the Industrial Link

Fiddklers Ferry Project - painters TUBES magazineabove: The sleek designed Mersey Gateway Bridge stands in front of the Iconic Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. (photograph by ©Lee Harrison)

the Industrial Link   

written by Denis Taylor Artist and Editor for painters TUBES magazine

“…In the days where the art academies dictated what fine art painting was and what it wasn’t, it was only historical art that was regarded as the ‘defacto’ work to be taken ‘seriously’  all genres of art came in second, third and fourth in the order of importance.

The art game changed however with the onset and public popularity of the Barbizon painters, Corot, Alexander Cozens, Poussin, J.M.W. Turner and perhaps more powerfully for the UK, (albeit belatedly), John Constable. It was these painters that forced the institutions to reassess their bias as to what sort of work should be viewed as ‘serious art.’

In many way ways this highlights the art world of today, but in an absolute opposite standpoint . Today historical art is seen as dead and buried – no one is interested in recording an historical event as such – unless of course it’s a radical arts led concept to undermine the social political establishment. Of course that sort of Art is sometimes needed – if only to ensure our rulers are kept a close eye on, but this type of imagery in ‘visual art’ is ineffective as far as making an impact or an effect on society is concerned. Social media, Twitter in particular, has taken on that role gladly, ridiculing the powerful, as and when required. Which it does rather well with total freedom and a huge helping of negativity….”

So…a few years ago, I came across a fellow visual artist (Shaun Smyth) who was actually recording something of historical note as by way of a change, my interest was aroused. After a few conversations and more importantly, viewing the actual brilliant sketch works created in the artists studio…

Shaun Smyth -painters TUBES magazine…I encouraged the support of  painters TUBES magazine to back the artist and the exhibition whole heartedly. That exhibition was to be called “Constructing the Mersey Gateway Bridge.” The title given from an amazing governmental instigated [new] long needed infrastructure project, one which would create an actual gateway from the Mersey area to the rest of the North West of England.

It was a part of the ‘regeneration of the old industrial towns’ that have been ‘neglected’ for six or more decades – It was a significant structure in both intention and actual physical presence. The Mersey Gateway Bridge was completed and officially opened on the 4th June 2018 by Queen Elizabeth ll of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Three years prior to the bridge opening for traffic. Shaun Smyth had already been sketching and painting the beginnings of it from the onset of the bridge construction.  By 2018 Shaun had created dozens of examples of the bridge showing every stage of it’s construction. Luckily, the artist passed the structure every day on his way to his art teaching job at a local School.

Shaumn Smyth painting -with painters TUBES magazineShaun eventually produced a mass of work – Large, small and medium in his own style.  The actual paintings tended towards realism but with contemporary flashes of paint applied loosely with absolute skill and passion. As a local born and bred artist, Shaun added a non-apologetic large creative slice of regional pride.

Catalogue Brindley Exhibition - painters TUBES magazinepainters TUBES magazine created and funded the prodcution of the catalogue and the media push, ensuring this important serious art was exhibited in a way that both the work and the project deserved. In this aim the first sign of success came in the form of support from the Brindley Theatre, the Hatton Borough Council, [+painters TUBES magazine] and Bell Lamb and Joynson Solicitors, all of whom ensured that the show became a reality from the 18th February 2018 to 5th April 2019- (please click here to read the: Exhibition Catalogue on line).

During the course of preparation for Mersey Gateway Bridge exhibition it came to the attention of Shaun that an historical icon of the area was on the brink of being ‘de-commissioned’ – That iconic structure was an incredible landmark of the North West of England known as Fiddlers Ferry Power Station – One of five coal fired stations still operational in the UK. For me, it was obvious that these two subjects should be brought together. The new Mersey Gateway Bridge – And the past glory of Coal Fired Power stations. The Fiddlers Ferry still holds an enormous historical importance in the hearts and the minds of people of the North West of England. And unlike the bridge, it was an integral piece of fantastic technology that was born out of the industrial revolution, the revolution that physically put the word ‘Great’ as a prefix to ‘Britain.’

