Art on the street

You can't hide homelessness by John D'ohIf you live in the Bristol area, you may well have already glimpsed work by urban artist John D’oh. Now the author of the freshly published Street Art And Graffiti: A Dissertation, he explains how he reached this new chapter in a life of creativity.

“I used to do street art as a kid but got into a long-term relationship so gave it up for a long time,” he says. “Back then I got into street art and graffiti because of hip hop and I considered them to be part of that culture. These days my style and art has changed and now it’s more about getting a message in with the art.”

From Dreams to Nightmares by John D'oh

These messages can be prompted by a wide range of environmental, societal and political issues. “I follow the news and politics but sometimes I cover other issues like homelessness or environmental issues, which are close to my heart. If I see something that I feel would benefit from my street art then I start thinking about the logistics.”

These include social issues “like civil rights, poverty, racism, bullying, inequality, immigration, and homelessness. There are a lot of politics in my art and some that are just done for humour.”

His aim, he explains, is to encourage views to question what they read in newspapers and online. “People noticed during the last election that there was a lot of bias one-sided right-wing journalism,” he comments. “It’s nice just readdress issues and get people talking and thinking and not just believing the fake news that’s out there in abundance.”

Vote Corbyn Momentum

He adds wryly: “How many people voted for Brexit just based on the extra 350million a week promised to the NHS, which was all lies and deceit which has helped put us all in the mess we are in today?”

killer clown craze cr John D'oh

John describes his creations as “pretty much similar to advertising, as I only have a few seconds to catch the public attention with my art. Hopefully my artwork will make people smile as they go about their daily lives, but also maybe start debate or discussions as they talk to friends, work colleagues or other members of the public, if shared through social media.”

The humour inherent in his work is an essential element, he explains. “I feel we all need a little humour in our lives and it’s often better than the forced advertising that we are forced to endure on a daily basis.”

John D'oh artwork

Often the idea for a new work takes shape thanks to a news story. “I think about how I am going to adapt that to fit into an image, with maybe a short quote that can instantly grab attention of the passing public,” John says. “I then cobble the artwork together with a mixture of photoshop and paint software, which I use badly, and freehand and draw the rest.”

What offshore accountsThe biggest challenge is the speed at which a new idea needs to become an existing work of art in order to be relevant.

“I find the news changes quickly, so the timing has to be right – if you miss the headline or the story then it’s too late; there’s no point in putting it out a week later.”

The design stages are the most crucial. “You ask yourself where you’re going to paint it; whether there are any CCTV cameras; how big you can make it; how many layers it needs; whether it should be pre-made or maybe be an art installation…”

Once it’s completed, John has one goal in mind. “All I hope to do is get that one descent photograph before my artwork is removed, painted over, jet washed or tagged. I consider what I do as a temporary art form and am not too precious about my work once it’s done.”

Street Art And Graffiti A Dissertation book coverThe idea to produce his debut book, Street Art And Graffiti: A Dissertation, was prompted by students and academics asking for insight.

“The book took me six months to put together so a lot of thought has gone into it,” John says. “I’ve read many books on the subject and I feel mine is like nothing on the market. It’s an insider’s view and where most artists produce what I call generic coffee table books with just page after page of glossy photos of their art, mine is different and balanced with about 50% text.”

The book covers and raises a lot of questions about the nature of street art, he says, “like should street art be protected and if so how do you choose what to protect? And the re-appropriation of street art, should art be removed from the streets? If you take this art then and stick it in a gallery or a museum, does it then loose its integrity? And lots more.”

Peope Think I'm Banksy. By John D'oh
John’s trademark wit shines through too.

“I’ve included some funny stories, some background information about myself that’s not common knowledge and many unseen photos,” he says.

John is hoping that the book will be used as an educational tool for teachers and students, “as the subject is becoming more common place in the school curriculum. I hope it will be something teachers can use in the class room to generate discussions between teachers and pupils and for students to maybe read.”

Tony Blair Bear Pit Bristol

Plus, as the title suggests, he’d like to see his book provide support for anyone writing a dissertation on the subject of street art. “My book may make it easier and highlight some interesting topics from which to base their work.”

The book is also bound to appeal to anyone who appreciates art in its myriad forms.

You can see original street art by John D’oh all over the UK. “In some areas it stays up longer than others,” he says, listing: “Bristol, Burnham on Sea, Manchester, Liverpool, Cheltenham, Worcester, Upton upon seven and Gloucester, to name but a few. And I’m always on the lookout for new locations, opportunities and walls.”

