29 July 2018

The past shaping the future, College Artworks (selected work from 2005-2007)

I started writing this blog post probably a couple of years back and it had been just sitting as a draft waihting for the rite moment to be released into the world. At first I was unsure about sharing my artworks from College but then I realised how important my time at college was in terms of my artistic development. 

It was quite surprizing looking back at my previous work, I found that I forgot about half the stuff I had made. It was like revistiting old memories from the past because in a way every work has their own story of how it came into life. 

College was a valuable experience as I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study on a art and design cause. This programme of studies included working with ceramics, multi-media such as paper and metal and fabrics, technical drawing, life drawing, 3d rendering and stop frame animation. Having the flexibility to try different artistic proceses broadened my experience and awareness of the possibilities these different mediums offered. Going to college allowed me the opportunity to try lots of different things to be able to find a subject to focus on. 

I remember when I was studying at school I was never very good at subjects like maths and science. It was always the creative subjects such as fine art and ceramics that I had the most interest for. When I finished school I knew I wanted to pursue this creative side of me further. I realised ceramics was a subject from school that interested me, I guess I was curious about transforming ideas into 3d objects. This interest inspired me to pursue my creative interests further into College.     

Paper sculpture

Acrylic paint and oil pastels on canvas. A representation of a painting from an artist that I just can not remember. If anyone knows feel free to leave a comment as I would really like to know.

Charcoal on paper

Print on paper

Charcoal on paper

Charcoal on paper

Pencil and oil pastel on paper

Acrylic paint and oil pastels on paper

Acrylic paint on paper

Coloured charcoal on coloured paper

Pencil and charcoal on paper

During my College days I was keen to explore forms inspired by nature and human-made found objects. Sometimes I created art as a way to express my human emotions. Other times the work lost all direct representation and took on its own abstract quality.  

Obviously my art has changed a lot since College but what I have noticed is that I am still interested in working from an abstract approach. I think most of my artworks from school to this day continue to be abstract or detached in some way from the real world. I guess creating art without solid representation to the world I experience is an act of curiosity.

22 July 2018

Mystery Shoe at Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan

Yehliu Geopark is a stretch of cost line located north east of Taipei Taiwan. From Taipei It is about 1 hour and 24 minutes away by direct buss and 1 hour 31 minutes away by direct train and by car it is 44 minutes. 

When I went there in 2017 I got the train from Taipei Main Station to Keelung City and changed to the buss from Keelung City to Yehliu Geopark. Feel free to have a look at this map in the link bellow to give you an idea of the location.

People enjoying the rock formations at Yehliu Geopark

There is deffiently a mystery surrounding Yehliu Geopark as there is something about the formation of the stones that really captured my imagination. A lot of these stones have been eroded over the years by the strong waves and the weather.

Some of these stones sit upright like honeycombs or like some kind of sculptures, their size is comparable to an average human hight if not bigger. 

A mysterious stone shaped like a shoe

If the standing stones are not strange enough then the stone shaped like a shoe tops the list. I have never seen anything like this before. I could not believe that this stone had been eroded and shaped by the natural elements to the point at which it appearance is like some kind of shoe. It looked very surreal and out of place in its environment. 

There is a Taiwanese legend that mentions that a fairy came to the earth to fight a turtle elf and then on her return back to were she came the fairy left her shoe. 

A short video of the mysterious stone shoe and the sounding area

A fossil found within Yehliu Geopark

At Yehliu Geopark there are also many fossils that have been exposed. I had never seen fossils in their natural environment before as I am used to seeing them in museums. 

An example of a standing stone

Some stones look like a head of a person, there is one famous standing stone at the site called the Queens Head.

Some parts of the park look almost like a desert

Another unusual stone formation, it looks almost like some kind of shell

Small pools of water

An Island spotted from Yehliu Geopark, could be Kelung Island

For further information about Yehliu Geopark please see the links below:

15 July 2018

Lost in Ningxia Night Market Taipei Taiwan

In the UK the night life is very different to the night life in Taipei in Taiwan. In the UK it is often common to go to the pub or a night club with your friends and this usually involves drinking alcohol. Obviously this all depends on how old you are, what your character is and if you are a big fan of drinking alcohol. 

I myself like to go to the pub ocasionly as I can usually buy food and have an alcoholic drink like Guinness which is one of my favourites but if I do go it is usually in the afternoon as evenings can get quite crazy. Drinking alcohol is not everything as people do also go to restaurants to eat food, go to the cinema and the gym or swimming.

