Sunday, 27 March 2022

The Devourer And Child

Even though I have lots of projects that I should probably be getting on with, I currently feel the need to start something new - something a bit more experimental. My sculptures are usually planned out well in advance and are quite laborious to construct but I've recently been thinking about making a series of small, speedily executed pieces. The idea behind these maquettes being that they act more as rough 3 dimensional sketches (where I can play with forms and see what, if anything, usefully emerges), than as finished works in their own right. 


'The Devourer & Child', 2022, wood and metal sculpture, artist, Wayne Chisnall


I love the primitive clunkiness of Eduardo Paolozzi's 1950s sculptures (before he moved into his less detailed, and more industrial-looking sculptural period), and the way that they are only barely figurative. And it's with thoughts like this in mind (especially the vestige of figuration) that I started doing a few thumbnail drawings and making notes in my sketchbook - trying the get into the right headspace before I physically stared work.


sketchbook pages, 2022, artist, Wayne Chisnall


This piece, 'The Devourer & Child', started out as an armature (where I quickly screwed together roughly-cut pieces of wood and metal) for the first of these small sculptures; the intention being that I would then coat it in other materials and carve into them to create the eventual sculpture. However, after seeing the sculptural shorthand of a figure that emerged in the armature, I decided to leave it as it is. Sometimes it's hard to know when to stop working on a piece and just step away from it; so many artworks can be ruined by over working them.


'The Devourer And Child', 2022, wood & metal sculpture, artist, Wayne Chisnall


Before I started working on this one I had an inspirational image in my head of a very famous painting. At first I thought it was one of William Blake's. After furious searching for the image I suddenly remembered that it wasn't by Blake at all; it was by Goya. It was Goya's 'Saturn Devouring His Son', from his black paintings series. I think that what had temporarily thrown me was that I'd somehow formed a visual connection between Goya's piece and Blake's 'The Ghost of A Flea'.


'Saturn Devouring His Son', Francisco Goya . 'Cyclops', Eduardo Paolozzi . 'Ghost of a Flea', William Blake


Although the piece is generally known as 'Saturn Devouring His Son' (from the Roman myth of Saturn, which was derived from the earlier Greek myth of the titan Cronus/Kronos, who, through fear of being deposed by his children, ate them at birth), this is a title that has been attributed to the work after the artist's death. The painting is from what has become known as the Black Painting series. Goya painted 14 haunting paintings directly onto the walls of his house in Manzanares, near Madrid, between 1819 and 1823. As they were not intended for public display (they were later removed from the walls and transferred to canvas) Goya never named the paintings or explained their meaning.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

'Bound' at 'Collect' Art Fair 2022

With just a day or so to go before Sharon Griffin and I headed down to London, to exhibit work from our 'Unlockdown' at Somerset House (as part of the Crafts Council's designers and makers art fair, Collect 2022), I managed to put the finishing touches to our sculpture, 'Bound'. My contribution to the sculpture was the hand-made black rope binding (braided and knotted together from my ripped up clothing) that envelopes the ceramic figure that Sharon created.


'Bound', 2022, ceramic and textile, at Collect art fair 2022. Artists, Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall


Whereas my contributions to some of the previous pieces that we've created together have been quite invasive (a prime example being 'Constraint', where I chopped up the clay figure that Sharon gave me, much to her horror, and then built a framework of recycled oak battens that penetrated and enveloped the figure), for 'Bound' I wanted to add a more minimal touch; an intervention that would complement the form and accentuate my interpretation of what Sharon was conveying through her part (the main part) of the sculpture. For this reason I used fabric (a new art material for me), as it more easily followed the lines and wrapped around the features of the figure that Sharon had created.


'Contaiment', 2020, ceramic & oak, at Collect art fair 2022. Artists, Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall


Even though it took a lot longer than I'd initially expected to make the bindings, I really enjoyed the process. And it enabled me to sit in my studio for hours on end, listening to podcasts whilst I did so. To get the bindings thick and irregular enough I had to plait lots of separate sections together, throw in lots of irregular knots, and leave just the right amount loose ends to give that unconsidered looking. The practice of knotting together all the thin strips of clothing felt very Zen. I'll definitely be using fabric and knot-work in my future art practice. I found that one of the ingredients in achieving a sense of irregularity in the bindings was by not going overboard on some of the threads and leaving them relatively un-knotted. This gave some aspects of the binding a sinewy or tendon-like appearance.


