I am so determined to go beyond figurative painting.  I worked for months analysing and deconstructing this image and then reconstructing it on a large scale (1200 x 900 mm).

I wanted to do an abstract version.  I took a large canvas (900 x 900 mm) and threw myself into it intuitively, relying on the knowledge I had gained from the study.  This was an enjoyable and adventurous process.  The result is here.  I could have approached it differently, carefully combining each element,  but I want to let my body and instincts have expression.  It is an interesting process and I did not have conscious control over it but  I think it expresses the inner life of the original painting – the chaos and uncertainty of emotions and events and moments.

Here are some details from the piece.  Each could be the starting point for another painting or story.

“Dance became a way to learn without thinking”

I am fascinated by Hay’s radical and non linear thinking about the body and movement.  It resonates with my personal way of making visual art, an approach which seems entirely intuitive and directly mediated through my whole body.  This is an Eastern way of making art. I am going to keep this blog as an informal (and non-linear!) collection of impressions and ideas. I think Hay’s ideas are an honest account of the creative process for many artists, though dance, requiring a completely tuned and toned body, may actually be a little different.  Still, the visual artist, speaking personally, needs to practice every day.  It is a manual skill as much as anything.  Perhaps this will help me to

I love my body, it is my friend and supporter and talks and reports to me constantly.  It tells me what it enjoys (exercise, the gym, cycling, dance, less so walking), what it wants to eat, and when it has had enough (overload at Venice Biennale last weekend).  It is my life.

Deborah Hay’s body “practices a religion renowned for its sceptical stance toward religion.  It performs as teacher, oracle and companion in the investigation, not of spirituality, but of consciousness itself”…Hay “explores the ramifications of multiple, distinctive metaphorical framings of physicality.  Body, in turn, has offered a kind of dialogue – probing, assessing, reacting, and instigating – in response to Hay’s various queries.  Close and consistent attentiveness to this dialogue forms the basis of Hay’s regimen for learning to dance..”  Susan Leigh Foster in the foreword  to “my body the buddhist” by DeborahHay, p. ix.


January 2020

Movement Medicine

New Year ceremony in Edinburgh over 30 hours (including 6 hours sort of sleep).  This was intensely active, involving a lot of expressive dancing and periods of personal communication with a few people in the group.  It confirmed what I wrote above about dance and movement practice being a way of recognising my method and identity as a visual artist.

I am looking forward to continuing my dance journey in 2020.  I shall be studying with Monica de Ioanni this winter and also going to the jam sessions in Edinburgh.

Katye Coe wordpress site a model of beautiful presentation and brilliant far ranging content about the contemporary dance world.




7th November  Dance BaseMonica de Ioanni – lovely intro to contact impro

16th November Weekend  Jam Festival   Classes People  Ideas

Niamh Oloughlin  dancer in Edinburgh

  • Books

Imaging the Human Body   Ewing;   Body Image Space   Tufnell and Chrickmay;

Attending to Movement. Somatic Perspectives on Living in this World. edited by: Sarah Whatley, Natalie Garrett Brown, Kirsty Alexander. This edited collection draws on the conference, Attending to Movement: Somatic Perspectives on Living in this World, run at C-DaRE, the Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University.

The Axis Syllabus

Body Stories  by Andrea Olsen  “BodyStories is a book which engages the general reader as well as the serious student of anatomy. Its information is applicable to dancers, artists, athletes, bodyworkers, massage therapists, teachers, and individuals with injuries or with a special interest in learning about their body. .

Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts

  • People

Johannes the German physicist; Caroline Hofler from Austria (Biodanza);  David and his partner from Stirling University

22nd November Leith Class with Monica in Leith

28th November Dance Base – Monica’s class    Understanding more  Lovely duet with guy

4th December GaGa class at Dance Base with Chen-Wei Lee

Gaga is a movement language and pedagogy developed by Batsheva Dance Company director and teacher Ohad Naharin. Used in some Israeli contemporary dance[1] Gaga has two educational tracks which are taught in Israel as well as several other countries: Gaga/Dancers is intended for trained dancers and comprises the daily training of the Batsheva Dance Company; Gaga/People is designed for the general public and requires no dance training.[2] Many dancers have stated that after taking Gaga classes, their passion for dance has been re-ignited; they have found new ways to connect to their inner beast without being self-conscious about how the movement looks while at the same time discovering how to listen to their bodies/self.[1]

Gaga students improvise their movements based on somatic experience and imagery described by the teacher, which provides a framework that promotes unconventional movement.[3] The imagery is intended to guide the performer’s movement expressivity by focusing attention on specific body regions. For example, “Luna”, “Lena”, “Biba”, “Tama” and many more words are used to experiment in a performers body while dancing.[4] Mirrors are avoided in Gaga training to facilitate movement guided by sensing and imagining rather than sight. [1]

Gaga is the movement language developed by Ohad Naharin throughout many years. The language of Gaga originated from the belief in the healing, dynamic, ever-changing power of movement.

Gaga/people classes offer a creative framework for participants to connect to their bodies and imaginations, increase their physical awareness, improve their flexibility and stamina, and experience the pleasure of movement in a welcoming, accepting atmosphere.

Teachers guide the participants using a series of evocative instructions that build one on top of the other. Rather than copying a particular movement, each participant in the class actively explores these instructions, discovering how he or she can interpret the information and perform the task at hand.

6th December  at Dance Base   Residency sharing of Chen-Wei Lee on her project “The One Continues”

We would like to invite you to the residency sharing of Chen-Wei Lee on her project “The One Continues” It will take place at 4pm on Frida tomorrow in Studio 4 at Dance Base.
She invited two edinburgh based artist Julia Griffiths and Lucas Kao to explore the concept of I Ching, the book or change.
Description of the project:
“Change is constant, so is non-change, as change and non-change form an inseparable duality.” “Change is the basic way of existence. Existence itself is flow and tranformation.” – I CHING
 “Change”, in I CHING chinese philosophy this is the core of the nature system, I’m captivated by this concept. I would like to explore the effectiveness of nature and it’s systems in relation with movement development and decrement. The ancient method of I CHING explains the laws of nature, circulation of life. I want to apply and explore these ideas within my research, in particular looking at how the body and it’s movement can be the translator for these theories.
Chen Wei Lee:
Chen-Wei Lee is a Belgium based Taiwanese artist who began her career as a dancer with Batsheva Dance Company and as guest dancer at Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Gothenborgs Operas Danskompani , and VOETVOLK/Lisbeth Gruwez. 
As choreographer she creates pieces that tour internationally, and one of her work “Together Alone” was shown in Dance Base at Fringe in 2017.
This was a very moving piece with the three dancers moving in different ways and in different expressive relationships with one another

31st December 2019  to 1st January 2020  Movement meditation at New Year with Dr. Catherine Wright

Movement Medicine is a dance practice, and an awareness practice. It invites us to dance deep into the experience of our own bodies. You need no prior experience, only a desire to dance and connect with your own wisdom and wildness. In movement we can learn to be inspired by the elements around us and within us, the Earth, the Water, the Air and Fire. Movement Medicine keeps bringing us back to the dancers that we are, and allows us to tap into the wisdom of our own bodies.

Each person is a dancer. Our bodies, even in stillness are dancing with life. The breath in and out of our lungs. The blood pumping round our bodies. Eating, sleeping, digesting… all of it is a dance with all of creation. And through Conscious Dance we can become more profoundly connected with Nature and with our own true nature.


4th Jan Jam in Jan

Somatics  – book by Hanna about how to keep the body supple.  It is a great read for anyone (everyone?) who thinks that age = stiffness and deterioration.  Read it!!

18th January Jam  a wonderful class with the Leith Group, I began to understand how to use weight and what it means.


Taught by Simona Pisano

How listening leads to joy

In this meeting we will work with some different ideas of touch and contact, exploring how these can lead us to movement in a playful way. We will explore sensations such as rooting, softness, expansion and connection.

