Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Sophie Scholl

With the world's attention once more focusing on courageous women facing tyrannical regimes I thought I'd re-share my small oil sketch of one of my heroes, Sophie Scholl


Portrait of anti-nazi activist, Sophie Scholl, 2020, oil sketch on old book cover, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Sophie was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within White Rose, the non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. After being found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich (LMU) with her brother, Hans, the Nazis convicted her of high treason and executed her at the guillotine.

Part of a body of 100 small oil paintings that I made over a 12 month period from January 2020, this portrait of Sophie (one of my favourite pieces from the project, and now in a private collection abroad), painted on an old book cover, also features a version of her last words,

"Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go... What does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

Friday, 7 October 2022

Out Of The Box

I'm delighted to announce the publication of a new art book called 'Out Of The Box', that features box-related artworks by a wide range of artists, including myself. I'd like to say a massive thank you to the artist, Tom Buchanan, for all the time and hard work he's put into getting this project off the ground. 




Not only is the book beautiful but I'm pleased to see that the cover features work by amazing artist, Nancy Fouts, a friend of mine who sadly passed away very recently. I remember Nancy as hard drinking, chain smoking, and very funny, but that might be because I first met her as part of a group of artists, out partying during the opening week of one of the Venice Biennales, so we were all living a little excessively that week. 



As well as Nancy's inclusion in the book there are works by numerous other very talented artists, including Sir Peter Blake, D*Face, Jimmy Cauty (formerly of the band, The KLF), Lisa Woollett, Wolfgang Stiller, Kim Keever, Daniel Agdag, Michael Johansson, Kurt Tong, Mohamed Hafez, Hari & Deepti, Julie Liger-Belair, Frank Jennings, David Buckingham, Micah Lexier, Frank Kunert, Peter Quinnell, and many many more.



As you can see in this little video that I made the morning that the book arrived through my letterbox, it features four of my sculptures, Crutch and Tumour Box, Tattooed Tumour Box, Horned Orifice God Box, and two photos of my Nail Box sculpture. 



For anyone who would like to order a copy of the book you might like to know that I ordered my copy from hive.co.uk. Not only are they cheaper than the next cheapest, Amazon and Blackwells, but for every purchase from them they make a donation to an independent book shop close to you. As a massive bibliophile myself, I'm all for anything that helps independent book shops stay afloat, especially in these difficult times.




Thursday, 6 October 2022

Small Paintings Series (Another Update)

Back 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 year. 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 some of the paintings didn't turn out to be quite as quick or sketchy as I'd initially intended (yet some are little more than scribbles), I was, for the first few weeks, still on schedule for my target. However, I soon realised that sticking to this schedule would not only be somewhat demanding, it wouldn't leave me any time for other projects (or the long bouts of aimlessly staring into space that I so enjoy). So I downgraded the target to 100 oil paintings/sketches in one 12 month period. This, with the pressure now off, I managed quite easily.


'Hooded Hollow Dog Warrior', 2020, oil on board by artist, Wayne Chisnall


In my last 'Small Paintings Series Update' blog post we got up to 'Sullen Ted', oil sketch number 55. So here are a few more, from painting number 56 onwards.


'Treemoore', 2020, oil on board by 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.


'Two Forms On Red', 2020, oil on board by 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.).


'Robat', 2020, oil on board by artist, Wayne Chisnall





Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Ironbridge Alien

I made this papier-mache alien for a group-initiative window diorama at the Bolthole, a design hub in Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire. The window display coincides with Ironbridge's Festival of Imagination, which runs from 15th September to 2nd October 2022.


Papier-mâché Alien, 2021, artist: Wayne Chisnall

And what has an alien got to do with this particular part of the world you might ask? Well, not a lot to do with Ironbridge and it's rich industrial history, but Shropshire is something of a UFO hotspot, with a history of alleged extra terrestrial encounters. So here's my tongue-in-cheek imagining of an alien. 


Papier-mâché Alien (work-in-progress), 2021, artist: Wayne Chisnall

I started working on this little orange fella at a workshop run by my friend, the collage artist and fellow Wellington Arts Collective member, Caris Jackson. I began by making a wire frame, around which I applied layers of papier-mâché - as you can see in the little video that I made. The eyes are actually made from two antique clay or stone marbles that were found whilst mudlarking along the shore of the Thames River in London, at low tide. 



Here's a bit of bumf about this year's festival:

The Festival of Imagination 2022 – a celebration of the Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is set to be a feast of Art, poetry, film, workshops, performance, talks, and local history exploring the story of the Ironbridge Gorge where the raw materials of iron smelting, in the hands of historical innovators, converged to give birth to the industrial revolution.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Biped (& Yoshi)

My new sculpture, 'Biped', made from reclaimed wire, stands on a base of 300-year-old reclaimed English oak. The oak is reclaimed from floor boards from an old farm house, here in Shropshire. The boards all have very long and very rusty, hand-made nails sticking out of them. I'm acutely aware of this because when I accidentally stood on one of them (and it went straight through the sole of my trainer, and deep into the ball of my foot) I wasn't able to walk on that foot for a few weeks. Talk about suffering for one's art.


