Facial Recognition and Handbags at Dawn


Boy have I had a week this week. I had to spend a couple of nights away with my day job, and as I post this blog I have literally just finished five consecutive 18 hour days, well apart from today which has been twelve hours, but what’s another six hours between friends? Next week is almost guaranteed to be busier, and I have an overnight in London again. I am though having a change of hotel. Not so far to walk to Nando’s to grab a bite to eat, plus I only need one more chili on my loyalty card to get a free meal. The only downside is that it is in one of the busiest areas of London, and last time I stayed there I was in a room next to the road.

Although it has been a week that one would call, long, hard, and tedious, it has been a much slower week for print on demand. Sales generally have been down, and this has apparently been the case with a few popular artists. What I have found though is that direct orders have increased. I also picked up another four commissions, two for artwork to be used as TV props, and two that are going to a collector of iPad art.

I also got asked by a gallery if they could display and sell some of my work, best of all, they only want a 12.5% commission. This is low. I asked them to confirm it in writing, and they did. Not only was I shocked, but given that the gallery rarely ask for new artists, I felt humbled. Apparently, they have been asked about digital art so many times in the last few months by their current client base, they recognised that they needed digital art that kept the values of traditional painting. In other words, they didn't want a futuristic concept feel, they wanted landscapes, seascapes, portraits, and art that looks traditional, but also has a digital feel. I'm not sure there is a category for that, but I'm calling it pixelated realism. If that definition takes off, I want the credit. It seems artistic tastes are slowly changing, but I am cynical enough to think it's a passing trend. I'll take it for now.

I was also asked if I could put some more work on a limited time promotion. This is something I wasn't going to do again this week, but here goes:

Reflections by M.A


Hare by M.A


Sunflower Summer Abstract by M.A


Moving on to a roundup of this week’s essential news from the world of art and technology, some of you might recall Joseph Gibbons robbing the Capital One Bank in Manhattans China Town on the 31st December 2014. He did this, in the name of art. Joseph Gibbons walked into banks in New York and Rhode Island and videotaped himself robbing them. Each time, he discreetly slipped a note to the terrified teller and walked away with bags of cash — he netted about $3,000 from the first heist and $1,000 from the second.

Law enforcement captured him as one might hope, in January 2015, and last week Gibbons was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree burglary. I mean, what was this guy expecting? He videotaped his own crime. Maybe whilst he’s serving time he will attend some art classes and also learn a few things from his cell mates. Although it has to be said, they got caught too, so he might not want to take too many notes.

That a white, former MIT professor got the same treatment as everyone else would certainly lend credence to the fact that the US Justice system isn’t as broken as it is often reported, yet some members of the art world were saddened by the sentence.

Ahead of the verdict, 26 curators, artists, and professors from prestigious universities like Columbia, Pratt, MIT, and NYU had sent letters to the Manhattan Supreme Court asking for either a light sentence or no sentence at all. In her own letter, Queens Museum curator Larissa Harris pled for mercy, explaining that she plans to invite Gibbons to screen his work, including the robbery video, at her institution. "This would be an enormous honor for us," she wrote.

I’m not sure that crime necessarily should be seen to be condoned by the arts world, it seems as if this is something more suited to a reality TV show than a prestigious institution. No doubt though, you can guarantee the screening would draw in some visitors. An art experiment that really wasn’t all that well thought out. Or maybe it was. I mean, for those lovers of art installations featuring dead animals, dead anything, it might be something a little darker than the norm, and it might just pay off.

Then, just as the week’s news couldn’t get any weirder, there was trouble afoot at another arts event in the UK. It was intended to be a pleasant study day for members of Hampstead Heath Decorative and Fine Arts Society, held in the picturesque surroundings of Kenwood House. An interesting house, home to the Kenwood House Bridge. This elegant bridge on the banks of Thousand Pound Pond at Kenwood House in north London is like something from the set of a theatre production. It's merely a cleverly decorated white timber façade and not a bridge at all.

