Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Love Machine

I have been challenged to make a longer film. This is something I have always struggled with as my tendency is to whittle things down to almost nothing. Why, I say to myself, (I am talking to myself a lot nowadays) would anyone want to watch this for more than 30 seconds? As yet I have't decided much about the content of the film, nor really how I should go about it, so mostly I have been sitting in my studio talking to myself and the cats. Otherwise I have been tinkering and scratching a new wave of flea bites.

This video, should you be able to see it, is a little love machine I have made. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Flea 3

For some reason the gallery's titular creatures have come back to life. My feet and ankles again resemble those of a late stage plague victim. At the same time I am watching the pre-apocalyptic spread of Ebola across the world. I have always been a bit nervous of this disease. Having watched too many zombie films in my youth I fully expect my insides to liquify and spurt from my eye sockets at any moment. Hopefully this won't happen at the next opening of Flea as Ipswich's artist community could be destroyed in one very messy afternoon. This opening went very well (apart from the re-spawning of the fleas) and a decent number of people turned up, although I singularly failed to photograph any of them and neglected to put a pen with the visitors' book. In fact I could very easily be making this whole thing up. One can see the photos I did take here . Our next adventure is a trip to London to the opening of Annabel's latest show Painting Objects which makes Painting seem a little cross.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Flea 2

The work is starting to come in for the Flea's inaugural exhibition. I am quite excited, I think it will look good and a few people may turn up. If only someone would pay me to run a contemporary art gallery in Ipswich then my life would be complete. At least at the moment it doesn't cost very much. My main expense has been buying a little plastic organiser for my screws and some sticky numbers. I need to nip to Lidl for some drink but surely people won't want to get too squiffy on a Saturday afternoon?

It is raining now so I am holed up in one of my offices making a skinny Latte last as long as possible. It is here that one most often sees blind dates limping along painfully. Today the victim was a blind woman whose potential partner filled the space between them with constant jabber. I distinctly got the impression that she wished she were deaf or that her dog might have an uncharacteristic fit of violent temper.

Anyway the reason for this post, one of our artists Jamie Clements has been tempted out of hiding and has started a blog impressively titled "The Most Powerful Man in the Universe". Have a look here.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 30 September 2014


I have been expunged from Axis. This is fair enough, I have been unable to pay my subs. I expected my profile to disappear but was surprised that all mention of my very existence has been scrubbed from the site. This was probably not a deliberate act, rather I think I have been edged out by newer, hungrier artists.

Saturday, 27 September 2014


I am visiting my daughter in Worcester Park she lives in a strange community modelled on, and named after, the Hamptons. It is a little like waking up on the set of Stepford Wives and I hold myself lucky not to have been stopped as I trundled my flat packed apparatuses along its perfectly manicured roads yesterday afternoon. I must repeat the journey this morning as I am heading to set up Enclosures at Canal in Haggerston. As is usual when I transport work to London it is a little worse for wear and I must first perform some repairs. As I entered the underground yesterday I somehow became entangled in a large wooden stand I was carrying. It's leg snapped off just below the joint. In retrospect I think perhaps I cut a strange figure brandishing a pointy stick and swearing, at least I had a lot of space around me. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Thin Letter

Back in the seventies I was in the local Cubs' football team, actually I was the substitute. The first match of the season took place on the day the family Pearl were to set off on holiday. So, the car all packed, my parents dutifully took me to the match in my strip and boots. Standing on the sidelines I was the only sub and, as we were well ahead at half time, I was hoping to be called upon in the second half. Later the score being something like 10-0 with ten minutes to go I told my father I thought we should hang on as I might be needed. I stood hopefully, shivering a little. Then the final whistle came. We had won, of course. I went back to the car where mum and brother had been waiting. It had been raining the whole time. 

Yesterday I received a phone call appertaining to my application for a commission in Bedfordshire. There were eleven artists in the running for eight places, good odds I thought. 

