Tower of Shit

Words, labels, descriptions, knowledge. Knowing how to comprehend the world around you often begins and ends with some conscious affirmation that comes in the form of words. It could be contested that actually comprehension begins with the senses but this is OK to overlook. Having moved away from an age where the unknown is acceptable or a way of life it is now imperative that one knows everything all of the time. Knowledge is carried with us virtually, we learn from light-screens, we communicate with light technology that allows us to know anything, “anywhere”, all of the time. In this world words are of course important. Not only in communication between individuals but also in that scientific way of knowing something. By knowing the name of the world around us we can control it.

Tower [Detail Sheep] 2011
Tower Detail: Sheep

This reading of the world might be a little far from the drawings that I am making at the moment but the sentiment is the same. I began by attempting to create artificial landscapes from profanities, things I called Towers of Fuck, or shit-scapes. They were humorous constructions that looked like one thing but would be composed of something else. They were the meeting of ideas with form. Now because we are talking about language this might get quite complicated but what constitutes an idea in this context is actually the intent behind the words being used. For example in this case, a tower made of fuck is absurd. Fuck is an etymologically difficult word so it is difficult to understand it and why it constitutes such a profoundly disturbing reaction within so many people, the contemporary meaning of such a word though is quite interesting, denoting a sex act that is either paralyzingly (in a positive sense), senseless (in the emotionally destructive sense), or animalistic (rough/destructive again). Maybe even a conglomerate of these ideas. Needless to say, a building can’t be constructed out of such a intangible rhetoric device, instead the use of the word in a drawing has two major effects on the image. Firstly, one could assume that the tower must be a symbol/icon/metaphor that is using the lingual/interpretive meaning of the word “fuck” as a sort of parenthesis or guide in its translation. So the words used in the image weight the content with a particular meaning. Secondly, the relationship between the viewer and the image will rely on the viewers active engagement with the image itself, is it a tower or is it a monument to the word fuck? So the visual spectacle is broken between form and content.

Today Wikipedia says this about the word fuck:

“Fuck” can be used as a verb, adverb, adjective, imperative, interjection, and noun. It has various metaphorical meanings. To be “fucked” can mean to be cheated (e.g., “I got fucked by a scam artist”), or to be broken or ruined (e.g., “my computer is fucked”) as well as to be sexually penetrated. As a noun “a fuck” or “a fucker” may describe a contemptible person. “A fuck” may mean an act of copulation. The word can be used as an interjection, and its participle is sometimes used as a strong (not necessarily negative) emphatic. The verb to fuck may be used transitively or intransitively, and it appears in compounds, including fuck off, fuck up, fuck you, and fuck with. In less explicit usages (but still regarded as vulgar), fuck or fuck with can mean to mess around, or to deal with unfairly or harshly. In a phrase such as “don’t give a fuck”, the word is the equivalent of “damn”, in the sense of something having little value. In “what the fuck?!”, it serves merely as an intensive. If something is very abnormal or annoying, “This is fucked up!” may be said.

Recently a larger scale piece of work was made following the above theme, the resulting images displayed below are from the “Tower of Shit” illustration that can also be found as a print on Saatchi:

Tower [detail: birds] 2011
Tower detail: birds

As I continued to draw I began to look at the world around me in a different way. How was I perceiving the landscape in comparison to my immediate environment? There is a clear distinction that is based upon scale. Looking at a landscape the cities, composed of houses, churches, roads and people, are actually just cities. That is how I identify them. On the other hand, proximity changes the way that I read the world around me. At my feet I see the cracks between the tiles, the dust in the cracks, the blade of couch-grass, a bottle cap, the door, the lintel, the window and the ledge. Even just changing my perspective a little will make a difference. The tiles, the paving slabs, become a path. The doors, windows, frames, plaster, and cracks, first become a wall with a door then become an avenue. So I began to think about this labeling of the world based on proximity. What can we do with that? Logically I think this way because it is how one might communicate it to another person. If this is so then isn’t it important to know what the world is composed of, it is not just images in my mind, but words. In fact my internal dialogue is constantly telling me what a thing is, whilst my eyes and my understanding of the composition of what I see is something else. Consequently I began to develop the series, that I have decided to call the Nascent series, to work with this idea of knowing.

Mdina Rooftops
Mdina Rooftops

I am currently working on a rendering of Valletta Harbour and there are varying scales and ideas that are being played with at the moment. The earlier sketches attempted to render varying details of the image into words so that the whole image might be a mesh of text, however the use of space quickly became a subject of interest. Space is an interesting tool and provides a necessary reprieve for the eye especially when the complexity of the ink forms can be so heavy. In the later work that is shown here in-development.

