The first 40 years in the wilderness are the hardest – Bolam Retrospective T-90

Bolam Retrospective postcard front

The next 40 years will be a piece of cake.

Today marks the beginning of my press campaign and it’s only 90 days to go until the beginning of my year-long Bolam Retrospective.

The launch event will be held at Access Space and The Rutland Arms, Sheffield UK on 24th April 2014.

At Access Space I will be showing a new version of some old work that was never exhibited fully. It will be a screen-based, generative work entitled “HyperScape X”, and there will also be a display of documentary material. The show will be on from 24th April to 5th of June 2014. Free entry during opening hours, Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 7pm.

At The Rutland Arms, I will be showing a series of collages made from old work and spoiled prints, remixed into new work for sale. The exhibition will be called “Stained by Dead Inkjets” and will be open during pub hours from 24th April to 5th June 2014.

The launch event will be at Access Space 5.30pm – 7.30pm and then across the road to the Rutland Arms 7.30pm – 11pm.

Other exhibitions and events are planned but no dates confirmed. Later in the year, I will be showing some work at The Closed Shop pub in Walkley and also some moving image work along with an education project at Red Tape Central.

Also, look out for the High Street X Roadshow which will be appearing at art, craft and book fairs throughout the year, and BolamTV.

The project has no external funding but is sponsored in-kind by various organisations and individuals. If you would like to sponsor, contribute or host an event, please get in touch. As I keep saying:

“Flaunt it now, because you can’t take it with you.”

Contact details

Sponsors (so far)
Access Space is an open-access media & arts lab in Sheffield, UK.
The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street S1 2BS.
The Closed Shop, 52-54 Commonside S10 1GG.
Red Tape Central is training centre for music technology, information technology and business administration at 50 Shoreham Street S1 4SP.

2014: Happy New Year of the Bolam

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Okay, the silly season is over so it’s time to get back to work. It’s less than four months to go to the beginning of my self-curated retrospective of my entire life’s work. There will be a range of exhibitions, live events and online media for a whole year from 24 April 2014 to 23 April 2015. Some venues are confirmed but I am open to offers.

Please keep an eye out for forthcoming events on the “Events” page of this blog.

Email me at richard[at] if you want to be added to my occasional email updates. This list will not be shared with anyone else.

Please save the date of 24 April 2014, my actual 50th birthday, for a double-header exhibition opening event at Access Space and the Rutland Arms, Sheffield UK.

Also, please follow my Bolam365 blog which will have a post every day for the duration of the retrospective with links, news and examples of my work from the last 40 years.

In the meantime, have a happy new year

He who exhibits and runs away, lives to exhibit another day – 24th April 2014 (save the date)

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I have to admit defeat. Or at the very least, I have to acknowledge the envelope of my own human limits.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

After a mixture of other commitments and a few life problems (nothing tragic) contributing to a slowing of my output, I have decided to postpone No Glove Lost until some time in the future. The back story (the bits you haven’t seen) is turning out to be quite complex and I just can’t find the number of hours in the day at the moment.

More significantly, with the non-negotiable date of the launch of my Bolam Retrospective looming (24th April 2014), I really need to concentrate on that, and particularly the core document of the project, which is the Catalogue publication. I have only finished one issue so far but am planning a series of 12 that will provide a representative reference to my life’s work so far.

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When I began this retrospective, I started writing documents describing some of my past works and projects but without any idea about how they would be presented. Although it didn’t start that way, this document has become central to the project.

Issue two is underway, but I have a lot of research and writing to do before the series is complete. I am planning to publish the remaining issues one per month during the Retrospective year. All issues of Catalogue will all be available online for free, but if you want a printed copy with spot colour you will have to stop me and buy one.

Please save the date in your diary.

Issue one is available here.

“Panic in the galleries of Berlin, New York, London, Tokyo. I wonder to myself.” – Sigmund Freud

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Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have the charisma of Bill Murray, but out of the four Ghostbusters, I am Peter Venkman (Doctor Venkman, that is), the eternal skeptic with a lust for life. And coincidentally, also a lust for Sigourney Weaver.

However, I can still imagine myself in his shoes, negotiating the trick questions and ethical jungle that is being on the weak end of a desired sexual relationship with someone possessed by an unknowable entity from a parallel dimension.

That is what it is like to attempt to succeed in the “Art World”.

