Lack of recognition..

Newton Linford
Newton Linford, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm., May 2018

Lack of Recognition…not of myself (though nobody would turn down more!) but of the location of the latest of the Playground Of The Midlands group of works.  After all not even the most observant of the denizens of the village of Newton Linford would recognise it from the painting I’ve made.  Its a pity really as this one has been a bit of a blighter.  Not helped by the inordinate delay in tackling it (and the rest of them that have been languishing in the studio for yonks.  Still I’m redoubling my efforts, as with several other series, to get them resolved rather than moving onto fresh work!

Quorn
Quorn, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm., May 2018
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In the detail

Rock Crushedit’s often in the detail that you get a proper idea of what something is about.  I was re-reading my friend Andrew Bracey‘s excellent catalogue for his detail exhibition where he quotes the painter Malcolm Morley saying that it was in the detail, very close detail indeed that the energy of the painting resided.  Maybe its so…I just started out on the Rock sub set of my Landscape & Memory series…and thought it would be interesting – at the early stage of each of the eighteen works – to take a detail from each.  What it tells me who knows…but anyway I’m studying them nonetheless.

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Besides getting on with this project – I’ve set myself a deadline of Christmas to have the lot completed – I’m also setting a harder deadline for the Playground Of The Midlands sub project (the Charnwood leg of the Leicestershire set that began years back with the From The Earth Wealth (aka North West Leics) group.  The third leg of this one – Painting The Town Red, the Melton district – got started at a lick last Spring and then fizzled out towards the end of May. So yesterday myself and my partner in crime Simon rebooted and got over to Bottesford, the most northerly outpost, to begin the task of completing the set.  It has to be admitted that as we plough through what will end up being over two hundred plus settlements across the county it gets harder to find distinctive features  in the many sleepy small villages we encounter!  As often mentioned before head over to Simon’s blog for the decent photos – me I settle for tatty aide memoires for what will become the paintings.  So above is a photo from Bottesford…and below the painting that resulted from a trip, quite a long time back now, to Hathern.

Hathern
Hathern, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm., 2018

Making Colour Sing…

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A Sundoor In The Harbour, Acrylic & watercolour on paper, 124.5 x 30 cm. 2017

Make Colour Sing is the title that Laine Tomkinson has chosen for the exhibition she has curated at the Nottingham Society of Artists gallery on Castle Gate in the city. It’s an intriguing title, not least as alongside all the works in which colour features as a significant force, there are lovely etchings by Michelle Keegan that are resolutely monochrome – raising the old chestnut as to whether black is ‘properly’ a colour.  My own pieces use a raft of colour combinations that bounce about in a reckless manner.  This piece – A Sun Door In The Harbour – pretty much nails colour confusions and plays them off against one another within a loose geometric arrangement.  The show features Laine’s work, a delightful and playful exploration of form and gesture in her chosen medium of screen printing. And much else besides; Martin Heron with a range of equally delicate and intense repeated drawn elements that coalesce into form that is almost as solid as his sculptures yet shimmer and dissolve before your eyes; John Stockton‘s collaged photographs that evidence strong graphic style; Andy Parkinson‘s obsessive preoccupation with repetitive mark making that gradually off registers  to compelling effect.  There are plenty of other marvellous things on offer.  Laine asked me to write a short introduction to the show that I’m reposting below:

A gutsy, powerful and emotional vocal performance is a stirring thing…be it Beyoncé’s Check On It or Handel’s Oratorio and so it is with colour in art, whether it’s loud vibrant hues played off against one another or quiet sensitive interactions modulated by tone and texture.  Either way for many artists – and especially those gathered together by Laine Tomkinson here – Make Colour Sing, her chosen title, seems so appropriate.

Laine has ranged both close to home and across the nations of these isles to source artists for whom colour interactions are either the main spring of their interests or at the very least a vital component of the mix that makes up the work.  Not surprisingly, given her own intuitive, sensitive process for making paintings and prints, several of those she has assembled allow chance to play a significant role in the creation of work.  Insofar as colour is concerned this opens up possibilities that the artist might not have envisaged for herself and truly reveals fresh opportunities for the colours to sing out – in both close harmonies and also, occasionally, dissonances that act as counterpoint and contrast.  

Of course for some of those invited the procedures are much stricter. It may, in musical terms, be much more a closer reading of the score, indeed a literal translation of it where nothing is left to chance, each colour combination the result of finely considered adjustments, every action pondered at length. 

