Holidays in the sun. 

June 13, 2017

I have always been very wary of the urge to meddle, particularly as I hate it when clueless but well meaning people do it with things I have been personally affected by. This is probably where I would usually go off on a rant but I want this to be a bit more focused that my usual rambling and tangential waffle. I walked into town a couple of weeks ago along the Hastings sea front, I don’t do it very often and I was shocked to discover that a group of homeless people had set up camp on the beach. The last time I had seen anything like thing was during the late eighties and I worked near Waterloo station where cardboard city, a shanty town for the homeless, had sprung up in the underpasses around the station. It was like something out of mad max or the future world in the first terminator film. There was something deeply strange about this seaside encampment though, whilst there is never anything jolly about being homeless (I have been so myself), if you didn’t read the context for the people being their, you could be forgiven for reading to situation as a nice little seaside vacation.  It was a situation I felt a need to document as I suspected (quite rightly it turned out) that it wouldn’t be allowed to remain there for very long.

One thing that have been a constant in my work over the last couple of decades is the documentation of appalling things using overly cute and benign seeming imagery. I have found that it is easier to get a message across if people aren’t aware that they are being given one in the first place. This is what I tried to achieve in the new painting, Holidays in the Sun, a happy sounding title that also happens to be a song by the Sex Pistols. It’s all smiles and sunshine and camping at first sight until you think about why the postman looks so bemused. One of the worst things about being homeless is the lack of a postal address, you are instantly a non person in regards to getting benefits, let alone applying for a job.

 I decided that this painting would be going up on eBay for charity before I even started it, initially I was just going to take the money to the campers and buy them a load of provisions but as they have already  been moved on I felt it would make more sense to have the money go directly to the St Mungos  who run a homeless shelters and help and rehabilitation for the initial causes of homelessness. I am aware that someone will probably read what I’m doing wrongly or see some cynicism in it and kick off. That is really up to them I guess, I can’t control anyone else’s responses, only my own, which was that this occurrence needed to be documented for posterity in some way. There are far more offensive things that go on in this town in regards to the homeless, if you want to get angry about something then I can happily furnish you with a list of people who demean and patronise the poor and vulnerable hereabout and get paid for the privilege of doing so. Anyway, I said I wouldn’t go off on a rant today so here is the link, happy bidding! 

The silence of our friends

January 14, 2017

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King said that… And as in America it is Martin Luther King day this week I thought I would take note of a few things he said. The one above and the one below spring particularly to mind as being rather appropriate.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

And with the latter in mind I shall begin. There is a rather poisonous and revealing  character trait that persists amongst a certain clique in the town where I live. I’m not the only one who sees it, but I’m the only one who seems willing to acknowledge it in public even in an identity stripped and homogeneous form such as this. The trait is this… Being selectively nice. Most people I know are lovely to everyone, it isn’t actually that hard, it doesn’t actually cost anything except perhaps a few more seconds of someone’s time and a little bit of breath to form words. The same thing has been witnessed by multiple people about every member of the same particular group, and that is that they are lovely and charming to anyone who may be of use to them and at best cold and at worst absolutely foul to anybody else. I first noticed it a few years back, not being someone who craves or even likes attention (quite the opposite in fact) I have tried my best to remain invisible locally as much as I can do. To that end, a lot of these people were actively rude to me (and to others, I’m not that paranoid) on our first meeting. This situation  only started to change when a few of them cottoned on that I probably had skills and/or contacts that would be of use to them and at that point they suddenly changed their tune. I have a long memory though… And I’m not subject to flattery.

I’ve watched over the years as the same faces have clawed their way up the greasy pole of popularity in the local community, and watched new people arrive in town who have employed the same, self serving methods, ingratiating themselves with the people who they think matter whilst giving anyone else the cold shoulder and in the process have quickly scaled the aforementioned lubricated log themselves, getting support for their awful gigs, terrible events, shoddy products, and crappy establishments in the process. It’s tiresome to watch as yet another rat boards the rising boat, scratching up the flesh of the unwitting on their way up the gangplank.

