Poetry & Art, a Wartime Romance

My guest blog for Foyles’ website, about book art, illustration and other collaborations, is online today… Read it here. 


(Some chapbooks I illustrated for 3:AM Press)

NASA, Gatsby and the Moon

NASA, Gatsby and the moon… my article about ‘Encountering the Astronomical Sublime’ at Breese Little, is published by Studio International today… read it here. 


"… Space travel was not an endeavour unique to America, but these photographs communicate a specifically and essentially American experience of it. They are nothing less than advertisements for the American Dream, and visual poetry singing of a jaded love for that dream. If Gatsby (or his creator, Fitzgerald, who died in 1940) had lived a little later on, perhaps he would have been photographing the moon up close, or pondering life on Earth from an impossibly safe distance (emotionally or otherwise). In a land where anything is possible, it is interesting that the overwhelming dream is to be so far away from it all that the details fade to oblivion, and experience is so great (or impossible) that representations of it must be tweaked and manipulated to even hint at their reality. This is a world – a mental world – of escapism to the highest degree...” 

Dawn of the Algorithm

Here are two illustrations commissioned for Yann Rousselot’s poetry project, Dawn of the Algorithm… details here…  This one is for the poem Blink Twice: 

And this one is for Cold War: 

The Present of Modernism

My review of The Present of Modernism, at MUMOK in Vienna, is published by Studio International today… 

"… The problem with the exhibition, it would seem, is that post-modernists designed it… The Present of Modernism is a maze rather than a set of clear answers; it is a living memory of modern art, ready to be analysed, reviewed, and, with that process, some of the memories discarded as irrelevant. Modernism may still be relevant, but not all the artworks on show in the exhibition are necessarily relevant to that discussion." 

- For Studio International, 3/10/14. 

Five Dials

I have some artwork from The Drone Age published in the brilliant Five Dials, which you can read online here… The book, meanwhile, is available from Galley Beggars Bookshop, here. 

The Theatre of Cruelty: Dehumanization, Objectification & Abu Ghraib

The Journal of Terrorism Research have published my article on Abu Ghraib, torture and dehumanisation in their latest issue. It can be read here. 


A clumsy pyramid of kneeling men, naked apart from the hoods over their heads, with a smiling, fair-headed woman and a grinning man with a moustache, wearing green cleaning gloves; a slight woman with a blank expression and a man on the floor, on a limp leash; a hooded, robed figure, standing on a box with his arms outstretched and a pose similar to the crucifixion, with sinister wires behind him, and otherwise blank surroundings.  A row of more hooded, naked men, forced to do sexual acts as a female prison guard (Lynndie England), tanned and wearing various shades of khaki, grins and does a thumbs up sign, pointing at him, her cigarette tilted and her expression not altogether different from Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde. A man in uniform and a black beanie hat, sitting on an Iraqi prisoner. Another pyramid of naked detainees, with a man and women behind them, smiling arm in arm, as if they are standing by a caught wild boar or large fish, or a well-organised barbeque. The moustached man (Charles Graner), again smiling and giving a thumbs up sign, this time over a corpse, whose bloody eyes have been bandaged. A naked prisoner covering his ears, as several dogs bark at him, and soldiers watch on. Another prisoner chained to a bed-frame, with some underpants covering his face.  These infamous scenes, shown in the Abu Ghraib photographs, shocked many people, and the perpetrators of the torture depicted were condemned by the relevant authorities. They transformed from clandestine mementos of hidden violence to records of an international scandal and evidence of serious crime. Their meaning changed depending on who saw them, how they were interpreted, what reactions they provoked, and the rulings of the courts regarding the people involved. They went from being private victory shots, to an international public relations disaster, to evidence of breaking of the Geneva Convention.


I’ve recently been sorting through some old drawings, having unrooted the chapbook I collaborated on with Nina Frances Ellis (Term - available here - where I produced some drawings for her short story). I’ve put together a selection of drawings from times at Cambridge (2010-2011), Paris (2012) and Edinburgh (2012-13), which are viewable here. 


Heathcote’s Room, Edinburgh 2012


Night faces, Cambridge 2011


Miranda’s Room, Edinburgh 2012

[Also used for some postcards for Galley Beggar Press, to celebrate and illustrate Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] 


Boy reading in Saint Germaine, Paris 2012

"It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in."

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (via vintagecrimeblacklizard)

The postcard range I designed for Galley Beggar Press have arrived! They feature three of my favourite literary scenes - The Beats, the Romantics, and the Lost Generation, and are available to buy here… 

The Magic Box: Interview with Calum Colvin

I talked to Scottish artist Calum Colvin at his exhibition ‘The Magic Box’ at the Edinburgh Printmakers Gallery, for Studio International. Read the interview here. 



Susan Hiller at Summerhall (Review)

Memory, repression and modern art: my review of Susan Hiller’s ‘Resounding’ at Summerhall, Edinburgh is up now on Studio International. 

Film: Interview with Ben Quilty

My interview with Ben Quilty for Studio International is online now. Filmed by Martin Kennedy at the Saatchi Gallery (with William Kennedy). Watch it here. 


"Ben Quilty’s first solo London show opened at the Saatchi Gallery on 4 July, celebrating his winning of the inaugural Prudential Eye Award, 2014.

Quilty’s work confronts Australian history and identity through a series of Rorschach-inspired paintings. These include Fairy Bower Rorschach (2012), which layers colonial landscape with past atrocities against Aboriginal people, and Self Portrait Smashed Rorschach (2009), in which images of past debauchery coincide with a surface whose textures recall trees and abstract patterns. His Inhabit series, meanwhile, challenges ideas of Australian colonialism and identity, through paintings of Captain Cook evolving from a devil and into portraits of the artist.

Christiana Spens went to the Saatchi Gallery to talk to Quilty about his exhibition, as well as his past work as an official war artist, embedded in the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan, and his wider ideas about history, identity and brutality.”

Ben Quilty is at the Saatchi Gallery, London, from 4 July – 3 August 2014.

"The Drone Age" is in Foyles! In good company with Lee Rourke’s "Varroa Destructor"…

New stationary line for Galley Beggar Press

The postcards I designed for Galley Beggar Press are now available to order from their online store. Collections include: The Lost Generation, The Romantics, and the Beats




The full selection!

The full selection!