Saturday 30 December 2017



I thought I’d write up a little work in progress report on a new game I’ve been developing.

The concept for this game came about perhaps two or three years ago, where I was getting annoyed with the surplus of mining and crafting games. After the exponential success of Minecraft, it seemed like every new game incorporated some facet of its game mechanic. I grew immediately tiresome and felt like making an anti-Minecraft game that used these same mechanics to draw attention to the social and historical issues of mining. My initial thoughts were to produce a game that featured politically motivated songs about mining, inspired by a moving performance of The Mountain by Steve Earle in St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, Wales. Earle remarked that this was his only song to have been translated into Welsh, poignantly highlighting the relational nature of the working-class struggle.

I parked my first attempts until relatively recently until two things again inspired me:

The desire to make a self-playing game following this keynote, and, the evolution of Bitcoin as a mainstream currency.

When simplified, it is possible to see Bitcoin as something of a self-playing game; hugely powerful computers run programmes that slowly ‘mine’ cryptocurrency. The recent popularity of Bitcoin can be seen to be mostly in part to media coverage, but the typical user has grown from early-adopter pizza purchasers to money laundering, gangsters, and other illegal activities. I wanted to make my game along the same lines as Bitcoin, but instead of mining for something considered morally dubious, I aimed to produce a game that mined for something culturally beneficial. In this case, song lyrics.

What I’ve arrived at (so far) is a 2D self-playing game referencing the 16-bit era. A solitary protagonist slowly mines out a pit, uncovering lyrics of the Ewan MacColl song School Days Over with each block. The miner gradually gets slower, a-la Bitcoin. Some of the design decisions have been taken from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a game from my childhood. I've included below a few different colour palettes to give an idea of the progress of my prototypes.

Regarding gameplay, I had the miner as a formerly playable character, but after reading about self-playing games, I felt that removing player interaction would relate my game better to both Bitcoin and online streaming services. It was also my intent for the viewer to feel as merely a helpless spectator.

The lyrics uncovered by the miner are from a song by Ewan MacColl, presented as text along the bottom of the screen. MacColl’s song is about leaving school at a young age to go down into the pit, and I wanted to juxtapose this with a game of childish nostalgia. I had considered using Minecraft and a bot to relay this message but changed to building a self-contained 2D standalone game. Currently, I have the lyrics in English, but I have considered using Welsh translated lyrics for two reasons. I don’t think this song has ever been translated. Secondly, I’d like to see a translation done using something automated like Google Translate, again, reiterating using something of robotic nature for cultural good.

So there are a few little things left to fix for this game but I’m relatively happy with the current prototype in both looks and execution. Watch this space for a proper release soon.

Wednesday 13 December 2017


I’m writing this post as my initial reactions to the announcement of Cardiff as the UK’s first ‘Music City’.

I’ve lived in Cardiff for ten years now, and my experience here regarding music has been as a concert attendee, a promoter, and as a musician. I am excited that Cardiff has received this status. In fact, there are a lot of people who are very pleased about this. Cardiff is a great city for music, musicians and gigs. But I have some gripes.

Let me list a few things off the top of my head:

Dempsey’s is now a football-themed grub pub.
The Globe has long resorted to booking endless safe-bet tribute bands.
The Point has been closed down due to noise complaints.
The Coal Exchange is now a hotel.
The Barfly is now a craft beer bar.
The Full Moon is now a prohibition-themed cocktail bar.
The Moon was forcibly closed only to reopened due to outstanding local fundraising support.
The flats & Wetherspoon hotel on Womanby street were eventually vetoed due to the Save Womanby Street campaign.

So with this in mind, what does it mean to be a ‘Music City’? The recognition is given by the London-based company, Sound Diplomacy, who specialise in delivering ‘strategies that increase the value of music ecosystems’. It appears that Sound Diplomacy will now work alongside the local council to create a new music/tourism platform in the capital.

North Sea Gas earlier this year, at the Four Bars

I don’t see this as recognition for an already thriving music city. I see this as the musical lifeline that Cardiff fundamentally needs.

Friday 8 December 2017


There are two things regarding uilleann piping that has happened this week:

UNESCO has recognised Uilleann piping as being representative of the 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity'. Excellent news! This result is a testament to the continued hard work and dedication of Na Píobairí Uilleann to the promotion of playing, learning and manufacture of the instrument.

In a particularly insightful message, President Michael D Higgins remarked that the uilleann pipes "connect us in profound ways, weaving together cultural memory and contemporary vision".

Somewhat along those lines, and in much less important news, is that have I gotten a new chanter. I've been looking for a suitable chanter to match my old set of pipes, and the opportunity came for me to acquire this 19th-century instrument which I believed to be the same maker as my own set.

It appears to be related to the Eighteen Moloney, which is in my opinion, one of the best sounding instruments ever (see recordings by David Power and Willie Clancy). Supposedly, the Eighteen Moloney was made by the Moloney brothers of Co. Clare around 1830-40. Both the Eighteen Moloney and my new chanter very much resemble the work Michael Egan of Liverpool and not really like the most famous instrument of the Moloney brothers (The Vandeleur set, pictured below).

Either way, the chanter is an exquisite example of a pre-famine instrument, and I look forward to getting a good reed going (below) for it and marrying it up to my main set of pipes.

Friday 17 November 2017

Cine Lo-cal

Episode I: The Room

I’ve been sitting on this idea for a little while and was spurred on to see it through to completion by uncovering an article about the tolkieneditor. That is an anonymous editor who has cut the horrendously overlong trilogy of The Hobbit films into one succinct 4-hour experience.

This project is not unlike that, taking what is necessarily a bloated source (The Room) and condensing it down into something more palatable. Where this differs is in that I’ve cut out all extraneous scenes in the film and left only the incidental footage of San Francisco.

The Room has largely been considered the worst film of all time, so much so there is a new comedy about the making of it (The Disaster Artist) coming out soon. When watching this film for the first time, I couldn’t believe quite how much filler material was left in the final cut, and how much of this excess landscape footage worked well.

I felt like this would be a good time to make something slightly humorous and abstract out of the film.

Cine Lo-cal Episode I: The Room from rouse_j on Vimeo.

What has actually happened, and to my surprise, is a somewhat coherent stitching together of typical San Francisco scenery that alludes to both the nature of tourist photography and traditional Hollywood filmmaking. The footage is quite peaceful to watch, and I think it stands alone rather well as in its singularity.

For added absurdity, I’ve repeated this 3-minute sequence until to fill approximately the length of the original feature film of 1 hour 40 minutes. To watch the entire thing would be considered a slog, and to some extent this references the source material too. What we have left of the film appears in exact order with stock city ambience as the audio.

In deciding on a title I came up with Cine Lo-cal, a little play on words for something that is both about location and also a stripped down (or low calorie) substitute. This also allows for some development of the project to include perhaps a few more films in the series. We’ll see how this goes.

Wednesday 15 November 2017



I read a conversation between Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and Man Booker Prize winner George Saunders where they discussed each other’s creative practice.

In the piece, they both bring some genuinely fascinating points about their thoughts on ‘art’ and being an ‘artist’. Much of their discussion mirrored my ideas on creativity, in that I’ve always considered art (in whatever form) as running something of a parallel to science. It is important to have scientific research that eventually leads to scientific breakthroughs. I see art as being the same. I’d argue that it’s important to have people making art which will eventually lead to cultural breakthroughs. The quote below outlines Isbell’s thoughts on the subject.

"I feel like art exists because it is needed. And I think a lot of it has to do with how you aim the work that you’re doing, and if you don’t aim it at all, if you’re just throwing chickens out the window, then I think in some ways you’re making art. Because if it’s more important to you to say something, even if that something is convoluted and hard to understand, than it is to attract something, or to sell something, then I think you might be making art."

Link to the article here. Worth reading for some further elaboration and discussion.

Tuesday 7 November 2017



About a week ago I made a quick trip over to Dublin and visited a few exhibitions. In the intervening days I’ve managed to pick up some abhorrent stomach virus so for my own clarity I think I’ll discuss only two of the exhibits here:

IMMA Collection Freud Project
Irish Museum of Modern Art

I find it sometimes takes the sustained experience of multiple pieces to partially comprehend an artist’s work, and I certainly left this exhibition (of 50 pieces) with a newfound appreciation and something of a more profound understanding for Lucian Freud.

