New show at the Shavian Gallery!

This  June, the new and improved Shavian Gallery will be exhibiting the work of Jane Cody, an emerging artist whose works range from delicate hanging structures seemingly made of rays of light, to oddly beautiful assemblages of everyday objects collected over the course of several years.

The exhibition, as part of the last-ever degree show at the Byam Shaw School of Art, promises to be a fascinating exploration of Cody’s work.

Further details to come over the next few days.


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The Shavian Gallery at Byam Shaw

There is an exciting show coming up this week at the Shavian Gallery, my exhibition space at the Byam Shaw School of Art. The Perpetual Presents Project is a collaboration between first year Byam Shaw students and students at the Glasgow School of Art, and opens on Wednesday. I’ve posted more details on the Shavian blog at

and you can read more about the project itself on their blog:

Good stuff, can’t wait to see all the work in place on Wednesday.

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Yinka Shonibare in conversation with Tim Barringer

What links two turn of the century artists, steeped in the imperialism of their day, with a contemporary artist exploring notions of identity and veracity? This is the question which Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon professor of Art History at Yale University, sought to answer in his talk on Monday 22nd November 2010 at the Cochrane Theatre.

In conjunction with the exhibition ‘Before and After Modernism: Byam Shaw, Rex Vicat Cole, Yinka Shonibare MBE’, held in the Lethaby Gallery, CSM and Byam Shaw hosted a conversation between Barringer and Byam Shavian Yinka Shonibare MBE. In his introduction, Barringer talked about the lives and works of the school’s founders, John Byam Liston Shaw and Rex Vicat Cole. Referring to pieces both in the exhibition and elsewhere, he contextualised the work of these two men who, by embracing 19th century traditions of British art and society, found themselves lost amidst the new wave of Modernist art which first hit London in the ‘art-quake’ of 1910 (the year of the school’s founding). Despite this displacement by a new aesthetic which ran so contrary to their own ideas of beauty (see Shaw’s cartoon The New Art – Alas! Poor Beauty, 1912), Shaw and Cole’s vision of pedagogy, and their enlightened attitude to teaching both men and women at their new school, proved strong enough to withstand the turbulence of the contemporary art scene.

It seems perhaps unlikely that there would be any likns between these two artists and Yinka Shonibare MBE, but Barringer drew on his considerable knowledge of the works of all three, as well as of the history of twentieth century art, to draw some interesting parallels. Perhaps the clearest of these is the aesthetic which is present in so much of Shonibare’s work, especiallyDiary of a Victorian Dandy (1998), a ravishing faux-historical tableau which could almost be mistaken for a still from one of the more overblown BBC costume dramas: Shonibare adopts the style and setting of turn of the century society, and manages with wit and lightness of touch to both celebrate and critique it. This readiness to engage with the politics of empire and colonialism can also be seen in his decision not only to accept an MBE, but to incorporate the title into his name by deed poll. When questioned by Barringer, Shonibare was quite ready to admit to having revelled in the sumptuous scenes he created for Victorian Dandy, and said of its implied criticism of Victorian mores, that he likes to ‘provoke’ viewers of his art, to make them consider their own values and ideas.

This provocation is certainly evident in the new work presented in the Lethaby Gallery. Egg Fight (2010) was commissioned by Dublin City Gallery, and takes as its inspiration a passage from Gulliver’s Travels which details the battle between those Liliputians who eat their eggs pointy end up, and the ‘bigendians’ who oppose them, and are persecuted as a result. Although the piece is imbued with Shonibare’s characteristic wit, it clearly addresses the issue of conflict with its depiction of two well-dressed (if headless) gentlemen firing blunderbuses at each other, through a wall of shattering eggs. To make such a piece in response to a commission from a gallery in Dublin, capital city of a country which has seen more than its fair share of belief-driven conflict, is a bold choice.

In conclusion, this interview was an interesting consideration of the question of recurrence in art, the appropriation and adaptation of cultural memes, and of how two painters – one almost pre-Raphaelite in his celebration of beauty and colour, and one a staunch chronicler of the English countryside – can be reconsidered in the context of post-modernism, now that the ravages of Modernism are past.


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FilmLab Festival

Okay, so generally I’m going to keep this blog about my art work and reviews, but this is just a note about the fact that I’m organising a film festival with Lucy Rogers, called FilmLab, that’s going to happen on the 9th of November at the Roxy bar and Screen. It’s a showcase of international short films by students and recent graduates, and we’re very excited about it. If you do want to find out more, you can check out our website, or email us at

This is a really great project, and we’ve had some brilliant films submitted, so if you’d like to see fresh new cinema in a cool venue, come along! [end of advert]

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New Adventures In Dressmaking

Having abandoned, for the time being, any attempts at dyeing my own fabric, I bought some lovely grey/taupe gabardine today from John Lewis, along with a Vogue pattern for a sweet little jacket with a kind of flared vent at the back, a bit like an old riding habit.

(see dodgy picture from my webcam if the description’s not working for you,

but don’t worry I’m not letting any checks that loud into my wardrobe any time soon)

I’ve also ordered a pretty Paisley-pattern silk (ish) lining in dove grey/blue, so hopefully it’ll all be lovely, and not a complete disaster like my last attempt. I’m sure it’s not an accident that ‘seamstress’ ends in ‘stress’.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, thimbles crossed for a happy result!

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Paste-resist fail 2

Yes, once again I have to report that my attempts to master paste-resist dyeing have failed … I really do think that the paste was better this time – it was a lot thicker, so I could use it with a stencil – however, it seems I’m still using the wrong kind of dye. This time I tried spraying the dye onto the fabric when it was laid out flat on the floor, so that it wouldn’t dislodge the paste the way it did when I submerged the fabric. But it just soaked around the paste anyway, and in fact, as I didn’t use all the dye, it didn’t even really make much difference to the colour. So if anyone reading this can suggest a thick dye medium which I could use to sponge onto the surface of the fabric, do let me know!

PS I would post up a picture of the fabric as it looks now, but really, given that the pattern is almost indiscernible,  there is no point.

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Paste-resist dyeing take two

So I’m trying again to make a dress using the Yoruba/Japanese paste-resist dyeing method. I’m twenty minutes into making the paste, and it’s going much better so far; I’m putting a photo in with this post so you can see it in progress. Bear in mind, when you see the gloop in the saucepan, that last time it took me about two hours to get it to this point  –->

I know, impressive, huh? The important thing seems to be the ratio between pot size and quantity of paste – I’m using the same saucepan, on the same hob, as before, but this time I’m only making half the amount, and that seems to be doing the trick.

It’s really starting to go clear now – a noticeable difference since I started writing this post – and is already tastes sweet, from the carbohydrates in the flour breaking down into sugars (apparently). I should mention that I ^haven’t^ added the caustic soda yet, so tasting it is perfectly safe, if a little weird 😉

I think if it works this time, I might make a video of the whole process and put it on YouTube, because this is really the kind of thing where you need someone to show you what to do, and there don’t seem to be any other videos out there.

Anyway, I’m going to keep boiling, stirring, and hoping, and I’ll post the results here sometime soon. Wish me luck!

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