Cool Stuff

The Opening of the V&A Design Museum in Dundee

Right now there is a huge buzz in Dundee, as the brand new Kengo Kuma designed V&A Museum has opened! It is the second Victoria & Albert museum in the world, their first time branching out from their extensive museum in London. This one is all about the design, and in particular, Scottish design. Dundee is the UK's first UNESCO City of Design, and the museum showcases some of the reasons why we were given that title.

What reasons, you ask? Well, Dundee used to be famous for Jute, Jam and Journalism as we were an industrial town that exported jute and other cloth all over the world. DC Thompson is a Dundee publisher that is pretty famous here in Scotland, but international folks might have read the Dennis the Menace comics when they were younger. We invented delicious marmalade! We are also famous for video game design, and have a thriving art scene. Also, a lot of medical research goes on here in our 2 Universities.
Here is a really informative article that explains a little of Dundees history, and the different industries and specialisms historically based in the city.

10 years ago, when I was in first year at University, I remember attending several lectures and presentations about the big plans for the Dundee Waterfront Redevelopment. Hungover and thoroughly living in the moment, the plans were exciting to hear about, but it was all very far off in the future and nebulous to me. For the past few years now we have all watched with fascination as Kengo Kumas building took shape before our eyes. The redevelopment is well and truly underway now, and actually pretty true to what they initially presented a decade ago.

I was so, so lucky that I managed to get into the building on the opening day, and get shown around too. It is such an impressive building, with an awesome team working behind the scenes. Click to make full size…

I can’t wait to go back in once all the crowds have died down just a bit, and spend some quality time in the design gallery. There will be temporary design exhibitions, too: the one on right now is called Ocean Liners. The cafe and resturaunt look great, and there is a programme of events you can check out on their website.


This one is of Primal Scream, who headlined the 3D festival on Friday night. Other acts performing were Tallia Storm, Be Charlotte, and Lewis Capaldi. There was also lots of dance and various activities going on throughout.

The second day of the 3D festival was opened with a powerful and chilled out set by SHHE. I wasn’t there for the rest of the acts (had a time slot for entrance to the building!), but it looked like a great time, and was packed with people enjoying the festival.

Well, hope this was interesting! It has been an action packed weekend, and the city is still mega busy!

Grayson Perry: Drawings, Tapestries, and Teddy

Despite his huge poularity/notoriety, Grayson Perry is one of my all time favourite artists. I was aware of his celebrity when I was recommended to look at his work back in art school, but I hadn't been expecting his stuff to be so cool. After winning the Turner prize back in 2003, his numerous books, lectures, TV series and high profile shows in London made him one of those mythical 'famous artists'. Guess he's living the dream, or something :P

Perry works with ceramics, textiles, and numerous other ways of working that all can be considered as 'craft' (and therefore 'less than') by many in the art world. This is a deliberate decision which works with his subject matter, sometimes in harmony or sometimes in juxtaposition. For instance, here are some pots. They are crammed with information and drawings, they sometimes have photographs and objects added to their surface. Included an etching, too, so you can see the range of detail/tone in his drawings.

The first chance I had to go see a show of his was 'Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman' at the British Museum. One of the only shows that has stuck in my mind, and that I keep coming back to when thinking about my own stuff. The venue choice seems odd at first, but it was actually very suiting. The show was presented in the way any other history museum would show artifacts and relics: glass cases, dark walls, text boxes with dates etc. But all of Perrys work was shown alongside items he had selected from the museums archives.

At times it was hard to tell on first glance who the work belonged to, or who it was made by. A lot of the historical objects looked very odd in this context, but this seemed to say that the creators were just like us, and that even our own culture and rituals look ridiculous when looked upon objectively in a museum. There was all this interconnected dialogue about class, art vs craft, consumerism, society and sexuality. And it gave me just a whiff of a far off future where Perrys own work had become relics of the past, with historians explaining their own projected truths onto the objects. It was immersive and mesmerising.

As well as ceramic artifacts and illustrated pots, there was a huge tapestry on show.


There is a huge amount of detail in these tapestry works, which he draws on computer software that can then be produced by specialist weavers. Some of the tapestries are absolutely massive. But I love the detail on that scale. Makes me want to play with larger scale textile stuff too. If only I could tapestry! These tapestries were one of my early influences for my lace pieces, too. The second piece there is a portrait of a lady printed onto a beautiful silk hijab.


Anyway, if you like the work, you should listen to what he has to say about it. There are a few different tv shows on channel 4: All in the Best possible taste, and Who are you. He also recorded 4 BBC Reith lectures for Radio4, which you can listen to online: they are good.