What began as a gentle gathering of art lovers ended up with the society being kicked out of Kenwood after a row about cold coffee. Now that really gets the hairs on the back of my neck into an upright position. Clearly these people are not as busy as some of us, I have made five coffees today and managed to drink all of them about an hour or so after making them. In fact, I can’t remember drinking a hot cup of coffee this week at all. I may have been angered about my time management skills, but I don't recall lashing out in a burst of rage, although I truly did feel like it.

The row also covered parking arrangements, and a lack of seats in the restaurant. Allegedly, the conversation became so heated that one member is said to have ripped off the identification badge that was being worn by a staff member. This stuff gets reported in the news quite often in the UK. I mean we don’t have many other crisis’s going on that are much more newsworthy. Although, I would have loved to have been there to see this take place. I need some light entertainment in my life.

The chairman of the Hampstead Heath branch in north London has written to members informing them "with great regret" that the society must find an alternative venue for future meetings. I would say that pulling off the identification badge that someone was wearing would constitute organising at least some sort of anger management intervention. I can only imagine it was like my all time favourite film, Falling Down starring Michael Douglas, attempting to buy breakfast in a fast food restaurant at 10:31am. I must also add, I was with Michael on this one. I mean who wants to eat Mc Nuggets at 10:31am?

Meanwhile, over in the technology department of Beechhouse Media (Yes, I have two desks in my home office), new services from Facebook and Google are to extend the reach of facial recognition. If you want to see a great TV show that uses facial recognition I would highly recommend "Person of Interest". It’s on Netflix in the UK, and I’m pretty sure it is on the US Netflix service too. If you haven’t seen it, do. I digress.

Maybe having a multibillion-dollar advertising-supported corporation algorithmically recognise your face and those of your nearest and dearest is not so bad. At least, that’s what Google and Facebook seem to think and people are starting to believe. Personally I really don’t like being recognised by people, and especially when I am trying to buy a hot chocolate from the hotel bar at 9:30pm, when all I want to do is sip those mellow chocolate notes and curl up with some Netflix.

Often a flashpoint for an outcry about loss of privacy, this technology is emerging at a rate of knots. Facebook rolled out its Moments app, which is a new photo-sharing platform based on facial recognition technology, and Google put its own facial recognition software into the heart of its new Google Photo’s Service. Both of these new services are built on the back of recent improvements in facial recognition technology. I am sat here wondering what on earth is the next level of the privacy game?

Talking of privacy, a new report on Data Collection Practices also got some news space this week. In this post-Snowden era. Tech companies are increasingly being rated for not only the quality of their services and gadgets, but also for how they handle government requests for customer data.

In the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s annual report on data collection practices amongst the tech giants, Yahoo, Apple and Adobe earned the top spot for protecting data, whilst What’s App and AT&T came in last.

The report this week from the E.F.F., a nonprofit that focuses on digital rights, evaluated companies based on factors including their transparency to consumers about data requests and data retention, as well as their public positions on so-called back doors that grant government agencies access to customer data.


News from Seattle or more specifically, Microsoft has emerged that four senior executives including Stephen Elop, and Mark Penn, will leave the technology giant in what has been described as the biggest organisational shake up yet under Satya Nadella, the companies CEO.

In an email sent to employees on Wednesday morning, Mr. Nadella said that three of the departures were related to his decision to organise the companies engineering efforts into a more streamlined group. The three executives leaving as a result are Mr. Elop, former chief executive of Nokia, who has been leading Microsoft’s devices group; Eric Rudder, leader of its advanced technology and education efforts; and Kirill Tatarinov, head of its business solutions group. So it seems that the news of the NOKIA brand no longer being used by Microsoft as a name, has had a wide reaching impact. This comes as no real surprise since Microsoft decided to remove the NOKIA brand name from devices recently. We really should have seen this one coming.


News from that prestigious auction house Christie’s has emerged over the last day or so. In June 2015, Christie’s will bring together an international line up of 174 artists to headline the Post-War and Contemporary Art Auction Week. Together the Evening and Day Auctions will present artists from 32 countries and feature some of the most celebrated figures from the past 50 years of art up to the present day; from Yves Klein, Alberto Burri, Francis Bacon, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter to Maurizio Cattelan, Zeng Fanzhi, Julie Mehretu, Raqib Shaw and Neo Rauch. Central to the Evening Auction are iconic YBA works from the Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania and abstract and Pop highlights from the Jacobs Collection. The Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction will take place on 30 June 2015 from 7pm BST and the Day Auction will take place on 1 July from 1pm BST, both at Christie’s, King Street London.

