that’s a cool supermarket

in a little while i’ll be on my way to penzance to see the imran qureshi exhibition at the exchange and at the newlyn art gallery (here’s the page from the gallery’s website), but before i leave the house…

it’s about a supermarket. a big box supermarket that’s part of a national chain that i never use, in no small part because it’s owned by a gargantuan US retailer that will never, ever get a penny of what little money i have. and yet, i gotta say, the new ASDA on south quay in hayle, cornwall, is a phenomenal building. i know, ASDA. but, the building is beautiful. it sits in the landscape like it grew there, it works with all the surrounding structures, especially the railway bridge that is more or less next to it. it’s shape is a big parallelogram, but it’s hard to get a handle on that looking at it from the ground. frankly, i’m a little in love with this building right now.

the architect is FCBStudios, here’s the page on their website about the project

hayle’s south quay is listed, and it’s in the middle of a world heritage site, so the fact of this huge building in the midst of that, might seem offputting. but consultation was done all the way along with everyone from the local council to UNESCO, to make sure it would be done in a manner sympathetic to the area. local materials were used in its construction. and in a nice coda to the story, when the community wasn’t happy with the giant green ASDA signs after the building was finished, the corporation replaced them with stainless steel ones. it’s the only ASDA in the country without big green signs. and did i mention, it’s a beautiful building. i’m going to see it from the train today, on the way to penzance, so that’ll be a new perspective. i probably won’t ever be able to shop there, but man i’ll get a lot of pleasure from standing outside looking at it.

hayle2 hayle3 hayle4 hayle5 hayle6 southquay1 southquay2

line in the stones – tidelines no.41

batten bay beach, southern end, just over the first outcropping of rock.

8 july 2016

stone with a line through it placed on a larger stone outcropping


31 july 2016

two stones with lines through them placed on a large stone outcropping


11 august 2016

three stones with lines through them placed on a large stone outcropping

this is a tucked away spot on the beach where i’ve collected a ton of limpet shells and found other interesting flotsam. beyond the end of the main beach at batten bay, there’s a long flat outcropping of rock that juts out into the surf, but is easily clambered over to reveal a series of pirate coves and eventually another wide stretch of beach. in the first of these coves is the sheltered ridge upon which i started this piece. i didn’t know i was starting it on the 8th of july, i just put the red stone there as i was leaving with a sack of limpet shells. but it was still there when i went back, so i added another stone. the third one went in a couple of weeks ago, and this week i’m planning on getting back to check on them, and if they’re still in place, add a fourth segment. there’s been a fair bit of weather recently, so i’m not holding my breath, but…stay tuned for an update.

one thing leads to another

i often describe my work as abstract, but bearing the influence of the landscape, or my experience in the landscape. it’s an influence that’s perhaps more evident in some cases than others, but one that’s always present, always doing its part to inform whe way i make pictures.

here’s a specific example of how one thing leads to another. when i go to a particular beach, i always lock my bicycle to a post at the edge of the carpark. this is what is see when i stand at that post:

photograph of seascape with signpost

and here’s a painting, ‘interrupted view’ that came about as a result:

seascape painting with big black and white obstruction

now, here’s what’s going on…after looking at that arrow decal on that post several times a week for a couple of years, i started to get intrigued by its qualities as a pretty rigid, graphic, abstract element in an otherwise ‘natural’ setting. i made the photo in order to capture that juxtapostion. the photo is a key element in the whole process.

it’s clear, in the photo, that what’s visible is a signpost (presumably on a path of some sort), with a directional aid on it, in a landscape – in this case the beach. but by framing it in the way that i did, and choosing to focus on the arrow rather than the scene behind it, i flattened the space, which allows me to treat it much more formally in terms of composition, the play between positive and negative space, the similarity in tonal values of the greys in the background and the reflected light on the arrow, the way the shapes are arranged (as a side benefit, the way the arrow is curved at its tip suggests it’s pointing at the horizon, which brings in a whole metaphorical element – travel, adventure, risk, a ‘spiritual’ journey of some description). i made the photo because the scene intrigues me, but i had only the vaguest notion that i might use any part of it in a painting.

in the case of the painting, it was a piece whose progress was not going well, and it was becoming more a source of frustration than anyhting else. dropping a big black and white vertical stripe on top of the piece was a way to disrupt the visual space of the painting, but to also disrupt my intentions regarding what i wanted the piece to be or ‘look’ like. by reframing the composition in terms of how the disruption, the ‘post/arrow’ relates to the rest of the picture, i was able to relax about what i thought the viewer should be ‘seeing’. the formal qualities i described about the photo are still present to a degree, but oddly, in the painting, the presence of the ‘post/arrow’, and the thin vertical line to its right serve to create a sense of space and depth in what otherwise would be a pretty flat composition (as opposed to flattening the space in the photo). titling the piece ‘interrupted view’ plays to that, and suggets that though the composition appears abstract, there’s something else going on. the one element that’s sorta lost is the metaphorical one suggested by the arrow pointing at the horizon, but maybe that’s something to be addressed in another piece at another time.

