Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Congratulations Nail Box

I’ve just received an email from the nice folks at Saatchi Online to let me know that my Nail Box sculpture has made it into the next round of their Showdown competition. Out of the 2900 entries my piece made it into the final 300 (out of which only 5 are sculptures) which will now go to a juried selection. If Nail Box makes it into the final 30 selected for the last round, which will be a public voting round, then I may have to send out a few emails asking if anyone is feeling generous enough to give the little fella a helping hand (and yes, I do tend to anthropomorphise a lot of my work).

Monday, 20 June 2011

Secrets Revealed (Oli Bennett Cards)

Well the Oli Bennett Secret Cards sale has now been and gone (although, if any of the cards didn’t sell on the night then I believe that they will still be available online till the 24th) so I can finally reveal which were the post cards that I created for the charity event.

This is one of them but if you would like to see the lot then please feel free to check out my Oodles of Doodles blog where I have just posted all four entries.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Urban Curations

There’s a new website called Urban Curations that showcases work by some rather splendid street/urban and fine artists, photographers and Installation artists. So I feel very privileged to have a couple of my works featured on the site. All works are for sale and Infinity Bunce (founder of the site and a practising artist herself), who has been curating shows in London for some years, will be featuring many of the site’s selected artists for forthcoming events.

The first piece that I have featured on the site is a painting called Kitchen Blue. It is based upon a photograph that I took of a friend, Julia Lister (then known as Joolz Long), standing in my kitchen. The original photo was taken back in our student days in Northampton and as you can see, Julia wasn’t that keen on having her picture taken. A lot of people seem to like this painting and I’m not sure if it’s the ambiguity over the figure’s gender (what with the face being covered, the hair cropped short) or the contrast between the flat graphic nature of the background and the meatiness of the figure's flesh tones. And I assure you all that any confusion over Joolz’s gender if definitely down to my painting style and not her looking like a bloke (which by the way, she definitely doesn’t do).

The second of my paintings featured on the site is this one, The Ambassadors, based upon a photograph that appeared in the British tabloid press a few years ago. It shows a fight between some English and Turkish 'football fans'.
Like the background section in Kitchen Blue, the paint in The Ambassadors is a thick household gloss oil paint that has been applied with a very tiny brush. The paint had to be applied very quickly, before the paint had time to dry (so as to give a smooth finish and not leave any brush marks). With both paintings and others in the series, the white lines that make up the line drawings in the work are actually formed by the exposed and primed surface below. A lot of people asked me if I had somehow masked off these sections before starting the painting process and are surprised when I tell them that I don’t – that I simply paint either side of the lines. This might be a far more labour-intensive way of working but I do like the crisper line that this method produces. With this technique your eye also notices the very slight fluctuation of depth between the paint and the white line when you see the works in person.
The annoying thing about working on The Ambassadors was that about a week into the painting a wrinkled skin started to form on the surface of the paint as it dried so I had to scrap it off, re-prime the board, re-draw the image and start again. I don’t know if it was because of the hot weather or the mix of the paint but this happened four more times before I eventually got it right. It was a some what infuriating experience, during which, toys may have been thrown out of the pram.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Online Raffle Closes Today (Oli Bennett Secret Cards)

If you would like the chance to win one of the first 50 places in the online queue and to buy yourself a couple of original post card-sized artworks in the Oli Bennett Secret Cards Art Sale then today is your last chance. Raffle tickets can now be bought through the Just Giving website.
Over a hundred artist have donated work to the event, including Peter Blake, Remi Rough, Sarah Butterfield, Kipper Williams, Anita Klein, Guy Denning, Candice Tripp, Patrick Hughes, Laura Keeble, Neverwork, Josie McCoy. I myself have created four new drawings for the sale and their numbers are 56, 79, 421 and 511. No, not really – I’m only kidding (it’s an anonymous event). Or am I kidding? Of course I am... Aren’t I?

This isn’t one of my entries in the sale. It’s just that I don’t like the idea of blogging, without giving you something to look at.

