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A Transformations Poetry Special: Pictures and Audios

18 Sep


Supported with public funding by Arts Council England. Supported by Norfolk County Council


In this post I want to place a focus on the poetry featured in our exhibition in King’s Lynn. 60 of the over 100 poems written throughout our 15 month collaboration were featured in the exhibition. We managed to get a broad range of the poetry  read out loud across the 3 days. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get audios of everything, but we do have some great moments we’d like to share, particularly with attendees reading the transformers’ poetry aloud, sometimes not having read poetry for years.

Here’s an audio of one lady doing exactly that- amazing…:



The engagement with the spoken word was impressive across the whole weekend, whether child or adult. Even people who came in and said ‘poetry wasn’t their thing’ seemed to soon change their minds when they heard some of the transformers read their poetry out loud. Karin read her Book 13 poem Hecuba’s Pain to a lady who said she didn’t ‘get’ poetry. However, as soon as she engaged with the emotion behind the words of Karin’s poem and responded to Karin’s interpretation she changed her mind. She is now going to give it a go! Here’s the reading that altered her perception. 



I also came across another interesting prejudice which was that poetry is an inferior form to prose. I had a energetic debate with a man who could not see the purpose of it… I fought poetry’s corner, and this encounter has firmed up my intention to try and shake-up a bit how our attendees in future projects meet what we create….Perhaps even challenging the idea of the word ‘exhibition’ and all that the word intimates. Anyway, that’s another story….


Here below, is a visual, poetry foam board extravaganza for you. Showing the variety of forms, styles and themes, and an idea of the journey they made from box to stand (click to enlarge the pictures):



There are more images to come as the pictures roll in…. We’ll  also do a special on the art from the exhibition  and on the impact of the Transformers coming together in real time.

To leave you. Here’s an audio of Adam Wimbush’s poem from Book 15, Epilogue. Summing up, I think, what Transformations has been all about:



Thanks so much for your interest!


All good wishes,


P.S. Big thanks to Transformer Gill Offley who took so many of these great photos! 

We Made The Virtual Real! : Transformations Update and PDF 5/5

15 Sep

new-badge5 Supported by Arts Council England. Supported by Norfolk County Council

To celebrate the opening of our first ever large-scale exhibition, I just thought I would share the fully interactive PDF of our exhibition which contains all the artwork and poetry from our 15 month project.

We hope you enjoy the 15 new artworks and the 60 poems all celebrating and modernising Ovid’s Metamorphoses for new audiences. It also includes two great Ovid/poetry and art forewords by classicist Emma Bridges and art critic Anna McNay.

Interactive Pdf Trans 3.1


A few of our Hanse House preparation and exhibition pictures thus far, including our schools’ day:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Everyone  responded so  positively  to the poetry and art. On the Schools’ Day we had a fantastic poetry reading. We had the pupils from King Edward VII’s School reading poetry.  Greg Mackie’s, poem Hope and Defiance got read out by one of the pupils; Eleanor Perry’s  poem of beginning was read out too amongst others. Every Transformer’s poetry was given an airing across the exhibition weekend. The pupils were 100% engaged, and responded to the poetry-art combination amazingly well. Artist, Heather Burns,  described her painting, so did James Mackenzie and Rob Fitzmaurice. Heather also read out Kate Garrett’s Maybe Medea too, as well as James KnightsScylla . And as you can see from the pictures the pupils loved the use of comic strip in Sara Mena’s picture Strength and Disgrace.

Strength and Disgrace by Sara Mena Inspired by Book 9

Strength and Disgrace by Sara Mena Inspired by Book 9


Elizabeth Fernandez’ and Lisa Perz’ comic strip was also praised. The concept of using comic strip as an entry point to complicated material works! There were clusters of pupils  around the comic strip/cartoons. It was great.

The one-word evaluation sheet went down well too- the responses ranged from SICK!, to mystical, to thought-provoking. to powerful, to EPIC! This is really great feedback. Here is  a soundcloud audio that James Mackenzie and I did (having met for the first time) to give you an idea!



