The development of the idea

I began this year long research into my practice with an interest into what constituted to something being considered a wilderness while reflecting on the relationship between humanity and nature. Over the course of the year I began to discover that little of the UK’s landscape could actually be considered as an environment of total wilderness. This was later reinforced after a conversation with a member of the Wildlife Trust when he explained that much of the landscape was in fact tightly managed.

My intrigue into the relationship between humanity and nature had seen me developed an interest in areas abandoned by humans. These Places such as areas of wasteland, edgelands and ruins gave a unique perspective of nature reclaiming and I felt these environments had the possibilities to to be considered areas of true wilderness due to the lack of human management.

I began to look at the ruin as a focal point, becoming increasingly intrigue in the ruin itself. There was a distinct relationship between nature and human in the ruin. The ruin was abounded by humans yet it became a playground for nature, allowing for nature the process of reclaiming. The Italian artist Giovanni Piranesi was a pioneer of exploring the process of nature reclaiming and made it apparent in his work.

Through the development in my studio work the ruin became the dominate path of interest. I found the properties that the ruin possessed fascinating. The ruin has the ability to stop and make us think. As proposed by Brian Dillon in in his introduction to the catalogue for Ruin Lust, Tate Britain 2014, and discussed in my dissertation, the ruins can be a demonstration of decay and collapse, of one’s mortality or a portent of the future consequents facing our civilization. They allow us to contemplate aesthetic beauty, elicit a nostalgic feeling for past greatness or present a sight of nature in the process of reclaiming the built environment. They can be a monument to the dead of a past battle or disaster, a representation of the decline of an economy, a vision of our future or a positive sign of change and technological advancement.

Cultural theories Paul Virilio through his theory on the ruined bunkers built by Nazi Germany along the French and Belgium coast sited the ruined bunkers in an implacable chronological time, allowing the bunker to be sited in the past present and future. His theory was born out of his investigation of the bunkers entitled ‘Bunker Archology’. He remarked on the bunkers now its purpose was defunct, It was no longer part of a war machine. He observed the bunker in its present form and its relationship to the landscape and its present use in society. Through this he saw beyond its past usage, enabling the bunker to come from the past yet appear from the future while it resides in the present. These ideas were also shared by J.G Ballard yet through the contemplation of the death of modernism, the 1950’s structures that in the last 20 years seem to have become a target of redevelopment in Britain.

Through my research I know understand that the ruin is as much about the future as it is about the past. Artist, scholars and theorist along with other avenues of creatives consider the potential the ruin has to debate our future. The architect Albert Speer through his theory of Ruin Value saw the message that the ruin could give to future generations. He reflected on the classical Roman and Greek architecture and formulated an idea that the ruin could be used to send a message to the future as a remainder of a past greatness.

In combining ideas of Virilio, Ballard and Speer as well as other creatives I see the ruin as having a layering of multi narratives due to its unchronological placement in time. We as human beings are able to look at the ruin and conjure up our own histories and potential futures and this is something that I feel I have achieved through the work I have produced. My paintings enable the viewer a sense of something and a potential narrative yet there is an air of ambiguity that allows for this to be debated by the viewer and ask questions of the ruin.

The artist and writer Robert Smithson in his essay ‘A tour of the monuments of Passaic’ describes how contemporary architecture such as a highway bridge has the ability to become a ruin before it has even been completed. He argues that the these building can be built into ruin, in a process he called ‘ruins in reverse’. This allows the ruin to be in a state of flux between its construction and its destruction and is a feature within the work that I have produced. The ruins in my paintings are depicted in a static state of flux between their construction and destruction.

Although a painter from the 18th century, John Martin and his Apocalyptic scenes of mass destruction still have reverence in the modern era and remain to have the power to shock. His future depictions of the end of the world give a glimpse into a potential future that is yet to happen.

Development of the painting when considering depicting the ruin.

