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I made Keats proud

I interviewed Sarah Maple for The Guardian

How lovely to get a feminist Muslim artist as a G2 centrefold, talking about fetish nappies. Read it online HERE (with lots of good photos) or the unedited version below…

Last time I spoke to Sarah Maple her boyfriend was helping dress her in an adult-sized fetish nappy. Now that boyfriend is her husband, and he’s been filmed slapping her round the face.

The video, which is just one of Maple’s recent performance pieces, shows her talking to the camera about her work, getting continually slapped across the cheek, until she eventually breaks down in tears. “It was really weird because I’m actually quite reserved, even though my work is very personal,” says Maple, when we meet over coffee to talk about her new book and upcoming exhibition. “I was trying so hard not to cry but all this frustration about politics and feminism and everything was rising up inside me.” It is, I suggest, quite a step from the salad days of adult sanitarywear. “Ha! Yes,” she laughs. “I thought that would just be a joke but I could have definitely defecated in it. My husband says that was the time he found me least attractive.”

Maple first came to attention in 2007 after winning the 4 New Sensations Saatchi prize. Back then, it was a pleasure to see a female artist of mixed Islamic background making cock jokes and pro-feminist paintings. “My politics has progressed a lot,” says Maple. “Before, I felt like no-one was listening. But now, with big campaigns like No More Page 3 and Everyday Sexism, it feels a lot more acceptable to talk about that stuff. Although there’s a lot more hatred as well. Social media has opened me up to a lot more abuse. People seem to take the painting The Opposite of a Feminist is an Arsehole really personally. Someone sent me a photo of an actual arsehole in response; stuff like that. But now I can laugh it off and just block them – I try not to engage too much.” (Continued)

I interviewed commuters for Buzzfeed

I bought so many muffins and croissants to bribe commuters into talking to me at 8am on a Monday. And yet, every single person I approached was utterly charming and nearly everyone was happy to be interviewed and photographed. London: you’re lovely. Read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

Adam and Michael are winding their way west on the Central line. It’s 8.05am and a few shirt creases aside, they still look pretty box-fresh.

“Commuting makes you feel important,” says Adam. “You’ve got a purpose.”

Michael, like most people we met, uses his commute to listen to music or read the paper. But there are still the occasional moments of drama. “I once saw someone on the tube who had asthma but didn’t have their inhaler. Everyone responded really nicely, trying to calm her down and help her out.” See? Londoners can be lovely. (Continued)

I wrote about crushes for The Guardian

This all came about because I was watching a boy collect glasses outside a pub. He, I knew instinctively, was the popular boy at school. And suddenly I was overwhelmed with that teenage longing and regret that I’d never had the confidence to tell the popular boys how I felt when I was at school. And lo, a comment piece was born. Read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

July will always be the end of term.

You may have been out of school for a decade, twenty years, more. You may have left full time education at 16 to make your mark on a tax return, if not the world. You may have run screaming from the school gates at 18, determined to never think of those years again. And yet, like the wet dribbling of a dog on hearing a silver bell, we have a Pavlovian response to July that tells us term is ending. The clinging shirt, the scrape of chairs, the drying lawns and steam-filled biros; the airless rooms and fly-smudged windows sing of summer, and the end of term. Which means just one thing: it’s time to tell someone you love them. (Continued)

I baked a duck in clay for MUNCHIES

Well, this turned out to be far more personal than I expected. To read about my childhood and my parents’ dysfunctional relationship under the veneer of a food article you can find the article online HERE (plus more photos) or the unedited version below…

I’m smoothing a thin sheet of river clay over a cold, dead duck when I suddenly remember Mr Kite.

Mr Kite was my sister’s duck and she lived at the bottom of our garden. Along with Drakey (who had a penis like pink fusilli pasta) and Buttercup who was white as cream and would frequently shit on her own feet. I’d hatched all three of them at nursery – turning their eggs over every morning in the incubator until they were big enough to be packed up in straw and brought home to live in my garden; to play in my paddling pool when it was sunny and to quack in our kitchen when it snowed.

And here I was, wrapping one of Mr Kite’s cousins in clay, on the banks of the Greenwich Peninsula, like a member of the antidae mafia. Would I, I wondered, really be able to eat a duck? (Continued)

I wrote about the Midlands for The Guardian

Here’s a dream commission – writing about The Midlands. As a result, I am now being followed on Twitter by several local politicians and one football team. Hooray! Read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

Philip Larkin, package holidays, glam rock, Lea and Perrins, the industrial revolution, Cadbury’s chocolate, Shakespeare, canal boats, Darwin, the balti, Wedgewood, Vicky McClure, Ladybird Books and The Specials; this isn’t England. This is The Midlands.