This morning  a letter arrived from Norwich with the results of my interview to become a lecturer (part time, one year, fixed term, hourly). I believe there were four or five of us and two posts. 

It is raining. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

There and back again

I have had an interview in Norwich for a lecturing post. As is usual I have no idea how it went. There were people, it seems quite nice people, and they asked me questions. Throughout I was more worried that they might notice that Annabel had dusted my hands with foot powder in order to make them less clammy. I was concerned I may have left a white handprint on my trousers. It would have shown up well as Annabel had made them blacker than black by running a sticky roller over them outside the building where the interview was to take place. When I remembered this I could only think about the chance that this humiliation had been spotted. 
I did notice that the interviewer that had shaken my hand at the start did not at the end. 

When we got home Annabel made me wear stockings in the back garden. She said it was for art. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014


I've got an interview - actually I have two, one for an art opportunity (again) and one for a lecturing post at Norwich. I am wondering about having another haircut. I am thinking there must be an ideal hair length at which you become irresistible to employers.

At the same time Annabel and I are just about ready to open our project space. This has been quite a well kept secret as it has taken me about 18 months to paint a room so it looks a bit like a gallery. It is to be called FLEA, which is ironic because we chose the name before being overrun by the little bastards. Our legs have sores resembling late stage plague victims.

So our plan was, in a really relaxed way, to start inviting people whose work we like to put on little exhibitions in a room in our house. We want to invite people who wouldn't otherwise show work in Ipswich and see if anyone turns up. Being naturally introverted we don't really mind if no one does. To break ourselves in gently our first show is work by four friends that might look good together. they are:

Hayley Lock
Justine Moss
Jamie Clements

David Kefford

and the show is called

Our Friends in the East...

more info to come.

oh this is a stab at a poster. The info might be wrong but if you turn up I promise to put the kettle on.

Monday, 25 August 2014

In which I mention Ryan Gander

Oh shit!
I read an interview with Ryan Gander this morning.

I hope the link works, it's very long winded. Anyway Ryan said that if an artist isn't supporting themselves with their work after ten years they should give it up. 

Damn damn damn...

I count this video as the start of my career

Note the date, 2004. I have but three months to get my act together! At this point I should mention that I finished university much earlier than 2004, much much earlier, but choose not to count the intervening "dark ages".  

However before I chuck up everything and just clear off I am reminded that just as an artist is able to magically say "this is art" they also have an uncanny knack of drawing a line demarcating "those that should carry on" and "those that shouldn't" just below their own position. So there is hope for us all

The only thing that really upset me in the interview was that Ryan didn't like artists to do a load of residencies because it was a waste of "Tax payers' money". Actually there were a couple of other things too that sounded a bit Thatcherite but perhaps that's my age showing again. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nothing to Report

One thing I have nearly learnt over the past few years is that while something in the studio might seem a great idea unfortunately it's utter genius may not translate into a gallery space. My current problem is making a thing that will provide for the viewer the tension of being on the brink of collapse and simultaneously not break down for a month. Even with my tweaking there is certainly more than a little danger of the latter. Mind you it wouldn't be the first time I have spent a private view taping things back together, and while such furtive repairs tend to make me sweat, I'm sure they make interesting viewing. The show in question is due to open at the same time as that great machine Frieze, details to follow soon. I am also looking forward to the reunion this coming Sunday of "The Count of Monte Cristo", an artistic cabal worthy of any of Holmes' greatest mysteries. The group is growing and hopes to cause mild stirrings in a number of locations in the following year. But I mustn't go on. My darling Annabel says she has grown weary of folk who constantly allude to future excitement, indeed she has had to limit her time on Facebook as it is giving her the vapours. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

English Depressive

I never finished reading American Psycho. I think I never got to the good bit as it was mostly about endless high end product purchase and ridiculous personal grooming. No one got killed. 

I left the book beside the toilet on the day I quit the marital home for a better life.