Valletta Harbour draft

Valletta Harbour draft detail
Valletta Harbour Work in-development

Things Set in Stone

It has been over three months since I despaired with my computer and decided to abandon the blog. At the time, it seemed like the correct thing to do. My brain ached from the intensity of the work period and it had become apparent that some changes needed to come about. Since then I left Athens behind, quite disheartened by what I had seen there, to Paris. With my brain still tripping I attempted to relocate my interests which were running around chattering about studio spaces in Glasgow. Only I hadn’t been to Glasgow yet, I hadn’t found a studio, and I didn’t know whether I really wanted to be in England.

Paris is a beautiful place, perhaps idyllic too, but this beauty hides a certain banality that it is hard not to become bored with. It is not that there aren’t people who are trying to do things, it is more that Paris holds a certain sort of safety or predictability. Perhaps this is an atmosphere that is manufactured, something that is used to enshroud visitors with a false sense of security, but even after walking through some of the suburbs with an Artist who wishes to expose the true nature of living in the suburbs this is unlikely. This artists work would look at the sad docile reality that sits behind the often commercial image of the suburban estate area. Such an image is present all over the world and is often used politically as a sort of scapegoat for criminal activities that might procure during a parties residence in power. If an image hadn’t been created for those suburbanites, it would have been created for another group of people, typically those who have recently emigrated to the area.

In reference to the title, such identities are not set in stone. Perhaps they are cast in plaster by the general public media, but such imagery and such ideas are prone to crumble over time. Human ideas are only temporary fixtures.

Whilst in Paris I decided to move to Malta, to look for a studio there. During a brief excursion to the UK I began to realise that there was a lot of material within my family that I myself wanted to address and will continue to work upon. Then, I broke my flight from England to Malta via Romania where I met an intriguing scholar of architecture.

Since arriving in Malta I have been looking at the landscape here. The population is very small in Malta and much space is simply left empty which within the urban spaces resonates with the feelings of isolation that one might find in Giorgio De Chirico’s and M.C. Eschers cityscapes. Many of the building here in Malta are beautiful and Valletta harbour is sublime. The expanse of water that breaks huge rock faces and walls, the squared designs of the cities that arrive at the foot of the sea, the continuity of colour, of blue and gold, make this an enchanting scene. As such I am spending some time drawing it, this is because whilst it is very beautiful and photography could make a good job of the landscape, the age and the character of the scene would lend themselves to pen, paint and paper to a much grander extent. Through these mediums the landscapes character can be reflected upon whereas photography would take the form for granted.

Since we are on the subject of landscapes and the architecture that is present here I thought it would be good to look at this project that was forwarded to me. The video work is fantastic, it makes the locale seem completely unreal, digital even. But despite the beauty of the film and the way that it compliments this structure, there is an underlying feeling that there is something quite wrong with the building.

For a while I wondered what it might be, is it because the building is apparently giant, that it so empty that it looks sterile? Or is it because the building is so transient that it looks purposeless as though it were created purely for fancy and not for people at all? Is it a material problem? Is it that the white surfaces and metal are too unnatural? But that would be strange because metal is natural… but then not in such quantities?



As a form it is certainly sublime. It does not fit with it’s environment at all, it is very much an alien to its landscape, yet within this contrast lies a great deal of its’ beauty. The contrast between the natural and the unnatural is exaggerated in this film through the use of the horse and shabby looking man. Whilst they are at home outside on the dunes, the structure is an uncanny foreigner who bears significant resemblance to a sci-fi spacecraft. This relationship between environment and belonging is flipped with the animals adventure into the building. Once entering it is clear that the architecture is attempting to mimic organic forms but despite this retains a very artificial and digitally calculated character that makes it feel as though it were a building designed by or for Apple. Which might be great, Apple are a great and powerful company, but then it (the building) does feel gimmicky. Perhaps this is also great, perhaps contemporary society is going through a sort of adolescent stage in its development where the “cool” of graphic design must filter through all levels of being.

But I meant the previous paragraph to be my compliment, the well done bit. Because in reality the logistics of this building and the practical applications that it serves to provide people in their everyday lives don’t actually seem to have mattered during the design of the building. Right? Am I wrong? What is this building being used for? It is undeniably beautiful but wouldn’t it be better of placed somewhere where it won’t cost more money than it earns in order to maintain and sustain it? Given that the site is considered a kind rurality, shouldn’t that be borne in mind? I mean to say that, if the population is not so high and the practical usage of such a building is not going to be so high if it is specific to a particular cause? shouldn’t it be developed so that it has the maximum practical use for the local populace? So that it will attract people to live there to work? I mean how much employment can a museum provide? Isn’t that going to cost the state lots of money to keep it running?

At the moment though there are number of places in China (including Ordos), huge urban developments that are not populated nor look like they are going to be populated. Why?