Restaurants around Bristol Harbour, Za Za Bazaar is a popular one for families.

However I do think alcohol consumption in the UK is a big problem as it is quite common for people to get drunk for the sake of being drunk and this can lead to anti social behaviour problems within society. You can often see the side effects of this in towns and cities especially on a Saturday morning as I can often find smashed glass bottles on the floor, empty beer cans and it can even go us far as vandalism. Perhaps this is a result of there not being many social activities to do within the built environment of towns and city's. 

Empty alcohol bottles and cans left outside of the Arnolfini in Bristol

I do think over consumption of alcohol is a big problem in the UK because of the acociated problems mentioned previously. Ideally I would like to live in a society that is safe and harmonious. Often excessive drinking of alcohol can lead people to become violent and verbally abusive. Maybe now I am just more aware of the problems of drinking alcohol so I tend to only drink occasionly with food.   

Please see the link below for more information about the drinking culture in the UK:
1. bbc.com  

However after going to Taiwan I got a different perspective on night life as it is not like the night life back home in the UK.

If you like food then Taiwan is food heaven as you will never go hungry here even if you tried. When I fist went to Taipei I was amazed at how important food is to the people of Taiwan. On every street you will find a shop selling different types of food from noodles, pastries, cakes, sweets, dumplings, Taiwanese breakfast which is one of my favourites and the list goes on. A lot of these shops and restaurants are small family businesses and others are big companies.

 From 5pm this this road gets transformed into the Ningxia Night Market in Taipei

What is really special are the street food night markets that usually start from 5pm and finish at about 4am and the markets are all outside usually occupying a whole road. With so much food abundant around it seems people do not really care much for alcohol, although if people are seen drunk on the streets of Taiwan it is looked down upon by society so I guess this is another reason why drinking alcohol is not popular. The night markets are defiantly worth a visit as you can eat all sorts of things from fish, handmade sweets, cakesnoodles, steamed buns, stinky tofu and plenty more.

Ningxia Night Market Taipei Taiwan

Liu Yu Zi. Deep Fried Purple potato balls at Ningxia Night Market Taipei Taiwan. Very delicious, crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside.

I thought I would share a video of Ningxia Night Market in Taipei Taiwan. In this video I was interested in capturing the sounds from food being cooked to people talking and the bussy crowds of people in the space.

If you would like to know more about Ningxia Night Market Taipei Taiwan feel free to see the links below:

8 July 2018

Cute and Fun in Taipei Taiwan

Since I was born in the UK I have become used to the built environment around me composing everything from architecture, to streets and signs, to advertising. There is so much information within the immediate environment that often I am not aware of it unless I really pay attention.Being lucky to go to other countries has given me an insight into a completely different culture and life style. This is especially true for Taiwan as so many things are very different like the food, architecture, advertising, language and behaviour within society.

Taiwan (please see map) is located east of China, originally called Formosa which meant beautiful island named by the Portuguese who gave the island this name during the Portuguese colonial age. The Taiwanese aborigines were living in Taiwan eight thousand years before the first arrival of the Han Chinese in the 17th century. During the colonial age Taiwan was occupied by the Portuguese in 1517, then the Dutch in 1624, the Spanish in 1626 and the Japanese in 1895. To this day the independence of Taiwan is disputed. You could say the situation is similar to that of Scotland and Ireland. However for this blog post I do not want to talk too much about the political side of things even though it is important in shaping society.

For this post I would like to talk about a kind of cute and fun atmosphere that hangs in the air of Taipei in Taiwan. This seems to be something that was all around me when I went to Taipei. I could see this style reflected in the adverting as lots of bright colours such as pinks, yellow's, blue's and green's are used. The advertising is often combined with child like imagery such as toy animals in an animated style.

This kind of aesthetic style does not stop there as in the public metro station instrumental music such as piano and ambient is played when a train approaches which can be cheerful and relaxing.

Music is often played across most Taipei Metro Stations

 If you would like to find out more information about why music is used at the stations you can see theses links Taipei Times and Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Various Advertising in Taipei, Taiwan 

A bear sitting on top of a boat in Dadaocheng District in Taipei. I think this bear symbolises the Taiwanese indigenous bear. 