Now, relaxed and comforted in my new home I wonder if I should take it up again or leave it. A clean break. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Freudian Slip

"I've been worrying about some new work" I said this afternoon. I had meant to say "wondering" but having failed my cbt introductory course, it came out all wrong. I once announced (in a meeting) that I had made a "freudian shit" so this one is perhaps not too bad. In fact, for me, the acts of worry and wonder are common bedfellows.

The work I was worrying about is going to relate to Houdini's famous "bridge jump"escape. The one where he was variously locked in mail-sacks, bound in chains, welded into milk churns etc and dropped into a river. They weren't, as far as I know, illusions but physical acts of escape.

In Ipswich at the moment there have been calls to put up safety barriers on the Orwell Bridge in an attempt to stop the jumpers. There have been further calls not to do this as said barriers will inevitably spoil the bridge's architectural elegance. Obviously these people do not feel that its beauty is affected by the regular sight of a plummeting suicide. I'm not sure where I stand on the matter, will the barriers prevent suicides, or will they just divert them to more mundane locations and methods? Anyway the point of the "bridge jump" is that it is nearly, but not quite, a suicide. This is, I suppose, why people liked to watch it.

Some readers may be worried here that I may be considering some form of artistic self endangerment. Fear not, cycling over the Orwell Bridge was the closest I ever came to a near death experience and it is not something I intend to repeat.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Dove Cottage under fire from flaming arrows

The dreaded email arrived yesterday. I didn't get the commission. The pain has been dulled by the £500 I am to receive for my efforts. Such messages are not uncommon in the life of an artist and I often get  a strange feeling of relief. Meanwhile Annabel is getting angry and is planning to drive our car into Dove cottage. I have explained that it is protected by a rather stout looking stone wall and the chance of our 2CV making any impact is negligible. This said, Annabel's response to most sleights I receive is this lightweight ram raid (reader be warned) and to be honest she hasn't quite mastered the gears yet.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


After the interview at Abbot Hall I fell down some steps. I was descending into Euston Square station in the rain. Luckily as my feet flew forward both arms were flung apart and by reflex alone I grabbed the handrails spaced exactly my arm-span apart. I hung cruciform for a few seconds hoping someone had witnessed my fall and salvation. Unfortunately they had not. Today I am reminded of the event by the aching of the seldom used muscles under my arms.

Above is the view I snapped from the train to Oxenholme. I was moving away from the sun kissed hill, not towards it. Earlier I had left Abbot Hall at a run, it must have been an overflowing of adrenaline following an interview with a panel of seven. I am not sure of this number (there may have been eight or six) or what exactly I said, the panic I feel in such situations shuts down so many of my, already beleaguered, faculties.

Before the interview I spent some time lurking in the cafe and meandering round the collection. I think I spied my rivals, one preparing a presentation on her mac, the other circling a little like me. I tried to catch their names, written upside down on the sign-in sheet, but failed.

The morning had been spent making a sort of croupier's stick and model bicycle to push round my map. I sat, again in cafés, shaky from the sleepless night before enjoying the smell of coffee and toast.

This post is dedicated to Belinda, the lovely volunteer who tried to calm my nerves, gave me tips and told me there were only two people doing the interviewing. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


The first interview is underway, I will be last. I'm holed up in the resource area at Abbot Hall just waiting. One of the applicants, was in the cafe about half a hour ago. She had her laptop and printed presentation notes. My presentation, a map a stick and a picture of a bicycle is in a locker. It's dead centre, number 13. There is a show of Hepworth sculpture in the gallery one room looks very nice in the sunlight but I can't look at it, I want to be outside. 