Street Art And Graffiti: A Dissertation By Street Artist John D’oh is published by Tangent Books and available to buy here.

Daily creativity with Ulla Maria Johanson

180329 by Ulla Maria JohansonIn 2014, artist Ulla Maria Johanson set herself the challenge of creating and completing a new painting every day. It marked the start of a period of intense productivity that has resulted in a series of exquisite work by the Swedish artist.

There’s a sense of spontaneous energy to Ulla’s paintings that I find utterly enticing, yet her habit of producing daily paintings began as a reaction to something of a painterly drought. “I was in a period when I experienced that I lacked inspiration, time and ability to paint,” she explains. “My dream was to paint big and have a lot of time for creation, which was difficult to combine with full time work. When I did find time, the white canvasses felt scary and I rarely managed to make a whole painting I was pleased with.”

Ulla’s frustration grew, until during a break at work she went to an online bookshop and sought out their art catalogue. “I found Carol Marine’s book Daily Painting,” she recalls. “Interested, I read about the simple concept of painting small and often. I immediately felt that it was something for me, and I made my first daily painting the next morning.”

180509 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Luscious brushstrokes build up abstract scenes that summon up an impression of setting, season and mood.

The biggest challenge, she says, is to find sufficient time each day. “I learned quite soon to make it easier for myself by making a little pop-up studio,” Ulla says. “At first, it was also difficult to find motives and ideas. Some days it seemed hopeless and I thought about giving it up.”

To maintain her determination, Ulla gave herself a feasible end date. “First, I decided that I should give it 30 days in a row before stopping,” she says, “and then I extended it to 100 days.”

180416 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Four years on, the habit is now a deeply ingrained pleasure.

“The joy is to take the time to do what I really want,” she says. “It’s also a great liberation to have this daily habit established. At the beginning, I was often dissatisfied with what I achieved – my internal critic shouted in despair and encouraged me to quit! However, I soon found it became easy to silence the critic – the most important thing was not that the day’s work should become a masterpiece but it should become something. Who can expect to produce perfection when time is tight?”

She adds: “The next day there is another chance to do something, and then it could only get better. Painting small and often also makes it easy to try new, experimental techniques and take chances.”

180205 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Ulla usually uses acrylic paint “because it dries quickly and you can paint over with several layers. I do small paintings (15x15cm or 20x20cm) on canvas or on a board, while larger works are always on canvas.”

Ulla prepares her surface an uneven layer of white primer “so that it becomes a structure. Once the foundation is properly dry I paint with a wide brush with short, stiff synthetic bristles, rarely cleaning the brush while I work.” This allows the colours to mix with one another as she transfers them from palette to canvas or board.

“As I work,  I turn and turn the canvas to look at it from different angles and notice what appears. In addition to the broad brushes, I sometimes also use finer round natural brushes and a thin synthetic brush.”

180414 by Ulla Maria Johanson

The early stages are the most intuitive for Ulla. “When I start to work, I do not know at all where it will go. Often, it becomes layer upon layer, before the motif emerge,” she admits.

Her own frame of mind is part of the adventure. “At first, I’m curious about what’s going to happen,” she says. “Sometimes I quickly find something that feels interesting and worth exploring and reinforcing, and at others I find that the work feels it reaches a sticky dead end where the colours do not work together and I wonder how to go on. Then something happens and I introduce a shade or shape that makes the whole thing feel harmonious.”

180820 by Ulla Maria Johanson

The biggest challenge is to know when to stop. “Sometimes I’m sure the painting is done when I finally clean the brush off, and on other occasions I need to let the painting be for a while so I can study the work when it’s dried and make a choice. Maybe it will stay as it is or maybe I will change all or part of the painting.”

180607 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Ulla lives on the Swedish west coast, which influences her artwork. “I often walk and enjoy nature and sea,” she comments. “It is reflected in my art and I also find inspiration in the environments and pictures I come into contact with online and in books.”

For Ulla the finished artwork is only the first stage. “What I want to communicate with my paintings is the beginning of a story that can grow and blossom in the viewer’s mind,” she says. “It’s wonderful to hear people tell me about the different things they see in one of my abstract paintings. I’m also happy every time I hear that my work has prompted someone to feel inspired to create something of their own.”

