As part of my creative process I often make notes whilst walking and I like to write generally about ideas and thoughts etc. This section is for those who do the same, or who like reading!
Cities hold our histories, our stories, our hopes and dreams.
Cities could be more playful, more giving, less demanding.
People could be encouraged to explore our cities and participate more in their development and progress and by doing so gain an understanding of their own place in the story of their city. Exploring the city means being in the city for experiences that are not only retail and entertainment related. People can be enabled to really look at the beauty of their cities not only in the grandness of its buildings and public spaces but also in the smallness, in the detail, in the often forgotten and unseen – in the marks, scratches, colours, textures, patterns. Sharing our relationship with our cities with one another enables a new freshness to emerge, in terms of how we relate to each other and how we experience our cities differently.
I love the way the history of the city is revealed through the stunning detail of architecture, the marks left on an alleyway wall, the mystery of a secret door, the poignancy of written notes scratched on walls, the lines of barbed wire, of cobwebs on a window ledge, and objects lost and left by passers-by.
I tend to focus upon the intimate, the detail, and the idea of being contained and sheltered. My work ranges from ‘finished’ images to pieces that maybe could be seen as ‘works in progress’ – a bit like the city itself.
I am interested in cities, not only what they are made from and how they look; their colour, form and impact; but also the views and aspects they provide, the stories they hold, the sounds they make, the environments, places, spaces they create and the emotional, physical and psychological impact they have upon people, upon the human form. I’m fascinated by the public and private worlds of buildings and architectural spaces, thresholds and boundaries, the hidden, the detailed, the obvious and the mysterious. My work explores how we impose ourselves upon the city and how the city imposes itself upon us.
I like to walk the city. I sometimes make sketches and sometimes write little notes or sometimes, just walk. After a walk I then make something. I respond in a variety of media – drawing, painting, photography, text, object, collage. The resulting work is a response to my city ‘wanderings’ and the experience of say, the physical architecture, the time of day, the light, how places made me feel, what I heard, colour, form, objects – all sorts of stuff. I see the act of walking as a connecting and collecting force enabling the creative surveying of space and structure. My work reflects the energy, emotions, remembered lines, recalled observations.
The following is a record of a train journey to Hull and notes from a walk around the city back in 2014:
Platform 4 Sheffield station
Weather: bitterly cold, very windy. Clouds thrown across the sky Blue, yellow, grey
Hot chocolate, small £2.25
Cold fingers, cold feet
Planning to explore the alleyways, back streets, hidden spaces in the old part of Hull
Ticket: class standard off peak R
Number 613355 2416669132, price £25.30, printed 10.10am05 – FBY-14
RSP number 9599
1MAG 813 9876
Departing Sheffield 10.41
Arrive Meadowhall 10.46
Arrive Doncaster 11.08 platform 3B leave 11.19, arrive Goole 11.43 leave 11.45
Arrive Brough 11.57 leave 11.59
Arrive Hull 12.05
Dark trees against a low, grey brown sky exposed bird’s nests water logged land Swinton bent trees dark canal water, rippled. White clad silver birch trees.
Seemingly emptied out industrial buildings. Dim lights.
Soaked land, swollen waters, rusted metal, stained wood
Water tower, viaduct, scarred quarried stone- beach-like.
Tracks, paths, lines, muddied treads, hewn rock, brick walls held tight with wire mesh
Branches decorated with plastic
Orange clad workers
Man sitting on a bench, coffee, suitcase staring into space … Young man with guitar – running –
Lone seagull, black lines, feather trees
Bridge, water, wood, silent places
Flatness and open sky wide far horizon. Trees like heart vessels. Ploughed water. Furrowed mud. Distant church tower. Distance stretched. Methane.
Fisherman sheltering under canvas.
Water in pools, in lakes, in gulleys, in canals, quays, puddles, horse mane, dykes
Fresh green, dark rich lines, open far reaching skies.
