends and neighbours of the artists. Come on Cardiff Council, pull your finger out for 2014!!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Psychedelia Shortlist

"Sean's psychedelic painting of Gaddafi" was shortlisted by judge Neale Howells for the 'Insider Art' award at the opening of  The Gate Open Exhibition last night. Well, I'll take that as a compliment, quite happy to not be part of the establishment. Though I'm not sure Vincent Tan would appreciate being mistaken for a Middle Eastern dictator!!!

The winner of the award was a flourescent painting of a beach scene.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Taking it as Red

'Red, Blue and Tan'
acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 x 3cm

A subject that lends himself to a vivid colour portrait - the controversial Malaysian owner of Cardiff City Football Club, Vincent Tan. He changed the colour of the Bluebirds' football strip from blue to ...erm... red because it was a much more positive colour in his home country. His investment helped Cardiff reach the Premiership league for the first time in 50 years, so no-one should be complaining!

I like the colour red, so when it comes to portraying him on canvas I'm not complaining either. This one has been submitted to The Gate Arts Centre annual open exhibition and will be on view from 17th October to 15th November 2013. In the event that one of Mr Tan's friends, family or staff are wandering the streets of Roath in the next few weeks, I would suggest a version of this painting will look superb on the wall of the football club boardroom!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

United Colours of...

While I try and work out how to migrate my website to a new host, keeping one eye on a BBC documentary about painter Jonathan Yeo, I thought it was time I uploaded my latest portrait ...of the great Nelson Mandela.

This was started on Mandela's 95th birthday and finished about 10 days ago. Mandela was a flamboyant, mischievous and larger than life character who deserves to be remembered in that way, rather than a weak hospitalised old man. The Kisbyism treatment suits him well, if I don't say so myself.

In fact I feel like I need to break all my recent Kisbyism rules to date and, dare I say, paint a very large version. Artists generally paint things on a grand scale to add artificial importance to their work (art students in particular will do this in the weeks before their final assessments). But even from a distance of 60cm this small image of Madiba begins to break up into crude brushstrokes and a larger size would not only befit such a great man, it would also give the opportunity to make the strokes of paint into objects with their own tangible presence.

In the meantime I'm being encouraged to produce T-shirts of this image, by everyone from my close relatives to the gas meter reader!

'United Colours of Madiba'
acrylic on canvas
30 x 40 x 1.5cm

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Kisbyism in Cardiff Bay

The 126th South Wales Art Society Summer Exhibition certainly sounds grand and this year's show is in the prestigious Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay. I've successfully got all three of my paintings into the exhibition, though it took two circuits of the room before I found them - the artworks are hung Salon-style floor to ceiling and there are plenty on display. My "Closing Down Sale" was runner-up in the 'Figurative' category.

I paid my SWAS membership fee in April hoping to attend one of their talks, but got the day wrong and missed it ...and I didn't get a membership card for 7 weeks so probably wouldn't have been admitted anyway. The prize giving at this week's opening night went along the lines of "Runner up in the category was Sean Kisby, but the winner was one-of-our-own, Kevin Strong"

...okay, I take the hint, I'm not integrated yet.

Actually, the committee members I've met have been extremely friendly. And hidden among the many exhibited works were some fabulous paintings. Kevin's beach scene is filled with an incredible explosion of detail, as is Asha Bassi's hugely ambitious Blue Bells diptych. Chairman Jan's cheeky painting of skinny dipping was, on closer inspection, covered with tiny lines of subliminal text, accessible, fun and chosen by Julie Morgan AM for a special award. But my favorite by far is Sylvia Donovan's oil painting People Passing By, sumptuous dreamy colours coveying a delightful human story - I only hope I sell a painting so I can contact her with my credit card number! My artistic tastes may be different from the SWAS jury, only time will tell whether my membership fee was well spent.

Exhibition July 2nd till July 18th, 10:30-16:00, Pierhead Building, Cardiff

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Art College Summer Show

This has been an intensive weekend of art - yesterday I spent three hours in sunny Lisvane awaiting my work to be judged by the South Wales Art Society hanging committee; today I paid a visit to Cardiff College of Art & Design, where their Summer Exhibition had just begun.

How quickly things change. In 2011 I remember enjoying the Ceramics work far more than the Fine Art. This year the Fine Art department had improved immensely while the ceramics was forgettable. At long last the painters had 'nailed their colours to the mast', so to speak, with thoughtful statements of intent and a much welcome absence of works with the lazy name of "Untitled".

Well, okay, I'll forgive Ceri Wyn's "Untitled". Hundreds of tiny egg tempura prints covered three walls and guests were invited to PLEASE TAKE ONE or "as many prints as they wish". The process of transformation of the wall from a plethora of mini artworks into a vacant grid of blue tack spots was all part of the project. It's not something I've ever seen before on such a scale of enthusiasm and generosity!

Elsewhere, Simon Brooker claimed to interrogate the relationship and tension between painting and sculpture and the "problematic" illusory qualities of 2D space. Whether he achieved this I'm not entirely sure, but these are certainly ideas that I've tried to address in my own art. He's won two awards, so at least this line of questioning is appreciated the fine art gliterati.

Eliie Jackson invented a printmaking/architecture hybrid, inspired by the temporary pavillions of the London Olympics. As both an art and architecture graduate I found this to be an intriguing ambition. I'm rarely impressed by printmaking but on this occasion I'll happily make an exception!