Find more of Ulla’s work at the following: umjartoneartworkeveryday; instagram.com/umj.art; facebook.com/umj.art

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Imaginative city

Waterstones Bristol. Photo by Judy DarleyBristol Festival of Literature begins on Friday 19th October and runs until Sunday 28th October, with a variety of imagination-stirring events taking place across the city. I’ve written about it for The Bristol Magazine, and can’t wait to dig into the riches promising to well up.

You can read my feature in the October print edition, or online here: https://thebristolmag.co.uk/word-on-the-street-bristol-festival-of-literature/

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

I’ve already got my tickets for two of the highlights I mention in the piece The first of these is Festival founder Jari Moate’s launch of his novel Dragonfly, taking place on Saturday 20th October at Waterstones, the Galleries. It starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are free but need to be booked here: www.bristolliteraturefestival.org

The second is the very last event of the festival – Finding the Positive –Dystopias and Utopias in a Changing Climate.

This CliFi (aka Climate Fiction) workshop is from 2-5pm on Sunday 28th October at Bristol’s YHA, and promises to offer insights into how we can share stories of our changing climate and inspire action in a positive way. I’m looking forward to soaking up plenty of inspiration!

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Lots of other intriguing happenings are unfolding throughout the days of the festival, including Dark Confessions with Bristol Writers Group and friends. I’m one of the friends and looking forward to sharing my story Tunnelled in the setting that prompted it – Redcliffe Caves. Find out more and book tickets here.

And if you make it to anything on the Festival calendar, let me know how you get on!

Got an inspiring event, venue, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Starstruck by art

The Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan Avenue Entrance. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. Edward Kemeys, Lions

Edward Kemeys, Lions, Michigan Avenue Entrance. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Visiting the Art Institute of Chicago is bound to be a highlight for any art aficionado visiting this extraordinary city. This vast space is teeming with renowned artworks, as well as plenty of less famous gems. From the intriguing Thorne Miniature Rooms to marvels such as Georgia O’Keefe’s Sky Above Clouds IV (below), I found myself floating on an excess of wonder.

Sky Above Clouds IV by Georgia O'Keefe

Stairways and soaring corridors led us to the Contemporary Wing, housing an impressive assortment of notable works. Frankly, it was like attending a party attended by an eccentric assortment of heroes. Meeting creations by the likes of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Charles Ray, and Damien Hirst made me feel a little starstruck: wide eyed and at a loss for words! I also had a the pleasure of encountering some artists for the first time, including Katharina Frisch, whose ‘Woman With Dog’ brought to mind happy hours scouring coastal rock pools as a child.

Woman With Dog by Katharina Fritsch

Woman With Dog by Katharina Fritsch

Downstairs I found myself drawn to the implied magic of the miniature rooms conceived by Mrs James Ward Thorne and created, under her guidance, by master craftsmen between 1932 and 1940.

Cape Cod Living Room 1750-1850

Cape Cod Living Room 1750-1850

Each represents a home from a particular time and location, with details down to the carpets and knick-knacks summoning up an impression of the lives that might have been lived there. It’s entrancing for any lover of art, architecture, history or humanity.

The Art Institute of Chicago. Alsdorf Galleries of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan, and Islamic Art. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Alsdorf Galleries of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan, and Islamic Art. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Elsewhere, the halls of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan and Islamic art instilled us with a sense of tranquillity, while the Architecture and Design exhibits inspired is with its grace and practicality.

We were also fortunate to visit when the John Singer Sargent and Chicago’s Gilded Age exhibition was on, and to walk among excellent work not only by the artist himself, but by his contemporaries, including Claude Monet.

The scale of these galleries makes it unlikely you’ll be able to see every exhibit in a single visit. My advice is to select a few galleries and do them justice. To me the Art Institute of Chicago felt like a portal through time, space and sensibility, with each doorway offering admission to another absorbing world.

Find out more at www.artic.edu.

Discover Bilbao.
Discover Brescia.
Discover Budapest.
Discover Bath.
Discover Barcelona.
Discover Laugharne.
Discover Reyjavik.

Got an inspiring venue, event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Bristol art – Autumn 2018

Before Nightfall by Nigel Shipley

Before Nightfall by Nigel Shipley

There’s so much art happening in Bristol at present that I barely know where to look first. Last weekend (6th-7th Oct 2018) was Art on the Hill – the ever-inspiring Windmill Hill and Victoria Park arts trail. The Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail will follow from 23rd till 25th November. Can’t wait!

