Truckin’ On…

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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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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.

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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. 

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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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.

Many a good tune…

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The Fidler, 66″ x 22″ x 25″, rescued timbers & jesmonite, 2017

well its been an interesting week…generally I make it a rule nowadays not to enter competitions. My only exceptions over the past decade has been the Moores (out of habituation, I’ve been doing it since the early 70’s) and the CBP because a goodly number of painters I respect have been party to this set up since it began around 2012. So it was something of a punt that I found myself entering and then – surprisingly – being short listed for the Threadneedle Prize for figurative art with a sculpture. Oh yes…quite a surprise for anyone who knows my work as being a) resolutely abstract and b) almost exclusively painting. It came about by capricious accident, my wife (a previous prizewinner in this same competition) was entering it one morning as the deadline approached and a tad mischievously suggested that one of my Paintings Standing Up (the series yet to be fully resolved) might pass muster as ‘figuration’. Well it was true that it was around the right height for a figure and that the violin mounted onto the ‘torso’ projected from it around the right angle for being played. Adding a dodecahedron on top and two boots below and…é viola you have The Fidler.

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So being shortlisted required delivery to the Mall Galleries last Saturday morning, a round trip of 236 miles that went surprisingly well and, being a gloriously warm sunny day for late October, was augmented by a visit to Tate Modern. So far so good but, hey, not that surprisingly, a rejection followed on this past Thursday that, you’ve guessed it, meant another journey this Saturday. Not such a breeze as first the weather was wet, dark and greasy all the way down and secondly Regent Street was closed requiring a work around the centre of town to reach The Mall. This time we turned tail and headed back ‘ome straightaway. I’ve no complaints – you shouldn’t enter these things if you’re not prepared to be knocked back but, gawd, its been a bit knackering!

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sketch for Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into The Future

Oddly enough the trip to Tate was to take in the Ilya & Emilia Kabakov show – the central element of which (and that gives it the title) is Not Everyone Will Be Taken IntoThe Future…in this installation the ‘Art’ train is leaving the station carrying those works deemed ‘good enough’ whilst a heap of canvases etc. are left spilling over the platform…to which we might now add The Fidler!