Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Other Side Of The Artist Coin

I am being dragged, not kicking, not really even wimpering, into our brave new world. Not only do I now Blog, Tweet, Face, Link In, Follow, Join, Favourite, Pin, Share but now I also have set up shop on not one, but two, on-line galleries. I am feeling quite smug really. On one of the on-line galleries, Artfinder, I even have 9 followers. No sales yet after 4 days of being “open” but 9 followers which is something. I gather the aim is to collect as many followers as possible, follow them, click, tweet, share, etc. all these connections and hey presto! Ker-ching - sales galore!

This week I was talking to an artist friend whose work and practice I admire. I have been impressed by how often he sends out an email to say he has a few pieces in a show here or there, or another solo exhibition in another town. I asked him if the galleries found him or if it was the other way round. He laughed and said that 99% of the time he found them and along the way had been rejected by more than he could count. But still he was buoyant and ready to send off another round of emails introducing himself to yet more galleries. I was impressed with his energy and resilience.

And yesterday I attended a lively and informative talk about galleries, and contact and marketing at Pallant House Gallery, organised by Unity Arts Trust. Many and various aspects of and approaches to increasing sales and contacts were covered and I realised that no matter how good or bad a piece of art is the artist still has to not only stick their neck above the parapet of their safe and private studio workshop but has to be fully prepared to be shot down. On top of this the artist has to dedicate creative time to this side of their art practice: not quick, tired 5 minute snippets of time here and there. Marketing and networking need to be embraced with a positive and thick skinned attitude. As Edmund De Waal, one of my heroes, so wisely said when being interviewed by Alan Yentob last year just before his big New York show opened, the worst thing that can happen to a piece of art is not that it will be criticised or rejected, but that it will never leave the studio.

Those words resonated with me as I am a scaredy custard when it comes to saying, please look at my work, please like my work. It is too close to asking please like me. And although I think on-line sales would be great, (the other (on-line) gallery is Saatchi of course) there is nothing like the real thing and it really is time for me to toughen up and find that voice, get out there and put it about, so to speak!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


Connections appear when you least expect them. Last Sunday I went to London to visit.....  the Isabella Blow show at Somerset House and  I am not proud to tell that I think the only other time I have ever been there was to ice skate. Neither am I proud to say that this exhibition wasn't at the absolute top of my list, even after many years spent in fashion and textiles, but with many recommendations and much encouragement I headed off. 

I'll mention the down side (for me) first. I thought it was badly laid out, too cramped and not brilliantly lit. But the upside! The upside blew all that out of the water. I was inspired by the stye, the verve, the creativity and the scope of the pieces on show. These were brought to life with videos of Isabella talking and sort of wafting about and a magnificent film of a McQueen fashion show. I was mesmerised by the clothes, all worn by Isablella. To have been spotted by her, as indeed Treacy and McQueen were, was the gold ticket. I loved not only the hats (made for her  by Treacy), the dresses and the odd shoes which she liked to wear but I also loved the way she put everything together. She was a true stylist, she was truly inspirational. This was pret-a-porter sculpture and art

In the shop I found a good collection of cards, books and makeup - cool!

The next event in the day, after a fab lunch at Tom's diner located in Somerset House (where I somehow managed to fall of my stool) was a bus ride to Tate Britain to see the brand new Richard Deacon. Now I thought this was a bit of a giant leap for me but I was looking forward to not only seeing this show but also to seeing the newly refurbished Tate Britain.

This one was instant wow and totally leaning towards an upside only. The new rooms are  large, airy and well lit. They compliment work of this scale and even on that first weekend there was room to  walk around freely and get up close to each piece. Touching and caressing was  not allowed I suspect but the pieces inspired that response in me. I wanted to walk through them and to sit under them. I certainly wanted to draw them.  The curves were fluid as were the layers of glued wood which had been bent to flow and ripple. The shapes and pulse of these pieces were uplifting and inspiring and ...... they made me think of Philip Treacy hats! Or rather I imagined that Treacy could have sat in here and gone home with a head full of ideas for hats. I hadn't expected any link between the two but felt richer for having seen them back to back.

