Painting the Town… In Melton Mowbray

I’m pleased to announce that my work Painting the Town… (2018) will be exhibited in Melton, the inspiration for the work. For one night only in Melton Library, accompanied by a brand new Film Talk – Violence in the Western”

Painting the Town explores the origin of the phrase “Painting the Town Red” which has historical roots in the town of Melton Mowbray, one night in 1837, the Marquis of Waterford and his men whilst drunk caused mayhem throughout the town, with a few of the men literally taking brushes with red paint to part of the town. Also inspired by the ending of High Plains Drifter (1973) dir. Clint Eastwood, which sees a violent ghostly figure played by Clint Eastwood manipulate a town into doing his bidding. Ultimately advising them to paint the town red. Taking this as starting point and the newspaper accounts of the violence in Melton, which by today’s standards are exaggerated. Compared with the violence found over in America’s lawless Wild West. Focusing on the violence of the frontier America as depicted in the Western.
Focusing on violent scenes from 4 films, recreating the sets in model miniatures form in 2 pairs. Emphasising the reaction of violent acts upon the victims are projected into the respective miniature sets.

Accompanied by a Film Talk the explores in more depth violence in the Western genre.

Due to the violent content this event is only open to over 18’s.

Tickets – £1, available at Melton Library


I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (18/7/19)

I’ve finally left the buttes behind. It was a long wrapping job, due to extra dimensions I had to slow down a bit to ensure it was completely covered. Then bringing all the pieces together for one more look to see how they sit with the spaceships. I had to juggle them a bit but I think I’ve got enough now to see that this scene will be achieved. I just need to add the green screen to complete the effect I’m going for.

Moving on and staying with the spaceships I had to start refitting them all after the gun towers I made last month. The design was completely different from what I had just made so they needed to be brought in line. So far I’ve been able to refit 2 out of 6 pieces. I think that was due to finding out what works really, trying a few things before settling on a design.

So what’s actually changed? On the main hull I’ve torn away the weaponry and replaced it with one hell of a laser cannon that sits above and stretches all the way back. Moving to the wings, everything’s been flipped over, the feature on top has been prised away and re-fixed below, allowing me to fit two more smaller laser cannons above. At the rear I’ve corrected a fault with the wings so they don’t drop/bend, adding a strip that seems to have done the trick for more.

I’m pretty pleased with them, my only concern now is how I’ll have to adapt the mothership. One step at a time though for now, concentrate on what I have and go from there. I want to do some serious work to that piece as it’s quite bulky, carrying the same fault as the smaller pieces.

Annihilation (2018)

As a member of the ever decreasing population who doesn’t stream films I thought I would never see AnnhilationOn its release Paramount had no faith in Alex Garland‘s big budget follow up to Ex Machina (2014). I knew it was one to look out for so I did’t give up on a physical release coming along. Thankfully a few months ago it was released on old-school DVD format, where I continue to watch a lot of my films. The wait was truly worth every second that it was streamed on Amazon, probably still there too. It really do the film justice to be thrown to a hard drive in silicon valley to be played in small screens on the train. Like Roma (2018) these films need to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. I wish I could have found bigger than what I currently have. Nonetheless the world that Garland has created warrants a large screen setting to truly do it justice, allowing the audience to be lost within it. My mind is currently still trying to process what I’ve just seen, there are a lot I want to explore. So bear with me as I start to unpack it all.

Biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) for the past year has been living in a state of grief ever-since her solider husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) went missing during a mission. We meet her teaching a class that was beginning to look at cancerous cells. Note that all the little details are very important at this state. Garland is laying foundations of Lena’s world, how she perceives it, through the eyes of science. Throwing herself in her work she’s not allowed herself to begin to move on from Kanes now presumed death. And then out of nowhere he just appears in the bedroom and we are just supposed to accept him, his arrival is unexpected to say the least. From trailer she could have met him later on. He’s not all he seems, distant and uncommunicative, unwilling to open up, what has he been through, is this how his PTSD manifests itself? We don’t have time to ask as he’s rushed to hospital. It’s all happening too fast to really process for both Lena and the audience.

The action then slows down to a crawl when he’s hospitalised and she’s being questioned by psychologist Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a cold emotionless woman who wants to know what happened to her husband, how he returned whilst others his team didn’t. All of this is told is flashback under quarantined interrogation by Lomax (Benedict Wong) that completely changes the structure of the film. We know that she’s the only one of a future mission to return from what is known as The Shimmer. Moving back and forth between the interrogation of the build up to and inside The Shimmer. 

I was first reminded of Monsters (2010) when a journalist agrees to escort a tourist back home to her father. Working their way through an alien infested Mexico to cross a physical border into the United States. A more political layer has been applied to this film in the past few years. However You still have a quarantined area of land that has to be ventured. The Shimmer’s border is covered in a flowing forcefield that allows is but never releases people to cross. Nothing like the Mexican border that is being proposed. Where it exists already, families are broken up. The only aliens there are those who lack compassion for people to find a better life across the border.

