Bolam Retrospective launch – 24th April 2014 #bolamat50

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Almost there!

24th April 2014 is my 50th birthday and marks the beginning of a year-long schedule of exhibitions and events to mark my first 40 years in the wilderness. Seeing as Tate Modern has failed to discover me, and the Turner Prize is only for artists under under the age of 50, I guess I’m going to have to just do it for myself.

The launch weekend starts on Thursday 24th April at Access Space, Sheffield, UK, 5-7pm and then onto the Rutland Arms (across the road) 7-11pm.

Access Space is a free, open-access media, arts and technology centre, and I will be showing a new screen-based generative artwork, displayed on three 40-inch screens. It’s called “HyperScape X” and will be accompanied by a small documentary exhibition about the previous four HyperScape works I made Between 2003 and 2006.

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The Rutland Arms is an exceptional independent pub with its own micro-brewery. There will be a wall-based exhibition called “Stained by Dead Inkjets”, of new collages made from old work and spoiled prints. These works will be for sale and there will also be a competition to enter.

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Both events are informal and free entry.Please come along at any time that evening.

On Friday 25th April I will be at Cupola Contemporary Art, Middlewood Road, Hillsborough, Sheffield S6 1TD. Part of the “Stained by Dead Inkjets” show will be included as part their “Process” show.

On Saturday 26th April I will be back at the Rutland Arms (upstairs) as Black Daffodil Press, selling my merch at a SPRING BOOK, CD AND DVD SALE, organised by Jude Calvert-Toulmin.

After that, if I survive, there will be much more. There is a regularly updated What’s On guide here.

HyperScape X – coming soon at Access Space #Sheffield 24 April – 5 June 2014

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I am primarily a visual artist and I made a lot of graphic imagery using various software and techniques. One of my all time favourite painting / drawing programs is the now defunkt SuperPaint by Silicon Beach. Adobe bought them up and killed off all their interesting software but I still have version 3.5 and several Macs old enough to run it.

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Back in the late 90s, I made several long series of hand-drawn images based on a grid. I spent many hours printing minimalist images on an Apple StyleWriter 2500 inkjet printer. I ended up with hundreds of images but no idea how to get them shown. However, one day I managed to pluck up courage to meet the then curator of the Rotherham Arts Centre, David Gilbert. He gave me my first break and in 2000 I showed a selection of images from the series “Colony”, as well as a large composite-printed image entitled “Metro Propane West”. David has moved on to greater things and I really owe him a debt for having the confidence to show my work. I guess I knew I was onto something but really didn’t know what I was doing.

Nowadays I know exactly what I am doing. Not really, but maybe I will when I grow up.

Surprisingly, I don’t have any documentation of the show. It was in my pre-digital days. At least, my pre-digital photography, video and social media.

In 2000/2001 I was working for the Lovebytes digital arts festival, running their media lab. Before that I had been working in corporate IT and, although never a really hardcore programmer, had been programming computers from way back in the 1980s. It was pretty inevitable that I would get into generative / algorithmic art.

It seemed kind of obvious that I could make a generative work out of the still images. Anyone remember Adobe Director? In the days before Flash and later HTML5, Director was the only game in town when it came to multi-media software. I couldn’t afford a licence but Lovebytes had the software and in their media lab I made a “projector” standalone program that faded gradually from on image to another. It worked well and I might still be able to recover the program.

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BUT, back in 2001 I really had no prospect of showing this work on anything more than a 15-inch CRT monitor. Never mind, I have only had to wait 13 years to show it on three 40-inch LED flat screens in 32 bit colour at Full HD resolution.

HyperScape X will be on show at Access Space, Sheffield UK from 24th April to 5th June 2014. Open 11am – 7pm Tuesdays to Saturdays, free entry.

Stand by for more technical info…

Portrait of the artist as a young man (stained by dead inkjets) #bolamat50

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Okay, here’s something I didn’t expect to come out of the “Stained by Dead Inkjets” sessions. These are some contact prints I made using inkjet prints of scanned ID photos from when I was 19 or 20 years old, and graphic images I made 20 years later.