In terms of selling paintings we had 7 sales: Lili Morgan, Kelly Occhiuzzo, Charlie Redding (x2), Elaine Offley and James Mackenzie.

The Heritage Open Day was a complete success, and by the end of the day 402 people had heard the Transformers poetry and viewed their pictures. Congratulations to them all!! More pictures of all of this will follow…..

I shall post another update soon!

Thanks so much for your interest!


All good wishes,


Be There at the Start and Help us Make the Virtual Real

21 Apr





I’m thrilled to announce that ArtiPeeps’ Kickstarter Campaign to fund our first large-scale poetry art exhibition ‘Transformations’ has been launched!

Here’s the project shortcode: Do take a look!


  • It features 29 Twitter poets and artists from all over the world and of all ages who have worked together for 15 months virtually on a Contemporary re-working of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
  • It features 60 plus new poems created by 14 emerging Twitter poets

Click here to see some of the poems:

  • It exhibits 15 new multi-medium artworks from 15 emerging and established Twitter artists.
  • The creatives have worked together entirely virtually via ArtiPeeps for the last 15 months and the exhibition will bring us together physically for the first time.

We have also commissioned The Code Crimson (an artist-duo in Florida, USA) to create a large comic strip of some of the stories as an entry point to the material for schools, children and adults. This piece will be exhibited alongside the main exhibition.. Through this exhibition we hope to launch our large-scale exhibition initiative that can be repeated year on year and also our new membership scheme.

Here are some work-in-development images inspired by book 1 of Metamorphoses:

Code Crimson Sample

Venue: The Blue Drawing Room, Hanse House, South Quay, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, UK.

Date: Friday 12th – Sunday 14th September 2014 (part of the National Heritage Open Day on Sunday)

Anticipated Footfall: 700 + people  



Click on the thumbnails to enlarge




  • CREATION: Become a Friend of ArtiPeeps and be thanked on Twitter
  •  WORLDS FORM and HERCULES: poetry-art greetings card featuring  poetry and art from our exhibition, and have your name on a large Wordle in the foyer of the exhibition.
  •  TRANSFORM: Be transformed into a God or Goddess via a caricature by Ryan Atkins
  •  MINERVA: Have a poem written for you, using 3 words of your own choice by our Transformations poets: Kate Garrett, Rebecca Audra Smith, Richard Biddle and Greg Mackie
  •   ATLAS: Have a self-portrait painted by one of our Transformations artists: Sara Mena, Raymond Bentley, Ray Atkins and Diana Probst
  •  MEDEA: Choose from three Giclee Prints from the exhibition artwork
  •  DADEALUS Become an Exhibition Stand Sponsor of a Book from Metamorphoses



IT SHOWCASES a mix of emerging and established social media poets and artists from around the UK and the globe

IT LAUNCHES into the real world our large-scale collaborative exhibition initiative, which we hope to run on a yearly basis, transforming unusual literary pieces and themes year on year

IT FORGES a new ongoing relationship with HANSE HOUSE, a unique exhibition space and development

IT PROJECTS ArtiPeeps and its new, open access membership scheme into the real world

IT INNOVATES using comic strip as an entry point for children and adults to access literature more easily

IT PUTS A CONTEMPORARY TWIST on a remarkable, influential continuous poem and piece of literature

IT CELEBRATES relationships, connection and creativity as we all come together .


Excitingly we have just been offered a provisional grant for £200 from Norfolk County Council. This is towards the £375 it costs to hire Hanse House BUT we still need to raise £4413 to pay for:

  • the marketing of the exhibition
  • the mounting of the poems and pictures
  • the hiring of the exhibition stands
  • the creation of the cartoon.

We need to get Transformations funded so we can make this all real for not only the great, talented 29 creatives involved in this project, but for another 29 and another who will take part in our future projects.