The Deacon at Tate Modern London is on till 27th April and the  Blow at Somerset House finishes on 2nd March. So you'll have to go soon if you want to do the same

Thursday, 30 January 2014

London Wore Many Coats

London wore many coats yesterday. The day started bright and sunny and was business as usual but by lunchtime showers took everyone by surprise. I started my day feeling foolish for carrying an umbrella but by lunchtime I was feeling quite pleased with myself as I walked across Millennium Bridge looking out onto the river and St Pauls.  I was on my way to Tate Modern to see the surprises Paul Klee had for us all.

It has been years since I have seen more than a handful of his paintings so to be immersed in this historic body of work was a delight. Each period of Klee’s life, each direction of his work was chronologically displayed with not only the full information about his materials and methodology but also was clearly set into the history of that period. His time as tutor at the Bauhaus was a rich period where he experimented with style and content and use of colour and materials and it was most interesting to have this period also clearly set into the context of the political extremes experienced in Germany at that time. Art is always powerful when set in real time and to see an artist’s development and progress is exiting and inspiring.

As I walked through this big exhibition, some 12 rooms or so from memory, I was interested to hear other visitors’ comments. My eye was caught by a couple strolling around at the same speed as I was and I overheard them comment on “what a large show of small paintings it was”. And I looked again, for even though the works shouted out from the walls none of the works were actually very large. There were the first and founding colour explorations from his North African visit, his experimentation in method and style during his Bauhaus years, (in both cities)  his slowing down at the beginning of his illness, and then his speeding up at the end with his deep felt and strongly voiced political response and even though these paintings felt huge and carried such weight they were not actually big paintings.  

As always I was thrilled to see original works of art: there is a similar rush with live music, and I was humbled and inspired to see all this work, to see his notes in margins, to know that Paul Klee had actually framed some of these pieces himself and as I walked back across the river, now bathed in late January sun, I determined I would  draw more and doodle more and hope to be always surprised by art.

Don’t miss this one. Check Tate Modern for opening times.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Sainsbury's ...... but not for groceries

Another New Year and I find myself in Norfolk, Norwich to be precise, for another few days with another question:- and so what to do this time? It’s been a long time since I have visited the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and I am so pleased I made the decision to check it out.

The title of their current show intrigued me: Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia. It seemed like a pretty broad subject and so it was. I can’t remember a more eclectic exhibition. Paintings sat shoulder to shoulder with old maps, photos, furniture and more and the title itself came from the phrase master piece which used to describe a piece that an apprentice would make to demonstrate their accomplishment and which showed that they had sufficient command of their trade to be henceforth regarded as a master. Hence master piece

The first room was full of faces and each one was looking out from a different moment in history and each had its own story to tell but they were all connected by the simple fact that they all had connections to East Anglia. In modern times East Anglia may seem like it is sitting out on the periphery of things but it is the case that until recent times, in geology terms - barely 6,500 years ago - that this part of Britain was part of the continental land mass of Europe. It still has a special connection to the region of Northern Europe and because of this has been a major economic, political and religious centre for centuries.

As I walked through this vast exhibition of the story of the melting pot that is East Anglia, I was thrilled to learn, amongst other things, that John Hedgecoe took the pic of the queen that was used for the first postage stamp, that Cuban born Peter John Emerson, Walter John Clutterbuck and Olive Edis were forerunners in the late 19th century new world of photography and documented the now long gone ways and people of that life.

I gazed at Gainsbourghs, Constables, a Singer Sargent, a Dufy, three Maggi Hamblings (wonderful!), an Eric Gill, a portrait by Lucien Freud of Cedric Morris and vice versa, the set of prints John Piper designed for the first staging of Benjamin Britten’s Death In Venice at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1973, and amongst my favourites, paintings by Ivon Hitchens, and John Virtue. I said it was eclectic! And it is worth visiting as one of your first exhibitions of this New Year. It runs till February 24th.

Happy New Year!