I think these are just a couple of examples but this kind of say style in some way seems to be adopted by the people of Taiwan as people are always very friendly and sweet as one way to put it. Perhaps it is a kind of youthful and joyful social behaviour that not only is apart of people's behaviour but also integrated into the environment. This seems to all come together to help shape the Taiwanese culture. Either way it is difficult to not associate some aspects of social life and culture to the word "Cute".
I found a couple of articles describing Cuteness in Asia and they were all interesting to read as it gave me more of an insight into the culture of Taiwan and Asia.
Please see the links listed bellow:

  1. "The new science of cuteThe Guardian UK
  2. "‘Pretty, Innocent Asian Girls’: The Cult of Cuteness in East Asian Societies" by Aris     TeonThe Greater China Journa
  3. "What is the reason behind the cuteness culture in Asia" by Tarina Tang. quora.com
After reading through these articles I can understand a little bit more on why this style is widely used in Asia and Taiwan. Introducing cute and fun aesthetics into society could I suppose induce more happiness and well-being amongst people in society. 

Our current day lifestyle is often fast paced, busy and at times stressful. Would it not be useful to introduce more aesthetics into society to evoke among people happiness, well-being and harmony. Coming from the UK I can sometimes feel myself as being detached from the built environment as some environments can appear machine like and dull. 

Although there is an apparent cute culture in Taiwan this does not necessary mean its people are soft. As my wife is Taiwanese she notices that Taiwanese people tend to be soft on the outside and hard on the inside. Were as in the UK it appears that our social conditions are based on confidence and showing this on the outside while on the inside we can be soft. Perhaps it is also these social behavioural conditions that also manifests itself into the built environment around us.

1 July 2018

Drawing Through Clay. Bath Spa University Sion Hill Campus, UK. 20th - 30th of June 2018

Back in 2017 myself Martin Harman and my wife Wen-Hsi Harman (wenhsichenceramics.com) had the opportunity to go and do an artist residency at Bundanon Trust in New South Wales Australia from the 15th to the 26th of November.

Our project was called Cross Cultural Identity Through Clay Drawing

The inspiration for this came from unpacking ideas relating to our own identities from the UK, Taiwan and our experience in Austrilia. 

This was expressed by investigating imagery to symbolise these countries, its culture and our experience as part of a large clay and multi-media painting.  

For example for Taiwan we used traditional Chinese writing and a outline image of the island of Taiwan. For the UK we used a robin bird as they are quite common and an outline of the United Kingdom and Ireland. For Australia we drew a house from Bundanon Trust that is used as an accommodation and studio as the architecture was very unique as it was raised on these stilts to protect it from flooding. We also drew a kangaroo as we saw a lot of them pass our studio on a daly bases. Alongside the kangaroo we incorporated a "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign as a way to comment on society in the UK and a peace hand gesture from the kangaroo itself to symbolise Taiwanese culture as well as Asian culture. Hand prints and foot prints were also used to capture the traces of our bodies as well as our finger prints. 

This large painting was created using clay that we dug and proceed in Australia during our residency as well as other medias such as pencil, pen and paint. If you would like to find out more infomation about Martin and Wen-Hsi's residency you are welcome to see this link: Clay of Culture 

After this residency we then went to the National Taiwan University of the Arts in Taiwan (http://m.ntua.edu.tw/ntuaen/index.htm) to share this experience and do a workshop based on this project with the students of the ceramics department. This was  a way of carrying this project forward to allow other people to interpret their culture. The results of this session was then shared as part of an exhibition at Bath Spa University at the Sion Hill Compass as well as Martin and Wen-Hsi Harman's large clay drawing created at Bundanon Trust. 

Poster from the workshop that took place on the 6th of December 2017

Students at the National Taiwan University of the Arts ceramics department creating clay paintings.

Bellow is the resulting artworks at the exhibition called "Drawing Through Clay" at Bath Spa University Sion Hill campus. For more information please see (https://www.bathspa.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/drawing-through-clay/)

The names of all of the artists involved in this exhibition

If anyone is interested in applying for an artist residency at Bundanon Trust in New South Wales Australia please see this link: https://bundanon.com.au

We enjoyed our time there as it was set in a rural location and so it was very quite which allowed ourselves to focus on creating. The studio and accommodation was very good too. Each artist had their own living space, kitchen and studio. It provided all the space we needed. This was a cooperative self funded residency as this opportunity dose not provided funding that I was or am currently aware of. Therefore you will need to think about how you will fund your self exspaccally if you are not based in Australia. What I will say is that you will probably need to consider your materials you would like to work with as they do not provide resources such as metalwork and clay work machinery so this is why we focused on painting. It is probably a good idea to speak to the staff first to see how they can assist you.

The view from the studio at Bundanon Trust

The Studio at Bundanon Trust