Category: Artist run spaces

Lives of Artists: The Graduate



Sarah Smizz

I first met Sarah through the #class project’s webby-internet tweetings and noticed she already knew the organising artists, William Powhida and many of the people involved hands on at Ed Winkleman’s in NY. Including Magda Sawon from Postmasters Gallery who did a very lively talk and discussion on running such a place from small beginnings to very independently focused well run gallery.

So I was intrigued when Sarah’s work was also posted onto the #class web-blog by William Powhida. I knew Sarah was at Sheffield Hallam Uni and was either finishing or part way through a BA or MA course. Along with the vague idea she had recently been to NY.

But nothing prepared me for the sheer energy in her response when I asked her about a post in this series.

Mostly this is Sarah’s wonderful reply – I have to say it completely blew me away! – a lot of me doesn’t want to faff around changing anything (& styling it into a me-neat little blog post)…….at all!!

Take it away Sarah!…..

“so errrrrm about me?”

“I’m a working class kid from Doncaster, UK. (Souf Yorkshire) or as I like to call it – the DONXX in New YorKshire- hehe ;)”

George Dickie

“My story is an odd story. Basically, I grew up in a single parent family (my mom and my younger bro).

My mom gave birth to me when she was 16, and had no support so we’ve always lived in relative poverty really as she has no qualifications and racked up a crazy amount of debt.

And then my mom got super ill and we missed a tonne of rent payments and got kicked out of our house because it was a great excuse to then build luxury apartments in place of the place that we lived in.

As the world gets smaller

So I was made homeless for about 8 months in total when I was 15, with my mom.

But we got things sorted eventually and things went back to semi normal. (I bring this up cuz its key in how/why I position myself and my practice).

Sarah Smizz

I LOVE working in my studio –

feels like it gives me a sense of purpose and just really living the dream!!!

Shadow Cities Favela Nice

I got to university at 18 to study contemporary fine art – first 1 in my family – in 2006 – Sheffield Hallam Uni – without a foundation. I got accepted to all 6 Uni’s I applied to, but SHU felt like the right decision, and I still stand by it today.   After 1st year I went over and did Camp America – I worked in the craft shop at a camp and I LOVED it!!!

I hitched hiked half way across the US (as a 19 yr old on my own) and got frauded! so I had NO cash for the last 2 weeks of my trip. It was like Into the Wild for real; and I thought this was awesome!

Shadow Cities Favela Nice

I got back to England, started my 2nd year and realised I loved working with people on projects like I started at camp.

So I got a group of my hommies together (which extended as we put a call out for interest) and started a thing called StreetForm.

The return to Dollershiem

This is a non-profits arts organization which delivers contemporary arts workshops for free in schools in South Yorkshire – priority at deprived schools as a way to engage kids with different learning techniques and kinda re-inspire their ideas and interests.

This turned out really successful.


Slam jam


Slam jam night


Utopian protagonist


At the same time we just got this new professor called Michael Corris from NYC.;

He was one of the players in art & language NY – I was interested in how dialogue and artists groups could engage in criticality as a community.

As the world is getting smaller

So I started another collective group called CAAD (contemporary art as dialogue). We started as a project like – the art school in the art school.

We went by our own rules and did collaborative shows engaging in different ideas surrounding the periphery and the art world. We put on our own art festival which you can see from the website too!

Street Performances production of space


Street Performances Production of Space



Sarah NYC

Contemporary Luxury Studio Showflat


I was kinda taken aback by Michael Corris and he gave me some much needed confidence in my own ability as an artist – his knowledge is awesome in my research background – which was completely lacking in my other lecturers knowledge.

I felt like if I wanted to make it in the artworld (or critique it)  that I gotta experience it properly! and not just from Sheff art scene.


Poverty is a gift that keeps on giving


Poverty is a gift that keeps on giving

So I managed to name drop Michael Corris to Magda Sawon at Postmasters gallery in NYC (He’s good friends with David Diao who Postmasters represent).  I’m the type of kid that doesn’t get amazing opportunities like this, I don’t look good on paper – state school educated, totally very rough around the edges – veryyy hopeful – thus naive about the world surrounding me; (naivety = I still get annoyed by people getting opportunities because of whom they know, and not from experience/applications)

Lucky for me Magda is one of the most kind, thoughtful, smart, risk-taking and generous women I have ever met. And she took a risk on me and let me work for her during the summer of 2008 in NYC.  I Had of course saved up all my own cash, and *it* still – despite all the other stuff I’ve done – is like THE BEST thing I’ve done – I learnt so much, made friends for life.

Turns out what I was missing was a strong smart woman role-model in the artworld/general, and Magda is just that for me. It was perfect working at Postmasters for me, because it allows my research to be a lot more even.

Postmasters allowed me not 2 be completely judgmental towards this ‘elite’ art world. I learnt that it’s not all bad (despite what I’d like to believe purely because of my outsider position).

That there are people who are willing to take risks and don’t put shows on just for commercial success. And even though some commercial galleries are ultimately a business, they treat their artists like family.

It inspired my practice because it taught me that artists do have to be competent at what they do, relevant and risk-taking not just good at networking (although that totally helps).

Being in NYC at that time (during the boom) taught me how important criticality in an artist’s practice is. I just gotta accept that  I’m not that strong of an artist yet !. That’s ok though; got another – what 9 years? (me, with interjection …errr Sarah maybe!, just maybe a mold has been broken here with that one!!)

In my 3rd year I switched from BA to a MART course, which is half a masters- integrated course. You do an extra year doing double credits in your 3rd yr and the LEA still pays all your tuition fees.

I had my 1st real London show at re-placed.  And got published in two books one of which was released at the Canadian Center of Architecture.