Prior to that, HOURS Gallery is hosting Daydreams, an exhibition of Nigel Shipley‘s abstract paintings, accompanied by music and readings of poetry created in response to the works. Sounds really intriguing! I love work that transcends form in this way. The performers are all members of Bristol Tonic.

Bristol Tonic poet

  • Date: Saturday 13th October 2018
  • Venue: HOURS Gallery, 10 Colston Yard, Bristol BS1 5BD (HOURS is in Colston Yard, accessed from the top of Colston Street, through an archway between Bike Workshop and Blaze)
  • Times: Gallery open from 10am-10pm. Performance from 7-8pm. The exhibition can be viewed by appointment until 1st November, ring 07909874586 to arrange this.
  • For more details, go to: www.nigelshipley.com
Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

And the RWA’s wonderful Open Exhibition has launched, revealing a spectacular array of works, including Yurim Gough‘s ‘Four Elements’. Definitely one for your calendar! The show is on until 25th November 2018.

Judy Darley in Redcliffe Caves

If you’re seeking further inspiration, don’t forget Bristol Festival of Literature, running from 19th-28th October. I’ll be reading in Redcliffe Caves on Tuesday 23rd October as a guest of Bristol Writer’s Group for an event titled Dark Confessions. There are masses of other curious happenings too, so I’m hoping to get to as many as possible. Hope to see you at an event or two!

An abstract sense of balance

Tropical Colour By Oliver NeedsI initially encountered artist Oliver Needs at The Other Art Fair in Bristol’s Passenger Shed, where his vivid abstract canvasses sang out from his booth like barely controlled visual explosions.

“I developed my abstract style was after painting in a range of styles, and learning and trying out a range of techniques,” he explains. “I love painting and looking at paintings from most centuries. Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism are particularly influential art movements for me.”

Jungle by Oliver Needs

Jungle by Oliver Needs

For Oliver, part of the thrill is the chance to continually learn from the paintings he creates. “My abstract style seems to be still developing, but I often focus on memories and emotions and try to translate this into my painting,” he says. “I express a variety of feelings from the sense one gets walking in nature to that of going out in the busy night life of central London. Each painting tells a different story.”

Prompts to start a new work are mainly rooted in Oliver’s emotions. “I am inspired to make art by the sheer feeling of excitement like a child gets when going into a sweet shop, that sense of variety and colour and joy and happiness,” he enthuses. “Another example would be that of going to the fair ground where each ride offers a new and exciting experience and buzz. Being a creator and artist has ups and downs but the ups are of sharing positive energy and art with others, just as a great musician does with an audience, making a positive difference to our lives.”

Tutti 1 and 2 by Oliver Needs

The process of creating paintings such as Tutti 1 and 2, shown above, usually begins with choosing a base colour, which Oliver layers onto the canvas as it lies flat on the floor. “I then add relatively fluid colours, which I drip or splash onto the canvas, so to speak, rather like Jackson Pollock did as he has been captured in film and photograph a lot.”

The colour choices themselves are a vital component. “Of course, colours have subliminal effects on the mind and therefore, depending on my mood, will change accordingly,” Oliver explains. “I will try to let myself go up to a point and choose each colour according to how I am feeling at a particular moment, but also considering what I feel will work with well with the previous colour applied onto canvas.”

Redwood by Oliver Needs

Redwood by Oliver Needs

He admits that this method is often therapeutic on one level, but adds: “It’s also some kind of internal journey or release. I enjoy the interplay between the colours and lines, just like different chords in music.”

Recognising when a painting is complete can be a challenge. “Knowing when to stop or finish a painting can be a little perplexing but generally it is just about getting a sense of balance and knowing that the colours and movement of paint sits well,” Oliver says. “I guess this is just an artist’s intuition.”

Summer Fun by Oliver Needs

Summer Fun by Oliver Needs

Oliver will be showing his paintings at Parallax Art Fair in Chelsea Town Hall, London from 19th-21st October 2018.

Find Oliver’s work at instagram.com/needsoliver/ and oliverneeds.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

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A breath of forest air

Totality by Elizabeth JardineThere’s a palpable sense of the coolness, dappled light and breath of a forest in the paintings created by artist Elizabeth Jardine.

