Shelf Lives wrap party : The BIFTAs

Big thank you to everybody who were at the party – my chance to say thank you for all your generous support with this ridiculously ambitious and complex project. Here’s some pictures of the making of the prestigious awards – as you can see there was no expense spared by my nubile band of studio assistants.

And here are some of the lucky winners

And of course no award ceremony would be complete without some misbehaving A listers :

And finally a call to action :

Next show ! Lets get on with scoping out venues and artists for a group show that builds on the energy in the #opensignapse group.

There is also talk of a follow on Shelf Lives event, which I’m already working on. Lets get on with both (it’s later than we think). I’ll be setting up the next #opensignapse early next month.

Shelf Lives : The Big Night at the Tower documentary.

The Big Night at the Tower was a powerful experience for me, mostly because of the strong engagement between the visitors and the work. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a crowd so collectively and openly engaged at an art event. Here’s a short documentary make by Eileen Aldous and Stuart Brindle at EMP creative video :

Shelf Lives : The Big Night at the Tower.

The visitors weren’t browsing, they were looking actively and talking to each other about what they saw. That’s always been what I wanted for my work after it walks out of the studio on it’s own legs :

The reason for that was the conductors – members of the #opensignapse group who carried torches and established connections between the visitors and the work :

I’m at Jaywick Martello Tower taking the show down on Monday, and will be posting the legacy material – three films, documentary stills and catalogue over the next few days.

In a couple of weeks the studio will be open for #opensignapse 6, please get in touch if you are interested in being part of this maker led group. We are already planning follow up shows and more group events.

#opensignapse 6 will the the chance to see some of the work, as well as projection quality versions of the Shelf Lives animation :

The Pinchbeck and Armin live action short made by EMP creative video :

as well as the documentary of the Big Night at the Tower.

More to follow – but now I really have to get off this pesky laptop and and watch some paint dry.

Final call : Shelf Lives at Jaywick Martello Tower

Today is the launch of this unique are event in an amazing space. Firstly big thanks to Kerith Ririe and everybody @JaywickTower  for welcoming such an adventure into their beautiful building.

The static show will stay up until the end of June, but tonight and tomorrow is the only chance to get the full fat experience :

The Big Night at the Tower : Sat 23 May 7 – 9.30pm

Bring a Thing Day : Sun 24 May 11 – 2.0pm

I’ll be drawing and talking with visitors about their keepsakes, memorabilia and special objects. It’s loosely based on BBC Antiques Roadshow, but to be fair, not much. Bring a Thing and get involved. Here’s where this wonderful adventure started, I made a card hanging plan of the venue :


Shelf Lives : 1 week to go

This important solo show is a combination of drawing, painting, small sculpts combined with animated film and performance. It’s a body of work I’ve been on for nearly three years.

It launches on the Big Night at the Tower on Sat 23 May 7.00 – 9.30pm at Jaywick Martello Tower, Belsize Ave. Essex CO15 2LF on the East Coast UK. I hope to welcome you there.

I’m also doing an open access family event called  Bring a Thing day, on Sunday 24 May at the tower. It’s loosely based on the Antiques Roadshow, and is interested in personal memorabilia and keepsakes.

When my dad died in 2003 he left three suitcases stuffed with personal odds and sods. I didn’t go near them for months. But there they were, waiting : Tiny pocket diaries from 1936 – 1947, with the middle five years mostly empty. Wads of paper, medals, postcards. The maintenance logs for the 3 tonner he drove with his unit in 2nd. Company 8 Army Signals. Posters his ENSA concerts on the way up Italy to Monte Cassino. Shots of his mates all looking hard as nails in the Tunisian desert. Signed photos of gorgeous but unspecified Italian girls. It made me cry because there was a young man reaching out of all that stuff. I could almost feel the electric charge of memory in some of the objects when I picked them up.

That was a trigger for this work. If you want three words to get you started for your journey through this show, here they are :


This show is definitely not about my dad, or my memories of him. This body of work is my attempt to make work that you can use as an emotional battery. It’s about how some objects somehow keep the touch of the people who lived with them. They are storage devices, or emotional batteries.

In a way that’s always been an artists work, to make pictures and objects that attract and store and give back an emotional charge. Rembrandt’s drawings of Saskia, Frances Bacons paintings of George Dyer, Joseph Cornell’s boxes of found objects. It’s always been the artists job to make analogue backups of the world they lived through and it’s out job as viewers to give them a recharge every time we look at them.

Shelf Lives : The Big Night at the Tower

Shelf Lives opens at Jaywick Martello Tower on the UK East Coast in three weeks time. This unique art event combines new paintings, boxworks and small sculpts, two films and a live performance.

We hope to see you there !

The Big Night at the Tower is the only time to see all elements of my work together. It presents a body of work that reflects on where we keep the objects that matter to us, the keepsakes that are charged with our memory, our story and our history. It also reflects on the relationship between film and painting, and how each retains the marks of it’s time and it’s making.

Bring a Thing day is a family fun day, bring some keepsakes, memorabilia or photographs and get involved. Nobody goes home empty handed.

I will be putting out regular updates on social media, but if you would like more information or a media contact please email me.

Shelf Lives : your cabinet of daily analogue backups.


Many of us live on top of a mountain of stuff, with our heads in a cloud of information. This makes it harder to find the ‘keepers’, the objects that really matter.

Shelf Lives sees ‘keeper’ objects as analogue storage devices for memories, ideas and events. This show unpacks our cabinet of keepers so we can see and share them more clearly.

Here is the press details and pics for this show. Please get in touch with me or Wendy Bailey PR if you’d like more information or print ready images.

Shelf Lives is an art event by Doug Selway presented from 27 April to 25 June 2015 at Jaywick Martello Tower, Essex, CO15 2LF

It begins with Doug Selway leading Artist in Residence activities at Jaywick Martello Tower for 4 weeks from 27 April. These include open access activities and workshops.

The main event, a performance and film screening is during May Bank Holiday Weekend 23 – 25 May 2015

Starting with The Big Night at the Tower on Sat 23 May 18.30 -21.00

A whole floor of new paintings, small sculptures and box installations, live performances, film, and more than a few surprises. It’s the only opportunity to see all the different aspects of the work together.

The static show opens at 18hrs30, performance starts at 19.45. The film will be screened in the dark at 20hrs30. Event closes at 21hrs00.

Sunday 24 May is ‘Bring a thing’ day. From 11.00 – 14.00. This is a family fun day with a range of activities, loosely based on BBC TV’s Antiques Roadshow.


#opensignapse 3 : The Physical Possibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Who Can Actually Draw.

#opensignapse 3 was another corker, with several new people. Conversations kicked off with Lisa Temple Cox’s new drawing and small boxworks. She has built up a substantial body of drawing in different medical collections around the world. We talked about the denial of death, about memento mori and the collective blind spot that mainstream media has about bodily imperfections.

Riffle through the lifestyle mags in a doctors waiting room (there’s an irony for a start), watch any adverts and you’ve wandered into a collective delusion where nobody ever becomes frail, gets old, or dies. There is such a pathological fear of blemishes and misfits. This delusion has always made me feel queasy. Lisa’s quiet and intensely observed drawings awaken you from the delusion, gently at first because they are very beautiful but then with the violent recognition that you are looking at your own frailty. She’s curating a show (working title The Last Taboo – but that will almost certainly change) of artists from UK, Europe and USA. So they got me rootling about in the store to pull out the drawings and monotypes from my Likeness show in 2007.

The last one is a drawing I made of my dad when he was dying. I don’t often get that one out of the store.

We then reviewed the of the filmed live action for Shelf Lives. Stuart Brindle and Eileen Aldous from East Media Productions put together a rough assemble of all the footage and then made this first cut teaser/trailer. With apologies about the sound, and for my voicing skills neither of which will make it to the final mix :

shelf lives trailer_1

How lucky am I to be working with them ? Finally here’s an updated text about the Shelf Lives show. Wall texts have always made my heart sink whenever I see them at a show, so I won’t be having any at the actual show, but writing them for the #opensignapse sessions has been really interesting.

Shelf Lives at JMT : Paint, make, film and perform

The launch event on 23 May 2015 is the central statement of this work. Paint, make, film and perform. I use film to animate static objects (paintings and small sculpts) and I use performers to free audiences from the passive assumptions of static art.

My motivations are individual memory and how it enlivens our shared history. I’m interested in how many meanings and objects we share and how many of them remain after we are gone. My hope is to be met by an active audience, who feel able to bring their own memories and responses.

#opensignapse – studio access for makers and participants.

The #opensignapse sessions have been really uplifting. As expected, the conversations went in unexpected and illuminating directions. As Stuart said, Shelf Lives the kind of project that ‘turns left at the traffic lights’. To be honest, I don’t really know how to work any other way. It’s very motivating for me to share my working process with people I respect and trust. I never really understood why artists can be so secretive about their process. That what draws me into the studio every day.

The studio got thoroughly trashed this week as I was finishing the props and models for Thursday’s live action shoot for the new show :

Shelf Lives at Jaywick Martello Tower 2015

The shoot was intense and great fun. Eileen Aldous and Stuart Brindle on cameras and Mandy Medlicott and Al Forman acting. I’ve never directed cameras and actors at the same time before so I was really lucky to have such competent people to work with. Here’s the text that accompanied the work on show at the #opensignapse events :

Like all my work over the last seven years or so, this project addresses a really simple question :

What objects are important ?