I was interested in the idea against the white cube space, and how collectives can have revolutionary potential. I used to make collages of buildings and fly poster them around the city in run down places.

You can see this work on my website Sarah Smizz


#class a reflection (also placed on thier web-blog by William Powhida)


We also did a project where we critiqued the biennale structure of art festivals – focusing on the Venice biennale.  It’s focus (of the project) was on curation and collaboration.

We created a biennale in a book talking about the periphery! and released it at the Venice biennale 2009 (

It was a fantastic project that is still on-going!

I taught Spanish kids English over the summer of 2009 and worked in a bookies, lol, saving cash for my internship at AREA Chicago in Chicago for 3 months.

This was my research about the artist as a social double agent. Can collectivism help to make change? Is institutional critique re-invented?

Have u ever been to Chicago? I suggest you check it out if you haven’t, there is SO MUCH stuff going on. it’s this vibrant art community that doesn’t get acknowledged in the way it should!

Magda invited me to put some work in her emerging artist show in Dec 2009. And then obviously I saw the proposal call for #class which suited me perfectly with my background, my research interests and the plain rejection that I feel/felt by both academia and the art world, amongst other systems; and did that show.

I felt like after the class experience I truly needed to embrace this investigation into collectivism – to a new level.

So I took a risk and changed the look of my work. And I’m really enjoying it. I’m not sure whether the risk will pay off for my degree show grade wise.

We also just curated a talk at TATE Britain on the contingencies in curation – some of this debate was brought up at #class!

I hate degree shows. I think that they’re contrived. They don’t represent a person’s practice properly, especially not one that’s diverse and exists in a different format. And so everything is compromised.

As part of the MArt – the deal is that you get a MA Place – and it’s one-module-studio-work;  and it only costs £800 of your own money. I’m not finishing my degree next year into a full MA because it doesn’t interest me now I’ve learnt what I needed to learn.

I’m sure I will go back and finish it when I’m stacking shelves in Asda or something but right now, the institution has grinded me down.  It doesn’t really accept me because my ideas don’t fit into the ‘white cube’ or ‘relational aesthetics’ lark.

Yet out of my whole graduating year (BA and MART) I’ve been the most ‘successful’/done the most thus far. So it shouldn’t be the grade that matters to me, but I’ve had to overcome certain barriers to get where I have got right now.

On June 23rd I’m heading back to the USA for four months; two months in Boston working with kids and a residency. Getting paid for it all – and good pay!.

Then I’m going to Syracuse University in NY State to hopefully start a project with an amazing professor up there who has similar research ideals as myself.

Then I’ll do a lil’ travel and come back to the UK for my November Residency with international film festival DocFest – which is also paid.

After November – gosh knows what is in store for me! ha!

I need a normal job – to make ends meet and pay off my crazy over-draft. I’ll probably move back to Sheffield cuz its convenient and my network of folks from Uni lies there, just whilst I sorta relay adulthood out in my head!

I will be starting my new project though “temporary department for (kinda) academic research”. A curated project, and I want to release the bi-annual publication objekt that we set also set up this year.

I have an exhibition in Canada in May in 2011 to look forward to, (moving to Canada is on the cards for the year after).

I would ultimately LOVE to teach, from high school to university level as you have the chance to help change someone else’s future. But feel like I wanna give my practice a good taste of what it means for an artist to set up projects and continue in the real world with a 9-5 soul destroying job first.  I’m totally looking forward to it! (not liking the idea of paying council tax! haa) but let’s see how this optimism fades eh? 😛

For me the journey of learning and experience is just as important as the practice itself cuz for me it all just seems to add up/inform the research (in the best respects). I don’t have a specifically special focus. I’m just interested in the idea of power in systems – regardless of what system. The ideas of access/ and class boundaries are always present.

Dialogue is very important for me; it’s all interesting for me, that and collectivism, I truly believe art does have the power to change the world, but more in helping, teaching, helping people to be optimistic, bringing people together etc.”.


Work in progress

Sarah Smizz

And, if I were ever to think *what’s the point* as we artists all do at various stages for various reasons:

Sarah, I hold a torch up to you and your inspiration!!!

Back on Wednesday …….

Lives of Artists: The Curator

Louise Starkey

Opposite one of Robin Hood’s favourite residence’s to rob, Nottingham Castle, sits the aptly named Castle Bar. Here was the site for Louise Starkey’s latest exhibition; Stop Robbing The Rich. I’m sure if there was any indication in the title it was the RH scenario, but aside from that they found a unique space to hold something, and well, something I was surprised to see.

I was expecting a local event, if you like, artists brought together with nothing more in common than their city, and found instead a group of Urban Artists from all over the UK and beyond under the banner Affordable Art in the Heart of Nottingham.

Stop Robbing The Rich is Louise’s second show, and the first one in Nottingham.

She is a keen collector of Urban and Contemporary work and sometimes sells to finance her own art *habit* as she calls it!. So it was around two years ago that she sold a piece to an enthusiast in California. And usually keeping in touch with the people she deals with, as they have common passions a rapport ensued.

This particular buyer was also involved in the music industry and had got together with other likeminded people to buy an art gallery in Philadelphia.

When Louise found out about this she asked when she could have a show.  He replied “May 2009” which in her own words she said she “was shocked, as I didn’t think he would take my request seriously”.

That was the start really for Louise and she hasn’t looked back. She still works full time at Nottingham Trent University, and also works as a part time chef. So her enthusiasm for her art and artists is palpable.

The show, which she called ‘Cruel Britannia’ “was to be an invasion of Urban-Contemporary work from the UK”.

