A complete volte face…back to my Playground of the Midlands series…and the lay off means having to put a very different ‘head’ on. Back to working off of specific visual sources (that is referencing images crudely constructed from photos take on site). Working to resolve them whilst readjusting to using oils and as Thomas Nozkowski used to say keeping them open “so that everything is back in play”.
But first…Wonky Geo No. 158
So I’m casting around last evening for entertainment and chance upon theYouTube video of Andrew Graham-Dixon sashaying about Sotheby’s pimping their sale (a few days back)…actually rather more interesting and informative than might be imagined. And this morning I briefly looked up the results. A goodly proportion of the lots went and most within their estimates. However a Banksy nearly doubled its upper estimate figure going for £2,235,000. This triptych of altered pre-existing paintings of seascapes references the on-going tragedy of migrants endeavouring to cross the Med. Setting aside my profound antipathy for mega wealthy individuals (both vendors & purchasers) salving consciences in this way, the means employed – riffing on the altered readymade pioneered by Duchamp over a century ago – seem a bit tired and hackneyed. Nonetheless to the credit of those concerned all proceeds will go towards building a new acute stroke unit and purchasing children’s rehabilitation equipment for BASR hospital in Bethlehem. Better that than redistribution from billionaires (Oligarchs etc.) to mere millionaires (Gerhard, Tracey, Damien, Jeff etc.) …
But what took my eye particularly was the attachment of a Pest Control Certificate of Authenticity to the work. Why one wonders? My hunch is that these three rather manky canvases were picked up in a local bazaar and might be subject to dry rot or other assorted mange…and if you’ve just podded out over £2 mil you probably don’t want to see it fall apart that quickly (though long time Banksy watchers might hazard the guess that’s precisely what he intends!).
It got me to thinking about my Paintings Standing Up (most recent example seen above), after all were one ever to sell then given the dubious sources of their materials perhaps they too should have such a certificate. But who issues such things…Rentokill perhaps!
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Barrie Cook recently. Like many another painter he ought to have been more celebrated but we’re not good at recognising the worth of them here in the UK. I didn’t know him well but I do recall two occasions, one many years back, one more recent, when he was much in my mind. The more recent happened on the occasion I wrote about here. For in this most unlikely of locations I passed round a large free standing wall in the middle of the upper main gallery to be confronted by a fine example of Barrie’s spray canvasses. How he had come to know Piet Moget who had assembled the amazing collection there I don’t know…but Moget (and Barrie Cook himself) were well travelled and connected. Sadly I didn’t get an image of the work on the day.
The earlier occasion speaks volumes for the warmth and generosity of the man. He had just taken up the post of Head of Fine Art at Birmingham and had called into the Ikon where I worked. I think he’d had a meeting with the boss but as he was leaving he mentioned that someone on the staff had told him I was a painter. We exchanged pleasantries but then he suggested that if I was finishing work shortly did I fancy a drink? We ended up sharing a couple pints with him looking over some slides of the work I’d just embarked on and offering encouragement and sound advice. He also gave me a copy of his small catalogue from the recently completed Gregynog Fellowship that I’ve treasured over the years.
I haven’t seen him in many years but it seems he was still working away daily down in Cornwall and had a good life, and that is heartening to know. A talented artist, a good teacher and a smashing bloke.
how things collide in your head during this isolation (I’m still too frit to properly venture out) especially as contacts with others is confined. So just as I begin sorting out the next substantial project – based on Alexandra Harris’ Weatherland – I find its concerns reverberating in my thinking with Chapter Three of Jeff Young’s Ghost Town. I’d spent a good deal of a day sifting through the former arranging a series of quotations by others that Harris had used to be the framework on which my series will hang. Literally insofar as they are ranged around the perimeter of the canvases I’m intending. And then this very morning I find Jeff musing on the importance of weather…”The weather is memory and memory is the weather. It seeps into this place, becomes layered into it. The meteorology of memory.” And whilst I had been attracted to a brief passage from the introduction to Weatherland as the title of my sequence “I have tried to hang a mirror in the sky” my wife pointed out its connection to a title I have used before ‘Nothing But Mirrors And Tides’ (that stolen from Anne Michaels wonderful Fugitive Pieces for a solo show at Derby Museum nearly two decades back) and I’d already thought it perhaps overlong. And now – glory be – it seems that not only have I a marvellous title ‘The Meteorology Of Memory’ but those few words also crystallise the core of my thinking behind these paintings.
