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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

What a pik ture! 

April 14, 2016

  Cris has bin a les bit wobbly wonkier an abit mor dooey for a few daze now. He did a lota blubbin an he gotta blubber band fing on his hand an wen he finks of fings wot mack him sad an  he goes twang an OW a lot an he done fink no mor about it. Well he do abit but not so much. Peepol keep calin an ringin coz he woz so sad n poorly las weak an they al chek on im ever dai an mak shoor he aint ded coz they al fought he woz gonna comet Suzy side coz he woz sew bard. But Cris is painting an drawin in it is good coz it iz stuff whych he shrub be doin insured of scary fings wot he doz so he don tak a nife to him armz.He when an foned the special he’d peepul an they put I’m ona list an they wood look at hiz hed an see if it woz broken by talkin at it and he saw tee nah hoo nose his an she said “what! ” a lot and made a tut tut noize an shook her hed an sed Cris woz fin an ver normal an woz rite an fings.

He has mad a big pikture of a hert with these tuby fings wot the surgeons stuck in im so his hert don go bleargh an he don go ded lik he woz gonna shoulda at crimble mast. An the picture is ded fiddly coz it is all words in a brian. Lotsa words, big lettuce an small lettuce ova and ova tha go eve were an ar ded hard tu reed. The he out propa gold on it whych has been squashed ded fin so it gone all kabling in a son shin. 

Then toe Dia he had a big man wiff a cam rah com an sea him an Cris wen blah! An the man cal tellee I fink wen blah! An they both  go blah! Blah! Blah! An nod an fings. An Cris dry the man and tellee made piktures wiff his cam rah. an the drunk t. There were no biscuits though whych woz sad. 


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