Setting up Cruel Britannia at the then T & P Gallery, Philadelphia

Cruel Brittania Gallery View


Cruel Brittania Gallery View

Cruel Brittania Gallery View

Louise mentioned it didn’t go unnoticed and joked

“The USA fought back with a Shepard Fairey paste up outside the gallery”.

Paste Up

When she got the unsold work back from Cruel she decided to recycle it, mash it up, and add to it, and show in a place which was more accessible to the UK where the work originated to balance the showing.

It was The Castle Bar that she chose and although in hind sight she noted “It was slightly shabbier than I would have liked when I got in the space last week so spent three solid days painting.  I wanted the show to look good but also to be a success for the artists and saw no point in making really expensive work available.  I wanted people to come and have a look, see something that they might like, but not have to really think it over and be concerned about a massive financial commitment that would make things difficult”. Going on to emphasise the fact “I had original work available from £10, and have enabled people to pay for work over a period of time if it makes it more affordable”.

Final touches to the exhibition

Opening Night

Opening Night

Opening night of Stop Robbing The Rich, at The Castle Bar


Many of the artists in this exhibition are established and well known names in urban contemporary like:

Replete who has worked with people like Cold Cut (Matt Black & Jonathan More) and their Ninja Tune label.

DON who was brought up in Borneo and in his own words

” When I came back to England felt the confines of the concrete jungle around me. But it was to be a blessing. I looked at the stone and concrete walls in a different light, I saw them as vast spaces ready to be painted and moving spaces were even better, trains…like cheetahs in the wild, were fast, got everywhere, but most importantly, were always ‘spotted’ . I quickly learnt that a jungle kid could fast settle into his new pack when he earnt himself respect from his name and ‘got up’ . I was 12.

Old habits die hard and as important to me as it was then, it is now. I’ve taught East End children at an East End school to nicely mural a wall. I’ve convinced myself that you don’t have to cling onto a carriage late at night, under tungsten light, to be seen the next day. I’ve had my knuckles slapped and paid the price.

I have conformed as much as I am able for now, bringing my art to TV and Film. Employed to TAG a Batman set. WOW one of the best cities I’ve tagged….graff stays in my soul, the movement, the colours, the people, the sounds. Beat street, hiphop and those crazy, crazy legs are going to be around for a while longer and I’ll grow with it, its time has come”.

DON & DBO's work


Dan Kitchener's work

Dan Kitchener


Luke Twigger's work
Luke Twigger

Louise went on to say “Kev Munday recently had his first solo show in Covent Garden called ‘Making it up as I go along’ and Matt Jordan enjoyed great success with a solo show in Athens earlier in the year”. Louise is also hoping to do a solo show of Matt’s work soon.

Matt Jordan's Dyeing Of Hirst Skull

Matt’s skull – yes they are smarties! the flash is slightly obliterating the Hirst reference.

Matt Jordan & Kev Munday
Matt Jordan (top) & Kev Munday

see the links for Matt in Athens and Kev in Covent Garden


As the result of 6 months hard work. Louise was more than delighted with how it looked, and for the three days it was showing, does seem a shame that it’s gone already.

She is planning her next show for November, workload permitting, but apparently it’s all in a rather dream like stage for now, once she gets cracking though, I’m sure it will be so much more than ok.

It’s going to be called ‘Hardly Original’ and will, as she puts it “feature affordable prints from my little army of willing artists, that will have been made especially for the show and will be unavailable elsewhere”.

There were 16 artists involved in the exhibition and I hope to do a more in depth interview style post with some of them in the future.

For now though, here is a taste of the Stop Robbing The Rich exhibition with a list of the artists involved:

As Louise said later “I enlisted some of the artists I had approached for America, and approached some more.  For quite a few of the local artists it was their first show….(MaxRock, Kresh)”

In no particular order;

Jonny Norridge Jonny Norridge

Finbarr Dac
Finbarr Dac


James Baker
James Baker




Dan Kitchner
Dan Kitchener


The Shaw
The Shaw


Matt Jordan
Matt Jordan




Kev Munday Kev Munday





Ben Allen
Ben Allen


Ame 72


Kid 30



Max Rock

Kresh  :  no link as yet but will update


Luke Twigger
Luke Twigger



All the above images have been sourced from the artist’s websites.


Back on Sunday with a look at Photographer Helen McCabe fresh from her degree with her very enigmatic work

Also a quick mention pre-post of Wednesday’s Man Bartlett article – he is also doing something at this weekends Bushwick Open Studio (BOS) see here as well for NYTimes mention.

Lives Of Artists



With another #class event emerging any time soon, I have decided to take a look at the lives of a group of artists and people involved with them from very different styles and stages of their *careers*.


This will be a series of images and discussions with artists from different areas and countries as they find and negotiate their way through the art world. Some fresh from degree shows, others still navigating them.

Whether established or aspiring to be established, this series of posts will endeavour to take a look at the very different and sometimes novel approaches on how they continue with their work. Addressing compromise, locations, and *the day job*.

But no less important, also a look at individual pieces of work and the artists behind.


The group include:


The Curator

Louise Starkey,who curated Cruel Britannia at the T & P Fine Art Gallery in Philadelphia last year.


Sadly the gallery itself had to close, even with the enthusiastic team that ran and supported it:


“After thirteen openings and showcasing 100+ international artists, T & P Fine Art will be closing their doors at the end of November, 2009. It may not have been ideal to open an art gallery at the beginning of the worst recession since the depression, but we found a cool spot, in an incredible city, showed some superb art, and had blast the entire time. Thank you to all who have supported us, patrons and artists alike. We hope to see you one last time between now and the end of November.”