For me that means found and exchanged objects, tools and gifts. It’s interesting how these objects move through time. Most of our stuff is lighter than we think, and floats away. But the few objects that remain become heavier and heavier with meanings.

The next question (because I couldn’t sustain this work every day if it was just about me) is how all of us share and exchange all these objects through time. That’s top of the agenda in my line of work, it’s the marketplace where I set up my stall.

If there can be a real job called ‘artist’ anymore in this galaxy of spin, then it’s about making objects that don’t float away. I happen to think the artists work is really important, once all of us have clean drinking water and the rule of law, of course. Artists must maintain the autonomy of these objects. They must help us all to resist the temptation to turn them into products or totems. Artists help all of us to choose wisely about what we keep, what we share and what we allow to float away.

It’s our stuff, all of it. The prints of William Blake, everything in the British Museum, the suitcase of photographs than my father left me, the object you will pick up from the ground as you pass by because you were thinking of a person you love.

The next #opensignapse invitation only session for supporters and participants will be Saturday 10 January 2015.

You will be able to see some rough edits of the live action footage and the studio based animation will be under way as well. And of course the painting as well because I can’t really help myself. It’s the painting which is driving the visual ideas on this project, which is just as it should be.

Doug Selway : Artist in Residence at the Minories in Colchester.

I’m reflecting on the first full day of my printmaking residency at The Minories gallery in Colchester. I’ve been making monotypes – which is really a printmaker who is making paintings by stealth. I’m really enjoying the monotype process. One of the many good things about it is that its as much hassle as painting. You feel the same total immersion in simple materials, and the same commitment to uncertain outcomes. Control freaks need not apply for this process.

But, to be honest I am conflicted about printmaking.

Love the process – of mixing ink, rolling it out, the smell and the subtle variations in tack and opacity, the paper and how it floods with large flat areas of intense black or colour. I began with engraving, and loved it’s kinship with drawing. But it was always  a means rather than an end in itself.

Love the materials – especially paper, the most accessible and democratic support you can use. The inks, plate oils, scrapers, and drawing and painting on glass. Printmaking has its roots in the world of jobbing makers, who spend a working life getting by on their skills. It’s a trade.  What matters is doing a good day’s work, without this baffling obsession with becoming an ‘established’ ‘artist. It’s basically how I see myself.

Printmakers, particularly the ones that aspire to be ‘established’ often lose sight of their vernacular roots. They seek safety in institutions. Art clubs and societies, groups and academies – they all attract joiners. They draw in people who work well inside an institution. Joiners are not always the same people that make the good work. The printmakers I admire were emphatically not joiners. Printmakers protocol, editions and ‘proper’ technique is certainly not what gets me up and at it every morning. The people I admire were all very skilled but they used all and any technical means available to get the work done. It was the work that led the process and never the other way round.

William Blake was an engraver and as such was not allowed into the Royal Academy because engraving was considered a commercial, reproductive art.

Francisco Goya was the first painter to use lithography, which was an entirely reproductive and commercial process when he started into it.

James Gilray, one of the finest etchers ever is still admired for his beautiful taut graphic line. He sold very rude political cartoons directly from his printshop and probably never went near a gallery or an art club.

Andy Warhol used screenprinting because it was an unacceptably commercial and reproductive form of printmaking.

Michael Rothenstein said ‘there are no rules’ yet I can never walk past one of his prints when I see it. It has energy and sincerity and it always draws me in.

Just think what Blake, Goya, Gilray, Warhol and Rothenstein would have done with laser copiers or 3D printing. Better yet just think what you could do with them and stop worrying about what other printmakers might think.

I hope you can drop in at the Minories – you can click through here to the FBook event page

More rare beauties

This Rare Beauty was passed on to me by my philosophical best friend Shug Aitken. He is a very good example of why your best friends should be smarter than you are, and why you should always listen carefully to them.

It’s a poem by Dylan Thomas about why we take our work so serously, why the creative endeavour is so ridiculous compared to the struggle to find clean drinking water, why it’s also more important than nearly everybody realises, and why it’s nothing and nowhow never and whatsoever anything at all to do with a hobby or any kind of self realisation therapy.

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

From Deaths and Entrances by Dylan Thomas 1946

I’ve spent the time off when working at Art in Action on the sketchbook, thinking about how the puppets should be in the animation for Shelf Life.

