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in the studio, yo.

A couple of days ago, I had a little showing of new works in my temporary studio digs in New Cross. It was quite unlike anything I've ever done before, despite it being a pretty common thing to do in the art world: have a studio showing of new works.

I was slightly out of my comfort zone, because I was showing my #newsideproject works and portraits of listeners - paintings and drawings - after a long period of doing performance and installation works.

The show was a juxtaposition (sorry, but it's the best word, despite its art school connotations. - Ed.) of dialogue and gesture, humanity and technology, text and figure, monochrome and titian-inspired colour.

There's something quite different about the gestation of paintings and drawings, and the process of inviting people, pricing the works and hanging them that is well-known, but very drawn out. I realised that I quite like the instant gratification that happens with performance and installation works.
Either people get it or they don't.

By the same token, this was the enjoyable part about painting again - there is a slowness to the work and people observe the paintings in the same way that I observe the people in them: carefully, detached, objectively and with interest. Which is why they needed to be paintings, rather than photographs or videos or even a performance work.

As many of you know I have a funny relationship with painting, which is why this series of works has taken so long to appear.

I have been drawing, observing and photographing people in the act of listening (especially at experimental music gigs - an excellent control space) for ages - interested in what listening looks like from the outside.

And because they were going to be obviously figurative and portait-like, I guessed that the works would probably be paintings, but given my awkward history with painting, I procrastinated like you wouldn't believe. I tried to make them into photographs (inspired by Alfredo Jaar's portraits of revolutionaries), drawings, possibly videos.

Nope. Time and time again, they remained as paintings.

So, finally I relented, thanks to the hospitality of David Turley and Caitlin Yardly and their studio. I spent a month with oils and brush, really enjoying the process in the mean time.

And it became apparent that I was right about the choice to paint them. I like these portraits. They're exactly what I wanted them to be - gestures in slippy, slidy material, with frayed edges.

Yes, they're images of people listening, but they also look like people doing loads of other things. Listening is not a codified gesture. It's not something we're used to 'looking at'. We know what it feels like and makes assumptions based on context, but it's not a knowable action.

An antithesis to the human, painterly, coloured portraits are the Siri conversations I've been playing around with for a while - the #newsideproject works.

These are about the non-human listening - listening as algorithm. By saying well-known hip-hop lyrics to Siri (the Apple-acquired voice-activiated assistant on the iPhone 4S and above), I have ended up with these bizarre 'conversations' between art/poetry/pop-culture statements, and an approximation of a response.

There is no understanding, no meaning to the dialogue and they're amusing. Especially if you have an appreciation for hip-hop lyrics.

These works are drawings - hand-drawn text (white on black again) and paintstaking replication of the Siri background. And the action behind the drawings is so much fun. I end up in tears of laughter having these 'discussions' with the iphone app. I also have developed an even deeper love of hip-hop, having done them.

Hip-hop is poetry. It is so beautifully lyrical and narrative and filled to the brim with words and meaning and entendre. It's little wonder that Rap Genius became a site, as a way to really understand the messages behind the code and colloquialisms.

There is already quite a range of these works, but they're still going. I have a whole playlist of songs to do and am already taking 'requests' for the works (in art terms, this would be a commission, in case you're wondering).

They're fun and flippant and meaningful but not too bogged down in earnestness and steep history. Which is why for the studio show, they were the perfect partner to the paintings.

Selling things
It was also really nice to sell some of the works. Apart from my online sales, I haven't had prices on works in a long time and it was a new experience in going back to some old-fashioned ideas about art being in people's homes (or offices or whatever). The seeming antithesis to the experience, I have enjoyed making things that people would like to own - lengthening the experience to years' worth.

Rather than a 3-hour durational performance that people might pay £5 for (or not), or a small slice of a conceptual piece, these works are 25-year durational works that sit and brew in people's homes - they probably ignore them for days at a time and then finally notice them for a whole 6 minutes. Again and again and again.

I like that idea.


bank, dacs and sandback

Ooh. See what i did with the title there?
There's a subeditor rolling in his grave over that.

The weekend before this last one, I took some time between workly appointments to trip down New Bond Street on a mini gallery mission.

I mostly wanted to see the BANK exhibition at MOT INTERNATIONAL (so many caps!), but it was nice to see a David Jablonowski show at Max Wigram and a Fred Sandback show at David Zwirner to take in along the way.