Despite the understandable decisions to change how power is generated for national consumption for the 21st century (to reduce carbon emissions), for the benefit of the environment, Fiddlers Ferry should be given the respect it so richly deserves. Especially for the generations of people it has served and to provide historical reference and a narrative for future generations. It was with this in mind that myself, Shaun Smyth and Lee Harrison came to the conclusion that it was an Art project very worthy of serious attention.

above: Fiddlers Ferry created a ‘wild life’ environment with the excess water the plant needed for it’s colling towers. ©Lee Harrison.

Lee, a well known, gifted photographer, had been photographing Fiddlers Ferry Power Station for a few years before our new project was born, even though it was from an interest in how the power station could be seen from afar in the North West of England from great distances. And Shaun had already made many sketches of Fiddlers as the station was so close to the Mersey Gateway Bridge that they were in an almost symbiotic visual relationship. My own interest was initiated way back in 1988/89, when I first documented the Agecroft Power Station [before it was decommissioned and then demolished in May 1994] with a painting known widely as ‘Acid Trip’ ©DenisTaylor1988/1989-  And of course I realises that this project was a terrific subject for articles for painters TUBES magazine, of which I act as an editor in chief.

So far, the new project has advanced quickly with Shaun, Lee and myself discussing the narrative and planning various concepts of presentation of the project in a public space. We discussed how various segments like video, photography, interviews of the staff could be shown along side oil paintings that are both realistic and some abstracted visions, all integrated into one visually powerful exhibition with a potentially huge public interest, especially in the North of England.

Shaun, Lee and Denis Taylor -painters TUBES Fiddlers Ferry Projectabove (from left): Shaun Smyth, Lee Harrison and Denis Taylor of Tubes who has advised and guided the project from its onset. Behind Shaun and Lee is the large painting of Fiddlers Ferry Power Station created by Shaun.

With the go ahead for access given for the project from Fiddler Ferry,  Shaun immediately launched into an ambitious painting of the ‘outside view’ of the station. This work will underpin future exhibitions and also give an immediate visual reference to the scale of the Fiddlers Ferry power plant. This oil on plywood painting, measuring 1200mm x 4800mm wide (4 ft x 16ft) is the first of a planned number of major works (to be created by Shaun)  that the project will exhibit – And hopefully in more than one location in the North West of England.

The project will continue until Fiddlers Ferry has totally vanished from the landscape (in 36 months) – inbetween time the project is looking to hold a number of smaller exhibitions in immediate the local areas where the public can follow the ambitious project during its journey – as it documents this architectural, technological and quite incredible icon of the 20th century.

Above: Shaun Smyth and Lee Harrison at the pre-opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge Exhibition at the Brindley. Photograph by DenisTaylor

Both the Mersey Gateway Bridge and Fiddlers Ferry Power Generating Station are equally important for the whole of society – one showing the path for the future – and the other respecting the achievement of the past – Both linked intrinsically with the people of the North West of England and far beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.

written Denis Taylor for painters TUBES magazine ©2019-Interested parties, sponsors,  venues or for more information please contact info@painterstubes.com – marking Fiddlers Ferry Project as the subject matter.

link to submit your art or project to painters TUBES magazine

TUBES readers information: painters TUBES magazines are independent art publications. They are designed and produced at Studio 5 Angelholm in Skane, Sweden.  They are printed in the UK and Administered by artists. The magazine branding and it's associated url's: ©2013 painterstubes.com, ©2019-paintertubes.gallery and tubesmag.com Registered and owned by the TUBES Family. The Tubes family consists of: Barry Taylor.Consultant.(UK)  Denis Taylor, Artist, Writer/Editor (Sweden and the UK). Marianne Arnberg Taylor. Admin (Sweden). Adam Taylor.Admin(UK). Distributors. Manchester(UK). Past and present Current major projects include: Constructing the Mersey Gateway Bridge - Shaun Smyth, Exhibition at the Brindley Centre 2019. UK. "defining the elemental" Mixed artists exhibition, Dean Clough, Crossley Gallery, 2018-2019. The Second Nature Project. UK and Europe, panel discussion and exhibition - 2020-2021. Fiddlers Ferry Project 2020-2021- Lee Harrison and Shaun Smyth  North West England Exhibition of Photography and paintings. "Spike" Tubes Critic is written by Paul Constantine and Barry Ornszitt and Denis Taylor.

where do you sell your paintings?