In an organic way we will warm-up our body from the “inside out”. The use of the breath and a constant sharpening of our awareness are central points of the training. The perceptions with all the senses and the micro movements will help us to get in contact with the outside surrounding and the other participants. We will approach different places to create our dance.

Simona Pisano studied New Dance, Improvisation, Partnering and Choreography at the TIP Schule – Tanz, Improvisation und Performance – in Germany. After a musical education and a MSc in Engineering, she decided to follow her true passion for body and movement.

She is drawn to the deepness of working with bodies and energies, focusing on pure physical aspects (structure, mechanism, precision) as well on aspects related to perception (listening, feeling, connection). Her practice is very much related to Improvisation, but includes a wide range of other research and activities (e.g. CI, tango, Capoeira) that aim to refine and investigate different ways of creativity and body-awareness.

Edinburgh Jam 15th February 2020

Class taught by Tony Mills:

Tony Mills is a founder member of Edinburgh based Random Aspekts B Boy crew and hails from the Orkney Isles. Since giving up veterinary surgery whites for tights, he has worked with Freshmess Dance Company, State of Emergency, Off Kilter, Iron Oxide, Curious Seed, David Hughes Dance Productions, All or Nothing Aerial Dance Theatre, Russian physical theatre maestros, Derevo, and the international streetdance show, Blaze, which toured worldwide. His adventures into choreography have seen him assist Ian Spink for Scottish Ballet’s EIF production, Petruska, as well as commissions for arts organisations and professional and youth dance companies. He has also worked as a movement director/choreographer in theatre for company’s such as Terra incognita and commercially for high profile stars such as Martin Garrix and Kelly Rowland. Tony is a keen ambassador for the breakdance scene in Scotland and has been involved in the production and hosting of major dance events including Castle Rocks Breakdance Championships, the Edinburgh leg of the national Breakin’ Convention tours in 2007 – 17 and Breakin’ Rules at the Dundee Rep Theatre. Tony continually creates new work for Room 2 Manoeuvre, most recently the international co-production, Without A Hitch. Tony is a die hard coffee fan and has a lingering penchant for croissants.

“With regards to teaching contact dance, I like to focus on precision of technique so that the experience of dancing together can be as pleasant as possible. To achieve this, the class will comprise of a series of specific exercises based around limb and hip placement, balance & counter-balance, joint manipulation and ways of trying to move efficiently with our partner or in a group. The aim is to develop an awareness of our own body when in contact and a strong sense of what can be possible when dancing with our partner”


Edinburgh Jam 29th February

lass taught by Srik Narayanan

 In this class we’ll find pathways into movement through our nervous systems, through the structural connections of our bodies, and across our surfaces, leading us on journeys through space and into the jam. We’ll explore how we can be curious as our paths intersect, opening spaces for choice-making in our dances.

Srik offers group and one-to-one work at the confluence of dance and somatic practices, relational body psychotherapy, and ecological awareness, through a therapeutic practice, teaching and facilitation, and occasionally performing. His approach to contact improvisation is influenced by studying with teachers such as Nancy Stark Smith and Daniel Lepkoff, as well the practice of Body-Mind Centering. More info: http://www.sriknarayanan.com

What we did

The three feet; base of skull, seat bones and feet, get them in balance;  the circle of space around you; awareness of weight when walking and standing; bending forward on knees and stretching forward; rolling to and fro on floor.




What is Contact Improvisation?
Contact Improvisation is a dance form originally referred to as a “art-sport” in which the point of contact with another dancer provides the starting point for a movement exploration. It is most frequently performed as a duet, but can be danced by more people. There can be music or it can happen in silence. It is about sharing weight, rolling, suspending, falling, passive and active, energy and awareness.

“Contact Improvisation is a dance form, originated by American choreographer Steve Paxton in 1972, based on the communication between two or more moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia.

The body, in order to open to these sensations, must learn to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.

