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Friday, December 1, 2017

Wild Photography

Cittadella is the centre where Natasha Lythgoe  and I are holding our Wild Photography workshop next May to explore this land up in the clouds.

It is a rather magical place and attracts folk who wish to absorb themselves in a world whose nature, history and culture remind them of things seemingly lost in our hurried existence.

Up in the Sibillini mountains there is an incredible feeling of freedom. Within the national park, rangers are carrying out a programme of re-wilding, re-introducing species such as the wolf, bear etc and attempting to rebalance what humans have disturbed over the centuries

Photography is our medium this weekend but the workshop could equally be labelled re-wilding the self, because we too are out of balance as a species and need to respect Nature; to re-wild ourselves

When I taught photography at the (now) Arts University Bournemouth, it was a time when analogue was dying on its feet and when digital photography was not yet proven. It was at this cusp in time that it became obvious to me that the only useful subject to address, was creativity itself; to be curious and aware of life in all its many facets and that a camera was just a machine, a commodity which was just a vehicle through which the creative imagination might find a home.

In the years between then and now, the evolution of the camera, the ease by which images can be shared with anyone on the planet at any time of day, seeing young infants taking photographs, (and even cancelling out images they don't like for goodness sake), All this makes me realise that I was right at that time; that the essence of a fulfilled life is indeed to re-awaken creativity in our lives, whatever the medium with which we choose to express ourselves. 

Our weekend at the end of May next year is about these very matters. 

Our home is a beautiful centre in an astoundingly magnificent part of Italy. (Read Guardian article about Cittadella)

It's an opportunity to work and share with others our passion for image making. (you may bring any kind of photographic image making machine)

And to join a community of like minded people who stay in contact and share images on an on going basis.

To eat, laugh, play, work together in this little paradise in the mountains of La Sibilla.

For programme of 2018 Spring workshops at Cittadella, click here


Friday, November 3, 2017

About Bluer

Bluer is my friend. He is a painter like myself and once or twice a year we work together for 4 or 5 days or so and, I dunno, just feed off each other I guess I would say. Currently he is working with plexiglass and this is an exhibition of his sculpture in the medium on a show in Trieste at the Lux Gallery, where he devoted a room to our collaborative work

Do you know what happens when you create together with another?
I would say this..
It's the difference between being alone in a dinghy in a river full of crocodiles or with a mate to whack them on the nose when they get too near.
I jest of course, but what I am endeavouring to say is that it is a profoundly different experience than working solo.
Also that you learn a lot, risk more than you would normally and find yourself in Sync with the other, or others if you are working in a group.
Here are a couple of our paintings in the show

And one in realita

At Art College we were never encouraged to work together (as if it were an affront to our sacred individuality) To that I now say Huh!
I wish I'd known way back then of the power and depths we can reach if we have the courage and
humility to share our creativity. And how that in doing so we in fact strengthen ourselves.
A paradox don't you think?
By the way we entitle our work 'Four hands, 'Two brains, One soul'
Neat don't you think?

Here is a link to the exhibition which is up until October 20, should you be visiting the wonderful City of Trieste

Starstone Creativity retreats in Italy

Monday, October 9, 2017

I've just been talking to an Archangel

This may sounds little odd, but oft times I paint blind, or maybe I mean dumb, or maybe I don't mean either. This painting, which I finished last week before going to Cornwall, bowled me sideways when I looked at it this afternoon, back home in my studio. Like most of my stuff, it had just arrived on some creative wind from who knows where. But I'd painted it before I had even arrived there.
The story. 
I was at St Michael's Mount, visiting a friend who runs the place, although truer to say it runs him, and was buffeted about by the wind, dazzled by the intense glare of sunlight on water and utterly at the mercy of the elements.
And those elements. Friend tells me those who are obliged to live and work on the island, last usually for no more than two years, then crack. Those who make it to three, simply suddenly adjust and are sort of absorbed into the elements and stay. You see, life there is completely subject to the tide and wind, and what we normlings call daily life, is just not possible there.
I sort of like that, because in a magical way, creativity itself is like this. It comes from somewhere which is bigger than us, greater than us, and we catch it on the wind, sometimes in a crashing roar.

It is humbling and it makes nonsense of both rationality and time itself. As I imagine would an Archangel.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A garret in Paris?

You see, you are not educated to be alone. Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.

I really like the above quote from Krishnamurti. It fits in with my the notion of re-wilding the self which Naga Dipa opened my eyes/mind to on our workshop in Sussex last July; this being that just how many good people are at last waking up to the truth that Nature can no longer be violated, but instead saved from our ravaging, so we must equally take a journey inwards in an attempt to heal and address and acknowledge the inner ravaging of our minds.
And that nature can help to heal us as we begin to heal her. A double deal.
And art, creativity in whatever form, is a vehicle which reminds us of our humanity and thus helps in this healing process.
And it is this inter flow that play with in our workshops.

