Bideford Black commissioned artist to deliver performance lecture 11th March @BurtonArtGaller

One of the 8 artists selected to make new work for the Burton Collection, Luce Choules will be giving a talk at the Museum:
Luce Choules 
Guide74 performance lecture
11th March 7pm 

Guide74 is an artist project exploring spatial dynamics in the high mountains using experimental fieldwork. Using a format of photographic image, spoken word and physical objects, Guide74 leads an audience on an expedition to the Alpine regions of France – a journey of many parts exploring ideas of interrelated geographies and events. For more info

This is not specifically about her commission, but it will give you a flavour of how she works and thinks. For the Bideford Black project, Luce is developing Seam – a scripted large-scale, dynamic photographic installation (conceived as an event throughout the exhibition), and associated items. Find out more about her work here.

Do join us.

Mycophilia by Louise Short in Aberystwyth. Casts of fungi, incredible detail – plaster, bronze & paper

I shan’t write too much here because I am writing a full review of Louise Shorts exhibition ‘Mycophilia’ this week. But I must share some photos to tempt you to go and see this lovely body of work in Aberystwyth. The Ceredigion Museum is using an empty shop next to the museum to show contemporary artworks. (sorry link not working so removed it)

Louise Short, known in Bristol both as an artist and as the curator of Station, has been foraging for months, meandering through the beautiful valley close to her current home in a Welsh valley, contemplating the fragility of nature and capturing the momentary appearance of fungus in many forms. They have an extremely short life span and disappear as quickly as they raise their bodies from below the earth.

So here are some photos to whet your appetite for this renowned source of food and nutrition. Do go and see it if you can, it’s extraordinarily beautiful and thought-provoking.







feeling like I’ve been struck by lightning like Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio – mind buzzing, tingling allover!

*also published yesterday, but some settings weren’t correct

Lightning strike damages thumb of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue

What an amazing photograph! I saw it on my iphone on Twitter yesterday – the first Twitter communication for a week, having been hidden away at Totleigh Barton – an Arvon centre in Devon. I was on an arts writing course supported by Visual Arts South West. (VASW)

I felt like the Christ the Redeemer statue myself – alive and electric with a stimulated brain!

The course was specially devised for, and attended by, 15 South West UK artists. Arvon is renowned for supporting poets, novelists and play writers, but never before had they hosted a course specifically for people working in the arts. It was brilliant – challenging, moving, tiring, refreshing and motivational. The tutors offered range – Cherry Smyth writes for Art Monthly and is a poet, Christopher William Hill a playwright and children’s writer too. Charlotte Higgins also came along from the Guardian and shared with us her experience of being an arts journalist and even braved the torrential rain for a walk. Thank you to all of the tutors for being there – it was a privilege to share a 15th Century farmhouse with you all.

I’ve always been slightly resistant to poetry, but found myself writing some. Apart from here, on my blog, much of my writing is for a specific purpose – catalogues, press releases, funding applications etc. Due to the very nature of those things, I rarely write humour – so I tried that too. This is all taking a while to assimilate, so I shan’t share anything with you yet – but maybe later in the week. I am not unlike the sodden fields, we can’t soak anything more up, we need to let things sink in first.

But I will share how I survived the lack of internet and mobile phone, because it was amusing and farcical in many ways…..

Picture the scene – rolling devon countryside, wintery flooding and endless downpours. A one-track lane leading to the Arvon Centre, pitted and collapsing under the rain and the traffic ploughing up and down it. It’s night time, the rain carries on trying to find room in the ground to settle, but until it does, splashing from pathways and sploshing continually.  The heavy thatch of the farmhouse wept continually in despair at the weather – even when the rain stopped temporarily, from inside, the water continued to drain through in an endless stream of drip drip drip. Four of the group decided contact with the world was imperative (it goes without saying I am one of the four). We piled into a car and drove slowly up the hill, over two cattlegrids. We crawled along in the car through the dark night, looking for a signal to magically appear on our mobiles. We turn up a little junction and yes, we have signals!!! “2 bars, 3 bars, oh no, down to one bar – hey, have you nicked one of my bars?” All 4 sit in the car, holding up their phones all facing one direction. The light bounces off their faces, their anxiety palpable as phones begin to chime and ping. Eventually we are satiated and the road saturated. After much 3 point turning to avoid the slippery muddy edges that would have left us stranded, our driver managed to rotate the vehicle and we headed back down the hill. Replete. Smug and just a little bit ashamed that we cannot cope without our gadgets. We had managed about 4 hours!

Sadly, I can’t say I felt lightning strike when we got online. No exciting emails, no worrying text messages. I didn’t try again, ok, I did walk up a couple of times, but in reality, life below at Totleigh Barton was more exciting and rewarding.


#visartsbristol open space meeting – good discussions, now for action (updated)

Yesterday I attended an open space event convened by Situations and Bristol Museums (and possibly others, excuse my ignorance here).

AMENDMENT: the partners that hosted the event were:

Alexis Butt, Acting Director, RWA; Claire Doherty, Director, Situations; Helen Legg, Director, Spike Island; Julie Finch, Director and Phil Walker, Public Programmes Manager, Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives and Tom Trevor, Director, Arnolfini.

