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View from the back

2 Aug

This drawing was inspired by an indelible image that stuck with me when I was back to the UK after being in Nairobi. On the last full day we took a very bumpy truck ride through Nairobi to eventually arrive at the MPC school in Mukuru. I had opted for the back of the truck in an act of chivalry but also as a way to get the most visceral experience being jostled from left to right and looking out the back window onto the cacophony of people, motorbikes, street vendors, walkers, animals, half built structures and dust. The road was filled with deep craters and like in Mukuru itself, walkers had the best command of it, elegantly dodging the worst bits and balancing on craggy ridges, narrowly escaping large drops and rubbish. This image was constructed entirely from memory and is more of a collage of things seen than a remembered scene in its entirety. I did this drawing on true tone (normally used for creating screen prints) with graphite. In part this drawing also represents a break from drawing on the iPad which is fun and sensuous but not tactile and dirty like good ole drawing with pencils.

As much as Nairobi had many troubling aspects and lives lived in uncertainty, it was a visual feast and the sites of mass human migration and commerce revealed what we don’t have and are missing in the west. The flow of people and the flow of desires and need pours through the streets and through this clearly tenuous subsistence, there are, more often than not, smiles to greet your eyes and hands out to shake. Much to be learned.

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Drawing in Nairobi

22 May

The following drawings are from a recent trip to Nairobi to work on a research project called Tupumue which explores lung health in 5-18 year olds living in the Mukuru slum and in a neighbouring precinct. Mukuru is a vast informal settlement of over 500,000 residents that was established in the 1970’s with rural to urban migration. It is surrounded by heavy polluting industries and residents cook with Kerosene, coal, wood and gas within small dwellings that are often without proper ventilation. A myriad of other problems plague the slum such as limited access to clean water, overcrowding, poor sanitation and waste removal and soil erosion to name a few. These are some of the world’s poorest people and their children are highly vulnerable.

 

It was impossible to prepare for the sights that I saw and my eyes and heart quickly filled up. This is a tragedy. A visceral onslaught of humanity in a second to second struggle for survival. It was also uplifting. We met many wonderful people and Mukuru has its charms. It has a rhythm and deep textures that are lively. It was exhausting in every sense but it was also vital. It was vital to see with western eyes how others in this ruthless world live. It made the inane realities of Brexit Britain and Trump’s America seem like a privileged concern. It also brings one closer to the larger struggle of our brothers and sisters in this world. It is impossible to be unmoved and it is impossible to be the same person you were hours before, having wine with your dinner on a plane thinking that you had a firm understanding of the world. It only now feels like arrogance.

 

The drawings came fast. For some I was surrounded by curious kids who called out mzungu! (white person) and took a joyous interest in my work. I was an object of fascination. Some gave a startled look at us as we walked through the slum. On one day, we covered 7 miles on the way to a football match, dodging rough terrain and grey spectral water. These drawings reflect what I have seen. They capture the human textures of experience as I witnessed them. They came whole. They were probably the easiest drawings that I have done because they emerged from such vivid experiences. They assembled themselves from clear visions, like a photograph developing and with similar unity, wholly emerging.

 

I was aware of the total inappropriateness of photography and also of its inherent limitations. Fixing this reality was not possible. It could not be contained in the photograph. The drawing however, as evocative and subjective as it is, is a container. It doesn’t fix reality, it extends it. It doesn’t declare or attest, it reaches out. It invites the viewer to share in a vision. To trace the vision of the artist, to commune with the act of looking. Looking at drawing is a participatory act. Unlike photography, we connect to the idiosyncrasies of the artist’s hand and the limitations of vision. Its imperfections make it the best approximation of an imperfect world.

The first three drawings are from my balcony in a walled complex. These are not from the slums.

netter.tupumue.homestaynetter.tupumue.homestay.3netter.tupumue.homestay.2netter.tupumue.outsidewajukuunetter.tupumue.outsidewajukuu.2netter.tupumue.outsidewajukuu.3netter.tupumue.dognetter.tupumue.marketstallnetter.tupumue.outsidehomesteadnetter.tupumue.mukuru.2netter.tupumue.mukurunetter.tupumue.mukuru.3netter.tupumue.mukuru.4netter.tupumue.treenetter.tupumue.depressednetter.tupumue.mukuru.5netter.tupumue.mukuru.6netter.tupumue.bikers

 

 

 

 

Reportage drawings from the vault (or forgotten pile)

8 Apr

The following drawings are from the July protest against Trump, London, Christmas and a recent trip to Liverpool. All of this work was created alongside drawings done for my PhD. Because of this, the work has a kind of narrative that runs through it which aligns with that other serious work. The people that populate these drawings are loners. Either isolated by their circumstances or by their beliefs. Others are the faces more often lost in the sped up world of self absorption. Reportage drawing is unique way to manage both inner space and the outside world. A hyper attention to both the limitations of ones vision and skill and the psychic textures of every day life. Enjoy and as usual, I would love to hear from you.