Contact improvisations are spontaneous physical dialogues that range from stillness to highly energetic exchanges. Alertness is developed in order to work in an energetic state of physical disorientation, trusting in one’s basic survival instincts. It is a free play with balance, self-correcting the wrong moves and reinforcing the right ones, bringing forth a physical/emotional truth about a shared moment of movement that leaves the participants informed, centered, and enlivened.”

(From Caught Falling by Nancy Stark Smith and David Koteen)  The form has continued to evolve in various ways since it started 40 years ago but the basic principles remain the same. 


26th October 2019


I was in Venice to visit the Biennale at the weekend.  It was hot beautiful weather, but it was also a Saturday and it seemed the whole of Venice was enjoying the show before it closes in a few weeks. I took the vaporetto from Ca d’Oro to Giardini instead of walking across the city, in order to save time and energy.  As usual it is a great pleasure to join with the visitors and the Venetians as they travel through the city and across the water – especially on a sparkling day as this was.

The theme of this year’s Biennale is “May you live in interesting times“.  I knew of the Glasgow-based artist Cathy Wilkes (British Pavilion), though I did not visit this pavilion because there was restricted entry and a long queue.  Instead there were many artists from China, Africa and India and other previously under- or non-represented countries. India is represented this year for the time, for example.  This was very exciting and  I wish I had had the time and the energy to explore this show thoroughly. It would have taken two days at least, instead of the measly five hours I was able to devote to it this year.  So all I got was a flavour.  For much more, read the excellent review by Laura Cummings in the Observer.

Here are a few notes:

Dutch Pavilion

Stand out items I did see included the Dutch Pavilion, carefully explained to me by the invigilator.  This really helped.  The exhibition is a comment by artists Iris Kensmil and Remy Jungerman on Surinam and the Netherlands and their mutual influence,  including references to Mondrian and Rietveld, the actual designer of the Dutch pavilion.  Jungerman is interested in the way patterns are transmitted and how they shape culture.  I would like to explore the ideas of this exhibition further, as it was absolutely rich with meaning and interest.

“The Measurement of Presence. The Biennale Arte is an arena for continuously redefining notions of nationhood and the locality of art. Remy Jungerman and Iris Kensmil’s The Measurement of Presence calls for an alternative, transnational approach towards what binds us, acknowledging that we are in a constant state of flux. Jungerman and Kensmil explore the possibilities that emerge from not just allowing but embracing this ongoing shift. They explore how a truer measurement of presence, spirit, and history are needed for our interconnected existence.  (Biennale Arte 2019)”


Martin Puryear in US Pavilion

Martin Puryear’s confident and beautifully made sculptures in the US pavilion.  I enjoyed this work that was so resolved, so well displayed and which did not require much more from me than admiration and awe at the skill involved.


Michael Armitage in International Pavilion and in Arsenale

In the International Pavilion I saw work by Michael Armitage.  He paints quite thinly in oil on huge canvases and his subject is the social and political turmoil in Kenya.  There was more of his work in Arsenale.  I admire his message and also his delicate technique, which is different from the heavy expressive use of oil that I have recently been encouraged to do.


Ulrike Muller in Arsenale


In the Arsenale I appreciated Ulrike Muller‘s large abstract weaving and her highly focused small enamel pieces (like paintings but not?)   She is interested in critiquing the usual hierarchies of fine art, in which textile art comes a long way down the list.  Good for her. I would like to find out more about her work.


Julie Mehretu in Arsenale


Julie Mehretu (b. 1970 Addis Addaba) ” is a contemporary visual artist, well known for her multi-layered paintings of abstracted landscapes on a large scale. Her paintings, drawings, and prints depict the cumulative effects of urban sociopolitical changes through the landscape’s alteration of architecture, topography, and iconography.”

“I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place.[7]

I enjoyed these paintings, so allusive and delicate, and will find out more about Mehretu’s ideas and work.


Otobung Nkanga 

Otobung Nkanga  – I liked her small paintings, so carefully done, and with the colour strip she includes to show her palette.

Some artists were using tech to spectacular effect   Antoine Catala. for example

Liu Wei in Arsenale

Liu Wei – large scale propellor-style installation I found satisfying.  For me it just worked as an art piece and a sculpture.

