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!
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.
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!
I watched Picasso’s Last Stand the other evening…he never got up in the mornings they said. Me I don’t sleep so well nowadays so now the days are longer I rather enjoy the early start. As it happens too I’m now using a wall that gets the early morning sun. Add in listening to A Rainbow In Curved Air (on my original vinyl copy) and it doesn’t get much better. And it helps with the productivity – in the past two days I finished up three more of the L’Histoire De L’Eau gang. Here’s Ditties For Her Majesty…referencing the first Elizabeth rather than the current one…
So you like to think you can extract yer digit when required…but then you go somewhere that makes you realise what a hopeless slowcoach you are. Still here’s Priestly Acoreus, number ten in the water subset of my Landscape & Memory series. What with the first group of eighteen filed away, the eight others of this lot well advanced and fourteen of the eighteen of the final Rock lot underway not so shabby really (after all I only started this particular project a couple years back!). But of course I had to go and spoil it by visiting the Picasso at Tate Modern…and crossing Millennium Bridge on a fine Spring late afternoon I reflected on how inadequate me and lets face it, most of us are compared to real genius!
Sometimes it just gets going…and what a good thing too, or I doubt I’d bother. But just occasionally I get started on some new pieces and everything seems to jog along pretty well. So it is with the Rock pieces, third part of the Landscape & Memory project.
Of course tomorrow morning it may all turn to dust, that happens just as regularly!
Still as the light fades (and today was proper Spring until four this afternoon) I’ve these three plus five others that have seemingly got something I can work with. Tomorrow I’m out and about but it will be interesting to return to the studio first thing just to see how I feel about them…
I’m back working with some serious intent after a dose of ill health – and focussed on completing three bodies of work. The first of these is getting into the third and final part of the Landscape And Memory project, following on from the wood & water sections its onto rock. And an opportunity to review the working process. For the first part I pushed collaged elements about with pva and acrylic paint across the whole selection of papers (some 21 in total) and then began working up each one, selecting text components as I went. With the water work I’ve treated them piecemeal, with far fewer collaged elements, and it has been a far tougher ask. So back to the first way of working in this section.
It has me thinking over how much process impacts on the making of non-figurative work, something that maybe has a more profound influence on how paintings work out than might be imagined. How and why we choose elements, especially using collage, is fascinating to me. I try not to analyse it too much though in case I find myself shifting stuff around to ‘fit’ certain kinds of imagery….though hang on don’t these look mountainous! Just as I’m re-reading material focussed on the peaks of ranges, in the west and the east…and good grief now Schama is talking dragons…obviously I need to exercise caution now…
I’ve had quite a time of it recently…several bouts of mystery illness culminating in a nasty flu that still has something of a grip after a week…picked up ironically at our local A&E whilst I was waiting on a family member who was ill at the time! Best to stay away from hospitals if you can it seems. Today I’m feeling just a little more human, enough to review progress on the various projects I have on the go (regulars will know I keep far too many differing things in play than is sensible). Here is the second batch of the L’Histoire De L’Eau pictures – part two of the Landscape & Memory trilogy based very loosely on Schama’s book. Working with these is a curious process…whilst I have already chosen my eighteen texts some of the individual panels immediately suggest which one should accompany it but others much less so, to the point where some have to undergo drastic reworking to make them applicable. And of course as each text is taken this gets harder so that eventually (at least with part one, Waldgeschitchen ) I am forced to write out each remaining one and shift them around the panels till I can make it work (or in one or two extreme cases replace them altogether). I guess some might say – quite reasonably – this seems a cock-a-mamey way of going about things but its my way for better or worse.