The 20 days of 20×20 Day 12 – 12th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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The deadline for the annual Access Space 20×20 open art exhibition 2014 is 17th September. It’s free to enter and you can submit work in any medium on any subject as long as it’s 20 inches square.

You can buy a ready-made box construction “canvas” for £3.75 or you can construct your own.

There will be an opening on the evening of the 19th September 5.30 – 8pm and the show is open to the public from Saturday 20th. Access Space’s opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 7pm. Free entry.

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 11 – 11th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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Here is another seminal influence of mine, “Le Mystere Picasso” (1956, director Henri-Georges Clouzot). I saw this film for the first time on the TV in the mid-1980s but it was already considered a classic. I haven’t had time to go through all the clips in this playlist, but I recommend watching the whole film if possible.

In 1956, it would have taken some significant resources to capture live of timelapse film. These days it’s almost too easy to capture everything, and therein lies a problem. I have made life difficult for myself on many occasions, not necessarily because I missed something, but because I captured far too much media and then either didn’t know what to do with it, or else just didn’t have time to deal with it all.

In the embedded clip you can see some sort of confrontation going on as the director is about to run out of film in the current magazine. I have had quite the opposite problem, and last year managed to capture great long sequences of pretty much nothing. Watching paint dry is only novel once, and having made something of it in 2012, it just wasn’t funny the second time around.

Many years later, I have all these tools at my disposal; more cameras than I can use, a digital paintbox (see previous post) and my own film production facilities. And what do I do with it?


The 20 days of 20×20 Day 10 – 10th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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Many thousands of my fans will not remember a 1980s BBC TV series of six programmes entitled “Painting With Light”, which featured well-known artists using the, then cutting-edge, Quantel Painbox to create artworks with what appeared to be a new medium. The artists featured were David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, Howard Hodgkin, Sir Sidney Nolan, Larry Rivers and Jennifer Bartlett, and they were all filmed using the Paintbox, assisted by artist and technician Martin Holbrook.

I can’t find much online but I scavenged most of this information from a blog post by Tiernan Morgan (the images here are embedded from his blog, copyright applies).

As far as it being a “new medium”, I have mixed feelings. Hockney and Hodgkin used it quite literally, as a paintbox, although the luminance of the display gave it what Hockney described as “liquid stained glass”. Hockney is one of the most inspiring artists as he is willing to try new things and move on, rather than sticking to a formula and knocking out the same old shit forever.

Nolan’s work I’ve never liked and I can’t remember Rivers or Bartlett (it’s 30 years ago), but the artist that really stood out for me was Richard Hamiltion, not only for the quality of his work but also his understanding of the tool he was using. Hamilton used a number of source images to lay out a new work called “The Subject”, which is one of three diptychs. The final work is paint on canvas but the programme demonstrated some of the potential of the then nascent technology, if only as an aid to visualisation.

I hope the series becomes available again, it’s worth watching despite the almost universal proliferation of far superior digital tools.

The reason I am writing about this is that it was a seminal influence on my work, not necessarily the digital tool itself, but more the TV programme and how it gave some insight into artists’ working methods.

Anyway, here is a timelapse video of me “painting with light” from last year’s 20×20 sessions, after abandoning the paint pizza and wondering what to do next.

I’ll say more about this in the next post.

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 9 – 9th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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To recap for anyone who missed it, Access Space in Sheffield, UK, has an annual open-call, free-to-enter art show. The submitted work can be any medium and any subject as long as it’s 20 inches square. You can buy a ready-made 20 inch board from Access Space or you can make your own. The deadline is the 17th September with an opening event on the 19th.

Here is a composite panorama of 20×20 2013. Click on the image to view a high resolution version.


I’m never short of ideas although many of them are unrealised for various reasons. Sometimes it’s too complicated, or I don’t have the correct skills, or maybe too expensive. Sometimes they’re just bad ideas, although you can’t always tell at first.

I used to think of myself as an artist primarily interested in aesthetic work, but these days I try to embody a bit more in each work. That is not to say that my work is no longer aesthetic. I see it as a challenge to make beautiful things that have some conceptual depth. Easily said.

Some things just don’t work. That (ahem) pyramid for instance.

But never mind, not everything can be the amazing success that I am normally used to.

Anyway, this year I am running out of time, although I have a “brilliant” idea. In fact, I have several “brilliant” ideas although I think some of them are too “brilliant” to be possible within the time I have left. I have a readymade 20 inch paint pizza that I made last year but didn’t use, but something about it doesn’t satisfy me yet. I feel that I need to make it a bit more “brilliant” before showing it.


So, what’s it going to be then, eh?

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 8 – 8th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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In 2013 I continued the idea I used in 2012’s 20×20 show at Access Space in Sheffield, UK, and created another 20 x 20 mosaic. It’s entitled “The Feeding of the Four Hundred (The Black Flag of Freedom)” which is a reference of to “The 400”, the name for an oligarchy that ruled ancient Athens, also the name coined for a New York social élite in the 19th century, and the same name was used for a Colombian drug cartel in the late 20th century.


