Saturday, September 06, 2008

6/9/08 to 5/1/09

This entry actually covers the period from:
Saturday, September 06, 2008 to Monday, January 05, 2009.

During the above period much has happened, particularly within my painting (I've been doing lots of it), that I haven't been able to document in this blog. The recent demands of my job (including an exhausting, but ultimately productive, 'periodic review') and periods of illness have taken me away from self-reflective writing. Concurrently, the possibilities for documentation of my paintings have grown so much that I feel a separate web presence, possibly within my site, is called for, this having the added advantage of freeing up space here to mention painting as just one activity I'm engaged in and perhaps returning the focus of this blog primarily to discussions of music and Chameleon Lectra.

The following then is a summary of activity and interests that have arisen from my visual explorations:

I began painting again as a means of creative relaxation - away from the computer but not away from my muse. My first pieces revisited the territory I had explored after my degree, with the added advantage that I generally had (have) more money, time and space with which to pursue them.

One of the biggest differences was that I chose to work mainly on canvas, both as a signifier of 'painting' and a convenient means of mounting work on walls. Previously I had used hardboard, MDF, paper or reworked existing prints/paintings.

I use, primarily, square canvasses and the motifs of square and circle appeared in my early, recent work, further emphasized by my occasional incorporation of records.

Some interesting references:
Anthocyanins (pigment in fruits such as strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, cherry etc.)

above: 'Fleurs des Sels' (September - December 2008)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Strawberry September

I've always had a thing about strawberries. One of my earliest memories is looking for wild strawberries with my father in Swanscombe woods (the wild ones have a beautiful concentrated flavour).

I was shocked when a girl in my infants' class said she disliked them. I think this was the moment when I began to understand that people are not the same, that we are separate entities with diverse tastes. However, this really upset me when I was six - how could anyone not like strawberries?

In my early twenties I worked for the Post Office as a counter clerk (mainly to raise funds for my music projects). As experiences go it was rather a dull one but I do remember being struck, one day, by an issue of stamps based on William Morris's 'Strawberry Thief'. I took this inspiration home with me and ended up writing a piece for Four Point Paint with the eponymous title. We performed this piece, along with three others, at a small gig in Southampton and for each piece we also created a visual image which we suspended above us. I did a reinvented Strawberry Thief illustration in gouache, incorporating some biographical elements.

I've been painting with strawberries as a continuation with my work with fruit (see previous entry 'Brush') and it has been a very interesting challenge. Unlike raspberries, the colour tends to remain uniform - vermillion when wet and a darker red (crimson) when dry. The flatness of the colour heightens the role of texture in a monochrome painting. The use of strawberries, following on from the raspberries, (see entry below) has also made me reflect on the symbolic and metaphoric potential of this activity with fruit and accordingly has opened up several areas for exploration (including narrative, provenance and chemistry).

above: 'Strawberry Echoes' September 2008

Consemble: End of First Year

The deadline of 31st August 2008 being duly reached, the music licences for Consembles A, B, C and D have now 'expired' (although the music never ends ;-)

A very successful first year conclusion to an expansive project. Over 30 people took part, with the spread of backgrounds I was looking for: sound artists, mail artists, amateurs, children, dilettantes, experts.

My next task is to write some mini-essays on the experience and then redesign and re-launch the Consemble pages. I'll blog when this is achieved.

There will also be three new open licences for 2008/9: Consembles E and F, and a second 'idea of voice' (as this was a popular choice) Consemble C2. Deadline 31st August 2009.

Consemble: construct, assemble, compose, ensemble

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dusk Letter/Dusk Disk

Been away for a break, visiting friends and family in and around Rochester, Kent. Pleasantly surprised today by a letter from David Dellafiora found on my doormat today just as I was about to do catch-up supermarket shopping.

The package also contained a disk for submission to Consemble B: 'Dusk' with several tracks of birdsong recorded in Australia, at dusk, by Dave and his partner and fellow artist Sue Hartigan.

It is refreshing to get a contribution that has been put together with such care and integrity. There is a kind of creative energy that is perpetuated by such activity and Dave, and Sue, always contribute fully to any project they're engaged in.

Said in my reply email:
'Thanks once again for participating - and it's refreshing to get a CD in the mail that has been so lovingly crafted: it will certainly go into my archive! ...I'm pleased with Consemble B as it has the rather introverted, purple sky feel I was hoping for. I've gained a lot from doing this project and particularly in terms of composition I feel I've also learned and developed a sensibility for PMusic and its potential'.

Current Consembles now have just a eight more days to run.

click on the above image to hear track 1 of the disk

also listen here to Consemble B: 'Dusk'

Monday, August 04, 2008

Variations (and other pieces)

As it's Monday and I'm not working on anything specifically today I thought I'd take a moment to give an overview of recent work.

Here are some of the other works generated by yesterday's painting session:

And here are some of the other pieces in progress:

Intending to buy some more paint and canvasses tomorrow; I may work on the strawberry/salt crystal project later this week.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


The day has arrived.

After all my preparation, from priming canvasses and painting their edges, to visiting B&Q and WHS and pound shops for materials, to purchasing British fruit in Sainsburys, I'm finally at the point where I will coat a canvas in paint, salt solution and raspberries - and then leave it to dry.

My attitude to painting, the frame of mind I adopt, is very similar to my one for composing music: the paintings grow and develop partially through control, partially through accidents and unforeseen outcomes. I like working in this gap between chance and order. I also view each painting as a kind of dynamic experiment, which may or may not have a successful outcome but will at least provide an experience from which to learn.

1./ blender         2./ add fruit       3./ add salt sol.       4./ pulse

5./ pour mix       6./ mix in paint      7./ apply to canvas

Now all we have to do is wait:

Raspberries (variety Glen Ample, Scotland)
Atlantic Sea Salt (solution)
Velvet Matt Emulsion (Craig & Rose) - Red Velvet
Velvet Matt Emulsion (Craig & Rose) - Oriental Red
Chalky Emulsion (Craig & Rose) - Deep Burgundy
Acrylic (WHS) - Rose Madder
Acrylic (Cryler: Daler Rowney) - Cadmium Red
Acrylic (Galleria: Windsor & Newton) - Crimson

Monday, July 28, 2008


Busy again sifting the web for people to invite to Consemble and emailing sound art project sites to request placement of Consemble on their links pages - there's a particularly good presentation at netEX which has resulted in quite a few visits.

Also received some more sounds from a musician from Chile so spent an enjoyable morning creating Sons from this material.

I've learned a great deal from this project and when this current round ends on the 31st August I shall place a mini essay on the site reflecting on the experience. One of the things that has surprised me is that people generally say 'here are my sounds - edit and use them accordingly'. I was expecting participants to be much more 'hands on' about their contributions, so the lightness of touch is refreshing. Having said this I'm not sure to what extent people are listening to the Consembles prior to sending the sounds they 'think ought to be included in the projects' - I'll have to consider this for future work. At the moment I think I will set up three new Consembles beginning on the first of September with a deadline of the 31st August 2009 (as this fits well with my timetable in relation to college work).

Painting is progressing well with the 'strawberry' canvas being prepared and another small square canvas primed for tests. That totals around 6 paintings in gestation. Have been very spoiled recently as we have had some very warm, sunny days perfect for drying canvasses quickly. It now feels as if a storm is brewing so we may be returning to cooler, English slower drying times.

I think providing a list of 'ingredients' for each painting will be a useful way of contextualising them; a small bookwork based on this idea may be appropriate.

I also think going to my kitchen for a break and refreshment will be useful; a biscuit and a cup of tea may be appropriate here. Must phone Geoff.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


After returning from a much needed and appreciated two week break in Rochester, Kent, my creative life has been invigorated and focussed on painting and the Consemble project. College is in recess for the summer and apart from some admin, thesis supervision and webwork, I have some breathing space in which to develop my practice.

The above image is of the underpainting for a raspberry/salt crystal canvas I'm currently working on; this is one of a planned series which will also include strawberries and, possibly, citrus fruits. In fact the reference to strawberries and the aesthetics of this work are reminding me of the time I worked woth William Morris's image 'Strawberry Thief' which generated both a re-worked watercolour and music for the gtr duo 4 point paint.

It feels very good to be painting again after being away from it for too long (mainly because of my music projects). I'm re-remembering all those small but essential techniques through which to generate the most effective work. I have a few other plans - one for a canvas utilising circular paints from a reworked children's painting kit and one for a canvas incorporating a gramophone record (and this should help me pick up the thread of my thinking from 'Works Of Friction' last year).

Consemble A licenceConsemble B licenceConsemble C licenceConsemble D licence
I'm also having a drive to publicise Consemble and get some more sounds submitted before the August 31st deadline - if you'd like to listen or take part please do:

Had a very good day last Tuesday when I had three people respond with some excellent work: two submissions for 'the idea of voice' (currently the most populous Consemble with 42 sons) and one for 'Snapshot' which is taking on a rather pastoral feel. Prior to this artist Jockel Liess contributed to 'Dusk' and I'm hoping more people will be in contact soon after my sending emails to hertz lion, the Sonic Arts Network, (indirectly) and others this week. In fact Sunday will also be a Consemble email day (as well as a paint drying day).

Now where's that pear cider?...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Trading Card Past

Monstruos Diabolicos - I love these!

I'll write more about Trading Cards in the future

Thursday, June 19, 2008

By Degrees

Fine Art
Degree Show

Private view:
13th June - 6pm
Public show now open:
14th - 21st June
Roland Levinsky Building, Drake Circus, Plymouth
Mills Bakery, Royal William Yard, Plymouth

Friday, May 16, 2008

Report from the Field of 2007

Ah, what joy! It's that time of year when a thump at your letterbox announces the arrival of the latest Field Report - the annual journal of Mail Art group Field Study International.

This edition is the thirteenth and it does not disappoint, in fact this publication is growing in terms of energy, scope, media - and size! What was once a breakfast-sized meal is now a ten course feast - impossible to digest in one sitting.

Coincidentally, as one of my contributed pages was for Consemble, the theme of sound is also pursued in this Field Report by Martin Desloovere's Thaw to Melt tracks (with link to 'ode to communicage') and the man from icons's binaural recordings of journeys to and from the BMC gallery, Brighton (these being provided on the Report's first audio CD).

There is a sense of maturity here as well - of Mail Art having grown up - and, on its own terms become more articulate and sophisticated. That's not to say that there isn't the place for intermittent idiot glee or the occasional anarchic acid slash - but the thing that strikes me is the sense of community (or communities) here, that the politics of Mail Art has lead it into people's lives in areas that Art, with the exception of music, rarely reach.

Although the Report is the work of many contributors, it is assembled with integrity and great care by David Dellafiora, maƮtre d' of Field Study - and so many thanks to him from myself and fellow Studyiers.

(above 2 images by the Sticker Dude,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

...Strikes Again

I have recently been redesigning the Fine Art website and have placed some images from the current Second Year show online:

2nd Year Fine Art exhibition
10th-17th May 2008
opening times: 10am-4pm
venue: New Cooperage Building,
Royal William Yard,
Plymouth, Devon

Faculty of Arts * University of Plymouth

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Park and Record

Yesterday, after doing my Saturday shop at the supermarket, I unexpectedly came across an event in local Pinces park organised by Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM). The weather was glorious, cream teas were on sale and it was good to see the park filled with people - a real community event. There was a Global Gardeners Touring Exhibition featured, with stalls and free-standing posters, and entertainment was provided courtesy of Wren Music. This event also sought to promote the website which features a 'living history of the area West of the Exe' and has a space for members to add their own material documenting their lives in Exeter.

I returned to the park with my minidisc 'hoover' and gathered recordings for half and hour or so really enjoying what felt like my first real taste of Summer. The sounds of children, birds, folk music and ocassional overhead 'planes was a rich mix.

Today (Sunday) I digitised these recordings and made some summer Sons which I placed in Consemble A and Consemble C. Have a listen?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cathedrals of Hiss/New Online Studio

It's Bank Holiday Monday and a good time to blog. I've had a recent period of unwellness and been somewhat detoured from working on Inlets' Daughter but have found myself engaged on two different projects...

I was recently sifting through some old cassettes of music I had recorded over the past 25 years or so with the vague idea of digitising some of them to place on my new website (see 2). One of them stood out from the rest for a couple of reasons: it was uncharacteristically very badly recorded*, with lots of hissss but it also stayed with me, wanting to play it again and again.

This cassette was labelled '4 Point Paint' which was an improvised gtr duo I formed with Robin Watts in Southampton in the early '80s. The name comes from the fact that we commissioned to be made (from a local electronics firm) a signal splitter which allowed us to output our guitars to four seperate amps. Across some of these connections we placed effects pedals (phasers, flangers etc.) so that we created a kind of surround sound - when such things were uncommon.

It would be true to say that we never really developed the system or even played live as much as we might but this was a colourful time when Robin and I were in several bands and had other commitments.

We played a handful of venues including (from memory):
• Southampton University Concourse,
• Southampton Civic Centre
• The Deannery Annexe, Southampton (twice, I think),
• City Centre, Above Bar, Southampton (near the art gallery),
• A field with some cows (Robin also had a spare car battery which we used to power our outdoor ‘gigs’).

It would be fair to say that we left the musical world (even the musical world of Southamption) relatively untroubled - perhaps with exception of the cows - but we definitely had something. Our playing was underpinned by a rapport developed from our repeated improvising together, and our style was under the influence of systems music, enabling us to move into combining and offsetting patterns of notes one moment and then veering off into new areas the next.

As I have described, most of our band time was spent improvising together and from these improvisations we would develop frameworks for music to play at our live performances. The rediscovered cassette contained four such improvisations.

...And so at first I digitised the 4 Point Paint tracks with the intention of removing as much of the hiss as I could without spoiling the sound of the guitars. As I worked with the tracks however, taking them into Logic Audio to mix hissed and unhissed versions together and gnashing my teeth and cursing at the whole idea of hiss a great deal - I gradually began to see that hiss was perhaps not my enemy and that I should embrace hiss and even use it as my guide ;o) (which means I realised I could gently reinvent the tracks, with subtle reverbs and new additions here and there and use the hiss as a guiding aesthetic). I then became interested in not just documenting the past but using it to produce new material.

From there it was a short step to designing a CD cover and preparing to release a VERY limited edition (of 2 only) of '4 Point Paint'.

The main revelation however, has been that I can view my past recordings as ingredients for new work - so more of this later.

* This was an era in which I veered between working in recording studios and double-tracking cassettes on my warhorse of a Hi Fi.

I've also sporadically been trying out some design and content ideas for which will work as a kind of 'online artist's studio' (and I'm busy trying to define that term) in parallel with the Chameleon Lectra site.

more entries on the above soon

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two Singles

2 new Singles for March...

Our Devonian Lagoon (EP005)


eTude 23 (EP006)

...with Updated notes.
to Singles notes
The Notes area now includes a spoken description of the intention behind Singles and some RMusic versions of the pieces.

The characters of these two Singles are dissimilar and represent my attempt to create two very different listening experiences.

The first, ODL, began with quite a clear image of what I intended to evoke - a sort of romance found in an unlikely source - for more see the ODL notes. It also proved difficult to complete and was begun over a year ago. The piece followed on from exploring the use of the guitar in 'Liquid Birdsong' - this time using long slowed phrases to collide and produce a kind of incidental melody stream. I found it quite difficult to not let everything move towards turning into a kind of muddy dirge - and on some playings I'm still not sure whether I have succeeded in this. On other playings however, when I relax about listening, it conjures the atmosphere I intended (such is the challenge of PMusic composition). About halfway through working on ODL I began to think of Roxy Music's 'Hula-Kula' (but I'm not sure exactly why).

The eTude however was produced within a couple of days and my starting point was to work from scratch, so to speak, generating ideas from the core sound of scratchy guitar picks (a reference to my improvising past). I also had in mind a photograph I had taken (quite coincidentally) of a skyline with roof and TV aerial. This suggested ideas of pastoral surroundings with modern communication and when I thought of the piece as a kind of drawing instead of a finished 'painting' the whole thing took off for me, suggesting more sounds to gather.

The vocals evolved from a failed attempt to replicate something I was hearing in my head - they were going to be crisp rather than rounded - but I came to realise that they provided a counterpoint to some of the other sharper sound pools. They also reflect the fact that I had been listening to (and enjoying) 'Blood, Muscle and Air' - the latest CD from the Sonic Arts Network, curated by David Moss.

I gained a lot in premiering a piece I had made so quickly and the Single presented has been slightly reworked in light of experiencing the 'live' version in Plymouth - see previous entry.
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