Thank you, as ever, for your interest. All good wishes, Nicky and the Transformers.

‘The Power of the Gallery’ by Chad Swanson

9 Jul



In 1917, Marcel Duchamp submitted a urinal for a gallery exhibition and in the process created what has sometimes be referred to as the most influential art piece of the 20th century. Specifically, Duchamp’s Fountain showed the power of the gallery to take something ordinary and use the sanctity of the gallery to validate it as high art.

Following in Duchamp’s footsteps were the like of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst who built careers about using the gallery to change the context of creativity in order to make art out of things not usually considered to be art. In fact, the process of using the gallery to make art out of the ordinary inspired Sarah Thornton to write in her book Seven Days in the Art World:

 “In Britain , the press never tires of the question, “Is it art? “

 While the gallery may have been the temple of 20th century art, in the 21st century, it is in trouble. As stated by art critic Brian Sherwin, “In the past, galleries– specifically high profile mainstream galleries in large cities– were the only way for an artist to gain wide exposure. If you were not in a gallery you would not end up in art magazines or be talked about outside of your peer group. In other words, if you were not in a gallery you did not exist– you were not even a dot on the art world map. The Internet changed that.”

The declining importance of the gallery not only has significant implications for the commerce surrounding art, it also has significant implications for what we define as art and the process by which art is validated. For example, critics of Damien Hirst used to point out that his work could be done by anyone. In response, Hirst would say, “But you didn’t did you?”

Hirst’s retort really wasn’t really fair considering that not everyone had someone like Charles Saatchi prepared to fund the creation of art and the connections to make it a success. In fact, just getting into a gallery and having work seen by powerful people was almost impossible for most artists.

Now that the internet gives the average artist a platform, they can make art like Damien Hirst and expose their art to others. Of course, when the art audience sees that everyone is able to make art like Hirst, and many in fact do, the likes of Hirst lose their lustre and ability to be seen as innovative.

Just as the gallery has lost much of its power to validate art due to the internet, so has the traditional art media. Where once it could set discussion over questions like “is it art” because it had a monopoly on the market, the internet is showing that perhaps many audiences are looking for more innovative discussions.

Reflecting the new era, we have seen a change in the career pathways of many internationally renowned artists as well as the type of art they produce. For example, the work of Shepard Fairey and Takeshi Murakami seemed to have changed the framework of pop art. Instead of taking iconic imagery and using a gallery to tag with an artists name, Fairey and Murakami create iconic imagery and spread it through the population on clothing and fashion accessories. In another example, graffiti artist Banksy has used the streets and the internet to gain exposure and it was only after gaining exposure outside of the gallery that he chose to exhibit within it. Finally, Andy Goldsworthy has made the environment his gallery and shown his work via art books and documentaries.

Even though galleries are having difficulties, my experiences at the 798 gallery district in Beijing gives me confidence that they can survive if they change their business model and appreciate that the world has changed. Just like art can’t be stuck in the same old processes, neither can galleries, but how galleries needs to change is perhaps saved for another post.



You can find out more about Chad and his art here:

or follow Chad here:


Kobo Art

26 Nov

Hi everyone, I’m back and feel amazingly privileged to have been appointed the English-Art correspondent for Artipeeps! Better make this a good one…..

In my last blog I gave you an insight into my excruciating lack of Twitter knowledge and how I have stumbled through (so far) with my grand plans to reach out to the world and share my artwork to inspire generations to come!!!

Pure luck combined with random persistence meant I somehow managed to get my paintings noticed by ‘Show Us Your Art’ and it was their exhibition in Middlesborough and the feedback and contacts made since then, that led to me moving up the Twitter ladder, from ’Twitter Virgin’ to ‘Twitter Novice’ I suppose, which is a title I am very proud of. A title which, in itself, is an improvement from that of the ‘Twitter Ignoramus’, who basically smashes his fists on the keyboard and gently weeps.

