Community Standards?

Can we talk about community standards for just a moment?

As an artist, my work deals primarily with how we act when online and using messaging/dating apps and our acceptance of unsolicited lewd messages as the norm and a consequence of using social media, manifesting under the umbrella of ‘GRUNDER’, a series of tongue-in-cheek installations, grotesque sculptures and satirising large scale prints. In such a time where sex scandals are unfolding one after the other and sexual harassment cases and stories are ever present in the public consciousness I find it rather odd that once social media platform had decided to remove one of my images because it did not comply with their community standards.

The image in question depicted a conversation between two users on a messaging app and marked a turning point within my own work where rather than stay silent upon receiving a request for a lewd or nude image I would fulfil the users request but send them images of my (grotesque) work instead. It was hoped that this would awaken the nude-requesting user to the absurdity of their behaviour and stir a sense of shock and disgust within them. For the most part this has worked as planned but in some cases only seemed to make users more determined to get that all important nude image. In this respect I’ve had a number of different reactions to this exercise ranging from letting me know that those are not my genitals, as if I wasn’t aware or had mistakenly sent them a photo of a malformed six foot hairy penis sculpture by sheer accident, some then went on to change the wording of the question as if I just didn’t understand what they had asked but my favourite (who had been completely unphased by my sculptures) went on to ask for “genuine” photos which only serves to strike up bizarre and unwanted similarities between my genitals and the Loch Ness monster!

The community standards I write about, which deemed my image inappropriate for that particular social media platform acknowledges that there are times that users may want to share nude images but for a number of (unexplained) reasons does not allow nudity on its platform: “This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too”.

From this, I’d have assumed my image would have been safe with it being a picture of a sculpture and not a photo of some real male anatomy. Secondly, although I do strive to make my sculptures as realistic as possible in terms of wet, fleshy appearance and hair, there is no way that you could mistake the abstracted and notably detached bodily forms for the real thing, especially when you consider the sheer girth of some of the phallic pieces is enough to bring tears to the eye!

It is also worth noting that in the time taken for me to upload the image (and carefully festoon the caption with witty hashtags) I had received two unsolicited and lewd messages that had obviously flouted none of the platform’s community standards. It does seem somewhat ridiculous that users can freely send whatever they fit to other users and sexually harass any user who they may happen across whilst those who try to speak out against the current accepted culture of laddish behaviour online are censored.

I do support the idea of online social media platforms having and following a set of community standards but feel that more could be done in order to ensure that the right content is removed. This does invite further discussion into online privacy, as I do not condone apps and internet providers snooping into users personal messages but by the same token do not enjoy the sexual harassment of unsolicited lewd messages. If users are able to harass me with lewd messages and unsolicited photos, I should be able to return the favour with grotesque sculpture.


Loading GRUNDER…

As part of my residency at Digital Artist Residency  I’ve been getting into some (pretty basic) video work, using simple transitions and effects to give the impression of a smart phone screen. I wanted to project the monotony of using social messaging apps and the frustration of waiting for them to load only for us to waste our time waiting for updates or applications crashing. Are these apps really worth the wait and continual disappointment?

I also made sure to go and play in the snow during the recent cold weather, as you can see below.

In The Studio – June Update

At last! An update! Things have been a bit busy behind the scenes since my last studio update and now its time to share with it you.

After the Constellations show had finished and the installation went on to Swansea’s ‘Elysium Gallery’ as part of ‘THE END IS BY YUR’ I turned to what was next for my work. I wanted to make bigger and more disgusting work.


Sculpture work before painting.

I returned back to phallic imagery, as this was already a recurring theme in my work. With this new piece I was determined to make it bigger and more grotesque.

In my usual making process of forcing foam into objects I also began adding previous foam experiments into the setting foam to add both length to the sculpture and more bulbous ‘tumours’ to the piece.

I also came across a red foil whilst in my local art shop, it works in a similar way to gold leaf and I thought that it could lend itself to being a metaphor for blood or provide connotations of danger in my work.

I had also been thinking about the use of hair in my work, in the previous pieces I had used my own hair but, obviously, there is only so much of that you can cut off! I opted instead to use hair extensions. Previous uses of hair in my work weren’t quite hitting the right chord with the level of disgust I was going for. After a while I realised that one of my biggest hates in life is having cold, wet hair, so why not try and replicate that?

The wet look was created with varnish, I found that the hair would often just soak it up giving little coverage to the whole sculpture. To combat this I used a spray varnish on dry hair which provides a seal and gives further coats of varnish a surface to sit on. One unexpected element of the spray varnish was that it would dry in ‘droplets’ (pictured below), giving a weird sense of beauty amongst the grotesque.