T & P Gallery

T & P Fine Art Gallery


Cruel Brittania Poster

And back from Cruel she decided to recycle it, mash it up, and add to it. Her most recent exhibition also includes up and coming if not already established  contemporary urban artists from the UK with Stop Robbing The Rich in Nottingham.


Stop Robbing The Rich Poster

Stop Robbing The Rich, group exhibition

Castle Bar
The Castle Bar, opposite Nottingham Castle




The Photographer

Helen McCabe from London who has just finished her degree in Nottingham. “I hope that by carrying this on alongside a job, Photography will continue to be something I do, because I enjoy it and not just something to keep me in a living”.


 One of Helen McCabe's Soldier Portraits

One of Helen McCabe’s seven portraits



The Artist

Man Bartlett, who as son of US artist Bo Bartlett, is finding his feet as an artist in New York:

Echo 24
Man Bartlett’s recent #24Echo held at P.P.O.W Gallery

in his words : ) By Man Bartlett and The Internet.

He pledged to repeat anything and everything that was tagged with #24echo via twitter feed and relayed over Ustream for 24 hours

“Labelling is a tricky thing as I also create drawings and installations. So usually I just say I’m an artist with practices in performance art, drawing, and installation.”

“While there is sometimes an element of endurance in my performance practice, I prefer the term “duration.” This distinction draws attention to the fact that the performances are simply happening in an extended amount of time, not specifically that pain or suffering is an integral part of that time”.


Systema Mundi Installation
Systema Mundi Drawing
Systema Mundi exhibition at Flux Gallery earlier this year:


“Flux Factory presents Systema Mundi, an exhibition of drawings, installation and pyrography by artist-in-residence Man Bartlett.

The works in this show include a “circle drawing” in which thousands of small circles are tightly clustered, and form a rectangle. From a distance it appears as a solid mass, but closer inspection reveals a chaotic yet ordered composition. A pyrography piece consists of small burned dots that appear to create or mimic the pattern of the grain of the wood beneath them. In opposition to these maximalist tendencies lies a minimalist earth and water installation, sourced from in and around the Flux Factory building.

This juxtaposition of means is of critical interest to the artist, whose work often deals with the union of paradoxes from within a wide spectrum of art history and human experience”.

Both images and above text sourced from Flux Gallery.




The Fine Art Student

Tim……who half-way through his degree is embarking on a stint at a Cork Street Gallery in London for 2 months – despite his reservations about working in the midst of all things The-City-And-Art stand for.

NTU Fine Art Bonington Building
From NTU bonington Fine Art Campus

Cork Street,London

To Cork Street’s short but wealthy 1/4 mile


Stop Press! slight alteration….Tim has been called away to help in a performance, hence I will be coming back to him later in the next series.

So the fourth in this series is someone who I was completely blown away by. Her sheer enthusiasm and energy – for someone so young (in my terms!) – at 22 and a Graduate BA/MA fine artist Sarah Smizz

Sarah Smizz
I know this is Sarahs web-page and is not strictly art but …..: )


The hashtag project first rolled out in February at the Winkleman Gallery for a successful month of discussions and with it delving into the ins, outs and polarities of the art market in the midst of that very art-centred city of NY.

The illuminating and upfront discussions took place with artists of all types and cultures – some relatively well known others from over the other side of the world.  Gallerists, Dealers, Critics, and Collectors also being invited to be in on the call. Enabling face to face and honest discussions about location, class, education, money, who exactly pulls the strings-who are the gatekeepers, those with specific agendas and the minefield of art protocol that tempts or repels artists and can exclude them from engaging on those basis.

With that very much in mind my first stop in this series is to address amongst other elements a local exhibition held over three days in a non gallery setting curated by Louise Starkey.


Starting this Wednesday!………

Shed Loads of Space


As a child I used to play in the garden shed whether or not the weather was inclement. It was full of stuff like hammers, and chisels, saws, even wooden fencing – I had to negotiate my way round these things and had cleared a space for me to sit at an old table, that must have been my first idea of a studio. I used to sit and paint, and read comics and dream, and make up games to play with other friends who would come round.



I guess it was in a way, also my first and only gallery. One spring day way back, after a recent spate of particularly good painting sessions (I thought they were!) I put up a notice on the front gate saying “This way to the exhibition at number 11 Gallery” (our house number). I chalked arrows down the garden path toward the shed and arranged mums old wooden clothes ‘horse’, a gatefold style thing that allowed me to peg my paintings in an outdoor extension of the exhibition by the shed door, where I had also strategically placed a bowl of freebie sweets bought with my pocket money .

Mum didn’t know, and the first recognition of anything that was going on was when neighbours started going past the kitchen door down to the bottom of the garden. I had roaring traffic all day and actually sold about 40%, although they were sold at a snip and I did accept a few toffee bars as collateral as well.

If only it was that simple – well perhaps it is?. After the #class last month a couple of people involved with it also set up a discussion about studio space – affordable space, makeshift ones – ideas people have thought up to get round the problem of extra rented space. And studios surely can double as exhibit space sometime, if, for example it is shared and there is enough room.

Affordable and realistic studio space still needs thought though, this is one area where other people’s experiences and adaptations can add to the mix – the people who set up the twitter discussion about affordable studio space, had some pretty interesting suggestions ranging from caravans, converted trailers, mini prefabs to, I think, a bus!…….It does seem a bit like horses for courses though, if you’re work has the potential to fill an aircraft hangar – then it’s that or compromise.

Silk mill

The exhibition space some of the NY #class artists along with other artists, are renting en-mass for a group exhibition called Escape from New York next month in a old silk mill over the river in New Jersey. They also have a similar idea, in as much as creating their own space to show.

