Visual Artist



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 (23/1/20)

After a slog of a session last time things really came along today in the studio. At first I avoided the cross-section that really slowed me down before to focus on the other pieces that really suffered as a result. Applying painting to finally bring a nice solid colour that I’m happy with. The false barricades and the mine shaft lift were all coming along nicely before I even started on the cross-section.

I really changed tact today, whilst still working one side at a time I moved the cross-section around to stop me stretching. Even having the my pallet on the work so I could more easily reload my brush. It worked really well as I work from top to bottom and side to side which greater ease. The hard part was definitely over as I saw again it become a nice solid colour. I them moved back to the false barricades to finish them off. Returning again to the cross-section to work on the hut and wheel at the top of the piece. I’ve only painted the sides that will be seen on camera, speeding things up again.

So next time I’ll be getting the cardboard out to make a few more pieces, including a redesign, a few ruins and a modified piece. These shouldn’t take too long to make before I get back to the painting again. The painting has only taken about 2 months to complete. I’m sure it shouldn’t take so long next time. There are some challenges to overcome too, I’m ready for them.

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Before I begin this review, I acknowledge that Woody Allen has become a divisive figure in recent years. Without getting into the politics of the accusations that resurfaced in connection with Dylan Farrow. I feel that I can carry on watching his films as I both thoroughly enjoy them and can separate them from his private life. I know that others can’t, which I understand and respect.

Since my first review of a Woody Allen film, the more recent Cafe Society (2016) I’ve been able to see a good few more of his films, allowing me to build up and understanding and passion for a director who has fallen out of favour with many for obvious reasons. For me on balance I can still feel comfortable watching his work, sure there are scenes that he should be ashamed of, such as the jokey rape discussion is Play it Again Sam (1972) to the far too young girl friend in Manhattan (1979). This comes with changing attitudes of the time. We should however not disregard these film, being able to take a step back and understand them in context of when they were made.

With my increased interest for Allen I have made a larger dent in his nearly 50 year back catalogue if work. I’m far from seen them all, with a few that I want to see before others. Such as the experimental Zelig (1983) that pushed a development on special effects that allowed for a mockumentary about a chameleon like person to be appear in numerous photos and footage. Blending him into the fabric of historical archives to produce a comedy that pushed the possibilities of narrative with direct influences to Forrest Gump (1993) that used the same technique with more finesse to weave Tom Hanks into some of America’s modern history caught on camera. Allen 10 years earlier saw the raw potential to have fun with digital special effects very much in their infancy. Zellig is a scream of a comedy that creates a character that wants to be loved at the cost of his own personality being lost at the cost of conformity, to be loved by all but not by himself.

You could say that The Purple Rose of Cario (1985) is a development of the special effects, but far more refined and not focusing on the effect to drive the narrative forward, becoming a device to allow it to go in a new direction and change the life of cinema-goer Cecilia (Mia Farrow) who chooses to escape to her local cinema during the Great Depression and from an abusive husband (Danny Aiello). She’s a woman who wants more than she has without the means to get there. She could easily be seen as a female version of cineaste that is Allen allowing her to live out a dream he had when he was developing his own pallet at the cinema as young man. Also that of many countless other cinema-goers has longed to be swept away by the worlds that film constructs and projects in the darkened screens where films come alive. I guess this is why I was drawn to this film. Also the clip that was featured in the 2011 documentary that featured the film as they worked their way through his career. I was drawn to the image of a young Jeff Daniels breaking free of the cinema screen to join Farrow in the audience. Literally breaking the fourth wall to be with a spectator.

What follows is the fantasy of two people, one real the other completely fictional that wants a life outside of what we learn is an existence of perpetually repeating the plot of the film. Whenever the film is projected the characters relive the plot to the letter, as if it’s another live performance, all word perfect, everything is seamless. Until a character created by newcomer Gil Shepherd as Tom Baxter notices Cecilia has been in the audience a number of times. Taking this as a sign and an opportunity to break free from the endless cycle he and the rest of the cast are caught in. It’s a celluloid trap that they accept as a reality and an existence created by the light of the projector.

