Smiler arrived home yesterday after his year long residency at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery as part of the Grayson's Art Club Series 2 Exhibition. He was the physical representative of my Monster Zoo project (see here). The curators kindly sent along his bespoke stand and the museum info plaque too.
He came back in the same box he went off in and with the letter I put inside. The staff had added a small handwritten footnote that says, 'Thanks Stevyn - We conservation ladies at Bristol Museum loved looking after this happy monster. We will miss him.'
Orders for sculptures have been understandably slow due to the cost of living crisis so I haven't really made many new pieces. Instead, I've been working on a new book and adding content to my other blog Colganology2. Yes, there was a Colganology1 but it went back to 2008 and was a bit tired and clunky. Plus, there's a new breed of ghastly rapacious ambulance chaser out there that hunts down breaches of copyright and demands money. Even though my old blogs were all about promoting the work of other artists, I was technically using their images without permission and putting myself in the firing line.
In other news, I've been de-cluttering and have sold off some older pieces. And, in the process of tidying, I dropped my weird alien snail sculpture that I made last September (see here)!
Being made of oven-baked polymer clay it shattered into many pieces. I could have repaired it but, frankly, the work involved wasn't worth it. The house, though - being mostly made from card and balsa, was completely undamaged. And remembering the excitement generated by the Monster Zoo project (see here) I decided to hide it in the same woods in which I'd hidden my first monsters.
It wasn't long before it was spotted by a few people. And then local photographer Chris Rowan took this lovely moody photo of it in situ.
And then, a week later, this splendid house appeared nearby.
The Art Master Live! show at the Elgiva Theatre in Chesham went exceptionally well!
Alex Horne was hilarious, team captains Fiona (Smack the Pony, Eastenders) Allen and Ninia (Three Non Blondes, The Island) Benjamin were great sports and the audience had a terrific evening. The show was a sell-out - so much so that there was a waiting list for hopeful cancellations. I was the on-stage scorer and Alex's assistant and I also officiated during the filmed tasks.
But this is a blog about making stuff from junk so you won't be surprised to hear that I made quite a few props for the show, such as giant paint tubes (metallic card, craft foam, takeaway food pots). a giant eraser (flower blocks and card) and giant paint brushes (a broom, metallic card, cardboard tubes from inside carpets). Oh, and I made the trophy too (see here). I reckon they looked okay!
Tremendous fun all round and we raised a good amount for charity!
Not much new to show you I'm afraid. It's all been pretty full on here at Colgan Towers.
Firstly, I got involved with an 'Alternative Fashion Show' to celebrate 50 years of punk. It was also to highlight the importance of recycling, re-using, repairing and upcycling. And the event was used to raise funds for the Wycombe Food Hub (as featured here).
The event was tremendous fun and designer Juliet Hamilton - who previously made stage costumes for the likes of Cyndi Lauper and Human League, amongst many others - did some extraordinary things with thrown away or donated clothes. Local people volunteered as models and I made a few props and MC'd the evening. An extremely worthwhile event and an important message in difficult times.
The only other thing to report is that one of my daughters bought me a 3D pen for Fathers' Day, which is a fun thing. I can't say I've got the hang of it yet but I did make myself a Wicker Man (as in the film) using the pen, some twigs and a bit of spray paint.
Things have been a bit quiet on here recently as I've been busy working on an exciting live show project with film maker Emily Brown of Catnip Films.
ARTmaster LIVE! is taking place on July 14th at the Elgiva Theatre in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. It's a sort of spin-off from Channel 4's popular and multi award-winning Taskmaster. And it's being hosted by Alex Horne - with some assistance from me.
However, it has a different format to the TV show and involves the audience taking part in various art challenges. Meanwhile, several celeb guests including Fiona Allen (Smack the Pony), Ben Rufus Green (The Cockfields), Ninia Graham (Three Non-Blondes) and drag artiste La Voix (Britain's Got Talent) have been filmed performing a series of very strange tasks. The filming has been great fun.
I can't reveal any more as everything is under wraps until July. But I can show you the ARTmaster trophy that I made for the event.
