how things collide in your head during this isolation (I’m still too frit to properly venture out) especially as contacts with others is confined.So just as I begin sorting out the next substantial project – based on Alexandra Harris’ Weatherland – I find its concerns reverberatingin my thinking with Chapter Three of Jeff Young’s Ghost Town.I’d spent a good deal of a day siftingthrough the former arranging a series of quotations by others that Harris had used to be the framework on which my series will hang.Literally insofar as they are ranged around the perimeter of the canvases I’m intending.And then this very morning I find Jeff musing on the importance of weather…”The weather is memory and memory is the weather. It seeps into this place, becomes layered into it. The meteorology of memory.”And whilst I had been attracted to a brief passage from the introduction to Weatherland as the title of my sequence “I have tried to hang a mirror in the sky” my wife pointed out its connection to a title I have used before ‘Nothing But Mirrors And Tides’ (that stolen from Anne Michaels wonderful Fugitive Pieces for a solo show at Derby Museum nearly two decades back) and I’d already thought it perhaps overlong.And now – glory be – it seems that not only have I a marvellous title ‘The Meteorology Of Memory’ but those few words also crystallise the core of my thinking behind these paintings.
Because unlike the three series that comprised the reflections on Schama’s Landscape & Memory (Waldgeschichten, L’Histoire de L’Eau and Rock Of Ages) where the impulses for the form of each work preceded and then ran alongside the textual content here I have zoomed in on the texts (setting them in a framework of the months of the year) and hope to evoke memories, form, colours and reflections of each month as it unfolds.At least in the conception of the work as a whole because, unlike my normal way of working, I intend to make a sketch or cartoon (if you wish!) for each painting before making the full size work.Within this sits another secret source of imagery drawn both from my own reservoir of images and ones stolen from other observers of the world around them…something that has become so easy since the advent of the digital when everyone is a photographer of some (albeit) occasional distinction.
five years back I was heavily engaged in putting together a show of Kevin Coyne‘s art. If you don’t know Kevin was a ‘cult’ musician (i.e. little commercial success but feted by several critics and other musicians and suchlike – John Peel was an early champion) but also an artist and writer. He was a proud son of Derby and a group of three, his longtime pal Paul Warren, filmmaker Doug Smith and myself, put together a modest exhibition at Deda, the dance based arts centre in the city on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death.
We crowdfunded the thing and included a small catalogue as part of the ‘rewards’. And as part of the catalogue the excellent Jeff Young allowed me to use a lovely piece he had penned for The Guardian feature ‘The greatest albums you’ve never heard’. This is all by way of a shameless plug for Jeff’s marvellous memoir Ghost Town. It arrived this morning but I had to be out early and have only now been able to tuck into it. But even after the few pages of the first chapter its contents are as great as the production values of the Little Toller imprint – first rate.
And whilst I was ordering Jeff’s book I recalled a conversation back in February when I was at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery giving a talk on Charles Howard (an obsession of mine). A couple came up at the end & mentioned their research on Clifford Webb. I think the chap mentioned a book he had recently completed on him…and Little Toller published, last year, a marvellous volume on Webb…whether it’s author – Simon Brett – was the man I met I cannot be certain (February seems an awful long time ago now!). But the book is, like Jeff’s, beautifully produced and I’m looking forward to it immensely now I’ve purchased it alongside Ghost Town.
It’s the series that keeps on giving…but I am bringing it to an end. It was always going to be tough figuring it out. But the fact of fitting 45 into each box (and only being four such) suggests 180 is it. The pile of potential pieces keeps going so now some thought will have to go into what to do with the seventy or more pieces that will be ‘remaindered’!
Goodness – this strange time of ‘lockdown’ has seen something of a lack of productivity on the blogging front. I very nearly let a month slip by without a post…not that there’s been any shortage of work going on. On the contrary it’s been quite a busy time what with an absence of movement out of the studio. And despite suggestions to the contrary I notice a marginal increase in COVID cases over this week rather being over shadowed by exhortations by the ‘powers that be’ that we all go shopping alongside a return to work. In any event I’m going nowhere until I’m personally sure the risk is significantly lessened so the painting likely to continue at a lick. This picture draws on another poem (with its rather prescient title) by the great Tomas Transtromer.
at least I’m not spending cash during ‘lockdown’…rather revisiting and reworking stuff I’ve had kicking about the place. For example there’s my large series of TFTLR that have been ‘repurposed’ (what a ghastly word!) as Paintings Standing Up. I’m also unearthing the ‘failed’ pictures on paper from my earlier virus series and jollying them up to show a tad of insouciance in the face of the you know what…
Though I think I ought to write something about current practice presently I keep recalling this quote from Proust…”Authentic art has no need for proclamations…it accomplishes its work in silence”. So I’ll just shut up for once.
The sun has made a welcome return and…ta da! I’ve filled Box Three of my Wonky Geometry series. I’m happy about this on two counts – as not only does it mean only one to go (admittedly an arbitrary self-imposed diktat) but also it’s been (with five other items) on my annual targets for work production for the year. Perhaps lockdown will see me complete all five this year (rather than has habitually been the case several being rolled over to the following year). Then again maybe at some point we may be allowed out again!
inevitably it’s becoming a tad irritating being confined to barracks even if, as most of us are, artists are quite solitary. So time to scrub about in the corners of projects forgotten or abandoned in some way. So it is with the Rough Cartography. An explanation (of sorts) for this one can be found here. I’ve gathered the lot (well all those I bothered to take photos of) together in one place, fiddled with them digitally (who’d have imagined back in the 1970’s any of that malarkey would be possible) prepping them for a – yes a publication (something else that seemed damned difficult as well as expensive back then.
So The Map Room is in production now with a publication date set for early summer…betcha can’t wait!
‘Lockdown’ is increasingly feeling like being inside of Auster‘s wonderful (and as it turns out prescient) novel. And hereabouts I’m digging around in the tight spaces of those things either abandoned or discarded. But every cloud etc. So more Paintings Standing Up are mushrooming into life!