But if you miss the deadline for the tickets don’t worry because you can still pop along to the actual auction itself (the viewing and fundraising event) on Monday 20th June at the Westminster School, where all the art will be on display and where the bulk of it will still be for sale.
On the evening itself there’ll also be a traditional raffle, offering tickets to the English National Ballet, a magnum of champagne from Berry Bros & Rudd, wine books and Time Out subscriptions, as well as prizes made by the charity’s beneficiaries.

Admission to the Oli Bennett Charitable Trust event is free but places are limited so, please respond to Kieron by email at ConnollyKieron@aol.com if you would like to attend.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Saatchi Gallery Showdown 5

I’ve just checked my page on the Saatchi Online site to see how my Nail Box sculpture is doing in the new Showdown competition and was surprised to find that it’s current standing is listed as 32 out of 2900 entries. This seems pretty good as it’s normally the paintings that get all the votes. But it’s early days yet and I won’t be shocked if it doesn’t make it into the top 300 entries and therefore advance to the jury voting stage.
Also, I suspect that Nail Box is a bit vain and only wanted to enter the competition so that lots of people would get to see it.

No Show(s)

Unfortunately the Barbarian Art gallery, with bases in Zurich and Moscow, didn’t make it through the selection process for this year’s Frieze art fair in London so myself, and the other four artists that they had invited to represent them, won’t be exhibiting there this time.
And as I’ve not heard back from VZ Art Gallery regarding their request to show my work at this year’s Liste art fair in Basel, Switzerland (which starts very soon) I’m guessing that plans have changed there too. Oh well – easy come, easy go!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Fun in Venice (& Suffering for Other Peoples Art)

Venice… Where to start!
I’ve just got back from my second ever Venice Biennale. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it is basically a giant, international contemporary art exhibition that takes place in Venice for about six months, every two years and this year is Venice’s 54th Biennale – so it’s been going a while now. For this biennial art fair numerous different countries stage exhibitions at various locations (pavilions), dotted throughout Venice, although the highest concentration of the pavilions tend to be situated in two areas to the east of the city, the Arsenale and the Giardini (a park where 30 pavilions were all purpose built for the various regularly entering countries, back in the… er… lets just play it safe and say the 20th Century).
Although the Biennale officially opened on Saturday 4th June I managed to secure a pass (with the help of my good friend, the journalist, Holly Howe) that let me go exploring the Giardini and the Arsenale for the three days preceding that date.

If you’re one of those people that aren’t that au fait with sleep then it is technically possible to fit in all the art shows and a good chunk of the opening parties into one week but unfortunately this year I was a bit incapacitated. The weekend before I’d cracked a rib falling off my bike (actually, if the truth be told – I fell over my bike before I even managed to get onto it) and even while being dosed up on some powerful painkillers, I was still walking like a geriatric most of the time. Not that I have anything against geriatrics – I just don’t want to be walking like one just yet. To make matters worse, half way through the week I sneezed and pulled a muscle in my lower back (go on - laugh – I know you want to). The only consolation of this was that the back pain took my mind off the pain in my ribs. The upshot of this being that this time round I only managed to cover the Arsenale, the Giardini and about a sixth of the remaining satellite shows. But even so, considering the amount of late night parties (always a good reason to get to the Biennale a few days before the official opening) we managed to go to, we still saw a hell of a lot of art.

The Parties
One of the annoying things about the parties and openings is that so many of them happen on the same night or at the same time and it’s not always possible to work out in advance which ones to pick. The grandest one (and the one for which I felt most underdressed) that we went to had to be the party hosted by Marino and Paola Golinelli (of the Marino Golinelli Foundation, founded in 1988 to promote art, science and culture) at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. After the speeches Holly and I got to speak to the very stylish and gracious Paola Golinelli and I gave her one of my mini screen prints. Again I have to thank Holly for arranging my invite to this one. It was a very swanky event that was made even more impressive (well, to me at least) by the giant, four or five stories tall, Bamboo nest structure that the institution had had constructed next door to their building, and connected via a bamboo walkway to their roof-top garden. The structure was definitely one of my main highlights of the week and I went back a few days after the party to walk up its internal spiral walkway to the viewing platform at the top.