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It was after this piece that I began to wonder if that the phallic imagery was perhaps a bit too obvious and so I returned to using other objects and really exploiting the abstracted body.  I love the way in which the foam collapses onto itself in this piece.


In my work the plinth is becoming a vital part of my work and whilst moving away from the text based element of my work I still want to be clear as to what my work is about, hence retaining coloured plinths or bases for my work to represent chat boxes. As long as I retain the same two colours (blue and yellow) then I would hope the idea of chat boxes can still ring through. I was clear that I wanted to move away from the paper used in my early installation piece, opting to use wood instead. I found that thick ‘slabs’ of MDF give the ‘chat box’ base a real presence.

The foam was applied directly onto the MDF board. Once set the two pieces were given an undercoat of red and orange respectively. Each piece was then dry brushed with light, fleshy tones until each looked like a slab of processed meat. The bases were then painted and the entire piece varnished heavily.

I felt that something was missing from each piece and experimented with using hair again. The hair comes from hair extensions and is seen appearing to ‘sprout’ from craters on the surface of the sculpture. I think they work particularly well as a pair, the colour combination of the bases plays strongly into the impact of the piece – they fall a little flat when separated.

Alongside everything else I had also been keen to make bigger and bigger work. The piece in the pictures below, “Show Daddy More Of You”, has been built up in layers of expanding foam over a five month period and stands at just over 4ft tall. With this piece I really wanted to push the notion of body horror and force viewers to react to the piece.

The foam was painted a mixture of reds and then dry brushed with various pale and fleshy tones before clumps of hair were added. Layers of varnish were then built up; which not only adds further to the grotesque nature of the piece but also gives a high sheen, giving a sense of quality – as if it were a high end product.

In playing around with different sized boards as plinths I had created this quite elongated piece, seen below in its undercoat.



I opted to use blonde hair this time after seeing a recent exhibition at Caustic Coastal (Salford) and wondered if the use of blonde hair in my work might alter projected connotations. I think the use of such a platinum blonde (which has its own associations with female figures and beauty) projects some of those onto the sculpture. This contrasts nicely with the body horror and pools of varnish that have formed to look like puss.



So what next? Pictured above is the start of my next piece which I intend to be the start of a grotesque archway (watch this space). Other work I may return to are the symbols of the hearts and (as incredibly relevant to my work) work on condom wrappers.


In the Studio – January Update

It’s all been a bit quiet on here recently so I thought I’d update you all as to what I’ve been doing. My accidental phallic sculpture caught me quite by surprise and really influenced the next stage of this line of enquiry.

Whilst trying to find where my work fits in the world of sculpture I found similar work of abstracted bodies by Robert Gober. Gober’s work about sexuality and loss of artists and friends around him due to AIDS in what was, perhaps, the darkest point of the wide-spread epidemic in the 1980’s. The Guardian’s Jason Farago describes the work of Gober as “a collection of memento mori, of burning relics from an era when boys like me didn’t know if they’d live another year”(Farago, 2016), encouraging us to reflect on our own personal loss, our actions and how we can better ourselves. This reflection manifests itself through disembodiment, intricately replicated legs (Untitled Leg, 1989-1990) are no longer attached to a body, they float on alone as if the body they were once attached to has faded from memory. Reproductions of male lower torsos and unlit candles (Untitled 1991) offer the viewer a “sobering re-acquaintance with recent history and unfathomable loss…. and in the silence and vulnerability of so much that Mr. Gober has done, dwells the theme of redemptive love and the all too real effect of its absence, which is poisonous hate”(Farago, 2016), the abstracted body in Gober’s work seems to haunt the gallery space.

This had me thinking, perhaps I should make work along similar lines but update it to provide commentary on the modern age of social media and the forever quickening world in which everything is instantaneous has served to desensitise people from social taboos, resulting in an unrelenting barrage of messages with unsolicited requests to “send nudes” or to accept an invitation into a faceless stranger’s bed as the norm. I want my work to highlight the immense pressure put upon social media users to drop their morals, standards and their pants with little regard for their own sexual health.

As you can see, I have started to create malformed body abstracted bodies to bring about a sense of disgust and body horror. You’ll see as time has gone on I have included things in my work such as real hair and a glossy finish to really hit home and deliver a wake up call to social media-addicted society.


This piece (above) was created using a pizza tray!





Above: I did try to take this further with a clockwork mechanism to create spinning hair but unfortunately the hair kept getting caught in the mechanism and clogging.

Although I was determined that I wanted my work to be grotesque I also wanted it to reflect the commodity status that sex has degraded to, to make it so sickly-sweet, as if I were offering a high-end, high quality product. I wanted to have high-sheen finishes on my sculptural pieces, similar to that seen in the work of Jeff Koons, in which the self-merchandising and kitsch nature of the work is reflective of our consumerist culture.

