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A download will soon be on its way with "Aim Low", title track of my first album. Lyrics are on the Music page.

The road I've taken as an artist is an ongoing, experimental life project. I never know what's going to happen next but look forward to sharing it all with you.

Latest News

From Bob's Back Passage to Brooklyn... 

Just thinking about how almost exactly a year ago I performed at Nice 'n' Sleazy in Glasgow wearing a pink feather boa and a nasty t-shirt - sweet memories!  

I don't have a performance schedule, performing just materializes from time to time. The only thing these events have in common is that they are a bit odd. Like playing at Book at Bedtime in a bookshop for the Wigtown Book Festival, dressed in a nightshirt and nightcap like Wee Willie Winkie. Or being the opening act last summer in the unforgettable Bob's Back Passage at the Eden Festival.

But it looks like my next outing could be coming up quite soon, either at a music school or the home of a brilliant musician and singer/songwriter in Brooklyn NY, a kind of soiree / house concert / jam.  

Brooklyn is where I studied art and worked in a deli so long ago it's like a past life.  Looking forward to the surreal sensation of going back in a new incarnation.  If this event happens, I am told it will be on Saturday night the 8th of December.  That's all I know right now, but should it materialize details will follow next week.

Solo Exhibition at CatStrand  

CatStrand is a beautiful rural arts centre in the historic Scottish town of New Galloway.  The name comes from the Cat, the stream (strand) that runs beneath and beside the building.  I'm delighted to have my work there until the end of September. 

The natural environment in this part of Scotland where I live and work has had a deep impact on my painting.  It affects my approach to light, colour and subject matter - trees are so interesting that my desire to study them was re-ignited when I moved here. The work on display has been done over the last seven years but is related, and ties together well in the long, light-filled space.   

All the paintings are, at first glance, studies in colour and compositio that celebrate nature.  There are trees, flowers, local vegetables, a quarry, even the Scottish weather.     But there's always a subtext, I can't get away from it.  A hollow tree becomes a portal to another time and place.   A single foxglove contains the whole cycle of life, from buds to mature blooms, dry and and ready to fall.  I like to observe and connect, and ultimately to allow imagination to take whatever liberties it desires with the literal...

                 A bunch of multi-coloured carrots called "All The Same But Different" echoes human diversity.

The work will be on display until the 30th of September.  

For further information contact Simon Davidson at CatStrand.  

CATSTRAND High Street, New Galloway, Castle Douglas DG7 3RN 

Opening Hours M-F 10-5, Sat 10-4, Sun 11-4 

T 01644 420374 

E info@catstrand.com 

www.catstrand.com

IN THE THICK OF IT...reflections on SNAFUs & The Bladnoch Altarpiece  

The Bladnoch Altarpiece project just finished a few days ago, and I'm still recovering!  More about that later.  But while organizing files in the aftermath, I found an unposted blog written on the day everything went wrong - isn't that how the expression 'snafu' came into being during WW2 (Situation Normal All F##ked Up)?  Here's my memory of that day and maybe it'll encourage others who are in the thick of it, because we kept going and somehow it all ended well...

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

HAVE YOU ever experienced the phenomenon that once you commit to a project with a deadline, it's like an invitation for things to go wrong?  

You get into the thick of it and suddenly the Wifi develops an agenda of its own that has nothing to do with yours, the printer won't talk to your laptop or phone, the car wants new brakes and the disabling sciatica you thought had gone away forever 20 years ago makes a vicious comeback.  

And then you're in the van going home with all your equipment in the back. Unbeknownst to you the back door lock is broken and has sprung open open in transit. All you heard in the front seat was a little bang, like a pothole.  It actuality, it was the door flying open and then shutting itself.  But when you get home you discover that your backpack containing a case of your best paint brushes went flying out and was lost forever - you know, those well loved extensions of your brain and hand, whose every stroke you know so well?  Just when you need them most.   Thankfully, someone finds the backpack on the road and leaves it at the local pub, but the brushes are gone forever.  

On top of that, the Scottish Government introduces minimum alcohol pricing before you had a chance to buy wine for the exhibition launch.  And as little extra added insult your laptop refuses to write apostrophes correctly any more (now spontaneously cured, as weirdly as it began).

These are trying times, the times when you either give up or persevere.  Another artist in town comes to my door with some lovely paint brushes she no longer uses, blowing me away with this act of kindness.  More replacement brushes are ordered online, not the same as picking them out by hand but they'll do.  And I move forward with The Bladnoch Altarpiece project despite pain (walking with a stick now) and frustration.   

And art is often about finding wonder in small things that often go un-noticed. I continue to be amazed by finding little remnants of the past, like this crumbling bit of paint on a doorway of Unit Three Gallery on the old Bladnoch Creamery site...

Am I hallucinating or is it kind of in the shape of a little horse? or maybe a lamb skipping through a field?   Discoveries like this are reason enough to carry on.

