Shaun Smyth, painter and Lee Harrison, photographer, have been documenting the Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. The concept is to show the complex machinery, building and the people of the power plant, provided the power that drove a 20th century industrial Britain.
The coal powered plant now in its last days of existence is on a scheduled close down by the end of March as the demolishers move in on the 31st. Fiddlers Ferry is one of the last five remaining coal fired power generation stations in the UK. It covers a huge amount of ground, and over the years it has seen an ironic nature spin off for the wildlife and water fowl, which have taken advantage of the ‘use’ of water the plant used for as a cooling agent and steam generator. Fiddlers famous Cooling towers can be seen across the North West of England with spectacular shows of steam rising to the heavens. One of the many images caught on camera, on video and in painted images by Smyth and Harrison.
The End Game is the demolition – which will be a visual spectacular, especially when the enormous towers come down. Yet there will be a touch of sadness about the whole closure. Despite the 21st century awareness that coal fired power generation needs to be stopped, for the good of the delicate balance of the environment as it is today, this power plant has been an iconic emblem of the North’s contribution to the wealth of the British Nation. It stand for a progressive, can do will do attitude, when it comes to independence and non-reliance on outside providers of essential energy requirements for a nation.
Shaun, Lee and Denis Taylor at Fiddlers Ferry in front of the first completed painting
Smyth and Harrison and to a great extent with the inspiration, ideas and support of the [silent] third member of the project (Denis Taylor artist and editor of Tubes) will present a two part set of exhibitions. One of the first will be at the fabulous Pilkington Glass Museum in St Helens (November 2020), with further venues that will be offered the current completed works (paintings, photographs and video) for the show: “Fiddlers Ferry as it Stands” and a follow up show: “Fiddlers-Ferry as it Falls.” both shows acting as historic records – a complete record which one imagines will be permanently housed in an industrial dedicated Museum for future generations to view as an historic visual education.
TUBES issue #5 An extensive article on landscape painting from the early Chinese artists to global contemporary painters. Featuring some of the most gifted landscape painters, both known and unknown. “fantastic issue full of great content and information all in a really good read.” one of the comments from readers about this issue. Link: http://online.mobissue.com/badm/hfli/
TUBES issue #6 The Year Review of the magazines with an excellent front page of one of the great North West English Street painters since L.S.Lowry, Dave Coulter. Plus a full review of the exhibitions that year and more. A great magazine issue. Link:
TUBES issue #7 In this issue… “the pleasure, the passion, the power and the panache of painting”… is well documented by four superb artists – Colin Halliday, Richard Fitton, Patrick Blower and Ian Norris. not to be missed .
TUBES issue #8 Shaun Smith is the main artist featured in this issue. He created a huge portfolio of paintings and drawing over three years documenting the construction of the Mersey Gateway Bridge. Designed and part Constructed by Samsung Construction (Korea) it is the largest infrastructure project carried out in the UK since the M25 motorway.
Featured in the upcoming issue #8 of painters Tubes magazine, will be Ian Mood, a painter who is creating a unique series of work based on his Grand fathers paintings of Stoke-on-Trent. It’s an idea that emerged slowly over time and Ian has now established a project studio in the Stoke City Centre, to make the idea a reality. During our Editor’s visit, Ian introduced him to the trustee’s of Burslem School of Art, http://www.burslemschoolofart.com/, that also have a fascinating story to tell.
Ian’s series of work – “common ground.” – will be exhibited in the art School’s fabulous building and exhibition space. Tubes issue #8 will be discussing the project and taking a general look at Ian’s work over the last years, which includes some unique semi-abstract (expressionist) paintings dealing with the human form and also his earlier landscape paintings…Tubes issue#8….not to be missed.
‘Spike’ – resident critic of painters Tubes magazine takes a stab at the vanity galleries and the ‘pay to enter’ commercial competitions and art fairs.
“Vanity and pay for exhibition spaces or Galleries, are they worth it?”
So, what is an alternative to the favoured High Street galleries for the artists who cannot break the cycle of rejection, (however reluctant that may be, from a Galleries viewpoint). The so called ‘Vanity’ galleries have been around for decades and over the last two decades they have sprouted up everywhere, in one form or another. It is rarely they that are bothered or (overly) concerned about the quality of the artists work, the ones who wish to pay them for their space.
This type of gallery is in the business of renting ‘the space only,’ usually in a well located high street shop, for a profit. They use a branded banner on the outside and send out invitations of ‘applications,’usually from commercially acquired mass emailing lists of artists, ones that are gleaned from, you guessed it, Social Media platforms. Some advertise directly on mass media or other social media with attractive wording that will entice the Artist to go one step further and start a conversation with their ‘curator’ (read Salesman). It’s only when you actually read the ‘deal’ that you discover that it will cost a ‘shit-load’ of your own money, that you begin to temper the ego and dreams of exhibiting in a gallery with that of your own financial reality.
Those who are brave and drown out the ‘money’ objection, one being screamed at them for all corners, convince themselves that they will ‘break even’ financially – if only given the chance to show their work, but usually they have either, miscalculated the cost, or are unaware of what it takes to ensure a reasonably successful ‘selling’ exhibition. Or they simply cannot get past the artistic‘blue-sky’ thinking syndrome. Not so long a go I did a cost analysis of exhibiting in a ‘pay-for-space’gallery. This was based on an out of City centre location, (in the UK) with reasonably accurate costs for space, marketing, transportation and so on. The final figure came out at a cost for a 5 to 6 day solo exhibition of around £3500 ($4,800). Major City centre space was nearer double that price, when I looked further into it. That’s a lot of painting to sell, based on the market average price for a half decent sized canvas for an unknown painter, at the lower (attractive) ‘stip-end’ market price level of around £350 each (circa $500), So is it worth it? Just for friends and family to rub ones ego and confirm you are a good artist?