This freak occurrence is immediately noticed by the audience and the characters as they see Baxter talk to Cecilia, shocked and surprised by the experience. Her escape from reality is mirrored by his escape from her fantasy. The two worlds should only exist in the confines of a darkened screen. Causing the film to come to a halt, the characters break their roles to react to this breach of their world and the cycle of the narrative. Shouting out to Baxter and even the staff at the cinema. The cinema manager is lost for a solution as to how he can fix the film so that everything will return to normal. Simply switching the projector on and off is seen to be fatal to the characters who really need him back to complete the plot and ensure they are in tact. There’s a built in set of laws to this projected world. Also interestingly they are all aware of the producer Raoul Hirsch (Alexander H. Cohen) as their creator, the role of the director and writer are dismissed or not even written. The importance of him allowed them to exist, to know their dialogue and cues in the film. Allen does not see the director as being an auteur or terribly that important. As much as he demands artistic control over his work you don’t feel that this is reflected in this depression era world.

The only other person from Hollywood who comes close to this is in the actor Shepherd whose required to restore order before more prints of the film begin to cause trouble for the film makers. An up and coming actor who gave his all to the role of Baxter us very concerned, after his career is threatened by the incident and the potentially bad press. His reality is very real and in danger. Whilst Baxter himself and his very limited experience of the world as defined by Hirsch and his employees have given him enough agency to interact with Cecilia who comes to fall for him, whilst coming to realise his own perception of the world. He’s not meant to be part of it but can’t let him go. Acting as an escape from her own awful domestic situation, that is shown in broad strokes with Aiello. 

I’m reminded of The Last Action Hero (1993) when a child enters the fictional world of Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who then breaks into ours. Basically Purple Rose for children and overloaded with that leaves you with a headache at the ended. It’s not as playful, trying to do too much during the run time, instead of focusing on a few ideas it goes too deep. Allen has a lighter touch, the immediate effect of the act of exiting a narrative and how the fictional interacts with the real. The notion of escapism is very much in both of the films, taking us into a fantasy that we would all like to play out at one time or another, to even cross over into their world and the effect we would have on it.

With Rose of Cairo we live out an audience fantasy, complete with the knock-on effect of a character entering into our lives. Maybe our dreams should stay on the silver screen, allowing them to play out over and over again where there’s no chance they can be touched by the realities we. We know that those dreams will remain in tact.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (19/1/20)

I really have left the worst til last, the cross-section, a piece that I am rightly proud of in terms of making, what it means to my practice has come back to bite me today as I began to paint it.

The final few pieces that I’ve made for this work are now in the process of being painted, beginning as always with a quick priming before I hoped to get on with carrying out a first coat to the cross-section and the external gold mine entrances. I chose to begin with the biggest piece first. Mixing up what I thought would be enough paint to get me started for the day, in fact lasted the whole day. As I made a start on painting the balsa elements of the piece, taking my time to carefully apply the paint, trying to avoid touching the brown paper with my brush. It’s become a very slow process as I work my way around the sections, from the base, which is very tight to get a brush inside, even a long handled one. Whilst it was the external pieces took up even more time, working on one side at a time to get into a rhythm for the work, and break the piece down too. So far I’ve been able to apply one coat to the main body of the work. I think there are a few factors involved in why it’s taking so long; it’s intricate at 1:72 scale, so I have to take my time even with the smallest brushes. The surface of the balsa is rough so can hinder how the paint moves with the brush.

I did have some paint over towards the end of the day to use on the lift and the 1:72 scale false barricade, which have a patchy paint job. I didn’t have time to work on the rest of the pieces, the frames of the gold mine entrances at all. I’m hoping that I can move a lot faster next time and that the worst is over now. Once these are over it’s back to making for a brief spell before I paint again.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (18/1/20)

I honestly thought that the Gold mine base would take far longer to paint than I originally believed. Beginning as always with the priming of the piece before moving onto the first coat, which itself took a few hours to navigate with my brushes the best way of applying the paint. I think the second coat came with ease as I knew where I was going, working the model miniature. It came together far faster than I really expected. Leaving me with time to work on the false barricades. With these pieces I was limited with where the brush would allow me to reach as I worked on the trays that the balsa sits on top of, to create the illusion of darkness. Hopefully this has been achieved.

A piece that was I forgot to mention last time that was completed was the ranch gate, which had a slightly more red in the colour than it previously had. All it needs now is a finishing touch of a bull skull to be fixed above. I’ve a good idea of how that can be achieved.

