Driving along the A48 towards Newnham, the signpost marked ‘Bullo Pill’ has always rather intrigued me. So last week I set off there to visit Pete Simpson’s studio. He is an art teacher, photographer and sculptor of ….imps and things.
I park under some old railway arches and Pete greets me, leading me through to his lovely garden studio.
The shelves are crammed with all kinds of goblins, imps, trolls and elves. Pete tells me that his interest in creating fantasy sculpture started over 30 years ago when he first saw the work of Brian Froud in the animated fantasy adventure film, ‘The Dark Crystal’.
I am fascinated by the level of detail in these polymer clay creatures : their warty faces, clothing, dirty looking toenails and tiny accoutrements. The fabrics are found materials – old dyed dishcloths, scraps of leather, hessian and muslin.
Although the characters are mainly male, I’m told that their collectors are frequently female. I enquire whether Pete has vivid dreams.
I think about sculptor Anthony Gormley’s ‘moments of lived time’ (see my February blog), and how these 30cm high beings might reflect aspects of existence. With my therapist’s wondering, I ponder the Froud/Freud connection. Pete also mentions the influence of H. P. Lovecraft (I thought they were a 70s band ?).
He also works to commission and is currently making a giant tooth which will be covered with special cleaning imps for a dentist’s surgery in Canada.
Think less cute tooth fairies?
Pete attends various fantasy markets and gatherings for example, the Faerie Festival in Glastonbury, a Fantasy Forest event in July at Sudeley Castle.
And of course, he will be opening his studio as part of farOpen 2019, Venue 24.
As I took my leave, Pete said that I hadn’t asked him the two questions that he’d most expected:
‘How long do they take to make?’
‘Had you thought of creating a film?’
You’ll have to visit Bullo Pill yourself to get the answers. It’s almost under a bridge, and you’ll certainly encounter a few trolls.
Later, as I was looking up H.P. Lovecraft, I came across the following quote:
“Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.”
― H.P. Lovecraft
A.T. April 2019
I’ve been drawing a daily self-portrait since the beginning of last September. I started a couple of days before my last birthday (I was on holiday at the time), and I haven’t stopped.
I’m certainly not the first person to create self-portraits. Many artists, from Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, to Lucien Freud, and Louise Bourgeois, have painted self-portraits. And there are lots of variations on the theme: Ryan Gander, for example, painted the palette that he used to create his self-portraits, and there is an artist, Bryan Lewis Saunders, who painted self-portraits whilst on different drugs. (He ended up with mild brain damage).
It is not original.
I don’t really know why I started – something of a challenge perhaps?
I have posted some of them on my Instagram page (annies_haul). It is interesting to hear people’s comments:
Boredom has set in at times, so I have experimented with slightly different media, but always restricting myself to black and white. I have longed for colour.
I have also tried drawing with my non-dominant hand/with my eyes shut/from memory. Some of the most interesting self portraits have been with my non-dominant hand, and it’s amazing how (good?) some of the non-dom/eyes shut ones have turned out.
Am I validating my existence? Is it healing? Do they represent aspects of self? Do I need to do this in order to be able to capture the essence of someone else? Is it a load of rubbish?
I’m a stubborn person and I am hoping to continue this madness for a year. I have so far thought about making some kind of stop frame animation using the sketches, or perhaps some textile work…
I think that my drawing and observational skills have improved a little. We are taught to draw faces from a very early age, but we don’t really draw what we see. It’s a bit like the house with four windows and the tree outside – how many of us really live in a house like that?
So the staring at myself will continue. Maybe there is a song in it?
I heard a scratching in the attic the other day. I was reminded of a book I read a while back: ‘The Owl Service’ by Alan Garner. That had a scratching in the attic too - a ghostly one?
Perhaps it’s a metaphoric scratching?
During the long dark days of winter we retreat to the home, huddle around fires, eat comfort foods. Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to heed the scratching (whatever it means) as we begin to step outside and reconnect with the outside world.
I watched sculptor Antony Gormley’s ‘How art began’ programme recently (I’m still indoors… by the fire). He is travelling the world, exploring cave paintings. Some of the art works date from over 48,000 years ago. I was struck by a sense of common humanity: stencilled hands appearing in places across the world from Spain, France to Indonesia and Australia. Gormley talks about ‘a moment of lived time’. Making marks invokes a presence, a fleeting projection of who we are, a reflection of our existence. When we make art we are truly alive.
So, the scratching. It’s time to make a space, take a walk, tidy the studio, consider projects, new directions.
More prosaically, time to think about making an application to open your studio this year. With galleries closing, those that remain end up charging ever increasing commission which has the effect of making art even more expensive. One of the tenets of farOpen is to get art ‘seen and sold’ and opening your own space is a great way to achieve that.
And the scratching ?