The content was quite mixed, with both paintings and etchings represented and various subject matter across the mediums.
Reflection (Self Portrait), 1985, Oil on Canvas

Included in the exhibit were one unfinished painting and an etching plate. As an artist, I feel preconditioned to place value and intrigue on medium and process, and seeing these objects, along with some telling descriptions regarding certain paint colours, is truly fascinating. Much has already been written about Freud’s long and labour intensive live sittings, but seeing behind the scenes is always inspiring to me. The collection spanned three floors of the outer building at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, one of my all time favourite galleries.

Eithne Jordan: Tableau
Hugh Lane Gallery

Before this exhibition, I was unaware of the work of Irish artist Eithne Jordan. Her work consisted of mostly small paintings of uninhabited interiors. I’ve had my paintings described as having ‘Irish colours’ quite a few times, and, looking at Jordan’s work I can say the same. The subject matter is often functional rooms. The image included here is one that caught my attention, some part due to the projector displaying a little error message to the bottom right and also due to my fondness for the desktop as a great revelator.

Conference Room II, 2017, 50 X 65cm, Oil On Linen

Although you lose the sense of ‘scale’ of the objects in the painting, something about removing people from the composition has always felt important to me. In an article in the latest Irish Arts journal, Jordan explains:

‘…if I introduced [a figure] then the painting became about the figure, not the space or the structures’

Personally, much of my work has evolved from painting gamescapes typically devoid of figures. This aspect of my own work has always been important. Like I’m capturing a moment before something wild and unknown going to happen as it typically does in such games. Perhaps I’ll write a little more on this in a future post as I have some thoughts evolving on the subject.

Elsewhere in the article, I read that work for another exhibition was explicitly completed for Butler Gallery in Kilkenny. This work focused on random findings while walking around a small town in rural Ireland. This resounded with me as I had dabbled with this in the past, and I am looking to develop a series of paintings about small town life to compliment a larger 3D game piece.

Watertower II, 2017, Oil On Linen, 50 X 65cm

Saturday 21 October 2017


This is my favourite photograph. I found it on a Facebook group for old photos from my hometown, and I don't know who took it or even who the kids are. It looks like it's from the 1970s.

In the image we have seven kids, presumably friends, posing to have their picture taken while a British army helicopter is being directed to land in a nearby field. You get a real sense of the event, of how this would be a time for mum or dad to run and get the camera out. It makes you wonder what the actual circumstances were.

This kind of scene became a familiar sight when I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s. I recall how, as a kid, my friends would approach soldiers when they walked down our street, asking them to see their guns, spy down the aim or the scope. Apparently, they always had sweets or biscuits. Soldiers in our border village was a familiar sight, and when you didn't know otherwise, you just accepted it as the norm.

It's only on later reflection when conversing with an old friend, that I realised how absurd it all was.

"You know the soldiers only talked to us because they knew they wouldn't be as much of a target standing beside a kid."

There's naivety in this photo. Perhaps it was something to do with how my village has always been mixed religion, or because it's from a time before the British army was a familiar sight and the full horror of the troubles was yet to be manifest.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why this is my favourite photograph, but perhaps the most cogent reason is the strong juxtaposition of two themes:

The naivety of kids, of the community, of the government, the childish fascination with war, versus the brutal reality of what was to come with growing up, culturally, developmentally and as a country.

Monday 16 October 2017



So I’ve finally succumbed to producing some work about emojis. As much as emojis are the lowest common denominator (in so far as internet culture), they do offer something that I’ve found tirelessly endearing and humorous.  

The influence of emojis is immediately visible across all generations and is indeed a product of the post-internet age. Much has already been written about the subject, and there are already a large number of artists using the symbols as inspiration. I read someone referring to them as modern day hieroglyphics, and although this is somewhat true, I think this is something of a narrow approach.

I’ve explored the idea of using everyday objects in still-life with both painting and collecting found images in my project ‘eBay Morandi’ from a good few years ago.