“My paintings have developed over the years, but have always been concerned with the idea of a journey, and with interconnectedness and symbiosis,” Elizabeth says. “I’ve had a love of the outdoors from a young age, growing up on the edge of the South Downs National Park, and after my BA I started long distance walking, which immediately fed into my artwork.”

Borderline by Elizabeth Jardine by Elizabeth Jardine

Borderline by Elizabeth Jardine by Elizabeth Jardine

Elizabeth has been painting woodland scenes for about a decade now. “It offers so many compositions and metaphors that I don’t think I’ll ever come to an end,” she says.  “Occasionally other imagery crops up – structures, or people or animals, but usually within a wooded space. I love to build up many layers of paint, working with gravity, light and dark, in parallel to the layers of growth and decay in the woods.”

The wooded rural areas she’s attracted to also provide the chance to explore a site’s social, historical and geographical aspects.

“I’m fascinated by the layers of history embedded in the landscape and I set off on long walks in order to draw them out, looking for echoes of the past,” Elizabeth says. “I tend to work with moving image or develop an artist book for specific research projects, but  wherever I walk I’m inevitably drawn to areas of woodland; these are the places that I feel most at home, and that I feel driven to paint.”

Satellite by Elizabeth Jardine

Satellite by Elizabeth Jardine

Elizabeth describes her paintings as “an intuitive response to place, concerned with the abundance of growing things, the shifting of light and the sense of timelessness you can encounter on a solitary walk in the woods. I explore the emotional response I had to a physical place, and aim to recreate the sense of being drawn through a landscape.”

The paintings offer up a means of communicating the feelings that rise up when viewing the landscape.

“These are the things I like looking at, and it’s lovely to share that with people,” she says. “I always leave space for the viewer in my paintings; I want to create a space where people can be absorbed, and feel drawn into their own journey.”

Drift Derive by Elizabeth Jardine

Drift Derive by Elizabeth Jardine

I ask Elizabeth what tempts her to stroll down a new path and set up easel and paints.

“I guess it’s a universal human condition to want to know what’s down the path, round the corner, get to know the world more deeply,” she replies. “I like to keep moving!”

Taking a full arsenal of art tools isn’t practical for most long distance strolls.

I used to sketch in the field but long distance walking is an activity in itself, you get into a rhythm as you roll through a place,” Elizabeth explains. “Now I use my camera as a sketchbook and starting point for paintings. I refine the compositions within photographs back in the studio as little sketches; then scale them up.”

Dark Matter by Elizabeth Jardine

Dark Matter by Elizabeth Jardine

On walks, Elizabeth carries a backpack of food, tent and various layers “to keep the British weather at bay. My knees aren’t up to carrying an easel as well! It would be interesting to spend a long period of time in one woodland, working in situ, to see how that would change the feel of my paintings.”

Elizabeth adapts her process as her painting progresses.

“At the start there is so much potential, and towards the end it is easy to overdo it; I slow right down,” she says. “I try not to get too tight or precious, but keep the spontaneity and energy of the first strokes. I don’t like to have too much control over the work, as long as it is underpinned by a solid composition, and by a real place that I’ve walked though or slept in.”

Potential Vorticity by Elizabeth Jardine

Potential Vorticity by Elizabeth Jardine

But how does her own frame of mind shift between the beginning of a work of art, and putting down the paintbrush at the moment of completion?

“Watching a painting unfold into some kind of resolution is a process of discovery, like walking round a corner, or taking in a new view,” she says. “I like there to still be a sense of potential, a feeling that it could still grow, or change. For me they feel ‘finished’ when they still sort of hover on the verge of becoming – it keeps them alive.”

Fairway by Elizabeth Jardine

Fairway by Elizabeth Jardine

In 2017 Elizabeth was selected to be resident artist in Yeovil Country Park’s Water:Meadow:Wood project, which aimed to foster greater engagement with the park. “Each year focused on a different element of the park, with a different artist each time,” she says. “My element was Wood, and I worked with children with special educational needs in the wooded areas, using clay to explore the trees and imprint a record of our time there. Creative activities are an amazing way to embed people in a place, encourage them to spend time there, and look closely. The children I worked with gained so much confidence from working outside, and made some wonderful artwork as well as building a sense of togetherness.”

She adds: “I think it creates a sense of belonging too, that of belonging to a place rather than of owning it, which is really important for our health, happiness, community and for the future of the planet.”