Me with Alan Measles the Teddybear in his motorbike shrine, outside Perrys show at the British Museum in 2011, looking worn out from London antics.

Me with Alan Measles the Teddybear in his motorbike shrine, outside Perrys show at the British Museum in 2011, looking worn out from London antics.

Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window (From the Archives)

This is something I wrote about a few years ago, but I came across it when browsing through the archived blog posts from my old site. I thought it was worth sharing again, so I kept the original post intact, adding more things on at the end. It has been over four years since I wrote this:  I was studying at Duncan of Jordanstone, and still concentrating on painting. How time flies. can't believe it!

April 13, 2010

I have been working on a new painting. It is a portrait of Paul. Derek, my tutor, gave me advice about how to make paintings look more like old masters work. The sitter is to be posed: preferably in a formal stance, or just as a subtle reference to an old master painting that I admire. I have been thinking about making a tribute to Vermeers Girl reading a Letter by an Open Window. I love Richters tribute to it. In fact, there have been several adaptations, but here are my favourites:

Johannes Vermeer,  Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window , 1657

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, 1657

Gerhard Richter,  Lesende , 1994

Gerhard Richter, Lesende, 1994

Tom Hunter,  Woman reading a Possession Order,  1997

Tom Hunter, Woman reading a Possession Order, 1997

I wrote about the two paintings here in my contextual review at uni- mine was about the use of photography in paintings (Hopefully, that is what my dissertation will be about, too).  Anyway, referencing a famous pose such as this, or perhaps even a gesture with the hands, as in Van Eycks Arnolfini portrait, would be a powerful idea to bring forward, I think.

13th October, 2014

I didn't end up writing about the use of photography in paintings for my dissertation: writing that essay was enough for me! I began to change direction after that, and start thinking less about representational painting and more about drawn/printed pattern. Quite a segue!

A few years after writing that essay (which went okay), boooooom published an article featuring all kinds of 'remakes' of famous paintings, in the form of photography. So here are two more. I can't believe the second one is a photograph!

Johann Watzke, Girl reading a letter by an open window,  2011

Wanda Martin, Girl reading a letter by an open window, 2011

The girl reads a secret love letter, as a symbolic basket of tempting fruit spills over on her bed and the window of her home is flung wide open. It has been summarised as "a woman's longing to extend her domestic sphere" beyond the constraints of her home and society. (Vermeer, 1632–1675 (2000), Norbert Schneider)

Do you think that these tributes and remakes are successful? Which ones, and why?

Development with Watercolour Monoprinting

New ideas, thoughts, work... it takes time, for me at least. Can't be forced... although targets are always good! I have been working with some of my friends towards a collaborative project- it is still in the tentative beginning stages, but just meeting up regularly and talking about our practice has been really beneficial. Of course, working in the print studio is also a great motivator! I was introduced to Watercolour Monoprintingrecently, which will be available soon as a wee course at DCA, if you want to learn how. It is so easy: essentially just painting with watercolour on a perspex plate, allowing to dry, then printing normally through a press with damp paper, reactivating the watercolour paint. You can take many prints from the same plate, too, which is different from regular monoprinting. They do get gradually softer, but it is a lovely effect to play with. It's quite suited to my painting style, too.

Okay, here are some things I have been doing with watercolour monoprinting! Magical Spheres and Fictional Landscapes...

Watercolour Monoprint #1
Watercolour Monoprint #1
Watercolour Monoprint #2
Watercolour Monoprint #2
Watercolour Monoprint with Screen Print
Watercolour Monoprint with Screen Print

Sam Jacobs and the Hyperreal Object in Fantasy

I've been doing a bit of research lately around my new project. This is the first time I've seriously researched outside of an institution, and it's pretty tough not having the resources you take for granted whilst studying at at University. Namely the lovely vast library of specialist books (art related and everything else) and journals. I thought using the internet would be just as good, if not easier (less hassle leafing through physical books), but it turns out it is simply a distraction! Thankfully, I still have access to fantastic resources at DCA. :D I came across an article in Art Review that talks about some topics related to what I've been thinking about.

 Things in fantasy often possess more qualities than things in real life. They operate more symbolically, or they can do impossible things: rings that make you disappear, for example.

All its objects are treated like fetishes: swords, books, thrones, cloaks and so on. … Exaggerated through sounds, light, cinematography and post production, its props acquire a sense of more-than-realness.

They feel more real than any real medieval sword propped up in a stately home or suit of armour in a museum. They are visually and sonically coaxed into a state of hyperreality.

-Sam Jacobs, Game of Thones, Art Review Summer 2013, issue 69, p.58.

Just something I've been thinking about with regards to my animations. And, on a seemingly unrelated note, here is a cool cabbage gif: