Hastings Christmas sea …. and seagulls

The  Hastings fishing boats were all on the beach because it is Christmas Day, but the sea didn’t care; it was busy doing its stuff.

Two fishing boats are on the beach at Hastings; the sea can be seen in the background
Hastings fishing boats on the beach on Christmas Day 2012
Seagulls flying above the sea at Hastings
The seagulls were enjoying it
A seagull shelters from the wind on the beach at Hastings
Except this one that didn’t want to play because it was cold
Dark seas at Hastings UK
He was right; it was cold
Sea on Christmas Day in Hastings 2012
But sometimes the sun came out
Sea breaking on a breakwater at Hastings UK Christmas Day 2012
For a few moments


Happy Christmas everybody.

The End of the World, blogging, Google and Adrian Ghenie

So, if you are reading this the world hasn’t ended, and all that worrying was a waste of time. Well, that is not strictly true – if you are reading this, it probably means the world hasn’t ended, but it could just mean that you are reading it early and all the bangs and wailing and gnashing are yet to come. I am not taking any risks; I am posting it well before midnight on the 20th. It would be a huge pity to go to all the trouble of writing a post and not have anybody read it because there was nothing left but a few irregular shaped fragments and a little trickle of smoke where the world used to be. I note that NASA took the same view and published their report that the world wasn’t ending very early indeed. Perhaps they wanted to discourage anybody who was thinking of giving it a helping hand.

Thanks to Google, I do know that there are quite a lot of you out there who are  worried that this world ending stuff might actually happen. WordPress very thoughtfully provides a list of the links that bring people to the site. Back in September I wrote a jokey review of Sharon Haward’s End of the World installation which she held in her studio in Hastings; I gave it the title The end of the World  is  starting in Hastings now. In the intro, I wrote a bit about the Mayans as well as Harold Campion who was pretty confident, you remember, but got it wrong. Since then,  by far the greatest number of hits I get on any single subject is from people who have entered sensible search terms such as “Mayan Calender end of the world.”  Then, as so often happens with internet surfing, they appear to have got side tracked and ended up wanting to know just what the good citizens of Hastings had done to get advance world ending treatment.

I can see now how Google is able to predict epidemics faster than hospital doctors. If people start Googling plague in large numbers,  there’s a fair chance that a good number of them are a little worried about the nasty buboes that are coming up under their arms. I am not suggesting that plague is about to bring an end of the world, just that if it were to be a problem, Google would know it first. On the same principal, if you are an art investor,  I would seriously consider buying an Adrian Ghenie if you can get hold of one, apart from the fact that he is very good, I get more people looking for information about him ( I wrote about the painting he did  Pie Fight) than for any other artist I have mentioned.

Back to the end of the world; with 21 December nearly past, I am going to miss all you worried readers. I have grown fond of you. I picture you searching the web for information, scanning the skies, looking for portents and incoming meteorites, stocking up on bottled water and baked beans. So the next three pictures are just for you; they show how the end of world might look. The first is Hell by Hieronymus Bosch and ok, it isn’t strictly the end of the world though it was for the people concerned. But doesn’t it capture the blighted post apocalyptic,  desolate landscape marvellously well.

Hieronymus-Bosch-007 painting of hell shwing all kinds of tormented souls
Hieronymus Bosch: Die Holle c1495

This one by John Martin is your proper God smiting world end – just look at those mountains doing their business and it’s got waves. Martin”s God wasn’t taking any chances.

The End of the World, by John Martin shows the world being destroyed by God
John Martin: The End of the World 1951-53

Finally, to show it might not be so bad is this one by Sir Stanley Spencer, the Cookham Resurrection. I just love the way the resurrected dead are so relaxed, mooching about, chatting, reading grave stones and the way that some wives are brushing the dirt off their husbands and no one seems to be having a bad time at all.

The painting shows people coming out of the grave in Cookham  Churchyard
The Resurrection in Cookham Churchyard by Sir Stanley Spencer 1924-7

So  if Spencer’s vision is correct it could all be all right; on the other hand if Martin is right, it might not be. So for those who like to be well prepared, here are some other dates where you might be pleased to have a few extra tins in the back of the cupboard – though if it really is the end of the world you might not have time to open them.

23 December 2012 – some people seem to think that it is not the 21st which is doom day but the 23rd  – so you can spin out the worry a little bit longer

2016: according to Weekly World News, Professor Lloyd Cunningdale excavating the Donner Party disaster found a time capsule which had been left by a group of settlers who became trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1847. It  predicted that biological warfare would kill everybody off in 2016. Why on earth a group of  settlers who hadn’t been able to predict that it is bad news to get stuck in the Sierra Nevada in winter should be seen as an authority is not clear. Then it is not clear why the Mayans are meant to be an authority on the world ending either.

20 February 2020 – otherwise written as 20.02.20 Just look at it – all those twos – could be the end of the world.

13 April  2029 Apophis, an asteroid that is some 330 metres across, that is a pretty big lump of rock it is predicted to miss the world by just 18,000 miles.That sounds a bit too close for comfort.

2034 Disappointingly no day specified, so you have to worry a full year. It is all about God’s covenants being equal length

2060 Not much reason for the over 50s to worry  but younger folk can indulge; 2060 was the  year Sir Isaac Newton calculated the world would end –  for the full story read Stephen Snobelen’s account


1 April  5,000,002,012   that is when the sun is predicted to turn into a supernova, give or take a few million years; that really will be the end of the world.

It survived the night

Most artists are only too happy for their artwork to be kept within the relatively safe confines of a the walls of a gallery. While you might get some idiot with a can of spray paint or a Stanley knife decide to deface it, on the whole such attacks are pretty rare. But Hastings is not known to be the most art loving town in Britain so when Daniel Dowling decided to put his art work on the outside of the Blue Room rather than on the inside, none of us was absolutely certain it would be there in the morning. But it survived; thank you late night Hastings revellers for leaving it alone.

Dan, who is undertaking the third year of a BA Hons in Fine Art at Sussex Coast College, is fascinated by Britain’s industrial heritage. He created the work  specially  for the Blue Room by taking a rubbing  from a piece of rock from the site of the Workington Steel Works in Cumbria.  The few pieces of rock were all  that remained from what used to one of Britain’s major industrial sites. Dan has a personal connection with Workington because his great-grandfather used to be a boiler maker there.  Dan then used the rubbing to create a screen print on pieces of  linen which he has sown together to give the Blue Room its  brand new covering.

blue 003
The Blue Room with its new blue covering.
blue 013
Daniel and his grandmother Mildred Dowling , whose father used to work as a boiler maker at Workington.
blue 001
The repeated image allows for lots of variation

What is interesting about the work is the variety that Dan has created whilst repeating the same basic pattern. It certainly excited interest when he put it up yesterday. His grandmother Mildred Dowling who was there to see this unique memorial to her father also seemed to approve. Provided the work survives another night unguarded, you should still be able to see it tomorrow morning.


Artist in wolf’s clothing

If you are in Hastings tomorrow take a look in the Blue Room outside Sussex Coast College and see the Shaman the second day of a two day drawing performance by Adan Gibrelli. Adam uses the wolf as an icon to represent primal behaviour. He has developed a technique in which he goes into a kind of trance to create automatic drawings, using charcoal, ash, dirt and animal fat. The results have an extraordinary energy and vitality. When he is not being a wolf Adam is a second year student taking FDA Fine Art Contemporary Practice.

Adam Gibrelli;wolf with a clean sheet
Adam Gibrelli: getting going
Drawing detail
Danger wolf at work

If you do go to see him, don’t expect him to talk. Wolves are notoriously silent animals when they are drawing.

Curating the Room

Ok – you have two days. The assignment is to think about the nature of clothing, and turn a garment or garments into a different sculptural form. This was the challenge given to 60 Foundation Diploma students at Sussex Coast College. Then, unexpectedly, Katy Oxborrow and I were given a challenge ourselves. We were asked to consider the resulting art works and choose from them to set up the first exhibition in the  Room – the mobile gallery standing outside the college. This was yesterday lunchtime; by the evening the exhibition was set up. We do things fast in Hastings. It was difficult making a choice; so many of the works were excellent; we had to consider not only what we thought was good but also what would fit and what would work well together. Here are the works we chose in no particular order.

Jamie Bitmead: Office Mess
Lauren Brooker: Sea Foam
Mel Monk: Breakdown of Communication
Anya Cecil: Forensic
Suzi Iverson: suspended skirt
George Moody: Journey of identity (detail)
Saskia Sullivan: Jacket Deconstructed
Grant Bingham: Number 3
Kern Fairburn: Untitled
Evie Allum: Inspired by Shakespeare
Tom Penney: Collar
Megan Donfresco: Chemistry Set
Jess Styles: Circles

Next week there will be a new exhibition in the Room

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 http://www.laurencepoole.com

Am I Sue McDougall or Zagrouch?

Like most of the people who write blogs on WordPress I check every now and then about who is actually reading it and how they got here. The other day I was looking at the search engine referrals and saw that someone somewhere had done a search on “Sue McDougall artist”. Now I am not the least big-headed person I know but I didn’t feel at all sure it was me they had been looking for . It sounded suspiciously like someone looking for an artist who already  had an agent, had exhibitions in proper galleries and generally made some kind of living at it, rather than someone who hopes that will all happen in the future.