This was the last ever year for the Interior Architecture course, much to many peoples' chagrin. But overall it looks like the prognosis is much better for fine art in Cardiff College of Art.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Food for Thought

Britains Got Talent star and Cardiff Art College graduate, Nathan Wyburn, was in town this week exhibiting his food art. I dropped in today to see his work and have a chat.While making a portrait of Simon Cowell from marmite on toast may appear on the surface to be a populist gimmick, his art is quite thoughtful and being put to great use. He's become an ambassador for an anti-bullying charity, for example.

Nathan has also made a giant portrait of Rupert Murdoch (produced at the height of the Leveson Inquiry in 2012) made from small images of his phone-hacking victims. He's also made a recent portrait of the late Maggie Thatcher, poignantly using coal dust as a medium (she's fondly remembered by South Wales miners for defeating their strike and closing their mines). For me it's refreshing to find a young art graduate engaging with overtly political themes. He makes them accessible to a wide audience.

Personally I like the temporary nature of his works. They are sometimes made from perishable foodstuffs. They also often take topical personalities and events as their subjects. It's another challenge to the commonly held idea that art is timeless and universal.

Nathan says he's been constantly busy in the UK and overseas since he graduated last June. Of course, I'm very jealous, but very pleased to hear it all the same! I'll, erm, toast his success *groan*

Friday, 29 March 2013

Mixing with Hookers

Cardiff Castle Green
40 x 30 x 3.5cm
acrylic on canvas

Cardiff's less well-known castle, the Norman motte-and-bailey inside the walls of the 19th-century fantasy battlements.

In preparation for a green-fingered painting I've been playing with greens, as well as the obligatory violet and purple. There's something very restrained about Hookers Green, a great colour for verdant shadows. Meanwhile the background colour was a warm cobalt blue.

My next-door neighbour used to look after Cardiff Castle's peacock population, so these birds were obligatory!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Show me the Monet

BBC2 has been re-showing the 2012 "Show me the Monet" series at ridiculous o'clock in the morning for the previous fortnight. I've been viewing some of the programmes on I-Player with a mixture of horror and curiosity. All credit to the BBC for doing what they do best, the unthinkable, trying to popularise Fine Art on mainstream television.

But populism comes at a price, a pantomime X-Factor format. The jury (aka the 'Hanging Committee') are an art dealer with a commercial expertise in valuing art; an author that at least talks some sense and provides balance; a Simon Cowell-esque "boo hiss he's behind you" villain. Art is reduced to 'skill', 'emotional response' and 'value' . To add insult to injury the programme is presented by a saccharine BBC Breakfast sports presenter, making light of the entrants' misfortunes and generally stating the bleedin' obvious!

A mixture of well-meaning and talented (but often naive) amateurs and semi-professional artists submit their work to be judged and, hopefully, displayed for a handful of days at the Mall Galleries, London. I'll admit, the variety of works is interesting! On the other hand, the decisions of the Hanging Committee are often frustratingly unpredictable (but usually erring on the side of traditional skills and subjects).

I remember seeing an anouncement recently that SMtM wasn't being commissioned for a third series. That would be a shame! Art rouses passions and extremes of subjectivity. Get a presenter with a modicum of expertise, remove the judgement from its straightjacket of rationalism, maybe add a practising artist to the Committee? However much each person has strong (and different) opinions about art, it must be more fun than watching the next parade of 17 year old wannabe's singing karaoke on mainstream TV.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Christine with a Pipe

Christine with a Pipe
40 x 50 x 3.5cm
acrylic on canvas

This is a provisional title for my latest portrait painting and maybe will become permanent. I was initially presented with a series of quite racey photographs but chose to close-in on this upper body composition with the prominent addition of an unusual prop.

On the strictest of instructions from the sitter that the base colour be anything-but-orange, I chose a mid pink. The limbs frame the composition and I was quite pleased with the rough brush- strokes that form the prominent forearm.

Well, the whole thing may not bring down a government, but it was an interesting and challenging experience!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Opening my Banksy Account

Banksy Mousetrap, Kingsdown, Bristol (2008)
It's amusing to read the recent consternation about the Banksy stencil (or lack of) on a Poundland store in Wood Green, London. There are people trying to make big bucks out of something that is seen by many as illegal and antisocial.

I'll admit I'm a big fan of Banksy. He combines intelligence, wit and daring, always with great skill and often with a sprinkling of politics. His work has done a lot to convince people to treat graffiti as legitimate art. I've been an avid 'graffiti hunter' since my architecture school days when (for a student project) I designed a Graffiti Museum for Bristol. There are very many tremendously talented and imaginative graffiti artists working in Bristol and Cardiff. My local Cardiff park has hosted a "Roxe Jam" since 2007 where, every July, a 130 metre length of Railtrack-owned wall is repainted by an international collection of artists.

Street art, Cathays, Cardiff (2012)
One of the essential qualities of street art I've noticed is its transitory nature. Many pieces are scrubbed away by the local municipal cleansing department, the remainder are eroded by the weather, replaced by the artists or amended by their rivals. Their artists, like Banksy, are often elusive.

But, as Banksy knows from experience, it seems however much an artist tries to remain outside the establishment the gallery and auction house system will eventually reel them in. In the art world it's a strategy of the very best artists to always strive to stay one or two steps ahead. I'll watch with interest to see what cunning plan the Banksy's of this world come up with next!