I am now finding Twitter to be an amazing tool for making new contacts and for meeting potential new patrons and have managed to accumulate close to 2000 ‘followers’ basically, I think, by just being myself, trying to be helpful with the limited knowledge I have on the subject, and not going on about myself all the time.

It seems to me that spending about 80% of my ‘Twittertime’ offering advice, and commenting on others’ posts and 20% talking about my own accomplishments (limited though they are to date) seems about right.

I have even found out what ‘hashttag’ means. As in hashtag “EPIC”…..from that annoying TV/Radio advert. I always wondered what the shouty guy was going on about and now I know. Basically you place the ‘#’ in front of a word in one of your tweets and this might be one of the key words that people search for… your tweet could come up countless times from people entering keywords which you have ‘hashtagged’.

Wow I didn’t think I would go on about ‘hashtags’ for quite so long as a few days ago, when I didn’t know what they were. Blimey must stop now. Oh ‘hashtags’….right that’s it. Also everyone reading this probably knows exactly what they are and I’m back to being a Twitter ignoramus; oh well, I’m cool with that.

Right, I’d better start talking about the actual topic of this blog now – Kobo Art:

A friend of mine, Tahir Shah, who now lives and works in Dubai, happened to ‘like’ some of my paintings, which I had uploaded onto Twitter and this lead to the founders of Kobo Art, Shan and Tiya Fazelbhoy, who are associates of Tahir, taking an interest in my work.

I had an email from them asking if I would mind if they uploaded some of my paintings onto their site and collaborate with them in the promotion of my artwork.

Naturally I was overjoyed. Tahir is something of an entrepreneur and one of his new ventures is ‘Moto Roti’, a brand new approach to Pakistani take away in the style of a Subway restaurant. – high quality, healthy, Pakistani food on the go.  Cooking can be as equally creative as composing a piece of artwork or painting a picture. Since University I have been in regular contact with Tahir and below is his last message to me.

“James, I’m trying to make that bread that my mum made, when we were at Uni, famous. If Mexico have their burrito, and Turkey its pitta bread why can’t roti be used as wraps? Imagine my mum’s food that you used to eat, as the filings, healthy and delicious!”

Tahir is clearly trying to produce food formed from not only his own personal history,  but also his own culinary imagination and creativity, and it is transparent that this passion has fed into his other ventures. I could go on about how delicious the food produced at Moti Roti is, but that is for another time…but here is a link!

“Dubai-based entrepreneur has comfort food all wrapped up”

And you can read an article here:

Ok, so Kobo Art is an online art gallery launched in May 2012. Kobo provides a platform for showcasing upcoming UAE (United Arab Emirates) based artists and their aim is to make art accessible and affordable.

As you need to be based in the UAE to have your artwork advertised on the Kobo art site, they also have a range of international artists on their very popular Facebook site.

This is linked to the main site and a page has been very kindly dedicated to my artwork:

The premise of the company is to provide art lovers with a platform and opportunity to sell and buy high quality original art that is accessible and affordable, and they say that they are committed to providing a platform for upcoming artists to showcase their work and for art enthusiasts to be able to start a collection or add to an existing one.

Through their website, and also very popular private viewings Kobo aim to build a community for artists and art lovers and hope to enhance the visibility of art via an online presence, where quality art work is easily available.

“Art is about what appeals to your senses and adds beauty to your life, whether in your home or work place or given as a gift through our Kobo vouchers.”

“The idea to set-up this business literally just popped into my head one evening about a year back. It sounded like an idea worth pursuing and ever since, it has been a question of working towards making it a reality.” Shan Fazelbhoy

We started Kobo to provide a platform for UAE based artists to exhibit their art and the positive response has been overwhelming”  Tiya Fazelbhoy

Shan also says that during this process, it would obviously be difficult to identify any one thing as a challenge; they had to stay focused, working systematically, one step at a time towards their goal. Of course, (they say) they have encountered frustrations along the way but none of these have been insurmountable. Their motivating factor has and continues to be the opportunity to be involved in something that they love while providing a space for artists, building a community and creating awareness that art can and is for everybody.

