This is a piece of art that I created recently that’s inspired by frequent unpleasant encounters with dog poo bags while out on walks in the countryside.
On one walk along a popular track up a mountain in Wales last year the poop bags were so frequent that they inspired me to conceive of the idea of a path lined with an avenue of poop bags. I’m looking out for a suitable venue.
For the work in these photos it was a small step to move a single bag from the countryside to the art gallery. The question is, is it a real dog poo bag or not? All that I can say is that it’s described as being ‘mixed media’.
This is a still image from a series of videos that I’ve created that explore the generation of complex forms from simple forms.
Videos from the series (although not this actual one at the moment) can be seen here.
A sketch of an idea for a sculpture, showing an umbrella mounted at the top of a conical structure that has short filaments protruding from it.
I have a fascination with umbrellas for some reason. I think it’s possibly due to a mixture of their slightly Heath Robinsonesque mechanical structure – the hinged flexible rods that are levered outwards to support a stretched fabric cover – and their pleasing form when in the open position. Not to mention their practicality. And the fact that they are, despite their mechanical intricacy, very much taken for granted and dismissed as objects of great mundanity.
My first ever published image was an absurdist redesign of the umbrella, published in the Sunday Times in about 1974.
This is a visualisation of a concept that I’m thinking of developing into a piece of finished artwork.
It’s a form of environmental sculpture.
The work will consist of a conventional domestic rubbish bin with a black bin liner inside it.
From most angles (as in the image on the left, above) the bin will look like any conventional bin: however when viewed from close up at the front (the image on the right, above) the observer will see that looking inside of the bin the blackness of the bin liner gives the impression of a dark void within the bin. Visible in the void will be a glowing representation of the earth. The effect will be of the earth suspended in the vastness of outer space. The bin will appear almost to be a portal to another dimension.
The idea of a mundane rubbish bin containing a portal into outer space is very appealing.
I haven’t yet decided how the representation of the earth in the bin should be realised. It could be a dimly glowing globe or it could be a digital display on a screen positioned near the base of the bin.
The work is an environmental statement and carries an obvious message – that at the human race’s current rate of consumption of the earth’s resources we are treating the earth with contempt and are effectively placing the planet itself in the rubbish bin. The message is obvious because there is no time for subtlety here! Think of it as the sculptural equivalent of an environmental campaign poster.
The work is a development of a concept that I had in about the year 2000, when I produced several drawings of the earth falling into a wastepaper basket. The sculptural potential of using a real rubbish bin to create an illusion of outer space is a more recent development.
The emotional impact of seeing the earth floating in the black void of space inside the bin refers to some extent to the iconic photographs of the earth as seen from space as photographed by the astronauts in the Apollo moon missions.
On a recent visit to the current exhibition of the work Robert Rauschenberg at Tate Modern I was interested to come across a work that I was unfamiliar with – Automobile Tire Print (1953).
Here’s a photo of part of Rauschenberg’s tyre print on a T-shirt in the merchandising section of the exhibition. Maybe the idea of the T-shirt is that the wearer will look as though a car has driven over them. If it’s an intentional joke, that’s quite witty for contemporary art (if a bit grisly). Rauschenberg seemed to be quite a fun loving person himself though, so it’s perhaps fitting.
I very much like Rauschenberg’s experimental approach to creating art, in this specific case particularly so because the technique that he came up with is one that bears a strong similarity to an idea that I thought up myself during my early days as a cartoonist, when I created the greetings card below for a series on the subject of leisure activities.
I drew this cartoon in 1994 using pen and ink. Rauschenberg created his Automobile Tire Print using paint and a car. He did it in 1953, so he beat me to it by a good forty years.
One of my favourite pieces of work in the new Switch House extension to Tate Modern is The Passing Winter by Yayoi Kusama.
This had a lot to do with my fascination with art that is based on mirrors.
The work is a hollow cube about a metre square, with the walls being composed of mirrors both inside and out. The mirrors are pierced with circular holes that allow the observer to peer into the cube and to see the internal mirrors. The internal mirrors reflect each other, and thus each reflection in each mirror reflects the reflection in the mirror, which is reflecting the reflection and so on, creating a sequence of reflections that would continue infinitely were it not for the physical constraints on the mirrors (such as the fact that with each reflection a small amount of brightness is lost, making each reflection slightly dimmer than the previous one).
A recent visit to the gallery confirmed that it’s not just me who’s fascinated by mirrors.
