Lughnasadh, or Lammas as it's often called, is almost upon us. It marks the first festival of the harvest, and rituals have gone on for millennia to mark it. I am currently having time away from the easel, as I normally do at this time of year. I do it, mainly because all the domestic jobs need doing, and I also get time to relax and spend time doing other things. I make the most of the weather, and lately I have been visiting the site of the old castle at Brinklow in Warwickshire, just a short drive away from me. I have family connections to Brinklow, and nearby Stretton under Fosse and Monks Kirby. Ancestors of mine farmed land around there as agricultural workers. Also, for those that follow my work, I am a practising Hedge Druid. I am currently studying a course from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, which will take some time to complete. Hedge Druids are solitary practitioners. I tend, myself, to use the term loosely, as I do believe the term druid in its original Iron age sense was something different to how modern druidry is practised today. There is nothing weird about it, it involves the observance of old country lore, some spirituality, some study of mythology, reverence for nature, amongst lots of other things, and it has helped me "quieten" my oft fraught and stressed out existence! I mention this, as it is this subject which I now want to inject into my work. It may take me down a different artistic path. The great thing about being an artist I believe, is that there are no rules! If you want to paint a series of squares for a week, then change to circles the next, who's stopping you? You obviously need to learn some rules in art to get going, to form a basis of technical knowledge that will assist you to create work. For example, using water with oil based paint is never going to work is it? You need to crack open the turpentine or linseed oil instead! However, when you know your basics, then you can experiment. I often refer to my artistic practice, as akin to some mad scientist in his laboratory wondering what happens when you add one substance to another, what will be the effect? Not everything works, some things turn out odd, or just unexciting. Sometimes, it comes right. So, when I'm back at the easel in a months time, I will be injecting my interest of all things pre-historic and possibly druidic into my work. The Stikman works are always going to be bubbling away in the background, occasionally coming to the fore as new works arise. A lot of those works are now in storage, awaiting the day they can be exhibited. The large Abstract works are currently on show at Himley Hall near Dudley in the West Midlands as well, so if you're near, please do go in and see them, its free entry. Right, I'm off to form a list of all the household jobs I've got to get on with!
So, we're past the half way mark of the year. It has been a hugely traumatic one for many. I have just kept my focus on my work, and tried as much as possible to get further along with my "Stikman" works. Earlier this month, I was struck down by a badly swollen left foot, which turned out to be a combination of fluid retention, and a bad gout attack. I've spent this last three weeks with my foot raised up, drinking lots of fluids and reading. About a week or so ago, I decided that I would take the stikman series in a new direction. I had been looking at images of ancient petraglyphs, and primitive art. Not only from here in the UK, but also from other areas of the world. Primitive art has always been a fascinating subject for me. In fact, I don't really like to call ancient or tribal art primitive, as it can be quite a complex thing. It often had purposes completely different to how we in the "enlightened" west have used art over the last few hundred years. Realism, in terms of accurate representation of the forms of, for example, the human figure and animals, does not seem to be a high priority of these ancient artists, in much of this work. There is often a lot more going on, in terms of "style", representation or depiction. This is something we as modern viewers will never fully understand. It may come as a surprise to some, that I am fascinated with paganism. Not only the various forms of modern pagan spirituality practiced here in the UK, but also the tantalising glimpses of historical paganism as seen through ancient writers, and the wonderfully enigmatic historical sites such as West Kennet Long Barrow, the Rollright Stones, Silbury Hill, Avebury to mention a few of the famous ones. I felt, that as it has been an important subject for me, I would now bring it into the imagery of my Stikman works. I had briefly touched on this in some earlier Hidden Monster works, such as "Monster in Spirit", and the more abstract work "Triad" created last year, and exhibited at Himley Hall near Dudley this year.
(Left)"Triad" 2019. Acrylic on canvas.
Groups of three, or triads, are hugely important in druidism. The famous legendary mystical Bard of Wales, Taliesin, famously changed three times into different animals of land, sea and air to evade the wrath of the Goddess Ceriddwen, before she consumed him as a grain of wheat, he then grew as a baby inside her, to be reborn as the mystical bard. Triads are often depicted as Triskele's, or three spirals interlinked. Modern Druids often use the symbol of the Awen, the three rays of light, representing three aspects of deity, mind body and spirit, and also the points at which the sun rises on the equinoxes and solstices - the triads of the sun.
So, I have tentatively and fleetingly touched on this subject in this body of work. I shall now bring it forward in its various forms to take a special place. For me creativity is being like a magpie, picking through the tastiest choice bits, and keeping or storing them. Sometimes you go back to things, to see if you can re-use them. This is no different to the way I work, and I may return to revisit ways of working, and the use of certain elements. Prior to my recent ill health problem, I was taking Stikman into the realms of graffiti and street art. He became "MiStik", a sort of angry version of the Stikman. Yesterday I completed the last of those works called "Window pain". Very much a scream from the alienated, outcast hidden realms of society, its a cry for recognition in painted form on a wood panel, with lots of lettering on it. This way of working, I may return to, or fuse it together with the primitive aspect I'll be working with.
I have also been awarded a bursary from the MAIA arts organisation, to enable me to buy materials to extend my work into three dimensions. This will give me the proceeds to buy in plaster, wood, resin and other materials to create some sculptures and reliefs. I'm hugely grateful to MAIA for this. Also a huge thanks to A-N Artists organisation for the funding to enable me to devote the time to create this work. Without this funding, I could not carry on producing work that deals with a subject that is not represented that often in the artworld.