Looking ahead I have the most daunting of pieces to paint, the cross-section that will be a challenge in itself. That will probably take the longest to paint. Along with the less challenging external pieces which are repeats of the false barricades and reinserting. Then looking even further ahead as this next piece draws a close to the all the pieces that I’ve made so far. I’ve got a one to remake, expanding on others I’ve already got, one piece needs to be adapted slightly too. The making is nearly at a close now, I can safely say it shouldn’t be much longer until I’ll be testing with green screen and other special effects to see how things work. I also need to draw up a few storyboards for the scenes with spaceships so that I have a good idea of what I’m going to do and how they’ll fit into the sets that I’ve been building for nearly 2 years now.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (16/1/20)

After my previous session in the studio I though that things would have really slowed down. For about ⅓ of my time today it had to a snails pace as I manoeuvred my way around the gold mine entrance that I left unfinished last time. I found it hard getting my brushes into all the angles. Thankfully I found a set of long handed brushes that really saved the day. Still slow progress, just over two hours were spent on the rest of the first coat of this piece, it would have been longer with the short handed brushes. I came away from that first coat, knowing that the sides that I couldn’t reach at all didn’t matter, not from laziness but because the camera, wherever it’s going to be positioned won’t see the rear of the exposed posts at the front of the tunnel section of this entrance. I shouldn’t get carried away with that. I might be able to get the short hand around the other posts that I couldn’t reach next time.

Going back around for the second coat it felt like time just flew by for me as I worked my way through each of the pieces again before returning to the gold mine entrance once more at greater speed. I think in part with a confidence if using the brushes and how to navigate the spaces with the new tools. Allowing for solid finishes for all of the pieces.

Moving on I’ve got a single piece out for next time, it’s the gold mine base, which has a tunnel section sitting above that I’ve cut into. This will be even more of a challenge for my brushes to reach into a more intricate and more confined spaces. I’m both nervous and excited for what’s going to happen as I bring this piece in line with the others.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (13/1/20)

I’m in for a slog with the pieces that make up the gold mine environment. With 4 in the painting process right now, and the ranch gate I’ve started to prime all of the pieces in the same colour. So far I’m happy with how it’s going but know it’s going to be slow painting on balsa, a surface that can slow you down due to its varying surface and that it can also absorb the paint. Today I’ve been make progress on all of the pieces, as always this should speed up as I start the second coat. I’ve also got a process for painting which has allowed for some clean edges around the brown paper.

Looking forward to the other pieces that need to be painted (the final that I’ve previously made) this will become more difficult as they are more intricate. The cross-section and the base which will take time and patient to work on. I might also be changing the colour of the ranch gate as I’m not so sure about that right now.

The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)

The past few months I’ve been volunteering, building up my experience of working with children and young people as I set up my own workshop. During that time I have been able to see the range of abilities of those I’ve worked with. Some clearly struggle, some haven’t even chosen to do art or just feel they are suffering because they can’t achieve what others in the class can do with real ease. When I see those with real talent coming through I its real joy too, celebrating that with them. A visiting artist giving them an extra boost to their confidence. Whilst I make sure to celebrate and encourage those who struggle or need the extra push to do more. Some even need to be held back as they finish work as you can see it becoming overloaded with content; something that will come to them with experience.

During that time I’ve not met the next Van Gogh or Warhol, just talent that needs to be nurtured, when I can I asked if they are carrying on developing their talents. I spoke to one student who clearly had talent in GCSE art, but had decided to drop it in favour of Graphics to pursue a career in Games Design. I could see he had a talent, an understanding of composition and was open to new ideas. I understood and respected his decision, leaving him to pursue his dream. What I would never do is take the route that Lisa Spinelli (Maggie Gyllenhaal) takes in The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) a Kindergarten Teacher who notice a poet prodigy in her class.

On discovering the 5 ½ old Jimmy Roy (Parker Sevak) she’s taken aback by his mature ability to construct and recite poems that would usually happen in adults or young people. His lack of life experience at his tender age is no barrier to the profound prose that he’s able to compose. Naturally she wants to encourage this talent, when his nanny Becca (Rosa Salazar) picks him up, Lisa does what any supportive teacher would do. Discuss the poem and suggest ways to nurture this ability when at home. Usually this is where the interaction begins and ends. Record and celebrate the poems that you hear and leave it there. For Lisa a mature student in a poetry class, aspiring to culturally enrich herself, poetry is way she’s chosen. Her ability is limited only able to produce derivative material that produce negative criticism from other students.