How about selling on the web and creating a virtual reality exhibitions on your own website?
Sure, but I would suggest for that to be really successful, (i.e. selling on a regular basis for a consistent period of time) the artist will need a very good e-commerce enabled website (i.e. one that is not cheap to acquire and maintain) – And spend a great deal of time making strategic posts on social media – Or hire someone to do that specific task, and with a regular advertising budget. In this case I would suggest an annual budget for Marketing and PR of in excess £3000 per annum, for doing it all yourself, or £5000 to £8,000 annually, to hand this ‘job’ over to a professional full time SEO and art marketeer to do it for you. Who will no doubt, not give you any guarantee of a return for your money.
How about entering Art Competitions to gain recognition?
Why not, if you can live with the rejection element, nine out of ten times of entering the ones that, according to their pre-publicity, ‘give You the chance of lifetime’ to be internationally famous. Let’s be honest here, it’s a bit of lottery. The important thing to remember is, who does the judging – Usually there is an academic, a curator, another well known person who knows (not a lot) about art and the winner from the previous years competition. So the winning entries are somewhat vacuous in their preferences because of their own bias to one form of art or another. There again, if you actually ‘Win’ or come second or third, what does it bring you? – Well if it’s a National Competition’ then about 15 minutes of fame and a commission from the sponsors of the Competition, and loads of Facebook likes and messages of congratulations (ego gratification again). Plus, maybe 3 minutes on a You Tube video interview or a feature in your local newspaper.The rest of the smaller comp’s are really a bit like Vanity Galleries, except they don’t make as much money out of the ‘customer’. It can cost around £30 to enter three paintings to an ‘average’ competition – And if you are short listed you have to physically take your paintings to a central point – for ‘further judging’ and then schlep them back again (when rejected), which can cost you up to ‘whatever’-depending how far away you live form the nominated place of ‘drop-off’. The on-line ‘competitions, to my mind, are simply a money gathering exercise, full stop. And, again only in my opinion, are really not worth bothering with – unless they are free to enter of course.
Read ‘Spike’ in painters TUBES magazines back issues on line and now on TAG (Tubes artists Gallery) link: painterstubes.gallery
…way back in 1986, I decided to become a full time artist (painter). At least painting full time when it was possible. My self imposed rule #1 – was “to live for Art, and not live off Art.” – which sort of boxed me in, as I still needed to earn a living. This I did by working in a variety of jobs, writing articles and catalogues and selling the occasional canvas to interested parties, or taking on commissions, but only when someone asked me. Somehow, years later, I found myself ensconced on island called Aegina. The island is close to Piraeus (19 kilometers) and thus Athens, where I could buy (piecemeal) oil paint, when I had the money, for Art supplies that is. It was here that I confronted the age old enemy of creatives – Ego – And it was here that I defeated it, albeit with the help of an invisible helping hand, which many people call their God. Unlike my home in Northern Europe, the Greek belief system was strong, and it would be unnatural for any creative not to absorb the atmosphere that surrounds them. The outcome was work which, up to then, I had never envisaged painting. This was linked to an incident, one that is too long to explain here, but let me just say, a miracle occurred that saved my life.
Time passed and my collection of paintings grew. Eventually I met my future wife, on another island, where I had accepted a commission to paint ‘Walls’ for a Greek friend who was setting up a ‘Rock and Roll cafe on Anti-Paros, a very small island in the Cyclandic’s. This chance meeting led to a Gallery exhibition in Stockholm (1995) and another one in the same year, before I knew where I was I had several shows, created a ‘radical’ group of mixed media Artists and curated, designed and participated in three major exhibitions, one of which was a commissioned [non paying] job for the Swedish Government Estonia Trust Fund and the International Support Group, that one took over four years to complete [sic: Heart 2 Art- Stockholm January 2002]. And all the time, keeping to my #1 artists rule, I was earning a living doing other things [in the UK] remotely or directly. Almost twenty years later, and now an artist in the Grey hair sector, I and my wife could scrape together enough time and money to spend a month on Aegina [July 2018]. And, as luck would have it, we were able to take my ‘Greek-Niece’ up on her kind offer to stay at her family home – which just happens to be above my old studio from all those decades ago. Hence the ‘time travel’ headline of this post.
Studio 4 – Aegina island Greece
The studio had not been lived in or attended to for some years (my niece no longer lives there) And nature had began to take the place over. I resolved to spend the cooler mornings and late evenings bringing the place into ship shape. Mainly because I couldn’t bare to see it in that condition, and I wanted to ‘feel’ what I felt when I was a much younger artist, how I’d grown and developed in comparison, which was insightful. I recalled every single canvas I had painted there, in that place, the struggles, the ecstasy of a breakthrough and the disappointment of failure. I remembered the people, those characters who became more than close friends, now most of them, passed to the other side. At the back of the house I found my white plastic chair, and another for visitors, who would sit with me to discuss the painting I would have been currently working on. I was time travelling, inside my mind, as I doggedly swept and moped, and swept and moped again and fought the weeds that had embedded themselves in ever crack and cranny. My human form bled salty water from every pore in its body, to cool itself down, but my mind was far to busy ‘travelling back in time’ to take any heed or warning to rest up and drink water. At the end of all this, my voyage ended with a realisation of what I had actually achieved in Art per se, despite my rule #1, or because of it – And a truly personal sadness, that I could not share with them, that their high expectations, ones they were convinced that I could achieve in Art, had been. So, ‘Time Travel’ is not easy – for many reasons – but I am sure it’s a trip everyone takes at some point in their life, the good, the bad, the tears the happiness. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
“One evening the sky talked of the past.”
posted and written by Denis Taylor. Artist and Writer.