Ocean

Some of the most fruitful ideas come in the time between sleep and waking. As you drift to or from unconsciousness the brakes are off and I find ideas emerge with a momentum all of there own. That’s why I keep a sketch book by my bed, to note down ideas before I forget them. Once committed to paper I can relax and sleep in peace.

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The latest product of such a dreamlike moment is ‘Ocean’. Pendulums again, this time contained within plastic bottles stuffed with waste plastic. I am experimenting with LED lights to illuminate the bottles. If I can light the perspex rods and use them as optical fibres then the results may be interesting.

[ Note: I have continued to work on this piece and put it forward for an open call for the MK Gallery in Spring 2020. I am pleased to say the gallery has selected ‘Ocean’ for their exhibition ‘MK Calling’ and it will be on view there from February 14th to the end of April 2020. ]

‘Community’ at Wycombe Arts

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View through ‘Community’ with the artist visible behind

From Saturday 6th April to Sunday 14th April 2019 my installation, Communitywas part of the ‘Time&Place’ exhibition at the Wycombe Arts Centre. The installation took two full days, with a team of four, but was very successful.

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The array was lit with red and green LED spotlights. The shadows cast by these were complimentary, green and red, and worked very well.

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Detail of magnetic pendulums with red and green shadows

The whole array was in constant motion, driven by two small electromagnets hidden in the base. The ninety-eight magnetic pendulums repelled one another as planned and the movement of one was passed through the whole array, except for the two pendulums which held no magnets.

I chose two asymetrically placed ’empty’ pendulums to be part of the community. Whether these are independent souls, who choose not to be part of the whole, or whether they are excluded or for some reason incapable of involvement I leave to the viewers interpretation. Their number could be significant. One viewer asked if they were lovers, frozen in the moment while all around them the world carries on. I liked this reading of the piece.

While the spheres at the end of the pendulums were the focus of my sculpture, the long acrylic rods by which they were suspended proved equally attractive. They had shown that they were very optically active when I showed a smaller array in Bridlington. Here the number of rods and the sympathetic lighting combined to give an effect which caught people’s eye as soon as they entered the exhibition.

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The best part of the whole exhibition for me, however, was the conversation with the viewers. I had numerous long discussions with people and they were universally positive. Many people thought the pendulums motion mesmeric and deeply calming. There was a journey towards the piece, with first impressions of scale and optical effects and slow appreciation of the sensual, kinetic movement of the pendulums as people approached. When people moved onto the stage then the slow, random oscillation of the spheres took the viewers attention. Some people just stood and watched for several minutes. At one point I put a sofa next to the array so that people could sit down and relax as they watched the array.

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You really need to be there to fully get the complete effect but this video gives a sense of the experience. Hopefully I will have the chance to show ‘Community’ again soon. Many people said they hoped it would get a wider exposure. I will work hard to make this happen.

Installing ‘Community’ in High Wycombe

This is the A-Team, from left to right Bruce Sherring-Lucas, Steve Cripps, Simon Blanchard and myself. This was the team that built my idea and turned it into reality. I might have made the pieces but Bruce, Steve and Simon put them together, and took it all apart at the end of the show. I could not have done it without them (or Tall Graham who was there when needed). I can’t express how grateful I am or how lucky I feel to have such wonderful friends. Thanks too to Ruth and Dan at Wycombe Arts Centre for making it all happen.

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We installed ‘Community’ over two days in early April 2019. I had picked up the constituent pieces from my studio at Digswell the evening before, so we were ready to start as soon as Ruth Gunstone, the Arts Centre manager, opened it up.

The first task was to fit the wooden base together. My studio did not have enough room to make this before the installation so, as with almost all of ‘Community’, the first time I put it together for real was at the venue. Pleased to say it all went like clockwork.

The upper half of the aluminium frame, which would support the array of pendulums, was then constructed. Two and a half metre lengths of box section tube were joined with push-fit, steel reinforced joints. These had to be hammered into place. A task completed with much gusto by Simon and Bruce.

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The pendulums themselves hang from four clear perspex sheets mounted within an aluminium frame. Again, this was constructed using push-fit joints.

The top part of the pendulums was fitted into the holes in the perspex sheet. Each acrylic rod is held in place by an acrlic bead, which acts as a universal joint allowing free movement horizintally, and a silicon ring above the bead holding it in place. This ring is firm but adjustable and the level of the pendulums can be adjusted easily.

The upper cube is then joined to the lower sections. This can be done horizontally. The frame is light enough and the joints strong enough to make this the easiest solution. Once the outer fame is complete the inner frame is hoist into place, using pulleys, and attached to the suspension wires.

The lower parts of the pendulums, with the spheres containing the magnets, are then glued into place. The height of the pendulums can then the adjusted to make sure they are all at the same level. This is critical for the array. The pendulums must all be level so that they repel one another evenly. This is done from both the base and the inner frame. Bruce was responsible for most adjustments at the four metre high inner frame.

The pendulums were level, and all that remained was to put the final trim to the base and switch the electronics on for the first time.

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An exhibition of reliefs

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Brocket Hall, a stately home near Welwyn Garden City, surrounded by parkland and two golf courses, was the venue for an exhibition of several of the Digswell artists in 2018. Myself, Jane Bottery, Julia Holt and Kirke Raava were invited to show some of our current work. The exhibition was housed in the golf club, which is the busiest part of the estate. I showed four pieces, all geometric reliefs made of of highly reflective aluminium elements.

