Written musings on making art and the results. Life in the slow lane.
Images for sale, both unique artworks and limited editions.
The rusting is a metaphor for personal and national life, my efforts to reflect it and present its beauty reflects my own view of our country and its history. Doesn’t all art do this? If that is so, how do you judge much of what is presented as art, in all art forms, today?
Right at the beginning of this series BRotS#1 had a vestigial wave pattern at its base, partly, I will admit, simply to hide the fact the drawing wasn’t quite square. See how intellectual the process can be? Ha! Throughout the remaining explorations and paintings, the...
Realistic or representational paintings can open a door for a viewer, and maybe why, as I have said before, that I try to walk a line between abstraction and representation. The works on paper are closer to realism that you might think, often appearing surprisingly close to the photographic image worked from, making them accessible in theory to anyone visually aware. When I go onto canvas, I try to distil the lessons learned in working on paper into something that stands alone, needing no external reference, its abstraction from reality perhaps a feeling of familiarity. For on canvas I am seeking to find beauty, to extract more beauty from what I see.
Starting with observation, drawings result. Additional information added by keeping large print (A3+ or A2} colour photographs for colour references on the studio wall, occasionally incorporating photographic prints into the work means that much of the apparent abstractions are just more apparent than they are. Sometimes the photos are collaged to create images that can be around five feet high. In other smaller works I have used collage in addition to colour to show the effects of time. Time also matters and that becomes a concern in the work too, sometimes surfacing in images such as the garden image made from merging a photo from each season to present a picture of a year.
Is there still a place for the ancient craft of painting? Looking at a painting should change the way we perceive our world. Fine art produces objects of contemplation, interpretations of beauty that change the way we as individuals see our world. Unlike VR or movies, a painting is not an escape from reality, but a mirror held up to it to change the way we see or understand it, a mirror that reflects the view the artist sees but unlike the digital realities, does not pretend to be anything but itself. Paintings enable the viewer to have a dialogue and question themselves on their own view of their world.
Here you can see details of the latest paintings featured in previous blogs, showing the technique. I use brushes too, frequently underpainting with brush before working over with the scrapers and then working over again with oil pastel. Love what I am doing ( to paint is to love again) and love the colour interrelationship that are created by the layering. I admire other painters who are into paint, like Tom Phillips, and those who extend how we look and use our eyes. I hope I make people look afresh at the world around them, use their eyes more to see the beauty we live with daily in often unexpected places. I hope you enjoy.
Some of what I know is hearsay, some from simple observation, some from public reports. It seems that the Agency, given the job of protecting Britain’s coastline, was making choices about where to spend its limited funds (apart from on offices and administration of course). A while ago it announced it would no longer take any action on the Cuckmere but would allow the area between the sea and inland villages like Alfriston to become tidal marsh land. It explicitly would not pay anything for the defence of the Coastguard Cottages despite their worldwide fame as an icon of the English coast adjacent to the Seven Sisters.
Including pieces of net and the shingle rocks that had holed and forced apart the metal plates drew me down a path to painting realistically where before, in just exploring the colour I had been able to delight in exploring paint and colour, textures, transparency and painterly concerns. Working from a photograph I took of the metal defences and the cottages beyond I tried to maintain the exploration of colour texture etc, and to contrast them against the white of the cottages, all on a large canvas.
Whilst I am no longer working in the small tight confines of taped off areas characterised by the ‘Seaford Fuchsia’, I am still taping out areas to work on. The thick paint raised issues with getting a good edge as the corrugations I create in application allow ‘bleeds’ of adjacent colour. To a certain extent I allow this as it reflects the rough rusty edges on my subject, but the issue is compounded by the slow drying, where the thick paint can be dry to the touch by have enough damp in it to reject the tape. This seems more of an issue on canvas than it is on paper, despite both having the same application of gesso ground.
I tread a line between abstraction and realism in exploring the colour. Someone described one of the resulting canvases as ‘impressionistic’, and maybe that is a fair comment, but my overriding concern is not to present reality but to show how the colours intersect and the visual richness that this ageing structure presents for our delectation and delight.
BRotS – the Bridget Riley of the Shingle, an homage and an inspiration is rusting metal battered by wind and weather , but especially eroded by tons of sea water from Channel waves carrying their shingle like slingshots. Rust and erosion a constant explosion of colour
The squares in the drawings hint at structure, organisation. The colour is non-organic, contradictory, breaking down the square structure. An Homage to Albers. Reflect the outside world intruding. The square enables me to play games with visibility/colour relationships, tonality whilst maintaining a comparability between pieces. The square has/represents powers beyond the image, stability (security?). The contradiction between the gestural mark and the rigidity of structures has life parallels.
Although this was the concern in the ritual of painting in the freedom of the mythmaking on paper things were going in quite a different direction. The obsession in the works on paper with the mark expressing speed and the natural swing of the arm was being modulated, and the look at pattern had also made me consider the manner in which I was applying colour. In the works on paper it was directly using oil pastels and oil bars that were more like pencils than brushes. Now I began to play with lifting colour off with solvent wipes, scraping through colour and changing the way the gesture put the mark down.
Colour and the gesture, two basics for every painter. I use both to try to destabilise the square visually. Colour describes spatial and emotional values and can be used to produce a surface that ‘moves’ visually, whilst colour advances and recedes so can be seen breaking through other colours, helped by tonality (follow the above link for experimental verification of this). The gesture reinforces this by creating the illusion of layers, the speed and direction of the mark pulling the eye one way on the surface whilst the colour pulls it another. Tonality also shifts the surface against other surfaces and the eye will read surface not as object but as spatial position.
