Tag Archive: Artists at Work


The art of Cooperation

The coop’s new comic book – image from the Cooperative, via The Guardian

I’ve always been a big supporter of the cooperative ideal – and I’ve been a member of various cooperatives since I was a kid. Nowadays, you can shop in a cooperative supermarket and bank with a cooperative bank – but did you know you could watch a match played by a cooperative football team? (Barcelona FC, apparently – as well as the Green Bay Packers American Football team in the US) Or drink cooperative-produced cranberry juice? (Ocean Spray) In fact, did you know that more people work for cooperatives than for multinationals?

There’s a lot I don’t know about the cooperative movement (I didn’t know there was a Co-Operative political party, for example) and I’m clearly not the only one. To help raise awareness of all that they do, the cooperative movement have turned to art: releasing a comic book and a film about the movement, its history, its ideals and its potential.

2012 is the 168th anniversary for Britain’s Cooperative stores, and there have, over the years, always been plenty of art-based events that celebrate its principles. Back in May, the FutureEverything festival celebrated the “extraordinary artistic and political possibilities” of advances in technology, explicitly linking together art and the political radicalism of the cooperative movement. And Young Cooperatives have been using art competitions to raise awareness of Fair Trade and other cooperative enterprises.

We have a number of small independent shops in Oswestry which stock Fair Trade and other goods produced by cooperatives – Rowanthorn, Honeysuckle, The Gates, and I’m sure there are others. Is there any way we could, under the Art Works banner, help use our art to celebrate and promote awareness in Oswestry?

Anitya: Sensation (vedana)

The second print in my series Anitya is up now in Rowanthorn. Mike has some handouts with further information on the print and the series, if you’re interested.

Thanks to everyone who’s visited for the interesting comments on the first two prints in the series. The style of the prints is something of a departure for me, and an attempt to fuse two very different traditions together. It’s been great to be able to use Rowanthorn as a space to exhibit an experimental piece like this.

Archangel Michael – detail from an icon by Aidan Hart. via http://www.aidanharticons.com

The golden work of Shropshire-based icon painter and sculptor Aidan Hart have been featured at Rowanthorn on Beatrice St. in Oswestry for several months now, but this weekend was the first time I’d been in there for a proper look. Mike Coppick gave me a brief tour of the icons by Aidan Hart he has up for sale – small-scale reproductions made – appropriately enough – near Mt. Athos, in Greece.

Aidan Hart is member of the Orthodox Church and has been painting professionally for Orthodox churches across the world since the early 1980s. He is founder and tutor to the Diploma in Icon and Wall Painting run by The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London. His spiritual training has included two years spent on Mount Athos in Greece, primarily studying at the Holy Monastery of Iviron.

Mike has assembled a fantastic collection of reproductions for sale. These are beautifully done, preserving the rich colours and delicate linework of Aidan’s traditional technique. But there is a twist: many of the icons for sale feature English and Welsh saints, like St. David and St. Melangell. 

Stop in for a look next time you’re in Oswestry – for the icons; for the inspiration! The wall of icons has already prompted me to start on a new work – Stasis - which I’ll be exhibiting in Rowanthorn in the New Year as part of our ongoing Art Works partnership.

Working With

Working With – Neil’s yellow rose.

Somewhat unexpectedly, I found myself doing my first proper tattoo yesterday: a yellow rose on an easy-going and cooperative chap called Neil. I wasn’t scheduled to work on a real, live subject at Fine Line Tattos until next week or the week after – but the opportunity suddenly came up this morning and I just couldn’t turn it down.

As artists, our practice constantly evolves. We are always finding new ways of working – whether expanding our repertoire of skills and applications in a single chosen medium, or extending skills and ideas into new media. Creativity knows few boundaries, and if we choose to do so, we can move from watercolour to installation, collage to pen-and-ink – all in pursuit of some particular idea or specific visualisation. Sometimes we move from the visual to other arts – poetry, performance, dance, music; again, all in pursuit of ideas and visualisations that have captured our imagination or our intellect.

I have worked in many media over the years, but none of them has really ever been quite the same as tattooing.

When we talk of painters working with their canvas, we are talking the application of brush to canvas and the response of the surface to the mark of the artist. When we talk of sculptors working with their wood or stone, we are talking about understanding the layers and grain of the material and how they respond to the working tools or blades.

But in tattooing, “working with” means literally that: a practice that takes place alongside and in cooperation with another person without whom the work cannot be completed – or, indeed, even begun. I’ve been working up until now on artificial skin – but that’s not tattooing: simply using a tattoo gun and tattoo inks is not tattooing. But sitting in a chair, working with another person’s living skin – that’s tattooing, and it makes it unlike any media I’ve ever worked in before.

Second Tattoo

Japanese-style peony – my second tattoo.