Last night in the Dun Horse was a sleepless nervous experience. Men shouted in the street, other men shouted at them to shut up. The latter where my neighbours. There was no sink in my room, nor anywhere else save a basin in the toilet about a quarter of a football in size. My room was cell like and clean  apart from the fly on my pillow.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Glasgow Bound

On the train at last I am reading "The Shifting Shapes of Mountains", a chapter from my invaluable "Festival of Britain" guidebook. I am wondering how easy it would be to sculpt them out of mash potato like Richard Dreyfuss. 


I'm reading about scientists transferring memory between people by injecting RNA. It's very interesting, they've already done it with a hamster and a rat. I'm not reading the Lancet not even the New Scientist but rather a science fiction thriller from the 70s. It is a very manly world. There is an hour to go before my train so I am reclining on the concourse while Annabel texts me with ideas for my presentation. So far it is Beatrix Potter and Ferns. She is obsessed by fronds. I suspect that if she could she would sneak up behind me with a syringe. 

I have decided to move on to Mary and Dorothy Wordsworth's diaries. Maybe she got me. 


Being a bit of a misery and having done it at school, one of my favourite poems about adventure is that Larkin one. There might be at least ten percent of truth in saying it is behind my recent beardy growth. 

Poetry Of Departures

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
It's specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said

He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you ****;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I'd go today,

Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo'c'sle
Stubbly with goodness, if 
It weren't so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
Reprehensibly perfect.


This time worrying about disruption due to the Tour De France I have begun my journey to Kendal quite early. I should be in plenty of time for the seven o'clock train from London. One drawback has been that after leaving Ipswich I discovered an email asking me to give a short presentation about my proposal and enquiring if I need a projector. Not having brought my laptop I have politely declined. Instead I plan to explain my project by pushing a card board bicycle around a road map of Cumbria. 

This talisman arrived in the post this morning. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Working Through

Returning from London Annabel had dropped off on my lap and I, my phone having died, was forced to listen to the complaints of the woman seated in front. She and her young son had been treated to a day out at the zoo with Granny and Granddad. The boy was now tired and not very grizzly so we were treated to a constant tirade of of dissatisfaction aimed at poor Grandma. Apparently young Sammy should have been in his bath by now and they would never presume to take him out on such an arduous trip again. By now Granddad was feigning sleep having downed at least two cans of Strongbow and poor Sammy was only irritable because his mother wouldn't shut up. In an attempt to avoid getting grizzly myself I tried to do the artist thing and note down a couple of ideas in my sketchbook.

We had enjoyed a pleasant trip to Wimbledon to drop off Annabel's drawings for the Jerwood. The only downside had been my constant premonitions of doom. "Oh God Wimbledon is on, it will be Hell"(it wasn't), "Look at the queue we will never catch the next train" (we did). My pessimism was better received, by Annabel at least, when we got to the dropping off point and I saw the other artist's dragging their work in. "That doesn't stand a chance, its too big" (this was a six foot + rolled drawing), "oh dear, that won't do" (drawings framed in brown, rather than the regulation white), "he should give up now" (don't ask). I've often thought that people's criticisms of others stem from their own insecurities. I am clearly thinking very positively about getting the Cumbria commission. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014


In preparation for my interview I have had a hair cut! This is my first proper trim in quite a few years but I felt I should make an attempt to appear as if I can look after myself. Other reasons have also pushed me toward the hairdresser, the most important being Annabel's description of my hair as "Terry Nutkin-esque". When I was a boy my mother used to style my hair into what my peers called a "Purdy-cut" (they were calling me a few other things at the same time). So, having associated haircuts with humiliation for some time, I was quite impressed I let Guido anywhere near me. Uncomfortably blind (glasses off) I resolutely ignored the poor man's attempts to engage me in conversation while all around other customers chatted to their trichologists about cars and stuff. I left without looking in the proffered mirror.

Earlier I acquired two postcards and a compilation of Wordsworth's poetry. Putting them together creates an interesting effect.

No fountain from its rocky cave
E'er tripped with foot so free,
She seemed as happy as a wave
That dances on the sea.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


I was excited to receive this message from Booking dot com. 
"Hi Alex, your stay at The Dun Horse Inn is less than a week away!