My work has always been influenced by the history and tradition in oil painting, certainly when I consider the representational aspects in my work, yet I am increasingly finding the urge to push the boundaries and develop new ideas within the medium. Through analyzing artists such as Nigel Cooke, Justin Mortimer, Adrian Ghenie and Alex Kanevsky and their combined ideas in abstraction and representation, and the marks and compositional choices they make, enabled me to see and understand the potential ideas I can form in paint. Over the course of the year I have continued to develop my painting practice through this combination of representation and abstraction. I feel in developing these ideas I have been able to make stronger compositional choices in my painting, enabling greater intrigue in my work. This is also true of my approach to the handling paint and the range of marks I can make in visual depiction.

In considering the ruin and ideas in how to approach in its depiction I used the properties of both representation and abstraction, enabling me to emphasis the state of the buildings demise. This allowed me to leave the building in a state of unfinishedness, even leaving sections of the bare canvas. This was largely influenced by the work of Martin Kobe and it allowed me to depict the ruins in a state of crumbling decay yet at the same time be considered to be in state of construction through the apparent unfinished painting. This would also be heightened by allowing the viewer a glimpse into the construction of the painting itself, exposed through the layering of my revisions of the canvas, something that is prevalent in work by Cooke and Mortimer. In this process I imbue the work with both a sense of history and formulation through its ability to show its construction that mirrors the layers of time associated with the ruin.

The ideas in how oil paint could be used to reflect the building was further developed when I considered the material reality of oil paint. In looking at artists such as Frank Auerbach, Anselm Kiefer and Nicholas McLeod and their individual approach to rendering the subject through paint, I developed ideas in utilising a mixture of oil paint and pure turpentine, bleeding and dripping paint into the canvas surface to represent the staining of the mineral deposits on the concrete caused by nature’s reclaiming. Through this I was able to recreate the physical demise of the ruin, yet simultaneously through the use of this style I aimed to present the ruin in a state of resurfacing and emergence that enables the ruin to be sited in the past, present and future.

In developing ideas in the collage over the course of the year, and reflecting on past work I had produced in 2012 on the death of the high street (something I re-visited this year in the paintings Bold Lane), I explored how to reinterpret the concept and environment of the ruin. I attempted to place it in a landscape (an urban city) that would heighten the ambiguity in the subject and allow the ruins in my paintings a greater sense of multi-narrative. The landscapes would be formed of colours that still reflect on the palate of the natural landscape but could evoke something more and have origins of a fantasy or science fiction world.

Future work

I will continue to develop on ideas of the ruin and have become very interested in engaging in the apparent death of our high street and consider its future ruination. This is a topical subject since the recession of 2007 and the expansive list of large high street names that have fallen victim and disappeared from the high street. There is also the factor of societies increasing use of internet shopping. Many of these large outlet stores are beginning to fall into disrepair, which appears most prevalent in lower socio-economic parts of the UK. There is also an abundance of post-World War Two Brutalist architecture, descending from the Modernist architectural movement, within our towns and cities that awaits the approval from city planners for demolition; Birmingham being a current centre for this yet the financial market will dictate when this will happen.

Reading Groups

George Shaw

Visit to the National Gallery and critical response to the exhibition

My Back to Nature
11 May – 30 October 2016

In this body of work Shaw reflects on his own adolescent ventures into the local wood close to the area he grew up in. His work evokes the uncertainty within the woodland; a place allowing the schoolboy elements of debauchery, beer-drinking, smoking and a sense of escapism. These woods, littered with porno mags and old household appliances, are places of which certain generations would spend their formative years and develop into young adulthood. This was the era pre-internet where thrills and kicks had to be found in the material world. A sense of humour, wit and playfulness runs through the exhibition considering these themes.

The exhibition is part of a two and half year residency at the National Gallery, offered to an artist with the proviso that it must reflect on aspects of the Gallery collection. In his painting The Rude Screen (2015–16) the draped blue plastic sheet hanging from a tree is reminiscent of the swaths of gowns and textiles depicted in paintings by the great masters. Shaw draws inspiration from Titian’s Diana and Actaeon (1556–59) in a scene where Actaeon pulls back the sheet to expose the naked goddess Diana. Shaw also plays on the notion of an ‘old master’ through the use of a likeness that crosses historical and cultural borders, that familiar image of the graffitied cock and balls, which he scrawls across a tree trunk.




my back to nature

installation view



Mini Martin

The Old Master



Mike Ballard

Capital Slang.


