Sunday, November 15, 2009

a rosary (15/11/09)

How does the concept of difference relate to verbs?

Shall I produce an album of trumpet sound landscapes (and invite Amy to participate?)

Are there natural rhythms to creativity or am I just lazy?

Do I prefer wild roses?

Did Matt Collins know I would find this?

Leaf Soup (November Thoughts)

Reluctantly had to go out this morning to pick up money for tomorrow's taxi and food shopping. However, as I made my way to the shops I saw how fresh and beautiful yesterday's storms had left everything. So I made a second journey with my camera and collected some ideas...

My mind was full of recent things and the crisp air always seems to encourage clear and wide-ranging thinking. So I thought of the possibilities of the trumpet for albums, in both its raw and cooked states (acoustic and electronic) following on from contact with trumpeter Amy Horvey who sent some sounds to Consemble G yesterday.

And I though of the language soup that is Semiology, as I prepared and gave a lecture on this and other topics to my first year group last Wednesday -hence the allusion to Lévi-Strauss above. Through re-contacting it through my research I've become much more interested and sympathetic towards Post-Structuralism (it was the only mode of analysis when I was an art student so I rather took against it).

It still leaves me with questions though (every pun intended).

I find inspiration in the general thrust of writers such as Barthes and Derrida as they point to the fact of writing (language) being a potential trap - and the way beyond this trap is to be playful, to constantly reinvent, to be comfortable with being decentred.

The problem I have is with the whole of language being structured through difference; intuitively I feel this is wrong or at least only part of the story. And I'm left wondering whether I am in error through my misunderstanding of difficult material or whether I'm correct and need to explore alternatives. On a day in November.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Firework Music

November the 5th: Guy Fawkes night, Bonfire night, Firework night. I like the last one the best, the idea of works in fire - earth works, water works, fire works...

I've always loved Firework night; when I was a child the comics (Beano, Dandy etc.) would be full of their characters lighting bonfires and watching impossibly exotic rockets and bangers and catherine wheels fizz and whistle and explode.

My family would always gather around a real garden bonfire and we would have roast potatoes in their jackets and watch as my father carefully placed the empty milk bottles as launch pads for skyrockets or lit the blue touch paper and retired (as the instructions quaintly put it) before the world became a mass of green or red or amber flames.

I loved everything about fireworks - I loved buying them, choosing them individually to amass a collection. I loved the fact that you could gaze at them, hold them, excitedly wondering exactly what experience they would bring, what colours and sparks and surprises they would give. I loved the poetry of their names, (Silver Rain, Traffic Lights, Versuvius, Crackling Cauldron, Wallop Wobbler), I loved their shapes and I loved their graphics. So much so, that my sister and I would explore the garden the following day looking for their burnt-out shells so we could collect them to remember the pleasure they had given. And I have just found a book (and related website) by Mark Fleming called 'Firework Art' which as the title suggests, is full of these nocturnal evocations and is a thing of beauty.

And this has reminded me (remember, remember) that one day I intend to make some Parallel Music pieces on the theme of Fire Works.

-all images from 'Firework Art' by Mark Fleming - the book costs £10.99 including 1st class postage (in the UK) and also contains 4 colour postcards of a Standard Firewoks ad. Excellent value and thoroughly recommended - a real labour of love.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fragaria (prelude) - slideshow and thoughts

I have now put up a slideshow of images: relating to my 'Fragaria (prelude)' show, prompted by a talk I gave yesterday (21st Oct.) to the Land/Water research group at the University of Plymouth.

Preparing for this show has made me focus on how best to present and articulate my work and so has been very useful. I've had some very positive feedback and I am looking forward to developing some bookworks and the next event (the 'prelude' in the title is intended to suggest this show as a forerunner to a larger exhibition).


On another note, I am posting out the latest CL Consemble newsletter on the 25th October:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fragaria (prelude)

Fragaria (prelude)
a small show of paintings

from 18th September to October 28th 2009

Scott Building Foyer,
University of Plymouth,
Drake Circus,
Devon PL4 8AA

Paintings (on wall):
1./ Raspberry with salt on 12” record painted white*
2./ Blueberry with salt on 12” record painted white*
3./ Blackberry with salt on 12” record painted white*
* with acknowledgements to Ellie Parker for providing these records, ready-painted with emulsion.

