Thursday, 29 May 2014

Portrait of a Diary as a Young Idea

Wow, four blog posts in one month! It's been a busy "arty" four weeks, including a pleasant overseas holiday followed by several days of creative events in Cardiff, culminating in a visit to the Chapter Art Car Bootique on Sunday 25th May.

Back to earth with a bump, I've tasked myself to keep an Artist's Diary. Using visual media to chart my feelings, thoughts and state of mind, I'm aiming to create one piece of work per day. I've set myself ground rules, which include:

* creating the work at a similar time of day (early evening)
* with a time limit of approxiately 1 hour.
* using my paints/pens and readily available materials (includes a small number of pre-made canvases)
* each portrait is to be in square format.
* only one 'take', no second chances

The start date was Sunday 25th May. I'm hoping I can sustain it until the opening night of the Cardiff School of Art and Design (CSAD) degree show on 7th June - this will be the final degree show at the Howard Gardens campus, a historic time, after which the university is closing its 48 year old buildings (and no doubt demolishing them).

Time-specific art appeals to my sensibilities. If nothing else it annoys the traditionalists who believe art should be timeless. I've a long interest in historical records, having been actively interested in local and family history since my teens. In addition, I volunteer with a mental health charity and have an interest in the use of art as a therapy, an exploration of inner thoughts. People with a mental illness are sometimes encouraged to record a 'mood diary' and, as everyone should be reminded, we all have 'mental health' of varying quality.

Only ...erm ...time will tell whether this experiment sustains itself and produces interesting results...

Monday, 19 May 2014

This is Democracy

"This is Democracy" (detail)
Recently I submitted a piece of writing and an image of one of my early screen prints, This is Democracy, to artist/curator Shaun Featherstone's Red Shoes publication. The magazine was published last week and, though the piece of writing made the final cut, the artwork didn't. That's a shame particularly for an 'artist led' political publication, but I remain optimistic that the Red Shoes initiative will do good things.

I'm fond of my early artworks (such as This is Democracy) which tentatively explored the cross-over between art and politics. TiD took an image of a mass public demonstration and superimposed it on a floral cotton fabric. This was a common theme in my work, which questioned whether art had real power to influence events. Though artists often play a part in wider political movements, their artwork takes part in a dialogue safely contained within the confines of the art milieu. Well, I was young(er) and cynical of everything in those days, but I think I made a valid point.

The power of art lies in its ability to encourage people to see (and engage in) their world from a slightly different perspective. Humans are fundamentally cooperative, creative and curious animals. Artists have sought, for many decades, to take their creativity to a wider audience outside the traditional art gallery context. Then it often gets reigned in and neutered!

Well, the curtain material shops in City Road, Cardiff, are still flourishing and I may soon pay them another visit. But maybe the debate should move onto different ground, such as the one Red Shoes is trying to inhabit.

"Red Shoes" events take place at G39 Gallery, Cardiff and (no doubt) the streets between May and October 2014.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Shift in Focus

A potentially interesting photography exhibition opened in Cardiff this weekend - "Shift: Ukraine in Crisis" at the Third Floor Gallery in Butetown. As the title suggests, the subject is the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, where pro-Europeans and pro-Russians are becoming increasingly violent towards one another. With an election looming in Ukraine at the end of May 2014, the exhibition intends to change its display at the end of the month - hence the "Shift", or what the exhibition blurb calls a "dynamic curatorial event".

Certainly in the world of fine art gallery system there is rarely an opportunity to react quickly to events. Exhibitions are booked months or years in advance. Art is traditionally expected to address 'timeless' themes and art production often uses labourious time-consuming methods of creation. Last year I came across a Danish fine artist, Thierry Geoffroy, who had attempted to address the problem. His 'Emergency Room' exhibitions give regular opportunities (often daily) for the exhibitors to enter the gallery and amend or replace their works as outside events progress.

Photography at least has the advantage of having a variety of regularly published news platforms - papers, magazines - as an outlet for its reportage. Digital photographs can be emailed within seconds. The Third Floor exhibition errs away from journalism and heavily towards the 'arty' photograph, laiden with symbolism and, dare I say, a beautiful but static view of a bloody civil war. It is open to question whether such a controlled, sparce and traditional display fits with the aspiration of dynamism, change and response.

Of course, every exhibition of art and photography that encourages the audience to scrutinise images and consider their attitudes to major world events is a very good thing indeed. All credit goes to the photographers (and subjects) for their courage and creativity in a hostile environment. In my humble view the "Shift" idea has potential to be taken much further in the future than it is on this occasion.

Exhibition runs till 22 June, with a 'shift' scheduled for between 26 May and 1 June.