Heavy load going to the studio

After a tough week moving loads of stuff to our studio and countless trips to B&Q, here’s an old press photo from 1930 to give an idea of our recent struggle – not sure where the location is, on the back is a cutout from a newspaper in Spanish stating:

‘UNA ZORRA del decauville utilizada para la conduccion de los equipajes’ – google translate tells me ‘A FOX the decauville used for the conduct of the baggages’ (decauville was a narrow gauge rail track).

I don’t know if this information helps me – but I just love the mad photo editing – 20 years before Twombly!

It's a long way to the studios!!

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Capturing Britishness

David Shrigley: Brain Activity

The Hayward Gallery in London is at the moment hosting two extraordinary exhibitions, David Shrigley: Brain Activity & Jeremy Deller: Joy in People.

Shrigley has taken over the upstairs gallery with  drawings, sculpture, photographs and films providing a treat for any visitor with his irreverent schoolboy doodles. I have seen many followers of his work but none have been able to describe our personal insecurities in such a simple, direct and profound way.

As one would expect the show is dominated by the absurd anarchic drawings that he has become famous for, punctuated by equally surreal sculptures – like the stuffed puppy holding a placard stating ‘I’m Dead’ and the short video ‘New Friends’ which follows a square character who falls from his own world into that of another race of circular people who grind his edges to become like them (I watched many visitors howling with laughter as they watched only to see their faces change to concern as they walked away – as the implied metaphor of  forced compliance to social mobility sank in).

The simplicity of description of our country’s psyche is what makes David Shrigley one of our greatest contemporary artists – entertaining, absurd, eccentric, intelligent and individual he promotes the British character to the world.

Jeremy Deller: Joy in People

Jeremy Deller – star of the excellent ‘Culture Show’ special is an instigator of events. His work follows the path of Joseph Beuys – leaving the artist’s ego behind and promoting the community as an artwork, he is the modern shaman re-presenting and re-establishing the community’s links with their culture.

From the first exhibition in his parents home he defined a new path for artists as event organizer – exploring the historic and cultural oddities that provide the foundations of our national identity, with works like ‘Jerusalem’ (a 14 minute video-collage of 1980’s-90’s London, and the procession he organized in Manchester for their International Festival (there’s the reconstructed ‘Valerie’s Snack Bar’ sited in the center of the exhibition where you can sit and have a cup of tea while watching a video of the procession – fantastic!), the film ‘Acid Brass, where he asked a traditional brass band to play anthems of our Rave culture.

Then there are the events from our recent cultural history explored in ‘The battle of Orgreave’ which restaged the 1984-85 miners’ strike mixed with our fascination with re-enactment (the 1000 participants in this event were a mix of historical re-enactors and local people – many who were former miners).  

In an area titled ‘My Failures’ we see Deller’s proposed project for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square – a burnt-out car from Iraq, which intended to highlight the victims of that war but I feel it’s a shame that he was unable to do it as  coming from a seaside town the wrecks of burnt-out cars destroyed by joy-riders were part of the normal scenery and provide a great metaphor for the Britain.

The Hayward has provided an inspired coupling making these the best two shows in town and a must see experience for all.

The Shows continue until 13th May 2012 a The Hayward Gallery

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A day of two halves

 Today we took an easier route to the studio nursing a hangover from last night we decided to be good to ourselves and visit Borough Market and get some fresh food to take to the studio.

After a long but fruitfull time creating we ended our studio week with a Poulet Baguette in Cafe Rouge and a walk along the foggy Thames to visit the Boetti & Kusama exhibitions in Tate Modern.



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Here’s a found photo of Turtles..? Well that’s what someone has stated on the back of the photo – strange photo……..?

Turtles on steps

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From Studio to PV

Here’s a short video of our experiences last night – we left the studio tired and dishevelled but made the effort to transform ourselves through copious amounts of coffee and the magic of London – a bite at the Silverstream Cafe, a short stop for the premiere of ‘John Carter’, hi Gok, hi Andrew? Then on to see old chum Stuart Haygarth’s work at the Haunch of Venison PV – from there to the pub and oblivion.