And the above painting by Jamna Owen speaks to me of that life force which bubbles in all our hearts when we see even the smallest of nature's wonders when walking along with or senses alive to the world outside of us (instead of being glued to a smart phone)
Jamna is trained, and works in, the field of marketing. Rational and quick thinking, she has, however, over the last few years re-awakened her right brain simply by the act of painting.
And indeed, what we attempt to achieve in our workshops is a balance between both hemispheres of the brain, so they learn to work as one, in a sort of agreed symbiosis, a trade off if you will . And this we call our mind.

No reason to starve in a garret in Paris any more

Friday, September 1, 2017

Re-wilding the Self

I love this photo. It's of a group of folks walking across the mouth of the extinct volcano of Monte Vettore in the Sibillini National Park

And within the bowl of the mouth itself there are two small lakes, known as Pilates lake, which join together when there is sufficient rain or snow and where live little red shrimps; there since primordial times, thrown up by an ancient sea and who decided to stay. Nice idea.

My dog Bessie looking at the shrimps at Lago di Pilato

We can see Monte Vettore from the agriturismo at Cittadella where next year we are basing our workshops in photography, painting, sketching and poetry, come rain or shine, under the title of 'Re-wilding the Self''
Please explain..
OK, this title derives comes from a workshop Naga Dipa and I ran last month in Sussex. It was held in an ancient forest near Lewes; photography in essence but I think we all came under some sort of magic spell where the outer world around us, full of ancient oaks, lime and beech trees, sort of absorbed us in their timelessness and it became both and outer and an inner voyage.
Rewilding as a concept I'm sure you are aware of. It is where we humans restock nature with her original creatures, thus to rebalance the damage we have done. You've probably read recently of an example of a parkland in Northumberland where they are reintroducing the Lynx (brought from Eastern Europe) which was hunted to extinction some 500 year ago in Britain. The idea being that as its only prey is deer, that these animals will keep the deer population down and thus the forests will bloom with undergrowth again and small animals and insects will return, thus birds and beavers too they say.
And so it is with the Sibillini National Park, where Rangers have already reintroduced wolves and bears. (Yes, and you can imagine waking up at night on one of these workshops to find a bear staring at you through the window. And a wolf). How exciting
So, re-wilding the self is where we absorb ourselves in nature in this beautiful wild terrain but also venture into our inner nature too, realising what it is to be truly human and in no way separate from Nature. And we do this through the medium nature has given us, our creativity; by painting, photographing, sketching, poetry. An inner and an outer journey.

Micheal at Starstone

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Venice in Disneyland

An American friend has just sent me this article.
I was there last month with Jack Fulton at the Biennale and as I live in Italy and my wife is from the Veneto, I have got to know and love this City over the years and can almost feel its pain as it creaks and gasps for air and longs for a time long past. Imagine the indignity of this, below, happening every day as four or more of these 13 storey monsters consume her beauty. With all their occupants, 4000 of them taking the same photos of the City, of us, with their smartphones and buzzing these images around the planet to wherever they hail from, China, Japan, USA et alia.

(That's Jack in the foreground struggling with his camera settings) In vain

I remember when he and I sailed over to the Isola dei Orti, must have been 11 years ago. It was a peaceful weekend with only laughing cyclists to contend with (to laugh and chat with too). And taking the ferry back in the morning across the lagoon, it took my breath away as we sailed into sight of Venezia. A timeless experience.
But now just nobody gives her time.
Except us
Yes us

Us meaning a bunch of photographers who arrive as gently as butterflies from heaven (a jibe at noisily descending cruise-ship wombats) into this wondrous city in the winter months of December and January each year, (not New Years) to witness Venezia come alive once more, almost free of tourists and bathing in the low light of a sunken sun, casting long shadows through the majesty of its startlingly spectacular canals and architecture. The more authentic restaurants are still open ,the best bars too and there is no queuing to get in to all those precious museums. Venezia gives itself to us in all its glory, come rain, snow or shine (usually in that order)

Want to know more? click here
We'd love to make your acquaintance


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Biennale, Daimans and Light

After our workshop in Assisi, Jack Fulton and I headed up North to the Veneto to see the Biennale in Venice. This year it was without a common theme although it had the title of  'Viva Arte Viva', which sort of translates as 'Long live Living Art'. On reflection, I would say it was about human values, not much brain scything meaningless conceptual stuff, except of course from Damien Hurst. A touch of shamanism and humour too, although the funniest part was the entrance itself with scores of bewildered tourists asking each other how the electronic ticket counters functioned (imagine Waterloo station arrivals board on a very bad day)
I've been going to Biennales for more years than I can remember and I have found that it is very rarely that the international works in the Giardini and the Arsenale have done anything but interest me; nothing breathtaking. The shows by individual artists around the City score more powerfully. Must say though, that I always come away feeling jiggled about a bit, woken up.
Trodden upon by tourists though,
And those Cruise ships!! Packed with thousands of people

The very top deck ( I think the thirteenth) is lined with tourists taking photos of us taking photos of them. Ghastly.
But what can you do?
What I do is run photography workshops there in early December and early February, as a sort of antidote to mindless tourism. There are few people around and this beautiful City reveals itself to those who have the time at last to pause and look and wonder at its dark secrets and hidden mysteries.


The Art of Wilding, (Photography and Awareness) July 15 and 16, Brighton UK
The Tango of Creativity Sept in Assisi