From Lincoln to Leek, Redditch to Rugby, the Midlands is more than just a smear of margarine in the curling North/South sandwich that is England; it is a region all its own. Modern England, you could argue, was clawed out of the clay-heavy soil of Staffordshire and breathed into life by the bellows and pumps of Telford, Birmingham and Northampton. In fact, to talk of a North/ South divide is to miss the point entirely, because England is a triptych. And if you think the North begins at Watford or that the South is anywhere under Sheffield then it’s time to wake up and smell the stilton. (Continued)

I wrote about the Art of Plastic Surgery for VICE

Here’s a nice arts piece I wrote for VICE all about art, surgery and our attitudes to face. You can read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

“We reconstructed my entire skull. They cut my bottom jaw in half on either side and moved it forward. They cut my chin off and pushed it out. Then they cut the whole of the top of my face and straightened it.” My mind starts to swim a little and my mouth fills with a queasy wash of saliva as artist Alana Francis describes her maxillofacial surgery to me over the phone. “If it gets very cold I can feel where some of the metal is and on my chin, if I push it, I can feel the end of a screw.” That’s me. I’m done.

Francis’ latest project, a range of seven images inspired by and based on the medical documentation of her own facial reconstruction surgery, will go on show this Friday at Flowers Gallery as part of the annual Artist of the Day exhibition in Cork Street. Of course, artists like Orlan, Genesis P-orridge and Amalia Ulman have long been taking that hackneyed old phrase about the body as a canvas and slicing it open to reveal a fresh, quite literal, interpretation. But why are we, as artists and audiences, so drawn to life under the knife? (Continued)

I interviewed Juno Calypso for The Guardian

I could happily interview Juno Calypso every day for the rest of my life. Especially when we get to sit in the Southbank rooftop garden and talk about our lovelives. Read it online HERE (amazing photos) or the unedited version below…

Twin Peaks, The Shining, Psycho, Leaving Las Vegas; the pastel pink walls of an out-of-town hotel often paper over a hotbed of sinister, sexualised weirdness. Which makes it no surprise that award-winning artist Juno Calypso is showing a new range of photographs at the Flowers Gallery based on her unlikely one-woman road trip to a Pennsylvania Honeymoon Hotel. Calypso’s images, often featuring her fictional alter ego Joyce, are heavy with the scent of vanilla air fresheners and bacon pancakes; they swell with saccharine sexual frustration; they echo with the sound of muffled hoovers and drive a non-specific sense of dread right into your stomach.

“It was a pink 1960s gothic nightmare” says Juno Calypso, when we meet for a drink in the garden above the Royal Festival Hall to talk about her work. “I had to fly to New York and then get a three hour coach to Pennsylvania. If you think coaches here are bad, this is a whole other level. I got dropped off at a diner and had to tell the woman there that I was going to the Love Hotel. She slowly looked me up and down and said, “Just you? Just one?” Then I got picked up by The Love Machine, which is this flowery van full of ripped old smelly seats that drives couples around the resort because they’re too lazy to walk.” (Continued)

I chopped wood and gutted octopus for MUNCHIES

I love writing for Munchies. And I love Bash. And I really love chopping wood. So, in many ways, this was a dream commission. Read it online, with lots of nice photos HERE. Or the unedited version below….

I am standing in a warehouse in Peckham, up to my elbows in ink, pulling what looks like a scrotum full of rice pudding out of an octopus’ head.

I have come to spend the afternoon at ForzaWin; a shared dining restaurant in a London carpark, opposite a boxing gym, that serves great Italian food cooked over wood and produces less waste in a week than most restaurants make in a night. (Continued)

I wrote about Brazilian telephones for Space Arts

I think it’s fairly clear from this that I don’t like the Olympic Park. But I did have a fun time pushing all the phone buttons…

Read it online HERE or the unedited version below..

Have you ever walked past a ringing telephone and picked it up? It opened up a whole peck of trouble for Colin Farrell in Phonebooth. It blew the whole case wide open for James Stewart in North by Northwest and makes things seriously stressful for Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, to name just some of the last century’s greatest artistic moments. For me, answering a ringing telephone in the middle of the Olympic Park led to a quite unexpected six minute Brazilian push-button science quiz and a more than mildly intimate interaction with a stranger in a trench coat. (Continued)