It was a good day and a while since I have engaged deeply with what is happening in Bristol, having moved to Glos seven years ago. It felt good and it was particularly interesting to witness a wind-change in the arts ecology in Bristol. It used to feel very territorial in Bristol, but now the key players, the artists and public bodies seem more united, sharing a vision of resilience for the arts in the city.

Historically, the Bristol art scene always seemed somewhat dominated by the major organisations, creating a hierarchy, often with artists at the base of the triangle. It was good to see so many artists there and all working together on a level playing field. Freelancers also hold their own now too, creating a rich and nourishing compost into which ideas can grow.

It was also very good to see such a high museum sector presence, though I didn’t meet anyone from libraries, sadly. Both are now part of ACE remit.

Collaborating with the museums would be ideal for Flow, with new projects being devised to tour works that are modular & adaptable, yet pay homage to each context they are taken to. And new commissions too – a constant celebration of existing works and a topping up with new, ever changing artworks.

Phil Walker led a group discussion about ‘future thinking’ for museums. I’d really like to work with him and his team to commission an artist to respond to this enquiry, which could then tour (alongside existing works) to other museums and gather their ideas and visions.

An issue that arose time and time again in conversations was the need for there to be people engaged to broker partnerships, oversee multiple partners to deliver cross-sector projects.

That is exactly what I do, what Flow is designed to do.

Talk to me.

updated: Roger Hiorns, Hepworth Gallery, ***** young men, machines, alchemy

lifeclass 1900

some words have been replaced by ****’s to avoid people being disappointed by my website not offering what some people expect to find!

Charlotte Higgins article about the new work by Roger Hiorns, that opened yesterday at the Hepworth Gallery is entitled ‘Artist Roger Hiorns fills Wakefield warehouse with ***** young men’.

How misleading and sensationalist that description now seems, having had the most wonderful, evocative encounter with the work. The warehouse is certainly not filled with ***** young men. It is far from full of anything, the careful spacing between the objects within the space providing a strange theatrical stage that has a seemingly divine light streaming in, creating halos around the classical tableau of life-class poses. Hardly a sound in the room, an homage to traditional art education that is apparently no longer affordable in our art colleges.

Consider the images we have seen of formal art classes (image above)
I chose this image because, as you see, the models were not even real bodies, but classical examples of the idealised human form. They are presented on plinths, often stone or wood, a juxtaposition of culture (the stonecarving) and natural materials. With that in mind, consider what Hiorns is showing us.

The large industrial room has an array of man made, industrial objects placed around it, fairly equally spaced and arranged. There is a symmetry

The light streaming through the windows provides a gravitas, a wondrous lightshow that falls upon the objects and the performers

The objects are variable, some aircraft engine parts, a stainleess steel kitchen worktop (or is it from a morgue? A surgical worktable?)

Regimental rows of white plastic buckets with lids, half filled with an unknown substance, partially wrapped in polythene, stacked in an ordered manner. Resting on wooden pallets (plinth)

A typical metal street bench, on which is a small circle of ‘stuff’ – grey powder, dust, ash

A coffee table (plinth) with live BBC news footage showing on it’s flat-screen surface.

A naked young man posed on the coffee table, relaxed, still, calm, quiet, contemplative

Another man sits on an engine part, also still, posed, comfortable with this metal hulk of engineering (I did notice a tiny piece of foam rubber which must have helped to create this illusion)

Naked flesh against flatscreen TV, and against weighty industry, the ghosts of industry, redundant artefacts.

Compare with the life class of 1900. What part of Hiorns work represents culture? What is nature? What is worthy of being in a museum? Why are there no art students in here drawing? Why, as someone who attended art college, do I ‘know how to behave’ as I view the work? As the audience, I look wth respect, I would not dream of touching these passive, vulnerable men as they gaze into nowhere, or bow their heads in submission to the visitors gaze. There is a strange sadness, the redundance of the machine parts, the passing of the industrial age. I wonder how the work might be if the models were young women. How might that feel? How powerful is the visitor gaze?

Then there is the stuff. I begin to see the stuff on some of the objects and feel driven to ask the steward what it is. She explains it is from the flame. Some of it is ceremoniously swept away and replaced, and lit. A tender, gentle flame of chemical source flickers into existence close to one of the models sitting on an engine part. It is absolutely magical. The only moving living thing in this calm. It is alchemical – it reminds us that stuff is life and life is stuff, of the moment, illumination. It dances in the sunlight. I loved it.

Occasionally the models silently move from one place to another. No eye contact, just a sense of purpose to carry out their training.

At the end of the performance they quietly pick up their folded clothes from the windowsill and begin to dress. We leave, it would seem inappropriate to watch them dress, dressing is a private act. Life models have screens or dressing rooms, the act of dressing transforms the models from objects to subjects, at which point our voyeurism is acknowledged. We become aware of how we have visually consumed something which we are not usually allowed access to, and it is unsettling.