Either way, and acknowledging that for some it might be a case of both approaches deployed together, colour remains an elusive, slippery customer.  Over several centuries now distinguished figures from Goethe to Albers have tried to pin it down, codify and tame it only for it to spring back as vibrant and unruly as ever.  It has many voices and plenty of diverse ditties, from every avenue of the creative impulse, and quite a few have been assembled here too. 

Sound and fuzzy…

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Here’s a rarity – a kind of semblance of recognisable imagery with this – the penultimate piece in the L’Histoire De L’Eau section of my Landscape & Memory series – The Vain Water-Poet.  Named in honour of John Taylor whose escapades fit well within the broader history of English eccentrics.  As always there is little that connects the picture with the event beyond the very loose form of the boat and the text but that is not really the intention as I’ve suggested before.

As it happens this image, most likely because it was the one up on the wall in the studio at the time, is featured in the visual advertising for Lucy Cox‘s enterprising series of podcast interviews – Painters Today where I am honoured to be the third artist in this endeavour  – connected to the Contemporary British Painting group and the excellent Priseman-Seabrook collection.  Whether anything I said over the course of a longish interview has any value is for others to judge but it might shed a little light on the activity I get up to and is recorded here.

Malheureusement…

malheureusement…has always been one of my favourite French words.  I don’t have many, a combination of typical British ineptitude with languages coupled to a right git oral examiner at ‘o’ level taking the piss out of me for getting my hair mixed up with a horse..!

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But this one stuck…I just loved it – and it comes in handy here.  It is a pity (or quel domage…) but I couldn’t resolve the three panel piece above for the show in Honfleur (see last post).  It was to be a glorious homage (crikey more French) to Honfleur’s most famous painter – the wonderful Eugene Boudin but this Quatre, cinq, six, sept kept slipping away from me.  And the tricky colour thing, a desire to keep it light and airy, has been hard here inland and often (over recent months) in the dark.  Maybe what it needs is a trip to the beach…somewhere bright and breezy…the south coast perhaps or – how about – Normandy!

Maybe I’ll scout out one or two of the fella’s favourite locations,  Deauville, Trouville or Le Havre whilst over at the show.  Peut-etre…(enough French already ed.)

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A Good Morning…

Dream of Poliphilus

for finishing up another (number thirteen) of the L’Histoire De L’Eau subset of Landscape & Memory.  And alongside this I’m tidying up the four sculptural pieces that I’m taking, alongside my banner pictures to the exchange show we are mounting in the Greniers A Sel in Honfleur, Normandy alongside the artists of the Contre-Courant group.  We being the artists associated with Harrington Mill Studios in Long Eaton Nottingham.  Although I’m no longer a studio holder there Jackie Berridge, the Head of HMS, has very graciously invited a bunch of us ‘alumni’, myself and my wife (the artist Sarah R Key) included, to be part of the fun.

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Echoing down the decades…

Tracerie Oct 71 8x8ft Acrylic On Canvas
Tracerie, Acrylic on Canvas, c. 6 x 7 ft. 1971

A current article in Hyperallergic on the marvellous Joe Overstreet, reminded me a little of the paintings I was making late in 1971 and into 72…where I was exploring the possibilities of unstretched form and colour having been dissuaded from the proscenium arch paintings that had preceded them.  Tracerie, above, was not the largest of them but is the only one I have a decent image of.  Below are details of the biggest, Pinky Free, an over thirty feet expanse of 12 oz. cotton duck the width of the bolt (I guess 78 inches) – Let us pause to give thanks for free higher education where a poor working class Devonian lad could explore his most ridiculous creative impulses wherever he wanted to take them!

Pinky Free Oct 71 9x27ft right hand side
Pinky Free, Acrylic on canvas, c. 6 ft 6 in. x 27 ft. 1972

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The whole contraption was propped up on an assortment of photo light and music stands ‘borrowed’ from the relevant departments for a few days (at least until the lecturers responsible realised).  Pinky was the last of this run of loose canvas pieces that I then began pulling back into more formal arrangements, pushing and pressing oil paint into the canvas weave to give it a little more structure and solidity.

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Here I’m installing one of these Oilcloth pieces in the studios for the second year interim exhibition. I’d also abandoned the riot of colour in favour of more muted earthy tones, even then I was already heavily into the idea of pushing work far out in one direction only to wrench it back wildly in the other.  It may seem implausible in the world of instant information via social media but back then most of those few who saw this work were completely mystified by it and thought it pretty crazy.  It was quite some years before I began realise that, contrary to what everyone thought, on the other side of the Atlantic, in the lower Eastside of Manhattan and down in Washington DC (and I guess quite a few other places, including one or two in the East End of London) others were exploring similar ideas of how far painting could be pushed.  At the time I felt quite isolated and exposed in the far west of Cornwall!