There are lots of brilliant sculptors out there using recycled waste materials to create art. One such is Nottinghamshire-based sculptor Michelle Reader. 'My sculptures draw attention to environmental issues in an aesthetic, humorous and non-confrontational way," she told the BBC. You can read the whole feature and see more of her wonderful work by clicking here. Or visit her website here.
'Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable' - Banksy.
As I wrote in a blogpost earlier this month, I am a massive fan of what some might call 'primitive art' or Art Brut. This includes Outsider Art and Folk Art. There's something very fresh and exciting about art that comes direct from the imagination and isn't influenced by the tastes and mores and trends of the art world.
So, for this last post of April I thought I'd share a few video links to artists I'm particularly fond of.
We'll start with Shinichi Sawada, a self-taught Outsider Artist who produces extraordinary ceramic pieces. As a child, he attended a school for children with special educational needs where he was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. From the age of 18, he began to attend a local social welfare facility – an institution for people with learning disabilities called Nakayoshi Fukushikai, in Shiga Prefecture, western Japan. This is what he produces.
Sawada has a set routine. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays he works with others at a bakery, making bread and then selling and delivering the produce locally. Sometimes, he also helps out packing small electrical items. In the afternoons, he is driven over to a pottery studio in the mountains with Akio Kontani, another sculptor, and Iketani, the retired facilitator who has worked with Sawada since he first started going to the institution. Sawada works quickly and in silence and takes four or five days to complete one of his ceramic creatures. Each is built around a cylindrical base that is hollow in the centre. Most have faces on more than one side, and some have several faces stacked on top of one another giving the creations a totem pole look. All the pieces are covered in little spikes. These attachments have evolved over time, becoming denser and more rounded. Sawada often applies them in straight, orderly lines across the surface of the clay.
His work - and the work of other outsider artists - is represented in the UK by the Jennifer Lauren Gallery in Manchester.
Sawada also features in an episode of Alan Yentob's excellent Imagine series called 'Turning the Art World Inside Out', which you can watch on Vimeo here. It's a fascinating 60 minute look at the world of Outsider Art, worth watching and very uplifting.
Now we'll look at the work of the late Sulton Rogers (1922–2003).
'Folk Art' covers all forms of visual art made in the context of folk culture and using traditional skills. It's where you find intricately carved wooden bowls and love spoons, embroidered samplers, corn dollies, carved figurines, and much pottery and ceramics. Some items have a practical utility rather than being exclusively decorative. Folk arts are rooted in and reflective of the life, folklore and cultural heritage of a community.
Sulton (often mispelled as 'Sultan') Rogers was a Mississippi folk artist who spent most of his life in Syracuse, New York working at a chemical plant. He took up woodcarving as a way of staying awake during long night shifts. Rogers claimed that his art was a reflection of his dreams, or what he called 'futures'. He moved back to Oxford, Mississippi in 1995 and lived there until he died.
He is known for what he called his haints - curious carved and painted wooden figurines.
Rogers' haints are primarily carved humans with oversized or multiple features. He would also carve animals but, more commonly, humans that have animal heads or body parts. He would also carve multiple related carvings known as haint houses. These pieces sometimes included dollhouses that would be filled with his figures.
He also made a lot of figures in coffins, which friends found slightly disturbing. 'I got a couple of friends that come to the house, they don’t go to the cellar ‘cuz I usually have coffins sitting around there,' he told the Artists' Alliance in 1991. 'You know the fellow I rent from, he don’t go down there. He says if anything would break, you fix it because I ain’t going down there. Then if he does come, he says if you gonna make things then cover them up so I can’t see ‘em, put a sheet or something on ‘em. One night he come to the door and I was trying to put a wig on those dead people in the coffin. He told me I was an idiot for doing stuff like that.'
His haints are now part of permanent collections at the University of Mississippi Museum of Art, the African American Museum, and the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum. His carvings have also appeared in the Dallas Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, and the American Visionary Art Museum.
It's wonderful stuff isn't it? And all made from recycled materials.