The images below document the installation period of my latest co-curated show, ‘Constellations’.

The installation piece depicts two phone screens, both using an app like Grindr or Tinder. They are separated by a love heart, a message of irony considering the lewd circumstances and the direction of their conversation. The heart is shiny but almost in a thick and gelatinous way, there are craters on its surface too. The conversation continues onto the floor, one asks the other if he can see his “love stick” and so they exchange pictures, in doing so they expose their malformed manhood.

I have created this piece so that if you read the piece collectively it plays out much like a conversation on one of these apps but if you read each screen on its own it reflects the lonely nature of the realities that these lewd message senders face.


Farago, J. (2016) Robert Gober opens at MoMA: Sober, haunting and genuinely affecting. Available at: (Accessed: 14 January 2017).

In the Studio – Things don’t always go to plan!

I’ve recently been trying to find objects that I can use to force my expanding foam objects into different shapes (as opposed to squares) with the results being not quite what I was expecting.


The first object I’d selected was a peg basket, I thought the holes in the basket might provide some nice, gnarly tendrils (or similar) and might look quite like intestines. What I had failed to account for was that the foam would indeed push through the holes in the basket but that was as far as they really went, creating individual finger-like appendages that did not connect. To remove them from the plastic would have removed their rather pleasing and natural formation so I had to incorporate the entire foam covered basket into this piece and disguise the origins of the object (this will be covered in a later post).

Another unexpected aspect of this piece occurred after I had left the studio for the night. The foam had continued to grow and expand and has gained a beautiful but tumour-like growth. This is the organic but disgusting aesthetic that I feel my work needs.


Whilst in an art supplies shop I came across these charming cardboard photo frames. The frames themselves have a tiny aperture for keeping your photographs, perhaps only capable of holding tiny thumbnail images but in terms of my own work, I felt that these were crying out to be used.


The aperture space was filled with expanding foam and then levelled off. The foam has continued to grow and has taken the form of a spot/pimple. I’m going to play around with this and see how I can make it more uncomfortable and disgusting for the viewer.

The last object that I have been experimenting with was this chip tray. The two ends were clipped together to create a tube and the expanding foam squeezed into the middle.


The initial signs were promising, the foam was creeping through the holes in the material and creating a delicate looking ‘fur’.

Unfortunately that’s when it all started going wrong! The foam continued to expand in very much the wrong places….


Well, not really much to say here!

Until next time,



In the Studio – Things Get a Bit Hairy!

Back in the studio things have gotten a bit weird! I set about sacrificing more cardboard boxes for my investigation into the qualities of expanding foam, this time aiming to create something more akin to flesh than the previous effort.


Once fully expanded and hardened I attempted to remove the foam from its box container. In doing so I accidentally created “wings”, amused by this, I have decided to keep them.

Disturbingly, the foam has appeared to take the form not too dissimilar to the shape of our intestines, it is this quality that I am particularly keen on. This association has been further exaggerated with painting in flesh tones.

Concerned that this looked a bit too perfect, “nicey nicey” and like a medical learning aid I applied a thin coat of black wash intended to accentuate the craters in the foam and to highlight the paint strokes.

I was concerned that perhaps this was a step too far as the outcome created what looked like charred or infected flesh. I created another piece that would not be treated to the wash in order to compare them.


Without wash. 

First up, the piece that was left clean (above) – as it were. I feel that the lack of dark wash works on this piece but that is because of the difference in appearance. This piece is more tumorous in appearance than the other piece, the natural shadows caused by the raised “veins” needs no further enhancement. I feel a wash would only distract the viewer. This piece did cause issue in that it left very few craters for the 3D printed “hair”.


With Wash.

As you can see, the piece that had the black wash applied is much more gruesome in appearance, having an unworldly quality of something not quite living. I do feel that the wash makes for a much more exciting piece but that perhaps it needs to be more subtle so that it looks believable.


I used the 3D Printer pen once again to fill in the craters of the foam and populate my “flesh” with little patches of hair. This time I used black filament to be more in keeping with the human association.

I particularly like the close up shots, both pieces are utterly disgusting (and I love it). I now need to search for my reasoning behind what I am doing as it seems to have escaped me. This is one occasion where the work comes before the meaning.

Until next time,


In the Studio – Expanding My Sights

After it being suggested that I look at the work of Nathalie Djurberg I decided to try and incorporate other materials into my sculptural work and started to look into the qualities of expanding foam.


Initially I used a cardboard box as a container for the foam and noticed that it had taken the form of a somewhat pot-bellied torso.