I have always wanted to see Seizure by Hiorns (commissioned by Artangel). On my way homewards today I’m going to see it at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Exciting! Especially after seeing this offer from his Youth series.

I’ve always enjoyed alchemy. Sadly, like life drawing and dark-room photography, artists today are begin sensually deprived of these things. It’s important we never forget that when people and stuff comes together, magic can happen.


Flows first project goes public soon – exciting!!!!

The Cabinet of Local Change is a pilot for a future collection of ‘cabinets’ that will be commissioned specifically with touring in mind. This one is specifically for Forest of Dean residents.

Artist Simon Ryder (artNucleus) was commissioned by Flow Contemporary Arts to create a ‘cabinet’ in some form that could be used to reflect upon changes in the nature of the Forest of Dean, inspired by his own research in this forest and through engagement with local Community Library users. A key part of this process was for it to be made public via blogging.

The cabinet will make its first appearance on Thursday 29th August 2013 – Mitcheldean Library at 2.30pm and Newnham on Severn Library at 6pm.

Simon is concerned with peeling back the narratives from places, people and objects, then weaves  them together into new configurations in the form of sculptures, videos, texts and artefacts. Working together at Mitcheldean and Newnham community libraries, Simon and Carolyn opened up new ways of thinking about how libraries might operate. They shared blogging skills and how technology can provide opportunities for artists to reveal their working methods, as well as inform the making of art – technology and nature combining in the creative process.

Inspired by the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi in the forest, the outcome is fascinating. It is a unique storage system that appears to grow through the books on a shelf, like an organic extension, with partially enclosed spaces to contain ‘items that signal change’. Modular in its construction and open source (with the 3D templates freely available for download from the internet), Simon worked with the designer-makers at Millar Howard Workshop to produce a cabinet that can be flat-packed down for storage and touring. The cabinet is a portable work – it will make appearances at scheduled times, providing a beautiful and original focus for local discussions about change. To start the ball rolling, the first items to be placed in this cabinet will be printed copies of Simon’s blog, some books that informed his thinking, and a vial of water from St Antony’s well; the remaining spaces are empty, awaiting library users to add their own artefacts.

Flow Contemporary Arts works with both arts and non-arts partners to initiate produce and present contemporary art in unusual locations. Founded by Carolyn Black in 2012, Flow specialises in making things happen through the unique approach of commissioning artworks that respond to place, yet can also adapt to other contexts. If you wish to host or support the work in the future, contact

The project was supported by the Forest of Dean Local Action Group and the Forestry Commission.

scanning branches with X-Box, photo Chris Morris
scanning branches with X-Box, photo Chris Morris

press image Cabinet on shelf small

lag logo bar 72dpi

Supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas

and Forestry Commission FC logo_eng_linear_col

@technobiophilia – what is it? watch the video where Sue Thomas explains

There are many exciting things happening every day and we all have things that inspire us and make us wonder about the world. Some take delight in sport results, others nature, others art, others technology. Some of us find the blurirng of the edges of those things the most rich area to explore. I certainly do.

Those who have known me for some time will know that whilst I worked as an artist and now as a producer, the common thread throughout has been a slight penchant for technology. Both as a medium and an intellectual pursuit. No suprise then that I am excited by the upcoming publication of Technobiophilia by Sue Thomas. Nature and technology rubbing shoulders, creating new ways of understanding how we relate to the world.

Sue has posted a video of her explaining a bit about the concepts behind the book and what motivated her to reserch the idea. It’s a fascinating way of thinking and slightly at odds with those who enjoy the power of the binary opposires of science V nature, nature V cyberspace. Technology is here to stay, get used to it.

As Sue is also my sister – I am slightly biased. This is the first time we have worked together professionally (I did the black & white chapter headers, some shown in the video), so we’d love to hear what you think.

micro-residency for artist in libraries 6 weeks to respond by blogging, thinking, making

Today Simon Ryder and I did our first workshops in the two designated libraries in the Forest of Dean. Thanks to everyone that made it – it was a really fascinating day and everyone participated fully.

Simon will be blogging about this micro-residency – he has less than 6 weeks to respond to the forest and the unique nature of the place – both literally and metaphorically.

By meeting people and conducting personal research, he will become entrenched in a myriad of thoughts! I’ll leave him to share those thoughts in his blog – to get them sent to your mailbox regularly subscribe by signing up on his website.

Who knows, it may not be long before some participants from the workshops begin to start blogging too…..

Great mix of people  too – architects, engineers, librarians, ex-policemen, editors to name but a few.

Here’s a few pics by Forest photographer Chris Morris

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Artist crowd sourcing to pay for her show at venice bienniale. Fab work for sale!

I don’t normally promote the work of an artist on here, but Elpida’s work is so beautiful and unusual I want to gain your attention. Elpida is being resourceful by selling limited edition prints to help her finance new work for Venice.

And they are stunning. I confess I bought one immediately!

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva is offering an unique opportunity to purchase limited edition prints of archival quality. All proceeds will go towards developing her project, Silentio Pathologia, for the Republic of Macedonia Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. All prints will be signed and editioned by her…..

If interested please Facebook:
or email