Monthly Archives: March 2014

Michael Landy: An artist who literally puts his life into his work

Michael Landy, talked about his work for (Artangel, 2001) “Breakdown” in which he meticulously catalogued every one of his posessions and had them shredded in the site of the former C&A clothes store on Oxford Street. This experience fueled his subsequent work for The Underground called “Acts of Kindness” in which he found ways of displaying a record of random and small acts of kindness that connect strangers .


“Acts Of Kindness” London Underground Michael Landy.

He has also worked on “Semi-Detached” in which he made a life size sculpture replicating his family home. He alsomade  work honing in on interior details of the home that pertained to his family relationships. He has furthered this work in drawings of his family which have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery. He spoke about his father who had been a Miner, and had made drawings of his father’sin the latter part of his life, which in someway made reference to the cost of mining in health terms to his own father. He spoke about how much his father loved being a Miner. Michael Landy has an honesty within his work that challenges our contemporary culture and lifestyle  and anchors himself and therefore us in the recent commercial led society.  

Svetlana Fialova- subject futures week

Sitting in on Fialova’s recent visiting Lecture during this year’s Subject Futures
Week, was an eye-opening exploration into the contemporary world of drawing.
Within her practice she explores traditional methods of media, by using ink and
Chinese calligraphic brushes, she then creates a fusion between these
traditional means and incorporates psychedelic contemporary imagery as her
subject matter. ‘Svetlana’s practice is inspired by themes which draw on
popular culture, the internet, TV, magazines or urban legends combined with
invented characters. With a certain dose of dark humour she depicts various
beings in unexpected or awkward situations.’ (N/A. (2013) Svetlana Fialova
[online]. Red Gallery- creative guardians. Available from:
[Accessed 12th February 2014.]) Fialova is heavily influenced by
tele-visuals; she is also very inspired by her own experiences and also likes
to incorporate these within her narrative illustrations. Within the frame of
her works she likes to distort the elements of perspective, she effectively
does this by creating layers within her large scale pieces. During her lecture
she explained how she liked to reference Magritte’s use of technique and the
way that he plays with space and perspective. She then continued to describe
how she wanted to develop her drawings by exploring her use of space; how she
is used to filling the whole entire surface and is now exploring using the
space more sparsely but meticulously.

When asked about the trajectory of her practice she expressed how subconsciously her works were always about her, even before she tried to complete a self-portrait. Only recently has she gained the courage and confidence to push the image more directly towards her. Fialova said how she had felt that conquering a self-portrait was such a challenge but she wanted to try something new and move her subject matter from out of her comfort zone.

Apocalypse (My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care) by Svetlana Fialova.

As the Jerwood Drawing Prize winner, Svetlana Fialova won the award with an inky portrait of her boyfriend, alongside a grand sum of £8,000. Achieving this title she beat over 3,000 entries that were submitted for deliberation by the awarding panel.  Her winning piece ‘Apocalypse (My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care)’ is an extremely coherent narrative that explores her boyfriend combined with elements referencing Albrecht Dürer’s works, it harbours vivid splashes of pink and turquoise alongside her use of blank ink. This piece explores her technique of merging a traditional method with contemporary subject matter. This piece ‘represents Fialova’s eponymous partner in trainers, shorts and a Hawaiian-print jumper. But this contemporary chap smokes a long pipe, like a nineteenth-century sailor, and the background is formed from disparate images, including fragments from Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Apocalypse’ series of woodcuts and a collection of blue and pink Crocs. Fialova’s fluid use of ink manages to bring all the elements together in a cohesive whole, past and present glued to produce a sense of timelessness.’ (Phillips, Sam. SP. (2013) Review: Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013. [online] The Royal Academy. Available from:,451,BAR.html [Accessed 12th Feburary 2014.]) Although her works explore a clear narrative that conveys an amalgamation of sources, they somehow remain suspended within that dense time frame that we as the viewer have displayed in front of us.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to contact Svetlana directly by email and ask her a few burning questions that I had about her practice and about her personal fascination with the language of drawing.

1) Sticking within your traditional method of drawing combined with contemporary visuals, do you ever feel like the two can serve as separate entities that are hard to combine together?

