The historical context of my current drawings

When I began to work on a new set of panoramics this year, after some years of not making any artworks, it felt like stepping into and old pair of slippers. I thought at first that was because the subject matter, the River Severn, is so close to my heart. But there are other reasons, which connect back to earlier works I have made.

Looking back at my pre-masters portfolio, I discover panoramic drawings of landscapes of mountains in Ireland, and intaglio prints created by numerous plates, run through the press together, to create a tessellated image – including many panoramic sections.

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Post-masters I find drawn renderings of imaginary landscapes in cyberspace and poetic collages of drawn marks and lines.

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I have always loved drawing at human scale, having done a significant work on a UNESCO funded residency in Bandung, Java in 2002. That work involved me being filmed drawing huge copies of love letters from my father to my mother from 1949 with charcoal on the gallery wall at Selasar Sunaryo Gallery, then washing it away, leaving traces on the wall (video). The story of my father captured from letters and the place, revisited then erased. Other works involved printing the letters on gelatine sheets, visceral, fleshy and corporeal. Memories.

gelatine letter

Most of my recent works are concerned with the River Severn, but that process of engagement did not begin this year – but six years ago – with Tidal Severn, a collaborative work created with Suze Adams. We photographed from either side of the river, Suze on the east bank, me on the west bank, as the bore passed between us. Our gaze connected the sides of the river, and connected us too.

The 2017 drawings began with a huge drawing on paper, five feet square, on which I played with foregrounds and backgrounds, charcoal and chalk, collage and washes. It was absolutely about the process, of body and landscape, the experience of landscape and of place. The panoramic drawings I’m now working on expand on that approach.  I’m now mapping out several, all informed by photographs taken at several locations along the Severn. The locations are identified by stories of events at different places along the riverside, between the Severn Bridge and Newnham.

Flow Contemporary Arts is named after the river, particularly making reference to the constant exchange of masses of water, know as the Severn Bore.  Almost daily, the river and the sea gain ground from each other, then yield, forming a wave of energy that sweeps up-river. This phenomenon is so present in my life it could be perceived as a battery charger that constantly injects me with shots of inspiration.

The drawings I am doing now are powered by that, I hope it shows.

450 metres of cotton wick Clearwell Caves by Sandi Carr

The forest has some fascinating places that many people consider to be merely tourist destinations. Yet some provide brilliant locations for contemporary art to be shown in, and Clearwell Caves is one of them. The exhibition by Sandi Carr that opened last night, is one worth seeing. If you take a peek at her website you will see she’s interested in visceral materials, and this new installation reflects that.

Quirky as always, one arrived in the car park to follow the path down to the caves, lit by tea lights inside jam jars. Nice and simple. We were a bit confused because there seemed to b e no-one above ground and all the doors to the caves were locked. Another pathway lined by fairy- lights led up and away from the mine. Soft and gentle underfoot, we started to follow the meandering path, which went up and down and around bends. at one point my friend said no, let’s go back, there’s nothing there…but we persevered and found the back door to the caves standing open and inside a roaring fireplace. Magic. We could hear voices, so ducked a little as we went through the caves a short distance where we found nibbles and a drink waiting. Further in we found the art works, as simple and honest as the original structure of the caves. Well lit by more candles.

I’m not going to describe the artworks – you need to go and see them in situ, because being there is important. But suffice to say they are poetic, beautiful and relevant. And relate to their title which is the heading of this blogpost.

Enjoy the visit!

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Baring my soul – how poetic & potentially embarrassing!

I’ve recently raised from the archives and shared some recent drawings and now, writings, too.

I learnt to do html coding with hybrideyes, it was like a first bike, but with no stabilisers provided. Writing online these days is a cinch compared to those days of coding, with terribly slow uploading to the soundtrack of a handshake.

So feel free to delve into my words and images. Some original artworks are for sale and I shall release some digital prints in due course.

As time goes by, I’ll maybe add information about my art practice prior to changing direction and becoming a producer. My artist CV is also on hybrideyes, I used to create video installations. I’d love to do so again, in time.

of rivers, drawing, friendship and bridges

I’ve been thinking a lot about the River Severn again – it’s hard not to when I see it every time I go out of my front door and every time I drive home from any direction.

For years I have walked alongside it with my family and friends and talked with strangers along the way. I’ve met prisoners and fishermen, dog walkers and artists on my walks. The number of photographs I have taken is an unknown, but vast, number.

I’ve uploaded videos of the bore many times and named Flow Contemporary Arts after the river. And now I’m drawing the Severn too.

What next? Maybe I’ll paint, or make prints again, or publish a book, who knows? The ideas flow as thick and fast as the tides do. When all is calm and peaceful I can sit and stare as random objects float past me. And I can think.

Here are some links to River Severn stuff, by me:



Video of the Severn Bore – morning

Video of the Severn Bore – sunset

Jonathan Jones flags up declining visitor numbers in arts

My initial post heading ended with the comment ‘with no context’. That was unfair and unreasonable, Jonathan Jones did provide a context, I merely felt it needed more. 

I apologise to Jonathan Jones for that harsh heading.