'Bound' (detail), 2022, ceramic and textile. Artists, Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall


Whereas 'Nail Head' was the sculpture most photographed by the Collect 2022 visitors who came to our room in the South Wing of Somerset House, 'Bound' was definitely the one that provoked the strongest reaction. The most emotional responses were from visitors who said that it made them think of the conditions and treatment of slaves on slave ships - something that I'd not been thinking about when I added my contribution to the piece. But, as I've said many times, as a creator of art I don't believe that my opinion on what I create (here I'm usually talking about work that I create on my own) is the definitive explanation of what it means. With the creation of art, and probably more so in the case of sculpture, so much is going on subconsciously that much of the meaning and influences are only revealed during or after the creation process. So if someone else sees something different to what I see in my work, I'm usually interested to hear what it is.




A few visitors to the fair chatted to Sharon and I about Shibari, the ancient art of Japanese rope bondage. I was vaguely aware of Shibari (although I didn't previously know what it was called) and was interested to hear from two of the visitors that they attend life drawing classes where Shibari is demonstrated. I'm not sure which life drawing classes the visitors, that we spoke to, attend (or if it's even the same one) but I managed to find a London one run by Anatomie studio (which is where I found this black and white photo - apologies to photographer whose name I couldn't find). Involved in the life drawing classes are Anatomie studio founder, Anna Bones and rope model Sofia, both of whom are passionate about sexual empowerment, feminism and freedom of expression.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Collect 2022

With just a few days to go till the opening of the Collect art fair (organised through the Crafts Council), Sharon Griffin and I are not only very excited about having been selected to take part in this prestigious event, but we're also busy adding last minute touches to sculptures, building plinths, and numerous other hectic preparations.



Collect is one of the world’s most influential fairs focusing on contemporary craft and design and living artists, and takes place each year at Somerset House in the heart of London. Most of the stands at the fair will be dedicated to specific galleries (where they will be promoting the work of the artists that they represent) but there will also be 10 or so individual or duos of selected artists showing. Sharon and I are one such artistic duo, and we will be exhibiting a selection of sculptures from our ongoing 'Unlockdown' project.


Courtyard at Somerset House, London, UK, photo by Kevin Meredith


If you can make it to London next week then I hope to see you there. And if you turn up at the weekend then please excuse my state, as I'm sure that I'll be totally frazzled by that point.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Stay Silly

Sharon Griffin and I would like to say a massive thank you Mary & Hugh for generously allowing us to use their wonderful Twenty Twenty Gallery as a space in which to shooting some videos. As I've previously mentioned, Sharon and I have been selected to exhibit some of the sculptures from our ongoing Unlockdown art collaboration project at this February's COLLECT art fair (in conjunction with The Crafts Council), at Somerset House, London. And as part of the preparation for the show we've been taking photos of the work, and shooting videos of us talking about out individual artistic practices and of what it's like working as a collaboration.



So, after several hours of laboriously positioning the artwork, us trying out different lighting set ups, and trying to talk to camera without fluffing our lines (we wrote out a rough script to try and help us from deviating too badly off topic), we treated ourselves to a few minutes of dancing about and pulling faces to camera. The photo shows me pretending to be dismayed by Sharon's antics.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Small Box Sculptures

I've recently started going through the remains of one of my favourite sculptures, 'The City'; a sculpture that somehow got destroyed when I lent it to an exhibition in Birmingham some years ago. I'm considering using what I can repair and salvage from the original sculpture and, together with new additional element, making a larger version. In going through the small box sections that made up 'The City' (a kind of mobile tower version of a cabinet of curiosities, made out of found materials) I started thinking about some of the small wheeled box sculptures that I made not long after I'd built 'The City', and which were influenced by this larger piece. So I thought I share some of these pieces with you here.


Small wheeled box sculptures by artist, Wayne Chisnall

All of these small sculptures were made in the first few years after I moved to London in 1999. One of the reasons that they are so small is that for my first few years I either didn't have a dedicated art studio or I was living in a cramped live/work space (often an old shop front, or a single room in a flat share), so my work space was usually also my bedroom.


The first of the six pieces you see above is 'Spider Box', made from sections of an antique tea chest and contains spider husks, cob webs, and a dead wasp. the third, 'Don't Feed Box', has a door set into the front, that opens up to a human hair-lined interior. The fourth is called 'Blind Copy Box'; 'Copy' because it's dimensions and details copied the early stages of one of my other sculptures (Nest Box), and 'Blind' because whereas 'Nest Box' has a glass lens set into it, Blind Copy Box just has a flat wooden surface. 