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Ninety-nine Corners Turned [2018] – aluminium on painted board, 50cm x 50cm, framed and glazed.

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Eighty-Five Corners Turned [2018] – aluminium on painted board, 50cm x 50cm, framed and glazed.

All the pieces really shone in the sunlight. The combination of reflections and shadows was very striking.

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Turning Fibonacci’s Corners  [2018] – aluminium on painted board, 50cm x 50cm, framed and glazed.

The pattern in this work was based on a Fibonacci spiral, similar to that in a sunflower, and again reacted beautifully to the changing light.

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Three Circles Turning [2018] – aluminium on painted board, 50cm x 50cm, framed and glazed.

A smaller composition with prime numbers of aluminium elements arranged in three concentric circles.

A second exhibition, with talented printmaker/artist Suman Kaur from my MA group, of reliefs and 2D work is taking place at Edge Grove School, near Aldenham, Hertfordhire. The private view was very well attended by students, parents and staff from the school. Edge Grove is a prestigious, independent boarding and prep school and the Head of Art, Diana Evans, another University of Hertfordshire MA alumnus, invited Suman and I to show our work and talk to students and parents.

I dont have photos from the exhibition but I showed four new reliefs and a couple of older works.

I have a larger work, with about four hundred aluminium pieces on a ground 120cm x 120cm, under construction. I hope to show this early in the new year. Location to be decided.

New work in 2 and a half dimensions.

Reliefs are an attractive form. Sculptural but not. My tutor at university called them ‘two and a half D’ in a faintly disparaging manner. I guess they’re something other, a projection of the truly three dimensional into a two dimensional form.

Since the exhibition in Yorkshire I have taken a short break from the large magnetic installations to work on something different. Familiar themes of geometry/order and the random/chaotic but evolutions.

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Ninety-nine Corners Turned [2018]   Polished Aluminium on board, 300mm x 300mm

This relief was a development from something I did several years ago. That was a smaller piece, with only 36 white elements. I used small, angled pieces of polished aluminium. I expected them to be optically active and the results exceeded my expectations. The piece came alive in sunlight. The reflections and shadows were something special.

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Three Standing Circles [2018]    Coloured Perspex on board, 300mm x 300mm

This composition occured to me when I was looking through some old photographs of stone circles. I had a couple of summers travelling around Britain taking hundreds of pictures for ‘joiners’. Inspired by David Hockney’s photocollages from the 1980s.

1. Stonehenge [1996] Photocollage, 1000mm x 1000mm 2. Boscowen-un  [1996] Photocollage, 600mm x 500mm

The circle shape inspired me to make a relief composed of three concentric rings of coloured perspex elements. Again, I had anticipated reflection and shadow but the coloured shadows cast by the transparent pieces were particularly engaging.

I have already sold the first work and am producing more work. This is a rich seam and I am inclined to dig a bit deeper.

Installation at Artwaves

I was commissioned to install an array of thirty-six magnetic pendulums for the Artwaves Festival at Bridlington Spa in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The venue has held an arts event for the last few years, inspired by the Hull City of Culture bid, and attracts thousands of people to the week long festival. I exhibited in the main hall as one of three emerging artists. There were many other exhibitors, from commercial stands to craft and urban/graffiti artists.

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The event gave me the opportunity to show my art outside of the south east of England for the first time. It also entailed a good deal of technical and organisational work so that the piece could be transported in a small van, constructed and taken down in a few hours. That it all went without a hitch was a great relief.

I spent several weeks designing a modular version of the array which could easily be moved and fitted together quickly in Bridlington. The perspex sheet, from which the pendulums were suspended was strengthened with an aluminium frame. A new base was made with the electronics fitted beneath. Black mirrors were added to each magnetic pendulum bob to enhance reflections and improve the aesthetics of the array.

It took an hour to load, five hours to travel and a further five hours to put the array up at the venue. It all went very smoothly, apart from a broken perspex pod which was quickly fixed in situ. I have to give huge thanks to my friend and roadie, Simon Blanchard, who helped with the whole process.

Once the festival opened the real work began. Over the weekend more than four thousand visitors came to the Spa. I spent two days talking to a huge variety of people, from families with small children to older people with a real interest in visual arts.

It was gratifying that everyone who I spoke to was enthralled by the piece. They would almost all approach the array, spend a quiet few moments watching the movement of the pendulums, then say something like ‘It’s hypnotic’ or ‘mesmerising’ and ask how it worked. I had a number of suggestions for places to show the array, from the Tate to the Ferens Gallery in Hull. Now I am confident that the array can be installed in any suitable venue I will be looking to opportunities to show it more widely.

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Bridlington Spa itself was a great place. With it’s dome, like an inverted Wedgwood cup above the hall, it provided a fantastic backdrop for the array.

At the end of the festival the array came down very quickly. From the doors closing to driving away was only thirty minutes, so again the modular construction proved its’ worth.

Looking back on the experience, I learnt a lot and found it all rather exciting. I signed mey first autographs and had many wonderful conversations with people intrigued by my work. All in all, something really positive and a step towards national exposure.