There’s nothing wrong with galleries but for the sake of argument, I have a feeling there are far more works of art than actual gallery space, never mind the demographics of galleries clustering together in big cities. I am not going to delve into the area of good art and bad art for now, nor market forces and gallery tastes. But the fact is simple; so much art never sees the light of day, for even if the artist finds space to get messy or whatever, and can afford it, the other hurdle is finding space to show and hopefully to sell. Now, the NY exhibition looks as though it won’t fail in attracting people, dealers or buyers judging by the response many of the artists are already receiving about their work in the well-renowned-art-city.

Berlin’s art quarter and its almost inevitable morph after the Wall fell, into the bourgeois-boho arty district of recent times, shouldn’t really be sniffed at either. People are interested in paying money for works, it’s just the fact the few artists who are reaping the benefits of this interest, or should I say, being paid for their work instead of someone wanting their services for free, are overshadowing the many who are not.

So that’s Darwinism in action for you, you may say. But the property and rent also took a hike, creating a no-win situation, the collective creative vibe, if you like was whittled down to a few revered artists who were patronised by buyers and so could afford to stay – sort of ghettoising themselves in the process.


Auguststrasse, this was an artist squat circa ’92

Auguststrasse 4 was squat '92

Auguststrasse 1

Auguststrasse ballroom cafe
The Ballroom Cafe houses among other things dance and performance art


There were some letters discovered recently written by Frances Bacon to his Dealer when he was starting out, constantly asking for advances and relating to real no food on the table problems, never mind affording his paint and materials (ok he had a gambling habit also) but it’s not a new concept. Eventually he made, or his works were sold for thousands; a wealthy man in his twilight years (quite lucky then!) some don’t get recognised till pushing up daisies. But writers are the same, affording the time to write before a book is sold, advances are not willingly given especially these days. Everybody wants their money up front.


I was lucky, as a child in my shed with plenty of time outside school hours to paint, my parents bought me my paints, and well – I was at quite an elementary stage – watercolours and rough brushes etc., the paper was fairly basic. I was also lucky to have a garden and shed to go to – I don’t have outside space like that now, living in the city centre, outside space is a premium but I have my garage with a sink, yup! that’s my artist’s studio!, but it does the job for what I am doing at the moment and I have a study with good light, so I’m certainly not complaining.

Any idea or initiative though, that is enabling for someone to carry out their work and facilitate the showing of it, has to get the thumbs up from me.


The Arts Council in the UK are apparently digitalising all of the collection that they have accumulated over the years, which are stored in warehouses waiting to have light of day when galleries send in a request. Only a small percentage get exhibition time, and the arts council believe by digitalising and grouping the works in an online gallery, this will not only show potentially hidden works but also generate the demand to be seen in real life.

I think this seems a really sound move, and really do think online virtual art has a place to offer the dilemma of where to show and what to do with it, storage isn’t the problem but viewing is.

If a sprawling thing like the Arts Council can get its act together online with all that work. Then it can’t be past some artists and groups and organisations to do a similar project.


There are things like Galleries Online that provide a service for free for the art community to join, there is a 15% commission if a buyer uses the insurance for them mediating in a 10 day acceptance period and release of money. But the buyer can choose to wave that fee and deal direct with the artist.

This though, even with the artist’s forum and blogs, gallery events, listings and additional connections, seems to be effectively a one-stop art shop albeit run by artists. It houses a lot of unrelated works (all categorised into groups like wildlife, sea, abstract, digital etc.,) and for me is a bit like a trawl round TK Maxx; a bit overwhelming with the sheer quantity. I’m not knocking it – it’s a really good site and venture, but for me it’s a bit like a needle in a haystack time.


I do like the idea of these virtual galleries. And even more the idea of the work already being partially curated  (even if in a virtual site-specific place). In the way the works are juxtaposed, showing potential for group exhibitions. So that real life gallery owners wouldn’t have to fully curate, apparently this is a big draw for some galleries especially after a heavy run or season of exhibitions.

The artists already having acquainted themselves with each other’s work and a group exhibition almost seamless in waiting, it has to be a plus point from a real gallery’s point of view. 3D also seems to be the way to go, for sculptural as well as ‘flat’ surface images, not 3D interactive that is extremely ambitious and probably not necessary for online art-viewing (unless already interactive art). It will never replace the real thing but it is a sure way to generate group images for a convenient screen view with comparatively few overheads.

I’m keen on this idea and would certainly give it a go – the software for 3d is there – I think it will be a while though, before a curated self contained and maintained virtual site, with adequately reproduced and 3d built graphics will be within my miniscule techno brain’s sight, but once I get an idea going I tend to stick with it.

I would be interested to see how other artists first relate to each other’s work – that might be the start – when things click on that level. A basic, introduction style, 3D website with a sister site housing curated results….. hmmmmm

Artist seeking similar…….must have GSOH!

Cupid heart

Back on Sunday……..

Hard Facts and Ambiguous Spaces


(some ideas from #class)


Ok I’m bashing an idea out here; its still on the lines of how #class or similar can further forward the momentum and positive discussion outcomes achieved over what must have been an intense month of organising and doing – so whatever I’m writing here are ideas in motion – ideas maybe to think about and see if they could be updated or adapted and ….well, read on…. like I said not set in stone…..

Artist dilemmas.

I’m an artist;

Please don’t tell me that I have to say exactly what I am going to do before I have done it. You see I want the artistic freedom to create from moment to moment. And so on-etc., etc., along with various other arty anomalies that have echoed around studios, galleries and schools on and off since, well, since art became something other than a paid creative job in the renaissance, or church echelons of medieval and Greek times.


The thinker

Freedom to Create;

Got no time, and no money….


And another side to that story…..