The thing is though, what can be done about it? As I have discovered to my own frustration, no one wants to admit that it is happening, well not out loud anyway. Whether through fear of getting shunned themselves or just not caring enough to be bothered, no one dares speak a word of what goes on in public. What’s more, there are people who won’t even be seen talking to me (except at my home) because I have dared to speak out about all the shittyness that goes on. It seems that everyone locally relies on the patronage of everyone else to either turn up at their thing or to buy their stuff… (Un)fortunately  people locally are either mystified by what I do or just plain hate it, leaving me in the unique position of being able to say what I like without it having much effect besides the almost daily filthy looks. But there lies the problem…. Just me spouting off about the actions of rude, manipulative, people is just some nutter ranting away on his blog, the mad eyed screamer’s platform of choice for the new millennium , and until other people choose to grow a pair this town will just continue to sink into the silt under the combined weight of the egos of all its human barnicles. The silence of our friends is powerful and while it continues, the fakes, the frauds and the egos large enough to cause gravity wells will continue to poison the town in which I live. 

I have tried… But it falls on deaf ears and in most cases people are unwilling to believe that half the people are as bad as I or anyone else will say they are. Most people will try and think the best of people if they are given the option and under those circumstances these sharks in human clothing go in for the kill, shamelessly taking advantage of human nature on the way. Criticisms and accusations slide off them and someone like myself who speaks about it comes off as looking bitter or mad. But what choice do I have but to draw people’s attention to it all? And here I am again, not being silent. And the best I can hope for? That like with the local psychopath I spotted in five seconds as opposed to the five years it took everyone else and the government’s work capability assements I spoke about for years before the whole business was turned into an award winning movie, everyone will get it years later. People are so slow to believe anything that isn’t in their best interests and they seem determined not to believe me, all I get to do is to turn around half a decade later and say “I told you so.”

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. 

And the value of nothing.

August 20, 2016

How do you value a work of art? There are so many different schools of thought. So many variables…

I have spent the last couple of days pricing up paintings and drawings for my coastal currents show. In the past I have often priced artwork intentionally high, knowing that it won’t sell. The theory being this… If you put your artwork up for sale and no one buys any of it then it is incredibly demoralising. Particularly if you have put your heart and soul into those pieces. If you put ridiculously high (well for a poverty stricken seaside town in the middle of a recession) prices on them, you can say that the reason they didn’t sell is because no one can afford your wares and not because the potential buyers find the work aesthetically wanting in some way. 

It’s a scary thing putting yourself out there, especially if your work has a meaning and a story behind it. It soon becomes a personal rejection of you as a human being if you don’t find ways to distance yourself from, well… let’s face it, your children. Art is an act of creation and you put so much of yourself into your work, or you should do, that it is hard judge the value of art you have made. Why should this one be more than that? Because it’s bigger? Because it’s prettier? Because it took longer? Because the materials were more expensive? Should we judge our own family by those standards? I do hope not. 

But for the last couple of days I have been doing just that, weighing up banal factors such as, if a painting goes past a certain size, say that of the average flat screen tv, the amount of people with the space to hang it drops severely as does the price. Also, you may labour for days on a technically accomplished piece of work but if it doesn’t go well against the current fad of wallpaper, paint colour or whatever, then it has no value. If you are a known artist with an established name, then a work of a deeply personal value has more worth but if you are someone that people simply don’t get then your work has merely a value as decoration. 

For this show, I am pricing to sell, it’s a little on the high side for local trade but as there is a strong story to it all (the matter of my near brush will death) I am hoping that will shine through. I am taking a leap of faith… I just hope it isn’t straight off a cliff.

The strange thing is, I just added it all up. A total of forty works of art, all produced since the beginning of April, all telling the story in some way of my experience as a frail, fragile and all too mortal human being. I added them all up and it came to somewhere around £9000, to me that is a king’s ransom, a life changing amount of money. To others that is less that half a year’s wages and to the likes of a few coked up celebrities, bloated bankers and pea brained footballers that is a week’s spending money. It takes my breath away thinking of that, knowing that I will be lucky to sell one, let alone many. 