The following examples are of three radio devices that I selected for their similarity in shape and arrangement. I was interested in using contemporary objects with unusual form factors and also in how people photographed them for different purposes (in this instance, for sale on the popular auction website, eBay). I also produced some paintings for this project in a similar manner.

The inclusion of still-life artists Giorgio Morandi in the title of these projects is a little bit of highlighting and positioning the work in a historical context, and a little bit of my fascination of repetition in art. Morandi lived through two world wars and never once faltered from his signature approach. Yes–I acknowledge that there are some landscapes and other pieces, but Morandi was mostly known for his excellent still-life work. Something about how emojis can be repeated to drive home a point, or how some people use the same emojis so many times they become associated with them on a deeper level relates back to my understanding of Morandi’s clear focus on painting his pots, vessels and cups.

I have some hesitation to produce work based on emojis. Consider firstly how much of a cop out (culturally) it is and secondly how there are already artists producing work thematically inspired by them.  I think this could be an intriguing and unique take on the subject and, if it works, could be something of an easy win. In an interview with Axis (arts website) I mentioned that I’d like to revisit eBay Morandi at some stage. I’m not sure this is quite what I had in mind, but it does feel like it could be a spiritual successor. Stay posted for further developments.

Wednesday 4 October 2017



I met someone I hadn’t seen in a long time last week who asked me about how I was doing with some of my sound art work. I recalled a project I started a little while ago where I was playing some feedback into Logic Pro X and using the Flex Pitch and Melodyne style auto-tune tools to digitally retrieve some musical notation from the noise. The example that I added to this blog was a version of the feedback-rich European Son by The Velvet Underground, as this experiment (somewhat fittingly) had just followed the death of Lou Reed in 2013.

I thought about revisiting this project as I’d never really fully explored what results this process could bring and in what way could the algorithm be manipulated. Also, it's a process that I’ve been able to do before, and it should be a relatively easy win to make some new work.

To start with, I recorded some banal commuting in an attempt to break the idea down into perhaps its purest form. I had considered using some more recognisable recordings, such as from popular culture/film/history but decided to keep it simple. There might be something more meaningful in the future, but I wanted to start again with something fairly basic and see if it can work.

The outcome has been somewhat different this time, with the software manipulation proceeding to one further stage whereby the interpreted notation is printed off as a score. I felt this might be an exciting lead to something physical, or perhaps as a piano recital, or maybe even a printed book of sheet music documenting my totally dull commutes over a period of weeks.

The Digital Scores project by Berlin-based Andreas Müller-Pohle springs to mind. Müller-Pohle digitally interpreted the oldest known photograph and then, in binary, printed off the results. This was back in 1995. There might be something about the choice of photograph here that might inform my future choice of subject matter regarding my audio sources.

I can’t help but feel that a lot of ‘Digital Art’ seems to involve the mere act of translating one thing to another: something of an analogue/digital conversion. I’ve written a word down in my sketchbook that I thought might describe this type of practice–Conversionism. I’m not trying to assume a new ‘ism’, just a trait that I have noticed for some time about art like this. Perhaps this speaks more about my hesitancy about this kind of work than the broader art world, but there probably should be something more about Digital Art than solely using technology to convert one thing into another thing.

Friday 22 September 2017


I was walking from my house to university when I saw an elderly gentleman snatch something up from the ground with a look of sheer glee in his eyes. As I approached, I wondered what he had found that gave him such pleasure. On the ground were a few chestnuts and I immediately realised he must have spied and grabbed something of a prime example.

I always enjoy September. After completing my undergrad many many years ago, I moved back home to Ireland for a few months. Having spent the best part of my life (up to that point) in school, I found it highly unusual to have arrived at Autumn with no formal education to attend. There was a new sense of freedom with a fear of the unknown. The safety net of my yearly routine had been usurped by impending adulthood.

So yesterday I grabbed a particularly good chestnut from the ground, and after prying open it's spiky shell discovered it was, alas, just two small ones. I couldn't help but want to share in the elderly gent's excitement, bringing back memories of conker competitions at school, collecting the biggest chestnuts from the top of the trees, all the techniques and tricks (pickling in vinegar was supposed to make them tougher). The bittersweet sadness of finding out my prize chestnut was just two little ones felt like an echo of that time spent at home post-graduation. That and all of the emotions of September were defined in a single act. Somewhat appropriate to do this on the way to starting a Masters at university.