I have been listening to the Reith Lectures given by Grayson Perry. and so should you. I think I’m developing a it of a man-crush on him. He covers pretty much all of my hobby horses, and I could go over it all myself but Perry expresses it all a lot better than I ever could, so please tune in here:

What’s more he has a unique ability to rip the piss out of the very elite that are sitting in the audience, cheering and applauding him. So how does Perry get away with it?

He’s special, that’s how. Like Bill Murray, he’s an exceptional individual. It’s as simple as that. Grayson Perry is the exception that proves the rule. His work is thought-provoking, humorous and decorative, and he is charismatic, engaging and entertaining. I highly recommend his series of lectures.

Regular readers will know how much I hate the bullshit of the art world. I saw the following blog post recently and posted it on Facebook quoting this extract at the top of the post:

“Sometimes I wish I possessed the requisite attention span to absorb endless amounts of totally pointless bullshit.”

A friend who is very much on-message with Contemporary Fine Art posted a comment saying “I know how you feel, I don’t get astro-physics, wish they’d sort it out!”.

It’s a specious argument in that it implies that art can only be “got” by highly trained and specialised experts and reinforces the alienation felt by, well, almost everyone. But art and the physical sciences cannot be directly compared, and this is just an apology for an unsupportable and elitist idea that Contemporary Fine Art has progressed into a superior form, and that that form requires a trained expert to produce it and appreciate it.

Just more bullshit.

So why does everyone get so angry about art? Well it’s partly because there are no rules. There are no formulae that can be proved, there are no experiments that can be performed (except those that lead to further conjecture), there are no conclusions to be reached and there are no solutions that can be applied.

Consequently, everyone is on a kind of adreneline-fuelled, enhanced state of high-alert the whole time. Rather like the ancient King of the Woods, wedded to the Golden Bough, continuously on guard, only to be slain by his successor and pass on that crooked crown to the next stressed-out incumbent.

But what can you do? The gatekeepers are the curators. Perry characterises curators as being “the most powerful giver-outers of Brownie points in the art world”. And there’s the rub.

If you’re not prepared to get on-message then you are not granted entry. If you want the gatekeeper to open the door, you need to be prepared to put in your key and give it a whirl. I studied art briefly and stood on that particular gatekeeper’s threshold, but I decided Thorazine was a more responsible move that Rohypnol, and left Dana to take a little nap.

You also have a choice. Either get on-message or get the hell out of Sumer. If you decide to leave then you are on your own, and that is my world.

It’s a beautiful, but terrifying wilderness.

More on this topic soon…

Access Space’s Annual 20×20 Open Call Exhibition 2013


It’s that time of year again. This will be the eighth year that Access Space has hosted its open call exhibition of art. The only rules are that it must be 20 inches square, and must not be offensive or pornographic.


What’s it going to be then, eh? My virgin 20×20 2013 board.

Pre-made, box-construction boards can be bought from Access Space for £3.50 (see above) or you can make your own, as long as its 20×20 inches. I haven’t entered every year, but I always try to come up with something that responds to the 20×20 form. I currently have no idea what I’m going to do this year.

The closing date for entries is 11th September and the show opens on Friday 13th September.

Here is a timelapse video of me snatching victory from the jaws of disaster from last year.

The New Bank of X Official Launch – the movies and the photos.


The New Bank of X pop-up bank at Bloc Studios, 25th June 2013.

Brand it and they will come, and come they did. The New Bank of X is open for business and that business is to relieve you of any (other) currency that we can tempt from you.

That could be Pounds Sterling (check!), Korean Wons, (check!), postage stamps (check!), books (check!), CDs (check!), original artwork on a paper plate (check!) etc, etc. The exchange rate has not been finalised yet, but this was a good start.

How hard can it be? Piece of cake (check!).

Here are some of the commemorative photos from the official launch of the New Bank of X at Bloc Spring Fete 25th May 2013 at Bloc Studios, Sheffield, UK. It was a roaring success and I spent so much time talking, the following day I sounded like Barry White. More photos on Flickr.

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Other goodies available on the day were a sealed document of (binding) Terms & Conditions and some high visibility fashion-wear.

The next appearance of the pop-up bank will be at FORGE Contemporary Art, Design & Craft Fair, at The Workstation, Sheffield, UK on Sunday 23rd June 2013, as part of my High Street X stall. There will be the bank, a pop-up bookshop and a pop-up tuck shop. Entry is free and there will be 30 stalls in total.


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New Bank of X Official Bank Note Launch – Bloc Spring Fete 25th May, Sheffield, UK

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Printing money, how hard can it be? Pretty hard, actually, but not impossible and the process has given me a new respect for the world of banking. I remember seeing a tv programme many years ago about the design and technicalities of bank note printing. It’s a very complex affair with many details included for security rather than design reasons.

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New Bank of X One-X bank note, obverse.

A bank note is intrinsically worthless, but is a mode of exchange. You can meet me at the Bloc Spring Fete at Bloc Studios, Sheffield, UK on 25th May 2013 3-9pm (Facebook event here) and negotiate an exchange. The notes can be bought for other currencies, bartered for, or paid for in-kind. Each one is serialised and unique and there is a limited edition, although there will be other denominations issued in the future.

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New Bank of X One-X bank note, reverse.

I will publish a more exhaustive discussion about the graphic design and physical specifications of the note on my sister blogsite Black Daffodil Press at some point in the near future, and there is a Retrospective flyer with the design here. In the meantime, come along to Bloc Studios fundraising event for music, food, drinks and fun, and you can plant your seeds in my hedge.

Brand it and they will come – What’s on and coming soon


I’ve had a very busy few weeks, hence the lack of blog posts. However, my evil plan is working already. Immediately upon announcing the launch of the countdown to the start of the retrospective year, I started receiving offers.

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Presentations in the branding booth at my Bolam Retrospective Official Launch – T-minus 365 at Access Space

It’s all yet to be confirmed (tbc), but already I have provisional offers from a number of venues to show work or put on events. I’ll post more information about forthcoming events on the page here as things are confirmed.

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Presentations in the branding booth at my Bolam Retrospective Official Launch – T-minus 365 at Access Space

I have also started a work-in-progress “What’s On” leaflet with details that will be updated regularly.

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Presentations in the branding booth at my Bolam Retrospective Official Launch – T-minus 365 at Access Space

A couple of out-of-the blue recent offers were to give an artist’s talk at Rotherham ROAR (Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance) on the 8th May and a screening of a Bolam retrospective trailer at the monthly Showroom Shorts, organised by South Yorkshire Filmmakers’ Network, and happening TONIGHT!

I am open to any further offers.

Build-Your-Own-Barcode Competition – Amazing Limited Edition Prizes!

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I worked with barcodes a lot back in the 1990’s. When I say a lot, I mean I worked with one barcode symbology, but a lot. In 2001 I started a series of memorabilia-based works called “BARCODE” where each one was a unique barcoded eight-digit number from a “limited edition of one hundred million”.

It was my little joke about limited editions sometimes not being very limited. All editions are limited in practice, but because each number in my work is never re-used, it’s also a contradiction.


BARCODE 00000019 – “Baseball cap”, 2001

I always find it ridiculous when manufacturers of soft drinks or chocolate bars issue mass-produced fodder in limited editions.

The “Limited Edition” Retrospective flyer is an embodiment of several contradictions. I am not limiting the edition, other than the eight digit number. Each folded A3 poster contains 70 barcodes, and they don’t repeat, so there is a limited edition of just under 1.5 million of this flyer. However, each flyer has one of four different designs so it could be nearer six million if I wanted. The printed flyer also includes a badge.



The flyer contains a competition which is a challenge to hand-draw a working barcode. It is possible and here are the rules.

1. The barcode MUST BE FREEHAND DRAWN. No rulers, no computers, no printers, no copiers.
2. It must be at least 3 characters long, not including the terminating asterisks.
3. It must be machine readable.

I have made it easier by including the initiating and terminating asterisks. Code 39 is very error-tolerant and you do not need to fill the entire barcode. It is ok to leave space before the final character.

You can get a printed “Limited Edition” flyer from me, or you can view it online here. Also, you can download the barcode layout as a PDF and print your own. Remember to print in colour so that the guidelines remain red and laser-transparent. It doesn’t seem possible but it’s not as hard as you would think.

Here’s one I prepared earlier. I’ll give you three guesses what it says.


All your barcode are belong to us.

I will be available to scan your barcode at the Bolam Retrospective launch event on 24th April at Access Space, Sheffield, UK 2pm – 7pm. There will be a prize for all readable barcodes of three characters or more. Anything particularly ambitious or inventive will win you something special, although I haven’t decided what that is yet.

Note: This is not a democracy and the judge’s decision is final.