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Looking up

31 Mar

On a walk through Hyde Park in London and towards Victoria, I watched a distracted public immersed in their smart technology and not with the glorious sunshine and human parade around them. It reminded me of the joy of reportage. The joy of looking and paying attention. Even hyper-attention to ones surroundings. Ideas swarm and there is an intimacy in the held visions that eventually become drawings. It is a communion with the subject but also with wider humanity. Post Brexit, this small world of reinforced ideologies and tailored entertainment can produce a dangerous and comfortable bubble. I suppose it already has. Fear can more easily creep in because we are more disconnected. The promise of technology was a lie. We can’t engage if we don’t look up. Enjoy!

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New video

6 Feb

Take a look at a video of me drawing and talking about drawing. Filmed by the University of West England in Bath. Enjoy! 

https://vimeo.com/196271902

Sheffield Drawings

3 Feb

These drawings were done in a single evening and morning before a conference I attended. Sheffield is an appealing city with a vibrant arts scene, particularly in music and film. My aimless wandering uncovered these characters who seemed iconic of the somewhat less savoury aspects of the city. In fact, like many northern cities I have visited, Sheffield has a significant number of vacant shops and depressed areas butting right up against areas that have had cash infusions bolstering the arts and shopping districts. This partial gentrification is typical of cities that are very much in the throws of economic and cultural change. Too often these changes elevate a very small and privileged few. The psychic tension between the industrial city of old and the new, incentivised, flatpack cultural identity thrust upon these cities is often absurd. Sheffield was a city trying very hard. I wasn’t there long enough to figure out for whom that effort was focused.

 

Reportage article

19 Oct

Here is an article recently published in IAFOR’s online magazine THINK. Scroll down for all of the drawings i did in Barcelona. Enjoy!

http://think.iafor.org/serendipitous-city-reportage-drawing-visual-language-discovery/

Berlin Sketchbook

5 May

Here is a collection of the drawings I did on a recent trip to Berlin. They are presented as they were drawn (in a square sketchbook). It was a trip that reminded me of what many cities lack in their quest to satisfy the needs of gentrified and sterile middle class tastes. It was still a bit wild and earnest. Enjoy!

 

California daydreams

25 Sep

Here are some drawings done in California. Between travelling with children and enduring quite brutal heat, this is not as robust an effort as I would usually make. Still, California is an endlessly fascinating place for me. Perched at the edge of the American dream and being filled with dreamers, it represents those frictions between fantasy and fulfilment. It is still frontier land and the freedom of exploration and discovery of that not so distant past is still in the daydream haze that fills the heads of its citizens.

I am quite rusty drawing Americans. In the past they were my bread and butter. I relished in the fat and filigree. I realise now that my approach to drawing people is less about the people themselves but their symbolic power. Their momentary pose which, like a statue, eschews mere representation and enshrines human achievement (no matter how small or bad or good).

To wake up from the dream that is California is profoundly sad. Invested in the palm trees and wide open vistas is the closest thing America comes to paradise and yet, because of this, like all things American, it becomes a victim of it’s own success. It now chokes on the exhaust of it’s own decadent dreams. Mixed in with moments of placid calm at the beach are unpredictable traffic jams and the same feverish capitalism that drove everyone out there in the first place (or was that the beaches?). But still, like dreams themselves, California works on a logic of its own. Here’s to the dreamers!

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Whispers and Shouts

15 Jun

It is hard to think of any other activity that forces you to merge your inward and outward vision in the way that drawing does. This is particularly true of Reportage drawing and it’s greatest conceit is that it is a record of pure observation. What it really is is a record of thought, synthesis, presumption, judgment and looking. It is an act that requires the artist to participate in a dialogue about what is worth drawing and, importantly, why should we care? This is is the job of the artist. To make us care. To draw us in to a particular vision of the world that challenges us to think about the circumstances of others. The nature of the struggle to live and keep your head above water. This granularity is so perfectly captured in the rough marks of a drawing that the whisper or shout of humanity is ever present (even in less confident drawings). Enjoy!netter.markertest.1 netter.markertest.2 netter.reportage.drunk netter.reportage.hydepark netter.reportage.hydepark.sunbathers netter.reportage.oldman netter.reportage.va