Its hardly graft but I’m finding making the second half of the Wald series rather taxing…of course sometimes one has to just keep working through it and if I was as driven as I was thirty or so years back then the whole thing might be wrapped up in a very few sessions. As it is I keep prevaricating, then acting precipitously and screwing up, then having to rescue it, and going through the whole damn process again. In some cases it may be just this ‘history’ that brings something to the party, in others just the opposite. In any event I have to resolve another nine within the next three weeks or so.
But just as it was all seeming something of a chore along comes three things that add a little fillip to one’s day. Firstly we threw a party and a friend came along with a gift of three tiny paintings that are a joy. Secondly another friend recommended me for a quite prestigious collection. Lastly another friend bought a picture from our local gallery. These three have raised my spirits recently at (courtesy of them) is the end of what has been a testing period for my practice. I’m now experiencing the boost in confidence that is needed to crack this project. They know who they are…and I want to say thanks!
It’s difficult to post whilst one is on the move…especially when staying in charming, but very rural, French hotels where the wifi is quite fugitive. Although to be fair on this occasion of the thousand mile trek across Europe it worked pretty well and my absence online has been more a consequence of my mystery ankle injury. This has made walking quite difficult and more to the point made me tetchy and restless…and its that really has kept me away from my blog. I seem to be on the mend at last so I’m back!
Although my mobility is still a little restricted I’m getting on with some work. Plotting out the upcoming show at Harrington Mill ought to be taking precedence but as usual I can find plenty of other distractions to keep me from closing the deal. Alongside the large paper works that are concerned with woodlands I have the Playground Of The Midlands project, the ongoing Rough Cartography, more of the Wonky Geometry both on board and on paper, the 50’s Jazz pictures (quite a few of which need collecting from the recent outing at the Ashbourne Festival), the Lavanderia d’Italia, my Ragbags, lots of the TFTLR constructions and some related sculptural pieces! So hardly any wonder I struggle to focus on just one project at a time and it is hard to refute the notion that I’m always spreading my creative energies too thinly.
Like many other people in the UK I’m also totally perplexed and a little discomfited by the current political situation and tempted to give vent to my feelings here. However so much is being said by so many about it all (and most of it opinion and speculation) that I don’t see much point in adding to it. Nonetheless it is all adding to a terrible sense of turmoil and upheaval that certainly isn’t good for the soul. I pondered this recently whilst viewing Out Of Order, a large solo show by Michael Landy, currently at the Museum Tinguely in Basel. He’s an artist that I’ve rarely given any thought about…other than his famous Breakdown work (where, in case you don’t know, he destroyed all his possessions in a fortnight) and if I expected anything it was that it would be a ‘typical’ YBA stuffist show…lots of rather fey bits and bobs. In fact it turned out to be both a thoughtful and extraordinarily intelligent show with a lot of very accomplished ideas well executed. He had jumbled up work going back over twenty five or so years in a kind of warehouse landscape aesthetic lending a chaotic air to a body of work of real substance. Rather like Tinguely himself Landy uses this air of entropy to disguise much deeper feelings about values and our idea of worth. I came away with a great respect for an artist that operates in a diametrically opposite location to my own preoccupations.
And having had a day of looking at what Museum Tinguely and the three locations of the Basel Kunstmuseum had to offer I came away with little else that genuinely intrigued or challenged me. Of course there were plenty of examples of famous and not so famous works on display. They have, for example, some extraordinarily good examples of Picasso and plenty of big, and I do mean big in the case of Frank Stella, hitters from the post war period in the US. Maybe I’m jaded (yes let’s face it I am) but much of the ‘contemporary’ work of the past twenty or so years seems to be pale retreads of what came before. Sophisticated and polished perhaps (with the art market in mind of course) but without genuine feeling or emotion or even just that vague inchoate sense of discovery. And this sense of unease and numbness also infects my own creative process too.
