And back to the Very Like Jazz series with this one…Blues & Roots after the marvellous Charles Mingus album of that name from 1960.
The trip to Gdansk was exceptional for many reasons. Chiefly perhaps that it was so unexpected and unplanned. The marvellous and enterprising Robert Priseman must take the credit for organising the Made In Britain show drawn from his (and Ally Seabrook‘s) collection that propelled the decision to take a visit to the city. Although I only have a very modest ‘walk on’ part in the event going over seemed like a no brainer.
The show itself looked very handsome. And hopefully my picture didn’t let the side down, settled on the wall, between Lucy Cox and Stephen Snoddy – so at the least it was in good quality company. The collection is full of excellent work, both figurative and abstract, with both a smattering of famous names (I doubt my work will ever be nestled so near to Alan Davie‘s, one of my teenage idols!) and good representation from many of us regionally based painters as well as, inevitably, many from the capital). There are many that I rate very highly and several I know well.
On the floor above there was a smaller grouping of artists from the collection, where a grouping of works allowed more in depth study. Robert was amongst them with a group of portrait studies that looked very handsome, their meticulous considered style suiting the juxtaposition with the Judith Tucker works opposite; both in black and white but showing how material, handling, and facture as well as subject matter can provide figuration with many moods and responses.
David Ainley, is a friend (disclaimer) but his fastidious and controlled abstractions build over time to something quite transcendental and luminous that I believe show immense quality. James Quin is an artist I’d not previously seen but I loved both his picture in the collection and his reflections on Las Meninas that made up his contribution to the upper floor show. A different approach to Ainley but an equally intense luminosity to the work. I’m guessing that – perhaps – James will be represented in the forthcoming Enough Is Definitely Enough if not he jolly well ought to be!
What of Gdansk itself? Well it was one of the worst hit places in WW2, indeed it was the location of the commencement of that ghastly conflict and is now home to the huge and monumental museum dedicated to it. As a consequence much of the centre of the city is rebuilt but contrary to what might be expected of somewhere that has spent much of its post war within the ‘Iron Curtain’ it has been (and as far as one could deduce continues to be) done with great sympathy for its longer term heritage – particularly its role in the Hanseatic League.
Of course driving out to the coast (Gdansk is the south side of the ‘Tri-City’ that also comprises Sopot and Gdynia) the soviet era concrete apartment blocks begin to appear but then they too are subsumed into a more vernacular architecture that in Sopot spoke to me at least of seaside grandeur across much of Europe (though here much less faded than to the west).
So Gdansk turns out to be quite an experience – the centre a thriving and bustling place with many interesting and lively tourist attractions and an excellent cuisine (our particular recommendation is Bowke) but of course Poland is still a relatively poor central European country. Perhaps it was that aspect that led me to choose to photograph it in B&W so here is the centre of Old Town in full colour that I imagine is how the tourist industry wants it to be seen!
I’m a passed master at swapping horses in mid-stream…after all I’ve got three smallish canvases completed since Xmas with another seven, one a fair bit bigger (a metre square), underway. All of these are probably, even with my piddling about, quite near to completion so – just the moment to turn away from them and reconnect with something quite different! But that’s my M. O. as anyone following this blog will know. So back to the Landscape & Memory project and getting into the final stage – the Rock series. Here’s the second of the eighteen that will make up this group – Contemplation By St. Francis. Click on the relevant tag for some kind of explanation about this malarkey.
Because the year is still (just) under a sixth old I’m fairly relaxed about the progress of the various bodies of work underway. Besides several are nearing completion to my satisfaction (and who else is there to consider!). These two, roughly the same size, around 40 x 60 cm., are amongst them. It offers an opportunity to compare and contrast. There are obvious differences in origins and in materials and methods. As for the latter the picture above is on board prepped with hard sandable gesso (Golden) and using a fair bit of various mediums added to the thin washes of pigments. For the one below 12 oz. cotton duck has a lightly thinned plain gesso with a goodly variety of acrylics, including heavy body applied. Mind this one also has a substantial number of thinned washes involved. In terms of content and form the first is part of the on-going Very Like Jazz series where a certain looseness of approach and call and response is the primary process drawing upon fifties modernist art and design tropes; whilst the second is rooted in observations and intimations of my experiences on our recent Cornish adventures. Is there anything else to be extracted from their quite separate personalities other than to underline my inability to stick to one plot line? I’m not at all sure!
Well we may be going there…but Maciej is coming here…
Tuesday 5th March
Professor Maciej Świeszewski of the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts
Solo exhibition – opens at the Waterfront Gallery, University of Suffolk.
PV from 4.30 to 6.30 with canapés and drinks
followed by an ‘in conversation’ from 18.30 to 19.30.
This is something that’s not to be missed…I especially like that big drawing…
but then I would…as it is a wee bit reminiscent of those I made on my return from Leiden back in the early 90’s…though I grant Maciej’s is a tad more subtle!
As we start to whoosh through 2019 (I can’t quite believe we’re in February already) I realise that my way of making work makes for an uncomfortable feeling of dread…
The endless prevarications could see me shuffling off this mortal coil without completing some of my many projects unless I get my digit extracted! For a while, 2 or 3 years back, I instigated a schedule for the year ahead to be sure of getting through work with some discipline, and it worked to a degree though inevitably crumbling a bit at the back end of each year.
And then the unexpected comes up to further disrupt things. Of course one can (and occasionally does) turn them aside. But some are just too intriguing to disregard. So it was with Enough is Definitely Enough another fascinating and compelling project from Andrew Bracey.
I’ll let him explain:
Over 40 contemporary artists have made new artworks in response to a postcard version of Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas for an exhibition at General Practice in Lincoln. ‘Enough is Definitely Enough’ which opens on 30 March and runs to 13 April, features a huge variety of different artistic responses to the Spanish painter’s masterpiece – arguably the most widely interpreted of all paintings.
Art Historian Daniel Arasse reflected many people’s view that everything, or perhaps even nothing, has been said about Las Meninas -“what’s the difference, enough is definitely enough!”. The artists in the exhibition build upon previous interpretations by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Richard Hamilton, Francesco Goya and Eve Sussman. Artists have long been actively influenced by the centuries old painting by Velázquez; with their responses, in turn, offering influence back to Las Meninas to enable new readings. With the artworks made for ‘Enough is Definitely Enough’ there is potential for new relationships with Velasquez’s original painting to open up.
The exhibition is curated by Andrew Bracey and forms part of his PhD research at the University of Lincoln. He is exploring how contemporary artists have used and appropriated existing paintings by other artists, through a position of using the metaphor of the parasite and symbiosis in connection with painting.
Whether or not my contribution is parasitical, symbiotic or just plain daft you’ll have to pop along to Lincoln to judge…
And it isn’t just requests for contributions to projects that pop up. As part of the Priseman-Seabrook Collection initiative another show of selected works including my own opens in the Polish city of Gdansk in mid March with the title of Made In Britain. It seemed too good a opportunity not to visit for the opening, not least as Poland is a country I’ve never visited. So its off to one of the seminal sites in the resistance to communist rule in Eastern Europe.
Nobody much writes about the long slow slog that most painters experience. I know some – Sidney Nolan was one such – can work at a lick to completion. I’m not one. I wrote before the festive season about completing pieces ahead of the break. And naturally enough failed with several I had hoped would now be behind me. Picking up the plot at this distance (an extra two week gap whilst we were in Cornwall) is a bit of a slog.