And for my encore…

So, it’s been a week since my episodes of Channel 4’s Drawers Off were aired. Overall, it was lovely to see the final edits, I was heartened to see that my work was comparable to the other (excellent) artists and that 3rd parties unknown to me (ie not my partner or my friends) liked and responded to my pieces.

I did think that my approach to composition and colour was different to the other contestants (not really a surprise, if we were the same it would be BORING) – it was very interesting to compare my inner critique to what they were saying. And of course, seeing yourself on screen is just weird.

I am now asking myself whether I want to leverage these appearances. Do I want to do workshops and classes with ‘as seen on TV’ on the posters. I don’t know.

I DO however, want to use the exposure to let other people,know what a person with chronic, serious, health issues can and will do given half a chance. I don’t work due to my illness. The idea of me holding down a ‘normal’ job is laughable. But still, art provides me with a sense of purpose, a status in the eyes of others (and I’m sorry, but I want a status) and a challenge outside of myself. I used to be good at my job. Now I’m good at this. I think. I hope.

So, I will refer to the programme from time to time I think but in the context of artwork made as a form of advocacy for Parkinson’s patients and those of us with neurological conditions like my hydrocephalus and meningioma . Really, my brain is just such a rebel. Typical.

And that’s the wonderful thing about art. It can destroy boundaries, save your sanity and communicate complex emotions and messages in simple terms. I love what it has given me, including my Drawers Off pinny, hanging on my studio door. And that’s a wrap.

Her off the telly

Life drawing is enjoying a bit of a moment. Lockdown brought us internet phenomenon Portrait Artist of the Week and lots of small art groups and studios have widened their audience by running regular online sessions. The BBC did Life Drawing Live! And Channel 4 of course had Drawers Off! And it returns on Monday 30 May and surprise, I am one of the artists!

I entered after being shown the advert by Viv at Cheltenham School of Fine Art, thinking it would be worth a punt. You may not know, but I was on Mastermind back in 2017 and that was so much fun I thought I’d have another go. Nothing ventured….

Anyway, a few auditions later and there we were, admiring the set design, hugging the rather fabulous supplies provided and trying to appear calm in the face of cameras, floor marks and Jenny EclaIr, the host. Actually, the whole experience was a joy. Great care was taken to make us comfortable, my Parkinson’s was never treated as a problem, everybody was just great. Ms Eclair, always high in my estimations, went up a good few notches due to her snappy humour, friendly banter and complete approachability. At this point I have to admit I was plotting how to steal her very cool jacket for most of the filming. Sadly, I was not successful.

Anyway, five models, five poses, five speedy pieces. We had to choose our favourites each time. The wine went through to a final gallery. Then we chose a final favourite from these winners. I cant divulge the final result. But then you’ll find out next week when you watch it!

The other artists was ace. We got on really well (I trust that the editing will reflect that!) and it was a blast.

Have a go if somebody suggests you trying for something similar. You get your body weight in Haribo, meet a very interesting bunch of people and get to paint to your heart’s content. What’s not to like? Enjoy the programme 🙂

Venice 2022

I have just returned from Venice and a few days wandering around the 59th art biennale. The last time I got to go was back in 2017. I went in November 2019 only to be stopped by the dramatic floods caused by the Aqua Alta and then Covid stopped the 2021 shows.

Overall it was of course a spectacle and always worth going to but I can’t help feeling a bit underwhelmed by the main show at Arsenale this year. My real pleasures this time were the off site installations we lit upon as we wandered the streets.

I did not know much about modern art until I started my MA and I still know very little. So, discovering Antoni Clave in the Portuguese pavilion in Palazzo Franchetti was a bonus. I literally was stopped in my tracks by the first room, dominated by one of his tapestries. Wonderful.

Antoni Clave

The obvious ones were Anselm Kiefer at the Doges Palace and Anish Kapoor at the Gallerie Accademia. The former was breathtaking, utterly bleak and just quite frankly monumental. The latter riled because I have a problem with the concept of ringfencing Colour and denying the artist community the chance to use the extraordinary black he has access to. Because I am registered disabled I was allowed into both exhibitions for free. Kiefer benefitted because I bought the catalogue. Kapoor did not. Have a look at this site for more on this point.

Kiefer at the Doges Palace

Finally I saw Marlene Dumas at Palazzo Grazzi. What a venue. What a show. The paintings were spare but had such impact. I lingered over an abstracted landscape evoking the artist’s mother’s funeral. It made me cry because it was obviously so laden with love and desolation.

Other notable mentions included the Mozambique pavilion, Planet B, a show curated by Nicholas Bourriaud and the Ukrainian Fountain of Exhaustion.

The Fountain of Exhaustion

I have come away with lots of ideas and plans as I usually do. The challenge is to actually do something about it all now!

Admission : 1

So here I am a couple of months into the project. The work and the thinking has in fact been almost constant. However, the work remains under wraps. Hidden.

Having a chronic disease as I do means that a lot of my work goes on in my head before it is finally constructed.

So, patience is a virtue here. The works will come but you may have a little while to wait as I have been in. And out of the hospital due to brain surgery. Watch this space. It will be worth it.

I can only tell my story

2022 is the start of a new project for me. I have had a lot of time to consider what having young onset Parkinson’s and other health issues really means to me and mine. And I have come to the conclusion that it is increasingly important to me that I focus my efforts on a few key ideas rather than disapppate my energy on lots of small projects.

Enter Admission, my 2022 project. The idea behind this project is defined and discussed here. Suffice to say I want to show you what having a long term chronic disease does to your life, family and you.

An important part is to document the progress of my health throughout the year. So today’s job is to identify the measurements I will take every day to do this. They have been picked to be comprehensive but achievable enough to make daily noting easy to do. To that end, most will be collected by my smart watch and/or iPhone.

Sleep – hours sleep each night; wake up and go to bed times

Exercise levels – steps each day; movement calories burnt each day

Reflection – meditation done each day

Activity – whether day spent alone, with family, friends or other group

Meds efficacy – number of times my meds wear ‘off’ each day; estimate of period o time spent ‘off’ each day

Visual – use 1SE app to capture a picture or clip each day

These may be augmented by others depending on what happens during the year but this is the minimum.

The end of the road?

After more years than I care to think that I am nearing the end of my Masters. The end of course show is set to be a doozy and it will be great if any of you out there who are in the locale could come and see what I’ve been up to together with my amazing co-students. Details will follow over in the meantime please hold 23 January !