I can’t remember why I printed these, and it doesn’t matter, but I was really struck by the cross-printing between the images. These diptychs will not be part of the show in the Rutland Arms because they feel like they are something else entirely. Four out of six pairs are really successful and I might issue them as a limited edition set of prints. After all, who wouldn’t want my boyish good looks on their wall, especially the distorted and mangled mug-shot of an insecure teenager as a reminder of the dehumanisation of conformity and the inevitability of corruption, age and death? Price on application.

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I am almost up to my quorum of 23 collages for the “Stained by Dead Inkjets” exhibition, and I will be showing between 12 and 14 of them, depending on how it looks. The exhibition will be at the Rutland Arms, Sheffield, UK from 24th April until 5th June 2014. Stay tuned…

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Stained by Dead Inkjets – Collage #6 (title tbc)

Stained by Dead Inkjets – the soundtrack of my life

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Stained by Dead Inkjets – collage #3 (title tbc)

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the title of the collection of collages I am making for this show is a paraphrase of a track by Throbbing Gristle (TG) on their album “Funeral in Berlin” (1981, Zensor). The original track is called “Stained by Dead Horses” and it sticks in my mind as one of those incredibly emotive phrases that seems to have a life of its own, far beyond the music itself. Other titles that stick in my mind are “Mission of Dead Souls”, “Maggot Death” and “You Don’t No”.

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“Funeral in Berlin” Throbbing Gristle (1981, Zensor)

Cover art by Val Denham, 1981.
http://www.valdenham.com/

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Similarly, TG’s name, as well as band names such as New Order, Joy Division and Theatre of Hate were extremely evocative, because they embodied such enigma.

My retrospective has already been fantastically productive, but one of the things I realised only very recently is that music has played a influential part in my creative development that I was only unconsciously aware of before. Although I do make music, I do not consider myself to be a musician. I use machines to do all the hard work. I just don’t have that particular talent.

What I do have though, is synesthesia. I wrote about this recently and, although I think I only have it mildly. By way of disambiguation, synesthesia is not a mystical state, it is a subtle neurological connection between the senses, and for me music and sound are strongly associated with visual image or impressions.

Strangely perfect. “Rebel Without a Brain” Theatre of Hate (1981, Burning Rome Records)

What I have come to realise is that, despite being only a mediocre sound artist, music and “organised sound” has been a fundamental influence on my work, even when it does not express itself audibly.

I’m not a fan of the minimalist “Untitled #1”, “Untitled #2”, “Untitled #3” titling strategy, and this is an opportunity to acknowledge my influences, even though the work is visual art rather than music.

As a result, I have decided to title all the “Stained by Dead Inkjets” collages after track names from albums or artists that have been influential to me. It’s a risky strategy. On one of the very few occasions when I have sold work, I lost a sale once I revealed the title because the buyer didn’t like it.

Stay tuned…

The tyranny of the blank page (with timelapse camera)

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My timelapse set-up for capturing the making of “Stained by Dead inkjets”

It’s a scary prospect to embark upon a project where you are committed to a deadline, but without knowing the outcome, and documenting it at the same time.

Any failures are immediately apparent to the rest of the world. But also the successes. I’ve done this kind of thing before and know that something will happen in the process, but not sure exactly what.

I decided to make new, A3-sized paper collages from old test prints and spoiled prints, but a lot of that material is A4, which left me with a compositional challenge if the works were not going to look like something plonked in the middle of a larger sheet.

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Work in progress

Also, a lot of the earlier work was very minimal and hard-edged digital graphics, but I wanted this work to be much more organic and dense. I always try to consider the audience and the venue, and these works are going to be shown in a traditionally decorated pub. Minimalism works well in a blank space, but on the busy walls of a public house, something more human and playful seems appropriate.

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“Stained by Dead Inkjets” #1 (title tbc)

When I was younger, I suffered greatly from the tyranny of the blank page. You know that paralysis when you can’t start because you are terrified of imminent failure. It’s not originally my wisdom, but I employ the strategy of spoiling the work in the first place. Many painters will smear a blank canvas with a random wash of paint to solve the problem, and I have found that this technique works for me. In the videos, you can seem me playing around with various simple techniques to distress the original material in order to spoil the canvas and break to paralysis.

The other strategy I employ is just starting. It’s no true to say I don’t think about what I’m going to do, but I believe in just doing something and being open to the opportunities presented by happy accidents.

When I write, I don’t plan, I just start writing. I write in fragments, and eventually, one fragment seems to go with another and so on until a thread appears. Once a logical thread appears, some of the fragments don’t seem to belong and so they get thrown away and might end up in something else. It’s the same with this work, after the first three collages appear to be finished, I have a visual theme emerging. I want the show to be a coherent whole, and these first “finished” works seem to have set the tone. It might all change before we get to the 24th of April, but it’s a good start.

There is a Vimeo album of the making of videos here:

Free events this week at 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield – organised by Access Space

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Taking down the 20×20 show at Access Space ready to show at 35 Chapel Walk.

This week, Access Space is taking last year’s 20×20 Exhibition to the gallery at 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield. It will be open 10.30am – 5.30pm from Wed 5th though to Sat 8th Feb. Also, there will be free events each day.

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The relaxation station at 35 Chapel Walk

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#CHDK-enabled timelapse camera ready to shoot the installation of 20×20 at 35 Chapel Walk.

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35 Chapel Walk, already equipped with picture hangers.

On Wednesday between 1pm and 3pm they will be showing how to build computers and install ethical open source software.

Thursday sees a demonstration of 3D printing and a presentation about Refab Space, our DIY FabLab and hack space, by our resident technology guru and hardware hacker, John Moseley, 1pm-3pm

On Friday James Wallbank will talk about crowd-funding and the possibilities of successfully raising money for your project or enterprise through Kickstarter, 1pm-2pm.

Saturday sees our Grand Tea Party between 2pm and 4pm, and performer Paul Newman (not the pasta sauce person!) will be in the the gallery all day engaging people with what he calls “life gamification”.

All events are free and there is no need to book.

Stained by Dead Inkjets / Tabula Rasa

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What’s it going to be then, eh? The tyranny of the blank canvas.

Some people never learn. After a partial failure with the New Bank of X Get Rich Rich Quick Scheme (see here), and the enforced postponement of No Glove Lost, I immediately decided to initiate two new projects for the Retrospective.

Well, they are new and old at the same time, and both are remixes of old work into new work.

From 24 April to 5 June, I will be showing some collages made from test prints and spoiled inkjet prints. So the work is not made, but it being made.

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Old, semi-generative printed work.

I am also programming a new generative work to show at Access Space over the same period. This will be using a library of existing images, some of which will appear in the collages. It’s a complementary double-header art clash.

As I go along, I have decided to timelapse capture the making of the collages. See below for the first four segments, showing me reviewing the old stuff and experimenting, in an attempt to establish what Paolozzi would have called a “vocabulary” for the work so that it has a coherence as a show.

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A “vocabulary” begins to appear.

The work is explicitly influenced by the work of Paolozzi, Robert Rauschenberg and Peter Schmidt.

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“Art Without Boundaries 1950 – 1970″ (The World of Art Library) Gerald Woods, Philip Thompson & John Williams (Editors)

Showing artwork in pubs is notoriously difficult for a number of reasons. The Rutland Arms is a great pub, but there is hardly a square foot of wall that is not interrupted by a window, a wall-light or screw holes.

My strategy for dealing with such an informal space is to make all the work the same size, mounted in identical frames and mounted at the same height throughout. Hopefully, this will give the work a visual coherence.

All the works will be A3 in size although I haven’t decided on the mounting and framing yet. Stay tuned to BolamTV for regular updates…