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The Impact Arts Fair in Islington Thursday 19 May / 1 July 2011

To London for the Impact Art Fair - an exhibition produced by the Brighton-based organisation Creative Future who support disadvantaged artists. I caught the train to Victoria. Realised I didn't know where it was so popped into St. James' Library in Westminster and googled the event despite plenty of info supplied by Project Director, Simon Powell. Caught 38 bus to Islington. Went to pub where two sexy girls tried to find the address for me, but in the end I had to ask a cabby.

I managed to get the time wrong despite a clear indication on the programme. It ended, not started at 7pm and I came through the wrong entrance. Simon has placed both my works on their stand. I have two pictures, both pen & ink drawings from 1989. 'Scicilia, Life on the Streets' which only got its final title this April when it was published in The Big Issue, and 'Popish Plots'. Both are small pieces drawn in red on black and done mainly on trains in Italy. They are very popular.

I chat to some Germans from the Galeri Art Cru in Berlin who come over to see the pieces and immediately invite me to Berlin with the possibility of an exhibition. An old Scots artist called Frank takes a shine to me and follows me around. After the show I’m granted a bottle of wine from the complimentories and we go to the pub with Frank. He gets the drinks in and tells interesting stories but at such a machine-gun rate I can't really take them in. He gives me a tenner to get a drink and tells me to keep the change. I'm brasic so I do. I feel like I'm 19 again.

He tells anecdotes about Lucian Freud, Jimmy Page and Edward Lucy Smith. We take a cab to little Venice where he lives. His work is good but his friends are even better. It is all very Glasgow Art School stuff. We crack open the wine and he offers to let me stay over but I'm not into old guys so he gives me £20 or a cab and I get the 36 to Victoria. The train home is uneventful and so to bed.

The Impact of Impact
My personal experience of the last half hour of the opening night were pleasantly overwhelming and it was difficult to make an appreciative evaluation of the work on display. It was of the highest standard. My usual reaction to an excursion to a contemporary gallery is one of profound irritation at the derivative and overwhelmingly middle class product on view.

There were a whole raft of artist and organisations represented. I won’t attempt to catalogue them all but I’ll provide a listing and you can follow them as you will.
What I will try to do is provide some colour and the flavour of a few.

I was really impressed by some of the artist represented by SlaM NHS Trust and Cool Tan Arts. Many of these are people in the psychiatric system or those who have survived it. Russell Jones I knew from Cardiff and was inspired by H.R. Guigar. If I remember rightly I even went to his first exhibition in 1986. I like his work, it stands out, though there is a marked similarity with Jones’ work of that period and his current output. I particularly liked Neal Pearce’s symbolist pieces, that could be a yet to be deciphered pre-Columbian script. Esther Thomas’ work reminded me of my Father’s. Even the titles could have been his.

A number of writers contributed to the Impact Art Fair Catalogue including some of the artists. I know Sarah Harris personally and like her work and particularly liked Alan Mitchell’s 'I Smell My Winter on the Breeze'.

The Impact Art Fair billed itself as Outsider Art and I found I as an artist fitted this label rather too neatly. It is ironic in this day and age when the media preaches a diatribe of individualism and at the same time seeks to crush all individual expression in a tsunami of homogeneity. To escape its all-embracing check one must beaver away in corners where its spotlight might not fall. Those who are nurtured away from its clean bright light are invariable mentally ill. They are cured by exposure, for with exposure comes comoditisation, so that the social machine in which we all thrive is safe from any real diversity.

I think by making this comment available to you I have betrayed myself. By reading it you are become commodity. Maybe there is a cheque in the post that is the value of our souls.

Calls for submissions for the next Impact Arts Fair will be going out towards the end of 2011... so watch this space!

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