Zeebop…

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Another small panel in the Very Like Jazz series…and another with a title culled from the super songbook of the great Joe Zawinul.

Coming out from under…

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Sixsevens (Summer Dog Days), acrylic on aluminium, 72×48 cm., 2016

a few days of feeling off colour – rather like this picture (coming out from under that is!).  Anyway it is one of the three selected by Lucy Cox & Freya Purdue, curators of Colour: A Kind of Bliss.  I do hope you can find time to come along and see it in the flesh.

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Over thinking…

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Sevens Autumn Store, 72 x 48 cm., acrylic on aluminium, 2017

it (the making) is something I’ve not thought about for, oh, about thirty five years or more.  I do recall being concerned that it might be happening to the large paper panel pieces I was making in 1980 as I was also fretting over the use of fibre glass to back them (it was the coughing up blood that finally persuaded me to abandon that idea!).  But earlier today I was working on my Paintings Standing Up (still far too early to post here yet) and realised that I had put several vocal performance albums to accompany the activity.  I’ve written before that when painting I normally only listen to instrumental music and it got me to thinking why did moving into 3D suggest I could make the change?  Did I value the work less, did it require less focus?, is it a different order of thinking?  Sitting making some more components for these new pieces it struck me that perhaps my ongoing feeling of dissatisfaction with much of my recent painting process (rather than the pictures themselves) comes from over thinking them.  As a young painter I’d just crack on with the work but over the years I’ve taken to thinking hard about each stage of the process – even those parts of it that are intuitive or seemingly random have gone through a deal of soul searching.  Enough already methinks…from now on I’ll put on whatever tunes I damn well like and try to actually enjoy painting!

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Six Mile High, 72 x 48 cm., acrylic on aluminium, 2017

In any event, as is my habituation, I’m stepping away from the Geo series for a bit.  The two above are the most recent, whilst three of the earlier pieces are slated for exhibition at The Crypt in Marylebone soonish.  Invite below, get along there if you get the chance.

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Dither…

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I started the new year (it already seems a lifetime ago) with a plan.  Yesterday I took a look and thought it was going west fast.  It is dither that does for me…take a look at the Very Like Jazz new panels for example.  I’m pretty sure at least half of them are fairly close but I’m dithering over them, fiddling about with the grounds and then taking out a shape here or altering its colour there. So with February being the deadline for four then I need to make some decisions.  But (and its a big one) the ‘plan’ also suggests that by the end of the month I’ll have two Water paintings finished, two Paintings Standing Up resolved, and five Playground Of The Midlands pictures completed.  And that doesn’t include the work that continues on the maps and a couple other things knocking around the studio that haven’t even got to a base camp yet!  I know I could just try working on one thing at a time but that just isn’t my way of rolling…

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So this morning I thought I’d try and get a grip…or at least a foothold.  So back to the Water pictures then – and (I suspect partly as a result of no alcohol and a fairly decent nights sleep) glory be at least two of this series finished.

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These are of course the follow on from Waldgeschichten, the series of eighteen panels that drew upon the Wood section of Simon Schama’s Landscape & Memory.  So that’s all good then…just sixteen more of these to go.  Now what about the Playground of The Midlands series?

Normal…

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whatever that is…I guess that was our day…so much so that mid afternoon trapped in a road diversion scenario in the far east of Leicestershire Simon and myself decided we had properly topped up our ‘rural reserves’ for a bit.  So we resolved to cool it a bit on the Painting The Town Red project (not least as I’m getting seriously behind on the paintings).  Besides it was perishing out there.

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I’ve tried before explaining the rationale behind these rural excursions but its hard to explain what I’m driving at.  Its the quirky visual incidents that meld together with other impressions, feelings, thoughts and ideas that ‘inform’ the image that results and these elements can, most often are, the base material and might easily be viewed as just ‘normal’.  Though, as here in the churchyard at Eastwell, this suggests that in certain contexts things can be quite unusual in some ways.  I’m assuming its a bug hotel but why such a thing is necessary here in such a rural setting I can’t particularly imagine.

Black Dog rescued by Duccio…

Should there be any regular observers of my social media presence they might have been forgiven recently for wondering what was going on with me.

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The Black Dog descended following the triumph of Trump and hasn’t lifted with the Brexit vote in parliament. I’ve been utterly defeated by the US/UK spiral towards nasty xenophobic totalitarianism…that it seems the majority  ‘rabble’ have fully signed up to – but that’s democracy I guess.  Personally I doubt we’ll see the tide turned back towards common decency in my lifetime.  Still…

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off on another of our occasional jaunts this time to Kingston upon Hull; where my pal found himself labouring for much of lunchtime on the task of persuading me out of this Stygian gloom I’d fallen into.  An ‘orrible task for anyone but his combination of extreme patience, historical knowledge and sound political grasp made a great deal of sense (not that, naturally, I was willing to concede as much at the time).  He (and another friend more recently) assure me that I’m wrong to which I can only say I bloody well hope so!

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In the Ferens I had an epiphany; not only that I don’t feel – nor think – I’ve got beyond Duccio in my understanding of painting…but more importantly that I don’t want to!  I’m often given to thinking that  (and I’m pretty sure my pals from that time would agree) as a young man I was pretty sure I knew it all and now forty five years later I know nothing…where did it all go wrong? The Duccio in question is one of the sensational small panels that usually reside in the National Gallery and one of the very few things I am still reasonably sure of is that his work is amongst the greatest ever triumphs of painting. The panel in question still stands as sophisticated an exploration of pictorial colour and space as any I’ve seen in recent years!

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The UK City of Culture 2017 is still winding up but it struck me as pretty chipper and as a bonus I got to tick off the Humber bridge from my bucket list. It was my first visit there and The Blade arching over Queen Victoria Square certainly makes a statement, not least about scale…who’d have guessed that those offshore turbines were that big (the one blade 75 metres in length). Though of course once you think about it…after all my pal Louise Garland and myself did a project a few years back encouraging passers by in Sutton-on-Sea to make seascapes and as you can see in this example most of them punched up the whirligigs in their creations.

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Morning, Mingus, Michael & Me…with John in the mix…

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It’s another of those grey, damp mornings that seem to be characterising our winter (so far) but best not to grumble. Not cold or waist deep in snow (eh, Stephen!) and my investment in the Daylight Slimline Table Lamp means I can work comfortably on the small Jazz paintings at the (warm) kitchen table. As is my habit I’m listening to jazz as I work (today it’s fifties and early sixties fare from the great Charles Mingus, a perennial favourite). But wait what’s this? Vocal music is usually a no – no when painting but here’s dear old Michael Chapman. He was prescient when he wrote Fully Qualified Survivor wasn’t he? Then 30 now 76 but in good voice on a beautiful album- 50 that is rich and full, a mix of older material re-recorded and three new songs. What a lucky lad am I sitting here in the warm working away to lovely music with Mindy the dog to keep pleasant (and placid) company.

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Left & Right, 2012  John Holden

The daylight lamp helps me with colour in the compositions, always a tricky one for me, and gets me thinking about the exquisite colour combinations in my friend John Holden’s paintings. Besides being roughly the same age Michael & John share other characteristics I reckon. The jazz/folk tinged singer songwriter went out of fashion ways back as did hard edge abstraction and in terms of commercial success neither tide has come back in that much since. But both have real heft and solid quality for me (a generation or so after them) and its good to see both of them still giving it their all and turning out such great material. I saw John last week and am hoping there will soon be an opportunity hereabouts for his work to be enjoyed by others.

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Neon City, 2008-10  John Holden