Leading the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction are two visually daring mediations on one of art history’s most enduring subjects: the landscape. Francis Bacon’s Two Men in a Field, (1971, estimate: £7,000,000 – 10,000,000), is a rare example of a rural scene within Bacon’s practice and reveals a dialogue with the work of Van Gogh. Painted for Bacon’s landmark retrospective at the Grand Palais of the same year, the work adopts an eye-shaped motif as the field at the heart of the composition – are the workers cultivating the eye? Gerhard Richter’s colour photo painting Bӓume im Feld (Trees in Field, 1988, estimate: £4,000,000 – 6,000,000)is both an homage to and a subversive commentary on the Romantic tradition, the work is a super-real vision of a landscape in the very height of summer.

The auction also brings together two landscapes from 1969, by Polke and Richter. Rendered the same year as the Apollo 11 moon landing, Polke’s Mondlandschaft mit Schilf (Moonlight landscape with reeds, estimate: £3,500,000 – 4,500,000) is part landscape, part abstraction and part material painting, executed on two futuristic fabrics rather than canvas. Setting a tension between the shimmering formal play of the painterly gesture and the pictorial mystery of the moon surface, the work was created at a turning point in the artist’s career and echoes his exploration of illusionistic representation from earlier in the decade- while at the same time as anticipating his postmodern turn of the 1970s.

Never before offered at auction, Mondlandschaft mit Schilf was only once previously exhibited publicly as part of the landmark 1976 exhibition ‘Sigmar Polke: Bilder-Tucher-Objekte-Werkauswahl’ 1962-1972 at Tubingen, Künsthalle, which travelled to Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf and Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. Mondlandschaft mit Schilf is one of three works by Polke offered in the June Evening auction, the others being Ik Mach Dass Schon Je$s (I’ll Take Care of it Je$s, 1972, estimate: £2,000,000 – 3,000,000) and Untitled (1994, estimate: £600,000 – 800,000).

Executed the same year as the moonscape, Gerhard Richter’s Seestück (Olive bewolkt) (Seascape with Olive Clouds, estimate: £2,000,000 – 3,000,000,) is an early example of Richter’s photorealist seascapes that mine the gap between abstraction and representation. Having previously only been exhibited once, in 1970 at the Palais de Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Seestück is one of a small number of early photopaintings of seascapes all from the same year, the majority of which are now housed within international museum collections; these include Seestück – Welle, 1969 (Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth), Seestück (bewölkt), 1969 (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart), Seestück (Morgenstimmung), 1969 (Musée départemental d’art contemporain, Rochechouart) and Seestück (bewölkt), 1969 (Neues Museum, Nurenberg). Also by Richter, and one of four works in the auction, Kine (1995, estimate: £2,000,000 – 3,000,000,) is an abstract sweep of translucent veils of pink paint. Exhibited in the 1996 acclaimed retrospective ‘Gerhard Richter: 100 Bilder at Carré d’Art’ at the Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, Kine presents the painterly act as a subject matter in itself and exemplifies his return in the late nineties to his efforts to close the gap between figuration and abstraction.

Also central to the sale is the first of ten diptychs painted by Bacon, Study for the Head of Isabelle Rawsthorne and George Dyer (1967, estimate: £8,000,000 – 12,000,000), which commemorates two of the artist’s most intimate relationships- his lover Dyer and life-long confidante Rawsthorne. Rendered with impassioned brushstrokes against an emerald background, it gives a glimpse into the tumult of the artist’s inner circle via one of his most powerful means: the 14 x 12 inch portrait.

So that’s quite a round up for today, tomorrow I will be giving you a new insight into this crazy world, as seen by my eyes. In the meantime don’t forget to check out my links below and visit my artist website and stores. I am working on a number of new pieces of art, although finding the time to do everything is like finding a penguin in the desert. As ever, feel free to leave a comment, or get in touch.

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