Usually these missions in science fiction it’s the men who cross over, kitted out with guns sand ready to strike what’s ahead of them. Here all the men have been exhausted, is that an intention of Garland, is he bored of the all male teams, wanting to send an all female team in? Based on James Vandermeer’s book it surely makes for a change to be adapted for the screen. This brings up the recasting of some characters, an issue that is too deep to really get into here. It’s a symptom of how far Hollywood is still to go in truly representing races on-screen and being more faithful to the source materials it adapts. On a cinematic level it’s just refreshing to have women holding the guns, having the knowledge and going into the unknown. Showing that women are just as capable as men. Amy Adams proved that a few years ago as Linguist Louise Banks in Arrival (2016) these two films alone prove that women can lead a male dominated genre.

After Lena works her way onto the team that enter’s The Shimmer we start to understand what has been hidden from view for the past 3 years. An ever-growing expanse that is being transformed. What I can see as gene splicing. First appearances are an otherworldly paradise that fascinates Lena, taking samples. On further inspection it’s booby-trapped with creatures which have been thrown together, a cross between a crocodile and a shark. You might know kids who dream of such things, but to see them realised is another that you’d never show them. There’s a frightening imbalance to see how nature has been experimented with, almost corrupted. Beautiful on one level, frightening once you scratch the surface.

The all women team, lead strangely by the driven and cold Dr Ventress, who takes with her Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny) who Lena grows close to. Followed by Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) who has a completely different agenda to the other women. Fascinated with how their kit reacts inside The Shimmer wanting to simply understand what’s going, maybe even communicate with whatever’s out there. Lena’s secret soon get’s out after they leave an abandoned army base, video footage begins to unravel things for her. She attempts to carry on with a level head in a world that doesn’t follow the normal laws of nature.

The more I saw of this world, I was both blown away by the imagery, the world building involved, whilst at other times it felt like an overly polished CGI world that felt false. The set dressing, or the subtler pieces of CGI were far more effective. Where we see the buildings covered in larger colourful mould I was more engaged in this world. As I got to the end of the film I began see wonder how much was made on the computer and in camera. Of course some scenes required CGI to allow the plot to continue, whilst others it was an overload that began to show its limitations.

The finale in The Shimmer begins to answer the questions that had been left unanswered. Had I just seen an alien race that was trying to communicate through quiet experimentation and duplication of life. Are we seeing that next stage in human evolution as suggested in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), hmm maybe not but the suggestion of a higher being is certainly there to be explored. It’s been a journey of self redemption for Lena who wanted to understand how her husband could have been lost. It’s an amazing search and rescue film that pushes that leans deeply into horror at times and lingers throughout. We’re left with what you can see to be a signature of Garlands, left unsettled by the ending with sense of uncertainty.

I’m grateful to Paramount for finally releasing this film on physical media, reversing a decision that showed a reluctance to believe in a film that had female leads, going into save men. I believe that was the main fear. Hopefully the onslaught of female centric films (be them poor remakes of male lead films, if only they get some half decent material in future) has lead to this change of heart. I enjoyed seeing these women kicking ass, it doesn’t matter if they are men or women, it’s the story that matters. Here we have a film that provokes, scares and entertains.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (16/7/19)

Ideally I would have liked to have completed the work on the buttes today. That wasn’t to be as I left the studio early this evening. I have however made two more unique pieces. All down to my confidence to push things further.

I began with a piece that at least wrapped cardboard around one tube successfully, allowing me to get an even more natural looking piece.

I then decided that I should push this out the larger tube too. I found that working out the shapes was getting harder the more I had to work with, having to label each piece to be sure they are fixed into the right place. So far I’ve added the detail ready to be wrapped.

Once this piece is done I’ll take another look to see how the buttes sit alongside the spaceships too, that way I can be sure I have enough, I might have to wait until I have more tubes to make any more. Otherwise I’ll be moving onto refitting the spaceships. They’ll undergo radical work in terms of changing the weaponry to match the gun-towers I made a few weeks ago.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (14/7/19)

The end is in sight for these buttes all being completed. Once I achieved the right look, I got stuck into making and expanding them into solid objects that became more natural looking as each one was being made, pushing me to make something different each time.

Today I’ve completed the final two of those originally required, looking how playing with the space in between even more. I wanted to see how that space could work around the tubes. I made some progress with the first piece, before scaling back again to an average one. I did however allow more of the smaller tube to be seen. It may have been down to an accident in cutting out the base or a lack of confident on seeing what’s possible. I’ll try again though and see what happens.


I prepped the final two buttes for next time in the studio. Then I’ll be moving onto other pieces on the list that is getting shorter and shorter now. I can quickly make up two more gun towers and then move onto refit all the spaceships working with that language of models. I honestly had no idea how the buttes would turn out; hollow objects covered in paper or something with some weight about them.

Cowboys Invaded Update (12/7/19)

It’s been my first proper day in about a fortnight. I’m glad to be getting back into a making streak. With 3 buttes completed today I can see that each piece has been pushed to make more complicated as I progressed during the day.

I began the day by completing the piece I made a start on last time, I then made a start on the 1st full new piece of the day, considering how I could manipulate the space in between the tubes. I decided to see how it would look with 3 pieces. Essentially placing a broken triangle in the space this time. It also allowed the bases to be again even more natural looking. The change in shape also made the detailing more of a challenge in places.

