Finish it well

Students up and down the land starting the new academic year with a large loan, a call on the Bank of Mum and Dad and the prospect of flipping burgers to make ends meet would be forgiven for casting an envious eye at Laurence Poole who is managing to fund his art course by selling his art works. I went to Laurence’s Private View of A Congress of Curiosities last night at the Trinity Gallery, Hastings, which incidentally is rapidly establishing itself as a major player on the East Sussex arts scene. I was lured in by the beguiling little video they sent me of one of his creations a robot based on a Marshall speaker; not only does it have all kinds of things going on its head but its globular hands appear to spark electricity.

Laurence Poole with his robot Nostalgia Bot

Laurence specializes in assemblage and I was most impressed by his jokey, quirky creations which included marbles set in acrylic gel,  a daisy of recycled carbon dioxide bulbs, several masterfully constructed collections of small vehicles,  a chess game where the king  had been overturned and you could see the blood.

Space Daisy – recycled carbon dioxide bulbs, acrylic and watercolour on lolly sticks.

I was even more impressed to learn that Laurence had only become a practising artist about a year ago but had already sold in a gallery in London. And to my surprise he was starting a foundation degree in Fine Art Contemporary Practice at Sussex Coast College where I myself am a student.

“Why go to college when he already was managing to support himself from his art?” He explained that he had left school at 18 and really wanted to get a degree.  Previously he had been employed doing a boring office job which turned out to sound a little less boring than he initially made out: he had been advising companies how to make best use of their office space. “Most people just glaze over when I explain,” he said.

He had started at Sussex Coast College only the day before “I think the first assignment looks quite challenging” he told me. I was able to confirm that I found the course both challenging and satisfying. With some of his art work selling at over £3,000, I also thought he might have a thing or two to teach us.

The secret he said was in the finish. “If you want to sell you have to ensure that the finish is really good and that works are properly framed. If work is not finished well, people won’t buy; they think, ‘oh I could do that myself.’”

Laurence Poole’s Giant Nostalgia Jam

I looked at the assemblage of cars – I certainly didn’t think I could do it myself. Just finding the cars alone looked as if it would be a major challenge. Heavens, there must have been little cars in the house at some point – I seem to remember their wheels fell off and they got crunched underfoot before going in the bin with other bottom of the toy cupboard detritus.

Laurence Poole: Time to Play

I’m just not that good at keeping stuff – I liked his record player clock – selling for just £250.I think there might have been a record player like that  knocking around at some point as well. That probably went into a bin maybe on the same day as the broken cars got cleared out.  I think that is one of  the reasons why Laurence’s art is so appealing. You recognise stuff  that you had forgotten and he gives it a new lease of life. That and of course the fact that it is finished really, really well.

A Congress of Curiosities is running at the Trinity Art Gallery from Thursday 27 September 2012 till 10 October; 8 Trinity Street, Hastings,TN34 1HG. More of Lawrence’s work can be seen at

If a picture is worth a thousand words – how much is that picture in the window?

How much would you pay for a picture £5m? £5,000?  £50?  50p? Would you need to like the work or would it not matter provided you thought it would be a good investment. On what basis would you make that judgement? Would you look primarily for a name that was already recognized and hope that the value would rise as the artist grew in stature? How would you cope with the fragility of many works? Buying a pickled sheep would be a bit of a bummer if it started gently fermenting.

If investment value is not an issue, would it matter whether the work was original – or would you be as happy with a print or a copy? Would it need to be a limited edition print or could they be churned off in their thousands? What if it was not an exact copy but drew heavily on the work of another artist?

On ebay there is one seller who regularly offers works in the style of a minor  named artist, but the small print points out that the name cannot be guaranteed as the provenance is uncertain. So uncertain that works from this particular artist come up regularly, always with the same caveat. Are they churned out perhaps by a little workshop in China? But if you like the work does it matter if it has been painted in a sweatshop or by the named minor artist – what you see is still what you get. Yet most people would feel it does matter – perhaps because if art is to have intrinsic, rather than monetary, value it has to be honest communication between the artist and the viewer and passing something off as somebody else’s work cannot be real communication.

The laws of economics are perhaps more intriguing in art than in any other area. Take the basic raw materials of canvas and paint and the work can be worth nothing or millions. The artist can detract from the value of a perfectly good blank canvas or the added value in terms of their time can be astronomical. About a hundred years ago Mark Twain said “Buy land they are not making it anymore.” That can be said of course of work by dead artists. With living artists not only can they create more – they can also get better or indeed worse.  They also eventually become dead.  Every artist who fails to sell his or her work thinks of Van Gogh who failed to sell in his lifetime and whose work came to be worth millions.

So if you are confused about what to do, here are ten suggestions:

  1. Only buy what you like
  2. Really, really  only buy what you like – not what you think you ought to like or what you think other people might like
  3. Do buy originals. Art needs artists to make them and artists need encouragement
  4. If you want art primarily as an investment choose an art fund and leave it to the experts
  5. Really don’t look for an investment – after all, if you liked a picture it would be  a terrible wrench to feel you had to sell it because you couldn’t afford the insurance on it
  6. Ignore the little voice within that says you could cope with that
  7. Consider student art – not because it might make you a fortune – that is highly unlikely – but because you will be able to buy more because it will be cheaper and so can afford to take a risk that after a few months you find you don’t like it as much.
  8. Take the risk every now and again – safe art is on the whole boring art.
  9. Do buy something – I know there is a recession on but art will  give you pleasure for far longer than say a meal out.
  10. Only buy what you like

Ok, I agree there weren’t really ten: one was repeated.