The opportunity to use one of Jimmy’s poems is too tempting to ignore, sharing it with her peers resulting in a perceived breakthrough of talent that surprises her teacher Simon (Gael García Bernal). It’s a daring move that no teacher would ethically do, stealing the work from a child and passing it off as her own. I’m reminded of Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) in Yesterday (2019) who passed off the songs of the Beatles as his own. To be fair to him he was existing in a reality where he was one of a few that could remember that they existed before a worldwide blackout. Leaving him with the burden of this secret knowledge, does he share it with the world and take all the credit or come clean and explain his position as best as possible. For a while he rides the wave of the worlds ignorance, rising to great heights of overnight fame before his own guilt and personal life force him to reconsider what he wants in life. Lisa’s exists in our world that comes with all the consequences of her actions.

She just chooses a path that’s ethically murky. From waking up Jimmy during nap time for private conversations to becoming his nanny. Gyllenhaal plays a woman whose lost all sense of morality as she strives for a life that she aspires to at all costs. With a husband who she’s distant from, teenage children who want to follow their own paths. She wants better cultural things for them, ignoring what they want. All her energy goes into the enrichment of Jimmy instead whose young enough to not know any better. Focusing her daily energy on him to prepare him for a poetry slam. All sense of reality slowly goes out of the window.

It’s an intense experience as we watch a teacher with her heart in the right place for her pupils take a dark turn of good intentions that leads her to criminal actions. Jimmy has become a vessel to live out her dreams of cultural fulfilment, wanting to be part of something that his father doesn’t want for his child. Wanting to encourage a normal childhood, instead of the perceived instability of a creative person. As much as I was disturbed by the actions of Lisa who spirals out of control it was strangely gripping too. Making for a film that pushes the boundaries of what we female characters do on screen. Also subverting what is traditionally a female profession of teaching the its extremes.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (12/1/20)

Batch 7 is officially complete, bringing a close to painting of the majority of the models made for this work so far. I began the day by focusing on the remaining colours that needed to be added to the mothership and spaceship. Taking longer than I expected, even with less pieces to work on its the scale of the work that made the difference.

I then turned to the detailing of all the pieces. I had to adapt the detail of the mothership from the previous smaller ships. When it came to the refrigerated wagons I found that I have repeated patterns from the gun towers I painted a few weeks back. It just made sense to repeat that design. Once all the detail was added I turned to any lose parts that developed over the painting process, which I hope have now all been addressed.

Moving on I’ve got the first few gold mine pieces ready to prime and paint next. I know that continuity is going to be important as I’ve got to match up similar pieces, such as the cross-section base with the base I’ve made. It’s going to be an interesting period in the studio.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (11/1/20)

Batch 7 is well underway now. With the majority of the painting now complete. I didn’t want to leave the studio until I’d at least done one colour, this soon became two as the day wore on. I wanted to stay long enough to see it through. That way I had made the most of my time and not wasted any paint too.

I can now see more or less how the refrigerated wagons will look after a decision to change the colour scheme slightly. Whilst the mothership was more straight forward. The smaller spaceships have simply become routine now, just making sure that I have applied to coats minimum everywhere of the appropriate colour.

Looking forward I have a few more colours to add before I get on with the detail. I don’t think I’ll be too long in the studio tomorrow. Allowing me to prepare for painting the gold mine elements, which as I mentioned before will slow down the progress of the painting.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (7/1/20)

Batch six is complete now after a good days work focusing on the bow of the spaceships and the detailing of all the pieces.

I began the day with a nice surprise, mixing yellow ochre with silver paint I accidentally had a gold colour in front of me, which I decided to stay with and see where it went. It took some time to build it up to get a nice finish that I was happy with. I then moved onto the bottom of the bow, which has been left blue now, mixing enough to apply to the gun tower I’ve been using as a reference, meaning that eventually the rest of the pieces will have another more solid coat to bring them in line with the spaceships.

The rest of my time was spent on adding the detail to the batch, taking longer than I’d expected. Bringing some of the lines back from the previous colour scheme through and leaving others behind. Looking at the completed pieces I’m much happier with these and can see them being more effective in the animation.

Looking ahead I’m staying with the aliens as I complete the remaining pieces for batch 7 then it’s onto something more freestyle with the gold mine pieces.