The next piece of the day I expanded the space further to have a squashed diamond in between. Essentially pushing what I had before.

Each piece has seen me grow in confidence, from the tighter buttes to these wider pieces, showing that just trying something, however different or small can pay off.

Lastly I wanted to see how the buttes I have so far look in the desired scene. There’s no set layout so far, but it gave me an idea of how many pieces I need to make for this scene. I can see that I probably need 4 more, thats 2 more than I had considered, I should had enough tubes to make this happen. I know the ext few piece I want to see how the tubes would look if it were inside that space, creating a different shape to build and wrap around. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (10/7/19)

After an extended and unplanned time away from the studio I’m now slowly making a return so I hope to be getting more work done in the coming weeks instead of dribs and drabs. I only had a few hours which I made the most off, making a start on the 5th and 6th buttes.

So far they have evolved from being two cardboard tubes that had been fixed together; to slowly being pushed apart to appear more natural looking. I went a step further today and have reshaped that break between the tubes so they are at different angles, even more natural looking than before. I have also played with the shape of the base so it’s not just taking in the two tubes and being more natural againI know by the time they are all completed I will have a range, which is better than 10+ pieces all clumped together when I didn’t see what the possibilities were.

I don’t really think theres much more I can do, maybe add some dimension/form on the space in between, which I could retrofit to the other pieces, it’s more of a finishing touch really. I’m hoping once these are done to make another gold mine related piece, looking at the internal entrance from a different view. I’ve been thinking about it for a few days. Also I’ve acquired another tube for a few more gun-towers to be built. I’ll also be refitting the spaceships so they are inline with the gun towers. That should only take a few days to complete unlike the other piece I’ve just thought of.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (29/6/19)

It’s been a quiet month in the studio, partly due to a busy month of paid work and taking sometime off. This summer is turning out to be busy away from the studio, that’s not a bad thing either, I’m sure I’ll have a longer spell soon.

Along with the heat, at least 31 degree C outside, so probably higher in the studio. I was able to make some progress  today. I wanted to change the design of the buttes so that they took up more space, basically stretching out the cylinders so they were more interesting that two tubes fixed together. They would also look more natural too. I began the day by wrapping up the piece I started last week before making a start on what was the first stretched out. Simply by making a space on the base that is wide enough to piece two pieces of cardboard in between. Above this newly created space I had to cover enough up before making a start on the wrapping.

Once I finished adding the layered strips I began to wrap up the new butte. It was a more interesting to work with too. Placing it alongside the other buttes it adds more variation to the pieces, more importantly they are more natural looking. It’s something I will continue with for the next 6 piece’s. Looking at them set-up I might have to make more up, again I’ll need more tubes, or it could be careful composing for the shot. Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (22/6/19)

After a weekend away from the studio I should have come back recharged, well I was and wasn’t, after burning the candle at both ends this past evening. I did come back eager to work and have still made some decent progress on a new set of pieces.

For at least one scene (with a little help from green screen too) I’ll be combining a number of elements to create an image of spaceships parked in a desert of buttes. Viewed from my John Ford point piece. It’s going to take some work to pull it off. I’m thinking that it maybe combination of two still images when you see the shot that I have in mind.

Before I even get there I need to make those buttes that the spaceships sit amongst. Originally I had the idea of having a banner on the base of these pieces. The first piece had striped back cardboard to reveal a layer of exposed ply, really flexible too. I wanted to create a mound and wrap to create a texture. It wasn’t sitting well for me. I removed it to add some strips of cardboard and wrap up again, banner going back on and seeing how it looks.

I asked another artist in the studio for their opinion, they confirmed my suspicion, the banner had to go, which honestly wasn’t a bad thing. It just shows that your first idea isn’t always the best one to go with. You have to keep going until you get something that works.

So far I have 2 and 1 more under construction, I’m hoping that ten will be enough. Using cut up tubes of varying heights to create the basic shape I build up and out slightly before wrapping it up. I’ll probably add another tone to balance them out. Looking at what I have they look good. Part of me thinks I’ll need more, only time will tell though.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (9/6/19)

My last update before a well deserved break from the studio. After working 3 days straight and a busy week away from the studio I need to stop and reflect, recharge before returning to work on something new from the list.

I did however leave after completing all 8 gun towers, the aim of the day was to just add all the remaining detail that I wanted to add to the pieces. This was/is to suggest that there’s some bulky internal workings that allow these gun towers to operate. I think I’ve achieved that around at the rear and sides of the set of 8 pieces. I stopped with the side plates which increased the overall widths of the pieces.

Looking at them set up with the slaughter-house where they will be used primarily, they suit the function they’re built for. I can see that more are required, sadly I don’t have enough cardboard tubes to add a further 2-4 pieces that I think would complete the scene. On my return to the studio I will look at the remaining 8 pieces that still need to be made up, some will be just extras of what I already have, whilst others will completely new pieces. The end of the making seems to be insight now. I need more cardboard for a few pieces. I may even do some more revisions to the plot, so a 5th draft maybe written. Otherwise I could be painting in a few months.