Jennifer Dalton mentioned in this interview the other day on one of the positive changes mentioned in #class; “Advocate for artists to get paid fairly for their work, both at the gallery level (this may mean contracts!) and at the museum and non-profit level (asking for exhibition fees when often there are none in the budget).”


Art can be very ambiguous, in-flux, controlled or whatever but the nature of art is for it to express itself. So the point raised here about individual contracts falls into the need, I agree for artists in general to be more organised on that level; a contract means there are no ambiguities and therefore reduces the sometimes half-truths or misunderstandings that may occur (on either side) on completion of the work and the transaction.

And at the other end of the scale….

I mentioned before Chris Offili expressing his very real unease in having to don his artist-in-front-of-the-art-media hat as opposed to his Man U supporting artist at home hat, causing him problems in actually doing and growing with his work because of market and media pressures to perform differently.


Stuckists chris ofilli

A very cruel portrayal of the artist’s dilemma portrayed by Mark D of Nottingham Stuckists


Schools of Thought.

Groups, Schools and Organisations part 1;

Hard facts

I came across this book recently called Hard Facts (Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense). Which as part of a much wider topic addresses a fact that many businesses which have hitherto used a command and control management, keeping-the-workforce-in-check-model are, seemingly failing with the false work-hat and home-hat personas that they encourage their workforce to adopt; not only does it apparently induce over the top in-fighting within these companies but it is also failing to address the general shift to a more open; this is who I am, not a who you think I am, attitude among many workers these days – they are just themselves, they mix, they socialise, they interweb with each other – and it is changing.

The book also points to business’s like the US South West Airlines, who are more inclusive of their staff. John Lewis in the UK with their staff as partners and their shared profits also springs to mind. But more than that, the general  jekle and hydeness of these tight control formats. For example if you were to suggest in a family setting that your brothers and sisters were your competitors ( I know it happens) but  it’s not generally a bench mark for sibling rivalry instilled by the parents, and  further, if you were to organise say, a family event and extended family members were involved, the general gist would be to let each family member do their bit without checking up on them to see that they were pulling their weight (I said general gist!).


But essentially a group effort for the good of the group, rather than a leader controlling check up to ensure no one was slacking, causing rivalry.

This I think exudes outwardly from businesses, showing a similar sense of that kind of competitiveness towards other business and so on.

Stressful aswell? possibly

The book does point out that a few businesses or organisations do well with competitiveness encouraged; like the military. But the service industry is a glaring example of not.

Groups, Schools and Organisations part 2;

Finance was one of the areas I didn’t address when I was bandying on about the Steiner style approach to schools, but they do have an inclusive attitude toward funding finance, and a sliding scale contract which each parent in the UK anyway, sign up to (in Holland or other countries where Steiner receives state funding it is different). They ask you to pay as much as you can afford – there is a top level income that determines whether you pay the full set fee per term, anything under that and it is pro-rata and below a certain level, ie; benefit income, you pay small a token fee.

But no grading anywhere else; you pay what you can afford and everybody receives the same education or service.

So people still feel, as much as possible that they are contributing fairly and for the good of the whole objective (which includes their child’s education – so also prime motivator to be involved).


typical kindergarten circle


Groups, Schools and Organisations Part 3;

Back to 1997 and Mojacar Southern Spain.


A good friend of mine Tim, was at the time an artist of no fixed abode or institution – a free spirit, he eventually went on to study and take up a place lecturing at Norwich University College of The Arts. At the time I met him though, he was in his 20’s, sleeping in his car and/or on the beach and he wasn’t quite in the mood for entertaining an arts degree. This was still at a time in Mojacar and Southern Spain’s recent history that had attracted a lot of musicians, artists, film makers to the region from the 50’s Beats and the 60’s hippies onwards. An obvious bohemian atmosphere still prevailed as late as 97.

It was around then that Tim mentioned a local artist residency. Set up in 1989 in a converted mill, the idea being to allow artists to stay for a nominal fee, provided they communally cooked and basically helped out, while at the same time having a relatively uninterrupted space to create. A while ago I came across the same residency on the web and they have now joined the arts residency organisation ResArtis. Which also started out similarly in Greece with a Dutch guy who, on meeting people from other cities and residencies, decided it would be good to host group meetings at each other’s places in order to create a network and framework for better residency organisation.


Fundacion valpraiso
Fundacion Valparaiso


Looking at their membership mandate and fees structure, it seems to be aimed at providing a service for individual groups or organisations (governmental grant based or non) to link up and share information, experience and generally aiding a more professionally linked up outlook while at the same time retaining the principal of providing internationally (and with that, socially, politically, and religiously diverse) linked up communal spaces for artists to engage with their work for a number of weeks. As well as their web site community they encourage members to visit diverse destination General Meetings to further experience and contribute face to face with the group; provided, I assume you can afford the travel costs!. But I’m guessing with its organisation-to-help-other-organisation structure, the benefit works both ways (so that is their prime motivator for people to become involved).

The potential for some sort of fairly-run-for-the-good-of-the-whole idea for #class and things like it could work.

Zac Cohen mentioned in a recent blog post on the subject – taking small steps.


Not necessarily an organised group but maybe a framework of intent.

So clearer interactions can also take place in the wider art community with less of the ambiguity which sometimes hangs around artists like a misplaced hippy-esque, post-victorian mist.


Going to put this one down for a while and let it do its thing – Back to more stuff on  Wednesday!

In With The In Crowd

(plus a wider thought on #class)



Join The Circle



On hearing of Fat Boy Slim aka Pizzaman; now very much Mr Norman Cook’s collaboration with David Byrne, I thought of previous days gone by when the then Housmartin’s tune Caravan of Love, hit the radar for himself and Paul Heaton (…can’t remember the names of other two).

