Thursday, 10 September 2015

Postcard from the Caliphate, 2015. Work in progress.

 Detail showing Asim Qureshi from Cage and Julian Assange from Wikileaks
 Detail showing George Galloway as a Hyena and Anjem Choudary as a Vulture
Detail showing Mohamad Emwazi reaching for a knife, with Bashar Al Assad appearing in the mirror behind, and the Saudi Kings - one in the mirror one on a horse

Postcard from the Caliphate, still in progress having now had its first firing, is based on Mark Gertler's Merry-Go-Round, 1916. It depicts the Caliphate as a hideous seaside funfair. I read an article in the Independent which reported that a British jihadi had written a tourist guide to Islamic State. The top two thirds of the pot are the merry-go-round horses with IS fighters and their assorted backers and collaborators, enablers, and allies. The lower portion of the pot depicts a collection of Islamist apologists, including George Galloway, Anjem Choudary, Julian Asssange, Asim Qureshi, Yvonne Ridley among others.  They dance on a beach surrounded by corpses and severed heads. The dancing figures are borrowed from Poussin's 'Bacchanal Before a Statue of Pan,' (National Gallery, London.) The horse-riding IS fighters are largely taken from Rubens' 'Fall of the Damned.' (Drawing in the British Museum, London.)

Monday, 17 August 2015

How To Look At Art, part 1: Poppies at the Tower, 2015

How to Look at Art grew out of my interest in watching people in museums. I too was there to look at the art, but watching the way the other visitors absorbed their experience of the museum and developed their memories of the work there, was almost as interesting. They were using the lens provided by their phones as least at much as simply looking, thinking and remembering. I have no idea if there is an ideal way to look at art. It strikes me that photographing the work, sharing among your friends and talking about it may be as good a way as any. I enjoyed watching people insert themselves into the works by being photographed in front of them. This was perhaps most pertinent, effective and, in some ways, most moving at the Poppies at the Tower. I was struck by the sheer numbers of people there, some - all probably - descended from survivors or victims of WW1. It was their vitality, their energy that really brought home to me the scale of the carnage. Their presence and approach - enjoying a lovely day out, in most cases - was in such vivid contrast to the devastation and misery that war brought that, for me anyway, it made the work, the river of poppies, much more affecting than they would have been without that interaction. So, here they are, just a few, recorded on a pot, from my photos of them photographing each other, themselves and the work. This has been fired now and awaits glazing and finishing.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Danse Macabre - now drying out.

Still very much in progress. It's drying now and will have its first firing soon. The colours will change once it's glazed. We're some way from that yet and there's plenty can go wrong, so I'm not going to speculate. I'm working a smaller pot at the moment, just to give myself a rest. These large, ambitious, complicated ones are incredibly stressful, particularly in warm weather. They threaten to dry out so painting with slip would have to stop. Thankfully the hot weather held off just long enough. I suspect it may be advisable to stick to smaller works in the Summer. Since making this pot and working on the smaller one, I have been amusing myself writing absurd, bawdy, seaside rhymes about politicians. I now know that writing nonsense is one of the hardest forms there is. Weidly, it has to make complete sense before it works as nonsense. That hadn't occurred to me. I may post them. We'll see.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Danse Macabre continues...

Details of drawing/painting so far:
Abu Bakhr Al Baghdadi, Assad, and IS fighter as satyr grabbing a knife
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Saudi Kings Abdullah and Salman
Erdogan, Khaled Meshaal (Hamas), Hasan Nasrullah, (Hezbollah),

Khamanei with British Isis fighter in bath cap - this is the one that wrote the tourist guide to IS..  That dragon has become a vulture.
Merry-go-Round horses.

The pot is, in effect, a merry-go-round. The characters - all of whom have become grotesques - are riding the horses. This is just the start. There's a long way to go yet. The Dancers will be circling the lower part of the pot. Stand by to see Galloway, Anjem Choudary, Moazzem Begg and assorted Start a War Coalition apologists joining in. What you can see now is the belly of the pot. The upper part will have more the merry-go-round mirrors and decoration.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Work in Progress: Danse Macabre

Selfie - May 2015, working on Danse Macabre
Danse Macabre - showing the first stages of painting. Below is the first layer of slip, black, over the terracotta ground of the pot. Below that is a working drawing and one of the photographs from which the drawing was, in part, adapted.

Peter Paul Rubens, 'Fall of the Damned,' British Museum

Mark Gertler, Merry-Go-Round, 1961, Tate Britain

Danse Macabre is the title for the pot in progress pictured here. It takes the Roundabout from Nightwalker  - and one of the plates in Land Sea and Sky section on my website - and makes that the central image and form of the pot. Danse Macabre is the IS pot. Nightwalker depicts a fairground as a religious theme park: the roundabout has Pussy Riot on its roof; the Ukrainian feminist group Femen is taking down the crucifix outside the orthodox Cathedral in Kiev; the Vatican staircase has become the helter skelter, and the Shia mosque in North London - once a Bingo hall - is back in its rightful place, a ghost train in a fairground. In front of the roundabout, at the theme part entrance, Anjem Choudhary has morphed into a transvestite stripper and is cavorting among pink bubbles. You can see more pictures and read more about Nightwalker here. 

Nightwalker is a satire, to some extent, but a mild one. Danse Macabre will be a much more focused attack. I have been looking at Mark Gertler's 1916 Merry-Go-Round, a satire on WWI, and at Peter Paul Rubens' Fall of the Damned. Aside from that I have been watching what goes on around me and that, as ever, provides most of my visual material for painting on the pots. Danse Macabre is the first of a trio of related pots, the other two will be Harpies and Handmaidens, and Total Eclipse of the Prophet or Tout est Perdu. The latter will be my memorial to Charlie Hebdo.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Farewell to Francis Kyle Gallery and starting life 'unrepresented' again

Francis Kyle Gallery closed in August 2014. I had been showing with them since 2009 and they represented me until 2014. Desperately sad to see them go. I loved showing with them. Only had the one solo show there, An Extraordinary Turn of Events, 2014 which was a huge success in terms of both sales, coverage and audience. My scheduled show for November 2014 was, therefore, cancelled. I got the news in July, two thirds of the way through making the work for the November show. I completed the work in progress - to the point where I could safely put it aside  - and then got on the with writing my book, 'Subversive Ceramics,' (Bloomsbury), which will be out later this year, December 2015.

The book is now in production and I am back in the studio. I'm finishing off the work that was destined originally for FKG and starting completely new material - and yes, it is exciting. It is particularly exciting to feel the sheer recklessness of working without an exhibition in mind- and very freeing. Francis Kyle may well continue as a dealer. I'll keep you posted on that. He still has his website, here:   and my page on that site is here - If you click on those pots you'll get three views of each one. I will be planning a show for the work done since 2012 and uploading images of the pots - on my website and on here.
That's it for now. Back soon with studio works in progress.