All this is a very long introduction to the Art Exhibition, part of Coastal Currents that is currently showing in Southwater Area Community Centre, St Leonards, East Sussex which I mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago. Below are some of the works that are on sale. Mostly done by artists who are connected with Hastings College in some way, they are affordable.  The Affordable Art Fair in London defines affordable as under £4,000. I have always felt that to be somewhat optimistic. These are all under £200. The exhibition closes on Saturday 22 September, so you will have to hurry to see it. But I will pass on any enquiries to the artists involved. That is easy with the sixth one down as it is mine!

David Wright – Untitled – Mixed Media
Susan Cleland – Motherlove – Mixed Media
Nick Hill – Nick Woz Here – Mixed Media
Katy Oxborrow – Past and Present – Mixed Media
Shammi Begun – untitled – acrylic on canvas
Sue McDougall – Shrinking Horizons – Mixed Media
Tricia Oakland – Me First Me First – Acrylic on Canvas

The end of the world is starting in Hastings – now!

People have always had a tendency to think the end of the world is imminent; if you were around 8,000 years ago when a huge tsunami cut Britain off from the continent, or in Rome in 410, or London in 1348, the start of the Black Death, such a belief would have seemed entirely reasonable.Today with the arctic ice disappearing, riots across the Middle East, drought decimating crops and the super volcano under Yellowstone simmering gently, we’re spoilt for choice of what the Cosmic cat’s paw will be.

Of course looking at it on a purely personal basis, it is going to be the end of the world sooner or later for each and every one of us. Perhaps faced by the prospect of our own demise it is somehow comforting to believe we will not be alone and that the party is not going to continue for long anyway.

Dates have always fascinated doomologists. Round numbers have their supporters. The end of the world was apparently widely predicted for the year 1,000 just as it was for 2,000. Some favour more random dates – Radio Preacher Harold Campion, if you remember, predicted that Judgement Day would happen in a rolling wave at the beautifully precise moment of 6.00 local time on May 21 2011.  He convinced his followers, some of whom sold all their earthly possessions in readiness, that Jesus Christ would return to earth and transport the faithful bodily up to Heaven. When it didn’t happen, or there weren’t enough faithful for anybody to notice, Campion  recalculated and fast forwarded the predicted Rapture to the end to October. I just love thinking of him waiting, kicking his heels and looking at his watch like a teenager who has been stood up.

For those of you who haven’t noticed the next end of the word event is scheduled for December 21st, so if you hate Christmas shopping you could leave it till, say, December 22 and see if it’s still necessary. December 21st gets to be in the hot spot because it was supposedly the end of the Mayan calendar and some people are trying to work Nostradamus into the act as well.

Mayan Calendar – perhaps they didn’t have a big enough plate

Why the Mayans should have been concerned about the world ending in 2012 beats me; you would have thought if they were any good at predicting cataclysmic events they might have been worried about the year 900 when most of their cities got abandoned. Equally we don’t find anything portentous in the fact that Collins Five Year diaries end in – well, five years.

No matter, as part of the Coastal Currents Arts Festival, artist Sharon Haward, who, for the record, tells me she doesn’t actually believe the end of the world is scheduled to spoil the Christmas hols, has collaborated with other artists in her basement studio Underground in Robertson Street to create different end of the world scenarios. They are inspired both by the Mayan calendar and by writers as diverse as Angela Carter, William Gibson, and Slavoj Zizek and together combine to create a layered effect of impending doom, which however makes for less gloomy viewing than you might think.

In Haward’s own work the viewer feels as if he or she is sheltering in a flimsy structure, half swept away by a hurricane or worse; the ceiling  looks as if it might fall at any moment; you are surrounded by disturbing images.

Sharon Haward in her installation – the End of the World

There is the recurrent motif of bands of light and dark, bars perhaps, suggesting imprisonment or constraint of some kind; these are punctuated by clips of floods and storms as well as the shocking scene of riot police kicking a defenceless victim. At the end of the world the rule of law breaks down or becomes corrupt.

In contrast Sarah Locke’s nuclear bunker appears almost cosy; it is post apocalypse and she has created a sound installation which is nostalgic for the recent past. In her vision of the future, people are isolated and those who can mend things or cook are valued. I’m not much good at mending things, but I’m quite a dab hand at rustling up meals so that was encouraging.

Sarah Locke’s bunker

Maff Littlemore’s work Sweet Dreams Countdown seemed more sinister – the press release speaks of “a childlike vision of the future” but while a screen showed  work featuring sampling, remix and collage, digital numbers projected to the side gave the unmistakable impression that time is running out for us all, while Scott Robertson reflects on time in an intricate drawing installation which at first sight appears to be printed but is in fact done with a pencil.

Matthew Pountey and Johnny Crump audio-visual work, displayed on an old-fashioned TV screen in front of a an armchair, was strangely hypnotic and disturbing and has a brilliant soundtrack. It is also unexpectedly funny which in itself is somewhat uncomfortable. It includes clips from the 1986 Challenger Disaster, which even a quarter of a century later has not lost its power to shock, shots of Thatcher, action men and plenty more besides. I was not sure what it meant – perhaps that the end of the world started some time in 1970.

On the night of the private view, a man coming up the stairs as I was going down commented, ” it’s fun down there.” He was right – it is fun but it also makes you think how habituated we have become to the nightly diet of disaster that is beamed into our homes. We need to be – to survive.

Unless the real end of the world kicks in early there is still time to the see the installations. The End of the World is open from 2-6pm on 15/16th and 22/23rd September. Address – Underground  35 Robertson Street, Hastings TN34 1HT.