'Nest Box' sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Of all these early box sculptures, 'Nest Box' probably bears closer resemblance to elements of its big sister, 'The City'. It incorporates pieces of found wood and metal, vines, a magnified lens, a stone, and it sits on casters. As you can see from the photos, I had started to incorporate a framework structure to it, with the intention of continuously adding to the piece over time, and letting it develop in an organic manner. However, I've not been able to find it for some time now. Hopefully it is in a box somewhere in one of my art stores (even though I've looked for it exhaustively). Otherwise I have probably got left behind at an exhibition or something similar).


'Sleeping Beauty Box' sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

'Sleeping Beauty Box' (so named because of the rose thorns inside of it) is also made with a magnified glass lens; a window that allows the viewer to see the piece's 'inner workings'. One of the things that I like about using magnified lenses is that it gives the interior scene of the sculpture a dream or fairy tale-like appearance - magnifying and throwing one area into sharp focus, whilst slightly distorting and blurring the area immediately around it.


This one, 'Arterial Box', is coated in multiple layers of street and roads that I hand-cut from the pages of an old London A to Z. By cutting out all the negative spaces between the roads and streets, and layering them over one another, on the surface of the box sculpture, I was able to build up a dense network of road systems; systems that would be impossible in reality - connecting parts of London that shouldn't be connected. One of the things that I enjoyed about creating this piece is that once I had decided where to place a layer of 'road lacework' on a particular surface, any sections that then folded of the edge of that surface (especially if it then folded over a second edge of corner) would reroute the pathways in even more unexpected directions.


'Arterial Box' sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall, at 'Mapping' exhibition, Bury Art Museum

In 2007 I exhibited 'Arterial Box' at Lancashire's Bury Art Museum, in an exhibition called 'Mapping'. It was a really good show, with lots of big name artists; artist such as Cornelia Parker, Richard Long, and Ian Hamilton Finlay


I remember that when I drove up Bury from London to go to the show's private viewing, I foolishly deciding to take the more scenic route rather than stick to the motorways, which on the maps looked to be of a less direct route (oh the irony). I took something like 8 hours - with myself and my patient passenger, the art journalist, Holly Howe, spending more time than we'd have liked, ambling through villages with 20 mph speed limits.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

The Artist's Manual

Today I had a rather pleasant surprise (even if the postman did wake me from a mid-day snooze) when an unexpected parcel arrived at my door. I opened it up, thinking that maybe it contained something that I'd ordered as a Yuletide present for someone, only to realise that inside were two copies of a new art book that features one of my sculptures, 'Magnet'. I'd been contacted well over a year ago about having my work featured in a couple of art books, and I'd almost forgot about them.

 



This book, 'the artist's manual' (ISBN: 9780241483855) is published by DK, with Rob Pepper as consultant editor, and is surprisingly chunkier than I was expecting. It is an art source book, covering media, materials, tools, and techniques, and filled with hundreds of images of work, from a wide range of artists. My piece is featured in the 'Readymades and Assemblage' chapter.

 

'Magnet', toy tower sculpture, by artist, Wayne Chisnall, featured in 'the artist's manual'

Flicking through the pages I quickly found images of three sculptures by one of the contributing authors, the lovely and talented sculptor, Julian Wild - an artist that I've exhibited alongside a few times, starting from back when we were both members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (a society for whom Julian was Vice President from 2015-2019).

 

As I'd mentioned in a previous post, 'Magnet', my toy tower sculpture, is now in the permanent collection at The Black Gold Museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (due to open in 2022).

 

The Black Gold Museum, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (opening 2022)


'Magnet' is from of a series of four wheeled tower sculptures (the others being The City, Book Tower and Fetish); each relating to a different aspect of our relationship with material possessions, and how our psychological attachment to large quantities of physical objects limit our freedom and mobility.

 

Originally titled 'Toy Tower', it was renamed 'Magnet' after its first showing when it became evident that its powers of attraction seemed to work on children and adults in equal measure. On the first day of Magnet’s first exhibition the person invigilating told me that he had looked over to where my sculpture should have been, only to find that it had disappeared. Apparently four little boys had managed to sneak the piece out into the street before being chased off by the invigilator, who wheeled the sculpture back into the gallery.

 

Contents pages, 'the artist's manual', DK publishing, 2021

It's still a bit odd not having Magnet around anymore, as it's one of the earliest sculptures I made (way back in 1999) and has been a colourful presence around the place for over two decades - especially since most of my later sculptures tend to lean towards the brown end of the colour spectrum. To compensate for its absence I think that maybe the next piece in my giant face mask wall sculptures series will have to be made using plastic toys.


Monday, 29 November 2021

Staple Face

Here's 'Staple Face', one of the pieces from mine & Sharon Griffin's ongoing collaboration project, UnlockdownThe creative process in this project begins by one of us starting a piece off (we usually start with clay, but not always), before we hand it over to the other for them to add their touch, before it is handed back again. And so it goes until the piece is deemed to be complete.

 

'Staple Face', 2021, ceramic & metal, by Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

Compared to other 'Unlockdown' pieces, 'Staple Face' required quite minimal intervention on my part. I pressed slabs of clay into a mould that Sharon had made of one of her bust figures, and when I removed it from the mould I was fascinated by the creases that occurred where the slabs of rolled clay had joined. To me they looked like beautiful scars, and thinking on one of my favourite black and white horror movie characters, Frankenstein's Monster (played by Boris Karloff - who I later found out was born just round the corner from where I lived, in Forest Hill, when I first moved London), I decided to hand-make rusty metal staples to join the 'scars' together. Sharon handled the lovely glazing (made to her own recipe, from locally sourced Telford minerals) and the firing.


'Staple Face', 2021, ceramic & metal, by Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin


'Staple face' is the second piece that I've worked on, where I've incorporated hand-made metal staples. The first one was my 'Frankenstein's Log' sculpture; one of my solo artworks, and not part of the 'Unlockdown' project.

 

'Frankenstein's Log', 2020, sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

As I'd previously mentioned, Sharon, and I have been selected to exhibit some of our work from 'Unlockdown' at COLLECT. However, I don't think that Staple Face will be on of the pieces that Sharon & I will be showing at the art fair. COLLECT makers fair will take place at Somerset House in London, in February 2022. This highly acclaimed Crafts Council event showcases the best of British and international high-end crafts, and Sharon and I are both very excited to be selected to take part.

 

Sharon and I would like to say a massive thank you to the wonderful creative team at Kensa, who have so beautifully photographed the sculptures that we will be exhibiting at COLLECT. Kensa is a creative marketing agency based here in Telford, Shropshire.

 

Over the next few months, Sharon and I will be revealing more of what we've been working on and sharing our ideas, inspirations and processes.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Craft Council's 'COLLECT' Art Fair 2022

After 18 months of keeping it secret I'm now delighted to announce that I, along with my collaborator, Sharon Griffin, will be exhibit sculptures from our ongoing 'Unlockdown' project at COLLECT, which will take place at Somerset House in London, in February 2022. This highly acclaimed Crafts Council event (the biggest makers fair in Europe) showcases the best of British and international high-end crafts, and Sharon and I are both very excited to be selected to take part.

 

Courtyard at Somerset House, London, UK, photo by Kevin Meredith

Over the next few months, Sharon and I will be revealing more of what we've been working on and sharing our ideas, inspirations and processes. If we're brave enough maybe we'll even share some of our thoughts about what we've discovered about ourselves along the way. Making art can be very revealing about one's own psyche, and can draw on early memories and sometimes traumas too (heavy!).

 

artist, Wayne Chisnall, working in pottery studio, Wellington, Shropshire, 2021

In this photo I'm working on a piece that would become 'Nail Head' - one of my favourite pieces, so far, from mine and Sharon's collaboration.


Friday, 26 November 2021

Digital Doodles

I've recently been messing around with this wonky old Wacom drawing tablet that I've had knocking around my studio for years. I originally found it after it had been chucked it out by another artist during one of my previous studio moves in London. As was quite common back then (and probably still is now, although there now seem to be less and less artists' studio spaces available in the capital), a whole building full of artists would be given short notice to move out and find studio space elsewhere, and in the rush to move, piles of unwanted art materials, books and curios would be abandoned outside studio doors - far too tempting to a hoarder like me!


Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall


Anyway - back to this temperamental drawing tablet. There's a bit of a time delay between the movement of the pen and what appears on the screen, and sometimes, when I've lifted the pen from the pad it will still carry on making marks on the screen. 


Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

But I'm quite enjoying this malfunction - it's like having to wrestle with the line whilst you're drawing - forcing you to counter each unexpected mark with a split second corrective one. I've also found that if I hold the pen a certain way (at the furthest point from the nib), it amplifies the malfunction - making the drawing process a little less easy to control, but hopefully producing more interesting/random-looking line work.


Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall


Digital art isn't something that I'm that familiar with, which I probably why I'm having so much fun discovering what I can do with it - to the extent that I'll sometimes find myself doodling away on it till about 6:30 in the morning.

 

Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall


Part of me hopes that I don't learn to many digital skills as I like seeing what can be achieved with limited knowledge of a medium.


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Mini Painting Challenge - Continued Update

I've just realised that, so far, I've only posted images of the first half of the 100 or so paintings that I made during the mini painting challenge that I set myself near the start of last year. So here's a few more from the second half of that series. I'll post more at later dates, so as not to overwhelm with a glut of images all in one post.


"Scrotal Teapot'', 2020, oil on book cover by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall


In mid-January of 2020 I came up with the idea of setting myself the ridiculously ambitious challenge of trying to paint 1000 small oil paintings in a 12 month time span. My initial thoughts behind the project were that I'd knock out a load of quick oil sketches as a way or generating a few new ideas and trying out different painting techniques. Although the majority of the paintings didn't turn out to be quite as quick or sketchy as I'd initially intended, I was, for the first few weeks, still on schedule for my target. 


"Bride Of Frankenstein'', 2020, oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall


However, I soon realised how all-consuming a twelve month painting challenge of this scale would be, and that putting that amount of pressure on myself would take a lot of the fun out of painting. Also, it wouldn't allow me any free time for working on my sculptural projects, and I've always found that taking a break from one medium and switching to another for a while keeps me motivated and helps generate new ideas. 


"Saintly Long Dog'', 2020, oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall


Apart from two or three, all of the paintings in this 2020 series are painted directly to the painting's surface with brush and oil paint, rather than being pencilled in beforehand. I really like the immediacy of this approach. You can often end up with a piece that has a vibrancy that you might not have got if you were being more considered and calculated.


"Sullen Ted'', 2020, oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall


The mini oil paintings/oil sketches that I've produced so far are mostly painted on small, wall mountable, plywood or chipboard plaques (recycled form pieces of  Victoria and Albert Museum packing crates), or on old book covers and recycled pieces of primed mount board (recycled from the V&A museum's Paper Conservation Department and from their Picture Framing Dept.).


Sunday, 25 July 2021

'Unlockdown' - Close-up Details

The reason that I've not posted anything about 'Unlockdown' (the art collaboration project between myself and the ceramics artist, Sharon Griffin) for a while is that we thought we'd hold some stuff back until we exhibit the main body of the work. Sharon and I have been selected to exhibit the work at a big event in London, which, because of Covid, has now been postponed till early 2022 - unless another lockdown hits, in which case I'm sure that it'll be postponed even further.


'Nail Head', ceramic & metal sculpture, Unlockdown project. Artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

However, just to show that we're still working on Unlockdown, I thought I'd share a couple of close-up detail photos from two of the more recent pieces - one of them still a work-in-progress.

These pieces might be the last two sculptures that feature a true face, as Sharon and I have reached a point in the project where we feel to need to move away from the figure. This will be more of a departure from the norm for Sharon as her current practice is predominantly figurative. The ceramic elements of the initial sculptures were that of androgynous-looking human busts, which later got cropped down to disembodied heads, and we feel that the next stage is the simplifying the heads into spheres. 


Ceramic & wood sculpture (work-in-progress), Unlockdown project. Artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

To give a brief reminder of the process behind the project, and how it started off, here's a bit of text from one of my earlier posts about Unlockdown - "what we are undertaking is to produce a series of experimental sculptures whereby Sharon kicks off the creation of each new sculpture by giving me a clay bust of a relatively androgynous-looking figure, made from a plaster cast mould that she made from her original clay bust sculpture. I then alter the clay bust in some way, before handing it back to Sharon, in order for her to perform her alchemy by apply some of her glazes (created from her own recipes, using locally sourced geological ingredients - apparently the variety of geological settings in Shropshire is unmatched within the British Isles or, within such a relatively small area, probably anywhere else in the world), and then fire the piece.  She then hands the piece back to me for next stage, in which I integrate it with other manipulated materials." 

