The original project was to paint 50 people - I thought I'd start small in Somerstown and see where it takes me. Well, after 2 years I've reached my original target and the project has been a success beyond my expectations. Now I am situated in the Hotwalls the public have direct access to my working process's and I have access to an unlimited number of new people to meet, stories to hear and portraits to paint, so my body of work is constantly growing.
Many people I meet have never met an artist or been to art gallery.
I get all kinds of visitors to the studio but I need to get out and about occasionally, Portsmouth City Council have been a great partner and want me to do the same again in Paulsgrove. So from from the end of April 2017 that's what I going to do.
Are you or do you know anybody who is NOT interested in the arts?
Do you go to art galleries or visit the theatre. Do you have to drag along your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner kicking and screaming to expose them to a bit of culture?
If so I want hear from you. In a city of 200,000 plus citizens we have a massive cultural pride in naval history and football but for some reason that pride, for a lot of people, doesn't extend to other cultural activities such as the arts.
I am looking to paint 50 people from Portsmouth from all walks of life - from all socio-economic backgrounds. I want to meet people who live in the city and hear their stories, but I am particularly keen on people who don't believe in the value of the arts.
So why am I doing this? Well it all started down the pub.
The name of the project ‘we don’t need culture’ originates from particular debate that took place in my local pub - which could be described as a quintessential working class boozer - became heated when I mentioned the word arts and culture. I suggested the city needed a large dose of arts and cultural input and stated that this could have a positive a effect on the community and economic growth. The reply was simple - "we don't need culture". We have football and the Navy we don't need all that "poncy" stuff. The general attitude of the conversation was that the arts were a waste of money particularly in a city that has some of the most vulnerable low income families in the country. I wondered how many felt like this.
The key thing is that the gentleman automatically assumed I was talking about high culture. I was, but only partially and I realised the pitfall of such a discussion on my part. It was my assumption that he understood the context of the word culture itself.
I want to reclaim the word culture, explore its meaning in a non-patronising, accessible way.
Culture or cultural activities, quickly looking at the three tiered system of high, middle and low brow: high referring to activities such as theatre, visual arts, antiques, opera; low brow or popular culture 'take-away' meals, gossip magazines, best-selling books, blockbuster movies, reality TV you get the idea. It’s the middle brow area that I believe should be my starting point. It’s that fuzzy area between the high and low - drawing on both, not high enough to be analysed as conceptual art nor dumbed down enough to be taken literally. It is an area that can be regarded as fluid and dynamic.
One word that does seem to fit, quite comfortably in fact is the word, accessible.
And accessibility is key to this project. Portrait painting is an accessible form of art. It can be engaged at all levels - academically and without any prior knowledge or specialist arty vocabulary.
Everybody knows how to draw, toddlers first subjects are usually the big circles, lines and dots that make up the face of mummy or daddy. We can’t all draw well but we all understand the process required through our own experience.
In other words we all have the tools to engage with art. It's just that some people give the impression that we don't because of the language they use. Pretentious and verbose or up it's own arse.
This project is about engaging with art on your own terms. You won't need a university degree or a docterate just your time and your own personal point of view. And fingers crossed you'll get something out of it and share it. Create a little connection, maybe look at things a little deeper.