Quiet Authority…

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I mentioned Lawrence Carroll a few days back.  And now I just took delivery of this very handsome monograph.  Whenever people tell you, as they get older, that they have no regrets don’t believe them.  Ok if you’ve lived a bit they may be modest ones but there will be some things that could have, may be should have, happened.

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2:80  Mixed media on paper, mounted on glass fibre, 38 x 36″

Around about the late 1970’s my work seemed to me to be complicating itself to the point where I needed to step back and rethink.  Over a year and a bit (from late 79 through 80) some very minimal pieces were made that – I hoped – had a certain ‘quiet authority’ and communicated through their simple presence in the world.  Only one or two were ever exhibited (in group shows) and I never had a chance to see them in a decent space where their cumulative impact might have been greater.  

 

They were large works, with minimal titles too.  Made on big sheets of paper I backed them with glass fibre resin.  Over the year the use of this, naturally with scant regard to health and safety back then, resulted in some extremely deleterious health issues. Coupled with a change of circumstances (work, home and studio) my dissatisfaction with this work led to an abandonment.  When I settled into my new circumstances months later I began re-complicating my work and over several years this accelerated, culminating in a brief period of figuration in the mid-eighties (I wasn’t alone in this).  Over the subsequent thirty plus years a certain seesawing between a more minimalist position and a complexity in my work has continued to this day…though I’ve rarely gone as far out as the 1980 works.  One regret I have is that I never got a chance to see more of Carroll’s work. My other regret is that I’ve not been a wee bit more disciplined and plotted a more steady course over the years.  Whether this would have produced better work, or I would have been happier who can say?  

In any event activity continues…Rock Of Ages, the third (and final) part of my Landscape & Memory project is slowly drawing to a close.  With three of the 18 that make up this section completed over the past couple days, only 11 to go now.

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Pompous Ruskin, acrylic on paper, 106 x 94 cm., June 2019
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Another passing…

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I only just learnt of the death of Lawrence Carroll, some two weeks after the event.  Following on from Thomas Nozkowski, whose fame in the world of art was greater I suppose, its very sad.  Carroll I first came across back in 1992 on a visit to Documenta 9.  In a single room I saw my first ‘ribbon’ Marden‘s in the flesh, ditto my first Jonathan Lasker‘s and my first sighting at all of Olav Christopher Jenssen.  It was for any painter quite a sight and I was there for a long while.

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Admiring the Carroll’s with Jenssen’s Lack Of Memory series as backdrop

Documenta 9 was quite heavily criticised at the time.  Belgian curator Jan Hoet was a bit of an outsider, very pugnacious and quite opinionated it seems.  I imagine he didn’t take prisoners.  Besides which he used the opportunity to promote fellow countrymen (and most of those he selected from wherever were men) including now well-known Luc Tuymans, Thierry De Cordier, Raoul De Keyser and Jan Fabre as well as others less so, Michel Francois, for example.  As an aside I’ve no problem with this – Hoet had an opportunity to showcase talent from Belgium on the wider stage and grasped it, putting someone like De Keyser into an arena one suspects he’d otherwise never have been recognised in.

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Lawrence Carroll

He also had a ‘thing’ for the obdurate, insistent, gestalt object.  Besides Carroll’s lumbering wall objects several other painters and sculptors could be grouped together.  Michael Biberstein‘s canvas, Helmut Dorner‘s groupings of paintings and Anish Kapoor‘s Descent Into Limbo were just some of the pieces that made up a strong showing for ‘blank’ perhaps best exemplified by the inclusion of the grey paintings of Gerhard Richter.

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My friend, the sculptor Paul Mason, admiring a Richter…

But the Carroll’s have lived with me for many years now and although I have moved far from the idea of the ‘gestalt’ in my work I recall them fondly.  His obituary by David Carrier tells of his life in Italy and also of his continuing career, mostly across Europe, rather than here or in the States. Sad to see him gone.

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me explaining Kapoor to bemused German’s!