I had heard of BANK - perhaps in relation to Melbourne's own cheeky anonymous collective, DAMP and also as part of the YBA cheeky bastards era of UK art. And I have always been into MOT as a gallery, so it felt right that the two seemed to meet up.

The exhibition is a collection of images, ephemera and original FAX BAK words, as well as a sculpture, a painting and a beautiful light box. It does all seem to be flirting with the exact commerce of art that the collective jabbed at for so long, but I'm sick of artists not being allowed to bit the hands that feed them, so I'd prefer to embrace this particular quirk.

And, if i had a medium-sized pile of money sitting around that i could invest in art, I would promptly buy all the FAX BAK originals. Not only because they are brilliant, but because I thoroughly enjoyed laughing maniacally at their content.

I didn't enjoy having to stifle said laughter because nobody else was laughing, but goddamn the works are hilarious. Not just for straight-up wit, but for the sheer embarrassing close-to-home-ness of it all. All that artspeak that I have been super guilty of using in press releases and blurbs about my work, ripped to shreds.

I enjoyed looking through the table of ephemera, although it was slightly overwhelming, and the lightbox was quite a beautiful object, as was the large-format black'n'white photograph. I can honestly say that I really didn't like the sculpture of the BANK team - it was a little too Devo without being Devo enough. But to not like one thing in a whole gallery of works - that's pretty good.

David Jablonowski at Max Wigram Gallery

I was intrigued by this show, especially as I popped into the Patricia Piccini show at Haunch of Venison on the way there (which featured a lot of work I had already seen in this show, so read that instead) and there seemed to be a recurring amount of waxy gunky being poured in the scene - crude oil in this case, bio-viscera in Piccinini's case.

The Jablonowski installations featuring lots of synthetic display-type, media-influenced materials, lots of silver powder coating and plastic shapes, combined with moving image and/or light. I'm still not sure if it was to my taste, although I wasn't completely repulsed. I am a little bored with install-on-floor, and would have liked to see the work get up a little - but there was a bit of 80s Patrick Bateman feeling about the show, which was interesting to me.

To be honest, I actually preferred the Pavel Büchler series of acid and nicotine drawings in the back - something about the simplicity of form and oxidisation process had me. I enjoyed looking at the studies of hands and the survey of the ways in which people hold cigarettes. And I usually can't stand work that glorifies smoking, drugs or alcohol (I think we deserve better art than that).

Fred Sandback at David Zwirner

But the highlight of the afternoon was easily the Fred Sandback show.

His work is site-specific installations of wool/thread lines and geometric shapes that play with perspective, triangulation, linear planes and dimensions. He uses simple colours, often black, red and blue, to outline and alter the relationship between the viewer and the space.

I first saw his work in Vienna at MAQ years ago it was so great to see work like this installed in a commercial gallery; to play with the space through perspective and simple movement, to have my sense of vision and spatial assumptions messed with in such a delicate and concise way - voilà.

The spiral staircase was the perfect place to install a floor-to-ceiling work and the variety of works and spaces created in the gallery was perfect, and the gallery was packed. So deserved.

this blog didn't have anything to do with DACS, but it made nice wordplay, so you'll just have to forgive me.



I seem to continually pick up on accidental themes when checking out art. Recently I've seen a stack of work related to words and/or text - perhaps its the didactic nature of words i've been craving.

Whatever the reason, it's all about the letters.

John Latham and the APG at Raven Row.

I first saw works by John Latham at the Whitechapel library/reading room about 3 years ago. It was his series of works on books and i remember being relieved that art subverted books, whilst revering them and that writing and the written word still had a place in art.

i also discovered the Artist Placement Group - artists that believed in being embedded within 'society' - organisations, workplaces, schools, etc, etc, that the concept, process and open engagement of an artist's life was the crux of a practice worth investigating.*

Raven Row hosted a retrospective of the Group's work, which I only found out about on the day of a sound performance by David Toop. Phew!

I didn't get to see too much of the show, but I did get a chance to see some great posters and text by John Latham and his placement at the Scottish Office, some beautiful fifty (currency) prints by Barry Flanagan, the impressive steel sculptures/industrial interventions of Garth Evans and the great TV Interruptions installation/videos by David Hall, connected to his Scottish TV connection. 