Arsenale was heavily boarded up in many areas to create the separate exhibitor’s spaces. I usually enjoy this massive echoing space for its scale and I did find the partitioning claustrophobic.

These are a few impressions from the time I spent in Giardini and Arsenale. As usual, there was so much to learn and to see.  I was focused on what was closest to my own interests and that meant painting.  It was fascinating to see what artists are making and saying from all over the world.











It is much too soon (about a week) to write very much about the experience of joining Nottdance for a day. I would just like to thank the organisers and everyone involved for a very special experience.  Here are a few prelim notes.

First impressions

I had a fabulous mind-blowing day at the Nottdance 2019 festival.

  • so well thought out
  • Lovely dance space
  • Beautifully organised
  • Top quality events and performances
  • Balanced “flavours”
  • creative buzz

I had to get there before I could even begin to grasp it.  No idea what to expect

  • Breakdancing?
  • Community event?
  • I did not have a clue, but it turned out to be all these things and super smooth

What I did

  1. Katye Coe’s open class on contact improvisation.  90 mins of free style and contact with music once warmed up.  Beautiful experience.  Starting from “listening to the body”, thinking of gravity and being in space.
  2. Julie Cunningham Open Practice   a privilege to watch this amazing dancer work through her warm up routine, explain her ideas, particularly about gender fluidity and lesbianism, and then perform a short dance.  It probably meant a lot but I enjoyed the beauty of her movement and the integrity of the whole experience.  Discussion about non patriarchal ways of viewing the body, its fluidity and messiness.
  3. Reading room. A discussion group focussed on the small library in centre – started with books being scattered off shelf around the room and everyone sharing or reading what caught their eye.  This was a brilliant way to access the books in a different way, how different when they were on the floor or on windowsills or seats, how much easier it was to start discussions with fellow readers.  I felt more at home and confident in this session.  I appreciated the parallels between choreography and visual art.  So eye opening and shifting.  Books we discussed:
  • Inside Choreocracy
  • Power of just doing stuff
  • Marcus Coates  a practical guide to unconscious reason
  • Wondrous Women – a group in Nottingham
  • Cai Tomos
  • Using the sky  by Deborah Hay – “I wanted to choreograph a spoken language that would inspire a shift in dance away from the illustrative body, despite its intense appeal to dancers and audiences alike, to a non-representational body”   “the surplus of output for my whole body at once far exceeds any additional input from me. 

4. Jennifer Lacey, extraordinary dancer and artist, doing hermeneutics practice in Nottingham Contemporary. I sat in on one session, amazed by her evident            skill and depth of knowledge and vast self confidence.

5. Matthias Sperling and Katye doing an amazing dance in the Nham Contemporary. I was quite tired by this time, went to sleep at one point, still did not understand his ideas, but appreciated the quality and originality and spirit of the beautiful performance.


  • Oh so refreshing
  • Tremendously aware
  • Wish I had been there for whole thing
  • Wish I had seen more
  • But this was just a starter for me
  • Choreography as a practice, seeing visuals in a different way as a result, choreography as a way of creating with the human body
  • Had a discussion with Antonio from Spain/London about the conceptual/non conceptual approaches to choreography.
  • I think that sometimes conceptualisation is like legislation, the mind as agent, otherwise things do not happen, cannot change
  • I am on a track of sorts, particularly regarding improvising and less emphasis on figurative art
  • Matthias exploring new ways of knowing through movement and the body
  • Hearing about other ways of combining visual art and movement   Dancing Museums  “The Democracy of Beings”

Research and ideas

Matthias writing about magic and science, “the magical and the scientific, the imagined and the actual, the subjective and the objective, or with mind and body.  Warburg placed movement at the centre of his way of understanding the world”.