“You won’t believe this but, I was reading an art exhibition review which is pretty damming, not only to the exhibition in question, but also to the artist who made it. This isn’t an anti-post modernist twentieth century rant, nor is it an intellectual twenty first century tirade of what Art should be or indeed what it actually is.

Not at all, this review is more like those angry comments one sometimes reads after an essay about Contemporary Art in a left leaning national newspaper. You know, those rants directed at some arts columnist who infuriates everyone with his almost myopic intellectualism  – the one that uses sentences filled with nine letter and twelve letter words that were lifted from a thesaurus the night before.

To be honest, at first I laughed and then I was taken aback at the ferocity of the attack and then I felt really pissed off….” (30 September – 19.07  sms from Spike to painters Tubes magazine Sweden article to follow).

Tubes magazine Spike Art Critic

…the newspaper reviewer started off with, “that he found the exhibition so boring… that he could hardly find anything [to write about]. So, what was this horrendous exhibition he was so incensed about? – Artists vomit ‘installed’ on the floor of a gallery perhaps? Or maybe a live performance of an artist asleep?  Maybe digital prints of someone else iPhone selfies? Or even a person standing and staring into space for an hour or two naked in the middle of a gallery whistling out of tune? Nope…  none of those, it was a visual art exhibition showing paintings hung on a wall. Paintings, the most ubiquitous of all art was what this supercilious art critic railed against. He announced that painting (as an art form) was dead if not buried. So what if the artist had mounted an on-line exhibition instead of a bricks and mortar gallery exhibition? Would he have had to encountered such negativity and venom against the artist and the work? I don’t think so. On-line etiquette is far too well enforced, as far as commenting (read criticising) art is concerned. If you do critic any art on line – well, you know what happens guys…you get a bad case of the International Troll Gang gunning for you, social media is vicious towards critics. It’s sort of reversed in real life.

Do you Sell on line?
Showing paintings on line, seems to be the main stream for the dissemination of an artists work. Even though real life exhibitions are still relevant for many artists, an on line presence is essential (if only for street cred). Perhaps this particular critic didn’t realise that the “painting is a dead art” conversation has faded away as fast as padded shoulders did in the middle 1980’s. There has been a major change in attitude to painting in the last decade or so. In part, this may be entirely due to the need for the high street galleries to survive the financial crisis, the one that started in earnest way back in 2008. High street galleries need to sell ‘stuff’ and earn a profit – And paintings sell much quicker than ‘cool’ installations that rely on high brow art academics to authenticate the cultural importance of something that most people wouldn’t actually install in their homes (even if they don’t say so publicly).  And the institutions are happy to underscore the ‘Art’ as a thank you for the generous support (financial donation) made by the mega white cubed gallery brigade, whose artist is the latest exhibition in the museum. ”

William Shakespeare - There is something rotten in Denmark - article in painters TUBES magazine
“there’s something rotten in Denmark, me thinks.”

Yet, the installation art marketplace is tiny compared to what the two dimensional art market is and I think the galleries have woken up to that as a fact – so now painting is the ‘thing’ again. Today the sheer size of the visual art market (because of the internet and the web) has outgrown all that ‘arty farty stuff’ by leaps and bounds – certainly as far as turnover is concerned. So the www has become the place to set up your stall. Major funded on-line art galleries and some not so well funded independent artists, all have a go at selling direct to art collectors and art lovers.  Many of these artists and the one man art galleries start-ups fail quickly- some have a sort of:- ‘in the third year we will make money plan’.  Most, in reality, loose much more money than they bargained for and are wrapped up prematurely by the investors that backed the idea in the first place.  It’s not a case of chasing huge profits for many galleries though, on the contrary, it’s survival we are talking about here. Many on-line galleries are simply losing too much money, year in and year out. Consumers are going direct to source these days, via instagram.

“there is no money in Art…
…a very wise man once said to me (back in1990). He may have been right but for the wrong reason. Should Art really be treated as a commodity and be sold as such? – ‘Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap is not an effective strategy for art, unless of course your selling from a production line of ‘copy’ paintings, you know, technically good, but utterly soulless. The high street galleries are having some degree of success especially the well positioned bricks and mortar establishments. They really do use the web effectively. Many sell-out their latest exhibition on-line, even before they hold the opening night. A night which also serves a vital purpose for the prospective client to actually see the Artwork for real – then the deal is invariably clinched on the spot. Sounds good, but nothing has changed for the artist who hasn’t the right connections or a million+ followers on Instagram, he or she still don’t even get a foot through the door let alone a painting to sell.