 

 

 

Coping With Complexity…

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For the past few years I’ve been pushing at more complexity in my paintings…but its hard going.  I doff my proverbial to artists like Biggs & Collings or John Bunker (and quite a few others) who manage it.  For one thing of course one wants clarity in the complexity but its hard to achieve.  And this thought was brought back to the front of my mind this morning as news was passed onto me of the announcement of the Prime Minister’s resignation.  Amongst the many things that will be said about it in the media the complexity of it all will be pretty much passed over I imagine.  Partly because the ‘issue’ is completely polarised now and partly because that’s only how the media can cope with it – they hate complex and really only want to deal in binary choices, hence the endless parade of for and against commentators rather than – what they would see as boring and tedious – carefully considered and thus intelligent analysis weighing up all the issues on all sides.  And to be fair that’s probably what much of us want to see and hear, just a row between the right way (ours of course) and the wrong (anybody who isn’t squarely in line with our thoughts).  Anyway enough of that – back to the painting.  One thing that’s for sure in the painting the resolution of the complex is very multifaceted.  Besides the things one decides not to revise or revisit (for example the initial choice of support, though that can be fiddled with too) if form, colour, surface, media are all up for grabs then variances become trickier and trickier to deal with and, for me at least, the processes are exceedingly long winded and laborious.  Maybe that notion suggests that the politics too will be with us for a great deal longer…

A rock on which to stand…

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or a series of such…Rock of Ages – the third and final part of the Landscape & Memory project.  This one Savoy by Walpole is probably nearer the first part of the whole work, the Waldgeschichten part than most of the other seventeen (each of the three parts comprise 18 individual works).

At least for the moment as this one is only the fourth to be completed in this last group.   Some kind of fundamental underpinning to what one does seems all the more important as the external world gets crazier by the day and appears to be spiralling towards nasty intolerance, authoritarianism and worse.  On top of the rest of it came news today of the passing of Thomas Nozkowski – a painter for whom I have had immense fondness for over twenty five years.  It’s nigh on impossible to figure out how to respond to these things for the best.

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RIP, Thomas Nozkowski, 1944 – 2019

Housekeeping & ‘completions’

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Conversation: Prime Real Estate, Acrylic on canvas, 76 x 61.5 cm., 2014

Do you have as untidy a studio as mine?  I only ask because I’ve been trying for quite a while now (the very decent Climate Change weather helped…the studio can be perishing in mid-winter) to do some housekeeping.  Tucked away in back a bunch of smaller canvases that, for whatever reason, never got fully resolved.  Including these two from back in the day…well five years or so ago.  Around the time I was working on a bunch of big canvases (well biggish nowadays) that showed at the Carnival Of Monsters in Beeston, Nottingham in 2014.  These had started out as the continuation of the Conversation Pieces that in turn began back in the late noughties but altered tack during the painting process erasing the more biomorphic forms with a renewed interest in formalism (albeit of a cranky kind).  I say biggish because at 7 by 5 foot they would have been considered fairly tiddly back in the days I was a student at Birmingham where the legacy of John Walker was writ large – literally so!

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Carnival Of Monsters installation, Beeston, 2014

But alongside the bigger pieces I made these smaller panels, indeed I made several even smaller still.  Getting them out suggested they might have made the cut…excepting that they needed a small adjustment here and there which is exactly what they’ve just been given.  Are these new completed works to be dated 2014/19 or is that as pretentious as I’ve always thought it to be when seen about the place..?

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Conversation: You Seen Circus Boy?, Acrylic on canvas, 76 x 61.5 cm., 2014

Vinyl Junkie…

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Me, not him, of course (though who knows).  So three days away under big big skies in Lincolnshire between Louth and the Coast at Theddlethorpe with weather that, though cold (and nowhere near as its sometimes been) behaved itself well enough.

IMG_2255And no painting going on.  But Saturday was Record Store Day and being near Louth I thought to go to Off The Beaten Tracks – that would have been fun…except for the big queue awaiting me!  So not the only vinyl junkie around then.

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With wife and friend and Mindy dog patiently waiting my return I decided to give it a miss.  Instead we took to the coast with good results until we hit Chapel St. Leonards where the dark clouds gathered and we head back in land to Alford.  Being Saturday afternoon most of the shops here (independent traders) had closed up but Lee’s Music Store was open. Oh deep joy, no lengthy queue outside or in (only one other customer looking for DVDs.  Picked up this one, alongside a Joan Armatrading & Dexys, the former the first one of hers I’d never purchased, the latter one I had but disappeared down the ages.  I know its not one of his best but its one I never owned on vinyl (I bought quite a few through the late 70’s to 90’s on cassette or CD) and the condition is excellent.  So got a fix and at very good prices.  Tip top trip!

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La La La…

Well time to stick our fingers in our ears…and hope the news (wherever its coming from it seems) goes away… I’m picking out pieces from projects that really need pushing on…like Playground Of The Midlands…  So I give you South Croxton.

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Doubt anyone out there will recognise it..though the last time I said that (about Quorn I recall) someone knew exactly where I picked up the imagery.  So you never know.  I wonder how many remainers there were out in South Croxton – you would likely only need one hand!