Paper Festival 2021: Manchester


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Paper Festival
Manchester Central Library January-March 2021 and Nexus Art Cafe January 15th – February 15th 2021

A selected exhibition of collage, cut-outs, painting, print, text-based and interdisciplinary work celebrating the scope and beauty of paper-based art.

Manchester Central Library
St Peters Square,
City Centre, M2 5PD

Nexus Art Cafe
2 Dale Street, 
M1 1JW116905823_3638978736130868_4788168133495523507_oOn the Balcony: collage 54x54cm


Liberty leading the People; after Delacroix: collage 63x80cm

Work during Lockdown: ‘Target’ pieces: April-July 2020


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fbTarget11‘Target #11’ oil on canvas 59.5x 84cm

fbTarget12Target #12 oil on canvas 61x80cm

100931778_3450714261623984_2229514662905380864_oTarget #13 oil on canvas 58×80

Target 15Target #14 2020 oil on canvas 65x85cm

fbTarget14Target #15 2020 oil on canvas 60.5×60.5cm

Target 16Target #16: oil on canvas 91x91cm

fbTarget 18Target #17 oil on canvas 61x76cm

fb Target19Target #18 oil on canvas 60x86cm


Target #19 oil on canvas 61x54cm

and Target#20 on the easels; work in progress. oil on unstretched canvas 92x134cm…

target studio

New Light Art Prize: Promo video


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A lockdown Q&A with Sarah Mate; Collections Manager @New Light

On a career as a scenic artist, working through a lockdown [with consequent effects on hair styling], working methods, on being shortlisted for the New Light Art Prize and the benefits resulting from that.

June 2020

Inspirational Magazine: issue #39


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Target Caught at the wallTarget  Caught at the wall 100x140cm

An online interview with Inspirational magazine’s editor, John Hopper

As a youth visiting the local art gallery and the town hall, the ranks of provincial dignitaries, by turns ruddy and ochreous, each emerging from their oily black backgrounds, very nearly put me off art for life. As it was, painting was peripheral to my main studies which were geared towards the humanities. Inspired by the reportage of Cameron, Wheeler and Pilger,  a career in journalism beckoned. I derailed any plans in that direction by taking a gap year to earn some money for university studies. I began to work more seriously on drawing and painting and a few weeks before my enrolment  at St. Andrews University to read Modern History, I applied instead to take an arts foundation. This signposted the well-worn route through art college and to a career as an art tutor. It seemed likely that I was going to become a part-time painter, in the spare time which teaching duties allowed me.

Everybody deserves one fortunate break in their life; mine was being accepted as a trainee at BBC Television Centre in London. This was in effect my post-graduate course -with the added bonus that I was being paid a salary to study.

I was given technical training to equip me with the skills to tackle large-scale canvases. Once you have painted a backdrop 60ft high by 250ft long, large scale work holds no terrors. I used to agonise over every brushstroke at college. As a scenic artist, up against real deadlines, that thinking time was a luxury I could no longer afford. Working to the clock is an essential concept which all professional artists need to grasp as quickly as possible. Scenic painting was a career which entailed me drawing and painting every day of my working life. Not many art tutors are able to do that. There was also a degree of professional peer recognition at play. Two projects on which I headed the scenic artwork team won BAFTA awards for the designer to  which I was directly responsible; “Portrait of a Marriage” 1989; and “Persuasion” 1994.

This career which lasted for fourteen years provided opportunities for me to develop trompe-l’oeil techniques and visual trickery on an industrial scale. The working environment with its faintly surreal visual discordances between reality and illusion has provided me with much source material ever since. “Smoke and Mirrors”, with its theatre played in front of a canvas backdrop and cut-out clouds is an example.

smoke and mirrorsSmoke and Mirrors 176x142cm

It seems natural to me that an artist should relate their ideas to a fellow human using the figure as a vehicle. The use of an abstract visual language never offered me the required vocabulary with which to make my thoughts communicable. It lacks the necessary element of deception.

For many years , portraiture featured quite prominently in my art. The face and, to a lesser extent, the hands are features with which we make connection with each other. I explored physical flaws and minor blemishes across the surfaces of even the most attractive of individuals. Needless to say, my talents were not in great demand, though because I have always operated outside the gallery system and never needed to produce saleable product, this wasn’t a problem for me.

With recent work, a sense of anonymity is more important than an accumulation of individual details. Facial features may be obscured by shadow to present the figure as an ‘everyman’ or ‘everywoman’ so that the audience may more easily identify with the motif’s situation. lighting is arranged to cast shadows which veil any evidence of individuality.

