Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Unstable structures

I’m still preoccupied with the idea of the unit. Even though the drawings have become looser, the circle imposes a sort of order. I came across some diagrams of carbon structures on the Internet recently. I was particularly drawn to the amorphous structure – apparently it forms at the edges of other elemental compounds, its lack of integrity however allows it to be a part of more complex carbon structures.

Again this ‘in-between’ always seems to be at the heart of things, thinking metaphorically about being on the edge, or the potential of connecting to something larger. It also gets me thinking about certainty and the consequences of letting go of absolutes, which can create possibilities as well as risk – an unstable structure is a vulnerable one.

I’ve been keeping the phrase ‘occidental accident’ in my head for quite a long time as a possible development of the work. It still isn’t entirely clear to me but the idea of something ‘Western’ being accidental – like a by-product - something not anticipated intrigues me.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


I used to make objects, and for several reasons I’ve spent some time away from that activity. For a while the idea of making an object felt rather static. When the urge resurfaced I was filled with anxiety at the thought of having to battle with old insecurities. But recently several conversations have allowed me to find the courage.

I’m thinking that the drawings are informing these experiments - so far they’re not a direct translation of them. There are also some formative things going on, which feel right at this moment to return to. I’d like to keep both things going in tandem se what happens...

A gallery visit

I’m making an effort to go and see shows with other people these days. Apart from bouncing ideas off each other – there’s an opportunity to see other kinds of work that I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen. A recent visit to the Angela Bulloch show at Simon Lee Gallery got me thinking…

I was really struck by a couple of aspects in the work – one being her continual use of the ‘pixel’ to reconstruct cultural phenomena the other, using the idea of a mechanically produced unit. I found her idea of the ‘international pixel’ light box – with its minimal but domestic attributes very compelling. When I was scoping around the mass-produced territory myself, somehow it all amounted to a ‘universally’ accessible aesthetic. I floundered for along time because of that, but ‘international’ sounds more relevant to ideas surrounding ‘aspiration’ in our increasingly ‘globalised’ cultural and economic circumstances. I suppose ‘international’ could just relate to prevalence, another kind of colonialism…

Thursday, 18 November 2010


So as this abstraction fing is kinda new to me… it’s been rather difficult to gauge the success of my efforts on those grounds - apart from the fact that I find my drawings beautiful. I know some would find that statement simplistic, but I do remember hearing David Batchelor speak of ‘pleasure’ as opposed to ‘beauty’ in relation to the reception of work. That sounds ok I spose - its more definite as a term, you’re less likely to refute its credibility - pleasure is pleasure you can‘t argue with that...

In some ways I’ve taken a rather predictable route, if we take abstraction on the surface as a means of visualising the interior. The archetypal image of the artist removed from the world - I’ve been looking at books on abstract expressionism recently. Strangely although the artist themselves would stress the absence of politics, the social and cultural context surrounding it almost makes that impossible – there is always a position, which equates to a politic.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Rationalizing the expressive

Although this work is an attempt to trust my own hands and to allow them to do something undetermined – there is a social and cultural context surrounding it. For me this is where the light box comes in, behaving as an analytical frame, whether that be the science of the sociology, psychology or art criticism…

Paying more attention to 'art history', I had a realization - that of appropriation and my freedom to do this as an artist trained on Euro/American art school principles. That said I don't have to follow those principles to the letter, just borrow and cannibalise what I need...

Roni Horn 'Pink tons' 2008

And what of African or Caribbean sensibility or aesthetics one might ask? For me right now - it’s more about black abstracted from these routes, and further black constructed within a western context. It’s not an ideal just an existential project, which I know as my own truth - and thats it… Who knows how it will evolve or end?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Black on White

Untitled 2010

You must forgive my jumps between the past and present. This blog is like being in a time warp, for me it's important to identify these connections... So the current aesthetic has emerged through several elements converging...

  • The black and white palette of the Dandelion project
  • My continuing interest in reading sociological texts (an analytical lens for viewing social dynamics)
  • Centring on myself as an individual, while acknowledging my cultural and political identity within a larger social structure.