10,000 umbrellas

last september, i started rearranging things on the beaches around plymouth. since early in the new year, in addition to the rearrangements i’ve been doing on site (sites, really), i’ve been collecting limpets for a larger project. at the beginning of may i had 2,600  shells in a box in my studio. at that point, i started documenting the collection process. on the 11th of august, i reached the quota for the project. here’s what 10,000 limpets in boxes in my studio looks like:

10000 limpet shells in boxes in my studio.

add to those all the other limpet shells currently in the studio waiting to be taken back to the beach to be arranged into art, and the total is almost 14,000. i don’t know what it means that there’re so many shells in my studio, but it does seem significant. if nothing else, they represent time, they’re evidence of the durational part of the project, that is, all the hours spent on the beach pickin’ ’em up. so…soon those 10,000 will go back to the beach and be arranged. i might need help. if you’re not busy.


interactive art – tidelines 37 and 25

some of the sites at which i make rearrangements for the tidelines series are relatively secluded, and as such, the pieces that go into those sites may not ever get seen other than through the documentation. other sites are much more accesible, so hopefully, the pieces that go into these sites will be seen. one of the points of the tidelines project is to make the work and then leave it to its fate, whether that’s to be destroyed by tidal activity or weather or dogs or kids, or to stay in place for some undetermined period of time. where the pieces are more easily seen, i’d be thrilled for people to interact with them, add their own twist, and then leave them for someone else to encounter and rearrange. ideally the works would become perpetual, and always changing. it doesn’t always work like that. seawall, the first tidelines piece, was kicked apart about 24 hours after i finished it. i was at the beach where it was sited and i watched as someone went along the wall methodically removing every stone one sweep of his boot at a  time. by contrast, though the weather has taken its toll, remnants of 1000 umbrellas were still clinging to the top of the wall at devil’s point in june, about seven months after i put the piece in place. recently, two pieces were interacted with in ways that made me really happy. here’s the evidence, and thanks to my anonymous collaborators.

tidelines 37 - bench piece V

above is tidelines 37 – bench piece V. this bench is one of my regular sites and there have now been six pieces here, many of them started with remains of the previous piece. this was how i left it on the 21st of july. and here’s what it looked like when i went back on the 29th:

bench piece V - towers bench piece V - face

there were a couple of other alterations, but the towers and the face are the most prominent. I left the piece in this state, and when I returned again on the 4th of august, the high tides had done their thing, left a mess and facilitated the next project, bench piece VI (photos in an upcoming post).

tidelines 25 – lightcatcher, is, or was, located in a spot that, whilst not exactly hidden, is not all that accesible either. there’s a little stretch of rocky beach just below two concrete bunkers on devil’s point. it can be got to from the main beach, but it involves a bit of clambering. i first put lightcatcher in on the 13th of may, and other than getting knocked about by rain, it remained more or less untouched ( i think, don’t know for sure), until the 29th of july. here’s what it looked like in june:

lightcatcher 25, rusty iron and seaglass

on the 7th of july, i found another great piece of iron, so i added it to the piece:

more iron and seaglass and a shell

then on the 29th, i found it like this:

altered lightcatcher

the original piece of iron was gone and the newer one had been moved several feet onto another rock and had some glass added to it. i found the rusted tin can and left it roughly where the piece had been previously.

that was two weeks ago. i haven’t been back to check on lightcatcher since then, but i hope there’s something of it left so that i can carry on with a new incarnation of the piece.

albums for the bench pieces and lightcatcher will be coming soon, on the tidelines page. check frequently.

brickwork at high tide

last week (at least, maybe longer ago than that), i went over to mt edgecumbe to check on the brickworks piece. a couple of pieces had fallen off their perches, due to the high tides, but otherwise, the piece was intact. once the tide went out, i repaired the piece, and with any luck, it’s as i left it on the 4th of august. here’s the piece with a 5m high tide.

brickworks at high tide brickworks at high tide brickworks at high tide

from the palace of experimental trickery

is the name of this blog. it takes up a lot of space on the menu line, but i thought ‘blog’ looked pretty, oh, dull, so i changed it. it’ll remain long and unwieldy on the menu line until i figure out how to make it shorter whilst allowing it to say the same thing. ‘from the palace of experimental trickery’ is the name of a series of works on paper (drawings and paintings), that i’ve been working on for a couple of years. i may be working on it on and off for the rest of my life. this entire website is a brand new venture, so as yet, the paintings and drawings (or at least some of them) that rest under the title ‘from the palace of experimental trickery, do not yet appear on it. fear not, they soon will. what appears mostly here now is photos of recent works i’ve been doing outside on the beaches around plymouth – works that involve picking things (shells, stones, bits of glass), up, moving them and putting them down again. and taking photographs of the results of such activity. here is the evidence. there are links to other sorts of activities i’m engaged in (lo-fi films, a music project called The Palindromes) also around the site. a list of official things resides on the ‘about’ page, if you wish to see a list of things i’ve done and where i learned to do what i do.

here is a picture of how i feel as i write this:

another film still

here is a picture of me. the interesting thing about this picture is how it came to be: a photograph of me that was made and published on facebook was downloaded by a friend, printed, and made into a card by her six-year-old daughter, who presented the card to me on my birthday. i was moved by this gesture, and decided to paint myself as i appear on this card (i never, or rarely engage in self-portraiture of such a direct nature). i then photographed the painting and published it on facebook. and now here. after so much mediation, the electrons that comprise this image (to say nothing of the various papers, inks, paint etc.) do not know whether they’re coming or going. i suppose that story is about as good a way of talking about art in the 21st century as any other. and from there, we’ll make a start. more on ‘from the palace of experimental trickery’ to come. oh, here’s the self-portrait, i didn’t forget:

what a grumpy man he was