Find more of Elizabeth’s work at www.elizabethjardine.com

“If you’d like to be invited to exhibitions and events please join my mailing list – email art@elizabethjardine.com.”

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

The investigative artist

Suspension Bridge at Night by Nigel Shipley

Nigel Shipley has been a firm fixture on Bristol’s art scene since beginning his Bristol Cityscapes series in 2004. Using bold brushstrokes and his own luminous sense of colour, he captures the urban landscape’s spirit as well as its appearance.

An avid curiosity and skilful use of controlled and uncontrolled accidents influence the direction of his work, imbuing his finished pieces with a sense of organic energy.

“Leonardo da Vinci urged artists to search for inspiration in the dirt on walls or the streaked patterns in stones,” Nigel explains when speaking of his own methodology. “In the same way I have found that the accidental blot, the chance mark, or the naturally occurring stain can be a starting point for my art.”

Suspense by Nigel Shipley

An example of such an accident led to Nigel’s painting Suspense (shown above). “Some random marks led to an idea of the tension of two blocks of colour, of the same weight, close to each other, almost touching, but apart,” Nigel says. “The intense red block in this painting became a ground lying at the bottom, and the dark blue/black block came to hover just above at a slight angle. The dark block is forever calmly suspended in space, held in place by the strength of the red block. A stormy landscape emerged behind them.”

This blend of tranquillity and vigour seems to represent the artist himself, as well, as he explores his own impressions of the world and internal emotions with equal interest.

Painting an abstract image is like feeling your way in the dark,” he comments, echoing the sentiment on his website’s About page. “In all of my paintings I try to achieve a sense of space and depth. I try to capture things such as emotions, a sense of calm or energy, a link to nature or an organic process.”

Warm Grey and Yellow Gold by Nigel Shipley

He cites as an example his painting Warm grey and yellow gold (shown above). “The creation of this included painting a board with white acrylic paint and then washing a thin grey oil paint over it and allowing it to gently slide down the front of the board,” says Nigel. “The oil and acrylic paints reacted to each other and the grey paint fractured into tiny cracks. The pattern of these cracks is similar to those you might find in nature, such as when mud dries. This natural cracking process created something of the infinite complexity that we find when we look closely at nature.”

Before falling headlong into abstract painting, Nigel’s work was far more figurative.

June 2013, part of Nigel Shipley's Tango series

June 2013, part of Nigel Shipley’s Tango series

“For many years I painted cityscapes of Bristol, or tango dancers, and these paintings sold well and were popular,” he recalls. “Then I took a break from painting to work on building a new home for myself and when I had time again to paint I decided that my painting was becoming stale and I needed a bigger challenge. I started to look at abstract paintings and then began to create my own.”

Taste of Heaven by Nigel Shipley

Taste of Heaven by Nigel Shipley

The degree of difficulty involved in abstract painting is one of its attractions for Nigel. “I couldn’t return to my previous figurative representations of Bristol harbour, because they would be too easy and I would become bored. I don’t become bored with my abstract paintings, but I may become exasperated as I struggle with them.”

In other words, exasperation is preferable to boredom when it comes to experimenting with paint. This outlook is perhaps shaped by Nigel’s experiences of studying art in the 1970s.

“I didn’t have a happy time at Norwich School of Art in the 70s,” says Nigel. ”They wanted me to create welded steel sculptures, but I didn’t. I left art school feeling disillusioned with fine art world and went on to study cabinetmaking.”

At that time, few artists had the possibility of making a successful living, Nigel says. “I didn’t feel that I fitted in. Coming back to fine art in Bristol in the ’90s I found new opportunities to succeed. I picked up where I had left off twenty years earlier and reinvented my identity as an artist.”

Autumn Landscape by Nigel Shipley

Autumn Landscape by Nigel Shipley

Nigel lives with his partner, professional (and very talented) sculptor and art teacher Sophie Howard. “Her emotional and practical support is very important to my work as an artist,” Nigel says. “I greatly respect her opinion about my work, and sometimes she can give me insights about what I’m doing that I might otherwise have missed. We share a pleasure in seeing art and meeting artists, and living a creative lifestyle.”

Nigel’s creative life is about far more than painting, these days. “I relish how I can use creativity in everything I do,” he says. “I also love tango dancing, and dance at least one evening a week. This is a complex dance with a rich culture of music and Argentina. Recently I took part in a performance on the theme of happiness and pleasure.”

