A Brush with Damian Hirst

OCA Study visit to Hoyland and Auerbach 16th January 2016

I recently visited the “Magnificent Obsessions” exhibition at Sainsbury Centre (http://scva.ac.uk/art-and-artists/exhibitions)  Whilst I shared Damian Hirst’s gory fascination with medical models, I was surprised to find that the piece to which I had the strongest reaction was his piece of work based  on butterflies and beetles.  It made me angry in a way that my mild nature doesn’t usually experience.  A hijacking of something that wasn’t his I think.

Damian Hirst isn’t usually on my radar, so strange that only two weeks later I found myself in his Newport Street gallery on an OCA Study visit to see the work of John Hoyland.

Gerald Deslandes was a most excellent guide to the work and asked good questions to get us all thinking deeply about what we were seeing.  I began to relate to the work downstairs but the show really took off for me on the upper floor when textures were introduced and the colours moved from very flat primary/secondary to pastels and tertiary mixes, and the shapes and layers became far more complex.  I found it enjoyable that the paintings were trying to depict industrial landscapes and textures.  We considered how Hoyland was a child of his time and had access to types and ranges of colours not previously available.

A recent article in The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/29/john-hoyland-review-damien-hirst-newport-street-gallery) didn’t rate the exhibition  but I found the work in the last two rooms especially very exciting.  It was reassuring to hear why and how some others also responded to the work.  I learnt new names eg Barnett Newman – whose work I have looked at since I came home; it doesn’t affect me in the same way.

Our afternoon visit was to the Auerbach exhibition at Tate Britain.  Here again colour and texture were the themes although subject matter was more representational and included figures as well as buildings.  I really enjoyed drawing the early pictures, and realising how simple and angular his compositions were.


Having spent the morning looking at very flat work, the globules of paint that built up to create shadows of their own were very different.  The influence of Walter Sickert was visible in early colour scheme.   Like Hoyland – Auerbach’s work made use of complementary colours, patches of red and green used to make work vibrate, and he also became more complex over time.  I liked his work of the 70’s and 80’s – the pastel like street scenes showing huge energy.  I enjoyed his mastery of wide brush strokes – a bold streak of colour gave the impression of abstract, but when you analysed the colour and direction, they were just right to convey a roof, wall, chimney and build up a street scene.

I was intrigued by the 2000’s room – the style and colour seemed hugely different.  At first I thought he must have changed locations, but in the end concluded that the effects of age and the change in the types and colour ranges of paint available compared to the early days, probably accounted for the difference.  Portraits in charcoal and chalk were completely different: quivering wobbly lines instead of the strong angles of earlier days, but no less masterful in capturing the character, and maybe that is what happens to us too as we age.

This was a most enjoyable visit.  It was good to meet new friends and to catch up with one or two that I had met on previous study visits.  We had an interesting discussion over lunch about copyright and blogging (hence my choice of photos for this blog – and not the inclusion of works seen, which are all available online anyway).   I loved the environment of the Newport Road gallery – and the stunning staircase, even as I had concerns about the vast amount of art-earned money that must have provided it. Gerald was extremely knowledgeable and I increased my art vocabulary in ways that I wouldn’t have done studying on my own.  I thought that “Syntematic “ was one, “the relation of parts to the whole” but I have been unable to find it in a dictionary and after searching around have concluded it must have been “Synectics” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synectics)and “palimpsest “ – on top of, putting something onto a given surface, to describe the building up of layers.

I went on this as a Printmaking 2 student, nearing the end of my course and looking towards painting and printmaking as the main skills to take into level 3. I could relate Hoyland to print very easily, but it has made me think more deeply about how I could achieve some of the Auerbach influence in my prints.  Overall the visit was a good choice to inspire and enthuse.   Thank you Gerald, very much.


Assignment 6 Driftwood and luggage labels

I’m looking at the theme of abandonment and the subject of refugees who have left their homes.

It occurred to me last week when I identified wood blocks as one of my favourite characterful forms of printmaking – that driftwood would be the ideal material to authenticate the subject, and luggage labels a very suitable surface to print on.

The labels were easy – three shops to find the cheapest place to buy them, but the wood required a Saturday expedition to Felixstowe.   We reckoned that Trimley fore shore would be the most likely spot, which entails a 2 1/2 mile walk in and then out again.  The wood was wet ( and so was the day in parts) so my rucksack quickly filled to over 8kg.  Wood is now drying out ready for cutting.