'Biped', found materials sculpture, 2022, artist: Wayne Chisnall

When I initially started making Biped I had intended for it to be a much simpler wire structure, that would act as an armature onto which I could apply other materials; materials that would form the outer shell. However, as I progressed I quickly realized that I preferred the wire as the sole material for the figure. I see Biped as much as a three dimensional drawing as it is a sculpture, because even though the piece is a sculptural object I found the process as akin to drawing as it was to sculpting.


'Pelvis', found materials sculpture, 1995, artist: Wayne Chisnall

Even though I've used old bits of wire in previous works, I think that the only time I've previously made an all-wire sculpture (discounting the stand and coating) is when I made a piece called Pelvis, way back in the mid-90s.


'Biped', found materials sculpture, 2022, artist: Wayne Chisnall

When I was constructing this Biped I was reminded of a conversation that I had with, Yoshi, an old friend from my London Biennale (a London-based art collective set up by the artist, David Medalla, and comprising a wide mix of mostly international artists) days. I had once visited Yoshi in his South London flat (a flat that was so crammed with materials, artwork and Yoshi's strange inventions, that if it wasn't for Yoshi's amazing organisational skills, it would have been impossible to navigate) and there he showed me an articulated T-Rex that he'd made out of wire. From what I remember, if you pressed a wire lever on its back it either opened its mouth or flicked the 'V' sign (or possibly both). He asked me to guess how much wire was used in its construction. I think I guessed something like 23 metres, to which he replied 'almost spot on - no-one ever thinks it used that much wire'. I wish I'd thought to keep a tally of the amount of wire I'd used to make Biped before I started.


Yoshi and Adan Nankervis (international coordinator of the London Biennale), Crystal Palace, 2004

Sadly, a few days ago, I learnt that Yoshi had been suffering from stomach cancer and had died in King's Hospital, London on the 21st April 2022. He was a wonderfully eccentric character, and even though I'd not seen him for some time, I'll miss him. The world could do with more Yoshis.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Nail Head

All of the sculptures that Sharon Griffin and I exhibited at the Crafts Council's recent Collect art fair, at Somerset House in London, are from a series called 'Unlockdown'; a collaborative project that we started at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in 2020, and which relate to the issues that people are facing during this time. 


'Nail Head', 2021, ceramic & metal, artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

The sculpture, 'Nail Head', utilizes a material that has been a prominent feature of some of my earlier works; namely the rusty nail (as well as of rusty items, e.g. screws). Whereas, in previous pieces, the use of rusty nails were initially inspired by my interest in their use in the animated films of The Brothers Quay and Jan Švankmajer, and later by my fascination with Minkisi (the totemic carvings of the peoples of the Congo), with 'Nail Head' a different set of meanings come into play. 


'Nail Head', 2021, ceramic & metal, artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

In these troubling times of Covid, where we've all been forced to protect one another by wearing masks, the sculpture's balaclava of collected nails also acts like a mask, but one where the ominous array of nails form a barrier, warning people not to get too close. It points to the psychological side effect of living with the restrictions placed upon us because of the virus; where we cannot socially interact the ways we used to, and highlighting how, for such a highly sociable species as ourselves, this prolonged restricted interaction has greatly exacerbated problems of mental health issues. 


Credit: CCO Public Domain

What has also not gone unnoticed, is the similarity between the head of this sculpture and the familiar image of the corona virus, with its protein spikes, as portrayed in the media. As is often the case with sculpture, things reveal themselves after the creation process. So I'm not sure whether this similarity is because I was subconsciously thinking about this when I worked on the sculpture, or whether it's merely a coincidence and I'm reading too much into it.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Never Let You Go

Over the last few years I've been searching for, and collecting, dead trees that ivy vines have grown around, and carefully removing the trees (chipping them away piece by piece) so as to leave the vine structures intact. This is for the 'Never Let You Go' series of sculptures that I'm planning. 


'Never Let You Go (small standing version)', 2022, artist: Wayne Chisnall

My aim is to replace the tree sections with large colourful fabric sausages, giving the impression that the vines had grown around them and are squeezing them tightly. To help emphasis this illusion I've mostly been selecting specimens were the vines have grown thick and into roughly tubular encasements, almost like extra long, irregular rib cages. Of these vine networks that I've so far collected, the largest one is around 11 feet long. 

Pictured is a relatively small, test version that I made; mostly to test out how the sausage would look when threaded through the tube of vines. The larger versions will be displayed horizontally and I will probably employ a stretchier fabric. This test version is only vertical because it isn't as fully tubular as the larger ones and I wanted to see how it would look standing up on the more leg-like sections of vine.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the contrast between colourful fabric and the earth brown of the vines will work.


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.