“The positive response from people, especially artists, here in the U.A.E. and internationally has been immense and is a huge help in reinforcing the fact that we are providing a much needed service which in turn is an impetus to constantly work towards and build on what we have set out to do.” Tiya Fazelbhoy


James Mackenzie Chilling in Dubai!


Those of you who read my previous blog, may see a theme  emerging here.

I sincerely believe that there should be simple ways to allow previously unrecognised artists and their work to seen by the general public. The intervention of new technology such as Twitter and Facebook and other social media means that, at last, Art can be seen by all and new talents enjoyed by anyone.

I have always had a passion for art and was encouraged by teachers, family and friends who told me that I had a talent. As a result I have always created, whether it was for an exhibition or just for personal pleasure.

For me there is nothing as exciting as a blank canvas. I love to completely immerse myself in my art without even the distraction of music. I can work for hours in an almost educed state just creating a purely original piece of artwork containing my own thoughts and visions.

I have accumulated a mass of artwork over the years that has just been stored away all over the house, for no one other than me to see and keep locked away in the back of my mind.

The internet has been an amazing tool to allow me to unveil this work to whoever cares to see it. I have generally been overwhelmed by the response to my artwork and this has inspired me to produce more and as a result one of our bedrooms has now been converted into an art studio!

I take so much pleasure in creating art. For decades I have been disillusioned by the whole art scene. Now I can instantly upload my latest paintings to my website and get an instant response! Truly amazing.

The internet and the injection of social media has made such a difference to my life and, no doubt that of countless other previously undiscovered and similarly disenchanted artists.


You can follow Jamie via Twitter:

or look at his artwork on his website: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________


  • If you haven’t already found it you can  find your  second dose of flash fiction with Laura Besley -Here:  ‘Flash Fortnightly’ 
  • A new recurring strands starts this week : ‘Classic Friday’. Watch out for the first instalment on Friday 30th, Stimulating Classic Literature reviews with NISHA MOODLEY
  • Also there’s our FabFiction And Poetry Page featuring KATE GARRETTTIFFANY COFFMAN & KARIN HEYER. Please do get in contact with me if you’d like to contribute to this page- Either via the comment box or Twitter @ArtiPeeps
  • Oh yes, and I’m pleased to say we’re going to be shortly adding some Music orientated blogs with our latest new contributor TANIA HALBAN

In Search of Stevie Smith

5 Nov

A few weeks ago I listened to  a BBC podcast* and on it was an artist called Sarah Pickstone who had just won the John Moore award for painting with her piece entitled ‘Stevie Smith and the Willow’ (see left) inspired by Stevie Smith’s poem ‘Not Waving but Drowning’.

In the interview she talked about ‘making connections‘  ‘finding things together’ in her work. In her painting Pickstone took Stevie’s illustration for ‘Not Waving But Drowning’  and placed it amidst a mass of  willows. ‘A forceful gentleness’ one critic stated, dealing with the important issue of death and the ‘relief which can be found in death’.  This made me intrigued about ‘the shadow and story’ as the interviewer put it, ‘ that lurked behind the painting’, and indeed about the relationship between a  story communicated in a piece of art and the object itself. It made me want to explore and connect,  just like Sarah Pickstone. To connect with Stevie Smith and her work.

This post follows the connections I made, the seemingly random paths that were thrown up at me as I started to explore Stevie Smith. What lies ahead is a creative trail which touches (curiously and without intention) on all of the ideas and themes raised in the podcast….I thought I’d share the multi-form excursions I’ve been on this week  with you because they inspired me and made me think, and introduced me to new writers and artists and I wanted this for you too: from beginning to end. Beginning with Stevie and ending with Stevie.