Though my first love was the immediacy of drawing, and I have worked in the disciplines of video and graphic novels, Painting is the medium I always return to. It is primitive; in essence, it is the use of coloured mud  refined with some basic chemistry. Some of it was already available to our oldest ancestors.. It has a history. I know how old-fashioned this hands-on concept of making is in the age of the lithium-ion battery, the iPad and the Corel Painting Suite, but a medium which can encompass surfaces as varied as those of Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Auerbach and Close has me under its perpetual spell. From the very first, I was enraptured by its potential to create a variety of effects far exceeding its twentieth century nemesis, film emulsion.

I suppose I am now closely associated with paintings which focus on the male form. This hasn’t always been the case. Because I tend to work direct from models rather than from images generated in my head, my figure painting has always been governed by the models available to me. At foundation, my life drawings were all studies of the female form as there were no male models available to us. At Kingston upon Hull college, the most reliable model was male. Because the staff there had a low regard for figurative painting, I was able to utilise him on a one-to-one basis for almost two years.  Thereafter, the gender ratio featuring across my work was about 50:50. Recently, I have been using myself as a model, working with video to produce stills as source material. Photographs provide only a certain degree of information for the artist to use, but  life drawing experience informs the eye and compensates for that shortfall. I can now see a photograph and know how the surface contour of that shoulder muscle disappears beyond the shown outline of that figure.

The use of self as model was a response to my need to work with more extreme poses which I could not expect anyone else to hold for long. [The ‘Consignment’ series required me to film my movements around the interior of a 1 metre cubed crate.  ‘The closely paired projects, Target’ and ‘Barcode’ employ body shapes which would be difficult to hold for any length of time]  As it is these recent works which have received most coverage, it is the male nude with which I am most closely associated.

A viewer stood in front of an artwork brings his or her life experiences to the table; -they cannot possibly help it. Their circumstances, or their specific mood at the moment of encounter, are bound to colour the verdict they deliver on one’s work. I fully embrace this meeting of minds by presenting works with just enough ambiguity to encourage an audience to complete the picture. In this very real sense, all art is collaborative.

Nothing dates quite so badly as overtly political painting. The moment passes, the target moves on and the artwork is rendered redundant. Polemical, didactic art by definition reveals its content immediately, leaving nothing to revisit. Of course my oeuvre is punctuated with projects which  address socio-political issues and I hope that I have communicated these successfully.

Batch 31 unit3Consignment: Batch 31 unit3  60x60cm

Although I hope that my work can be appreciated on a purely aesthetic level, much of my work is propelled by socio-political subtext. I suppose I have always found myself rooting for the underdog. The poor, the oppressed, the isolated, the outsider barely clinging on to the edge of the social structure. Consignment” developed from an initial theme of escapology into a response to human trafficking and extraordinary rendition. “Smoke and Mirrors” addressed political spin, social disenfranchisement, the ecological movement and feminism, with specific characters representing particular social traits.

Consignment is a multi-media project comprising paintings, prints and film. The work The composition of the figure physically enclosed within the confines of the frame, was chosen for its universality; it suggests simultaneously both cell and refuge or hiding place. It is employed here as a visual metaphor for the individual as the object of:

1 political oppression; the suspension of human liberties and the enforced submission of the individual.

2 human trafficking. The high risk strategies employed in acts of global transmigration, either voluntary or coerced, place people in situations of extreme endurance; conditions into which they are willing to place themselves and/or others, in the vain hope of improving their economic circumstances.

Barcode [Red Ground]Barcode [Red Ground]  59x88cm

The Barcode series reflects our unquestioning complicity in a socio -economic system where the individual is reduced to a mere unit of production and consumption, with a given value like any other commodity. The paintings are designed to act as a warning of this process. If the audience grasps these concepts, fine. If a viewer judges my output simply on aesthetic grounds of colour and composition, That is also their prerogative. These are artworks, not polemics.

People are hardwired to construct narratives from any likely source material and paintings like “The Death of Richthofen” and “Human Bridge” offer themselves as a frozen present point in time. The viewer is invited to conjecture upon what preceded this moment, and what will happen next.

Human BridgeHuman Bridge  122x122cm

RichtofenDeath of Richthofen  176x112cm

During the lockdown I have been revisiting a project which I commenced a couple of years ago.

“Target” began as a response to conventional state surveillance of the individual through comprehensive CCTV systems employed throughout the ‘free’ West. It also referenced attempts by various agencies to track footprints through cyberspace. This accumulated data, together with information freely offered up by the subjects themselves, processed through the use of sophisticated algorithms, produces a specific profile which can be sold on to companies. If this is a retail corporation, they may offer more or less meretricious commercial rewards. In the hands of those controlling state apparatus and financial interests, the consequences may be far less benevolent.