Some time ago I came across an essay by Robert Hobbs ‘Looking B(l)ack: Reflections Of White Racism’, which was part of a wider project called '30 Americans', at the Rubell family collection in Miami. Hobbs starts off with a quote from Frantz Fanon’s seminal text ‘Black Skin White Masks’. In this quote Fanon proposes the construction of ‘Black’ identity being determined by Western environmental conditions. My explanation is rather basic, but I've also been preoccupied by the same idea...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

From the Generic to the Specific

Dandelion Dispenser 2008

Hopefully you've read previous entries and seen the ‘journey’ so far... There is a stark contrast visually from previous work - currently it all appears rather cool and remote. This is indicative of the retreat from a socially engaged process. In order to protect myself from a prevailing notion of accessible ascetics (from the generic,) I turned to drawing as a more immediate and specific activity.

Two Self-Portraits 2008

In 2008 I began to draw myself again, an activity I hadn't done since foundation years... 'Two self-portraits are an attempt to reconcile the graphic smoothed out line (the vector path) with the idiosyncrasies of the hand made mark. A permanent line is stencilled on to a chalkboard; marks are drawn with pastels and pencils and recorded digitally. The drawings were rubbed out, then drawn again in a constant process of erasure and renewal...'

The ambition was to make an index of the photographs as a video, a slow, close up look at each drawing over time. It all became too emotional though - I struggled to commit to the activity. But the one recurring element, that black blankness signaled new beginnings...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Open Studios

I opened my studio last weekend… the whole process of putting the thing on (the group effort) took my mind off the work. Then finally - when I got back to it, I felt rather alienated. To remedy this I decided to make a bit of kit for the new drawings. Sometimes I find comfort in making something physical and immersing myself in process.

Having strangers in your studio a can be quite unnerving… many encounters are awkward as well as brief. That said in amongst those brief encounters, you meet a few friendly individuals unfazed by the privacy of the space. In this situation one gets practice telling the story of the work. When it’s all one big chain of events, it very hard to gauge where to begin. The story comes out in various versions over the weekend, but a few phrases remain in the aftermath as useful…

Monday, 13 September 2010


just a few spillages 2010

Some days I feel guilty that these blobs don’t seem to exist anywhere, maybe like the Petri dish every thing else is pulverised for the sake of one culture. I could use this play of words to talk about a wider political landscape, but it isn’t really about that… Anyway coming back to the process - the studio plays a great part. Its a rarefied space, (some would say fetishised even) it provides protection for artists and their work, comfort and status. Putting all that aside a studio provides a space, clear of debris and distraction- influence is carefully sucked through straw as and when needed – it’s all rather controlled – it’s a big fat incubator.

Duchamp Three Standard Stoppages 1913-14

Yes I admit – I like (many other people who make stuff) am a control freak. At the same time its funny that we spend a great deal of time trying not to know (gotta keep boredom at bay). I remember listening to Margret Iversen give examples of strategies used by artists for creating chance within their processes, in her words ‘Falling, dropping, letting go’… I’m thinking of adding ‘Chance’ - her instalment of those Whitechapel/MIT readers to my collection. ‘Participation’ was a good read – somehow ‘situation’ didn’t grab me. But I feel very aware of the conditions of the studio and its effect on my outcomes…

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


'Blob' 2004-6

I’ve been into blobs for a long time… Looking back my palette wasn’t vast but it was a tad larger. In those early days, I totally obsessed about camouflage. The idea of continual change and adaptation to each environment or situation encountered.

I’ve been thinking recently about the motives for camouflage and also about that fairytale/mythical creature the changeling. The changeling appears to be a deceitful entity. Creating illusions that allow it to exist undetected by others, somehow deception and truth become intermingled.

The salt monster in Star trek 'The Man Trap'

If we look to the natural world, we see deception as a survival strategy. Consequently that deception is inherent within the identity of that creature. My camo was rather more symbolic, using the over exposed amoeba pattern (the ‘urban solider’ motif) the project focused on the dysfunctional – standing out not blending in…

I keep thinking about a black blob morphing and assimilating the world it encounters – its not sci-fi - not an invasion - just survival…

Friday, 3 September 2010


The drawings became too tight - needed to remedy this some how. I found myself splashing ink around trying to loosen the whole process. Having put the older drawings away I responded to a memory, the new drawings totally exploded…

Untitled black series 2010

I took a step sideways recently… I thought about the futility of trying to construct ‘meaning’ (it was probably one of my darker days). Then I started to concentrate on the splashes, using the unit (spot) in an attempt to construct something out of them.

