Friday, December 23, 2005


Plug Pod, press play, push paint. And that's how the next eight hours went, pretty much, without interruption. Nothing else to attend to. All outstanding business tied up. No need to leave the building, or even the studio, except to void bladder. Nose to the grindstone under an anglepoise halo. Focus.

An uncommon quiet outside. Work stopped on the site at the end of the street. A merciful break from the cacophony. An eerie calm descends. Even though this 'clearance' is something I normally crave, there's something slightly unnerving about it today, I feel slightly on edge, as though I should be somewhere else. Of course I don't want to be anywhere else right now. I've a lot of ground to cover. It's a bit of a 2001 atmosphere.. "What are you doing Dave ? "...

In contrast to yesterday, the light is from an unclouded sky and brilliant winter sun. Everything is illuminated, almost glowing, there is so much light pouring into the room, picking out all the dust and detail. It's as though there's light reflected off snow it's so intense sometimes. It wanes in the afternoon, but the difference of mood engendered is remarkable.

The paint coverage is a very mechanical task, but, though tiring, rather meditative, and something whose progress can be quantified very clearly. A satisfyingly broad stretch covered today.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Inhaling light

Lens becomes lightsucker with long exposures, hungrily inhaling all available light, draining dark. Time burnishes surfaces. Traffic smears into neon arteries. Buildings exhude a phosphoresence.

The older cameras had a part called the bellows, which neatly dovetails with the respiratory metaphor. Scene sucked in coats emulsion, ready for the chemical rinse, and the passing of light onto a different emulsion to leave a final trace. Phosphorensic. Light fingerprinted.

The light never lifted today. An oppressive grey clogging everything. It felt like 4 o clock all day. Grim. Melancholic. Choice of music occupying the end of the alphabet on the Pod: "Zuh !! Muttie !! Mum !!" by Robert Rutman, "Wings Of Desire" by Jurgen Knieper, "Warsaw Restaurant" by Francisco Lopez, "Weather Report" by Chris Watson.

Watson's layered field recordings map fascinating sonic territories of incredible dynamism and detail. The intelligent orchestration keeps everything fresh, avoids muddying the richness. I see no difference between this and music composed from 'conventional' instruments.

As former member of Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio, and Attenborough's sound recordist for many years, Watson brings a huge wealth of experience and very finely tuned ears to the work. As Cage said, music is organised sound. All it takes is open ears and open mind to experience the world as an incredibly rich aural field to be stimulated by. Sound is an immersive experience, and something that we are surrounded by all the time. It's like the weather (can you imagine a day without weather ?). Crucially, we don't have earlids.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Cleaning my brain

" I'm painting... I'm painting again !
I'm cleaning... cleaning my brain ! "

Talking Heads: Artists Only

These are the words that bounce around my brain today as I work on my first painting for 20 years. Damn, it feels good to be pushing this material around... a whole new timescale in image creation. Another object in the world. Another item to be stored. It's the physicality of the object that interests me, on various levels. Hence working on a reasonable scale, one determined by practical issues (any bigger and it wont fit in the car), whilst maximising those limits - 12mm MDF with a 2" batton on the back edges to lift it out from the wall. A solid object. To be further solidified with a steel frame.

I've been resisting the desire to paint for years as it just didn't seem relevant somehow. Over the course of hanging countless shows, I kept noticing myself being drawn to qualities in various paintings. I've always envied the apparent simplicity of the painter's lot: surface, material, tool to move material across surface. That's it. Well, technically at any rate. Of course this doesn't mean that it's a simple matter once the materials are in place, but all the problems to be addressed are within those terms of reference. No need to re-invent the wheel every day.

So why paint ? You've got to be careful not to be seduced purely for reasons of craft. Sure, those qualities are important, but they're not the be all and end all. Having worked (and continuing to work) on computer, I can achieve incredible levels of visual sophistication with Photoshop, but the end product, no matter how professionally printed, is still a single uniform surface. It's like formica. You engage with the image on one level: it presents itself as an image whilst seeming to remove all trace of its manufacture.

With paint, there's the solid fact of its immediate material presence. Layers built up laboriously. The gradual formation of surface over time. Zen concentration. The interaction of areas of light and dark pushing up against each other. Fluid and active. The push and pull of negative and positive space. The dance the eye does over this surface to make sense of it, pull it together. The interaction of retinal and physical pleasure of image and surface. How the latter heightens the impact of the former. A visceral connection. Gut response.

I've always been drawn to images that teeter on the cusp between abstraction and figuration. Initially it seems all surface, then there is the delay, until the brain makes sense of seemingly disparate elements, which then lock into place. Choice of music today pulsed with the physicality of sound: "Kajo" by Mika Vainio - all humming, buzzing, crackling and droning. The purity of electricity. "0" by Kontakte Der Junglinge - tectonic plates of sound colliding and scraping. Seismic low end eruptions. "Insulation" by Oren Ambarchi - charred lumps of processed guitar floating through ghostly orbits.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


A favourite old haunt of mine in Dublin in the 80s. Long since developed into apartments (surprise surprise!). Click on title to see full set.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A toe in the water...

Well, a new unknown horizon for me this blog business, but something's drawn me to it... I'll give it a lash and see how it develops... frequency: random (I reckon). Throwing out commentary.. antennae tuned... prowling... looming... fishing for feedback...

Any fans of BBC2 programme "QI" ? Next to Have I Got News For You, one of my favourite programmes. Anyway, anyone notice how disturbingly like Tony Blair John Sessions looked last Friday (2nd)... ?