neil cummings

book launch

socialised affection

There was a launch of Specialism edited by David Blamey on Friday April 15, 6-9pm in the Senior Common Room. I wrote a short text Socialised Afffection about my grandmothers love of woodgraining.

Royal College of Art,
Jay Mews,
London SW7 2EU

6.30 Reading by David Blamey
6.50 Gentle interrogation by Rathna Ramanathan

Drinks served

The book will be available at a special launch discounted price £12.00 (RP £18.00)

Press enquiries:

Published by Open Editions with support from the Royal College of Art, RMIT Melbourne, The University of Brighton

Specialism intro.

It is widely assumed that everyone is ‘interdisciplinary’ nowadays, that we all work at the intersections of conventional disciplines.

But if being flexible, multi-skilled and polymathic are the prerequisites of survival in today’s world, why do educators and art marketeers still find it imperative to maintain conditions of production that advocate specialist outcomes?

The aim of this new anthology  is to critically reflect upon the role of specialism in art and society and to understand how the claim of those who seek to transcend the parameters of specialisation contrasts to that of others who maintain that deep levels of achievement can only be attained within highly focused methods and forms.


Editor: David Blamey 2016, 215 x 215 x 10mm 164 pages, £18.00, ISBN 978-0-949004-01-7

Here is a short extract of my text....


I remember the parlour. We only were allowed to enter when there was a death, celebration, or when the insurance man visited.

It was full of important things, like souvenirs of distant travel, and brass candlesticks, framed family photographs of rites of passage, a miner’s lamp my dad had made to pass his apprenticeship, everlasting flowers and decorative alcohol on a shiny tray. A transparent plastic runway protected routes across the carpet.

My grandmother had painted the alcove cupboards with wild amber patterning that cavorted over the panel doors. They were hallucinogenic, a hyper-real simulation and sort of wood-like. I loved those doors.

She was proud of her wood-graining paint skill. She showed me her tools: a fragment of a fine-toothed nylon hair comb, a beer bottle cork, a ragged home-made cartoon-toothed comb scissored from something plastic, a wide brush and a rag. In one of many demonstrations, a dry off-white ground was covered by a translucent amber topcoat, and this combed through with a wobbly hand in a performance of an imagined wood figure; thick and thin. The dabbed cork added an approximation of the whorls, eddies and knots typical of heartwood in plain-sawn timber. The rag added smudges, the brush softness.

Several houses in the village contained her handiwork. I could recognise her contributions because all the wood patterning looked the same, more or less.

I'm not sure where she learnt her skills. How did she learn them? While low on the grey-scale of paint effect specialists, my grandmother was, like all enthusiasts, enamoured with her specialism. She loved explaining the process to family and friends, loved painting things with her wood effect, loved refining her tools and swapping tips with others. Although now, now I remember that it was my grandfather who decorated all the rooms that needed decorating, with wallpaper, brushes, paste, rollers, paint and the Formica topped kitchen table.

My Grandmother just did the wood graining. Specialists, specialists of all kinds, with all kinds of competences learn, nurture and exchange their specialisms. It's how we produce the world. [..]

the text is related to themes in Open Cinema, the Enthusiasts Archive and Reading Things

51.5011, -0.1793

Royal College of Art
Kensington Gore
United Kingdom

Submitted by neil on