Firstly a bit of a Biography about Stevie, to contextualise, to pave the way :

Stevie Smith was an English poet, novelist and illustrator who was born in 1902. Her father ran away to sea when she was 3 and she belonged to a church-going family. For the majority of her life Stevie had an ambiguous relationship with religion-an agnostic with a predisposition towards belief. As a child Stevie suffered from a very severe bout of Tuberculosis, often fearing for her life (death always felt near, and became a constant subject in her poetry later). Her mother died and she began to live with her aunt who she cared for until her aunt’s death in 1968. In the interim Stevie became a secretary and  published her first novel called Novel On Yellow Paper in 1936. A stream of consciousness novel based on her life. Her first book of poetry appeared in 1937 (‘A Good Time Was Had By All’). In 1953 she had a crisis at work and life became difficult  and ended with Stevie attempting to cut her wrists. In 1957 she published her collection. ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ which contained the poem we’re focusing on here.  In the 1960s Stevie was very popular and gave lots of poetry readings. In 1970 she began to have difficulties  finding words and she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She died in 1971.

See Strange-Attractor website for more biographical detail


The video below was where I began; it gave me my first real glimpse of her. The above was  her life, and the video was her:  her  ‘ take’ on her relationship to her writing; her strident voice ringing out. It was the ‘how & the why’ of writing that reached out to me initially in its simplicity:

It was her choice of words that particularly grabbed me in her mini-talk. How striking they were and odd, slightly askew with her and her very precise persona. Words like ‘gnawing‘ and ‘pressure‘, and ‘ease‘, as if there was something seething underneath, something that will- out. It was this bubbling- underneath- the- surface-something  that drew me on…

She talks about the frequent  questions that everybody asks her: how and why she writes, and she states that her poetry comes from the experience of her own life, the ‘experience and the fancies’. She writes to give herself  EASE and RELIEF  and for herself- not the reader-not you or I. And this word ‘relief ‘, made a connection backwards, took me back to what the interviewer had said about Sarah Pickstone’s work, her painting as ‘a relief from the world’.

The poem and the painting -a means of relief.  Sarah Pickstone +Stevie Smith  (Making a connection (1))

Furthermore, while her poems are being written ‘NOBODY comes into it at all’. Writing for that moment has nothing to do with the reader and everything to do with the ease that the expulsion of the idea/object can bring to the  creator.

This lead me to a further connection :  ART & WRITING as expulsion. (Making a connection (2))

There was something dark and pressing inside Stevie  that ‘GNAWED‘ at her and this took on a variety of  forms and pressures.

The ‘PRESSURE’ of life: of earning, of work, of relationships, of knowledge, of despair, of pleasure, of funniness.

Lots and lots of weight.

And it was the word pressure that struck me: the sheer force and weight of life on her; a downward motion and not a reaching up; a drowning and not a waving. It seems to me that Stevie was actually more interested in the drowning. In the deathly quality of life and she grappled with this through lightness,  simplicity and a delicacy of prose. The poem inspired by a newspaper article  had  clearly disturbed her deeply, maybe the feeling inside, so disturbing to her that it needed to be  expelled ? Was it actually feeling she did not like? Was it perhaps that Stevie was frightened of the sheer weight of her emotions? Being frightened of pure feeling and then putting it into poetry and in so doing placing  it far, far away? It’s unclear.

Stevie also had a tendency to illustrate her works, as she said, ‘drawing often inspires a poem’. Like her poetry her illustrations are sparse, scratchy, caricature like. Veiled by their simplicity and their child-like quality.

Here is the text of ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ and the illustration:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,   
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought   
And not waving but drowning.


Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   
They said.

 Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   

(Still the dead one lay moaning)   
I was much too far out all my life   
And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith, “Not Waving but Drowning” from Collected Poems of Stevie Smith. Copyright © 1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: New Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1988)

It  seems to me  that it was always too cold for Stevie, and this inclination towards ‘drowning’  was allieviated and managed by her need to COMMUNICATE  this unease and to do so through simple structures. It was actually more about the process than the story, even though it was the story that started it off.
In an essay by Stevie on her poem ‘My Muse’ she says:
‘All poetry has to do is to make a strong communication. All a poet has to do is listen’ .
Her art, it seems,  is about  creating a channel, a pathway through which her  meaning can be communicated-simply and purely. This need to communicate took me to  HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-)  a semi-abstract painter and a great admirer of Stevie who has also been similarly admonished for his simplicity of style. Here in a quote taken from an interview in the Independent in 2009 :
‘the naivety of Stevie Smith is one of the things I have in common with her and in the past I found I had to be rather defensive about that’
It’s as if being clear and broad-stroked is a bad thing.
Then there followed a discussion about simplicity and meaning.  As the journalist states:
‘So the critics who want to argue for complexity want to know the stories, because how can you understand a painting if you don’t know the story behind it? But what in the end, has a story got to do with a painting? A painting, surely, is like a poem. It’s an experience which undergoes a long, painstaking, often painful process of transformation-alchemy if you like- to become something else….The story behind it…it’s a different thing. Isn’t it?
“Yes”. says Hodgkin, “it’s something totally different”
So the story behind ‘Not Waving Not Drowning’, doesn’t really matter. It’s the process of transformation that matters, the process of expulsion. It’s the fact that Stevie needed to expel it that counts. And it’s the same in both forms- art and poetry (Making a connection 3). The newspaper article inspired Stevie but that’s it, the story behind it doesn’t matter. It’s more the simple act of producing and connecting that counts.
The process, ‘the getting something out’ is what joins the two forms. It’s the same hard, simple  journey.
that took me to GEORGE GROSZ:
A German caricaturist known for his searing drawings of war-time  Berlin. Born in 1893 dying in 1953 and who has been considered an influence on Stevie. You can see the edgy similarity of their drawing styles. The depth hidden behind their simplicity. Everything is up for grabs; up for interpretation.
Grosz said:
‘My aim is to be understood by everyone. I reject the ‘depth’ that people demand nowadays….A day will come when the artist will no longer be this bohemian, puffed-up anarchist but a healthy man working in clarity‘ 
Stevie, Hodgkin  and Grosz all share a need to just communicate through simplicity…Overtly rejecting depth but actually through the rejection engaging with it completely….
…..which took me to not only a semi-contemporary of Stevie’s  SYLVIA PLATH (a huge fan of her work)  but also to a line drawing  by a contemporary artist called  Summer Pierre .
You’ll find Pierre’s line drawing below, where I found these words,
‘Everything is Useful. Everything is Material‘, says Plath.
In the same way Stevie looked to the horror / or the ‘disturbing’ in the newspapers,   Plath used ‘everything’ to make simple connections which can then be used create a poem or a piece of art. (Making a connection (4))
which led me finally to this:
Here, Plath too acknowledges a space, a different intention behind the actual process of writing and the actual thing that exists after it is made.  For her it’s ‘after something happens to you’, for Stevie it’s when something is ‘eating at her’ or like Grosz when the sheer horror of the savagery of war-torn Berlin got too much for him.
My search for Stevie took me down this creative trail, through all these diverse artist all interlinked by a SIMPLE need to express and not to complicate. Extraordinary that such complexity and diversity of people can be interlinked by something so pure.
Pickstone+Smith+Hodgkin+Grosz+Plath+Pierre. Me. You.
Making Connections.
As always, thank you for your interest and any feedback or suggestions are always welcome!
  • ‘Flash Fortnightly’ starts this Wednesday  with Laura Besley– Your fortnightly dose of short fiction!
  • Alastair Cook, Full-time artist using film & photography. Director of  projects such as  ‘FilmPoems’, will be our guest blogger next Monday sharing a review of the  work he’s done this Summer with North Light via an article by Michael MacLeod, a freelance journalist.
  • Susan O’ Reilly has 4 new poems on her ‘Visitor Peep Page’
  • FabFiction Page Starting Soon…for anyone wishing to share their  short fiction or poetry, and you may get the odd author profile too. Do get in contact if you’d like to contribute.
  • Several other new initiatives are percolating…so watch this space!