Church spire, water tower, tower,
Black crow blown
Wide brown water, blown
Purple brown earth churned
Shelters, huts, greenhouses, tunnels, porches, bird boxes, kennel, signal boxes, garden sheds
Lines, posts, poles, wires,
Mounds, dykes, cuts, curves, wind
Lone figure with black dog
Ferensway Paragon Square South Street Little Queen Street Paragon Street Carr Lane Chariot Street Monument Whitefriargate Kingston Chambers Crown Chambers Parliament Street Manor Street
Perugino 1446/50-1523: Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian School who developed some of the qualities that found Classical expression in the High Renaissance. Raphael was his most famous pupil
Michaelangelo (sp?)Michelangelo 1475-1564: Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet and engineer of the High renaissance who exerted an unparalled influence on the development of Western Art
Teniers: from a family of celebrated Flemish painters. David Teniers the Yougner 1610-1690 was born in Antwerp the son of David Teniers the elder. His son David teniers III and his grandson David Teniers IV were also painters. His wife Anna Breughel, was the daughter of Jan Breughal the elder
Kneller 1646-1723: was the leading portrait painter in England during the late 17th century and early 18th century and was court painter to English and British monarchs from Charles II to George I
Romney 1734-1802 was an English portrait painter, the most fashionable artist of his day, painting many leading society figures including his artistic muse, Emma Hamilton, mistress of Lord Nelson
Watts 1817-1904: a popular English Victorian painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. Watts became famous for his Allegorical works such as HOPE and LOVE & LIFE. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic work called the HOUSE of LIFE in which the emotions and aspirations of life would be represented in a universal symbolic language.
Landseer 1802-1873: was an English painter well known for his paintings of animals particularly horses, dogs and stags. The best known of Landseer’s work, are the lions in Trafalgar Square
Holbein 1497-1543: a German artist and printmaker who worked in a Northern renaissance style. He is known as the greatest portraitist of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire and reformation propaganda and made a significant contribution to the history book design.
TRUE LOVE built Philadelphia 1764
DUGONG: A sea cow found on the coasts of the Indian Ocean from eastern Africa to northern Australia. It is distinguished from the manatees by its forked tail.
Mermaid: mythical sea creature with the head and trunk of a woman and the tail of a fish, conventionally depicted as beautiful and with long flowing golden hair.
The Pathway 13.20pm
Bowlalley Lane Silver Street Trinity House Lane
The black iron wall a dead end to the alleyway
The shock of the ship silent large and looming
Dark lines criss-cross against the metal grey sky stretching upwards
Then wooden floorboards beneath my feet and…
Sharp cold, sharp wind, shivering water
The flesh of the river chocolate fudge brown with slick lines, patterned across
Objects trapped tight in the muddy flesh – the green plastic bottle, the faded wooden chair, the metal bread bin, limp plastic, stoical wood
Wind that makes the iron creak and the buildings whine and my face sting
Metal on metal, metal on wood, iron bolted deep and strong
Worn wood, mossed wood, rust metal, carved letters in a red brick wall
One cut is made as trees bend heavy with rain and branches start to break
Shelter from the deep cutting wind, from the ice rain, from the edge.
Hold fast to warmer weather-worn wood
Then give in to the elements and shelter in the alleyway and listen to the music of dance…
(a building designed to give) protection from bad weather, danger, or attack:
an air-raid shelter
They opened a shelter to provide temporary housing for the city’s homeless.
The trees gave/provided some shelter from the rain.
B2 to protect yourself from bad weather, danger, or attack:
We took shelter for the night in an abandoned house.
Rain, water lines, water tracks, lonesome buildings, lonesome trees soaked black.
