Once, you had to be an artist to get airborne – Telegraph

Painters were once afraid that when flight became a part of real life, it would flee from the imagination

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way, Goya, 1816-23 - Once, you had to be an artist to get airborne

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way, Goya, 1816-23

It’s a sad fact that among the holiday crowds at airports, the only people who are genuinely excited are the very young. Bless them; they still think flying is an adventure. They don’t mind the mind-numbing queues, the ghastliness of the other passengers who shove past you to get the best seats, the maddening sing-song of the safety officer’s announcements. When the engines finally roar at take-off, their eyes light up with excitement. They realise that something miraculous is about to happen; we just carry on reading the papers.

And yet for most of human history, flying has aroused feelings of awe and desire and fear. Just how deep those feelings run can be seen at a marvellous exhibition, which is among the best summer shows anywhere. It’s at Compton Verney, a fine converted Georgian mansion set in beautiful Capability Brown-designed grounds in Warwickshire. Entitled Flight and the Artistic Imagination, it explores artists’ responses to the enchanting idea of “loosing the surly bonds of earth” and floating up above the clouds. There’s a fantastical vision on paper by Leonardo da Vinci, imagining what the Tuscan plains would look like from several hundred feet up. And a painting by the Spanish artist Zurbarán shows St Francis of Assisi’s wonder at his own levitation, at the moment he receives the stigmata.

Not all the images are enchanting. Icarus tempted fate by flying too close to the sun, and his tragic fall is represented twice in the show, once by the Dutch printmaker Hendrik Goltzius, and again, three and a half centuries later, in a tremendous print by Matisse. Goya’s Where There’s a Will There’s a Way is a sinister vision of man-like creatures in flight, wings pinned to their backs.

What Goya’s image suggests is that flight was an object of superstition as well as wonder. By trying to fly, men risk becoming monsters as well as gods. Looking at this strange and disturbing image reminded me of a remark by the exhibition’s curator, Professor Sam Smiles. He’s puzzled by the fact that no artists took part in the earliest flights in balloons. “It is strange, photographers were up there from the start, but I know of no artist who seized those earliest opportunities,” he told The Guardian. I think this points to a surprising truth about art, which is that it sometimes has to avoid experience. You might think that painting, like novel-writing, always requires a diet of new experience. It’s true there have been plenty of artists who hunger for experience, the more extreme the better. Delacroix used to haunt the gallows at Tyburn, anxious for a sight of some juicy corpses. Turner liked to go out in all weathers to view the sea, although the story that he once asked to be lashed to the mast of a schooner in a storm is probably apocryphal.

Typically, it’s a trip abroad that unlocks something in an artist. Think of the legions of artists from cold northern climes who’ve been liberated by a sight of the Roman Campagna. Or the way modernists such as Paul Klee were set off on wholly new paths by an encounter with Africa’s hot colours.


Flight and the Artistic Imagination

29 June 2012 to 30 September 2012

This major exhibition explores the instinctive human desire to fly from the classical era to the modern day. Starting with the imaginations of Leonardo da Vinci and Francisco Goya and ending with space travel, satellite images and everyday air travel, it promises to be an exciting exploration of creative responses to flight.

Discover classical flight and the fall of Icarus. Learn about the Wright brothers, Yuri Gagarin and the history of aviation and space travel. Explore the uses of flight from everyday travel and transportation to sky battles and air raids. Enjoy spectacular aerial views and satellite imagery.

Flight and the Artistic Imagination includes an intriguing combination of paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings, prints and video, by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Henri Matisse, Paul Nash, Peter Lanyon, Paul Smith and Hiraki Sawa.

The exhibition contains work from national collections such as the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum, Arts Council Collection and the National Galleries of Scotland.

From Highfield Road to Wembley Way

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Coventry City’s FA Cup

‘The scene is colourful, the mood is optimistic; the stage is set for the 106th FA Cup final’

John Motson

On 16 May 1987 Coventry City played Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Coventry were appearing in the final for the first time in their 104 year history. Tottenham Hotspur had reached the final seven times before and had never lost. The stage was set for one of the greatest FA Cup finals ever.