 Stuart’s work ‘Igloo’ can be seen at Haunch of Venison ‘Mixed Media’ until 5th April 2012

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Going Out

To set the scene of our night out at the Haunch of Venison PV last night , here’s an image from 1930’s America of a couple who haven’t let their circumstances dictate their enjoyment as they make a real effort for their night out.

Ready to Go!!

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Graffiti City Rises in Smithfield Market

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The Disappearing Man

We love old press photo’s especially when they leave traces of editing. Here’s an image from 24th June 1948 of what appears to be a couple, maybe attending a function? The editor is obviously only interested in the woman (her head and upper torso have been higlighted by simplifying or erasing the surrounding area with paint).

The Disappearing Man
When we come across this image we have no idea of the subjects within it and are fascinated by the surreal qualities and potential story associated with it.
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German Art at The Saatchi Gallery

Volker Hueller - Wohin-Sehen 2009 Etching with watercolour and shellac

I’ve visited this show a few times now but still find it slightly disappointing. It’s not that the work on show is bad or uninspiring, for the most part (as with great German art) it’s impressive, energetic & fun, but that’s where the problems begin.


The majority of the work quotes the masters of German Modernism and as a result languishes in the shadow of their stature. Walking through Saatchi’s ‘Temple of Art’ the rooms echo brief flavours of Kirchner & Heckel , Paul Klee with a touch of Picasso, the Merz of Schwitters and flashes of the 1980’s stars Kippenberger, Penck and Kiefer. Unfortunately the contemporary German artist has a massive pedigree to follow and I’m not sure that this grouping manages to cope with it.

Gert & Uwe Tobias - Untitled 2009 (detail) Woodcut on paper on canvas

  Increases in scale fail to make up for what appears to be a lack of the conviction and belief that drove their illustrious predecessors,  serving only to emphasize the appearance of disconnection and dissilusion and thereby creating an emotional gulf between the artist and viewer.

For a country that brought us the personal, national and globally difinitive portrayal of modernist angst through the images of the Expressionists there is a distinct lack of emotion in the works on show.  Maybe there is truth in the idea that great art is produced during times of national hardship and political unrest (even with the current Euro crisis Germany is still in a comfortable position – but does this mean that we should expect a flowering of contemporary Greek art?).

André Butzer - Ahnenbild 2411 2006 (detail) oil on canvas

My criticism rests mainly with the curators of the show and not with the individual artists, as the inherent nature of a ‘Saatchi Show’ aims to promote the next movement in art. With a template evolved from the ‘production’ of ‘BritArt’ the gallery attempts to provide an eager art world with the next thing. Unfortunately for this show Twentieth Century German Art has a greater cultural clout than the 1960’s British Pop that the BritArt generation took on and with the title ‘GESAMTKUNSTWERK’ (Total work of art): NEW ART FROM GERMANY one expects great things.

With all that said there must be a reason why I have visited the show so many times – that would be the individual artists. If you can lose the idea of the curated show and see the work as a number of solo shows then you are in for a treat.

One of my favourite discoveries is Gert & Uwe Tobias – producing large scale coloured woodcuts, looking like the offspring of Klee & Murakami they delightfully explore the last century’s art with an awe inspiring sense of colour. The format of crossing other artists to explain the work on show continues with another favourite André Butzer – this time it’s a mix of Munch & Basquait. Butzer’s lively paintings have the feel of a schoolboy who’s stolen an art book and begins manically scribbling his favourite images across a museum wall. The effect is engrossing, his marks displaying his obvious enjoyment – yet one feel’s he’s only playing with the angst for effect.

Markus Selg - Searching For Ruwenzori 2010 Sublimation print on fabric

Another favourite is Alexandra Bircken, an artist I’d not seen before but on each visit her work has fascinated me. With objects suspended within a free-standing steel frame – looking like evidence from a crime placed on an invisible blackboard they bring to mind the displayed remnants of Beuys’ performance leftovers, and they the same feel of shamanic ritual (especially in ‘Drape’ 2007).

In my opinion the show itself is confusing in its premise but the individual works in it make this a must see experience – I for one shall be returning.



is at The Saatchi gallery – 18th Nov 2011 – 15th Apr 2012


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We are off to the Saatchi Gallery this morning to take another look at GESAMTKUNSTWERK: NEW ART FROM GERMANY – here’s a short video we made on our first visit.


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