So I’m going to take a deep breath, stand back and hope the world is kind to me. All I can do is to wait and see what happens.

The small and secret show

August 20, 2016

Ooh I do like to do the odd thing on the hush hush.  Last year I did something quite spectacularly covert and bonkers around this time. I’m not putting down in writing what it was but it clearly had a few positive effects and did exactly what I intended it to do, but to quote the wonderful film Spinal Tap “there is a fine line between stupid and clever” so fine sometimes that I’m not actually sure where it is and what side of it I am. I am in that position right now on a number of levels. 

One particular example of me trying to be clever that turned out to be stupid was  my genius idea of doing tea towels instead of t shirts as printed merchandise this year for coastal currents arts festival. I love t shirts (we will come back to that later) but the problem with printing them is the size issue. You can’t just order one, you have to order a full spread of sizes from extra small if you want to deal with Asia through to xxxl. Plus there are women’s cut t shirts and children’s, and then a range of colourways to consider. Things suddenly get into serious outlay and organisation territory. So I thought I’d do tea towels. I mean, everyone does the washing up, or almost everyone. So no issues with sizing or any of that, just one thing to print. Sorted! 

Erm, wrong! There definitely was a size issue, a glaringly obvious one. Although I didn’t realise it until I got a seemingly innocuous  email back from my screen printer, “this is to size right?” It took my woolly head a few minutes to work out what exactly he was getting at. I design my t shirt images on a3 paper, I may clean them up slightly later in Photoshop but I love things to retain that hand drawn feeling rather than something cold and sterile that could have been bashed out in an hour or so. So the design I sent him was done to this size. I scratched my head for a moment and then went rooting about for a tea towel from the kitchen draw and held it up to myself…. Oh! It was a lot bigger about twice the size in fact. So up goes the screen making costs and up goes the cost per unit. Whoops!

I was particularly pissed off with myself because I thought I was being doubly sorted because I even checked that the cafe where I shall be displaying this work, and the now Terry Gilliam level over budget tea towels, because they would have the phrase “pure poison” plastered all over them and their cafe in return. Fortunately they got the joke and even suggested that we hang them up on clothes lines across the ceiling. Now this is where my next genius idea came in. “I will need to buy some clothes pegs” I thought to myself. “clothes pegs, hmm? Old fashioned wooden ones… I know what! I can paint little people on them! No! Wait! I can paint little me’s on each one. Yes! Little versions of me, each with a different outfit on. Brilliant!” Except… Well, have you ever tried doing a hundred of a thing and make each one different? No? Well neither have I. 

The logistics of getting everything to dry without sticking to each other was hard enough to figure out on its own but the real problem came with the t shirts (see! I told you!) you see I do have rather a lot of t shirts, if Emelda Marcos were into t shirts instead of shoes I would be her. It all seemed simple at first, just work through the dolly pegs, ten at a time, adding designs from my extensive wardrobe. After a while though they all start to blur in to one and once you get past the fifty mark it’s a question of constantly referring back through the shirts that I had already painted so as to not duplicate anything . The nicest aspect for me was the ability to recreate some of my old t shirts, including some of the cyberpunk stuff from my twenties that I can’t carry off any more and all the Westwood ones that went on eBay in the end as I was too fat to wear them anymore. 

I finally finished the last batch yesterday and I must admit that I’m not sorry. So now I effectively have an exhibition of one hundred little me’s that I will use to hang up my tea towels. They will be on sale for a few quid each but  I won’t be making a song and dance about what I have done. I like leaving little surprises for the observant as so few people are nowadays. So many people seem to drift through life in a haze, doing what they are told to do, liking what they are told to like and buying what they are told to buy. Whilst it’s true that I shall never get rich doing the things I do at least it rewards the quietly observant, so much of the world is tailored to the brash, the egotistical, the controlling and the show offs. It’s nice to give something back to the quiet people. 