I have just spotted this article in the Guardian from 2nd February. Whilst is is alarming and may give the reader the impression that less people are interested in culture these days, there is insufficient information about the obvious questions arising, for example WHY are there less visitors? We get part of the story, which is certainly true, but surely there are other things at play?

Here are some of the things I’d like to know that might provide an informed answer:

  • The % of visitors to museums and galleries has dropped, but retained the same % of visitors from abroad. Has that overall number dropped dramatically too?
  • How do these stats compare to the budgets the museums have at their disposal? Have they gone down relationally?
  • Have the institutions had to cut their staffing levels?
  • How many have closed altogether?
  • Which have been the best attended, and why?
  • Similarly, which have suffered the biggest reduction of visitors?
  • How do the regions vary from London?
  • How do these stats compare with other sectors, for example sport, heritage organisations etc?
  • Of those that DO attend, has their spend in shops, cafes etc. Gone up, or down?
  • Might there be a direct relationship between cuts to funding for local authorities?
  • Or the number of people who have been made redundant because of those cuts? Or had salaries cut?

It would be really good to understand the wider picture.

And most of all, what can we do to improve things? Or are these figures going to be used against the sector, to cut funding even further?

Answers on a postcard please, preferably from a museum or gallery of your choice.

(Blogging on train so apologies if not 100% perfect!)

returning to practice -drawing for the sake of drawing

Those who regularly read Flow Contemporary Arts blog posts will probably be doing so because I am a producer and commissioner in the visual arts. Which I have been doing for over sixteen years now. So you may not be aware that I studied art myself and did, at one time, have a blossoming visual arts career with some great commissions, exhibitions and residency opportunities.

My art practice was initially as a printmaker, then I began to use photography, film and installation once I became immersed in my masters in fine art. I was an early adopter of digital video and learned HTML code to make my own websites. I learned Flash and Director at one point and did a lot of work with the Watershed in Bristol. My first ever domain was ‘hybrideyes’. On that site I shared images, texts, videos and showcased my portfolio.

As my art practice decreased and my producer practice increased exponentially I decide the hybrideyes site had to go. But I held onto the domain name because I love it. And today it is reborn!

Have a look at recent drawings



The Forest of Dean selects a new Verderer, Rich Daniels, at Gloucester Cathedral

This morning I attended an event in Gloucester Cathedral that harks right back to 1216. You can read more about the history here.

The Verderer’s are the sole remnant of the organisational structure developed after Norman times to administer Forest Law – introduced to provide for beasts of the forest, in particular deer and boar, and for the protection of their habitat.

A notice calling for candidates to become the fourth Verderer was published in January by Countess Bathurst, the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, on the order of Her Majesty the Queen. She wore an amazing hat, a huge white feathery nest fluttering away in the draught as she passed by us on her way to speak to “the people.”

The nave was full to the brim of Gloucestershire landowners, there to vote with a show of hands. It was a wonderful feeling to be there to witness this tradition being honoured, even if it was loaded with pomp, colonialism and patriarchal traditions! The Duchess had been invited by the Queen to oversee proceedings and there was much talk about the Crown and country.

Three men were nominated for election.  Traditionally, Freeminers have to be men over the age of 21, be born and bred in the Forest of Dean and have worked for a year and a day in a mine within the Hundred. The Hundred was based on the area from which 100 fighting men could be found to fight for the crown. In the Forest’s case, this was within the realm of St Briavels castle. This is why Lydney etc. is not within the St Briavels’ Hundred, even though it is closer than Cinderford, for example, since Lydney was part of the Bledisloe Hundred.[corrected from initial description]

This changed in 2010, when  “male” was interpreted to mean ‘”male and female” by the Gaveller of the Forest of Dean (a Crown appointment currently vested in the Forestry Commissioners as a body), when they made a decision to accept an application from Mrs Elaine Morman, who became the first ever female Freeminer to be registered.” Today there were no female nominations.

Monument Mine, a working free mine in the Forest of Dean

Rich Daniels won his seat in the Court today. The mine shown in the image above, from the  Wyedean Tourism website, belongs to Rich and he still hauls up coal every day. He’s a very lovely man whose heart really is carved into the forest, he will be an effective Verderer and will keep traditions alive, as well as respect contemporary needs of the people who live here.

Many of his supporters were in the Cathedral and he has a local reputation for fighting authority, in particular for fending off the sale of the Forest via HOOF, which he led. There’s a long history of commoners rights in the forest, many of which are still active today. Simon Schama talks about them in his excellent book Landscape & Memory. It includes some great stories about Lords being chased out of the forest by the Foresters (meaning local residents, not forest managers).

The Forest is a very special place to live. Family roots run very deep, as deep as the ochre mines and the scowles, the coal seams and the ancient trees. As a place to find culture it seems to bloom constantly with new findings for an incomer like me. This year, when John Berger died, I found out he had lived here and written A Fortunate Man. Reading it feels like a time warp, but only a little one, a blip of time, as so little has changed since the 1960’s.  Dennis Potter lived here too. I still have so much to learn about this place.

But for now, congratulations to Rich, the forest is in safe hands with the Verderer’s – it’s what they are there for.