The David Toop performance itself was great. An improvisation piece - it quite an intense work that was like a freight train through my skull at some parts. I closed my eyes the whole time and it was just immense. It featured a variety of instruments, found objects, electronica and vocal distortions (which reminded me of Alice Hui-Sheng Cheng in Australia). Documentation from his placement at the London Zoo was shown in the exhibition.

Ian Hamilton Finlay at Tate Britain

I have always cringed at the term concrete poet. In the same way I have cringed at the term music concrète. And I cannot tell you why. There is something hard and horrible about the word concret that neither poetry nor music holds. But that's my thing and I need to get over it.

Especially because, as a concrete poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay was quite a joy to discover. He makes words into things. He makes objects into words - plays with the relationship betweent the two and I like  the sign/signifier relationship, even if it's passé to most other artists of my era.

A series of works/words in the main gallery hall, there were installations which played upon severity of The Message (as an idea in itself) his large hanging stone 'tablets' The World Has Been Empty Since The Romans is in equal part reassuring and ultra depressing. Crumbling and precarious, the Words are only just held, they're swaying, like some kind of odd bling around the old building's nave.

Then there were his monuments to plaques. These odd, flat columns/pedestals holding flat plaques - taken off the walls for which they were seemingly intended and bringing them into the gallery space, making them discreet objects and Art. Not just a salutory relationship between words and art, but more significant than that.

I also loved his display of worded tiles, prints and other text ephemera. Perhaps for the same reason I love John Latham - an artist embedded in the written word and beautifully designed things - tiles and nautical natures.

I hadn't heard of Finlay before this exhibition (I'm pleading foreigner, before you jump down my throat), so I'll have to do some more research on his work.

Lawrence Weiner at Tate and Lisson Gallery

I didn't manage to get to the Lisson Gallery show, but I put it there to show that Larry was big in london for about a month. Crossing East and West, yo.

When i saw them they were apt, as words. And I quite enjoyed that you see them only if you're walking up the stairs between floors. A series of nonsequiturs, but in big, bold and blue text. I'm not sure if that's quite in the spirit of the nonsequitur, but that's what the words themselves - the meaning of them - feel like.

Some of them hit a spot with the slightly vulnerable zombie I was impersonating when I saw them. Others are not in their finest form. I can say that I have seen Weiner's that have wowed me more, but I enjoy being slightly disappointed sometimes.

Whilst their presence in the Tate Modern is quite an afterthought, though. Which is possibly intentional. I suspect the Lisson Gallery is a whole lot more Front and Centre.

Mel Bochner at Whitechapel

I saw this show so many times - en route to the cafe, the auditorium, other shows and by the end I kind of liked it and kind of hated it.

If I'm honest, I didn't really like a lot of the text works - large letters, squished in and a little overdone.

However, I did really enjoy a work about measurement - numbers, rather than words - as significant elements. The series of coloured canvases that stretched across the gallery wall, all of various sizes, and their widths painted across the work. All the works, lined up to present a continuous linear measurement of the space, according to the individual measurements of the paintings. And as you walked through the space, it was like a Wes Anderson tracking shot, almost following you through the gallery.

Which is sort of how I felt about my relationship to these words works that I kept running into. Like text and words and clarity-of-meaning were following me, peering into my soul a little and nagging me to work out what it is that I really want to say.

*I still believe this and wish that I could continue doing this to the level they have. I have had a little success, here and there (with the AURA project and a workplace residency), but still a way to go.


template business

apart from my mother, who has already lodged a complaint that the she sees red mobile template is ugly, is there anyone else who has an opinion here?

i've switched it back for the moment - read into that psychologically what you will - but for those who are regular readers on the mobile device, would it be very annoying to stick with the default site look?

go on, flame away in the comments.

ps. i made a new page on here for the stuff i sell. a little 'shop' page for my editions. for the prints, drawings, photos, etc.
most of you have them already, but keep an eye out anyway.
and if you don't have them, please buy them. 


peer to peer music

Happy New Year, y'all!

I hope the start of your year has been smooth and delicious.

I haven't seene too much in the way of visual arts in the first 10 days of the year, yet, but I did go to a music performance thing earlier in the week that managed to elicit a series of complex responses that I feel like querying.

On Monday night, I was invited to an open mic/jam session by a new friend. I usually hate those things because I get ridiculously self-conscious and I have no idea why. It's the same with public karaoke and quite a lot of busking. It's inexplicable and I just do my best to ride it out.

