This is the chosen title for the 2010/11 project in my ongoing series of paintings related to and influenced by the use of digital imaging. It is a translation of the latin text ‘Ex Terra Opes’, the motto of the district of North West Leicestershire in which my home is located. Over the past decade or so I have produced three major series of similar works, each based on visits to or observations of other places, France, Italy, Ireland and Japan. From The Earth Wealth adopts the same processes and techniques but applies them to the locality with which I am much more intimately connected. Although the works are derived from the individual locations within the district, some 45 in number (taken from the map sourced within the 1977 District Guide), they do not seek to represent them. The paintings and their accompanying digitally derived work exist in their own right as both images and objects
From The Earth Wealth was exhibited for the first time in July/August 2011 at the Tarpey Gallery, itself located within the District. To follow the development of this body of work please click here
All 57 pictures from the series…all oil on either linen or canvas and a standard size of 30 x 40 cms.
INFLUENCES ON THE PROJECT
I wrote the following text to accompany the exhibition at the request of the Gallery Manager, Luke Tarpey:
This body of work is named using the motto of the district of North West Leicestshire, in the Latin “Ex Terra Opes”. Although the works are in no way intended as representations of each of the settlements in the district they are each named after one and derive, in part, their imagery and formal characteristics from digitally manipulated images made after photographs taken at the individual locations.
Previous bodies of work have been inspired by visits to other places, near and far away, but this is the first project that examines the context in which I live and work. From being impressions these are lived in experience of the place with which I have become very familiar over some twenty-five years.
In developing this body of work I spent a good deal of time mulling over the past century or so of the development of painting from a (disputably) representational art of portraiture, Still life, genre and landscape into a ‘purer’ idea of the abstract. For example one canvas owes as much to a close reading of a Paul Cézanne I saw at the Courtauld Institute as it does the source images from the chosen location. In its evolution No. 53 Ravenstone dark blues clashed with pungent cadmium orange overlaid by an equally fierce emerald green. Allowing these more intense colour schemes into the work takes the pictures firmly out of the representational arena – rural Leicestershire in the deep winter rarely reveals such strong colour intensity. In the final picture much of this history is hidden from view but its still there.
I found myself meditating more and more on the less illuminated corners of painting practice over the past century or so, in particular those abstract artists of the inter War era and the post- War Ecole de Paris. Undoubtedly this put me at odds not only with much contemporary art activity (in which painting as a whole is rather marginalized) but also with many of my fellow painters. Non-representational painting is quite unfashionable particularly where it is divorced from process and in part because the references are so far away from the current mainstream. I was drawn more and more towards the work of Paul Klee and of artists for whom his example was especially important. Werner Haftman noted that Klee was often thought of as something of a maverick ‘one off’ but actually he formed something of a touchstone for quite a number of painters, Roger Bissière (French b.1886 d. 1964) paramount amongst them but through him Alfred Manessier, (French, b.1911 d. 1993) and his friend the little known (in the UK certainly) Gustave Singier (Belgian, b.1909 d. 1983). I recalled a small motif from a Singier canvas (seen somewhere in a chapel in rural France) that he abstracted from a harbour scene in Holland that quite randomly popped into my head as I toyed with what to fill the dark space I had created on the left side of No. 10 Castle Donington…and so it appears.
Oblique references to both Bissière and Manessier appear in several of the pictures, No. 37 Oakthorpe, No. 49 Ashby de la Zouch – Alternate, and No. 56 Donisthorpe – Alternate amongst them.
No. 42 Swepstone makes a very direct reference to the Scottish painter William Gear (b. 1915 d. 1997), Gear studied in Fernand Legér’s studio in Paris just before the second World War, and so connects directly to the classic period in the development of abstraction. My own connection to Gear (he was Head of School at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design when I studied there in 1974-5) encourages further readings
I have always especially admired the paintings of Serge Poliakoff, (Russian, b.1906 d. 1969) and No. 13 Moira is very close to the stylistic manner of this artist. Several other works derive one or two motifs, and occasionally stylistic references, to artists associated to the Cobra movement (named after the locations of its main adherents, Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam in 1948 and primarily active till the mid 50’s) such as Karel Appel (Dutch b.1921 d. 2006) and Asger Jorn (Danish b.1914 d.1973). Gear was also (briefly) associated with this group as was another Scottish artist Stephen Gilbert (b. 1910 d. 2007) from whom ideas in No. 21 Snarestone and No. 47 Peggs Green have associations.
No. 2 Coleorton owes something to the work of Alberto Magnelli, (Italian, b.1888 d. 1971), No. 51 Packington to Bram Van Velde, (Dutch b.1895 d. 1981). The underlying idea for No. 41 Normanton le Heath is drawn from Winifred Nicholson (English, b. 1893 d. 1981), although the colour palette is much muted.
Other artists that popped into my head over the course of this project and whose works and influences are present in some way or another included Jean Deyrolle, (French, b.1922 to 1967) and Jean Dewasne, (French, b.1921 d. 1999), Judit Reigl, (Hungarian, b. 1927) and another of my old teachers, Michael Finn, (English, b.1921 to 2002). Many others are crowded into my painting brain space – Paul Nash, Matthew Smith, William Scott, Peter Lanyon, were early inspirations to me as a boy (on show at the Museum in Exeter) and remain with me, the great figures of American painting from the 50’s and 60’s (although they were less evident in my thinking on this project), and current painters of my generation, Olav Christopher Jenssen and Juan Uslè especially and the abiding example of Thomas Nozkowski.
Finally No. 48 Long Whatton is a direct, cheeky and irreverent (and probably rather poorly painted!) ‘homage’ to the great modern master himself…but I guess everyone spotted that one!
David Manley July 2011