The next thing

September 2, 2016

Somewhere, out there, the world is going on and in Hastings and St Leonards that world is all about seeking attention and doing bizz. It’s the official start of the coastal currents arts festival and everyone but me it seems is out there celebrating  and getting noticed and, let’s face it, in all likelihood getting off their face in some way or other. It’s strange though, the weather has turned on a six pence and whereas a few days ago I was sitting on a beach, now the cold bites and the rain blatters against the windows and here I sit, at 8.30 on a Friday night, in my pyjamas after a hot bath, waiting to go to bed. 

I have long ceased going to private views and long ceased having my own. In a world that thrives on fleeting celebrity and instant gratification, I am cursed it seems with an old fashioned notion of meritocracy, that a person should gain attention and recognition by attaining a level of excellence in their field rather than by playing to the lowest common denominator or jumping up and down and shouting louder and more offensively that anyone else. I suspect, should I leave the house tonight I would be proved very wrong indeed. 

I have never wanted attention, I have never seen the value in it but then it’s always been about the work for me and to be honest, once a thing is finished, it holds no more interest to me as I’m on to the next thing whatever that may be. I am very concious that I am in that position right now, looking for the next thing. 

That’s another reason I’m staying in tonight, the cyclical nature of the town I live in depresses me greatly and the arts festival is just another gaudily painted horse on the merrygoround with the same old riders on its back. I am quite aware that I am yet again biting the fingers of the hands that feed me off at the knuckles but I am showing this year in a way that puts me at as much distance from the punters as possible. I hope that doesn’t come off as rude but whilst everything I have done over the last six months has great meaning to me, I am done with it and I want to do the next thing. 

Last time I put this amount of effort into a solo show, the crash was exhausting. I spent a week lying in bed, barely moving. I feel old right now, my whole body aches and I feel like collapsing, it’s  hard to tell though, just how much of this is post show malaise and how much is my illness and the side affects of the medication. I am running an illustration workshop tomorrow which I am both dreading and looking forward to in equal measures the dread comes from it being in Hastings and having to engage with parts of humanity that leave me cold. I must note that the bulk of people anywhere are usually quite lovely but the ones who aren’t are like wasps trapped in a car that is speeding down a motorway, making way more trouble than they should do. It will be nice to engage with a few kids though and anyone else who genuinely wants to try something new. But when the clock hits four tomorrow I know that I have two choices, either hit the motherlode of cortisol  come downs or start the next thing sharpish and change down a gear into steady work and research. 

You see I want to do some scroll paintings based on the classic Chinese folk tales centred around monkey, a chinese mythical figure. Many of my age will remember a rather camp Japanese show back in the 1970s but the stories go back many hundreds of years and liken the Chinese heaven to a sort of demented civil service full of sniping and back biting gods. I know nothing of scroll painting and that is the point, it’s the new thing, the next thing and I shall be well outside my comfort zone and I will feel alive. 

But in the meantime, the show goes on and whilst it is all in the past to me, hopefully some less jaded eyes shall see something new.

You can see my new work at the love cafe, Norman road, , st leonards on sea, throughout September. 

 I bet Anthony Gormley doesn’t do this!

August 30, 2016

This morning I woke at a couple of minutes to six, again. Arms and legs like lead, side effects of the heart medication I have to take. By an hour later I was stumbling around my flat in my pyjama bottoms, wrestling my prints to sell for the show from their shelf in the hallway, being savaged by the pedals of my bike as I played twister with it and several hundred quids worth of giclee printing in my hands. As I took another lump out of my shin from my bike rather than risk damaging my merchandise, a much repeated mantra pops into my head “I bet Anthony Gormley doesn’t do this”. It doesn’t have to be Gormley, it could be anyone of that ilk, Tracey Emin, Ai Wei Wei, Damian Hirst… But what I desire is the ability to focus on actually making art rather than all the minutiae. Getting everything done by a team of minions.
Yesterday I sat in front of the telly wading through box sets on Netflix turning sheets of thick card into display stands for merchandise using a craft knife and a sharpie pen, before that I was hand drawing the backing to a3 prints before sticking them in cellophane bags, before that I was screwing d rings into picture frames and before that… Well, you get the picture. I am quite sure that Anthony Gormley hasn’t done any of those fiddly little jobs for a while. I quite sure Gormley would not be transporting the last six months of his life wrought on paper and canvas in laundry bags and his mates two door saloon car, I expect they each have individually made crates like the ones in the big government storage room at the end of Raiders of the lost ark.