Show Us Your Art – Middlesborough Exhibition

15 Oct

Just before I take you through a journey of dicovery a few words about who I am and why I am writing this blog. My name is James Mackenzie, I am an artist/teacher and art lover. I have recently put my work out there on the world wide web and am starting to get noticed. My website address is I really don’t want to go on about myself so that’s it. Oh and Facebook and of course Twitter That really is it! Here we go……

I am relatively new to Twitter and when this exhibition was advertised I was a complete novice. Early on I ‘Followed’ basically every major Art related page and also top art critiques……I quickly found that I was not getting quite as many ‘Follow’s back’ as I would have liked, actually none!

One of the Art pages I was following was ‘Show Us Your Art’, they were holding a large scale exhibition supported by the award winning Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima). They had commented on my artwork and said I should enter the exhibition. This was the opportunity I was waiting for but had no idea of the magnitude of the exhibition at this point.

These are the compositions that were chosen, Desolate Blue 1 and Desolate Blue 2

All works were judged by a panel of local experts, but unlike other art festivals, entry is free and the judges don’t get to see the name of the artist whose work they’re looking at.

I was lucky enough to have two of my compositions selected by the panel to be in the ‘Show Us Your Art’ exhibition in Middlesborough from Friday, September 21 to Sunday, September 23.

The Works were exhibited in locations including the BBC Open Centre, The Cleveland Centre, mima itself and in shops along Linthorpe Road, such as Psyche, Red Square and Triads.

The aim of the exhibition was to get art out and on display and not hidden away. A chance for unknown artists to have their work seen.

Unbelievably in the UK eighty per cent of the country’s art is in storage. This is Artwork owned by the people and paid for using their taxes. A real shame.

The ‘Show Us Your Art’ website has really opened my eyes to the art world. I discovered that investment groups often buy up the works of promising young artists and lock them away in containers, knowing that only one of them has to become successful for them to make a fortune.

In the meantime, this economic trap sees years and years’ worth of artists’ hard work, meant to be seen, to provoke debate, to inspire, never see the light of day and the artists who toiled so long to create them remain unseen.

Show Us Your Art wanted to change this and get the artwork into the public arena where it can be seen and appreciated. I began to realise how lucky I was to be a part in this.

Virtual Gallery

An additional 34 excellent works were viewed on the ‘virtual gallery’. There were posters in windows all around Middlesborough town center carrying QR codes. That is the image above…….a QR code. It is an ingenious way to gain extra exposure of the artwork there just wasn’t the room for. The QR code was a way for people to see the artwork by simply scanning with their phone.

The exhibition had no funding no sponsorship and no entrance fee. It was purely the art loving community getting together to make it possible for artwork to be seen and artists discovered.

Curator Emily Petyt said, “The response has been amazing. People look down at places like Middlesbrough, because they think there’s no culture here”.

“But we asked local artists to send in their work. There are no prizes, no money, but we still got nearly 300 entries in three weeks”.

“We put out a shout for volunteers and said, ‘meet us in a café’; they filled the place. There’s some real talent and a real passion for art in this area and people from outside should really come and check it out.”

Senior curator at mima, James Beighton said, “mima is always interested in engaging with people in the area who are wanting to do something with art and that’s very important.

“So it was a bit of a no brainer to be honest, when a group of people come to us and say, ‘We want to provide exposure to a greater number of artists.’ Of course you’re going to want to support that.”

Show Us Your Art’s founder, Graeme Thomson said: “This is about people, more than anything. There’s a lot of real talent around here and all we’re doing is letting Teesside shout about its artists, and letting artists shout about Teesside.”

The exhibition was a huge success, just take a look at the review on the BBC website:

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