‘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

what separates…

In a couple of weeks I’ll be having an exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculpture at a local gallery. Here are some pictures of the central piece which I have been working on lately, as seen in an earlier post.

external view


The piece is a combination of elements made over a long period. The wooden box lined with mirrors was made when I was a student at City and Guilds of London Art School (1992). It then contained a stone hemisphere and a bronze form resembling a skull or a helmet. That piece was called ‘Solipsism’.

The two bronze figures were made more recently and were originally intended to form parts of a composition of two figures, one standing, one sitting.

Both of these sources relate to ideas of social alienation or isolation.

This new incarnation adds to these elements a papier mâché barrier, for which I cannibalised an old book (Economics for Helen by Hilaire Belloc, inherited from my late aunt, who studied economics at university in the 1920s).


Meaning is in the eye of the beholder.


Then this morning I read this post which rang several bells.


I’m having a bit of a relapse into 3D, and a kind ceramicist is lending me some of her kiln-space and expertise, including glazing … here’s one (of two) of the results:Photo2502Photo2503

and another one hollowed out and drying.Photo2504

Notes to self: Learning to paint etc.

When modelling in clay, avoid smearing the clay about, or automatically, arbitrarily, smoothing out all the tool marks, etc. Smearing produces an unintended, uncontrolled form (and combined with smoothing, usually a lumpy and uninteresting surface). Instead I want to add or remove clay in response to an observation or an intention.

As in drawing, so in modelling and in painting, each mark, each piece of clay, each brushstroke, ought to be part of an act of seeing, of paying attention to the subject and the work.

So practise, practise … so that the medium becomes a familiar tool to enable that act of seeing, not a hindrance to it. As familiar as this pencil or the hand that holds it.Photo1553

And another thing: don’t hunt for something ‘meaningful’ or ‘significant’ to paint. It isn’t really about the content, or even the form; the significance is in the paying attention.