At this point I had decided to avoid going for a flesh tone as it felt too obvious a choice, it was only after completion of this piece did I realise that I wish I had in fact stuck to my gut instinct.

I chose a deep blue colour and had planned to paint some copper highlights into the this, akin to something from Avatar but a visit to Manchester Art Gallery soon changed that.

I was hugely inspired by the work of Maiko Takeda and in particular the ‘Atmospheric Re-entry head pieces’, 2013 (pictured above). I noted similarities in the thin and delicate strands of material used in Takeda’s work and the thin, hair-like quality that my 3D printer pen could produce.


I chose grey filament for this piece so that it would stand out against the dark colour of the ‘torso’, they were drawn with the 3D Printer Pen and then placed in the craters and crevices created through the foams expanding process.


It was at this point I wished I had used a skin tone instead of the blue but that’s another story!



Until next time,



In the Studio – Onwards and Upwards

Reflecting on the work I’ve made for the past few months perhaps now is the time remove the restrictive aspects of that line of enquiry so that I may continue making fresh work.

Firstly, purely focusing on the creation of 3D insect sculptures provides limitations in the few connotations that they embody, mainly those of fantasy that do not allow for artistic depth.

Second comes the issue of scale, the limitations of the 3D Printing Pen (in particular its short power cord and the difficulties of manoeuvring an extension lead around a piece)  very much determined the size of work I was able to make. The output of the pen was also an issue here, the filament that goes into the pen is 1.75mm in thickness and the output material thickness is entirely dependant on the speed that one works. For example, one 15cm square side of the clear 3D cube would take at least an hour to make. A task that soon became monotonous and tiresome. If only there was a larger (or ‘bold’) version of the 3D printer pen that ‘printed’ in much thicker strands.


In my most recent work I am removing the figure of the insect, I am removing the 3D Printer Pen as the primary element of my work. I want my work to feel less clumsy, as I look more toward sculpture and incorporate other materials into my line of enquiry – using the 3D Printer Pen to accentuate the work rather than be the sole aspect of it. I am also embarking on the journey of scaling up my work.


The two pieces shown here have been created with polystyrene bricks and gardening wire. This wire is tough and quite difficult to shape by hand. In order to establish a less clumsy aesthetic from the 3D Printer Pen I have used it only for the purpose of creating very thin strands, these have the same feel and appearance of hair. They are but a starting point, I’m not sure if they are successful or not yet – its early days!

Until next time,


In the Studio – Not Painting

Again, I must apologise. This is another belated post – almost a month late! Ooops!

The quest for a suitable piece of art for my Dad’s birthday continued! I returned to a medium I was confident with, the trusty Biro Pen.

I wanted to retain the North East transport connection and searched for images Busses from my hometown’s past, finding a West Hartlepool Trolley Bus and an image from 1901 depicting a Tram.


West Hartlepool Corporation Trolley Bus No.4 circa 1924

Once the vehicles themselves had been drawn out onto the paper then the surrounding area was brushed with water before I sprinkled Brusho onto the page. The pigment then flows around the dampened area and creates fields of fantastical colour, often suggesting a dream-like sunset.


Hartlepool Electric Tramways No.17, Church Street, 1901. 

It is worth pointing out that the pieces shown here are some of the successful pieces out of about eight that were made, some being let down by bad colour choices at the brusho stage and some not quite right at the drawing stage. Depicted below is one of those successes, a Blackpool Balloon Tram.


Blackpool Balloon Tram 712.

This post rounds off the work made in Allerton Studios, Salford. I have now moved into a nice new (albeit smaller) studio and have begun to make very different work of which I will keep you posted on.

Until next time!


In the Studio – I’m NOT a Painter

Another rather late blog entry!

I had intended to paint a lavish piece for my Dad’s birthday reflecting his interest in vintage busses and recognisable elements from my home region (the Tees Transporter Bridge).

It all started out so well, I found a gorgeous photograph online, showing a red and cream West Hartlepool Corporation Bus dwarfed by the Tees Transporter Bridge and had drawn out the basic lines of my interpretation onto paper. This is when things started to go a bit wrong! In some sort of crazed frenzy I had elected not to use a single paintbrush in the making of this piece, instead using only my hands to reflect the strong industrial history of the region (or so I told myself). From there the painting became a stronger statement for “isn’t it grim up north” than it did a birthday present, the bus became obscured and its distinguishing West Hartlepool Corp features were lost behind the snowy blizzard that I had created – one person commented on how nice the London Bus was that I’d painted and I knew that was that!

You can see the finished painting below:


My suspicions are once again confirmed, I am still not a painter! I think I’ll stick to drawing.