I would also like to mention, that a fabulous friend of mine passed away yesterday. Alan Harvey was a well known living historian specialising in the Medieval and Tudor periods. I spent many a happy hour shooting arrows with him in displays at Warwick Castle and Harvington Hall many years ago. He was also a very hardworking member of Dudley Councils exhibitions team. It was through Alan, that I got to exhibit my recent solo exhibition at Himley Hall near Dudley. A very creative and thoroughly pleasant guy, Alan will be missed by many people. My thoughts are with Pam and his family at this sad time.
Towards the end of each month on this blog page, I'll post updates, and other items for your perusal. As we're getting to the end of May 2020, I thought I'd have a look back at the last couple of months, in what has been a very disrupted and worrying time. You only have to watch or read the news to see all the frightening, tragic and horrible things that have happened regarding the present pandemic. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones due to this awful disease. However there are stories of hope, selflessness and inspiration that have come out of this situation too. It has been a hugely disrupting time for nearly everyone, due to the lock down(here in the UK). People have lost jobs, careers and income. The Art sector has been hit very badly, with venues having to close, lay off staff, and in some cases shut for good.
However, for myself, it has been pretty much - situation normal. Since 2016, I've been a lone artist. I hardly see anyone anyway, except when I have to pop out for groceries. I'm pretty much a hermit. This is one of the reasons my art is so important to me, as it gives me a purpose. I'm always seeing what I can create next. A couple of months or so ago, my solo exhibition at Himley Hall in the West Midlands was coming into its last couple of weeks, when the lock down came into effect. All the work is still there, in quarantine! Also, just prior to the lock down, my painted relief "Apologies for the inconvenience" had been hung at Compton Verney Art Gallery in South Warwickshire, as part of Outside-In's "signs" intervention there. I was to give a short talk at the opening of the exhibition, but all that has been put on hold.
"Apologies for the Inconvenience" 2020.
So, after the announcement of the lock down, I decided to concentrate my efforts on developing "Stikman Cometh". Being an lone artist, requires you to be extremely creative in regards to your work, but you also have to devote time to search out funding opportunities, and do all the other admin. A lot of artists find an income creating work that is "sellable". However, work such as "Hidden Monster and "Stikman Cometh" are bodies of work intended to be shown together in a large exhibition at some point in the future. They have an important message to convey about physical and mental disability, and how it feels to be cast aside, surplus to requirements. These aren't the sort of paintings that the average buyer will put over his mantlepiece! They take a lot of time and effort to produce, so whilst creating them, I need to search for funding opportunities. I was successful in being awarded an Engine Micro-bursary from Outside-in/New Art West Midlands/New Gallery Walsall, for research purposes. This will be put towards my personal research of Alberto Giacometti, and his almost obsessive study of the figure in space, in both two and three dimensions. Due to being financially challenged as a disabled person for the last few years, I haven't been able to afford to get to London to see Giacometti's work up close. So when all the restrictions have been lifted, and the galleries are open again, I will make use of this research funding to get to see Giacometti's work.
This month has also seen me have a written piece published in Disability Arts Online. The brief was to discuss your work, give examples of how a work evolves, together with examples of other work. It has received a favourable response I think. I've also(insert drum roll.......) done my first Zoom meeting! I have always found technological face to face meetings, virtual meetings or whatever, very odd. I've never really been comfortable with the idea. However, when everyone is doing it, you have to come kicking and screaming out into the modern world I suppose!
So, I've been pretty busy creating work, networking and getting all the associated stuff done that an artist has to do this day and age. Its very time consuming, you rarely get much in the way of income, but something inside you makes you do it!
With all the new changes here in the UK, the country slowly opening back up, we might see some changes by the end of next month, and things may seem a little different. I'm hoping within the next few months to offer work for sale here on this website. So please, keep an eye out for that.
Well, that's all for now - stay safe everyone!
Hi there, and many thanks for looking up this website! I've created this blog page, just to let you know what I'm up to, news on my art, where you can see my art when exhibitions come up etc. I intend to keep popping back and adding to this a couple of times a month or so, or when news and updates come in. Remember, I do have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, just click on the icons on the other pages of this website to pop over to them.
Currently, as I write this, the Coronavirus situation is still raging across the planet. I do hope you are keeping safe and well during this awful time. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who're suffering from this awful virus, and their families and friends. I also have a huge amount of respect and thanks to those in the medical profession, the support staff, and all those doing the essential work to keep society running at this dangerous and frightening time.
I often wonder how important art is, when society is facing such a huge challenge. Art isn't going to stop the actions of a microscopic virus. However, art is important to us as humans. It can give comfort, it can convey a message, it can show support, and it can be a chink of light at a very dark time. To me as an artist, its hugely important. I cannot operate properly unless each day I create something, whether that be a drawing, painting or a small sculptural piece. My art brought me out of a very dark place, when I felt as though I'd been thrown on the scrapheap, classed as "ill health retired" by the organisation I worked for. Slowly my world shrunk. I knew or saw less people. I slowly became a phantom. However, I still had my powers to create art. So here I am, alone, creating my art even now.
So, if you're reading this, be creative. Do some art, don't worry about it, just do it. It can be very therapeutic at a dark time. Most of all - be safe.