On another occasion me and my merry band of Biennaleites unfortunately missed the boat to the island where the Frieze 20th birthday party was being held, due the fact that a nameless someone (Jackson – you swine) texted us the wrong address for the pick up point. Although, to be honest, most of us were still recovering from the amazing party that the Finish pavilion had thrown the night before, on one of the small outlying islands. So instead we all trundled off to massive garden party that the Icelandic pavilion was throwing.

The great thing about the Biennale is that you not only make new friends but that you bump into loads that you already know. As we arrived at the airport I bumped into two people I knew at the baggage collection and a third one on the coach outside. And at the Azerbaijan party I bumped into four people I knew, although I did already know that one of them, Lee Sharrock, would be there as she was the PR person for the show. And if any of you have been following the news items about the Venice Biennale then you probably won’t have missed the recent media attention that the Azerbaijan Pavilion has been receiving. But hey, as they say – all publicity is good publicity.

Favourite Pavilions
As you can probably imagine, last week was a week of visual overload so I’m not going to be able to instantly recall all the amazing pieces of artwork that I saw but here’s a few that still seem fresh in my mind. I’ll start with the Giardini cluster because that’s probably the easiest to remember.

I’m a big fan of Mike Nelson’s work and his all invasive installation in the British Pavilion is well worth the long wait in the massive queue outside (oh no, I’ve over hyped it now). I also have a soft spot for the work of Christian Boltanski so I was pleased to see that he hadn’t let us down with his contribution at the French Pavilion.

Opera seemed to be one of the reoccurring themes at the Biennale this year and I felt that the Hungarian Pavilion put it to best use with their Crash – Passive Interview installation/experimental opera, reflecting upon the stories of car crashes in dialogical form (created by Hajnal Németh). The USA Pavilion’s upturned tank (turned into a treadmill), cash machine pipe organ and strange gymnastics performances were also interesting. And Lee Yong-baek put on a fantastic solo show at the Korean Pavilion – my favourite work being either the mirror with the morphing religious icon faces or the slow-moving video piece of almost unperceivable soldiers, clad in flowery camouflaged uniforms, moving amongst a flowery foreground and background.

And here’s a photo of me posing with Lee Yong-baek’s soldiers in front of the US Pavilion’s upturned tank.

My amble through the Arsenale was a bit more of a blur but the main pieces that stuck out for me were the giant burning candles in the shape of a massive full scale renaissance sculpture and a life size man, an anti-mafia installation and the stunningly monumental clay sculptures of Adrián Villar Rojas at the Argentinean Pavilion.

Out of the few pavilions (20 or so) that I managed to see outside of the Arsenale and the Giardini these are some of my favourites:
Ho Tzu Nyen’s strangely hypnotic film, The Cloud of Unknowing, at the Singapore Pavilion. And I’m not just praising it because it was a relief to step out of the blazing hot sun, into a cool spacious hall and watch the film on a full-size cinema screen whilst reclining on enormous white leather bean bags. The mist that billows out from the screen at the end of the film is also a nice touch (oops – spoiler!). Actually, mist and smoke were another theme that kept popping up at the Biennale this year, especially at the Arsenale. And I did hear that Anish Kapoor also installed a smoke piece, Ascension, at a collateral event staged inside the Basilica di san Giorgio but I somehow managed to miss it – gutted!
Another pleasant surprise came in the form of Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil’s wobbly white interiors at the Luxembourg Pavilion.
And pretty much everything at the Future Pass – From Asia to the World show was amazing but unfortunately I only had a few minutes to rush round it before I had to catch my plane back to London.

So, here are my tips for enjoying the circus that is the Venice Biennale:

1. Get there a few days before it officially opens and enjoy all the parties.
2. Take comfortable footwear.
3. Unless you want to have to leave the parties early to catch the last boat back to your accommodation (10:30pm), book somewhere in Venice itself.
4. (And this is probably the most important one) If you meet a drunken Belarusian artist who wants to party and who wants you to party with him – then it’s virtually impossible to say no.