Truckin’ On…

Honfleur
Etienne, Catherine, Leonard, Acrylic & watercolour on paper, 130 x 90, 2018

Trucking’ On…Time passes, and seems to do so with increasing rapidity as one ages.  It seems only a few weeks back that it was Christmas and we are rapidly approaching the longest day of the year after which, as my dear old mother was fond of saying, the nights will start drawing in.  I often feel that I don’t get much work made in a year but perhaps thats simply because I dither about making pieces (like the one above) that take for ever to get to a point that I’m (more or less) happy with.  This is the final outcome of the three banners that were to have gone to Honfleur (see previous posts).  Whether or not they may be able to be shown in the return leg exhibition is a moot point as space will likely be at a premium.  In the end I titled them after the three major churches of the town of Honfleur that I viewed one morning from the town’s best vantage point, Mont Jolie.

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And today I’m even more aware of time passing as its ten years since Esjborn Svensson died, tragically in an accident.  E.S.T. were always one of my favourite bands since I first came across them in the early 1990’s and his death was a sad reminder of tempus fugit.  All the more so a decade on.  Yesterday I played the above discs as I worked but today the maudlin’ might be a tad too much. So let’s just keep truckin’ on…

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Ah what bliss!

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Ah what bliss!

With nowt worth watching on terrestrial telly nowadays I was drawn to The Trip to Italy last evening. On retiring my wife suggested I shouldn’t be so envious of funds as I’d expressed, quite forcibly, the desire to sample some of the venues visited in the programme…and I agreed that actually I was doing alright enough with our requiring 500+€ a night accommodation in the Med (not that it wouldn’t be fun…).  This came back to me this morning with the Mediterranean weather of late having deserted us for ‘typical’ English summer (cold, wet and windy) and I decided to bring a small banner work into the kitchen where I can work on it in the warmth.  Along with a pot of decent coffee and a soundtrack of Corrie Dick’s wonderful ‘Impossible Things album life doesn’t get any better…

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As it happens Corrie turns up on the new Dinosaur album…notionally Laura Jurd’s band but I reckon now truly a collective effort with – certainly Corrie’s input – but also as intense a presence from the other two members, Elliot Galvin on synths and Conor Chaplin on bass. Together they have made some especially extraordinary music this time around, not that their first album wasn’t a great piece of work (recognised with a Mercury nomination). But this one is a peach mixing jazz with, well, just about everything, all sorts of influences from sixties UK jazz (think Gilles Peterson’s Impressed samplers), through roots folk, to heavy metal riffs all bound together with Laura’s superb trumpet work that has a fluency and lyricism blended with an edge that evidences her understanding of the very best contemporary jazz phrasing and technique.

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Anyway enough of the music reviews (probably best left to better ears than mine) and back to the paintings. As it happens I’m less focussed on the pictures at present (they seem mercifully to be taking care of themselves both colour and structure wise at the moment) and more thinking about presentation. Originally they were to be proper scrolls with canvas backing and rollers but then I decided to go with framing, cropped to the edges in a white stain wood. But now I’m considering an even more expensive solution, plain oak with a mount – go figure! (and not so much bliss…)

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!

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

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.

Privileged…

to have been part of the extraordinary adventure that was stimulated by, and masterminded by, Robert Priseman.  I have Terry Greene to thank for suggesting I contact Robert over a year or so ago and beginning my own small part of what has been quite an amazing story.

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Robert Priseman

It was the exchange of paintings, mine from the Very Like Jazz series and the gift of a lovely panel picture from Robert in return, that led to the invitation to be included in Contemporary Masters From Britain currently on show at Tianjin Academy of Fine Art having visited three other large Chinese venues since the summer. Tianjin is, apparently, the sixth largest city on the planet! and I’m ashamed to say that until recently I’d not even heard of it. Things in the world are changing fast it seems.

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Tianjin Academy of Fine Art

Being a part of this tour that ends in January is only a small part of being in the Priseman-Seabrook collection as it features on the Art UK website and is an on-going venture that unites a great many of our best painters. It’s been good to meet and get to know artists such as Lucy Cox, Freya Purdue and several others…and hopefully more in the future.

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Someone looking at my painting! and also in the photo from left to right, works by Susan Gunn, Terry Greene, Julie Umerle,Mary Webb, mine, Freya Purdue, Julian Brown & Paul Newman

Its helped me over recent weeks as I’ve been feeling unwell and am still struggling with a (so far) mystery ailment that is severely restricting my productivity.  Not least in keeping up this blog as well as getting on with my painting. I had hoped to end the year with at least two current bodies of work pretty much rounded off, but sadly they both have a way to go yet. So it goes.

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detail from sketch for Honfleur panels, December, 2017

Nonetheless the New Year already promises fresh opportunities. Firstly my good friends Jackie Berridge invited me to be a part of an exchange with artists in the Honfleur area of Northern France in April.   As a long time fan of Boudin, a local boy made good, it was too good to miss. And another friend the excellent painter (and printmaker) Laine Tomkinson is putting on a show in Nottingham Make Colour Sing in May so much to look forward too.

Painting in Schaldewage

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Our Studio Open Day…painting by Sarah R. Key (left) two of mine on the right

Imagine its around 1420 and a ship is sailing north, away from the leading Hanseatic League port of Bergen, having left Bremen or Hamburg some time ago, and making for Hillswick, its destination to trade goods for salted fish, lamb and skins.  Although on the last leg of its long journey it espies rough weather from the west and puts into the natural harbour of Schaldewage or Scalloway as we now know it. At that time the place is part of the Norse rule of the Islands, in fact it is only a couple miles south of Tingaholm, the Thing, where laws are debated and enforced.  Until a century and a half later when Earl Robert Stewart moves it to the town, where twenty or so years on his son Patrick Stewart (presumably before becoming ‘Professor Charles Xavier’ or Jean Luc Picard – ha ha) builds his spanking new castle in the ‘town’ and the ‘ancient capital’ of the Islands.  The town sits on the bottom end of the Nesting Fault, a splay of the Walls Boundary Fault, itself possibly connected to the great Glen Fault.

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So The Booth is situated in an immensely rich and interesting location.  Literally on the edge of the fault, the Castle a few yards away, the water of the harbour right below our window. Do learning about any of these things influence the production of abstract paintings I wonder? I’m just one of many artists who occasionally talk airily about ‘a sense of place’…but what does it actually mean?  I’m ploughing my way, painfully slowly, through Mary Jacobus’s Reading Cy Twombly (its a very rich and rewarding book but requires a great deal of contextual understandings!) and she quotes from Shelley “Naught may endure but mutability” in regard to Twombly’s Letter of Resignation.  The line has resonances for me every time I look up and out into the harbour and the ocean road beyond it…the sea and its ever changing moods and cadences.  And perhaps its that, more than anything, that creates ‘a sense of place’.

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