Flow Contemporary Arts is now a company!

I’m delighted to announce that Flow Contemporary Arts is now a registered company. And we’re open for business!!

This development will mean we can expand our offer and deliver contracts for others as well as initiate our own. Starting off with a small, but perfectly formed, Board of Directors, Flow will be in a better position for fundraising and available to clients to lead on a range of projects. The Directors – namely Grace Davies and Claire Gulliver – will inform and support the development of the Company.

They bring an excellent range of experience, knowledge and skills to the table – Grace as ex-director of Visual Arts South West and now Contemporary Arts Programme Manager, National Trust; and Claire as a founder member of New Expressions and co-producer of the Bideford Black Project.

Exciting times ahead – if you want to discuss any new projects with us get in touch – we look forward to working on new things together.

Flow Contemporary Arts Registered company no. 10498277

Joel Black makes beautiful chef’s knives, watch this film to see how

Ok, no denying it, we’re related…..Joel is my son….and it is wonderful to see how these knives are made.

How artists make is where the love lies.

Yes, it’s always great to see the finished work too, but this process of manipulating materials, assessing impact, sensing the stages with your eyes, your ears, the sounds, the smells….and the accidental nips – that’s the thing no virtual world can share. But this film gets damned close!


Story of Objects update – film collage & callout

The Story of Objects represents a return to practice, not in making objects, but in discussing them. SOO has evolved both from my work as a visual arts producer and my thinking as an artist, accompanied by a deep interest in how we engage with art.

I am intrigued by how visitors encounter art in non-gallery locations so have mostly worked in the public realm. How we talk to people about art both inside and outside galleries is imperative to our understanding of it. Yet ask someone to talk about something they keep and love they will talk endlessly, and very coherently, about it.

I became fascinated in how the term ‘curate’ is so loosely used these days – we curate essays, poems, websites, plants. And many TV programmes tell us how to display our objects in our homes – how to ‘curate’ things. So I started asking people about their objects in their homes, why are they grouped like that? Where did they get them from? What did these things mean to them? Most importantly, why do they keep it?

I found myself deeply absorbed in material culture – Daniel Miller’s books allowed me to step into another discipline, as did conversations with contemporary archaeologists. The idea for the Story of Objects began to take shape. I’ve talked to lots of people, from several disciplines:

  • Contemporary archaeologists
  • Museum specialist
  • Curators
  • Artists
  • Health providers
  • Members of the public
  • Producers – for arts and radio
  • Digital providers and app developers
  • Academics

Most recently I have hosted a number of trans-faculty conversations at De Montfort University, and thank them for their support and input.

Two years later I am still developing my thinking. I’ve collated a number of 30-second films together, which you can see below and on my YouTube Channel. It’s great to see them collated like this and I am now motivated to put out another call for films.

I’m also working towards producing a scattered-site exhibition, commissioning artists who will be invited to stories of the objects that they keep and gain inspiration from. As always, don’t expect to see these artworks in a gallery space, they will be somewhere deemed appropriate for the work and the concept.

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irritation & criticality

A quick post because I read this and thought it interesting. I’d like to pickup on this line: “Irritation clouds our judgment, frustrates our relationships and gets our priorities all wrong.”

Because it is a tricky one and I find it difficult to ascribe to. When doing an MA in Fine Art one thing taught is to develop criticality and it is something that  Gill Nicol articulates very well indeed. I remember her asking me a few years ago, while we were driving in a car together, what I thought about the term ‘criticality’. My first response was that it irritates me. And sometimes it still does. But it is only the word itself, the way it can sometimes be used as a language barrier, that bugs me. The action of working in a mode of criticality is something that helps people to consider things, in my work those things are artworks. It’s not about judgement – judgement is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. Criticality doesn’t frame thinking in expectation, therefore no decision is needed. It’s about interpretation. We all experience anything in the world different, as we bring with us prior experiences. There is no one conclusion.

Interpreting meaning from an artwork can be challenging, there may be very few clues to help the viewer into the work. The very absence of the clues is indeed a clue itself. Why would the artist strip their work back so far? What does it remind the viewer of? Where else have they seen this done? What does the label say?

Questions flow from curious minds and I hope we can presume that people who visit art galleries are motivated by curiosity. The role of criticality is surely to evoke questions, to provoke an enquiry, to take the viewer on a joyride of thinking and imagining. Sometimes the emotional response will be irritation, which can of course, as Seth Godin says, be frustrating. But irritation can be a positive trigger, it makes me (for one) wonder WHY do I feel irritated? And it may be that my irritation is reasonable, because the artwork is brilliant in most ways but one….that it isn’t a case of expectation, but one of wishing it was just a teeny bit more rounded, or the video projection was just slightly better aligned with the screen it’s on.

So in short, irritation is not always a bad thing, sometimes it can be something that activates our intuition and helps us (as artists/curators) make things maybe just a little bit clearer, or more precise. After all, if the artist or curator states that the artwork is all about X,Y and Z but all we see is 1, 2 & 3 then either we are not asking the correct questions OR the artist is not conveying the messages they wish to convey quite as well as they could.