Work on plinths:
4 Paint tins [pitara, red plum, strawberry, raspberry]
Fragaria (island)
Periodic Review

These speculative pieces have grown out of my previous explorative practice of combining sodium chloride (salt) with water-based paints - a practice which enables me to work in a space between chance and control in my artwork (and runs parallel to my work with indeterminate music composition).

During the Summer of 2008 I began to use fruit, first as an admixture to my acrylic/salt mix, then eventually realising that fruit alone provides all of the essentials of commercial paints for my purposes: hue, texture, a covering medium etc. while also returning paint to its roots: poetic yet fallible.

The application of fruit/salt to a variety of surfaces has generated the possibility of my developing a vocabulary of objects in relation to form (e.g. the square, the circle) and content (meditations on chance and composition, the poetics of the gramophone record, the act of painting and in the case of ‘Cerasum’, sexuality).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Consemble: EFGC2 Concluded

Midnight the 31st August 2009 sees the conclusion of the second round of Consemble licences:
Consemble E: 'soul electric'
Consemble F: 'washed up on your island'
Consemble G: 'sky writing'
and the continuation (second licence):
Consemble C2: 'the idea of voice'

Consemble has been a great success this year with an even wider range of contributors (particularly due to my networking through NetNewMusic and OPENFluxus). I'm very encouraged by this and am considering how to develop Consemble even further.

Over 43 contributors have taken part and although the licences are now closed to the general public I am going to invite participation from a few key people (with a deadline of Saturday 24th Oct.) - I will then issue a newsletter and another blog article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Since I am on holiday with Teo, here's a stamp of our recent collaborative painting (blackberry, redcurrant, lime, melon).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) v

Above is an edited snapshot of the painting, now dry. Not completely finished, as I am going to paint the edges, but nevertheless a version of the 'finished' work.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) iv

A cherry vocano with a large raspberry seed prominence.

A serrated coastal edge boardering two large, deep red territories. To the South West, a paler ravine harbouring clearer crystal structures.

A weather of changes soon...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

On the Use and Abuse of Random

> How random are you?

Rowntrees recently released some sweets in the UK called 'Randoms' - part of the ad campaign runs: 'what makes them so unique is that contain four different textures, six fruit flavours and 258 different shape and colour combinations. With shapes as diverse as a monkey, cupcake, acorn, shuttlecock, palm tree and even a pair of y-fronts! This really is variety like never before'.

There seems to be the beginnings of a trend within manufacturing to drawn on the influence of generative systems to produce variety. Recently, faber and faber commissioned some book designs that
are unique for every copy: 'Faber Finds generative book covers'

Of course, I hope this trend continues.

However, what I really want to write about here is a recent linguistic development in the UK. I first noticed it amongst my students but you now hear it in advertising, on radio, even the BBC news: namely the use of random as an adjective. Previously, there have been legitimate occasions for this: you often hear something like 'I made a random decision' - although the alternative 'I made a decision at random' sounds more elegant to me. What I am highlighting though are phrases such as 'a random man came up to me' or 'wow, that experience was completely random'.

You can have fun with the first example: I imagine a 'random man' as one whose clothes magically keep changing - now he's wearing a deerstalker with a red suit, now a bowler with speedos etc. What is meant used to be said as 'a man came up to me at random'. The meaning of the second example is quite hard to capture exactly but runs something like 'I had a strange/unexpected/disorientating experience.'

Part of me (the grumpy old man part) deplores this use of 'random' -but I'm mindful of the kind of discussions in Stephen Pinker's book 'The Language Instinct' so perhaps the language is changing and I have to learn to live with it. One aspect I can challenge though is, perhaps, a philosophical one: the assumption that the notion of randomness is straightforward.

Let me give some examples of how it is not.

