Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Self awareness

Self awareness

This painting has just been sold, it has found its place to be.
It harks back to the early days when I sought to describe the sense or feeling of being alive. The unconscious gyroscopic ability to remain upright without apparently thinking, of seeing, respriation and the mental reconstruction of three dimensional space. More function than features. Thus to paint myself with this in my mind must result in a fairly unusual piece.
One can no more explain such a work as explain a love letter. It was an editing and a re-editing until some aproximation of my self awareness was reached. It contains no rational deduction, only a mapping of feeling in colour.
If you stand and focus on 'awareness' you will feel how this looks - try it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Aiming at the moon

Homage to the past

So many painters look at the past as the way to the future. The effect Poussin had on Cezanne and more recently Cy Twombly is remarkable. From my little side street I also dare to look at Poussin with a view to learning.
Below is an initial step towards an oil sketch that may in turn take me to a larger canvas, while feeling after that timeless master of classical painting. It is not a matter of copying things and colours, it's identifying with his purpose, one that is sublime and elegant.
Again, I aim at the moon - will I never learn!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The eloquent figure

The quest for an eloquent figure 

This is drawing #49. Yesterday afternoon I prepared 54 pieces of paper 21cm x 7cm and worked steadily drawing figures until something happened. This one sort of did something but more is needed.These new figures need to be succinct and enduring - no small brief for the artist. I remember Braque complaining about art that had no longevity and calling it journalism!   Longevity in art, that lasting classic quality seems to have fallen out of fashion.
One could rest easy and do what one knows, but where is the fun in that. I catch a glimpse of a better thing - I just have to persevere, at least for the next week or so!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Desperate measures

The sluggish painter

I suppose sluggish has to do with slugs. Today has been an uphill struggle, I have a few day to get back to painting after about seven weeks off which has resulted in a rather slug-like attitude. Far too much coffee was made today and far too much cake was eaten - a little work occurred later in the day.
I ask myself, should I leap into uncharted waters with brave new colours - or do what I know? In order to do something I opted for the latter and made three beginnings from old drawings because the old pump needs a little priming and any painting at this point is better than no painting. One can't re-invent the wheel every day so an old drawing served to kick start some action. This effort took place around 3.30pm when some pinks and greys were applied over an dry blue ground I found beside the plan chest. The black lines over the colour is the drawing below overlaid in photoshop for us to 'see' what's happening.
These forced starts are a real effort, with unpredictable success rate as far as the pictures are concerned but the spirit is coaxed into life by the sight and smell of the colours.
Tomorrow may be better.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Susa: the triptych

The Susa Triptych

One of the gallery sales for October was this small tripych (88cm wide) painted in spring 2010.
I found this piece quite satisfying and it hung in the studio for some time which says quite a lot for it. Made from four primed plywood panels, the back three joined with linen hinges and the flat 'table' stitched to them  with copper wire.
The emblems represent three people at a banquet. Esther according to the biblical narrative was queen at the palace at Susa, Queen Esther is on the left, her husband the king is central with the villain Haman on the right as per the drama played out in the text (see bible, Esther 5-7)
This narrative also prompted the video 'paper banquet' I made in April 2010.
This same Susa as represented by many interesting artifacts at the British Museum

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Cage paintings

I get to see Gerhard Richter at Tate Modern

I have read quite a lot of Richter's writings and it's bleak, very bleak. But todays visit to the 'Panorama' show at Tate Modern of Richter's work stirred me - this is good because I nearly did not go.

His approach is to undermine established art statements. Like the monumental impasse that Duchamp set up, Richter will attack it head on to demolish it. He is very irreverent. I admire this in a painter. I encourage you to see the show in order to see this mindset in action.

The big finish to the show are the six Cage Paintings. Named after John Cage, (pictured above) the American avant-garde composer, whose work Richter greatly admires. 

Perhaps this shows when he (Richter) say 'I have nothing to say and I am saying it'. Engaged in what may be the philosophy of seeing, he introduces doubt that can enhance clarity. Addressing the problem of knowledge he assembles clear glass to challenge the apparent.  An old fashioned painter of consummate skill, he is a modern master.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Hearing a story for the first time is very different to hearing it a second time, and making a story up is different again to reading it. Knowing the end affects the experience in various ways depending on the situations just cited.
For me, painting in some measure includes a known objective, like the story ending. This primary objective is not about colour or style, it is about sharing a subconscious or spiritual experience. Colour and style are just instruments, vehicles that will best communicate the designed sensation to the viewer.
I well remember Picasso saying the idea/form of a tree, a goat or a girl demands a different approach for they are different ideas and insist on being treated in different styles. Finding these diverse pictorial truths about the idea is the stuff of art.
This sketch is about just this journey, the search for a vehicle to carry an idea.
This approach maintains a genuine diversity that in turn prevents a monotonous voice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hobby Horse