“Not really…I guess it’s a natural moment that happens when I combine my interests, I don’t think about it too much, like whether it is a decision I’m aware of or just an accident…like yes, let’s a pick a language I’m going to use now. These are possibly some tools that belong into some box of my schemes and I am able to use them. There might be some other better tools but I just don’t know about them (yet) or they don’t belong into my cultural and educational background…for example I could create a Chinese-style ink drawing of the trees in the background but instead I naturally pick the depiction of trees that I’m used to or have seen in the books or galleries before. I was always into ‘old masters’ and improving my drawing skills as I find it extremely interesting…I’m fascinated by the whole idea of evolution of illusion and representation in drawing and painting.(I’m currently reading a great book by E.H. Gombrich – Art and Illusion which pretty much covers the topic). Also I grew up in the 90’s and was a passive admirer of all different subcultures and pop culture, such as grunge and Nirvana T-shirts, skateboarding designs, music videos of Spice Girls, Fresh Prince, etc…that might have been some kind of subconscious influence as well.”

2) Do you feel that your practice has altered since moving to London, as you are working in a different environment?

“Yes, it has, I’m not sure if I could describe how it’s changed exactly…I’m probably more open about what I want to depict, more direct and aggressive in a way where I don’t use a metaphorical delineation as much as in some older works. I’m also more into cancelling out the story-telling, getting rid of illustrative intentions…I want the subjects to have a lot of dramatic charge instead of just being some characters in the story.”

3) Do you feel like your work has altered in any way since winning the Jerwood drawing prize?

“I think it would alter similarly if I didn’t win anything…It might have given me confidence in experimenting more though. “

4) How do you connect to drawing?

“(I’m not sure if I understand the question correctly). It is sometimes a painful process, hours of staring at the paper and getting stuck, but at the same time, the feeling of concentration that usually lasts up to 3-4 hours is one of the most satisfactory feelings I know.”

5) What does drawing mean to you?

“It is the best way I know to record how I perceive my being in this world.”

6) How would you describe your identity through the language of drawing?

“I haven’t been working with the image of myself for a long time…it’s a new thing, a new challenge in my practice. What I’m trying to achieve is probably a mixture of illustrational marks (such as eyes, ears, legs, hands) with highly suggestive irrational marks (deformed parts of the body, patterns, shading, symbols). My aim is to be more abstract, more general, bring the force of the image more strongly than just illustrate my appearance. Using something that I know so well (my face and my bone structure) maybe gives me more freedom to play with it.”

I am extremely grateful for the response that I received from Svetlana as I feel that she really encompassed the passion for drawing and effectively expressed the reason why we have that craving to explore and endeavour into the language and process of art in that way that we do. The pure satisfaction we receive from producing art; and the sense of documenting our personal journeys within our environment.


A plant out of place: Michael Landy’s weed drawings

As part of subject futures week we were treated to a lively talk by Michael Landy, Artist in Residence for two years at the National Gallery, where he created Saints Alive, 2013: a kinetic sculpture of martyred saints. Scrapheap Services was another lengthy project he worked on during the mid nineties which was spawned as a response to Thatcherism and the “greed is good” consumerist society that she advocated. He is also known for his work Breakdown, 2001, commissioned by the organisation Artangel, where he famously disposed of all his possessions, after making a detailed inventory, in the former C&A shop on Oxford Street. He even destroyed his birth certificate.

It is seemingly incongruous that Michael Landy, who is an artist predominantly known for his conceptual work, produces very detailed and meticulous drawings as part of his creative process including complex cartoonish schemas and intimate portraits of friends and family. However, he did explain how drawing was at the root of his early interest in art. It was also his way of bringing himself back to financial health following Breakdown.

Often trodden underfoot, uprooted, sprayed with poison and unloved, weeds are the underdog of the plant world. Landy’s etchings of weeds, which are part of a series called Nourishment, 2002, almost bring to mind the botanical prints of Albrecht Dürer thus elevating the humble weed to a new higher level of interest and status. Intricate and delicately rendered, the etchings are life-sized and positioned centrally on the white page with their roots, tendrils and seed-pods hanging down, almost as if they are portraits themselves. These characterful, eccentrically named “street flowers” such as Shepherd’s Purse, Creeping Buttercup, Thale Cress etc., grow in the cracks of the pavement, in wasteland and in amongst the rubbish. They don’t need much looking after to thrive. They serve to illustrate how everything exists only for a finite amount of time. The drawings are also viewed, by Landy, as a continuation of his work with street furniture such as shopping trolleys and baker’s trays, and his interest in the everyday.