Clay earth shining in the grey light
Rain creeping across a window
Mud yards, mud lanes, mud paths, mud tracks
Green grey, grey green
Tree stump like a standing stone to be visited and walked around
Wide water, bent grasses, waiting shelter
Shelter: broken glass, grey black grafitti
Empty flag pole, mind the step, cranes demarcating the city sky
Telegraph poles like lean statues
Corrugated iron curved like a shell
Blue/blue grey/blue green
White grey plastic hanging
Brown still water mirror image of the buildings and the sky topsy turvey
Now the sky changed to solid grey
Darkness. Rippled water.
Lines of sand, of mud, of brick
Lines of fence, of tree, of lamp post, of rail, of phone line
Bright light. Bright water. Steaming horses. Sharp shadows. Slow moving wind turbines
Horizon a thin and distant line across a watery landscape
Deep long skies
Seagulls like white confetti on pale green
Solitary black crow
Birds on the wire.
Here is a gallery of images I have selected from some of the past which include Venice Bienalle for Architecture, The Sheffield Town Hall Residency, Matchmaker at Sheffield United, Birch & O’Shea at Allhallows Leeds, Encounters in Liverpool, Batley, Sheffield.
I was a founder of Sheffield based Encounters along with Ruth Ben-Tovim, and we pioneered and used creative methods that brought different communities of people together to share aspects of their lives. We occupied disused shop spaces in Sharrow, Sheffield, and used them as a base to make art work in response to people and the environment. We enabled people to participate in that process by sharing stories, objects, thoughts and ideas about where they lived and in so doing enabled people to contribute to the making of evolving and evocative art work. Over the years I have worked alone and collaborated with many artists and other people, and continue to develop a participatory practice that enables the making of art in a variety of form and media that examines, unearths and reveals aspects of places and communities often hidden. The artwork acts as a snapshot and a view of a place and a community at a particular moment in time. I continue to be inspired by, and have great belief in the power of creative participatory work. How it can bring people together, and how as an art form it provides a connection with and between people and places, and can result in deeper knowledge and understanding.
I value the use of the ‘object’ to explore people’s relationship with their neighbourhood, city, particular spaces and places and with each other. Many places change constantly, and this has great effect upon people’s psychological and physical experiences.
Objects can be personal and intimate, they can be gifts, can be found and lost, and can be remembered. Juxtapose different objects and promote conversation and you have the possibility to create new dialogue and new and varied relationships. The exploration of the relationships between objects can be used as a powerful metaphor that enable people to converse in an imaginative process of mutual exchange. We see objects differently as we see places differently – one object but different meanings, different viewpoints, different angles, different history. People can learn to share their different interpretations of the environment through interpretation of the object and this has the potential to be a process of mutual benefit. The key is to recognise any ‘exchange’ or sharing process as a valuable and useful end in itself and a potential ‘construct’ or structure itself of ideas, thoughts, memories, stories, reactions, opinions, responses, that if recorded or ‘captured’ become a framework for further development – whatever that development might be.
CAST is a body of work created in response to spending time in Bradford, Nottingham and Hull. In each city I planned routes and whilst journeying sketched, made notes and took photographs. From this preparatory work I created bespoke exhibitions in each city with added elements from each urban walk, and by doing so made connections and a ‘thread’ from each place to the next. I used and combined a variety of media within each show – drawings, text, mono prints, photographs, porcelain cast objects and assemblage from found and made objects. CAST was a piece of work that revealed often hidden aspects of a city, and encouraged and enabled the viewer to see elements of a city often overlooked and passed by.
I have continued to develop the work through collecting, sketching and making. CAST enabled me to view and experience cities from several viewpoints and the work led me onto the theme of SHELTER and homelessness and the need for people to find shelter and sanctuary within cities. I am now completing a research and development project funded by Arts Council Making Ways into the political and social context that is the ‘backdrop’ to the current shortage of housing and increase in those in need of sanctuary. Through interviews and conversations with a range of organisations in Sheffield, I am gaining greater knowledge and understanding of the theme and exploring how I as an artist can create work that is participatory, informative and engaging.