Obviously I have done Google searches on my name in the past, so I already knew about the Sue McDougall who is a horticulturist, the one who writes Scottish cookery books, and the one who works for IBM. I also knew there was another Sue McDougall in Australia because she asked me to be my friend on Facebook – hello Sue. There was even the Sue McDougall who may, or may not, have had an affair with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, was caught up in the Whitewater scandal and ended up in prison for a bit. I have always felt sorry for her, though the Bill Clinton affair bit might have been fun.  But I didn’t know about another artist Sue McDougall.  If there was going to be confusion should I call myself something else?  Up to now it hasn’t really been important; over the years I have done quite a bit of work one way and another but I have never been a great one for signing stuff.

But next month as part of Coastal Currents Nick Hill is organising an exhibition in St Leonards; two works of mine are to be included.  The smaller one Shrinking Horizons is about a time when I was sailing off Rye; without warning the fog came in and the horizon was suddenly about 50 yards away. It was a strange experience and made me think about the way that opportunities can shrink.

Shrinking Horizons
Oil on linen, collage
40cm x 40cm

You cannot really see it in the photographs but the whitish swirly lines are not paint but collaged paper that has been torn from a set of instructions where the writing is too small to read. That also seems a metaphor for the way that life works. The other painting is called Solent Saturday. In the Solent the large cargo ships can come up unexpectedly fast. The skipper of the boat I was on was ticked off by the coast guard for being in the shipping lane though we were in no real danger but another yacht was nearly mown down. It showed how disaster can just come out of a clear blue sky or, in this case, a less than clear blue sea. Thinking of names for the paintings was not a problem  but before the week is out I have to finalise a name for myself.

Solent Saturday
Oil on Linen
90cm x 90cm

I therefore searched for “Sue McDougall artist” and sure enough Google found another one – a lady who had been a member of the Contemporary Art Society of Victoria in Australia. But there were only three entries about her that I could see and as she had what was billed as the Final Retrospective in 2005, so there didn’t seem much likelihood that we would be confused. So it looks as though Sue McDougall would do.

But it did get me thinking about whether it was a good idea to be McDougall.  For starters, the name really belongs to my husband; I am not Scottish. When I was a journalist I used to write under the my maiden name Glascock. I changed when I had a children’s book published and my three  wanted the name on the cover to be the same as their own. These days the  positions are reversed: my daughter Sophia is the writer  I like to be associated with her,

Now McDougall as a name is fine and dandy but coupled with Sue I feel it sounds solid rather than whizzy – ideal for Scottish cookery books – less good for contemporary art.  It is also the name of a person who is clearly a woman.  Of course it shouldn’t matter but if you look at the list of 100 top contemporary artists by auction results, only a  handful are women: women do not figure at all in the top ten.

It is easy if you are a woman to see the low representation of women in the major galleries of the world as the fault of men. Certainly with men dominating not only the senior executive positions, and being the main investors it is true  that they wield the economic power in art as in other fields. But it is not just alpha males wanting to buy alpha male art; it is all of us.  Suppose you want a contemporary painting. You go on to one of the on-line galleries. They provide a list of the artists they represent but because their website is rubbish they do not provide thumbnails; so do you click on :

  • Luke Hendy
  • Zagrouch
  •  Janet Bradshaw
  • Sally Buffin
  •  Titali
  • ST Danielson

All these names are made up and so far as Google tells me do not belong to any existing artist – my apologies if one of them belongs to you. If like my daughter you are a feminist you will possibly click on Janet Bradshaw which I feel has a similarly solid sound;  if you are almost anybody else Zagrouch has it hands down. So why not become Zagrouch? Nobody would think Zagrouch would do pictures of fruit or  roses or whatever it is that people think female artists paint. If I were Zagrouch it might even affect my style: it would become brighter, bolder, more vibrant,  stronger more imaginative and generally better.

The reason not to of course is that it would be rather silly. So sadly I won’t do it. I think I am stuck with McDougall; Glascock is more distinctive but I haven’t used it for a while now.  The truth is I am used to being McDougall;  the trick must be to remember to paint like Zagrouch.

The Art  Show will be open  8  – 22 September at Southwater Community Centre, 2 Stainsby Street, St Leonards TN37 6LA (Opposite St Leonards Warrior Square Train Station) There will be work from 17 upcoming Sussex artists including Nick Hill, Jules, Naomi Holdbrook, Katy Oxborrow, Celeste Barker, David Wright, Kat Pavan and Alan Russell. They are  exhibiting in various media including painting, printmaking, textiles and photography. Some work will be on sale – at affordable prices.