We put together some useful tips and tricks to make the most of your stay. Find out what Kendal is best for and see how close popular attractions are to where you're staying.

It's time to get excited about your trip to Kendal!

Here are some recommended attractions just for you
Make sure you check out these must-see sights close to The Dun Horse Inn:
World of Beatrix Potter is 7.5 mi away
Lake Windermere is 8.2 mi away
Lakes Aqaurium is 9.2 mi away"

I am not sure what an Aqaurium is but I have noted it done for further investigation. The email went on to say that Kendal had been voted as a really good place to do a bit of clothes shopping. 

I have been looking at Abbot Hall and especially it's collection of paintings. There is a lovely watercolour by Ruskin as well as a rather disturbing drawing of some sort of serpent.

 A friend of mine has recently been delving into Ruskin's personal life and while he may not have been the Jimmy Savile of the nineteenth century (Lewis Carroll may have a claim on that one) there is nevertheless a touch of Rolf about him. It's a great pity "Two Little Boys" was one of my grandad's favourite songs and I have, until recently, been trying to learn it on the stylophone. 

My favourite images in the collection are by Romney. A drawing of a little boy watching a kissing couple and an unfinished portrait of General Wolf looking a bit peaky. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Unable to contain my enthusiasm I have put together this little test for an idea. It is a simple animation of some of the Dove cottage cards on eBay. I have also gone crazy and bought a few Whitehaven cards to play with. I think my proposal is finished, I'm writing this to put off checking through it and sending it off. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

L'autre Belle Poubelle

Cannes snapshots 2

The horrors of beauty. At one point we saw three generations of plastic surgery tottering down the street. 

In cafés old French men sit with their wives. When a young beauty glides past in hot-pants or bikini or sarong they let out a guttural growl. It is half lust, half despair. The wives seem unmoved or moved to pity by this infidelity. 

I try it with Annabel for a game. We search out the "woofable" but I can't quite manage it even in jest. 

On the first night we sit by the sea and watch. I am moved to bad poetry again. I keep hoping someone might comment and say. "Alex that is really good poetry, you should be a poet" but it just never happens. I follow a really bad poet on twitter, he is relentless, a bit like the sea. 

On the third day we hit the sea properly in the traditional swimming costume clad manner. It is warm and full of plastic objects and other objects that aren't plastic. We do the fun thing of clinging together in the waves until one rabbit-punches us. We are knocked down laughing and crawl out on our knees. 

Never laugh in the sea it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. 

The "I can see the sea!" moment is my favourite sea related experience. It always signalled the end of an horrifically boring and hot car journey which had to be endured nearly every summer of my childhood.

Wordsworth remembered something similar though more dramatic upon his approach to Whitehaven. 

"With this coast I have been familiar from my earliest childhood, and remember being struck for the first time by the town and port of Whitehaven, and the white waves breaking against its quays and piers, as the whole came into view from the top of the high ground down which the road (it has since been altered) then descended abruptly. My sister, when she first heard the voice of the sea from this point, and beheld the scene spread before her, burst into tears. Our family then lived at Cockermouth, and this fact was often mentioned among us as indicating the sensibility for which she was so remarkable."

I like the idea that the sea has a voice. In Cannes it woofs. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

La Belle Poubelle

Cannes Snapshots. 

There is a knocking door. Nobody deals with it, everybody is angry. We glance left and right to see if anyone is as cross as we. 

In my experience coach toilets are always full and locked their contents occult. Why this one is open I don't know. 

"David Essex" shouts a woman next to us. She hasn't got a rare form of Tourette's. There is a music quiz on the radio. I can't hear the questions over the noise of the coach. 

Meanwhile I am sucking Polos trying to make them as small and delicate as possible without breaking. I will never be one of those artists who can work endlessly repeating. 
Too lazy? Probably, and also far too much of a depressive to face the futility of it.