It was a successful forage though, and I enjoyed the exercise – hopefully I burnt off a bit of Christmas excess in the process.  All of which leads me to think how different my life is from the refugees I am representing.


Magnificent Obsessions Exhibition

I’ve been to SCVA (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts) today with OCA students Sara, Tanya and Nicky – all fellow members of the East Anglia Extreme student support group and doing (respectively) acrylic / watercolour painting and Textiles.

It was an excellent day out (especially after a week dealing with hospital visits, conveyancing and representations to local authority for my mum)

I’m not sure it gave me any inspiration for the current assignment, but I enjoyed drawing, viewing and learning about the exhibits.

Most useful was being able to hear comments from the others about my current preparatory drawings.  I’m feeling pretty scared about how to convert my drawings into print, but in conversation together I realised that it’s not about conversion so much as working in a different “language”, the language of print.

Marlene Dumas


I’ve been looking at the work of Marlene Dumas after coming across one of her striking images.  She had an exhibition at the Tate last year “The Image as Burden”. I like her really loose style of working, and relevant to my current project, the fact that she works from newspaper photos – although normally I would always prefer painting from life.

the pastel images are my own – done from memory of UNHCR photos of refugees using an iPad  package

3D Paper

I made a mobile earlier in the year to illustrate the text for a sermon.  It went down very well as an illustration and subject for the talk.  It also turned out to be a life parallel – things move a little but the balance seems totally upset.  It only takes a little careful and thoughtful adjustment to put things right.

Since then I have made several more out of different materials, and have also made them with some of my workshop groups.  I’ve also used paper-cutting for an anti FGM poster illustration.

A friend of mine has a mobile made of globes and I have studied this to see how it was done.  A Boxing Day trip to Sizewell Beach gave me more ideas seeing how the dome was covered with rectangles.


One of my Christmas presents was a simple folded paper book hedgehog, but this got me exploring on the internet to see how it could be done, and I quickly moved on from there to folded maps.

I have researched different folds and made samples of Muira and Turkish folds.  It took me a long while to find instructions for a very beautiful and dramatic zig zag fold but I managed it – it got easier as I learned the techniques.

Assignment 6

I’m pleased with the start I’ve made on this assignment, there has been a definite progression of ideas which has shown the MOVEMENT OF THOUGHT described by Picasso.

Work to date (December 2015) is described below.  I now have 5 weeks to reflect on what I have done, put it to one side and rethink it -a technique which also follows in the steps of Picasso – the refusal to be content with what has been produced.

My goal in making the piece is to vastly improve the quality of work – I want to make something that is exquisite and breathtaking.

Preparation sketchbook pages 1- 97

Preparation video 1  – first thoughts                     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9V5GEazcdQ

Preparation video 2  – paper folding  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIXzBRY3xqY

Preparation video 3  – mobiles  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaatSaejT1k

I have really enjoyed doing this preparation and feel it has evolved well and been fruitful.

Changing “Language” from Painting to Printmaking

I must admit to a bit of “Printmakers Block” though, fear at how to turn drawings into prints.  Whilst I was with my fellow OCA Students at Sainsbury Centre on Friday,( Magnificent Obsessions exhibition)  I realised – explaining the answer to someone else’s problem, that it was exactly my situation too.   They were struggling with changing to unfamiliar acrylics from familiar inks.  I said to them – it’s like a change of language – don’t work it out in English and try to convert it into French, think  and speak in French.

Exactly what I need to do to!  Think and speak in “print” which makes me feel as if I have already spent too long in preparing.

One of the issues with working on “current affairs” is that what is current changes quickly.  At new year, the events in Cologne have put a new and different spin on things, and now the news has changed again with the terrible situation in Madaya – maybe the ones who escaped were the lucky ones.





Suffolk Refugee Support

This is part of the work I have been doing for Suffolk Refugee Support.  The pig is a composite of many people’s ideas – staff, volunteers, refugees and asylum seekers – and has been submitted as a competition entry to St Elizabeth’s Hospice.  There is going to be a display of painted pig sculptures in the town next year, and we are hopeful of a prize.

The paper sculpture is something that I produced in the process of designing a poster against Female Genital Mutilation.

I’m also going to be doing some regular workshops for them at La Tour Cycle Cafe in Ipswich  see WellWellart.wordpress.com