I hope this makes sense, if not, feel free to discuss, it’s all in the questions and I have written this in one brief sitting. There will be holes.





Vantablack article commissioned by Four Seasons Magazine Summer Edition 2016

I was delighted to be commissioned to write for the Four Seasons Magazine about the controversy surrounding  the news that Anish Kapoor had bought sole rights to use Vantablack. Now the copyright period is over I can share it. It’s an opinion piece, as opposed to a review, which set out to raise questions about such legislation, and how one defines who/what an artist is.

Into the Void

Do usage standards for a new high-tech representation of the colour black efface the ideals of artistic freedom?

“The Vantablack agreement goes against the spirit of reciprocity that makes art and science ideal bedfellows.” By Carolyn Black Illustration by Joey Guidone


Last chance to see Blackrock in The Forest of Dean


Note: This review is a personal one. I write to commission professionally, I write here, on my blog, because I enjoy the freedom of voice it offers me. (C) Carolyn Black

The Blackrock Residency Programme 2016 is a partnership between Matt’s Gallery, London and Lydney Park Estate on the edge of the Forest of dean, Gloucestershire. This is an art project – which needs to be stated clearly – whilst BlackRock (the investment company) is hitting the news big-time at the moment.

It is, of course, tempting to riff on this coincidence, but that will come later when I write an article for CCQ Magazine later this year.

The background to the development of Matts Gallery + Blackrock is very relevant to any critical analysis of both the exhibitions and the works they contain. Roy Voss, an artist and lecturer at Bristol UWE is also part of the founding group of Blackrock, along with Robin Klassnik (Matt’s Gallery, London) and Rupert Bathurst (Lydney Park Estate, Forest of Dean). It is very tempting to refer to them as the three R’s. In conversation, Klassnik referred to the group as a ‘triage’˚. A triage is defined as the process of ‘examining problems in order to decide which ones are the most serious and must be dealt with first’. It fits nicely and is an excellent way to describe what they have put into action together.

The first outcome was developed in 2015, when 4 artists were selected to take up residence on the Bathurst estate to develop new works for an exhibition, which was hosted that September. There was also a Susan Hiller work shown in a hall in Aylburton, a sleepy little place on the A48. It was wonderful walking into that space to witness a massive wall of TV monitors flickering in the dark. I wrote about it last year.

This years exhibits have moved further out into the landscape, utilising several spaces that are workplaces to those who work and live on the estate. Alison Turnbull’s beautiful notations overlaid onto historical accounts ledgers can be seen in the Estate Office. The relationship between the mark-making and the patterns found in and around the space create their own rhythm. I imagine if they had a sound, it would be that of pen on paper, accompanied by the clicking noise that Spirograph makes when cogs interlock.

Sound is quite high up on the programme this year, alongside natural selection and the theme of Us & Them. The BBC voice that narrates the found-footage about an experiment and enquiry into the survival rates of black moths, compared to white, was poetic, nestled as it was next to the Bathurst family museum that houses many finds from the estate. Artist Alison Turnbull has also scattered small images around the walls of the Collections Room, of the moths showing their varying levels of camouflage. The white ones were survivors.

Elsewhere on the Estate, the sound coming from a strange arrangement of floral curtains standing in a huge, otherwise empty, glasshouse, draws the viewer in. This random collection of drapes is not unlike a refugee tent, cobbled together for shelter in this leaky botanical incubator. The film it contains reporting on social issues of vulnerablity and loss of home while the rain beats down on the glass.

Walking through ancient scowles in the woodlands down to a field, you find two huge words built by Patrick Goddard, with timber from the Estate. Shouting across the field to each other, US retreats to the edge, whilst THEM is set up to burn and flame, roaring loud and clear. THEM is to be destroyed and feared. US watches quietly from a safe distance. It reminds me of American sci-fi films, in which aliens are usually the enemy and to be feared.

In the barns nearby are two films by Goddard, one a virtual garden and the other a film from a go-pro camera attached to an Alsation dogs head. It rushes through empty industrial units, the voiceover referring to the disenfranchised – more us and them. Back in Aylburton, in the Barn Hall which has been reconstructed and reborn as a gallery, photos by Willie Doherty are shown. The majority are of the troubles in Belfast from the late 70’s, early 80’s. Whilst they could be read as historical, they resonate with the now too. Some things don’t change. Someone commented that they could be photos taken from the Forest of Dean. They were right – it’s a poor area, burnt out cars, barriers and poverty. The images of roadblocks bring back thoughts about refugees….this is still happening…not so much in Belfast now, but in other places, worldwide, every day.

Whilst this all sounds like gloom and doom, it’s most definitely not. It is provocative. It makes people think. And ask questions of the art.

This is the final weekend to catch it. The first weekend delivered a brilliant performance, twice, written by Sally O’Reilly and performed by Rosie Thomson. More here about that. Sorry, you won’t get to see that again, but believe me, it was fab.

Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September. 11.00am-5.00pm