For the reading group we visited the Mike Ballard exhibition ‘Capital Slang’ at LUBOMIROV / ANGUS-HUGHES gallery and were fortunate enough to have the artist give a walkthrough talk of the show. Ballard, previously a graffiti artist, explores the visual language of the city collected through his city wide wandering. The accompanying text to the exhibition explains how Ballard is looking to highlight aspects of the city that is overlooked by the everyday pedestrian.

Ballard explained how his observations of the painted language left on the pavement and roads by roadwork crews inspired his latest series of paintings called ‘Anti-Landscape’. These hieroglyphics are reminiscent of graffiti tagging and through a code of single identifying colour enables maintenance crews to indicate the location of underground networks and the differences between water, electricity, gas, and telecommunications utilities. Ballard saw these as “readymade compositions of dirt, paint, pollution and chewing gum’”. Through the materiality of paint his paintings recreate the texture and visual appearance of concrete and he combines the traditional methods of oil paint with spray paint and chewing gum. His paintings combine high and low culture of all oil painting and graffiti art with city planning to create abstract paintings. Yet these paintings, in my opinion, could be considered representational depictions of the urban pavement and road.

His geometric collaged structures have strong links to the materials of the city and are produced from hoarding boards that have aesthetic ruination appeal. Ballard considers the boards to have a layering of creativity made by the contributions of graffiti artists and then subsequent council workers painting over the graffiti. The affect is accentuated through the council workers’ varying and mismatched hues of blue, resulting from either apathetic disregard or a ‘use what you have in stock’ mentality of the council.

The sculpture and painting installations in Ballard’s work have a relationship with urban-based extreme sports. In his painting installation Community Thunder (2015) the configuration is similar to that of a skate ramp half-pipe and similarly his hoarding board sculptures would not look out of place in a Parkour playground. Ballard is taking ideas of the urban and finding alternative uses of the space.


Sculpture from found hoardings

For your personal safety

and comfort

Oil, line-marker and chewing gum on linen
150 x 200 cm
Mini Martin

Community thunder

Oil and Gesso on canvas x6, wooden supports

The Forever Now

“The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World”

December 14, 2014–April 5, 2015, MoMA

In the first reading group we analyzed Laura Hoptman’s catalogue text for the exhibition “The Forever Now”. Hoptman, the curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA, centered the exhibition around the theme of an atemporal art world.

The exhibition took as its inspiration the ideas of ‘atemporality’, a concept in contemporary society within the digital era, which enables history to be freely available and thus allowing culture to be suspended in a static state. It explores how the abundance of information has halted liner progression, not allowing new to supersede the old but rather enabling all eras to exist at once. I personally found the text informative but difficult in terms of accessibility and, dare I say, heavy going. Hoptman claims that the small group of seventeen familiar artists she has chosen represent this new ‘atemporal practice’, through largely abstract work.

Was this an insight into contemporary painting and all the possibilities available to the artist in the quest of producing art? Does it represent a conscious choice of the artist to simply produce work rather than a commentary? Within the reading group it was proposed that Hoptman’s ideas were potentially claiming more than they were delivering. Upon further research, the opinions expressed in the reading group have been elaborated on by art critics. Farago (2014) makes a compelling argument that these ideas are a ruse rather than an insight, a buzz word used to repackage a lack of progress in art as the new progress. Whilst I admire Hoptman’s ambition and optimism I was not convinced on her interpretation and felt that the exhibition on the whole was thinly veiled propaganda aimed towards today’s contemporary art market.
Installation view of The Forever Now
Installation view of The Forever Now

OIL PAINT - January - April 2016

I have been developing my practice as an oil painter for the last ten years. I am currently concerned with making paintings that combine several styles, developed over a multitude of layers, that highlight and demonstrate the development of the painting. I am also interested in combining abstraction and representation, through my choice of mark-making and the process of an intuitive knowledge in the level of details of my subject.

I will look to develop and experiment with the diverse nature of oil paint through utilising mediums, in order to add or detract its viscosity when applying it to the canvas surface. In turn, this will allow paint to bleed or sit on the surface and will allow me to build and develop layers.

