Maybe it’s the new year, the change of studio, the weather or simply my mood but getting into the work seems hard at the moment. There’s a series of small canvases and boards that I’m rather struggling with both as regards form and content. I usually try to work through these periods but since the new year I’ve been heavily engaged in avoidance strategies rather than getting stuck in. Amongst these getting out and about and seeing other work is probably one of the better ways of spending time. It helps to see what’s out there and often feeds ideas and even technical tips back into ones practice – when you get down to it. Earlier in the week past I took a trip to Nottingham Castle Museum. Partly to take in the annual Open but more critically for me to check out Andrew Bracey‘s ReconFigure project. Andrew is one of the region’s most prolific artists and has developed a reputation for original and thoughtful shows that engage in current debates around painting (possibly as an ‘expanded field’ though I think that expression ghastly!). One of the things that I found interesting was his use of the triangle as the most basic shape that could be deployed as a masking device to obliterate the figures in the historical paintings – co-incidently I’ve been using several basic shapes as ground in these panel pictures (and in a series of ‘Conversation Pieces’ last autumn). He suggests the use of the device as in part a means of focussing the viewer on the backgrounds, as those parts of works where the grounds are often the least carefully treated (or least regarded) aspects of the pictures. In my panels I’m seeing these grounds as a regularising force to bring the viewer back to the gestural forms that populate the centre space and create some kind of tension between the two. What seeing his pictures did for me was to get me thinking about how much more I could do to get this ‘oscillation’ moving about in a more dynamic way. In Andrew’s pieces he deploys colour and tonality in a much more lurid fashion than I have been doing but it has encouraged me to think about breaking out of the close toned (and dare one say rather too polite) arrangements. The Castle show was due to finish this weekend but I understand it has been extended…best check to find out how long but certainly worth a visit.