Untitled Black Series 2010

Sunday, 29 August 2010


When Faith Moves Mountains Francis Alys

Everything emanates from some kind of story or another; whether from real life (loaded with empirical data and academic framing) or made up (entirely subjective and emotional). I’ve always embraced narrative in my work, partly because formal art language has always been rather alien. Consequentially earlier work didn’t operate within formal parameters; it was more politically motivated and focused on the efficacy of the art object in society.

Thinking about made up narratives… a visit to the Tate reminded me of an artwork I came across some years ago in an art journal or catalogue somewhere. An aspect of the piece depended on the verbal and anecdotal, to create a modern myth. I always loved the idea of ‘When faith moves mountains’, it reminds me of a piece of mine that no one saw in the flesh. It was an important piece, so I would always include it in talks about my work. Then at some point I started to become aware of the fiction that could be constructed around it.

Backpack and accessory for walk along Oxford Canal 1999-01

Although I’m striving towards a more intuitive process, I feel I can’t avoid the narrative, every time I try to condense it conceptually into paragraph, it never really seems to fit for too long. But coming back to that word – liminality… is it a state or episodic? The anthropological route indicates the latter, but I came across a very interesting essay that would support the idea of liminality as a state of being. I can’t make up my mind about it – the answer may end it all too quickly... so I’m floating – artistically, conceptually and professionally that’s the real story. I’m thinking that being relaxed about the meaning will bring more possibilities.

There will always be a story…

“Liminality may perhaps be regarded as the Nay to all positive structural assertions, but as in some sense the source of them all, and, more than that, as a realm of pure possibility whence novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise” Victor Turner 1967

Monday, 23 August 2010

Digital lens

Untitled Black Series 2009

It may seem obvious to say that there's a distinction between the drawings and the photographs I take of them. Documenting them on the light box was just that at first, a record. There is a difference in appearance from the work in the flesh; but I consider the subject not altered – more like ‘revealed’ - kinda like an Xray. I’d recently bought a new camera and discovered the magic of digital negatives. My first adventure into this world was like finding a secret door into Photoshop. Photography was the starting point of this blog, the luminosity of the screen gives the image a vibrance which is expensive to achieve with a physical print...


Recently I came across a word, for some reason I had never come across it before. Now it seems to be everywhere.

Liminal ‘of or pertaining to the threshold or initial stage of a process’ OED

studio sketch 2010

Its practical application is rooted in anthropology and was expanded by Victor Turner in the 1960’s to talk of relationships to a ‘social structure’ (i.e. society, a community, a group). Initially liminality explained the status of an individual undergoing some sort of transition -usually through ritual. On that threshold or in that liminal territory there isn’t any status - some attributes of liminality: invisibility, ambiguity, instability...

‘Liminality represents the midpoint or transition in a status sequence between two positions…' Victor Turner 1974

As I’ve mentioned before nomadism has always intrigued me. It seemed a more appropriate way to describe being in-between two cultures (certainly more preferable to hybridity) it’s like being home and away simultaneously. Marginality seemed negative and also well rehearsed. Liminality is different, the expansion of the term makes the concept very slippery - nebulous even. It’s difficult to work out whether the word describes being inside or outside. One proposition placed liminal beings in-between the cracks of the social structure - which I like more...

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


In relation to the exhibition, I’m sure you’re wondering about my grand statement. How is it possible to probe blackness as a cultural construct – much less through drawing? On a really basic level, I am trying to develop a more fluid and intuitive process. Something less known and something more discovered – it might seem like a really simple objective, but it’s taken me a long time to get here. In some respects I regard black as an unknown or invisible potential. So there is a loose idea around it, maybe it’s more about a point in time... Like most artists I make stuff because I have to. Naturally it’s linked to the things I’m going through and thinking about.