I remember the tune was very much an anthem to a renewed post hippy ideology to “Join the Caravan of Love”, with the encouraging sing–along-lyrics on the lines of everywoman, every man, every child join in -come on.


Caravan 2

Long time gone! but some sentiments will always be around – it is human. Apparently Paul Heaton, who I believe gave input to the lyrics was moved to this by his Marxist, Christian or spiritual beliefs at the time.

Well I’m not dwelling on religion here, nor indeed spirituality, but the sentiment of lets all have a group hug, I’m guessing will always be there.


One thing I had noticed on thinking a little more on art and the artist’s dilemma, which was raised at the #class this month. With the social, physical, geographical and gender demo-graphs. I think most definitely has an impact on access, and the ability to join established networks of potentially remunerated art work ie; the art market.  This must, at some point cause internalized tensions, outward bickering or envy, along with acceptance issues when you are recognized and/or being paid for your labour.

An article on motherhood recently showed the emphasis on the strung out bickering of who’s doing it right, with all the subsequent jealousies and guilt. In this I saw a paradigm for the loner artist, art groups and art schools. It said that, essentially, mothers although having a choice to be one or not, want recognition for what they do – that they exist – whether working mothers or not. A labour of love if you like, with recognition rather than on going criticism for taking one or the other option (whether from other mothers or the state or whatever).

I’ll just make the distinction on criticism here; as being very distant from constructive criticism, which meant as a mover of ideas and can be adopted, or not; an observation. Rather than an aberration of an opinion or (possibly unaddressed) feeling.


So, this caravan thing – bare with the analogy for a moment; someone’s at the front yes? meaning someone’s leading  – the people at the back need to be heard so if a change of direction is needed a message has to be sent (ok, this analogy doesn’t include twitter or i-phones yet!) so a series of messages need to be sent to the front. And as in the very old First World War joke on a general at the front line hearing the call to advance,  sent a message back through his troops to ‘send reinforcements – were going to advance’ back at base they gleefully began preparations for a party on hearing ‘send three and four pence – were going to a dance’. Ok so it’s the Chinese whispers or telephone game thing. But groups, in order to communicate and not alienate (as far as possible) need to be just that, a group not totally front lead or trajectory strained.


Various philosophies for enabling specific artistic groups have used differing forms of the group aesthetic. The Bauhaus had an idea for an architectural future, they included all aspects of art in order to create a Whole – albeit in the main, aesthetically led by Van der Rohe and Gropius.

The idea was to collectively bring together a new school of thought, and as with a lot of things at that time had grown out a new age sort of thinking that prompted other schools of thought that required subservience to political ideologies about what exactly that direction of art and architecture, and well, everything really, should be. Not a good time to freely embrace or be embraced.

I have baffled this one for almost as long as I can remember, and one of the only things that comes close to a group led ethos I can think of is the Steiner Waldorf approach to education (aside, again from the penchant towards spirituality and possible gobbledygook depending on your views) the essence I think lies in the fact they allow freedom within individual schools, for the basic curriculum to be interpreted by individual teachers. Paced, within the overall philosophical framework of a child’s growth pattern and sensory engagement with their surroundings.

Literally run by the college of each schools teachers, and, endless inclusive parental meetings and cake baking’s (for sharing not competitions) the idea being I believe to involve the parents as much as possible with the general day to day running, upkeep and community knowledge. The college of teachers is, I think, as democratic as possible; the finance is also addressed by a board of trustees.


Someone mentioned art apprenticeships in one of the discussions during #class, and I was also reading today the article delivered by Andrea Frazer in a talk for the Harvard Crimson paper and her interpretation of art institutions citing its relevance for actually being there rather than something to run away from or be abhorred. I sort of agree that institutions are neither by themselves wrong nor indeed the art that is made in them, and having relevance because of that. But I keep coming back to a democratic approach.

Nottm university

Many Universities although have a surface organisation structure that looks democratic, a lot have non academic council members, any staff have to be elected and more often than not the head or chairman and vice chairman are invariably an outside dignitary or prestigious alumni appointed by the council.

Mary Warnock also mentioned her insider experience of former years as a female lecturer compared to today’s style; “Life in universities, at any rate, is vastly less enjoyable now than it was then. It is regimented, ill-paid, constantly assessed and it carries with it an obligation to produce a string of publications, often a joyless business, but necessary if your department is to retain its reputation for productivity. And no one can assume that she will not be sacked or her department closed around her”.

The method of running these places has so much of the traditional school top down structure in grained, including the recent shift from hierarchical-old-school-in-crowd-snobbery to new-school-in–crowd-image-mongering. The subsequent artistic statements and movements are part of this, which is where I agree that the resistance of artists involved in doing their work in these environments do struggle with that sort of magnetic repulsion as a subsequent part of their art.


Whether in established institutions or not I think apprenticeships and group boards can also go some way to get over this, by including one of the main points as in Steiner philosophy; being, they have a sense of inclusive community and work.

Now the hippy ethic can veer in, and the group hug can also turn into that other hippy trait of setting yourself apart from society along with hierarchical inward bickering (you only have to think of that doomed hippy ethic film, The Beach).

Tilda at her most paranoid in The Beach

But I think group hugs, hippy chic’s and spiritual marxists-caravans put aside there is something to be said for the Steiner basic approach to getting things done. Or an adaptation of that, within art groups and schools, substitute the parents for adult/adolescent artist apprentices or students and engage on that level.

Oh flibbertigibbet – now the detail!……

More detail…..and wider-ey type things….. plus #class….in Sundays post

NB NB! meant to mention got a blog name check in the Huffington Post! ;

Ok this is a shameless big up to self! or maybe not – cos this article is a pretty accurate look (from where I am) at the #class month from someone who was there in person – she lists all the bloggers (me included!) – and no doubt more to be added – who helped contribute to the events of an extra-ordinary time….