The room that houses The Passing Winter contains a fair few other worthy pieces of contemporary art, but none of them drew the gallery-goers’ attention in quite the way that Yayoi Kusama’s work did. It was the one piece of art around which people hovered in small animated crowds. People studied the other art in the room in quiet contemplation, but when the same people approached the The Passing Winter their moods changed to ones of outward engagement. And out came the cameras.
One of the lures of The Passing Winter is obviously that the spectator is reflected in the artwork, thus effectively becoming part of the artwork itself. Everyone’s interested in themselves, so everyone’s interested in this artwork. Especially when they themselves are part of it.
I’m sure that some critics may dismiss the work because of its crowd pleasing tendencies – accusing it of being dangerously close to a fairground attraction, with its appeal being partly to the audience’s baser narcissistic tendencies – a criticism that’s sometimes levelled at Anish Kapoor’s distorting mirror pieces.
But then quite a lot of art panders to the narcissistic tendencies of its audience, if only to massage their feelings of self worth, so I don’t see that as a problem.
The photo of The Passing Winter on Tate Modern’s own web site shows the work in isolation, with no one looking at it. This makes the piece look a bit inert and doesn’t convey anything of the dialogue between the work and the audience. I hope that my photos show the enlivening effect of the work.
When I first encountered this work I wasn’t aware of who the artist was, so I was pleased when I discovered that it was Yayoi Kusama, an artist whom I already greatly admired. She’s probably best known for her ‘polka dot’ artworks – her obsessive application of coloured dots to everything that she encounters (In 2012 Tate Modern staged an excellent exhibition of Kusama’s work, their only mistake being to stage it at the same time as an exhibition of Damien Hirst, forcing an inevitable comparison between Hirst’s dot paintings and Kusama’s polka dots. Rightly or wrongly, Kusama’s obsessive polka dots made Hirst’s ranks of uniform dots look rather lazy).
It was probably at that exhibition that I first came across Kusama’s mirror rooms which, as with The Passing Winter, used the device of parallel facing mirrors to create the effect of infinite regression. It’s a common enough phenomenon (you can see it in mirror lined department store lifts any day of the week), which I remember being fascinated in during by student days many years ago, however Kusama was the first person whose work I’ve seen who’s been able to harness the effect at the level of the sublime.
I suspectt that it’s because of her mirror based artworks that I’ve embarked on my own explorations of the genre, complete with infinite regression, as you can see here – mirror based art.
A study of reflections using mundane everyday objects to create interesting formations.
Here ordinary hardware screws are arranged to form a dynamic expansive configuration.
Screws lend themselves to this study partly because of their physically dynamic shape – large at one end and then tapering away at the other – and partly because of their intended purpose, which is to hold things in place – the exact opposite of dynamic expansiveness – which brings a slight touch of paradox to the work.
Anyone looking at the image who feels that I ought to have lined up the screw heads – it’s a deliberate act not to have aligned them, even though in real life I am a natural screw head aligner.
In this work I’ve created a chess set out of short blocks of wood.
The first thing that the viewer notices when looking at the work is that the chess board is fragmenting or disintegrating.
Less obvious however is that the chess board is composed only of the white squares. These white squares are the tops of the blocks of wood, the sides of which are painted black. It is the black sides of the blocks that give the impression of the black squares of the chess board. The seeming existence of the black squares is a visual illusion, as they are nothing more than black holes. See the photograph below. The illusion is as true with the actual, three dimensional chess set as it is with these photographs.
Part of the impact of the piece is in the way that the viewer only notices the ‘black holes’ of the missing black squares on the chess board after already being intrigued by the disintegrating nature of the board.
The piece has political overtones, in that it is partly about the disintegration of power (as symbolised by the combative nature of the game of chess) and the disintegration of order (as symbolised by the rigid grid of the chess board). It is also about more existentialist themes such as dangers that lurk in the world (the black holes as traps or stumbling blocks) and the nature of physical reality (with the holes representing the unknown parts of the physical universe (such as the actual black holes that result from collapsed stars). It’s also just a nice visual illusion, and thus contains humour as well as its more weighty themes.
For other views of the chess board, and to see more of my contemporary art, <a href=”http://Disintegrating chess board contemporary art“>please click here.
An example of one of my projects in the field of contemporary art exploring mirrors, reflections and illusions, here using a piece of cord that is reflected multiple times to give the impression of a closed circle.
This work consists of three mirrors creating a triangular box with the reflective surfaces facing inwards. The box is placed over a length of brightly coloured meandering paracord. The cord is laid so that the section that lies inside the triangular box is reflected on the box’s sides to give the illusion of forming a circle. The second photo shows the piece from a different angle to show the structure.
For more of my contemporary artworks click here: contemporary art