The secret peg portrait show can be seen at the love cafe, Norman road, st leonards on sea, throughout September. 

Explain yourself!

August 13, 2016

Below in that dreaded piece of pretentious garbage, the personal statement for my show. Part of the events listed in the coastal currents arts festival.  I hate explaining my work. It’s like shoving pins through butterflies, you destroy half their Beauty to make them static and accessible. It’s a necessary evil though, when throwing six months of your life into artwork that will end up hidden in plain sight, buried amidst everyone else’s offerings , at the mercy of pre conceptions and competing against assorted schmoozers, wheel greasers and some monstrous egos. There are elements to coastal currents that have become hackneyed, tedious and in some cases downright dangerous. Hopefully my little bit will be none of these.

“Dweeblings in Love (and other matters of the heart) 

I should have died.Dragging myself and my shopping up half a mile of steep hill in the bleakest of bleak midwinters while wearing a vintage army parka that weighs about the same as a four year old child. Unbeknownst to me I had severe angina, the really bad kind. With only for 4% of my main coronary artery left functioning I was lurching around town and up ladders, painting murals and the like. I was the proverbial dead man walking. Of course I didn’t know that at the time and that is what made it all the more shocking a month later when when I was confined to a hospital bed, wired up and told not to move until the hospital fixed my heart. 

The work you see here represents my physical and mental journey back to wellness and my attempts to come to terms with all the trauma I have experienced this year. The imagery may seem quite random at first, but it all makes sense. Well sort of…
The general themes of life and death and my brush with it are represented by the great cliches of the momento mori. Skulls and flowers, with angels, devils and butterflies as signifiers of mortality and rebirth. Some of the drawings I created for this show are made up of words, repeating phrases, poems, prose, with the use of other languages both ancient and modern. They are a logical progression for me from cross hatching and shading in inks.
I am finding it hard to comprehend that I have tiny lattices of wire widening the arteries to my heart. It made me think of the ancient Japanese practice of kintsugi , the repairing of smashed ceramics with gold to rescue the irreplaceable. I have experimented in the use of gilding to represent this on a number of paintings.
I touched on the Catholic notion of the sacred heart in a few works as well as the organ’s use in anatomical illustrations. Strangely enough, the notion of the broken heart is actually a reality rather than a turn of phrase. Takotsubo, or cardiomyopathy, is where extreme stress, a break up for example, causes the heart’s chambers to temporarily distort into the shape of a clay pot that is used for the collection of octopuses by Japanese fishermen. 
The brain and mind appear, in various guises, as the contemplation of my narrow avoidance of death and my experience of viewing my own heart beating during my angiogram and subsequent angioplasty and other physically intrusive aspects of the procedure shook my emotional state quite severely and the levels of stress I have lived under throughout my life have greatly damaged my pulmonary system. 
Everyday I must take blood thinning drugs to prevent my having a stroke or heart attack. The medication is chemically similar to the rat poison strychnine. I have likened the absurdity of ingesting toxins on a daily basis for the benefit of my health with the strange irony that some of the most beautiful of fish are extremely poisonous, although I must point out that, to me, all fish are as I am highly allergic to them. I also find it amusing that the French word for fish is only one letter different from poison, poisson. 
My avatars, the Dweeblings, have taken a back seat in many of the works (although they have made cameo appearances if you look hard enough) but elements of their world are represented in details such as the shapes of eyes and my habit of anthropomorphising animals and inanimate objects.
This year so far has not been easy, but hopefully I have gained a little wisdom and made the most of my experiences.
                                                                                       Chris Hoggins, August 2016

N.B There is also a second secret series of art works on show if you look carefully enough”
My work can be seen at the love cafe, st leonards on sea, throughout September.

(Not actual size)

April 22, 2016

   Some arguments you just aren’t going to win. In fact, if you are me, even trying to win just makes look like a complete arsehole and I just end up with me digging a deeper and deeper hole with my mouth. One day I may actually learn this simple fact about myself on a deep enough a level that I actually cease harming myself and losing everything I hold dear in the process. 