Creeping Buttercup 2002 by Michael Landy born 1963

Creeping Buttercup, 2002 by Michael Landy

A WORKSHOP NEARLY MISSED (The Image That Almost Got Away)

IMG_20140131_152918 copy

With Futures week on 27/01/2014 – 31/01/2014, the Avenue Campus was absolutely buzzing with a complete spectrum of artists, lecturers and activity workshops all of which would help with ideas or thoughts for a promising future of when students become post graduates. It was by chance that I paid attention to the colour posters on the wall in the rear entrance to the Maidwell building, which read ‘Graphics & Illustration, Stephen Fowler, Printmaking Workshop’. I decided to be brave and attend the workshop without listing my name and without being on the graphics and illustration course, as the magic word to me was ‘printmaking’. That Friday on 31 January at 10am, for myself as a non graphic student in today’s terms I gate crashed the printmaking workshop given by Stephan Fowler, and lucky for me because there were some non attendees my name was added to the list among the names of the students that were in attendance.

The scene was set, Stephen Fowler appeared as a gentle professor in charge of a nostalgic looking record player and a range of vinyl records in their original sleeves displaying all manner of graphic artwork, together with his well stocked toolkit of other versatile implements such as erasers, pipe lagging, and potatoes – the list was endless, this also included much of his own work in the form of small printed books and fold out sheets. Finally the vinyl records were unleashed on the record player for approximately a minute to the students who had to envisage in their minds thoughts/feelings that the music inspired them to produce a record sleeve to compliment the music.

The first album that was played I found was more inspirational to me, and so armed with the water based inks supplied by Stephen Fowler, I maintained my pathway of the fine art route and continued to use the traditional style of working onto a metal plate to print the image by use of the printing press, whilst other students used non printing press methods. As a result of taking a chance by going along to the workshop, not only did I have a fun day with other enthusiastic fellow printmakers but I created for me an image totally outside the box to my style of printing, which was an opportunity nearly missed.

Ps I went away with the potatoes for tea.

Subject Future’s Week – Marcus Harvey

On Wednesday 29th January English YBA painter, commissioner, educator and writer, Marcus Harvey, gave a talk at the University of Northampton. His talk discussed his life and journey through the art world. Harvey opens up by giving information of the art market, “your gallerists would like you to have regular, trajectory work. You need to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you are a painter they expect coherence and rhythm.”

During the early 80s Harvey attended Goldsmiths in London, this was the beginning of his series of abstract bed paintings, and the beginning of his painterly practice. He claims he, “never got away from the interaction with the canvas becoming the object first.” Harvey likes to interact in a formative way with the object and what the canvas is stimulated by. It seems that he very much likes to explore the limitations of credible licence with paint. Whilst at Goldsmiths he was deeply influenced by the clarity of Michael Craig Martin’s work, bringing in the overlapping of line drawings with paint. With time he lost the element of drawing altogether and focused on the tension of the surface.

Harvey’s work tends to be autobiographical and tries to bring political concepts of the time into his works. “Maybe I got too carried away with the narrative of the paintings.” He explains that the much contested ‘Myra Hindley’ piece made up of the children’s handprints, was a way of him representing photographical truth and fact. The handprints were a very dark way of getting across information, emotionally, visually and politically. Harvey also made a more sculptural painting of Myra Hindley but “didn’t want to be seen as someone making the most of his first piece.” Harvey states, “I didn’t know the reaction it would get, the disruption it would create, and I didn’t do it for the publicity. I just thought of it as a space for a portrait-maker to present people of currence at the time. I thought to give a thoughtful response, I didn’t know how much of an uproar it would cause.”

Harvey’s work strongly relies on the dialogue between the artist, the painting and the photograph. “I can’t say I find photography in its own form an art form for me. As a painter I set myself rules. Paintings allow the interaction with the object or the subject through photography.” The developing narrative of the emotion of paint gives it a context, this fascination with painting is stuck or suspended into a two dimensional object. He has explored with sculpture, especially when depicting landscape scenes. However Harvey believes that, “painting does not have a counterpart in the digital medium. For me, nothing has replaced painting and nothing will.”