The Prado Museum, one of the world’s biggest art galleries, cannot find 885 of its own works, according to Spain’s Audit Court. Some years ago, I was a part of a group of artists organising group shows in galleries throughout the English North West, as well as my solo...
Many of the properties we serviced were those of the wealthy who always seek to stand alone, but many were small farms, still, in 1974, using shit pails in outside loos. Some of these were even two seaters, something I had only seen before in museums. Our job was to pull the bucket out, each of the ‘brick outhouses’ having a small door in the side for this purpose. We then had to find a spot, usually marked by nettles etc. from earlier visits, where we could strain off the liquids. Solids went into a black bin bag which joined the rest of the rubbish in the back of the dustcart. Putting the bag into the dustcart was in itself an art form. Time it wrongly and the bag would explode throwing ordure over the operative – in which case we would insist on them riding the rest of that day on the tailboard.
Many of the ‘pictures’ don’t contain an image. In times gone by they would have been referred to as ‘field paintings’. The fact that most are made digitally doesn’t alter their power as visual surfaces, and the example I have had printed on aluminium at 2 feet square shows how clearly they work as stand-alone artworks.
Beauty is an individual concept formed in part by social agreement, – you buy into what the media present, and what is current fashion. Maybe you will be baffled by my enjoyment of this piece of rusting beach architecture and agree with my partner who says in slight bafflement, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Why not visit and judge for yourself when lockdown ends, just take a moment to contemplate, remembering that all art profits from spending time in contemplation…
I walk with a camera and collect images along coasts wherever I am. Occasionally they are of the quality of holiday snapshots which are collected after each trip and made into a memory book for continuing pleasure, sometimes they make stories, but often they are collected for their own sake. I look for the things that have fascinated me in making paintings – colour balance and contrasts, symmetry and asymmetry.
I don’t do cruises. That was the theory anyway. The idea that I would voluntarily confine myself with hundreds of people with no escape filled me with horror. Going on holiday with a whole village? Many years ago, as Editor of HotelDesigns, I organised some reviews of...
My local church is St. Leonards. It is in the centre of the town and for many forms the central focus of small-town life, a focus enhanced by its proximity to the railway station and both our doctor’s surgeries. It has a thriving congregation especially at Christmas...
The show represents their early years, years that appear to be more brilliant for Davie than they were for a Hockney still seeking to come to a balance between the prevailing modes of abstraction and the new burgeoning of realism. Whilst Davie wholeheartedly embraced the working methods of abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Hockney was already starting a journey to becoming on of the greatest of contemporary realist painters in a tradition that stretches along a road parallel to abstraction.
J.S. Mill said in effect freedom is the ability to challenge the rules, the grid of laws and social convention. As artists we should challenge, change, innovate not conform to other expectations. The grid of galleries, art market and critics are not the arbiters of quality but a reflection of a reality unrelated to art, a reality of exploitation and control, of money. Our grid is different.
My Verdun Triptych has now found a new home in a local public school, and there’s a story behind this dating back to the 1970’s. When I complete my degree course I was upset to be handed the application forms for a posts-graduate teaching course. This seemed like a...
For me as an outsider it is enough to sit and enjoy being a part of a vibrant community. Outsiders refer to Seaford as a deprived seaside town. We may not have many folk driving Bentleys (although there are one or two) and we may not boast large company headquarters, but we are still a thriving community. Surrounded by National Park, adjacent to the Seven Sisters we enjoy our town.
In my ‘declining years’ I have found a place to belong.
It’s a wonderful town, we all know that. My first visit, as a young artist and college lecturer, was on Laker’s Skytrain from Manchester, £99 return for the US independence bicentennial celebrations in 1976. I took hundreds of images of skyscrapers and made my money back with a mini lecture tour of groups in Lancashire showing the slides. Just recently I discovered I wasn’t the first of my family circle to visit the city nor to collect images of it.
To those demonstrators who littered tons of rubbish on London streets as ‘environmental protest’ I say shame on you, don’t expect government’s magic wand to absolve you of responsibility. You littering hypocrites – your penance should be to collect an amount of rubbish from hedgerows and beaches where you live equal to that you dumped on our streets. Look hard at how you use our world. Change will only come from all of us making individual changes. Government has already made significant alteration to our national emission pattern but really, most of it now is down to you and me.
There is so much complexity and sensitivity in Nash’s work. The work builds on a relationship with the land, with Ffestiniog, and is rooted deeply in the past as well as reflecting an individual delight in materials and the workings of the natural environment. Nash is claimed as a minimalist in some writing. For others he belongs in the school of ‘Land Artists’. For me he has the mysticism characteristic of the Welsh, but above all he is an environmentalist, and in that sense very much a part of our future.
Where I wonder do service kids go today? I read that for example in the Royal Navy now most people own houses ‘off base’ giving their children stability but perhaps at the expense of the absence of a parent. Do service brats still suffer the dislocation of their parents postings? Is the struggle to retain trained manpower in the services still being exacerbated by poor service housing – the press reports seem to suggest so. Do the children of service families in the RAF and Army still face the choice of staying with the family or being sent to boarding school?
Scale is an important consideration in relation to the mark. I want to be able to put myself into the work and that means working with the whole body. As pieces get smaller so the ‘hinge’ around which the mark rotates changes. Small pieces use the wrist as the hinge, then it progresses to the elbow and with true scale the mark can be made from the shoulder increasing the vigour of application and pulling in the whole body to engage. I love large paintings like those Waterlilies of Monet which can engulf you as a viewer, so you don’t just spectate but are forced to engage within the piece, be absorbed by it, engulfed by the colour and emotion.