One argument I constantly lost was the notion of the scale of gundam model kits, complex plastic facsimiles of gigantic human driven mechanical men also called mobile suits or, if you want  to be really geeky, gunpla. A dear friend of mine would look at the latest mini bulked up tank on legs that I had bought myself as my own Christmas or birthday present and she would  pick up the weighty and multiple jointed lump of six inch high plastic and then look at me suspiciously as I would proudly state the “the real thing would be about 200 foot tall”  with a big grin and wide eyes.  She would look at the little chap in her hand and look me in the eye and say clearly and slowly “what real thing Chris? This. Is. A. Toy.”  I would then go on to open a little hatch somewhere and fish out a tiny plastic person and explain that if this was a real person it would be five foot high and just imagine how big the real thing would have to be if that was a real person. She would look at me with the kindness reserved for the very vulnerable and explain “But. This. Is. Not. A. Real. Person. This. Is. A. Toy.”  I should have learnt to quit with arguments here really, I should have know when I was beaten. 

 I have weird issues with scale, I guess most men do  but this is not about exactly what constitutes as an, erm, “big one” or variants on exactly how one measures six inches. I do think a lot of it though is less to do with the size of one’s genitals and is more about what action figures one played with as a child. If you compare a Star Wars figure to a spaceship designed for them the ‘real’ (that term used in imaginary things again)  version should be at least five times the size. I guess the idea of a seven year old child trying to drag a three metre wide Milenium Falcon ship about is less than feasible, not to mention the cost of such a thing. So children, particularly boys tend to develop a capricious attitude to the notion of the scale of things. 

  I have on occasion been accused of being negative or even a pessimist, but it more complicated than that. I look at the world and I want things to be better. I want people to be genuinely nice and kind to each other, I want people to be safe, I would like things to be made well and priced fairly and I expect people who have enough of whatever to be decent enough to know when they have enough and share things around when they do. I know I’m not really cut out for this world, with all its greedy, grasping, entitled, over confident, under talented, pushy people, but I really think that if I lose that essential naive optimism (even though it often seems to leave me very disappointed) then I will give up on life entirely. Yeah… I can’t wrap my head around it either. 

 I have spent the last week reimagining many local views and landmarks as they would appear if the town I live in was built by me. Altering the scale, the style or the usage of many buildings and objects that I see every day so as to make them better and much more interesting. The idea came from someone I used to know who hated one particular red brick office building with a passion. She could see ocean house from her window and in her view it spoiled the otherwise perfect panoramic view of the sea and the park. She would strategically place a large vase of flowers in front of it in the window so as to obscure it from her vision. Strangely enough, some years later, the very same ugly building would become dear to my heart as I would wait for a very lovely lady to come out of it so I could take her to lunch. So much so that I smile every time I look upon it. I was sitting on the window sill last weekend and was looking at the rather tenuous sea view and the buildings I could see and I took the idea of altering my view to its logical conclusion by drawing it as I want to see it as opposed to how I actually do. Then I took another thing and then another until I had enough images to turn into a set of greetings cards based on how things would look if it were up to me.  

 One person’s vision is something that is sadly lacking nowadays and is more conspicuous by its absence in a place like St Leonards on Sea where so many of the more iconic buildings were the vision of a single person. Architect Decimus Burton was responsible for the look and feel of the original Victorian part of St Leonards, lending the once prestigious and uber trendy seaside getaway with  the grandure of  the districts of London that he had designed previously. This set a high bar for others to aim for locally. Then much later on a chap called Sidney Little a.k.a the King of Concrete created a number of incredibly distinctive buildings in the Art Deco style. It’s been downhill ever since then with the curse of committee building, where everyone has their say and every grand idea gets watered down to nothing  over tea and biscuits. Whilst my own ‘grand ideas’ depicted  here are at best shockingly expensive and at worst defy the laws of physics at least they are good fun. We need a bit more of that in the world right now.  


%d bloggers like this: