Figuring out…

FullSizeRenderMy Rough Cartography series is such a long standing practice that it seems now just habitual. Wherever and whenever I’m somewhere away from home I pick up those freebie tourist maps and once back in the studio they are pasted into one of the sketch books. Over time…lots of it!…they are gradually painted in.  Why I do it I’m not at all sure but the letter below maybe gives some kind of clue to it.

Dear old friend,
Today you would have reached pensionable age but, as things go, sadly you’re not here to celebrate. Later I will raise a silent glass for you. I remember back when we were still youngish men sitting and discussing making work, why we do it and what it means. You asked me about my peculiar habit of keeping scraps of maps in my sketchbooks and colouring them in…and us both laughing at my complete inability to explain any purpose behind it. Well I think I may be on my way to understanding now. Not bad eh, its only been thirty plus several years after all!
Its something (if I understand it properly) contained within an essay in the catalogue for Contemporary Masters From Britain – a show of 80 paintings touring China from the Priseman-Seabrook Collection. Dr. Judith Tucker suggests that painting retains a capacity to capture our attention precisely because of its materiality; its “sensuous, viscous quality” as she puts it. This is coupled in the essay with a notion of painting as “quasi-subject”; a site in which bodily experience of the artist in making the work is somehow a residue within this materiality. I think it may be at the very least something to do with these ideas that keep me, all these years later, fiddling with those damn maps.
I’m also dwelling on the good fortune that allows me to keep working and how, over time, opportunities present themselves through a myriad of circumstances. It’s in my mind because of the show just mentioned. Its been through recommendation (and I owe thanks to the talented Terry Greene for that) that I’m part of this exhibition. Other possibilities open up and suggest themselves too.  I suspect that over the past decade or so you would have cemented your reputation not least because of the way in which your last works were opening up new avenues and directions. Amongst the many things I miss is the opportunity to have argued and wrestled with these ideas and outcomes that never happened.
With affection and remembrance,

Scan

More information on Paul Mason can be found on my blog on him here.

Contemporary Masters From Britain is available through Amazon.  The show opens at the Yantai Art Museum on 7th July 2017 and runs till 3rd August before moving to Nanjing.

Terry Greene’s blog is a must for all contemporary painters!

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Relocation

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As one gets older you begin to realise how quickly time passes and how much things change (shades of Dylan again…).  One day (and it doesn’t seem so long ago) I accompanied the sculptor Paul Mason on a trip across to Clipsham just north of Rutland Water to see him finishing off a new work in stone – Leaf Fields.

This piece had been commissioned by Hertfordshire’s RIBA branch to be sited in the county – there were (I now have discovered) three potential locations for it but the one chosen was St. Albans and, specifically, adjacent to the Alban Arena (appropriately enough designed by Sir Freddie Gibberd, a long time supporter of Paul’s work).  Like so much public art its life has been marked by both love & devotion and hostility & admonishment, and often just plain neglect.  Luckily for this piece it has its protectors – in particular those pictured above, foremost among them Professor Chris McIntyre of Herts University (centre in picture) who was instrumental in having it relocated a short way from its original site.

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Of course the passage of time has given the creamy Clipsham limestone a deal of patina, some mosses and lichen.  Whether or not this ought to be removed when it is finally re-sited (due to happen in a few years when a new City Centre Museum & Visitor Centre, – an ambitious redevelopment of the Town Hall – will be completed is a debatable point.  What it does prove beyond any doubt is that a relatively short passage of time, just over thirty years, and nature reasserts its primacy over culture.