Today’s last minute comedy disaster was this… The ink for my purple tea towels wouldn’t adhere to the surface properly. I had spent a long while designing hang tags based of chemical formulas for various poisons and now deadly nightshade was off the menu. After a panicked discussion with my screen printer we went for a foxglove pink, representing the heart drug dioxin, what used to be known as digitalis. A mad flurry followed, during which I found the chemical formula, wrote some blurb, printed a master copy which I then walked the best part of a mile downhill to the printers for the second time today and then back up the hill again and have since been cutting, folding, hole punching , ring reinforcing, stringing and bagging up my new colour altered labels. And nope, Gormley certainly doesn’t do that! 

Now I do get some help, I’d be lying if I didn’t but it is all offered freely and I really don’t want to take the piss. To those lovely people I am eternally greatful but it is only in the areas I have no chance of getting it done myself. So hopefully, if you come along to the show at the love cafe from the first of September and, if you are kind, you buy something there. That bagged up card in the fish shaped stand, that tea towel held in place by a clothes peg painted to look  like me with a label that tells the reasoning behind the colour I chose. Be it the print carefully wrapped or the drawing that took three days to do, just remember…. Chris Hoggins did that! 

Don’t Panic! 

August 29, 2016

Tick tock, tick bloody tock.

I’m lying here listening to the clock. Concious of the time, concious of my heart beating in my chest. The heart that has caused me so much trouble this year and that has been the inspiration for my art show. The art show into which I have invested so much time and money and effort. I feel very lonely at this moment, it’s too early and the world is asleep. It’s a bank holiday Monday and almost everyone else is going to make the most of it, having lie ins, seeing family and friends, catching up with all those things they never get around to doing. I’m just lying in bed, a cold feeling in my chest, feeling helpless. So much is beyond my control, the prints that need packing are probably sitting on the jobs completed table at the printers, behind the standard st leonards issue metal bars across the doors. My tea towels, so lovingly designed, so much time spent by me getting them just right are in potential somewhere in the ether, screen made up but never inked, waiting in line in a warehouse. My pride and joy just job number whatever on the list amidst a sea of corporate branding and signage that someone, not me, has to do. But not today, today is the dead day. To me, time is meaningless, there is no clock to clock off from, no Monday blues, no Wednesday hump day, no piss off early tomorrow’s saturday. Just and endless stream on ideas and an endless stream of now. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! 

I shall get up in a minute, I need to make a point of sale, possibly two, more picture labels, do a stock check, work out a packing order, hanging order, think about where people are more likely to knock into things and place canvas’s there rather than glass frames. Think, what is seen first when someone walks in and what will leave an impression when they walk out again. Knowing all the while deep down that this is a large cafe rather than the Hayward or the Tate, that inner Hitler in me, the primadonna, the inflated ego, the potential for frustration and embitteredness kept in check by my sense of humour want more control of their environment, want the money and the clout to get things done now, bigger, better. More!

 I need to focus on how far I have come, from gibbering wreck, to shut in, to a stranger in a strange town, to doing this , to doing that, feet on the ground Chris, feet on the ground. I must get up now, much to do, I have put the day off for too long. 

The tale of Burt Picasso 

August 28, 2016

This week has been getting a tad stressy in Chris world, I’ve been designing this and that, pulling long days and been feeling exhausted and more than a little sorry for myself at times. I have often wondered why I even bother as I hit so much inertia (and even open hostility) along the way. Whenever someone tries to throw a spanner in my works or makes a seemingly reasonable suggestion about how I could make something more accessible or how I should really be doing such and such instead of whatever. I think back to the years before I had a breakdown and all the things I used to do for a quiet life and to make people happy and how, in the end, it nearly killed me. Mad as it may seem to others sometimes, there is always a reason, some (possibly flawed) logic to why I do what I do. I have discovered along the way that when I try to do the sound, sensible, tried and tested thing, it goes horribly wrong but when I work by feel, wing it if you will, it turns out ok in the end. But, that said, I do get down and I do get very tired. Fighting upstream against a constant tide of petty spite, resentment, vested interests, grandiose egos and ineptitude that counts for the modern world can be very draining. When it gets too much I remind myself of the tail I have created below and remind myself what the alternatives are to what I’m doing…