The red and black are symbolic of blood and oil and it’s a picture of Stalky Ringbits with an eye patch. The black flag is traditional to pirates and also jihadists, but red and black are also the colours used by anarcho-syndicalists, often used by modern pacifist-type anarchists rather than the old school bomb-throwing type. The title is also a paraphrase of “The Feeding of the Five Thousand” after both the bible story and the album by anarchist band Crass. The whole work is a mixture of references about the continuing war in the Middle East waged by western powers to control oil-rich countries and the corporate élite. At the time I was making it, the US and UK were squaring up to invade Syria, but were both foiled by their own democratic processes.

The paint drips on the side of the work are a small homage to friend and fellow artist, Richard Bartle, who created a series of “Oil Paintings” back in 2002. The series is a critique of the oil industry and on each one he left one edge with paint drips visible.

I am not a painter, although I sometimes use paint. In fact, I don’t think of myself as a specific medium artist, more a media artist in that I use whichever medium I feel is appropriate for the work. I used paint for this because I wanted it to look like “proper” art and the red paint makes quite convincing blood spots. The additional detail that the paint and the texture of the cardboard add is subtlely satisfying, even though the basic design is a very low resolution digital image.



I like the limitation of the 20 x 20 grid and I might make some more of these.

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 7 – 7th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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I must admit that I had forgotten that I never finished the ‘making of’ video from my 20×20 for last year’s show at Access Space, Sheffield, UK. After postponing the victory that is yet to be the paint pizza, I decided to take a different approach which turned out to be more like the previous year’s.

In recent years I have started shooting the process of making the artworks, if possible, although, after 2012, I realised you can only make a joke out of watching paint dry once and I ended up with far too much media, hence the delay in getting it finished.

Here are a few stills and I will edit and upload a ‘making of’ video at some point.

In 2012 I made a work entitled “HR Code #1: Humanus Legibilis Memento Mori” which is a little piss-take of the recent obsession with QR codes. It is a 20 x 20 mosaic of my personal memento mori, Stalky Ringbits, arranged in a form reminiscent of a QR code. It’s not machine readable, it’s human readable, hence an HR code and the pidgin Latin means “human-readable reminder of death”.

Stalky - 20x20 Halloween V1

I don’t understand why QR codes became so trendy as you need a smart phone to read them. What’s more you can’t copy them or remember them and the only thing they seem to be used for is containing a web URL. I prefer a more robust technology for that purpose, and that’s the memorable web address.

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 6 – 6th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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This is the point where I gave up on the paint pizza (see earlier posts) for the time being and decided it just wasn’t working well enough.

So, I had to think again from scratch. As I said before, I like to do something that has some relationship with the size, shape, geometry or numerology relating to 20×20 and I noticed that the carpet in our spare bedroom, where I was attempting the pizzas, has a dot pattern that I could count out to 20×20 and hopefully this would inspire a new “brilliant” idea. At this point, my working title for the work was “Clutching at Straws”.

But seriously, immersing yourself in ideas and embracing a technical limitation can be a very productive environment, and I was still confident that I would come up with something.

So, I laid out the plastic and taped it down in a 20×20 grid counted out on the carpet and asked myself “Where next, Columbus?”.

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 5 – 5th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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More postponed paint pizza from last year (see previous posts). Here I am priming bases.

With smaller ones, I experimented with drying them quicker with both a conventional electric oven and a microwave oven.


The microwave causes the blobs of paint to ignite and the technique cannot be recommended.



The 20 days of 20×20 Day 4 – 4th September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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Freud would have a field day with this.

Here is the next teaser trailer from last year, showing my temporarily abandoned paint pizzas (see previous posts).

The circle, of course, is pregnant with meanings, both cultural and symbolic, and, although it is a rather subtle addition of my own, the colours red, white, black, green and yellow are symbolic in an unfinished work that I am still working on called “World X: The Origin of Sin”, which is a playful meditation on gender, sexuality and race, and uses eating and food-related euphemisms to tell the story. You will just have to wait and see what that’s all about, but in the meantime it is a satisfying symmetry that these colours give me tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, basil and cheddar, gathered together in a metaphor for life that is a circular bread.

The 20 days of 20×20 Day 3 – 3rd September 2014 @AccessSpace #20×202014

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Here is another one of the teaser trailers from last year. My “brilliant” idea was to make a paint-pizza. A 20-inch paint pizza, of course. I have used this technique before, and it worked very well with smaller pizzas but I just wasn’t happy with the results and so I abandoned it as a failure. Or should I say, I postponed its success until another time. Maybe this year. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Why pizza? I have been making work about food for a while and it’s a satirical poke at the low-brow, manufactured trashiness of much of Contemporary Modern Art where you make something that is no more than process art but lend it some pseudo-intellectual credibility by associating it with a famous thinker, preferably Freud. Rather like fast food that comes with a donation to charity.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any brainy quotes by Freud about pizza, but google provided me with a link to the nearest pizza restaurants if I ever visit the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna.

Damien Hirst has made a fortune from his spin paintings made by interns, so maybe I’ll be able to emulate his success one day.