Monday, October 31, 2011

Woodland wonder

Dwellers in the land

Bringing Friday's woodland memories and merging them with my figure language brings me to this point. No more than an idea movement, this embryonic colour sketch needs work over more sheets to test its worth. This may see a sub-division into different genre's to extract the full content: pattern and abstract design continue to appeal to my thinking.
Open on my table are books on 11thC low relief and Byzantine architecture, this, joined to tomorrows visit to the Postmodern show at the V&A leaves me wide open to new influence alongside my core thoughts on the woodland experience.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Seeing the wood

Internal movements

For hundreds of years there has been a tug of war between the poetic/emotional and the systematic/scientific approach to many subjects. No less is the case when we look at landscape painting, my current hero Paul Nash being the poetic champion over against say Monet as an analytic colourist. It needs more than an eye, however great that eye maybe, it calls for a sensitivity and a deep feeling for the land that in turn reveals a rapport that an open heart understands at once. This has little to do with the majority of conservationists and protesters, but is more in tune with the woodmen and the crofters of our day who live hourly in a physical harness with the soil, the weather and the seasons.

I was fortunate to grow up alongside woodmen and farm labourers whose intuitive reading of their earthy mistress was uncanny. Can I still tap into that harmony between man and earth, that served our forebears so well, to find a language in line and tone to reconnect us again.

Late this afternoon in the damp October air I made a few charcoal drawings while standing on a lightly wooded hillside. I determined to reject preconceived solutions and known artistic language in order to allow a current response to occur. I saw no 'composition', I saw in front of me a mass of interactions over an undulation pierced by the burrows of small mammals.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shadwell curry

Taking in the sights.

A sparkling autumn day is an Architectural viewing day! We are scheduled with our French grandchildren (8+10) to visit London. We use the Jubilee line to see the Hopkins (deepest) stunning new tube station, then popping out 112' from Big Ben + hot chocolate in a back ally cafe, back down to the Jubilee line to Fosters station at Canary warf, coming up through these amazing portals from the earth to the brilliant light was well appreciated ("like Star Wars Gandpa"). The elevated Dockland Light (driver less) railway was too much to resist, quick as a flash we are all aboard - and then the spontaneous alighting at Shadwell, yes Shadwell (above) were we entered wonderful Asian markets and an equally wonderful architectural skyline. A curry here was a must - on Commercial Road- then round the corner to The Whitechapel Art Gallery (free) stepping inside changed our horizons again. A final tube to Tower Hill where we examined the workings of Tower Bridge with an enormous soft ice cream to finish our day.
The eagerness, the diversity, the wonder fed my artistic spirit - and the curry was brilliant as well.

Monday, October 24, 2011

at the movies


I am immersed in a world of eight year olds, with five grandchildren staying for a few days my days are not as they were.
Apart from continuous chatter and laughing I notice a huge variety of attitudes as they eat, climb, squirm, jump and wriggle. Then I saw them watching TV, as bodies matched their response to the drama - this reminded me of a photograph in a newspaper I was compelled to copy some years ago as reproduced here. The old cinema shot says everything about watching a film, of being completely entranced with the action.
As I debate in my own mind future work this liveliness, this motion of the body so much seen in history painting that I notice has largely disappeared  today. Now surrounded by bodies in motion, by drama and urgent streams of words I wonder how it could work in paint.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

William Morris

The Red House by Philip Webb

With a bit of time to spare, and after a pleasant lunch - we visited The Red House at Bexleyheath this afternoon. This National Trust Arts & Crafts flagship building has been on my list as a place to visit for some time and sunny October day was perfect.
Bought recently (last ten yrs) for 3million it has been barely touched by The Trust. It is beautifully run down and shabby, without heating, a ramshackle garden and wonderful staff. Alone in an endless conurbation by the A2 the red brick house nestles behind the original garden wall looking totally at odds with the surroundings - but once inside the wall you step back in time.
Following the eccentricities of Morris the orientation of the house is to the north, and 'pilgrim way' facing - on the one hand, very cold and unworkable and on the other hand it bows to Chaucer and his world. This duality continues throughout the house. Beautiful ideas and dropped arches, novel fitted furniture and a heavy brick oriel window, delightful 'pricked' and painted ceilings with recent white gloss panelling and so on. I am in two minds, although it has survived intact, it is in a bad way, If 'The Trust' sort the problems out, much of its homely personality, its honest failures and its integrity may be smothered in the worship of the A&C movement.
Go and see it now, it is intruiging as it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

new life


I painted this oil (see below) earlier this year, to capture the essence of a mother's love along with the security and comfort I remember experiencing as a child - precious things. The warmth of colour, simple patterns with searching tentative lines join in the song of love.
After three showings this year I heard last night from Fancis Iles galleries that it has been sold, which is good, for it has found a home where it can emanate its warmth from day to day. It can loose its price tag and its status as a commodity and begin its role as a friend and maybe a mentor.
I hope my sentiment is not too grand or fanciful, I hope it lives now on its own

Monday, October 17, 2011


 Crossing the river

The older I get, the more funerals I attend: death is very real and this afternoon I am reminded again. My work has often incorporated 'the ferry' as shown in the gouache above, and in my mind it has always referred to crossing that river we call death.
This afternoon I pay my last respects to a dear friend, David Obbard, an old man who lived very close to the land and to God. A wonderful man who was above all, a peacemaker, full of love and compassion. An unsung hero of faith who had no fear of the last enemy - he really was, just going home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

sleep mode

The sleeping artist

I am at present slumbering, having worked flat out for months now in order to meet my October deadline deadlines - the artistic zones are at present rather flat.
While idling I want to research Tintoretto and El Greco to study animated figure grouping that I may be able to make use of later. I am prone to have these flashes of interest and need to follow them up. Added to this is the notion of dusk, half light interests me, where colour fades and light slows. I will do some landscape studies in fading light to test the water.
'The coolibar tree'  (above) hangs in my bedroom - made from painted scrap wood on cerulean blue - is easy on the eye as I sleep in the afternoon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Atlantic Beach video clips

Ten years ago in March 2002 I went to the North Devon coast, and booked into the Hartland Quay Hotel that stands on a wild headland with a slipway down to the rock strewn beach. It was here I painted the 'Atlantic Beach' series in watercolour, working on the open beach in March alongside some heavy surf and dramatic surroundings. In the film that I have assembled from a number of rather low grade clips taken at the time you can how I worked and some glimpse of the wonderful landscape that inspired the those wild and memorable watercolours.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

working and not working

At present I've stopped working, a holiday from painting. Although painting is not far from my thinking, rest from actually painting is very much needed.
This painting above is titled 'working' from the the manifestation series, a piece that I recall was in itself hard work. Getting that sense of labour was problematic - not returning to period solutions, but turning to my own experience of labour and toil. Relief as experienced by the central figure describes weariness and ache that is central to labour, there is something good about physical weariness, giving rise to the joy of rest, of sitting and eating.
I am pleased that this piece sold at Meller Merceux last month so my work was not in vain!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


A meeting of the sublime and the ridiculous.

My figures look ridiculous - swimming in the sky with shopping baskets.
Paradoxically they are sublime, unfettered, free as birds from the weight of care.
To shop, to acquire things, attaches us to material things.
We cannot rise - we cannot fly when fettered with the weight of material things.
See - their baskets are empty - are they sublime or ridiculous?