Although Sharon works predominantly in clay and I work in... well, pretty much anything I can get my grubby hands on, we have a lot of things in common - a love of nature and the earth, of manipulating materials, we share many similar views, we're both from the same part of Shropshire, both with similarly odd family backgrounds etc. So I'm very excited to see where our collaboration takes us. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Sketchbooks, Barra, And The Smell Of Death

For the last decade or two I've been using sketchbooks that are A5-size, or smaller - mostly because I only tend to use them as notebooks for scribbling down ideas (and thumbnail sketches) for sculptures, and because they're a convenient size for slipping into a back pocket or shoulder bag. 


'Skeletal Wings', 2021, charcoal, ink & acrylic paint sketch on paper, by Wayne Chisnall

But I'd recently been thinking of upsizing to A3-sized sketchbooks so that I can get back into sketching just for the joy of sketching, with the larger pages allowing me more room to be creative. So when I stumbled upon a couple of new A3 hardback sketchbooks at my local second-hand book stall I took it as a sign, and bought them.


Curious-looking weather-worn wooden post in Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland


With the first sketch in my new sketchbook I initially wanted to attack the page with a smorgasbord of materials but ultimately reined it in and just used charcoal, ink and acrylic paint. For the subject matter I chose one of the many finds that I brought back from my recent trip to Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. It's the partial remains of a sea bird - the wings and bits of connecting skeleton.


Kisimul Castle, a medieval castle located on a small island off CastlebayBarra


Last month I spend ten days on this amazing island in the Western Isles - staying with a good friend, Ian Armstrong, at his family's cottage. The landscape was stunning - reminding me a little of Iceland (if on a somewhat smaller scale), and we spent most of our time exploring the beaches. As an artist that utilises a lot of found materials in his sculptures, I'm a big enthusiast of beach combing, and not surprisingly I ended up returning to Shropshire with a rather large quantity of beach finds. A lot of these finds consisted of skulls and other body parts (sheep, birds, sea otters, crustaceans etc - I didn't bring back the dolphin). And considering their various states of decomposition, and the smell inside the car on our 8 hour journey home (after the 5 hour ferry journey), I must say that Ian showed a saint-like tolerance. Once I got home, it took me weeks to properly clean up the specimens (many of which I already have ideas for how they might be used), and some of them, even now, are still a little bit stinky. Although, a few weeks of mummification/desiccation in the baking heat of my conservatory, coupled with a good coating of resin should sort that problem out.


Dolphin carcass, washed up on the shore at Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland


Thursday, 8 July 2021

Head Art

Have you ever said something just to be provocative or to play devil's advocate, and some time later questioned whether there might actually be something in what you said?

I remember, many years ago, as part of a group of prospective art students, going to check out universities. At one of the art colleges that we visited, when being interviewed by one of the fine art lecturers, I found myself feeling particularly bloody minded. This was probably because I wasn't that impressed with the attractiveness of the students that I'd seen at the college, and therefore decided that it wasn't the educational establishment I wanted to attend - I was, after all, a very young man at the time, and definitely somewhat superficial. Anyway - during the conversation with the lecturer we somehow got to point where I stated that as long as I made the work in my head it didn't actually need to physically exist (basically, I was being a dick). He then asked me how the work could be assessed if no-one else could see it. To which I replied (still being a dick) that it didn't matter if no-one else could experience it, I made (or didn't make) my art for my own gratification. 

The basic upshot of the conversation was that he offered me a place on the course, there and then. I turned it down (dick!).

Montage of pages from sketchbooks by the artist, Wayne Chisnall

But moving away from the initial youthful bloody mindedness of my side of that conversation, I've recently come to think that there might actually be a grain of truth in there somewhere. I long ago came to terms with the fact that I'll never be able to physically create all the pieces of artwork that I have ideas for - partly because of time constraints, partly because of material or cost constraints, and partly because every piece of art that I make generally triggers ideas for multiple/different version of itself. Because of this I always keep sketchbooks close to hand so that I can jot down ideas - usually a mixture of thumbnail sketches and spidery handwriting, detailing the materials to be used in the sculpture's construction, along with background notes on the thoughts behind the ideas.