The emphasis of this suite has subtly shifted towards the aspects of isolation and control implicit in current government policy. The limitations on travel [with the glaring exceptions of certain individuals close to the seat of power at Westminster] and the restrictions on assembly may seem perfectly valid, but this is preventing the operation of restraints on state activity which are the essence of our democracy. As the Covid19 message is being waved up against your face with one hand to divert your attention, do not be distracted away from what the other hand may be doing out of direct sight…

Lockdown has curtailed much exhibition activity, but my next exhibition will be with “Room 103: a  tribute to the work of George Orwell”. This began as an online gallery blog which I curate, where like-minded artists could display any work reflecting themes to be found in Orwell’s writings. Each artist provided a brief statement on how Orwell has influenced either their practice generally, or a specific body of artwork in particular. Images accompanied their text. From the beginning, I saw this as a virtual window display to attract the attention of a bricks and mortar gallery. Consequently, I have curated selections from “Room 103” In galleries in Manchester and Leeds, and at the University of Oxford. A further exhibition has been arranged for before the end of the year in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

I regularly show with:

Saul Hay Gallery, Manchester

Royal Birmingham Society of Artists:  Group shows, based in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham

Royal Watercolour society of Wales: exhibits throughout Wales with European exchanges

Aberystwyth Printmakers


John Hopper – Inspirational editor. Supporting the working artist.

Inspirational can be purchased for instant download from the following link:

The Inspirational magazine  archive can be found at:

FOURTEEN MOVIES: for a C.19 Shutdown


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Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 



Joe Gillis: “You used to be big.”

Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 



Ed Murrow: “If none of us had ever read a dangerous book or had a friend who was different, never joined an organization that advocated change, we’d all be just the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day Three: THE BIG LEBOWSKI [1998]


Dude: “This is a very complicated case Maude. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous.”

Stranger:“Do you have to use so many cuss words?”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 



Myra Savage: “What we are doing is a means to an end. Now you agree with the end, don’t you? Well then you must agree with the means! You can’t have one without the other.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 



Harry Caul: “I’ve been involved in some work that I think, I think will be used to hurt these two young people. It’s happened to me before.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day six: THE GENERAL [1926]


Johnnie Gray: “If you lose this war don’t blame me.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day seven: BEFORE SUNSET [2004]


Celine: “I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people with whom you’ll connect with. Later in life, you realise it only happens a few times.” 

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day Eight: KES [1969]


Billy Caspar: “It’s fierce, an’ it’s wild, an’ it’s not bothered about anybody, not even about me right. And that’s why it’s great.” …

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 



Sullivan: “I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions, stark realism, the problems that confront the average man.”
Studio Boss: “But with a little sex.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day Ten: CHINATOWN [1974]


Noah Cross: “You may think you know what you’re dealing with, but, believe me, you don’t.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day Eleven: THE LIVES OF OTHERS [2006]

lives of others - cinema quad movie poster (2).jpg

Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler: “Do you even know what the Stasi is?”

Young Child: “Yes. My dad says they’re bad men who put people in prison.”

Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler: “I see. What is the name of your…” [pauses]


Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 



Jonathan Zimmermann: “Why did you spread this rumour that I am with one foot in the grave?”

Tom Ripley: “That day we were introduced at the auction? You said, ‘I’ve heard of you.’ You said that in a very nasty way.”

Jonathan Zimmermann “That was all?”

Tom Ripley: “Isn’t that enough?”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day Thirteen: HIGH HOPES [1988]


Martin: “Your best bet is to form yourself a little company. Let all the other wallies do the dirty work while you sit in happy valley collecting the dosh.”

Cyril: “I wouldn’t do that on principle.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day Fourteen: BICYCLE THIEVES [1948]


Antonio: “I’ve been cursed since the day I was born.”

Movies across 14 Days of Self-Isolation. 

Day Fifteen:

Well, you can’t be too careful. So during an extra day of voluntary quarantine, why not feast your eyes on diamonds -courtesy of Powell and Pressburger. 

One [or all] from:












Bad Housekeeping:


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 ‘The Housekeeper’ by Morna Regan.

Production by the Attic Players, Newcastle Emlyn  Feb. 28th, 2020


In the Columbia Spectator of August 23, 2013, Agnieszka Sablinska described Morna Regan’s ‘The Housekeeper’ as “30 minutes of a terrifyingly distasteful attempt at comedy involving an old man with Huntington’s disease”. I can only suggest that that show had gone badly wrong in New York and that she should have instead attended the Attic Theatre’s production in Newcastle Emlyn last evening.

After delivering another finely crafted comedy in December for us to enjoy during those now golden hours before we fell over the cliff of the General Election result, the Attic Players earned the right to present much darker and challenging fare last night.