'In the house of my father' 1996-7 Donald Rodney

I had a recent realisation - I think I’ve been stuck in a time warp. Over the years I’ve been responding to one particular moment… essentially the cultural manifestations of the 80’s and 90’s ‘Black British’ experience. Driven by the political climate, the oppositional was in effect hardwired into the psyche of the black artist. I struggled with that, ultimately I couldn’t get over the degree of collusion that enabled my art school training. It felt like my moral compass was being tested…

I think (like most people) I have a lot of baggage, the struggle in understanding the academic framing of my position, the guilt from my wish to escape from it. Whether I understand it or not, colonial, postcolonial history and theory are amongst the many external forces/currents which envelope and influence my existence.

Monday, 9 August 2010


Untitled Black Series 2009

The show was a really great experience, in more ways than one, but ultimately I got to look back at some older drawings… then a dilemma - I can’t decide whether I’m taking a step sideways or backwards? This thing keeps on oscillating between singular vs multiplicity’, macro vs micro.

Untitled Black Series 2009

Here are some other things I’ve thought about recently:

Cosmology, The unknown

Black as a socio political entity

Jazz original black abstract

Electro music,



Primordial soup

Liquid modernity,

Rorschach blots…

Untitled Black Series 2010

Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Black Series: Suedbalkon Hamburg

Hello again anyone who might have missed me! I've been busy making a show in Hamburg and writing another blog about it - check out the images below...

The Black Series an exhibition and conversation between two artists consumed by ‘blackness’ as a space, material and cultural construct. Both artists chart carefully through a dark terrain, constantly moving and searching ...

Amanda Francis’ practice is preoccupied with the identity, specifically how context (external conditions and circumstances) affect identity formation. Currently she is interested in probing the stability of ‘Blackness’ as a cultural construct. Acknowledging subjectivity, as an individual who inhabits it, each drawing emerges intuitively and organically on paper. Here ‘blackness’ is presented as nebulous entity, constantly in a state of flux.

Paul Jones’ work stems from questions of memory and imagination. All his work has this strong thread connecting them. Though the viewer may find a myriad of materials and media being used, his goal is to push concepts through the work, balancing the believable, observable world with the unbelievable, the unseen, the unhelmlich. Using state of the art digital resources, Jones has navigated his gaze within the dark dystopia of strange skull landscapes venting volcanoes, and dark space anomalies. Features of this dystopic ‘space’ encroach and appear as anomalies within our own space and time, like a walking dream.

1. Untitled Black Series

6. Untitled Black Animation

3. Blackstar Series Paul Jones

3. Blackstar Series (background)
5. Untitled Black Series (Foreground)

5. Untitled Black Series

2. Envelope drawings Paul Jones

4. Wallhill Blackstar Series (installation view)

untitled_Wall Hill_blackstar series 2009 from Paul Jones on Vimeo.

Numbers correspond to map below...

If you want to know more about the show visit www.theblackseries.blogspot.com

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


Untitled black series (detail) 2009

One thing that I must admit is that I’m not a historian. I’m a very ‘present’ person, I live in the now (probably too much) and the work reflects this. Previous works played with the trappings of consumerism, mimicking strategies like the advert, leaflet or video promo. This new work has a currency but the nature of its contemporaneity is founded in the notion of ‘becoming’.

As I said before I have been preoccupied with one ontological enquiry, the evolving identity or consciousness ever since the blob project. I suppose the trick is to imbed these ideas in the structure and processes of the work. One artist that does this very well I believe, is Brazilian artist Anna Maiolino. I feel an affinity with her journey to and effort to reconcile the political artistic lineage that preceded her, with a more subjective and expressive language. Her simple manipulation of clay into multiple and seemingly identical units talks of something before politics - something primal.

‘Never a single point of origin but multiple and splintered in many constellations’ Briony Fer

I came across a brilliant essay by Briony Fer, which talks about Maiolino's clay works in detail - the quote above (from this essay) struck a chord in me. In the 60’s and 70’s Brazilian artists were very much influenced by the notion of Anthropophagia – the cannibalisation of other cultures and this is still reflected in the intestine like forms she creates. The question of cultural origin is complex, in terms of the colonial story, but also with our ever-expanding global community perhaps concepts like these are still pertinent.