Matthias on how different artists “could be seen to be exploring aspects of this evocative and generative zone in their practices… I see these practices as working within and on the fundamental connectedness of our mental being, our physical being, and the manifold other human and non-human beings in the environments around us.  “

The practitioner as “seismograph” – a person who is tuning in to particular frequencies, resonances and ruptures that are vibrating in the environments around them, diagnosing their epicentres and bring them to light to be perceived in different and yet related ways”… each offering “vitally regenerative responses to the many-layered complexities that we are living through”  (Matthias Sperling)

How does this relate to visual art and to my work?

Good question.  I am blown away by the experience of being in Nottingham, and now, a week later, am unable to produce a coherent impression.  All I can say is that I understand choreography slightly more than I did, and that I have discovered the beautiful and original ideas and writings of Deborah Hay.  Which might be applicable to my art practice and which might help me understand the body, my body, and movement more.  It is something below the radar, and I prefer to leave it that way, reading her books “Using the Sky” and “my body, the buddhist”, as meditations or prayers.

Taking art off the wall into a physical and shared space/awareness, which is less visual and more holistic.  Also more immediately universal.

Thinking back to the work I did for exhibition earlier this year “Being Human – Together”     I was pushed for time in preparing for this exhibition, and had not yet processed ideas from Mattias’ workshop at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios in London.  In fact I drew in a spontaneous way and subjective way,  so perhaps I was understanding more than I realised.







Oh what a struggle to move from looking to something else.  That something could be analysing shapes back to their limits, somehow finding the essence of the image, expressing emotions, or something as yet unrealised.

Reading about David Bomberg and his insistence on being  part of the subject, “spirit of the mass”, I tried a new approach today and my current “something” is physical experience, for the horse it is the rough messiness and raw power that comes with the sublime beauty of the animal.

Today, 7th October,  I found a looseness and abstract approach, though it still looks figurative.  Getting more relaxed about the paint   Dare I say. But it is still a leap.

A week or so later, making one of these little paintings each day as “drill”, but now it is making more sense as I look at other half finished pieces and think how I could approach them with more awareness of shape and colour.  Anyway here are three more of the recent little pieces.



Carton #2

RSA Architecture Forum 2019
Our Place on Earth

This year’s Royal Scottish Academy Architecture Forum will challenge the popular idea that ‘people make places’ by demonstrating that our ‘place on earth’ remains a powerful and omnipresent force that fundamentally affects our person, our national character, our culture and therefore our art and architecture.

We invite you to a dialogue with three critical thinkers, an artist, architect and writer, to deconstruct ‘the now’ through the lens of art and architecture. The role of art and architecture in society has never been more acute, come join us and explore together how we can alter or ignore our reality.

Chair: Paul Stallan RSA (Elect)
Jude Barber, Jonathan Charley and Patricia Fleming

Tuesday 10 September 7pm
Civic House, Glasgow, G4 9RH

Paul Stallan the architect –   inner and outer punk, supplied the music

Jude Barber  Collective architecture  Common Guild 

Jonathan Charley  writer  critic political character, recommended the reading, mostly vintage and untrendy.  Cocaine Nights by Ballard included.

Patricia Fleming  gallery owner  administrator  artist, says she was educated not in school, which she hated, but by looking at and understanding artists

I made a special effort to attend this, driving into Glasgow on a damp dark evening and getting lost!  Eventually arrived at the Civic House.  I am so glad I did make this effort, because the event was very encouraging and interesting.


The debate was lively and original, especially Paul’s music and Jonathan’s book selection.  Jude made a great contribution from the socially engaged architectural standpoint and Patricia very insightful about the role and nature of artists.  She is aware of the deep thinking that goes into making art, and commented that art works best if it combines an “instant hit” with thought and meaning.

Critical awareness of the pressurised consumerist and politically disoriented society we inhabit, social media included, was taken for granted,  as was the call for an engaged art.

One of the panel, maybe the punk architect, Paul Stallan, maybe all of them, agreed that  art is a destructive force before it can become a creative one.  The deconstruction or destructive is a  part of seeing the new and creating something from the breakages.  I applaud this insight.

Architecture Fringe, an annual summer event, across Scotland – so worth knowing about.



