“Cast” by Trish O’Shea at Cupola Contemporary Art


“Doorways With Wishes Scratched On Them” & “You Are Beautiful”

I have known Trish for many years and, although we only cross paths occasionally, she is one of the people who significantly contributed to my idea of a major retrospective at 50.

A few years ago, we met to discuss some potential ideas for her, at that time forthcoming, fiftieth year, My involvement would possibly be in terms of technical production elements.

We talked about life, the universe and everything and I really liked her plans to celebrate that year with events and artwork of her own. The year in question came and went, and I didn’t hear anything, and wondered what had happened. But then she popped up again, out of the blue, with her show “Cast”, currently at Cupola Contemporary Art gallery in Hillsborough, Sheffield, UK.

Like Trish, I’ve worked for artists and creatives on many occasions and it is easy to let other people’s work overshadow your own. Although we don’t meet very often, I have always encouraged her to bring her work out of the closet, and now I am finally following my own advice.


“Artist’s Collection (objects found, collected, made and given)”

Trish’s show is not a traditional retrospective as all the work was created in the last couple of years. However, it does look like the product of a much longer period, and there are a number of different themes present, and media employed. Also, much of the work references past experience and interpretations of her surroundings. For me, the stand out work is the assemblages of found objects, ephemera and photographs, but the show also includes drawings, etchings, paintings and cast objects. In one work there is a parade of progressively more successful attempts to cast an inappropriately small knife in porcelain. I particularly like the hopelessly ambitious nature of it and the ultimate, symbolic success after multiple failures.

The show continues until Sunday 10th March 2013 and I recommend seeing it. All the work is for sale and Cupola has an extensive display of other artists’ work for sale.


The garden at Cupola gallery, Sheffield, UK.

Cupola gallery is another Sheffield institution, founded in 1991 by Karen Sherwood, and is still going strong. Cupola is a commercial gallery with a number of spaces in converted commercial buildings. It is one of the few galleries I have visited that shows and sells work outdoors as well as in gallery spaces.



I also spotted some other friends’ artwork on sale there, including work by Andy Cropper, Paul Evans, Jen Booth and Lyn Hodnett.


And not forgetting Karen’s own work too, which doesn’t get much time to get shown.

Ars longa, vita brevis – “Life is short but art is eternal” (kinda).

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What a treat! At the weekend we went to see the “Death: A Self Portrait” exhibition at The Wellcome Institute, London, UK.

Like many British people, I have a strong love / hate relationship with London. The UK wealth and population is grotesquely and disproportionately distributed between London and “outside London”. Many years ago, in my pre-broadband days, I was telephone-ordering a computer peripheral and the North-American voice on the other end of the line asked me “Is Rotherham in Greater London?”

Anyway, regular readers will be aware of my obsession with memento mori and vanitas art, so it was a great pleasure to be treated by my lovely wife to there on a trip to see the remarkable personal collection of Richard Harris, a retired antique print dealer, presented by The Wellcome Collection. The show continues until February 24th so if you want to see it, you’d better get your skates on, but watch those busy London roads. It would be ironic if you met your end on the way there.


It’s a great show, very dense and wide ranging. The stand-out work for me is the sculpture, particularly a beautiful bronze skull, and also a stunningly visceral mixed media sculpture  “Are you still mad at me?” John Issacs, 2001.

It said “No photography” on the walls although people were still snapping with their phones but, being British, I didn’t. However, I did capture Stalky having a look around.


We also took Stalky for a trip around London, including The Wheatsheaf on Tottenham Court Road, one of the watering holes of George Orwell, another hero of mine. Orwell was dead at 46 and achieved great work in his time. I’m older than that already, and that fact is a kick up the ars longa if anything is.

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Stalky Ringbits on tour, at The Court, Tottenham Court Road & The Wheatsheaf, Soho.

An unforeseen bonus was a trip through Tottenham Court Tube Station and Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1984 public art masterpiece.

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Tottenham Court Underground Station, 1984, Eduardo Paolozzi

After a few delays, I’ve got eight “Retrospective” flyers in print and online, and there will be lots more to come. Below is one of the earliest designs, but only just printed, commemorating a work of art that was anything but eternal.

Hippocrates was actually referring to art as in technique or skill, rather than what we now know as fine art, alluding to the time it took to acquire skill. Despite this common misinterpretation, remember life is short, and art doesn’t last forever either, so make sure you get to the shows while you can, and enjoy them before it’s loo late.


(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Love, Hate and Ambivalence? – Technophilia vs Nostalgia

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It’s fair to say I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Although I am fascinated by technology, science and the wunders of the universe, I see unchecked technological progress as the single biggest threat to health, wealth and the environment. I consider myself to be a traditionalist, although my chosen media are usually modern and digital.

Given the best part of a generation since I made these images, it’s interesting to think that, at the time, I wanted to work at a higher resolution. But looking at them now, they would not embody the same satisfying contradiction if they did not have the gloopy metallic sheen against the hard, pixellated edge. I like them a lot more now than I did then.

They were made using a graphics tablet and Silicon Beach SuperPaint 3.5 at 72 dots-per-inch, which was a standard screen pixel density at that time. SuperPaint is one of my all-time favourite software painting programs. I don’t know why. There is just something uniquely appealing about its strange selection of tools aimed at expressive creativity, rather than the monolithic blandness of Adobe Photoshop. The two programs are not interchangeable in practical terms, but I hate Photoshop, and have never loved it in the heady, irrational way that I laid my soul down before SuperPaint.

There were a number of other inspiring applications from those days, that were bought out and killed off by software giants, including Aldus IntelliDraw and Silicon Beach SuperCard. But that’s another story.

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A3 composite Retrospective poster of details from all 180 images.

I made 180 of these. I don’t know why.

They are all based upon a grid of 9 x 7. I don’t know why.

I hand-drew them. I don’t know why.

I called the series “Technophilia”. I don’t know why.

Actually, I do know, but I can’t give you any reason other than it felt like the right thing to do at the time.

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One of the Technophilia images at actual pixel size on the 1920×1080 Full HD monitor that I use these days.

So, am I just flogging a dead horse? I think not.

In the period since I made them, we have crossed several interesting technological boundaries. One of them is the ability to shoot and edit Full HD video at home. I was a child in the 1970s and had no access to cameras at that time, and no prospect of it. And then, almost without noticing, I have an HD camcorder and can shoot higher-than-HD time-lapse video using cheap stills cameras.

However, any Digital Cinema technician will tell you that simply throwing more pixels at the screen does not necessarily improve the experience for the audience. Contrast ratios and the relative perception of black are fundamentally important. Also, those edges of perception are significant too, in this case the ability to see the square pixels. This work could not have been achieved at a higher resolution, and it’s unlikely that I would have made them if I was working on current desktop computers. And here is the ambivalence. I love the technology I have now and would never go back to the 1990s, even though it was a highly productive time and I am grateful for it.

So, despite always wanting to hurl myself into the future, there were moments when the technology was just right for the purpose. I still have the software and contemporary hardware and will be revisiting these techniques at some point, but not out of nostalgia, and one day those machines will fail for the last time…

There is now a Retrospective flyer featuring this collection of images. Each leaflet is printed with one of the 180 images, and a composite, fold-out poster of all 180. Collect the set!

(If you live long enough.)

Worked, finished, published. Doh!

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It’s been a long time coming but I have finally made a book of “World X”, and the day after delivering my first batches to the bookshops, I spotted a typo. Oh well, I’ll claim the first 20 are collector’s items.

It feels like I have been living with this for a long time and I’m glad it’s out there now and I can move on. Rather like my first Hard Shoulder CD back in 2000, I feel like a psychological barrier has been overcome and I can publish other stuff that has never made it to print.


World X – A Speculative History – Version T-minus X & Version XX

It’s available from, like, actual shops as of yesterday. Currently, that is The Old Sweet Shop, Nether Edge Road, Sheffield S7, and Rare & Racy, Devonshire Street, Sheffield S3 7SG.
http://rareandracy.co.uk/ (under construction)

There is a PDF online here.