Saturday, 26 November 2011

Art Gymnasium

I’ve been invited to be one of a group of artist contributors to a current exhibition ("Atelier Public") in Gallery 3 of the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Glasgow, due to finish on the 17th January 2012. I’m working in collaboration with a good friend, Peter McCaughey, and so far we’ve spent two afternoons working (playing) in the space and we’re planning to spend a few more before the end of the show.

The exhibition takes the form of an open studio where everyone (both invited artists and general public) is encouraged to create artworks in a freeform accumulating installation. A selection of materials etc. are available and there are various means of display as well as furniture for working, reading and talking. It’s not a new idea but if you know my views on “newness” or “progress” then perhaps you’ll understand why I don’t think this is a significant criticism.

I heard today that one of the other invited artists was taken aback when they found the space so filled with other people’s work. It’s not surprising really since it’s already bristling with stuff. As a backdrop to anything subtle it couldn’t be worse and I’ve often found myself looking for a quiet spot to photograph things out of the range of other work, so I can certainly see why other artists would be completely put off by this environment. But despite my misgivings I’ve noticed something which seems unexpectedly positive about the whole event. Today I had the realisation that the gallery isn’t a gallery in the conventional sense at all but has been transformed into a kind of creativity gym. People are turning up in surprisingly large numbers and getting stuck in and are genuinely enjoying themselves. They’re staying not for what they can see but for what they can do. And whilst for the invited artists this is unlikely to be a major motivation (because it provides neither a stage nor an isolated garret), for the general public it’s an opportunity to exercise skills that probably haven’t seen the light of day since school.

Perhaps a few more of such workout spaces would be a good thing for the 'creative economy' that we so often hear that we are part of.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Back in March I attended a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson in Glasgow and subsequently became involved in a lengthy discussion on this blog about Sir Ken’s message. Since I had not read any of his books it seemed appropriate to see what he had to say for himself in his latest offering “The Element”. I bought the book in March and have been struggling to finish it ever since. Today I decided terminate the struggle and to commemorate this with a review on Amazon:

Is this book right for you?

Like many people, when I saw Sir Ken Robinson’s first video on I was inspired. He seemed to get right at the heart of the problem with present day education and his focus on creativity spoke directly to some of my most deeply held and cherished values. There is no doubt that he has some important things to say and he clearly possesses a prodigious skill with storytelling but the more I consider his message the more I feel that he is playing on a whole swathe of unexamined assumptions and vagaries about the nature of creativity, human capacity and achievement.

Surely nobody would wish to be LESS creative than they currently are. But the consequence of this modest truth is that any respected person who proposes to offer us a way to enhance our own, or our children’s, creative potential is likely to command our attention to a far greater degree than might otherwise be the case - especially if they themselves communicate with intelligence and creative flair.

There are two questions that you need to ask yourself before buying this book:

1: Does everyone possess a unique creative talent?

2: Could there be a universal formula for maximising this creative potential?

If your answer is “yes” to both of these questions then you will love this book. If you are unsure then you will probably like this book. If your answer is “no” to both of these questions then you will find Sir Ken’s evangelism absolutely insufferable.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A Mountain of Science and Experience

"Schiehallion" Lesley Punton and Jim Hamlyn, 2009 - 2011.

It was from Schiehallion that the first accurate estimate of the mass of the earth was determined. The experiments that were carried out for this purpose also led to the invention of contour lines.