Living is easy with eyes closed 2 – exhibition preparations

I’m two-thirds of the way through my 3-month summer ‘sabbatical’ project, though the sabbatical is getting a bit fuzzy as I’m still doing a bit of proofreading to keep my hand in/cover materials costs, and will still be doing exhibition preparation in September I expect. And of course there’s the exhibition week itself, when I’ll be there every day to steward things and maybe do a bit of drawing in situ.

So far things are going more or less to plan.

I’ve only got one more of the twelve big drawings to do and a sitter is scheduled for that. I put together the plinths for the mirror boxes a while ago and now I need to decide whether to paint them and, if so, whether to go with the usual white or something else.

mdf plinths
mdf plinths

The frame structures for the drawings are about half done. Procrastinating about these was useful as it gave me time to come up with a very simple method of suspending the drawings, using just a 6mm steel rod and two holes drilled inside the frame. I just have to ‘hem’ the drawings to create a channel for the rod to slide through.

frames for large drawings
here are two hinged pairs of frames (in a very messy workspace)
frame detail
and a detail of the construction with one drawing in place

I’ve started to apply myself to the boring bit: publicising the exhibition. I have designed a flyer which is now at the printers, emailed the local paper and created a facebook event – as I said, boring! Here’s a link to the facebook event:

If nothing else this summer I’ve practised some basic woodwork and other DIY skills – a great thing about ‘art’ is that it can take you from fairly abstract, metaphorical ideas about isolation and climate change to practicalities like how to fix a drawing to a freestanding frame and simple tasks like cutting dowels for lap joints. And those simple practicalities can sometimes take you back to the ideas, when materials or functional requirements yield unexpected metaphors and linkages of their own.


‘Living is easy with eyes closed’ – forthcoming exhibition, September 2019

I’m about halfway through my summer project, preparing work for an installation at the Old Fire Station in Carlisle, on the theme of climate change/denial/anxiety.

The project involves large portrait drawings of people with closed eyes, combined with sculptural assemblages, playing with the metaphor of Pandora’s box. Here’s a hint of the plan:

Mirror box maquette

And here’s a detail of one of the drawings produced so far:

Living is easy with eyes closed – detail

In the process of making this work, various expected and unexpected connections and resonances have arisen. Here are a few of them:

‘Living is easy with eyes closed’ – John Lennon, ‘Strawberry Fields’

‘Pandora opened a jar … containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world. Though she hastened to close the container, only one thing was left behind – usually translated as Hope, though it could also have the pessimistic meaning of “deceptive expectation”’.


‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

– Emily Dickinson

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

– PB Shelley, ‘Ozymandias’

#anthropocene #climatedenial #comingreadyornot #hubris #posthope #solipsism #thinkingoutsidethebox #weareallcomplicit

Plans and maquettes

A couple of weeks ago I posted this on Facebook:

In the light of impending Br%&!t and climate apocalypse and a large birthday later this year, I have decided to give myself permission to focus on art this summer. So I will be taking a short sabbatical from editing and proofreading starting in June. Various plans are coming together, which mean I will be looking for people willing to sit for some drawings. Watch this space! And let me know if you fancy sitting still for an hour or three at some point.

The silver lining/antidote to apocalyptic thinking … stop worrying about how you’ll cope in retirement (or when the washing up will happen) and just make stuff. 

It seems that as soon as you give yourself this kind of permission it’s hard not to start thinking and planning and then playing, regardless of self-imposed schedules.


Beginning to get an idea out of my head and into the world – and immediately seeing that my planned scale doesn’t look as I imagined it would. That will save some time and expense later – three cheers for maquettes.

School strikes for the climate

The children are going on strike to protect their futures. It’s long past time we so-called grown-

ups got our heads out of the sand and took responsibility for the broken world we have given them. We should be demanding that governments stop supporting fossil fuels, road building and airport expansion, and instead take the resources we western nations pour into ‘defence’ and consumerism and spend them on greening our economy and society.