We spend ten minutes trying to break in to the flat next door. It's gate is the one that came up on Google maps but although the keys fit they will not turn. We finally see LaSurprise written on a nearby gate. This opens much easier. 

On leaving our apartment a man starts to remonstrate with us about   La Poubelle. I manage "Je ne comprends pas" and I tell him we are English but this does not help.  At this point I do an impersonation of a man revving a motorbike as there are two mopeds in the direction he is gesticulating. Thankfully Annabel remembers her GCSE. "Ah the bins", we must not use the bins, our bins are down the road. I feel suddenly at home. 

We part on good terms. 

Later we hear young Americans over the courtyard. They sound remarkably like seagulls. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Desperate Measures

On the sofa is a large pack of printouts. They include:
Timetables of coaches to and from Stansted airport  and the same for Nice airport.
Timetables of trains from Nice airport in case the buses prove unreliable.
A map so we can walk if both bus and train fail.
Boarding passes for both directions in triplicate.
Maps of the terminals at both aforementioned airports.
Maps of Nice and Cannes.
Photographs of our destination and points on the way.
Phone numbers, emails and written instructions of all legs of our journey.  
Three guide books of dubious origin and worth (there is an image from my favourite one here)

All these have been assembled by Annabel in a vain attempt to keep me relaxed on our journey.

A large section of the Prelude is given over to Wordsworth's experiences in revolutionary France. I am hoping that three days in a free apartment in Cannes will provide me with similar poetic grist when, and if, I get to Cumbria. I have never been south of Paris before where my enduring memory of a school trip was the sudden and impressive stream of red wine vomit that coated the inside of the coach windows from four seats back. Annabel's memory of Cannes is similarly unpleasant. Having arrived at night and without money she took the romantic option of sleeping under a pier on one of the beautiful beaches. When she woke she found her head pillowed by a great deal of sexual detritus. This time however her meticulous planning should mean we avoid such visceral experiences.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Expedition to France

We are planning a journey to France. As I am not the greatest traveller Annabel is making every effort to make sure that our journey proceeds without hitch. My worse fear is that some event or other will mean we will not arrive at our destination. Either we will be lost in some backstreet and be murdered by rent-boys (Venice), or I will accidentally be found to be carrying some form of contraband and be dragged away by customs officers (Budapest). Annabel says I have a tendency to become "a bit of a prick" when travelling. This time we are headed to Cannes, possibly to stay on Dr Picabia's yacht L'Horizon. Annabel has gone as far as to suggest that we run through the journey in advance by pushing little cardboard figures around on a map.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


Today I am presenting two plans and a short video clip for a small series of film machines I am making about the high wire artist Blondin. In both cases the fear is not that the walker will fall but that the machines will fail. I have also made a little more progress with my Cumbria proposal though I have been somewhat stumped by a request to explain exactly what the work I might make would look like. The rope wobbles, the gears grind.

Monday, 16 June 2014


I have just returned from a visit with my parents. As is usual on such a visit there was a medium sized list of things to do when I arrived. These included: cementing some steps, mending a fence, putting up two curtain rails and finding my father's emails. The next day we drove across the moors to visit my daughter in Leeds. As a child we often drove from west to east to visit my grandparents in Barnsley, then it seemed an immensely long journey. I remember their house as modest, green and smelling of lavender. It had a privet hedge and a stone bird bath at the front and at the rear a garden laid to stone with roses and a tree, furry like new antlers. The garden was the site of one of my earliest erotic dreams. There was a garage with a green double door against which my brother and I would kick a football. I have recently learnt that my Grandpa, as he was called, had had a whole chimney removed so that he could get his Jaguar down the drive.