Personally I found Harvey’s talk the most intriguing during Subject Future’s Week because he is depicted as such a controversial artist and it was useful to hear from himself of his intentions as a painter, especially for the Myra Hindley piece. I found his naivety of the public’s reaction for this painting quite surprising, yet it was very beneficial to hear from the artist himself his reasoning for creating such an unapologetic form of artwork. Having been at this talk, I can really see Harvey’s passion of painting and how much he values it as a means of communication. The most interesting concept I took from this talk was how he places painting at the top of almost a hierarchy of representation and how he sees photography as merely a tool to help the final outcome of an art work, which is his view is the irreplaceable outcome of painting.

Marcus Harvey: The Side You Don’t Know

Marcus Harvey ImageThe University of Northampton recently played host to a number of high profile visiting speakers as part of ‘Subject Futures Week 2014’. The School of the Arts used this week to give students a chance to hear from important contemporary artists, as well as the school putting on a number of workshops for students to learn new skills that could influence their various projects.

One of these artists was Marcus Harvey, famed for his role within the YBA movement and the controversial painting of Myra Hindley. These two claims about Harvey’s career seem to be the two key factors used to describe his work but hearing him talk about his work, his career and his life as an artist the YBA fame and headline grabbing Hindley painting seem to be almost irrelevant.

Marcus Harvey, like many of the Subject Futures Week speakers, started his talk with his very early work. In this work Harvey began to treat ‘paintings’ as objects, and so was able to deal with the more formal aspects of the object-like nature of a painting primarily its three-dimensional qualities. This in turn freed Harvey to attach objects to the canvas surface, and allowed him to explore the notion of two and a half dimensions within the realm of painting. This work moved forward and Harvey began to include a theatrical element within the work, opening up the possibility that the act of painting could be considered performance in its own right. The process of painting is then translated by Harvey into the realm of sculpture in his most recent works whereby he carves humorous portraits of famous people often using techniques of material manipulation learnt from years of painting.

This body of work seems to have a great deal more relevance to contemporary art than his involvement with the YBA’s or his controversial painting. This body of work seems to, on a greater or lesser extent, explore the limitations of painting; his paintings can be seen as paintings and sculptures as well as performances, and his sculptures can be seen as both sculptures and paintings. With Harvey’s work you can never fully define the discipline that a piece has been made within which I find much more interesting, and much more important to contemporary art, than his fame or his controversy.

Printing without a press – Subject Futures week

Stephen Fowler held a fascinating one day print workshop during Subjects Futures week. This workshop was aimed at the Design and Illustration students, however a couple of Fine Art students were able to gate crash and Stephen’s attitude was ‘the more the merrier’. Stephen is obviously an avid collector of 1950s – 1960s vinyl LPs, more for the beautiful and varied designs on the covers than the playability of the records. About 50 Vinyls were spread out on one table in the print room, whilst the printing inks and materials were spread out on another.  Students gathered around to hear the principles of design and the instructions for the day – the task was to design an LP cover using 3 printing methods. Music and imagination were very much a part of this workshop – Stephen played about a minute of music from 5 or 6 records whilst students wrote down the feelings or impressions evoked by each; this would form the basis of the work.

Stephen used a range of interestingly shaped rubber stamps, erasers, foam sheeting, pre-formed print stamps, plastic and cling film and also the  neoprene foam tubing plumbers use for lagging pipes, to his create his designs. The printing inks used are water based.

print workshop without press 21.2.14 004

I wasn’t so interested in designing an LP cover, more exploring the use of simple printing  techniques to advance my own ideas and  work. On the right is a print using cling film with pale ink to give a background layer on brown paper. The figures are cut from a 10 inch x 10 inch foam sheet and then inked up and pressed onto the first print whilst still wet. The idea is simple but effective and I was happy with the atmosphere created in the end product. Below, this print was achieved with more layers; firstly using a neoprene foam tube into which I had cut a design withprint workshop without press 21.2.14 006 a very sharp scalpel. This was inked-up and then, using a decorators implement, rolled across the paper. The same foam figures where used again in a slightly different format. Finally, at the bottom, I used half a potato – yes, and inked-up potato  – for the vegetation. It is amazing what you can do in terms of making prints without a press and this is what I will take away from this workshop. Every time I peel potatoes I will be thinking about the exciting images I could be making. print workshop without press 21.2.14 007

The idea of layering, and concealing and building up the image worked well with my practice and ideas, and use of colour. This simple method of printing lends itself to spontaneity and work at home.