Deep Blue by Nigel Shipley

Deep Blue by Nigel Shipley

Nigel also uses his adeptness at my creative thinking in other parts of his life and work. “For example, when after years of looking Sophie and I could not find the home that we wanted, we decide to build our own Grand Design.

The result is unique home in the centre of Bristol, called Hours. “It incorporates a space that is sometimes an art gallery, and at other times a dance hall, or a venue for creative writing, poetry, yoga and much more.”

Far Horizon by Nigel Shipley

You can see all of Nigel’s currently available paintings at www.nigelshipley.com. “I will have an exhibition of my paintings at HOURS (Colston Yard, Bristol) on 13th October. I have a studio at Unit 5, Barton Manor, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0RL, and I’m happy to meet people there if they would like to see how I work. I have recently taken part in the Bristol Other Art Fair which was organised by Saatchi Art and included 100 artists from around the world chosen from 500 who applied. I plan to take part in this again in 2019.”

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Sewn in memoriam

Shrouds of the Somme by artist Rob Heard. Photo by Judy Darley

On a visit to Salisbury Cathedral earlier this summer, I encountered an unexpected sight: 1,561 miniature figures wrapped in hand sewn calico shrouds, laid out in centre of the cloister.

It stopped my friend and I in our tracks. Each of them represents a soldier killed at the Somme during World War I; the ones shown here are only a fraction of the full number being sewn and bound by artist Rob Heard. The 1,561 exhibited in Salisbury Cathedral represented each day that World War I lasted, while each shroud marks an individual who lost their life to the conflict.

It was a sobering display, and a visceral reminder of the sacrifices made through the folly of war. Powerfully moving.

Shrouds of the Somme by Rob Heard. Photo by Judy Darley

The Shroud Project exhibit has since left the cathedral grounds, and has since been on are on show in Exeter. They’ll be in Belfast from 23rd August until 16th September. Artist Rob Heard has continued to work on the project, aiming to complete 72,396 shrouded figures by November 8th-18th. This immense number mirrors the total tally of bodies of British servicemen (and South African infantrymen) who have no known grave. From 8th-18th November, the figures will be laid out at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to form a focal point as the nation marks the centenary of Armistice Day.

As he shrouds each of the thousands of figures, Heard considers a name from a list of the fallen provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, ensuring each is remembered and honoured through his painstaking artwork.

Find out about the Les Colomes exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral.

Seen anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

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Language Shift – an exhibition of endangered words

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library, Envy by Mary Kuper

Language Shift at Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library. Envy by Mary Kuper

This summer, Southbank Centre, London, is showcasing Language Shift, an exhibition of work by artist Mary Kuper created response to the National Poetry Library’s collection of poems in European languages.

In many ways, poetry is the written form that most celebrates and utilises the power and nuance of language. The Endangered Poetry Project has been launched by  in a bid to preserve poems written as launched its Endangered Poetry Project with the aim of collecting poems in at-risk languages, and acknowledging the disturbing fact that languages die out at the rate of one every two weeks.

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library_works by Mary Kuper; photograph by Pete Woodhead3

“For the Language Shift exhibition, Kuper has created visual works which exist as equivalent worlds to the poems they respond to and collectively create a visual map,” says Chris McCabe, Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Librarian. “These new works respond to languages that feature on UNESCO’s world map of endangered languages including Breton, Alsatian, Sardinian and Shetlandic.”

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library_works by Mary Kuper; photograph by Pete Woodhead3

If you’ve ever listened to poetry read aloud in a language you’re unfamiliar with, you’ll be aware how immediately relatable cadence and delivery can render words in verse, making connections at unexpected emotional and cerebral levels. Kuper’s work is supported by a display of poetry films and poems in translation from the Talking Transformations project, curated by Ricarda Vidal and Manuela Perteghella, which offers a chance to sample this first hand. The poems shared inTalking Transformations focus on the idea of ‘home’ and ‘migration’ and reveal part of the poems’ journey through  the UK, Romania, Poland, France and Spain.

The perfect chance to take in the resonance of Europe’s diverse languages and shared human experiences.

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library; works by Mary Kuper_photograph by Pete Woodhead2

Image credit: works by Mary Kuper; photographs by Pete Woodhead.

Language Shift is on at National Poetry Library (Level 5, Blue side, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX) until 23rd September 2018, and is free to visit.

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