Not a lot of people know this but Pablo Picasso had a cousin called Burt, or more accurately, Betrum Archibald Picasso. Burt was also an artist of sorts but his work is a lot less well know. Burt grew up in London after his father, a travelling salesmen,  had a dalience with a chamber maid in a lodging house and did the decent thing and married the girl. Burt had a natural talent for drawing , just like his famous cousin, but his parents forced him into working in a bank instead of going to art school.

Berty Picasso did anything for a quiet life. He didn’t like the thought of upsetting anyone and, where any attempt to get Pablo to do anything he didn’t want to would be met by a cold steely gaze that would shut up whoever had asked him to do said thing, Burt would just pull a tight fake smile and acquiesce to whatever the request was. So whilst Pablo was in Paris painting backdrops for the opera and chasing after ballerinas, Berty was writing up the minutes for the allotment society’s annual general meeting. That’s not to say Pablo wasn’t civically minded, he produced Guernica, one of the most raw and powerful responses to the evils of war for example but he knew where his time would best be used and that wasn’t designing posters for the Bermondsey Mutual Society’s annual dinner dance like Berty did.

Burt was good at designing posters, you could see the innate family talent in his flare for colour and flowing lines. He may even have got a little carried away sometimes with the artwork but when people who knew best pulled him up on his handiwork he would pull a painfully forced smile and quietly do something that was a bit more suitable to the occasion , whatever that was.

Burt Piccasso was a lot better liked than Pablo, he didn’t, to his credit, go in for the whole bull fighting malarkey for a start and where as some people absolutely despised Pablo, nobody had a bad word to say about Burt. Burt would turn up to your birthday do without fail, Burt would buy a book of tickets to your church fete raffle and then turn up at the church fete. 

Dear old Berty Picasso died at some point in the 1950’s. His heart gave out on stage in the village hall. He had been roped into a production by the local Gilbert and Sulivan society (non singing extra) and had been carrying a heavy staff all evening as Stout Yeoman and his heart just gave out. His death made the local paper, well it was buried amidst the other news on page ten, and some discussion was had about his strange surname. 

The last of Burt’s posters was thoughtlessly torn from the notice board at the village hall and replaced with one for quiz night and, along with a few bits and bobs that were thrown away during the clearance of his rented rooms, that was the last that was heard of Berty Picasso. He was talked about fondly by his work chums at the bank for a while and the allotment society struggled to match his penmanship in the minutes of their meetings but he was soon forgotten. 

As for Pablo… well…

Logistical nightmares 

July 24, 2016

I was told a story many years ago about a musician who was big in the sixties. When I say big I mean BIG as in HUGE!!! His family and his staff had one major goal at the time I was told this and that was to side track this person from making new music and going on tour. The world had moved on, their work while still wonderful in its own way was no longer relevant and everything they put out would lose them money when all they really had to do was sit back and let the revenues from all the film, tv and commercials that use their work and the still constant radio plays around the world, fill up their bank account.  This person although still vastly creative was much better off by not being so. The thing is, there is no off button to ideas. Well, if there is, I haven’t found it yet and I’ve had a bloody good look for my own personal one.

I was reminded by this yesterday, I met a world famous rapper, of course I didn’t have a clue who he was and had to look him up when I got home. A freind of mind is this person’s p.a. I recognised something very familiar with them, they were in their own little world, their focus darting about all the time and they shot off and came back again numerous times both physically and mentally in the length of time it took to drink a cup of coffee. I recognise it because I can be guilty of it myself, hopefully to a lesser degree, orbiting others in your own world of ideas and imagination so fast that you only come into contact with everyone else every now and again because the flood of thought sends you racing off again. If you make it to a certain extent (whatever “it” is) you can afford people to buffer you from the world, if you don’t or if your path to get to be doing what you need to do to stay sane is a long one, you are seen as being mad. People make allowances for ‘creative types’ if they are making people money. If not, you tend to be avoided and that is the best case scenario. I used to pop in and visit a freind of mine at work whenever I went shopping in London, he worked in computer animation and the post production unit that was his base of operation was just off Covent Garden. One person who used to turn up a lot was well known for making videos for Bjork amongst others. The guy was rail thin and stank but his work was amazing, truly mind blowing but he had blown his own mind in the process. He was a lovely chap, but without employing a minder he would be a shut in somewhere or, worse still, on the streets. The world is not kind to people who think too much.