I’ve had lots of discussions recently about how paradoxical this job is – to take a job so seriously when it is evidently so ridiculous. The only reason to do this job is because you believe the work demands it.  Success is not a motivator for me. It’s my job to ask interesting questions, it’s up to other people to decide how successful the answers are. I’d imagine that success needs as much mental strength to deal with as it’s opposite. If you are successful you are almost certain to be working for people who see what you do as an adornment to an already cluttered life, as a product or as an ‘investment’ to keep in an already over stuffed strong room. If you are not successful you have to pull off the rare and delicate trick of getting up each day and working as hard as you can because you think the work deserves it. It’s simple for me though, drawing and painting are the things I care about most and that’s why I do them every day. I’m blessed that I have the time to do this.


Rare beauties

I’ve started a collection of rare beauties – the small discoveries I sometimes find in the wreckage of a working day. Rare beauties are timid and they have to be ready to be found. If they are not ready I usually miss them. But once they are ready I know them immediately.

Rare beauties are very perplexing, mostly because they are so effortless. I work so hard to carry effortless beauty for any distance in my work and it rarely arrives intact. I truly love the zen irony of that. Paint has always been the material of choice if zen irony is your hearts desire. I guess I’m learning to be both more ambitious and more modest at the same time. Aiming for what my wise friend Nigel called “Informed simplicity”.

My collection of rare beauties remind me that this work must always have an individual human beginning. It has to start with a person’s ideas, their observations. They have to care about it. It all comes down to somebody doing a day’s work. Somebody has to commit their skills, their fears and obsessions to carrying the work through one day and into another. Good artists learn to carry it past their own working life and on to others so they can recognise themselves in it as well. Really good (and lucky) artists carry it far enough away for it to be recognised by many other people who may not share their language or culture or history. Really, really good artists can keep on doing this after all personal trace of them or their working lives have disappeared.

We always know this good stuff when we see it because we recognise the best of ourselves in it. It really doesn’t matter wether it’s a painting or a flint arrow head or a sketch of somebody we’ll never know.

 Everything else is just retailing or interior decoration.

AA2A residency : Smallest Theatre in the World with the Grand Theatre of Lemmings.

Last night was the dip shows at Chelmsford College and also the final presentations of the fourAA2A artists who have been working here. We brought the Smallest Theatre in the World down for a personal appearance, with it’s shiny new Royal Enfield bike. I also put up a small show of the working drawings – we are now working on  the Mk. 4 refurb – the fourth since 1974.

Had an interesting chat with Sarah Jones about the connections between pottery glazes and painting. This small show gave me the chance to pull together the development work I’ve been doing on the theatre, and it was interesting to see how much it overlaps with the Shelf Life work. Now seems like a good time to share :

This is part of an experiment with shrink mirror plastic. I’m thinking about doing a Pepper’s Ghost section in the Shelf Life film.

Shelf Life : Goose painting !

Goose painting ! Something interesting is happening with the Shelf Life project. I’m working on the wire figures and the props at the same time as the paintings. It’s as if the painting process is design development for the set and the film. Thinking with and through paint. Another discovery in my obsession about the relationship between paint and film.

As for the goose thing, it’s a combination of the guard geese at the farm in Devon I used to stay at when I was a kid and some truly magical writing at the end of Austerlitz by WG Sebald. A family of street performers process past us, in age order and at the end is a white goose. Couldn’t find the quote in my studio journals but if you haven’t read this book, I’d say it’s definitely worth the time.


AA2A residency – The Smallest Theatre in the World Mk. 5

I spent the first full day at Chelmsford designing the new Smallest Theatre in the World. The college is so well equipped and everybody is very friendly too. Makes a pleasant change from watching paint dry all on my own. My plan is to make a flat pack, touring friendly version out of welded Ali square tube with painted panels attached.

I’ve made two 1:5 scaled maquettes of the structure today, and now am looking forward to the fun part which is designing the scenic painting to go on the panels.

This is the seconf one I made, a tapered structure which I think may give us more opportunities to play with perspective and viewpoint.

A couple of interested students dropped by and it would be really good to get them submitting models as well. This project is a very interesting use of visual thinking because it’s entirely subject to the logic of a performance – it’s definitely NOT another art show. The structure and the appearance has to work as a performance space, and I’m learning what a subtle discipline that is. I really love the way it is totally audience focussed. The Lemmings, like all actors,  always think about who they are playing to. Visual artists sometimes spend unhealthy amounts of time thinking about what they are playing with….

Here’s some links – If you are interested in the AA2A scheme or Chelmsford College

Day in London tomorrow which will involve buying more paint at Atlantis (you can’t be too careful) topped off with the fundraiser for the Smallest Theatre featuring live performance by the Joe Fleming Band