‘The Housekeeper’ introduces itself as a faintly surreal comedy, with a figure wearing a head torch cleaning a darkened room, confronted by another woman wielding a hammer. We are looking in on a house which is self-evidently too large for its current owner-occupiers and has been stormed by a stranger laden with sleeping bags for herself and her children who are in the car outside, waiting for their mother’s ‘all clear’. There follows a dialogue between the two on dispossession, poverty, inheritance and social worth. This claim to squatter’s rights may seem simplistic and twenty years ago would have played as farce. With homeless figures for the UK calculated by Shelter at 320,000 and rising, these arguments now require serious consideration.
Once homeowner Beth realises that interloper Mary is going nowhere else very soon, she realises that this desperate single parent may actually present an opportunity for her to escape from her own version of purgatory. Terms for Mary to earn the right to stay are negotiated. The price will be high. She is to be assigned the task of taking care of Hal, Beth’s husband. Act one ends with Beth on the threshold; finally in a position to leave her own fifteen year long emotionally frozen hell, from which money has failed to provide insulation.

The second act reveals the play’s deeper psychology. Mary’s fragile moral high ground is cruelly undermined by Hal. He wants to continue administering mental torture to his wife that she may share an equivalence of his physical suffering. Offering Mary a healthy inducement to exit his preferred status quo, she all too readily takes the bait -once the price is doubled and underwritten as “tax-free”. Beth exposes Hal’s ploy as just one more in a long line of financial scams. From that point, Mary is witness to the fallout from a desiccated marriage founded on finance and poisoned by a chromosome defection which has taken their only son. There are echoes here of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Mamet’s meditations on the corrupting colours of money.

I tend to resist singling out Attic performers by name in reviews. This is a company devoted to presenting a collective best for their audience and should be considered as one unified team. However, last night, all three artists earned mention. They brought out all the humanity of their three flawed characters, through three flawless performances.


One must hope that, for the sake of his family that John Franks doesn’t subscribe to the method acting school, because tonight he looked physically transformed; weak, ill and impotent. His performance rendered the references in the script to his body odour superfluous; the [metaphorical] reek of his carcass registered in the fifth row. This was a physical performance par excellence, but by no means a two-dimensional characterisation. Even a leftie might feel some sympathy for his Hal. Yes; once a financier with a chilling ethos “the only reason you and people like you are honest is that you’ve never had the opportunity to be anything else.” Now a broken spirit yet still sharp-witted man who knows exactly what it means to be entrapped in a body operating beyond his control. A flaccid bag of a man, leaking foul oaths and bodily fluids from all his orifices; but still able to hold the guilt of condemning his son to an accelerated version of the disease now claiming his own bones. Extraordinary.


Melanie Davies can always be relied upon to change emotional gear with smooth precision. Her initial outward persona is unsympathetic, patronising and spiteful. her Beth becomes, with a costume change, a physically transformed woman. Her now elegant bearing as she prepares to leave Hal, hints at what she may have made of herself if only she could have had the courage and spine to escape her marriage vows and the ties of social convention years earlier. Instead, she has chosen to suffer the humiliations of her husband’s past affairs and his mental cruelty for money and security. She too has her price. As usual, Ms Davies is able to convey so much more than her scripted words offer us.

Carrying the role as the outside agency which disrupts the mechanism of this decaying yet stable relationship, Claire Woolley is assigned the onerous role of onstage witness to events for much of the second act. When you know that the two active players in a passage of action are going to be faultless, one is able to watch more closely the passive third actor. The timing and pitch of Ms. Woolly’s reactions to the scene unfolding before her was timed and pitched to perfection throughout.

Excellent direction through this challenging material was provided by Semele Xerri.

I left the Attic last evening evening feeling emotionally drained rather than uplifted. I think the majority of the audience felt the same. There are some very funny lines in ‘Housekeeper’, but the responsive viewer is quickly ambushed by a rapid rejoinder which strangles the laughter and creates a feeling of disquiet. However, I did feel that I had witnessed something quite profound and illuminating. For this is what theatre -well played theatre, can present to the audience fortunate enough to have been present on that night. As a result of this latest Attic offering, I resolve never to get old and decrepit, or if I have to, at least show a little common decency as I am doing it…
Glenn Ibbitson Feb. 29th 2020

The Surveillers and the Surveilled: more Moth Watercolours


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Black RusticLa Vigile Rustica Nera


68286451_2782970751731675_8729919318617227264_oThe Writer

52797000_2500574306637989_1828467680709967872_nThe Inverted Character

early grey2Tenniel


ObsessionThe Obsessive

FrostedMan bThe Frosted Man

Faded GloryFaded Glory

MinorThe Minor

Sentinell’Agent Provocateur

SentrySelf Portrait in a Minor key

SilverYLong Sight

Sleeper WatchesThe Dissident

WatchingWatching and Waiting


Woman under Grey ArchesWoman behind Grey Arches

All watercolour on paper  all 61x43cm except;

La Vigile Rustica Nera: 50x35cm

Self -Portrait in a Minor Key: 43×30.5cm

Faded Glory: 51x30cm

l’Agent Provocateur: 43.5x31cm