But – and it’s a big but…
….will authentic original art win out in the end? Or will the major on-line galleries self appointed art selectors continue to advance those artists that fit the preferred ‘style’ of the month and advise their visitors of the artists who are the ‘ones to watch’ (read invest in) – thus employing the ‘stack em high sell em cheap (at first), then up the ‘anti’ later strategy – all with an ‘additional discount to buy’ of course, which the Artist who created the work in the first place has to ‘agree’ to accepting the higher percent they take off the top line. Will High street galleries continue to be flooded by the hopeful newbie or the forsaken mature painters ? To be honest they really don’t stand a chance of being let over the gallery threshold as a exhibited artist.  High Street galleries have more than they can handle on the books already – so they tell me. And then of course we have the the on-line educators come experts (anyone can be an art expert if they say they are, all you need in a minor degree in sociology).  They tell us – “How-to Sell Your Art On-Line” does this unquantified  advise make any difference –  or is that bull shit too? Only Time will tell.  Real artists have to keep painting and have to wait and see with their eyes wide open to all the possibilities – or maybe  and better still – perhaps artists should create their own ‘marketplace and stick two fingers up to the lot of them.

SPIKE is an independent art critic painters TUBES magazine and does not neccessarily represent the opinions of painters TUBES magazine – BUT WE DO LIKE HIM

  ©Spike2019

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The Art Game

“painting is a dead art”

painters TUBES favourite art critic and muse, known to all unsundry as Spike, returns to the latest issue with a pragmatic look at the back side of Art – business and selling. What follows is a extract from the full article that you can read free on the latest issue of painters Tubes magazine…

Showing paintings on line, is now the main stream for the dissemination of an artists work. Even though real life exhibitions are still relevant for many artists, an on line presence is essential (if only for street cred). That “painting is a dead art” conversation has faded away as fast as padded shoulders did in the middle 1980’s. There has been a major change in attitude to painting in the last few years. In part, this may be entirely due to the need for the high street galleries to survive the financial crisis, the one that started in earnest in 2009 and is still having an effect now, not to mention adding to the problem with (thinking here about) Donald Trump and the European Union on the brink of collapse helped along by French Riots, and No Deal Brexit.

Today, more than ever, high street galleries need to sell ‘more-stuff’ and earn extra profit to pay those stupidly high ‘business rates’ in the major Cities – And lets be honest, paintings sell much quicker than sculpture or worse those ‘cool’ avant-garde installations of nonsense that rely on high brow art academics to authenticate the cultural importance of something that most people wouldn’t actually install in their homes (even if they don’t say so publicly). And usually there is a heavy price tag for that sort of contemporary bull-shit art. Consequently the contemporary ‘arty farty’ marketplace is tiny compared to the ‘popular paintings’ art market. Even though there are only so many landscapes that anyone can put in their homes. That market will also run dry soon unless some risk taking by galleries start, pretty damn quick.

The sheer size of the (art) market (because of the www) has outgrown all that ‘arty farty stuff’ by leaps and bounds – certainly as far as turnover is concerned. So the www has become the place to set up your stall. Major funded on-line art galleries and some not so well funded independent artists all have a go at selling direct to art collectors and art lovers. Even Tubes magazine are having a go (although they already know there is no money to be made so why bother trying – the space it is giving to artists is in keeping with the magazine policy – Art before Money at all cost).

Spike talks about the art game..painters Tubes mag

The one man art galleries start-ups fail quickly- some have a sort of ‘in the third year we will make money fiscal plan’ and obtain a bank loans. Most, in reality, loose much more money than they bargained for and are wrapped up prematurely by their investors (or more commonly the Bank) the ones that backed the idea (with solid security that could be recouped) in the first place.

Today it’s not a case of chasing huge profits for many galleries, on the contrary, it’s survival we are talking about here. Many on-line outfits are simply losing too much money, year in and year out.
“..there is no money in Art..” a very wise man once said back in 1989.

He may have been right but for the wrong reason, as far as I am concerned. Should Art really be treated as a commodity? And be sold as such? – Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap is not an effective strategy, not for original art, so when times get tough, (in Art) the tough bottle it.