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..!
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.)
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.
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!
It has been my privilege to have known some great artists, some recognised and others less so, and I’ve worked with many on a variety of projects. No I didn’t know Ken Dodd who sadly died recently but I do know the wonderful photographer Richard Sadler (known to many as ‘the man who shot Weegee’). Some years back I put together a book of Richard’s b&w photos that featured a selection of images of ‘Doddy’ and, given the mischievous characters of both the sitter and the photographer, it’s no surprise that they are amongst the best representations of the comedian. So much so that one is represented in the National Portrait Gallery.