So was the tea party we had at an open studio afternoon at Unit 3 Gallery attended by some lovely ladies who talked about their memories of working at the Bladnoch Creamery back in the 1950s, about how all the jobs were so much in demand that you had to wait until someone retired, died or left to get married (as was customary for most women back then) to get work in the canteen or packing margarine. 

So I'm struggling on this week.  More updates soon.  And maybe I’ll even figure out how to stop that apostrophe from going rogue again.

Unit 3 Gallery - The Bladnoch Altarpiece project 

Just getting into this new project with about 7 weeks until the launch.  Very busy time coming up.  Mostly covered in paint, which is the way I like it!  

The Bladnoch Altarpiece is a site specific work based at Unit 3 Gallery at the former Bladnoch Creamery, now home to metal workers, artists and music producers.  Using the audio-visual language of the Medieval Church, I'm creating a tribute to the former Bladnoch Creamery and the people who worked there and work on the site today. There will be paintings, relics, a triptych, soundscape and some video...ok, there was no video in Medieval Europe, but I'm using the tools of the times.

Unit 3 Gallery has made a Facebook group page for the project that you can follow here:https://www.facebook.com/groups/210714682823440/

 

 

 

 

NEW PROJECT ALERT! THE BLADNOCH ALTARPIECE 

For quite a few years I had my art studio in a building at the Bladnoch Industrial Estate in Bladnoch, near Wigtown in rural South West Scotland. The building was part of the old Bladnoch Creamery that closed in 1989 and was on its way to dereliction before I moved in. I loved it...the vast space, the peeling paint and rusty bits of leftover machinery, the atmosphere of calm disturbed only by occasional sounds of heavy metalwork and imagined echoes of the past. 

Today, the Creamery site is being resurrected in a new form by artisans, artists, musicians and mechanics. ‘The Bladnoch Altarpiece’ will be my tribute to this place and people, as a visual artist and writer/performer of words and music. Themes of abandonment and resurrection inspired the altarpiece concept, which refers to medieval European religious paintings of saints and Bible stories displayed in churches. 

As in a medieval church, sounds and images will be used to engage the senses. There will be relics, but they will be remnants of industry and workers rather than the bones of saints. Having said that, the question of what constitutes saintliness is up for grabs. The subject is secular but who knows? The result may be spiritual. At this stage I have only a vague inkling of what may emerge, and that is exciting. 

The Bladnoch Altarpiece exhibition will be at Unit Three Gallery on the Bladnoch Industrial Estate as part of Spring Fling 2018, and you’re all invited!          

SPRING FLING 2018, 26-28 May 2018 For details and directions see Spring Fling 2018 / Hope London

                                                         Doors, Old Bladnoch Creamery          Photograph © 2018 Hope London

 

'Hidden From Praise' - article about new arts-based education programme for prisoners makes me realise why I work in the arts 

Lately I've been working with Helix Arts (Newcastle) and Nepacs (North East Prisoner Family Support, Durham) to create Hidden Voices, an arts-based education programme designed specifically for men in prison to help them reconnect with their children and families.  

It's been a huge challenge.  Workshops with children and prisoners, desk research, consulting with criminal justice professionals, then going into isolation in my wee study to think, and think, and think....and then write a full modular programme complete with worksheets, guidance notes for facilitators and over twenty activities (now beautifully designed and illustrated by Sally Pilkington/Morph Creative) - all based on songs written and recorded by prisoners' children in collaboration with musicians Will Lang and Beccy Owen.  It's not quite hot off the presses, it's being prepared for print and packaging as I write.  But it's been used already in test form with very positive results.

Hidden Voices was unveiled a few weeks ago in Durham at Nepacs' annual conference.  Dr. Alison Frater, Chair of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) steering group, addressed the gathering and later wrote a wonderful blog on their website that put everything into perspective.  Her words made me keenly aware of why so many of us in the arts put our hearts and souls into work with people in all kinds of communities.

"Arts enable people to experience creativity in a way that transforms lives; even a single performance can change your life forever. At a conference organised by North East Prisoner Family Support (NEPACS), an organisation that seeks to enable positive futures for prisoners and their families in the north east of England by providing practical and emotional support, I heard how ‘Hidden Voices’, a project developed by NEPACS with Helix Arts, uses arts to connect children and families with fathers in prisons – with extraordinary results......."    

Check Out The Full Article Here

I got Spotified... 

It took ages.  About 4 years after recording an album of original songs called Aim Low, I finally put it on Spotify.  And after more weeks of avoidance, frustration and a cry for help, the Spotify link now sits happily on the bottom of each page of this website as if it were no effort at all.  

This was a remarkable feat for someone as untechnifried as myself.  And I do mean fried, because that's what computers, smartphones and all apps do to my brain.  Have pity.  I grew up in the age of typewriters, even before the invention of Tipp-ex ('White-Out" as it was known in the States).  Nice and analogue, it's obvious how those things work.  

Filtering my thoughts or art or music through the mechanics of a digital intermediary, on the other hand, is like trying to eat a silicon sandwich. Doesn't go naturally with coffee.  But I digress.  And if you follow me for any length of time you'll find that I digress often and wildly. I thank you in advance for your patience.