It turns out I was deeply affected by a few of the acts and my reactions were curious enough to keep me thinking more broadly about music and sharing culture.

The white english hippy guy playing the fake digeridoo
Curiously, I heard the sound of the didge before i even knew what I was hearing. I was like a dog that pricks up its ears at a car a mile away. I knew it was in the room before I was. Almost.

Anyway, the guy playing it was just barely playing it - lots of hi-hop hand punches, mostly rhythms and some basic inflection, but no story-telling, no animal calls, nothing about the land at all and certainly no traditional connection - not really playing it how it's intended. No true understanding. It was the sound version of doing a dot painting without any understanding of its symbols and meaning.

And, like a similar reaction to fake or appropriated aboriginal paintings, I found myself getting incredibly angry at this guy. I wanted to get up on my soapbox and shout about colonialism and the foreign whiteman's complete ignorance of the culture, in using sound for sounds' sake; about disrespect for the underlying purpose of the instrument, its traditional significance and how offensive he was being.

There were a couple of things that stopped me from taking this guy down:

1. My complicit position in that relationship
2. A desire to not embarass myself in front of my friend and 'make a scene'.

The second is hardly a mature reason and, for me, an unusually 'Australian' response - aw, c'mon just have a good night, ey -  but I was there as a guest and the complexity of the issue made it a less obvious place for a takedown.

I did start a conversation with him, asking him about where he got the piece and, when he asked if I'd like to play it, I was incredibly restrained. I didn't ignore the issue - I let him know that it's an instrument that traditionally only men play- and he acknowledged that he was probably being offensive. I agreed. He proceeded to talk about his 'spiritual experiences' in India with it and i nodded politely, wishing that I knew the best thing to say.

The first point is the uncomfortable bit in this whole scenario:
Who am I to say?
I'm not aboriginal.
I know a little, but don't know enough about Australian indigenous culture and history to take a well-informed position. And, although I am passionate, supportive and aware of what's inaappropriate a lot of the time, as a white ghel from the burbs, I'm becoming aware that my yardstick of what is 'appropriate' is still way out of the park. Colonial habits die hard, it seems.
But if I say nothing, then i continue to perpetuate the problem, despite all of that.

And then there's the business of my relationship to african music that highlights that colonial habit of mine.

The moroccan band playing the hajhuj
These guys were legit. Playing together since they were kids, their music was based around this square stringed instrument, accompanied by a western drum kit, some toms and other percussion instruments - shaky bell things. It was quite a bass-driven sounds, deep and loose, almost like early banjo music. And the vocals were ulalational (did i just make up a word?) and atonal. It was furious in parts and reminded me of secret videos of whirling dirvishes.

Now, I ended up really enjoying these guys - they got the crowd really moving: dancing up a storm, participating in the call/answer situation (the type that I often cringe at, even when it's a completely justifiable 'heyyyy/hooooo'). I danced in a West-African style, a style that I have picked up over the years from dancing to African music and going to African cultural events.

And yet, again, I'm a white girl with no direct links to any African people. What gives ME the right to take those movements and use them for my own, to feel like I have the right to participate in these actions - likely poor substitutes for ones handed down through generations and culturally significant to a stack of people not my own.

Aren't I doing exactly the same as that hapless hippies with his plastic didge? Probably.

So what are the lines of sharing, then? And what are the lines of sacred?

Is music to be sequestered away to each small territory and solely for the bearers of its origin?
I really hope not (especially because I really love azonto and want to keep dancing to it). Musical style and form has been snipped and stolen, influenced and traded for centuries - and not just by white european overlords.

But it's also not a free-for-all, there for the rape and pillage by those who have the privilege of access.

Knowledge and respect are a huge part of it - understanding of the codes of culture linked to specific times/places and there to guide use. However, as a whitey, I feel like I don't actually know what those boundaries are and that perhaps what I have been raised to think of as 'respect' is often justification.

And above all of that, what is more important in a bar in Kingston on a Monday night? Abiding by culturally appropriate forms of musical culture, or just smiling and having a good time?

There isn't time to make the link in this post, but I am seeing the correlation between cultural appropriation vs sharing influence of music (style) and proprietry vs peer-to-peer sharing of music (content) - something I would like to investigate further.