This drive was made interesting by a discussion my parents had about Myrtle. Apparently she was not doing as well as she used to and had taken to turning circles in nearby fields. Difficult to awaken, she was often confused both as to whether it was day or night and to where she was supposed to be going. Myrtle is neither a relative, family friend, retainer, nor a pet, but a somewhat elderly satellite navigation device. She has recently been replaced by a rather educated man (as yet unnamed) but my parents still bring her along for rides.

Back home now I have begun planning for my visit to Cumbria. I have finally found a map that is neither too big nor too small and have placed stickers on the places I may visit. Some of the stickers have smiley faces, some sad. This is entirely coincidental.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

East End Hash

I have just stumbled round the Chris Marker show at the Whitechapel. It is a melancholic experience, you can feel he is dead. For some reason it reminds me of Annabel's photos of the photos of dead animals in a Parisian pet cemetry. It is good to see La Jetée on a big screen, although why people feel it's ok to chat through a film in a gallery, I don't know. Last night we went to see Tom Cruise look confused and no one said a word. 

Annabel is at some sort of art guru event being told how to be more successful. They are everywhere at the moment, mostly artists offering other artists a touch of their magic. Zap! pow! and you will be the next big thing. At least this one is free. I shall be leeching ideas out of Annabel later. 

Next up at 5pm is the Opening of News From Nowhere, a show at Kelmscott house touching on the lure of Utopias. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


I am planning my way round Cumbria using a guide book produced for the Festival of Britain and some old maps I have lying around. The guide book is called About Britain No. 10 The Lakes to Tyneside and has text by Sid Chaplin. Most usefully in the final pages is a Gazetteer listing:

 "places of special interest or character".

One particularly chilling description can be found under the heading Whitehaven: 

"Notable for its submarine coal workings, extending 3 miles out from the coast. The coal is shipped from the harbour".

Skimming over a more detailed map I have also found Greystoke Castle which I must visit. I was an avid Tarzan fan as a child, my favourite incarnation being Robert Ely. I may be remembering this wrongly but I'm sure he built Jane a tree house with an elephant operated lift. It was this simple piece of Flintstonian design that pleased me most.

Today, as part of my ongoing training routine, I visited a local Great House the gateposts of which I'm sure Tarzan and Jane would have approved.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


I have been asked to put together a proposal for a commission for the Cumbria Museums consortium. Having assembled an optimistic statement of interest I have a month to prepare my ideas. This is a paraphrase of my promise.

In my twenties, through no fault of my own beyond a propensity for saying yes, I ended up teaching The Prelude to a group of keen 2nd year BA English Literature students. I had not read the poem and knew no more about Wordsworth than most daffodil lovers. Although at the time I was able to talk more or less convincingly about some of its major themes and stylistic revolutions, I still have read only very little of it. Mainly I remember that it is cyclical in nature and investigates the observable world.I am interested in proposing a heroic bicycle tour between the three sites: Carlisle, Kendal and Grasmere. On my journey I would like to take in some of the less obvious tourist locations in Cumbria and visit the beautifully named Whitehaven and Maryport.  I will make a series of works in response to the places and people I meet and observe along the way. I might even produce my own epic poem in the form of words, films and objects. Each leg of the cyclical journey would result in a new set of work for each venue and I would like to end up where I started. 
There is an obvious perversity in mentioning Wordsworth in answer to a brief that specifically states “We also want it to challenge the usual descriptors and to reveal contemporary Cumbria to our visitors.” But it seems strangely relevant to me to focus on the history of the sites along with the realities of Britain today. 

Always one to focus on the important things I have almost completed putting together a bicycle for the journey that may not happen. I rescued the frame from some railings where, abandoned, it was slowly, and violently being relieved of its parts. The frame was a Carlton, nearly as old as I, and hand painted in black spray paint. Now dismantled, cleaned, resprayed, mantled with shiny trinkets gleaned from near and far, I have just ridden it up a hill for a suitably romantic photoshoot. 

It occurs to me I may need to get the front chain-ring gear working. I have heard that the Lakes are quite hilly.