This week I was in Palace House, the National Horse Racing Museum, in Newmarket, Suffolk.  Newmarket is Horse Central and I was so happy to be there.  But the reason I went this time was to see an exhibition about George Stubbs, especially as it focussed not on his paintings but on his drawings and his anatomical studies.  It was a rare opportunity to see an original edition of his “Anatomy of the Horse”, an exhaustive and precise analysis of equine anatomy.  Stubbs at age 32 rented a Lincolnshire farmhouse and spent two years dissecting several horses in the process of creating this masterwork.

He was a self-taught artist, and with a profound knowledge of his subject, he then went on to become the foremost equestrian and animal painter of his day.  Many of his paintings are fairly conventional studies of celebrated horses in the genre of the time.  Others are more imaginative.  Perhaps the most famous nowadays is the huge painting of the stallion “Whistlejacket” (1762)which hangs conspicuously  in the National Gallery, London.  This horse looks distorted, with head too small and legs too long for his magnificient body .  Maybe Stubbs was deliberately exaggerating the proportions for overall purpose of expressing the character and impact of the animal.

What was special about the Palace House exhibition was the opportunity to see not only the original edition of the Anatomy, but also his original working drawings and his studies of comparative anatomy.  No doubt Stubbs was a frequent visitor to Newmarket, as his paintings show.  I got a strong sense of a sensitive and enquiring presence in this exhibition.  His perfectly finished paintings conceal the effort and study that preceded them.  I always enjoy to see how an artist works.

One of my customers told me about this artist, known in her lifetime as Orovida.  She was the grand daughter of French impressionist and neo-impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) but she was a British artist who lived and worked in London  She turned her back on the current fashions and techniques in Western art (which she thought was too similar to photography) and instead was influenced by Asian art.  I love these etchings which incorporate the horses in an overall composition and a decorative style.  I love to see horses in art of a different tradition and culture.



I just spent a week running a small youth hostel near Todmorden, Yorkshire.  It is called Mankinholes and is in a tiny hamlet up in the hills above the valley where the town is located.

A tiny hamlet with a huge history.  For this area was one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution in England, when home industry changed to the factory system and mass production.  The geology of the area means there is flowing water to power the mills, and when the technology became available during the late eighteenth century, local farmers such as the  Fielden family, already prosperous from the domestic wool and cloth business, developed large factory mills in the valley.  Later on the mills were powered by steam, making location less dependent on the water supply, but also creating a sooty pollution which turned everything black.  Just a few hundred yards from Mankinholes, a huge mill was built at Lumbutts, and its water tower which incorporated three huge water wheels still survives.  So Mankinholes, which is up in the hills, is coal black as well!

The Fieldens were Quakers and supported the need to restrict working hours and educate their workers and improve their conditions.  The very building I was staying in, a 500 year old former manor house, was the centre for dramatic rioting against the introduction of the Poor Laws in 1834.  These laws meant that no able bodied person could receive relief unless they were in the workhouse.  I think I read that Fielden was actually present at this riot.  He refused to pay the local rates to enable the Poor Law, and actually closed his mills as an act of defiance, putting 3000 people onto poor relief.  These people were subsequently all paid.  He was instrumental as an MP in introducing the 10 Hour Act in 1847.  The Fielden family were always shrewd business people, however, and their heirs eventually became among the wealthiest people in Britain, buying huge estates far from Todmorden.

It really gripped my imagination, however,  to think that people had been living in the village of Mankinholes for generations, making their wool into cloth.  And that they became politically active, staging protests in the very building I was staying in. I understood the hard work, the labour, the activity involved in building dams, turnpikes, canals and then the railways, all infrastructure that we  take for granted now.

All this happened only about 200 years ago.  And why does it seem so immediate?  Perhaps because we are now at a similar point, with social change, broken patterns of employment and huge inequalities of wealth due to new technology.  We in UK are emerging from the industrial age, many still benefitting from the legacy of the Victorian age and the its wealth.  It is only about 50 years since many of the mills closed, as well as the coal mines.