The first one is close to home: in Parallel Music, as a form of short-hand, I describe it as drawing on computer random number generation to provide the indeterminacy. In actual fact, computers use pseudo-random number generation, as there will always be a slight numerical bias in the output. Also, within this system, the possibilities of different versions are very large but not infinite: given enough time, one could hear all the possible permutations of a piece of PMusic.

Secondly, to what extent is the phrase 'I chose a colour at random' actually true? Ever since discussions of the unconscious mind, we have become aware of the possibility of mental events beyond our control (or at least, recognition) influencing our behaviour. And nowadays we are increasingly aware of the importance of our genetic heritage as a contributing factor in our lives. Therefore can we ever truly make a random decision? Did the man really come up to you at random?

What I really don't like in much of the recent use of the word random is the implication of a certain passivity, a lack of responsibility: 'Oh the world's all random so you can't get involved; this random man blew up a bus; politics is all totally random' etc.

Well this random man is telling you: it's not as random as you think.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) iii

Another miserable day weather-wise, the complete opposite of the spirit of this painting, Summery and playful.

Added more layers today and attended to the edges of the colours, although I am waiting for the central stripe to dry (pink with blue) before I fill in the remaining white. Although not shown in this photo, I have now filled in the top left of this painting which unfortunately overlaid some delicate blue pink crystals - which is why I am being careful to preserve them in the centre, if possible.

Working in this way one is never fully in control so you have to be prepared to accept the changes as they occur. I've tried to adopt an improvisational frame of mind working on this piece to bridge the gap between experiment and control - not an easy balance but at the moment I think things are developing well: I get a certain charge when looking at this painting, showing some of the possibilities of cherry and raspberry in terms of colour and texture. The salt both preserves and crystalizes - in many senses of this word.

This is the first fruit painting I've made which fully draws on my previous fascination with geologic-type layering. I'm particularly interested in what happens at the edges of the layers, the connecting 'micro' layers with their small details - food for 'small looking' (more of which later).

Monday, August 03, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry) ii

Typically uninspiring English weather this Monday; a constructive day nevertheless.

Spent the morning planning out the Fine Art stage 1 Critical Studies programme with my colleague Sarah. We are trying to get the balance right between covering what we believe to be important areas (politics, semiology, feminism, psychoanalysis etc.) while appreciating that many students are encountering these topics for pretty much the first time. Lectures therefore need to be broad and inspiring without compromising the complexities that arise. Not easy, but I believe we made some progress.

Especially in our discussion of Prog Rock*.

Added some more to the painting and noticed that crystals didn't begin to form until around 12.30pm i.e. about twenty four hours from initial making (see below) -which goes to show that even with central heating, these things can't be hurried.

Looking forward to adding more lines to complete the surface when the first ones have dried.

*BBC recently screened a program on so-called 'Prog Rock' which we both enjoyed but found rather contentious.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Proposition (Cherry; Raspberry)

Above is the prepared canvas, primed with a white emulsion/pva mix, with diagonal strips of faun matt paper, photo gloss paper and some yellow cartridge paper glued to the surface. The joins are unimportant as my intention is to eventually cover the entire canvas in fruit/salt solution.

Here are the initial stages of painting; I'm using dark cherry and two varieties of raspberry: one redish and one with a more pinkish hue (at least when wet). I'm going to allow these first applications to begin to dry before adding more material, this evening or tomorrow.

Culturally, cherries and raspberries are an unusual combination - not impossible to assemble, but like most fruits each having its own separate world.


Talking of unusual combinations here's 'Stardust' and 'Black Coffee' by the lovely Sarah Vaughan being stirred together in the cup of chance by Jim Andrews: Stardust & Black Coffee

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Well June (Joon) melted into July melting into August.

Teo arrives next week and I can't wait.

Been ill for a sustained period now -but thankfully feeling better even as I type. Going to do a Lightning Technique course soon, so will report on its effects. Have noticed good quality of sleep really makes a positive difference. This year has been a slog, though, so far.

Degree Show has been and gone, but with a group of students continuing to show their work at the gallery, 30 Vyner Street, London from 6th to 16th August. Go and see some beautiful work.

Have had many more submissions from Consemblers including Ted Houghtaling, Emma Payne from fedbybirds, Steve Moshier (excerpts from his 'Brief Encounters'), Cem Gurney, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen and Dave Dellafiora: 'Hi Paul, you should get the cd in a few days as it was sent last week. As I said before please feel free to cut the music up. The method used was one I copied from one of the autistic guys I work with, playing youtube with a number of windows open, all playing at once and rolling back the sound almost like scratching effect.'

-and more, with more sounds promised!

Painting has focussed on exploring the effect of using different papers (often to make birthday cards for family and friends). Have recently been using gloss printing papers and matt card with cherry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry salt solutions. In fact, I'm all ready to go with a prepared canvas this evening. In fact, the reason I am writing this blog is to escape from the noise of kids outside my flat so I can pass the time until they disperse. In fact, they're gone now...

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Bed, 2009

Colour gamut

Strawberry field

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Elected to Vote

Went to vote today just as the weather improved. It has been can'tsleep hot but was forecast to be averagejune cold. So the sunlight streamed through the Karate Club voting hall as the tumbleweeds blew across my path. Apart from the administrators there was no one else there - it actually felt as if I was the only St Thomas resident who was going to mark his X. I toyed with the Greens but finally went with the Reds, if only because it looks as if the simplistic media presentation is going to swing a Labour 'meltdown' from a reactionary public at a time when we should be questioning rightwing Capitalist thinking rather than the presentation skills of Gordon B.

It saddens me to see a BNP rep for Europe on a Ballot paper, especially in Devon.

The focus has been removed from its rightful position - the examination of the raw greed of the very rich and the desperately poor quality of management (outside of government) that pervades this country and beyond.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bank of Holiday Monday

Still recovering myself.

Trying to diary a future.

Degree Shows coming up.

No composed music for a short while, although still listening to 'Last night the moon came...'

Looking through the annual Field Report still better than going to a Biennale...

Bank of Holiday Monday pays golden coins of rest.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sat All Day

After a very full and tiring week at work, Saturday - time to rest and catch up.

Consemble Son count is very healthy with a couple of months to go:
Consemble C2 - 54
Consemble E - 35
Consemble F - 39
Consemble G - 31
(all out of a maximum of 60)
Quite a few of the recent ones are from composers via NetNewMusic.
I plan to add some wah guitar to E and some drawing sounds (the sound of stylus on papyrus) to G quite soon.
Finished the Bourriaud and enjoyed it, then discovered to my delight there is a book called 'Non-relational Aesthetics' by Charlie Gere (and others), who I knew at Middlesex and who has gone on to great, if unrelational, things. Not everyone is a fan of this response but I will certainly seek it out. Also found some interesting online perceptions of RA. One criminal omission is any real discussion of sound or music - it seems to me that an average, intelligent Rock concert fulfils many of Bourriaud's requirements for an art of contact. Should also mention that RA is no longer all that contemporary and the debate has moved on. A few more coffees and I may chase after it.
Small painting show now moved to early Sept. though the 'canvasses' continue to build up. It's recently occurred to me that a 'Fragaria' accompanying bookwork could contain some scans of sketches for work, as well as text and photos. Still thinking about how to represent it online (without being ripped off).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Brief: Encounters

University of Plymouth
Second Year Students
Fine Art Show 2009

16th - 22nd May
open 11am to 7pm

The Brewhouse, Royal William Yard,
Plymouth, Devon UK


need to tidy + blue Sunday = here

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bed and Two Posts

I had three arrivals recently.

One was a heavy cold that turned into a 'flu-like illness - the kind where your life shrinks to the size of a bed. After a couple of days of trying to sleep it off (so I would be able to function at work) I stumble downstairs to find two packages:

One was the most recent Field Report, painstakingly assembled by Dave Dellafiora. I tore off the three layers of packaging and sat down to read the news from the Field. Better than ever, the 2008 Report continues to represent the diversity of art possibilities away from Gallery Mainstreet. [see also: report-from-field-2007]

One was Jon Hassell's 'Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street' - an album whose originality and beauty I will have to try to describe after I am fed and well...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lazy Relational Sunday

Just started reading Bourriaud's 'Relational Aesthetics' while drinking my second coffee of the day. RA seems to be the new buzz phrase around college and I need to engage again with current art theory (my recent reading has been on Sound, particularly in relation to neurology). As I've been marking theses, another term: 'overdetermined' has also been reoccurring...

