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Welcome to the 31 Art blog


Each week one of our artists will post a blog

By justanact51, Apr 16 2015 03:26PM

Last week I was up in Glasgow visiting some friends and family, and taking photographs along the Clyde for the show. With a few hours to kill before returning to London on Sunday morning I dropped into the Gallery Of Modern Art on Exchange Square by George Square in the city centre. Exchange square was the scene of the terrible lorry accident on the 22nd of December last year where 6 people tragically died. So now there is a certain, unspoken sadness about the tiny square, which no doubt the passage of time will soften.

The main gallery was closed when we visited but the upstairs galleries were all open to the public. Normally I avoid the upstairs galleries as I always have the belief that there will be nothing of interest there for me.

There were two shows upstairs; one called ‘Ballet of the Palette’ and the other called ‘Alastair Gray – spheres of influence 1’. ‘Ballet of the Palette’ is a mixed bag of paintings selected by 10 leading Scottish artists from the Glasgow Museums 20th Century collection. This proves to be a surprising interesting exhibition, possibly because of the explanation by each artist of why they found these particular pieces of work so relevant to their own practice. For me Joan Eardley’s painting of a Glasgow kitchen scene is an unlikely star of the show. When I was 17 I was fascinated by a Joan Eardley exhibition which was part of the Edinburgh festival. I loved the rough almost abstract expressionist seascapes and landscapes she created. Though this painting is quite different from those; a dark, moody interior with a poet in the foreground warming himself in front of the kitchen stove. Next to him are some postcards of Rembrandt portraits.

The Alastair Gray exhibition is a small part of the Alastair Gray season which is taking part across the city over this year. It is a strange hotchpotch of his own Lanark inspired artwork and some works by the artists who influenced him; such as Durer, Gauguin and Beardsley. It’s a fascinating little exhibition culminates with a video interview with the great man himself. I think I have to return to this exhibition once I’ve read his seminal work ‘Lanark’ – I have a brand new edition waiting if not begging to be read. Reading it will give me a greater insight to this polymath’s body of work.

Time marches on – we leave the exhibition, pick up our luggage from the hotel, and dash to the airport – London and then Brighton await our return.

By justanact51, Apr 6 2015 04:00AM

Less than four weeks to the Open House and there is still a lot to do, but all very exciting!

I have been shopping everywhere for frames, online and in shops. Spending hours with a tape measure walking around stores, which made a few shoppers and shop assistance uncomfortable! People don’t really buy a painting for its frame. Everyone has a different tastes about framing. I think frames for my paintings must be neutral, but still have to have something to make the painting look visually better. I am still juggling with black or white frames. Although I have decided that I don’t want to have glass on the frames. The glass blocks the colours and reflects background light, which means that you really can’t see the painting properly. Frame shopping is almost done and I am on time, but it is the weight of them, while carrying them on public transport that has been a struggle.

Then there is the task of mounting each differently sized painting. But what colour mount? I will probably go for black mounts, as the paintings have very bright colours, almost luminous. They have very bright colours that I love, though a fellow exhibitor once said:

"Your paintings will give me headache if I look at them for long."

And another exhibitor said in response:

"Well, you might have a pack of ibuprofen handy!"

There are also a lot of finishing touches, such as spray fixing the paintings to be done. Not to mention finally the wrapping and packing for delivery to 31Art, for our exhibition.

The weird thing is that when you paint, you don’t think of the frame or mounting. But when it comes to exhibit, it becomes the main issue. Despite all the rush and hassle, I am excited and we all are doing our best to create a very special exhibition, and I hope to see you there.

By justanact51, Apr 4 2015 04:51PM

A grey day which is isn't so good for painting in, but it does restrict distractions. Looking at paintings trying to work out which are finished and which aren't and what next step is. I usually have several paintings on the go, working between them, developing them at the same time, even when subjects are different. Although grey skies seem to be prevalent theme currently...

By justanact51, Mar 23 2015 04:51PM

Tin HInge (detail)
Tin HInge (detail)
28 Stitches (detail)
28 Stitches (detail)

My creative output (as an adult at least) has been in three mediums. I started off with sculpture in stone and wood, then moved to ceramics and printmaking. The last two I’ve displayed at the Open House previously. The content has always been abstract or something that I’ve found to be aesthetically pleasing. This year, the content is much more personal.

In October 2013, Steve Punter, a fellow resident of the block of flats where I live in London, took his life following a period of unemployment and depression. I knew and liked Steve and his death left me profoundly shocked. Over the following months I really missed him. Although at an intellectual level I could make sense of the reasons why he did what he did, I couldn’t come to terms with it at all. It didn’t get any better. Indeed any unexpected death, be a person under a train or the loss of a friend of a friend, sent me to a very dark place.

Grief, more so than other emotions it seems, links together events that are separated in time. For instance, the death of a public person or celebrity can lead to an outpouring of grief that seems out of proportion to the closeness to that person.

And so it was with me. Steve’s death took me back to the loss of my Dad when I was young. I think becoming the “man of the house” at 13 complicated the process of grieving for him, and it is something that I have avoided until now, although suspected was always there.

So how do you grieve someone who has been dead for 30 years? How do you do it when you have no mechanism for dealing with loss?

For me, poetry played a key role. I’d not written a word of poetry for over 20 years but had recently started going to a poetry night, “Bang Said the Gun”, at a local pub. It arrived at just the right time.

The first couple of poems were both difficult and emotional to write. In fact writing them is still hard and draining. I’ve learnt that poetry allows me to visit a place to grieve, and even be overwhelmed, yet be able to safely return. It allowed me to contain the juggernaut of sadness as it thundered over the horizon on a Monday, knowing it would hit on the weekend. It allowed me to take the sucker punch of grief as I stepped of a dancefloor on an otherwise happy night out.

Over the year, the feelings changed and I found I could approach other things. My Mum has dementia and as a family we are losing her by degrees. I am unlikely to become a father myself. A year on from Steve’s death, a group of his friends met to remember him. And my poems have allowed me to express my love and affection in different ways too.

An important part of the process has been sharing the poems with others, something I want to extend in the Open House. But I didn’t want it just to be “Mike’s Wall of Misery”. I decided to illustrate some of the poems with a related print. I have played with relief printing previously and this year have learnt monoprints, drypoint and etching with various degrees of success. The process of printmaking has again allowed me to come back to the themes in a different way.

I hope you visit us and take something from the poems and the pictures.

By justanact51, Mar 19 2015 10:37AM

March is my favourite time of year to paint. As evenings and mornings are becoming lighter. And I still have Kemp Town seafront ‘almost’ to myself, before the tourists hit Brighton in the better weather. I don’t feel such a ‘Wally’ sitting outside painting in chilly weather, as joggers and runners are out there too. They have been practicing throughout the winter for their Marathons etc. Seeing them encourages me to ‘turn up’ and get outside like them.Today I put myself in the spotlight by starting work mapping out the drawing for a watercolour of Brighton Pier. I felt like a contestant from the BBC’s ‘The Big Painting Challenge’ on one of their ‘En plein air‘ tasks! I’m standing up to depict this view of the pier, and as soon as I put pencil to paper a couple of people came by and took photos of the same view! I take that as a good omen that I have chosen the right composition but the pier it is not an easy subject. Here’s hoping I pull it off.

Come and see our Open House and see if I do!

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