Art for all

After ten years away, this rather battered Hobby Horse came home again. My five grandchildren no longer need it, all that imagination, energy and laughter has moved on to other things and the painted wooden horse was no longer needed. I made it years ago and it has served them well, for that painted broomstick has been on many journeys in their imagination that we will never know about.
I am pleased to see it again, very happy for all the enjoyment this little piece of art has given.
Now its in the loft, perhaps one day other children will need a horse and come looking for it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wild fruits

Henry David Thoreau's last document

A late manuscript by Thoreau, of 'Walden' fame, is about the observation and experience of fruits found in the wild. An exquisite assemblage of material in a handwritten form was transcribed to form this unusual book, a book that passes on to us a suspension of time, of smell and taste. We sense the land and its orientation to wind and sun, of saplings striving for space and gnarled specimens in rocks strewn with fallen fruit.
I took a walk this evening in the spirit of Thoreau, leaving my car when the sun was low in the sky. After thirty minutes walking I left the path and entered a wood I know, pushing into the interior to where a large yew spreads over dry pond. I sat at the base of this tree for some time in the fading light and silence. I say silence, but when you stop for any length time in a wood its never silent, all manner of sounds become apparent to those who will listen. The wind in the trees, roosting birds and cows three fields away blend in gentle symphony.
I walked home as the moon rose in a clearing sky and I spoke to a man unloading keep sheep from Udimore.
It seems 'wildwoods and fruits' are still only 30 minutes away if we find the time to look.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Turner Contemporary

Three days in Thanet

I do like unexpected places. We have had three very interesting days staying at The Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate.
Beaches were walked on at Pegwell Bay and North Foreland, S/H bookshops were rummaged through on damp dark afternoons and a very acceptable French Restaurant close to the Hotel fed us superbly.
. . . . . and we went to the Turner Contemporary in Margate. Their current show 'Youth' picks up on the connection Margate has with rampant youth in the past with Mods, Rockers, Skinheads and Punk gangs who descended on dreamland in the past.
I found it a surprisingly moving show (and I have been to a few). The memory of adolescence, those days now gone, protest and suffering all returned at this cleverly curated show.
Looking back at all that youthful energy vented on the rich and the establishment that proved a such a potent mix was one thing, but looking at Margate now it's all rather dreary and deprived. So I did a double take while walking near the Turner Contemporary and overheard a man say to his toddler son while nodding at the Gallery 'it's the building that wants burning down'. Perhaps the arrival of all this new art and new money threatens the old guard, the slogans reproduced as 'art' inside may appear with more virility on the outside where they will not be viewed as art!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Testing my head

Drawing #005 gets the treatment.

One of 45, #005 was a Psalm response drawing, abstract ideas generated after thinking about the Psalms in general.
This clay maquette stands about 15cm high and is a careful scale copy of the ink drawing. Made for purpose of assessment as it is translated into three dimensions before I commit to the Oak piece. I expect I will add some primitive colour when the modelling clay is dry, colour markings as suggested by the original drawing.
This is slow deliberate progress, careful, measured and scaled - no wild experiments - I need to preserve what I was moved by.
When complete I will put it where I will see it and judge my response over time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Head

Embryonic head drawing

It is my intention to make a three dimensional representation of this drawing in Oak. Beyond that things are unclear, except to mention I see the lines burnt on and some colour added. Also it not be carved from one piece, instead a number of pieces will be jointed to create the form.
Next I will make a wire and Plastacine model to examine 3D possibilities.
I have known this for months. a mental gestation. it will not go away. it insists on being made. it will come out.
it is possible my hands will spoil the idea because they run on rails.
Is the idea strong enough to circumvent the predictability of my making habits.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jenny Holzer

Postmodernism at the V&A  

 As showmanship goes, it is absolutely brilliant, a dazzling showcase of all we know as 'postmodern' and a lot more. There is text, film, ceramics, architecture, fashion and design +.  
Earlier radical movements such as Impressionism and Punk have turned a profit as the protest becomes mainstream, adding the spice of rebellion to the dreary mediocrity of middle class living. For the V&A to catalogue this rage against the aesthetic and to invest in its icons proves that its power has peaked and it is now being subsumed into the establishment that it sought to undermine.
But I think not all, and these were the most memorable.
One for me was Jenny  Holzer's words in Times Square, PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT. It is so true that our whole planet destroying, soul destroying momentum is driven by our wills that makes this cry is so desperate. I wonder, just who is she addressing with these words?