My first impression is quite positive, although the translation is rather inelegant in places and Bourriaud sometimes uses that rather French rhetorical-assertive tone that you also find in Barthes, Derrida et al. so that you feel as if you're being addressed as an insider but simultaneously positioned as a fraud because, secretly, you yourself have made all those assumptions that are now being challenged.

Some of the terms defined are useful:
'Relational (art)
A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.'

others less so:
The contemporary artist is a semionaut, he (sic) invents trajectories between signs.'

-which suggests a return to the rather narrow orthodoxies of semiology and rings just a bit silly, in my view.

More interesting is the discussion of the interstice and how artists open up new spaces for transaction and discussion. The privileging of process over the art object is nothing new, but here Bourriaud identifies a political charge in this, leading one towards the possibilities of humanist intervention in a rigid, suffocating marketplace. I'm hoping, as I continue to read, that there will be an intelligent discussion of music, especially Rock, as it is my contention that theories of visual art and sonic art have been falsely kept apart for too long. The live music performance is as radical an artistic gesture as any in Bourriaud's typology.

I am only a short way into this slim book and I very much want to read on and reflect on my practice in RA's light; that has to be a compliment. Dare I risk a third coffee?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning '09

After a fairly relaxing but poignant Easter I return to report on current developments.

Since I last blogged my painting practice has continued to flourish and grow, with my current work centering on the record and variations upon it (taking, for example, the idea of a label surrounded by a circular lake of sound). I need to confirm but I believe I am setting up a small show of work very soon, in the Scott Building in Plymouth University where I lecture. I want to use this as a spring board for a larger show this Summer, which will also include some form of bookwork. As I have been working with strawberries for some of these pieces, the tentative title of the Plymouth show is 'Fragaria - towards future variations'. As my friend Sarah commented (who teaches an MA Fine Art course) my recent work is complex, with apparently disparate strands being collided, but I feel an effective display of my work will lead the audience through the brambles to the fruit ;-)

I am still thinking how best to represent my work online and need to reflect further on how I want to structure so that I achieve a balance between old and new work. Rightly or wrongly I always feel I want to do justice to earlier material, particularly music, as the work didn't have much exposure at the time it was made and I think there are some good pieces there - things that I listen to as much as I listen to anything else. It is also coming up to the 30 year anniversary of 'Photographs of Sound' - an album recorded and released by PGRS, the first improvising band I was a member of - and so it would be appropriate to mark this with some form of interweb celebration I think...

This round of Consembles has been very productive, with a number of new participants getting involved, and the promise of sounds from many more. I am pleased in the way that this project has put me in touch with many interesting artists/musicians (and I intend to develop this further, possibly into the territory of 'Inlets' Daughter' and certainly for MAAKOF).

I am already collaborating with the delightful Carla Cryptic on a new PMusic Single and this is an exciting development for me, being able to work internationally across the web, with like-minded people.

Another encouraging sign has been the inclusion of an overview of PMusic and Consemble by Peter van Cooten in his blog 'DreamScenes'. Peter is also involved in Folio Radio - a radio show in the Netherlands and we are talking about the possibility of PMusic featuring in a half-hour slot on the programme in June or July of this year.

I still have several things I need to attend to:
'Inlets Daughter' and/or 'eTudes'
A bookwork on Parallel Music
Beatrice Harrison project
'Red' painting project
my website (as mentioned)
and more...

Spring cleaning my art while time flies by...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New Licenses

Feb 1st soft launch for three new Consembles:
Consemble E: 'soul electric'
Consemble F: 'washed up on your island'
Consemble G: 'sky writing'

and a continuation (second licence):
Consemble C2: 'the idea of voice'

Consemble: E imageConsemble: F imageConsemble: C imageConsemble: G image

Please feel free to contribute your own sounds
'let's build some music together'
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