This exhibition celebrates the 25th anniversary of Coventry City’s famous victory. Using photography, film, and fan memorabilia, the exhibition guides the visitor through a brief history of the club, each game of the 1986-7 cup run, the memorable final and the return of the conquering heroes. You can re-live the excitement of the Cup win and record your own memories of the occasion in the Memories section.

The exhibition includes newly commissioned work by photographer Paul Smith and sound artist Duncan Whitley. Paul’s photographic portraits of the FA Cup winning team pay homage to the players and evoke a sense of nostalgia for the good old days. Working with archival recordings from Highfield Road, Duncan Whitley has composed a new soundwork, which gives visitors thechance to experience what it might have been like to walk out of the Wembley Stadium tunnel on FA Cup final day.


Door de bril van Hans

Door de bril van Hans – opened on the 08/01 and runs until 29/01  at www.cokkiesnoei.com Rotterdam. This group exhibition includes work by Norbert Bisky, Marco van Duyvendijk, Pieter Hugo, Esther Janssen, Peter Redert, Paul Smith, Eveline Visser en Bas Zoontjens. This collection of artists was selected by Hans Sonnenberg as part of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of  Gallery Delta Rotterdam. The image by Paul Smith is the first in a new series titled ‘And Me’ that explores the desire to be associated with celebrity culture.









Opening Night – Tom Hunter

Click here for An interview with Tom Hunter captured at his opening of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter in conversation

6 – 7pm, Thursday 17 November 2011

PACCAR Room, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

Tom Hunter speaks to Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photography at the V&A, about this work and influences.

FREE but tickets required, call 0844 800 1114 to book.


Tom Hunter: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Tom Hunter; A Midsummer Night's Dream

A photographic exhibition by acclaimed artist Tom Hunter, inspired by Shakespeare’s play and set in Hackney, East London, where the artist lives and works. Hunter’s reimagining of the play features local people and communities from his neighbourhood including samba dancers, a thrash metal band and pearly kings and queens.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre,
Stratford upon Avon
CV37 6BB

A new photographic commission for the RSC
Exhibition continues until 1 April 2012

Image: And I serve the Fairy Queen ©Tom Hunter

Rankin & Damien Hirst Present “Myths”

Myths, Monsters and Legends opened on the 20/10/11 at the Annroy Gallery, London. This exhibition is a collaboration project between friends and fellow Artists Rankin and Damien Hirst, who have drawn influence from mythical beasts and legends to create a series of images that show the extent that an image can be pushed into the realm of fantasy. Although these images explore the pair’s fascination with the ancient world the photographs have a contemporary vision that is executed to the highest standard.

Watch the opening night video at:

Myths by – Rankin and Damien Hirst

From Bombs to Bullets

On August 1989 the IRA planted a 150kg  Semtex bomb at Quebec barracks in Osnabruck, I was stationed at this barracks but out that evening. The bomb went off, but they had positioned it outside of a temporary accommodation block and as a result no one was seriously injured.

As the regimental photographer at the time I got the unfortunate task of photographing every piece of shrapnel that was found at the site. Two weeks of constant image making of metal fragments put an end to any desire to follow this pathway once I finished in the services. But it wasn’t the end to my interest in shrapnel. The objects that I photographed were uninspiring to look at and even less inspiring to photograph, but they were vital to the investigation.

Fast-forwards now to my current work ‘Impact’ and obvious influences can be draw, the tiny fragment that on it’s own means little, but coupled with the story embedded within it and it’s suddenly charged with an authority that it previously lacked. The content of the image is the same but the abstract object is drawn into sharp focus.

All of the images from the series have been used in gun crime, some in fatal shootings others have been dug out of walls after missing their targets.

The image below for example has the embossed markings from the material of a bulletproof vest that was worn by a police officer.

This project has relied upon the help and support of a forensic lab, but I’m always on the lookout for new objects so if you have any ideas of how to find more objects then message me.

Up and running.

Welcome to my new blog, which has been designed by Mez Packer with the purpose of discussing my current and previous research projects.

I will be posting information on whats going on in my life and work + sites that interest me, ideas that I would like to share.

My previous blog – Photography BA will now be replaced by CU Photography and managed by Matt Johnston so if you’re after information on BA Photography course that I run at Coventry University then follow the CU link.

Keep watching and sharing.

Thanks Paul