And even though I know that the vast majority of these ideas will never see the light of day, as physical objects, I always contented myself with the thought that as long as they existed in a sketchbook, they do existed in some form. But lately I've started to enjoy constructing and developing artwork ideas just in my head (over extended periods of time), and not working them out in sketchbooks first. I know that this can be a risky practice as there have been many times that I've had an idea for a piece but failed to 'realise' it in a sketchbook, and then forgotten it completely. Yet I'm now starting the come round to the idea of this not necessarily being a bad thing. Now that we live in a social media age, where every last thought is shared and all our online activities are algorithmically monitored, maybe some things should remain ephemeral and enjoyed on a purely personal level.


Saturday, 1 May 2021

New Ink-Wash Skull Designs Tote Bags

 A few weeks ago I posted (across various social media) images of 7 of my ink wash drawings - asking people which one I should go with for my next screen-printed, skull design, cotton tote bag range? Last time I produced a range of skull tote bags I used my 'Swirly Skull' design, but I think they've all sold out now, unless there's one or two mixed in with my stock of Davincipuss tote bags. All of these new ink-wash drawings are based upon photographs that I took of the skulls from the Catacombs of Paris. I took the photos a few years ago, when my travelling companion, the art journalist, Holly Howe, and I were in the city - cat and boat-sitting for the talented sculptor, Kate MccGuire.


The 7 proposed design options for new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

Across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, opinion was mostly split between ink wash drawing number 1 and number 7. After too much deliberation I still couldn't choose between the two so I decided to go with both - having one screen printed on the front of the bag and the other on the back (although, which is the front and which is the back is a matter of personal taste).


Front & back of new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

Today the bags arrived from the printers and I must say, I'm pleased with the results - especially with the way that they managed to capture the mid tones of the original ink-wash drawings. The printers seem to have used a halftone technique similar to how photographs are reproduced in newspaper print. 


Front of new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

If you'd like one of these double-sided-print bags, email me at waynechisnall@yahoo.co.uk . They are £15 each (free postage to the UK).


Back of new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

My designs are screen printed, in black ink, onto 100% cotton fabric (Bags By Jassz 'Beech' Cotton Long Handle Tote Bags) in natural (the colour), which are 140gsm in weight.

Tote bag dimensions are 380mm wide x 410mm deep.

The top of the bag to the apex of the handle measures 380mm.

Friday, 26 March 2021

'Conscious Isolation' Presentation on YouTube



I'd like to thank the talented artist, Susie Olczak, and the rest of the Conscious Isolation team, for inviting me to take part in a series of live-streamed artists' presentations, organised in collaboration with the University of East London


My talk can now be found on the Conscious Isolation YouTube channel. Unless it's now been edited, I suggest fast-forwarding the first 55 seconds, as it's mostly dead air - or is that very telling of how impatient I've now become with everything online?


In the talk I give a 40 minute overview of some of the key elements of my art career; focusing mainly on my sculptural work and touching on some of the main themes and motifs that run throughout it. The following 20 minutes of the hour-long video is a Q&A session, with Susie Olczak asking me the questions that were messaged in by the online audience.


The presentation starts off with a brief mention of my 'accidental' early career as an illustrator, then quickly moves on to me finding my feet as a sculptor.


In the presentation I cover the emergence of some of the elements that go on to recur in my work; elements such as the box, the tower, the orifice etc. I also talk about my interest in rusty nails and other found materials, and the influences of animators such as The Brothers Quay, as well as the influence of the totemic Minkisi carvings from the Congo.


Half way through the talk I do introduce some of my two dimensional work. Mostly of these are paintings; one of them being the commission of cover artwork for The Scaramanga Six's 'Chronica' album. Even though I briefly mention studying printmaking at Bournville College, before I went on to study sculpture at the University of Northampton, the only print featured in the video is my 'Spidey Pods' screen print (printed up for me by the talented artist/printmaker, Tony Lee). And that's only really in the video to show that it was based upon one of my earlier paintings.


I also go on to discuss various commissions, solo exhibitions, workshops, collaborations, and ongoing projects. Towards the end of the presentation I talk about how, as a child, I'd wanted to be involved somehow in film production. With this in mind, in the video, I share a few slides of instances where my work has appeared in feature films - some where my sculptures have been used and one instance where I created some prop artwork. I even manage to shoehorn in the script that I part-wrote with John Malkovich (through a Sony script writing project), which was then turned into the animated short film, 'Snow Angel'.


Lastly I'd like thank all the viewers who took the time to tune in to the live-streaming of the presentation, and for all the great comments and questions that they posted. I only wish I'd thought to share the live-streaming link a little more than two hours in advance. 

Wayne Chisnall - Consious Isolation - YouTube