Because unlike the three series that comprised the reflections on Schama’s Landscape & Memory (Waldgeschichten, L’Histoire de L’Eau and Rock Of Ages) where the impulses for the form of each work preceded and then ran alongside the textual content here I have zoomed in on the texts (setting them in a framework of the months of the year) and hope to evoke memories, form, colours and reflections of each month as it unfolds. At least in the conception of the work as a whole because, unlike my normal way of working, I intend to make a sketch or cartoon (if you wish!) for each painting before making the full size work. Within this sits another secret source of imagery drawn both from my own reservoir of images and ones stolen from other observers of the world around them…something that has become so easy since the advent of the digital when everyone is a photographer of some (albeit) occasional distinction.
five years back I was heavily engaged in putting together a show of Kevin Coyne‘s art. If you don’t know Kevin was a ‘cult’ musician (i.e. little commercial success but feted by several critics and other musicians and suchlike – John Peel was an early champion) but also an artist and writer. He was a proud son of Derby and a group of three, his longtime pal Paul Warren, filmmaker Doug Smith and myself, put together a modest exhibition at Deda, the dance based arts centre in the city on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death.
We crowdfunded the thing and included a small catalogue as part of the ‘rewards’. And as part of the catalogue the excellent Jeff Young allowed me to use a lovely piece he had penned for The Guardian feature ‘The greatest albums you’ve never heard’. This is all by way of a shameless plug for Jeff’s marvellous memoir Ghost Town. It arrived this morning but I had to be out early and have only now been able to tuck into it. But even after the few pages of the first chapter its contents are as great as the production values of the Little Toller imprint – first rate.
And whilst I was ordering Jeff’s book I recalled a conversation back in February when I was at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery giving a talk on Charles Howard (an obsession of mine). A couple came up at the end & mentioned their research on Clifford Webb. I think the chap mentioned a book he had recently completed on him…and Little Toller published, last year, a marvellous volume on Webb…whether it’s author – Simon Brett – was the man I met I cannot be certain (February seems an awful long time ago now!). But the book is, like Jeff’s, beautifully produced and I’m looking forward to it immensely now I’ve purchased it alongside Ghost Town.
with the Wonky Geo‘s…numbers 147 through 151. By my reckoning 29 to make up the arbitrary 180 in the series (each box holds 45 comfortably and I’ve only four boxes of the required size).
Be glad to get these done and dusted now…
It’s the series that keeps on giving…but I am bringing it to an end. It was always going to be tough figuring it out. But the fact of fitting 45 into each box (and only being four such) suggests 180 is it. The pile of potential pieces keeps going so now some thought will have to go into what to do with the seventy or more pieces that will be ‘remaindered’!
Goodness – this strange time of ‘lockdown’ has seen something of a lack of productivity on the blogging front. I very nearly let a month slip by without a post…not that there’s been any shortage of work going on. On the contrary it’s been quite a busy time what with an absence of movement out of the studio. And despite suggestions to the contrary I notice a marginal increase in COVID cases over this week rather being over shadowed by exhortations by the ‘powers that be’ that we all go shopping alongside a return to work. In any event I’m going nowhere until I’m personally sure the risk is significantly lessened so the painting likely to continue at a lick. This picture draws on another poem (with its rather prescient title) by the great Tomas Transtromer.
at least I’m not spending cash during ‘lockdown’…rather revisiting and reworking stuff I’ve had kicking about the place. For example there’s my large series of TFTLR that have been ‘repurposed’ (what a ghastly word!) as Paintings Standing Up. I’m also unearthing the ‘failed’ pictures on paper from my earlier virus series and jollying them up to show a tad of insouciance in the face of the you know what…
Though I think I ought to write something about current practice presently I keep recalling this quote from Proust…”Authentic art has no need for proclamations…it accomplishes its work in silence”. So I’ll just shut up for once.