Parallel project – first thoughts.

This is quite a significant piece of work and, although it runs alongside the set projects of Studio Practice, it’s work that can be of any theme, any genre, and any media, size, or style. Because of that, and because it may also be the beginnings of a defining voice, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought since turning over the page and finding it there. Initially this manifested as a kind of shrieking internal panic – what could I possibly do that would qualify as a significant and coherent body of work? I realised though that I often don’t quite know what the outcome of something will be, or how extensive it might become, until I get started. The final assignment for UPM is a case in point, going from thoughts about documenting the tortuous demolition and rebuilding of my conservatory/studio in the midst of a pandemic to a series of paint/print pairs incorporating text and video and ranging, with an internal logic, from the local (piles of sand and cement) to a landing on Mars.

Still, with anxiety levels rising like water in a jar left out in a storm, I happened on a video interview of Joanna Whittle by Rob Dunt. Whittle is a magical realist, a genre I know well from literature but hadn’t realised was also one in art. While Whittle’s style is a bit heavy for my taste, I recognise the core values of fundamental reality nudged by something that isn’t quite right; something disquieting that ought not to be there or look the way it does. It can be a mood, an atmosphere, the way objects behave, the juxtapositions of elements. It isn’t fantasy, fairies, unicorns, horror, or anything that doesn’t appear somehow in the real world.

This feels like fertile ground for me. I write magical realism which sometimes slides slightly into science fiction or science fantasy, and I can see how I can develop a body of work that will contain either an underpinning narrative for the entire group, individual narratives for each piece, or maybe both. This allows for any number of visual images from landscapes to people-scapes, still life arrangements and animals, city scenes and sea scenes.

It helps that one of my favourite artists, Frida Kahlo, uses this genre to paint herself into the foreground of politics and to stand there with absolute defiance in her eyes no matter the context.

It also helps that I can reclassify some of my earlier paintings – I’ve done something like this before but it didn’t have a name. This is from a photo I took of the Adur recreation ground which, at the time I took it from a crouched position, had an abundance of flowers. Back on the easel, these became more jewel-like and the height of them became something like an exposed sand bank with swirled elements of the river and hints of exposed roots that might indicate unspecified subterranean life.

A further positive for me is that I’ve become very interested in using video – animations and short films based on a primary piece of physical work – to elaborate or add a new context, and this has the potential to play right into the magical realism frame.

I’ve made a preliminary collection of websites that will support my work by elaborating on the history of magical realism, both in art and literature, and while I can use OneNote locally to aggregate these, I’ll post them here too as I go.

Primary link for art: Magic realism – Wikipedia

Summary from Google search page: magical realism artists – Google Search


Magic Realism Movement Overview | TheArtStory

Magic realism – Art Term | Tate

Magic realism – Wikipedia

Magical Realism — Google Arts & Culture

(1) Pinterest

Magic Realism –

Technique Tuesday: Magical Realism – Principle Gallery (

Magical realism in literature: “The term magic realism is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous, and Matthew Strecher (1999) defines it as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”[10] The term and its wide definition can often become confused, as many writers are categorized as magical realists.” Magic realism – Wikipedia. As a personal note, a high degree of realism is unlikely in my paintings but the content will have a high degree of realistic consistency ‘invaded’ by something that makes it all shift sideways a little.

This is the Whittle video interview.

And here’s another in text form, conducted by Bryan Eccleshall for OCA. In Conversation – Open College of the Arts (

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