Just finished my second-ever tattoo at Fine Line in Oswestry. Still on artificial skin – can’t get working on real people until I go through all the health and safety checks, and fill out all the proper paperwork, etc. Still, having great fun getting to grips with this completely new medium. It’s not often I think we get the chance to immerse ourselves not only in a completely new medium, but in a completely new kind of art practice. It’s not just that tattooing is a different medium to painting or pen-and-ink – the whole business of it, the method and studio practice, and the relationship with ones audience/clients is completely different as well. Talking at the last notebook meeting, I think the closest it may come to is portraiture – a unique and intimate partnership between subject and artist.

Next week I won’t be tattooing, but will be back in school, as it were. I’ll be sitting in on a session, watching Rena tattoo – but instead of sitting there sketching, I’ll be taking notes on her technique, and she’ll be talking me through what she’s doing and why. Now that I understand something of the language of the different needles one uses, the different types of grey shading and the different colours of ink, I can begin to really appreciate the technique behind the art. I won’t be seeing the tattoo studio as a place to do life-drawing – but a place to learn something completely new. And it’s not just me who’s learning new things. Today I showed Stuart a few graphic tricks for aligning things like stars for a tattoo stencil. Some of my skills as an artist and an illustrator absolutely transfer over into the tattoo studio, opening up new design possibilities for them.

Anyway, to coin a phrase, I’m having a blast. Anyone interested in reading about today in more detail should hop over to my own blog. I know I forgot to bring my artificial skins to the last notebook meeting, but I promise I’ll bring them all next month for you to have a look at.

Os Show Advertiser – featuring Jude!

Jude and Inside Out at the Oswestry Show

Jude Greaves was featured in last week’s Oswestry Advertiser write-up of our Inside Out stall at the Oswestry Show.

The article covered not only her work at the show, but also her gold medal win at Tatton Park for the Q-Cat Concern for the Abolition of Torture garden.

“I’m glad I was asked to display my work at Oswestry Show,” Jude says in the article, “I hope that in future years artwork will continue to be showcased at the event. Perhaps this will pave the way for art to be displayed regularly at the show.”

If we can, Inside Out will certainly be at next year’s show. Perhaps now’s the time for individual artists to start making plans to have some stalls of their own, too?

Inked!

My first tattoo. Any volunteers for when I start working on real skin?

Yesterday I took my “Art Works” project at Fine Line Tattoos up a notch, by doing my first ever tattoo. It’s only on artificial skin (I’m not licensed to work on real people… yet!), but it came out looking quite good, I thought.

I’ve written more about the day and the tattoo on my own blog, but I’ll bring along the tattoo to next week’s Notebook Meeting for everyone to see. It was great fun working with an entirely new medium – not one that I think most artists get a chance to try. The next step, of course, is to start doing it on actual flesh and blood victims; any volunteers…?

John Swogger has an exhibition of new prints at Rowanthorn on Beatrice St. in Oswestry, under the title of “Anitya”. The series of five prints will be exhibited one each month between now and December. John’s prints join paintings by Diana Baur as part of an “Art Works” partnership with Rowanthorn.

John’s prints explore the Buddhist concept of “Anitya”, or impermanence, with particular reference to culture, photography and Tibet. The prints draw their inspiration from the eastern flavour of Rowanthorn and the Tibetan and fair trade-sourced gifts, artwork and clothing Mike has in the store, as well as his own background as an archaeological illustrator. There’s more on the prints here.

Anitya – new prints by John G. Swogger
one each month: August – December, 2012
Rowanthorn, Beatrice St., Oswestry

Art Works at Oswestry Chamber

Wednesday evening I gave a quick 15-minute presentation to the Oswestry Chamber of Commerce about ideas that Diana and I have had for promoting art and artists in the business world. From our original “Art Works” ideas for linking art and business together we’ve expanded to cover a range of ways in which these links could build a new business environment for art in Oswestry.

We’ve based these ideas on Inside Out’s experiences working with The Hand, at the Cambrian Buildings, and with Fineline Tattoos. Using these as “case studies”, we’ve come up with a range of broad suggestions for future links and ideas. For anyone who’s interested, there’s a pdf transcript of my presentation here.

The presentation was really well received, and what we do now is to establish lots and lots of dialogue between ourselves, other artists and art groups in Oswestry, and interested businesses. We’d love to talk to anyone in the group – or beyond – who has ideas of their own about business ventures and enterprises, or ways in which art as a business could do – could be – more in Oswestry.

Notebook Meeting Tomorrow!

David Nash at Oriel Mostyn late last year - something to inspire us all!

Just a quick reminder to everyone: our monthly “Notebook Meeting” is tomorrow, 2pm at the Willow Gallery.

Come along for some good art conversation and updates on exhibitions, classes/workshops and projects.

Bring along your sketchbooks or work to share!

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