Wide Open Space (plus more on Hashtag)

Plus Briefly Back to Hashtag Class: Market U


I will touch on this part of the hashtag event diary as it bears a lot of resemblance to things that were going on during the project and now.


Wide Open Space part 1

Market U

I started listening to this via an audio recording I made, which I then realised was art-theatre. It came over subsequently as though I was listening to a Radio 4 spoof play. Which I guess is how it would have come across live in the gallery.

The idea was that the institution of ‘U’ aka (I think) any art university of reasonably renowned merit with all the stereo type baggage that comes with that kind of power structure: including the patronage of the famous, the rich, the inbred hangers-on and the cogs in the machine that keep it running for the benefit of itself and the good of it’s product: education.

Market U sounded like a really satirical look at this and how, even the art produced is manipulated so it can be perceived as it should; for the successful reputation of the institution. All this completed with a very politically correct Student Loan Forgiveness Goddess encouraging those with the biggest debt to play a game of lottery/roulette.

Sounds familiar anyone? I left my BA with just such feelings, like I had to get away from the institution in order to breathe. I did learn to weld though, and glass blow, and certainly made very good friends including staff, some of whom clearly saw the system at the time was not ideal, and if I look at uni from a devils advocate stance I did learn about it from that point of view, so my apprenticeship was not in vain. Bitter, no but I am glad I did this at a time in my life when I could fund myself through the circus.



Wide Open Space part 2

Which brings me to a couple of things that were also happening while the hashtag project was taking place. William Powhida was an unfamiliar name to me until about 6 weeks ago, a week into getting involved I noticed he had done what I thought was a fairly funny and also satirical drawing of another established power structure, with The New Museum Committed Suicide With Banality featuring prominent figures of the New York art scene. I looked further and found he had done another referencing the Art Basle Fair on Miami beach as a hooverville: showing the flashy established art fair scenario in the style of the doomed shanty town of hooverville originally depicted very satirically during the 30’s depression (only in this one Powhida showed caricatures of real art world ‘dignitaries’ carrying on as though nothing had happened ).


I recommend you go to William’s blog to get a better idea of what he intended

Now being a geographical outsider if you like I was, and still am fairly naive about the in and outs, the who’s who and the general politics of it all, but one thing I can see is as power structures go, they can begin to be insular and not open to levelled debate. Some of the empowered tend to get very defensive of their turf. You see it (unfortunately) in Unions, Government bodies, Public service bodies and no doubt the free and speculative Art Market is no exception.

As the hashtag events took shape so also did the Powhida drawing furore, to which it (the hooverville drawing) very timely produced another equally self evident affront by those depicted, during the final week of the project.

I believe the people who got riled at this saw it as either a personal attack. Or as an attack on their personal resuscitating efforts of an art machine that had hitherto high returns on the ‘normal’ art sales of previous years. One journalist or contributor to an art magazine took real offence and seemingly offered a violent response through a facebook page. One only hopes he gets his sense of humour back or he was ‘acting’ out a response.

Isn’t that just what we need though? It is not about us and them, its dammed healthy to have debate and not to take yourself so seriously (as in the really angry journo’s case). It’s a drawing! and whether it’s the art market or not the sensitivity to something like this smacks of power freaks, at best people with their head in the sand. We can satirise people yes? and no its not comfortable to be on the receiving end, but like comedy we’ve been here before, the drawings I believe are about an established business or market not personal vindication, even if personalities are involved. Bit like the Royal Family and even they have had to let go of the watertight grip on their public persona.

While he (Powhida) is very subtly making art a point, is at the same time drawing out the real fat controllers from their lairs, they really only have themselves to recognise and answer to.

Here’s a Piece sent out in December when the drawing first emerged a comprehensive article of the furore featured  in the New York Times.


William Powhida’s blog also gives an up to date reference from the artists point of view

Which in turn brings me to…..

Wide Open Space part 3

I’ve been humming the Mansun’s 90’s tune, while wandering round Nottingham thinking about the call to arms for help to get exhibition space bought collectively by among others Jen Dalton,  William and Man Bartlett called Escape from New York. They are planning on buying space in a building that is over the river out of the city so they can travel relatively easily (I guess – considering how big NY is) and I assume not alienate themselves by still being in the proximity rather than moving right outside of town: they  are looking at a building in spacious New Jersey. I was trying to get my head around a building that has space for rent in (rich?) New Jersey that a group of artists can afford?. I am though totally with them on that. The fact that with so many artists involved they can exhibit essentially from their own framework and agenda. With the added ongoing potential of the space being used for art, seems a sound way to go.


Silk mill

Exhibition and studio space is so much part of the problem (and this looks like a good way to solve): the fact that city studio space is pitched to fail as land and property is premium and artists are not usually able to take out a second rent bill as they have enough dealing with home rent.

I mentioned before about the very fetching  5th floor no-lift-space, I and other artists shared and rented (along with leaky roof and a family of pigeons) 12 years ago. This was bang smack in the middle of the club/music/fashion area of Hockley before it was redeveloped, forcing us to ‘disband’, relocate and basically find somewhere out of town. The beauty of the Hockley space was we were able to drag potential business from a few streets away into the space. We all lived in various places in an around Nottingham then, so we never found that central space again.

So I’m thinking and musing about this, and how these sorts of approach can be used in different ways.

* update : Happy to say Nottingham has re-invented itself in the wake of Nottingham Contemporary – with a hive activity in artist and artist run spaces in and around the city circa 2016 !