In terms of the platform for painting, I will look to develop the canvas surface by leaving bare canvas, exploiting it as a material. This will again look to explore and expose the process of making a painting.

Old Winding Gear, 2016

I have spent a lot of time addressing issues in creating paintings that employ elements of abstraction and representation, whilst also considering how to make my work both interesting and visually engaging.

During the period of January to May, I have concentrated on a smaller number of paintings and this focus has been productive in terms of my development. I am now more confident in permitting myself to be more experimental in what I can achieve with paint and this is allowing me to question and evolve from my previous work and ideas in paint.

The large painting (Old Winding Gear, 2016) has been produced over this period and I do not posit it to be considered a fully resolved painting. I believe it to be a significant painting, as I have utilized this work as a testing ground to experiment and consider new approaches. Taking influence from painters such as Justin Mortimer and Adrian Ghenie, I have employed the use of collage. This has given me a greater freedom in my depiction and allowed me to be more considered in the information that I retain in observations or developed digital collage of my on-site research.

In considering the composition of Old Winding Gear (2016), I aspired for the metal structure of the corroding frame and wheel to dominate the canvas, much as the structure dominates the landscape it resides in. As the viewers’ eyes move from the top to the bottom of the canvas, and survey the impassable object, I wished to create a sense of restricted access to the environment beyond. In doing so I have attempted to mirror Peter Doig’s painting series ‘Concrete Cabin’ and emulate the barrier of structural trees, restricting and trapping the viewer out of the canvas.


Through looking at painters such as Peter Doig and members of the ‘Leipzig School’ (David Schnell and Matthias Weischer) I am now considering how representation and abstraction sit in contemporary painting. I feel that all three have pushed boundaries but have simultaneously retained the tradition of making representational painting. They have allowed themselves to be more inventive with paint, considering its material reality, whilst thinking about the canvas surface and contemplating the choices in how they depict their subjects. Their paintings offer us something new and inventive yet give suggestions of reality.

Below provides a glimpse of the revisions of the canvas surface and the processes in making the painting Old Winding Gear, 2016. It allows you to see the development of the painting and how I have experimented.



Mini Martin









Painting on digital imagery

In speeding up the process of development, and a quick way of researching ideas in paint, I was advised by Geraint Evans to work directly onto the surface of the digital imagery I was referencing. This is also a starting point for some of the paintings by Adrian Ghenie, who creates collages with printed imagery that are then overworked and embellished in paint. Through using digital imagery, and working over the top of this, the developing ideas in paint gave me a more accurate description of the physicality and material reality of the painted surface. It has allowed me to consider the choice of marks, tones and colours in quick sketches whilst employing the digital image as a guide.







The watercolour paintings have been developed as part of my proprietary studies. I have utilised the properties inherent of watercolour painting. The immediacy in the flow of the paint, as a method of experimentation, helps to inform my compositions and ideas in paint.

After reading WJT Mitchell, I also appreciate the historical significance in using watercolour as a medium to document the landscape, much in the way that Turner and his contemporise did in the 18th and 19th century.






After looking at work by artists such as Justin Mortimer and Adrian Ghenie, who both produce multi-layered paintings, which are visually intriguing, I am beginning to develop an understanding of working with collage. I hope to utilise this method to complement my interest in juxtaposing the natural and man-made world, through the layering of ideas of visual imagery and showing the possibilities in how they contrast and relate to one another.

As a starting point in the development in my ideas in using collage I have been experimenting in Photoshop to construct potential future starting points. Below are a few examples.




Mini Martin




















I see drawing as an important part of developing new ideas in making representational imagery. The sketches I create help inform my paintings through a freedom of experimentation and fluidity of mark making, tones and textures. These drawings can diversely be exhibited for public viewing or privately inform my own practice. I am inspired and influenced by other artists, that demonstrate excellent draughtsmanship skills to inform their practice, such as Frank Auerbach, John Virtue and Jenny Saville.






Through documenting the landscape, I have developed an appreciation for photography. I use the photograph as a starting point in my research and work with both digital and analogue (35mm film) cameras. I am interested in the qualities of older film technology and have started to experiment in the dark room. I plan to develop this in the future to consider the possibilities of integrating it into my paintings.