Monday 10 July 2017


A look at two different versions of the same song about the small town human impact of an unpopular contemporary American war.

Okay: I had thought about writing this perhaps a year ago, when I first heard the Zac Brown band cover this song. Not sure why I hadn’t taken the chance to write up at the time, perhaps I needed to distance myself from my initial knee-jerk reaction to get a proper think about it and formulate something of a coherent response.

A little background: Jason Isbell was one of three guitarists/singers/songwriters in perhaps my favourite band, The Drive-By Truckers. He left the band in 2007 to an arguably more successful mainstream solo career.
In 2008 the The Drive-By Truckers released Brighter than Creation’s Dark and Isbell released his first solo album. Both albums were included songs relating to the Iraq war. At the time, I compared Isbell's Dress Blues to the Drive-By Trucker's The Man I Shot. The latter being a bloody and visceral Neil Young style guitar and vocal barrage about a veteran returning home and having to deal with PTSD. Isbell’s Dress Blues, by contrast, was a story about how a community deals with the return of a soldier in a coffin. On first listen I thought perhaps Dress Blues didn’t say enough about the war, but in retrospect its words and delivery ring heartbreakingly true.

You could say this a song I hold dear. I first heard the Zac Brown band version about a year ago. I quite enjoyed it.

I guess the crux of my emotion towards this cover comes from is in the changing of one lyric:

What did they say when they shipped you away
To fight somebody's Hollywood war?


What did they say when they shipped you away
To give all in some God awful war?

So why is this change important? Well, for a start, why change any lyric? In any song? Historically because a particular lyric might offend, or be unsuitable. Lets first analyse why this particular line is important to the original: it’s the only line throughout the entire song that could be interpreted as pointing blame. There is one person who’s singular quest for glory has directly contributed to this awful situation. It bothers me that this lyric was changed, but perhaps more that it was changed for something so shallow as to not criticise our leaders for when they make decisions like this.

The Zac Brown version feels a lot like ‘war is bad’  and ‘honour our heroes’ (which are indeed noble themes) but it lacks the the specific condonation of war. Its kind of a wimp out. Call out the masters of war. Call out the phony politicians. Don’t be afraid to feel disgust. Remember that its your job as a musician to point the finger. In this version there is no link between the atrocity of war and the people who are directly responsible for it. Its as if war is just something that happens from time to time and people have to deal with it.

It might have something to do with the apolitical image Zac Brown has, but the frequent use of his music by Jeb Bush at political rallies might go some way as to explain this strange change in lyric. It could also be argued that this single inflammatory lyric needed to be changed to move the song away from a ‘protest song’ towards a more reflective and humble piece, as if a single line of protest would somehow distract.

If we take a look back through specifically war-related protest songs (Masters of War, War Pigs, Fortunate Son, Rich Man’s War, etc) one of the key themes is bypassing the propaganda to unveil the overarching function of war: to make money, for political gain, to be victorious, to win popularity, to get a second term, and so on. These songs direct anger at war’s beneficiaries, who are treating people like pawns while they hide behind desks.

Teenage me protested Bush & Blair whilst listening to the Drive-By Truckers. I think I’ll stick with Isbell’s Dress Blues if I can.

Friday 16 June 2017


Without wanting to come across as some kind of travel blog, I'd just like to post a few quick photos from my recent inter rail trip around Europe. It was really great and refreshing to spend time in cities rich in culture and with a creative heartbeat.

Quite a shock to see how much Berlin (& its art scene) had changed since I was last there. Still had the Warhol banana graffiti signifying the location of an art gallery, which was useful as some were a little hard to spot. It was also excellent to visit the Computerspielemuseum which exhibited a few nice examples of Game Art.

Tuesday 21 March 2017



Art website Axis has selected one of my pieces as part of their 'Category of the Week', with a focus on Digital art for this week.

You can view the rest of the art on their website here. The other digital artists are absolutely worth looking into also.