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.)

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
Add caption

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.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

There's Nothing Like a Kiss

Introducing the 'Molly's Odyssey' Trio

Here are a three images of the first pot in the 'Molly's Odyssey' series for Francis Kyle Gallery, to be shown as part of the group exhibition in which all 25 of his artists take part. This year's show, 'Jumping For Joyce,' scheduled for July 3rd-September19th this year, is based on the novels of James Joyce. I've chosen to concentrate on the last chapter of Ulysses, 'Penelope,' in which Molly Bloom muses on life, love, sex - especially sex -  men and women, her bottom and her breasts and just about everything else. Reading this famous 'soliloquy' made me think that were Molly alive today, and not a fictional character, she would be a first rate writer of 'bonkbusters.'

There's Nothing Like A Kiss

The Sunday Times best selling novelist, writer of 'sizzling bonkbusters,'  Rebecca Chance, has generously agreed to be my 'Molly Bloom.' In this first pot, 'There's Nothing Like a Kiss,' Molly, the fictional character, appears both as herself, lying on the bed, thinking, and also reinterpreted as Rebecca Chance, writing the remembered first kiss in Gibraltar, 'by the Moorish wall.'
Chance's novels go into forensic detail when it comes to fashion: we know the weight of the silk, the softness of the suede, the cut of this and edging on that, what the beads are made of and with what kind of thread they are sewn into place. Lace is never just lace, we can almost see and hear the bobbins clattering as the stuff is painstakingly produced to adorn a catwalk confection. It's not just the sex scenes that are graphic, the textiles are too, fetishistically so. And so it is with Molly's fantasies about shopping trips with her lover who will buy her gorgeous new chemises, silk petticoats and camisoles. I have tried to do justice to the softness of the silk petticoats that Rebecca Chance wore when she posed for the photographs, (photographer Krystyna Fitzgerald-Morris), and to the folds and flecks of colour. The shades of black were particularly challenging and wonderful to paint - albeit that painting with slips is a hazardous business since, ultimately, it is the kiln that decides whether or not the colour comes out right.


There is an abundance of roses on this pot. Molly says that she'd 'love to have whole place swimming in roses' so I have provided as many as possible. I too love roses and grow as many as possible - the rose on this pot is called, 'Alchemy.' It was a gift from my mother. There is a certain reticence among potters about mixing pink roses with pots. Many consider it 'kitsch.' I do not. I do consider their reticence a touch misogynist however. It derives from the often repeated anxiety that pots are 'seen as feminine' (Grayson Perry 2002), and that painted pots, in particular, are 'decorative...' 'decorative' being a disparaged concept, you understand, being inherently feminine.


One of the things I LOVE about Rebecca Chance's writing is her feminism. It's a thread that runs throughout the novels that I've read and never fails to leave you feeling good about being a woman. I have gone out of my way to make proudly feminine pots, consistent with my own desires but also with Molly's character, Rebecca Chances' writing and with her characters.