So here’s the problem. I have a show in September, I am also running a few workshops at a local gallery / museum that run at the same time. I need to get public liability insurance and a criminal record check done both of which are time and a faff and need to prepare merchandise to go with the show, little things people can afford such as cards badges and the like. I’d like to have a new silk screen made up at the printers and get some t shirts made and also some tea towels and then there is the framing…

The theme of the show is “Dweeblings in love (and other matters of the heart)” I have taken my main inspiration from the heart procedure, the lead up to it and my slow recovery. I have gone on a journey, both psychically and mentally, trying to wrap my head around how narrowly I avoided death earlier this year and the modern miracle that is non invasive surgery and my mixed feelings of discomfort and wonder at what was done to me and the medication I had to take. My mind has been following many paths through the Japanese art of repairing precious ceramics with gold, through catholic sacred heart iconography and am currently pondering the chemical similarity between anti blood clot drugs and rat poison. As usual, all the while I am doing all this, I politely tolerate being patronised and patted on the head by people who look at the seemingly overly simplistic nature of my painting style and see it only at face value because the grand theme that has run though everything I have done for decades now is this, the art world is a bit of a racket and very few people understand it beyond what they are told to like or pick up anything more than the very surface of what they see. It is as much a business and as fickle in nature as fashion and while there is plenty of genuine talent, there are also some right wankers about.  As usual I am merrily pointing out where the Emperor’s stubby todger is as he is not actually wearing any clothes. As is my nature, I am currently shooting myself in the foot so often that I am rapidly running out of toes. The tea towel I want to produce and sell in the restaraunt / cafe is based on old Victorian poison bottle labels, probably not the best thing to have around while trying to get someone to order food. Then there are all the drawings of hearts which jolly as they are are probably way too graphic for food consumption.

 The worst problem though is the framing, I have been working mainly on paper for the last few months and they all need framing and every frame costs money. Plus to make matters worse I’m still doing them. I can’t stop!!! I can’t stop having ideas, I can’t stop making links I have ideas for a few more paintings every time I am sitting down working on the current one. Even now, I have just idly scratched my arm and the thiness of my blood and skin has caused a small trail of blood to run down my arm and I’m thinking of rivers and river courses and maps and how that would link up to images of veins in anatomy drawings and how I could find maps with amusing road names and overlay them in blood and gold. Aaaaaaargh! It just doesn’t stop. But it must stop, or at least for long enough to catch up with the admin for what I have done already. I have no minions to mumble at to make these problems go away or to explain things to people who can’t speak fluent Chris. I just have to take a deep breath and stop for a while and hope my brain doesn’t explode with the backlog. So if you are passing through St Leonards in the next couple of months and you should happen to see a red smear on the wall and bits of brain and skull dotted about, you will know what has happened. Chris had one idea too many. 

Roll up! Roll up! Come and see the show.

February 2, 2014

Photo by Leroy Brown

How many things start with “it seemed like a good idea at the time”? The Delorian, the Iraq war, the poll tax, illustrating Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with no plan of what to do with the results. Having an art show with three weeks notice.

windowsA narrow deadline can concentrate the mind wonderfully, or alternatively it can send you into a spiral of panic. I had a bit of both setting up this show. It made me tie up load of loose end, putting an accompanying book together, designing badges and fridge magnets, getting prints made… Plus all the nitpicky stuff, packaging, how to display it, blah, blah, blah.


minipicsI almost bit off more than I could chew with the window display, if it wasn’t for my able assistant Tracey and her wonderful wielding of a jigsaw, I would still be scratching my head on how to have done it.


The show is in the Kave Gallery in St leonards on Sea, run by the fabulous JayToole, who has been incredibly supportive to myself and the other reprobates in the arts community. He also makes a fabulous cup of coffee. Well the show’s up for the next two weeks. So pop by if you can.


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