Perhaps I just need to step away from it all. Whilst away I took this snap of a little drawing by Phil Thompson (owned by my friend with whom we were staying). Phil was a man of few words, I knew him mostly as the fella at the end of the public bar at the Griffin, but a terrifically talented artist when he minded to work. This tiny drawing owes a little something to the Circus pictures of Leger and others but is also quintessentially ‘Phil’. As we are often told history is written by the winners and art history is particularly cruel in that if the work is lost and destroyed then no amount of post hoc revision rehabilitates its quality. Over the past thirty or so years the self publicists and their pimps that have flooded the contemporary art market have ensured their initial longevity but not of course their place in the real history of art that only really forms a clear picture a century or two down the line. However I doubt Phil has any chance of posthumous recognition beyond the memories of those who knew him but we who do will continue to derive much pleasure from his work. So we take strength from that and keep on working.
So I must focus pretty quickly now on this sequence of pictures that use the idea of Wood as their central theme. For quite a few years I’ve been indebted to Simon Schama and his Landscape & Memory for some of my thinking about work. It was especially helpful to me whilst I undertook my major project for my photography Masters back in 2010. Now I’m back delving into section one and finding elements that resonate with the large paper panels that will be central to my installation at Harrington Mill in September. So far there are three completed, each with a quotation drawn from the text, though the images, as always with my work, are substantially intended to function away from the textual as much as hand in hand with it. Looking forward to completing the other fifteen panels that will make up the piece.
A bunch of newish pictures are shortly off to the Ashbourne Festival. Although they are related to the series ‘Winter Cycle’ they take the idea of the geometric exploration as their starting point and have proceeded by way of fifties and sixties Jazz album design muddled and befuddled by some riffs drawn from that charming strain of modernist design of the the nineteen fifties. At the core of this has been a desire to complicate the frame further and extend the range and nature of the forms and especially the colour relationships.
Whether any of this is either of interest or assistance to the potential audience is debatable – indeed it is always rather nerve wracking putting paintings of this kind into a context of a show where most of the work is of a fairly traditional and conventional character. But of course like most artists I want to see my work out there. For many years I didn’t think it mattered a great deal but in the past few years (as old age creeps on apace perhaps!) it seems more important to me.
I’m taking a break from this series now…although in my ‘bitty’ way there are several others in process that I guess I’ll come back to at some point in the future. Not least because come the end of the week we are off to Italy for three or four weeks…and quite what I’ll make there I haven’t the faintest idea yet.
That said we are taking some lino cutting gear with us…now that’s something I haven’t worked with for many a long year now!
Its been another longish gap since I posted here. This time lengthened by the rare occurrence in my life nowadays…a virtually full week at work. For last week I was mostly at BGU in Lincoln assisting our final cohort in mounting their degree exhibition – represented above by Beckey Shudell’s ‘Luck of the Draw’. As this was our last cohort (for inexplicable reasons the powers that be have shut the Visual Arts pathway) it means my time as a Visiting Tutor there comes to a close. So ends another, highly enjoyable, chapter in my career – if you can call my bewildering range of employments a career -and as above its time to roll the dice again and see what comes up…as the one thing I’m sure about is that I don’t intend taking permanently to my slippers just yet!
in your soul…is one of my favourite Charles Mingus tunes. And as one of the sound tracks of the painting process for these ‘Jazz’ pictures what could be more appropriate? They are going on show at the Ashbourne Festival starting on 17th June.
Before that the first two ‘Ragbags’ pop up in the Precious Little show at HMS and that opens on May 22nd. A fair few more will be featured in the show I’m putting on at HMS in September “All My Senses At Once’ where I dare say a few of these “Jazz’ pictures will also be displayed. Up until relatively recently I really never bothered a great deal with exhibiting. When showing opportunities came along all well and good but I rarely sought them out. In my thirties and into my forties that meant a heck of a lot of work was made and never exhibited and, although more things happened whilst I worked in HE Art & Design, that had been the case up until five or ten years back when I started to think that maybe, just maybe, it would be nice to make stuff that people might see!
So if you can come along to one of these three outings (I’m doubting there will be no more opportunities in 2016) and take a look…after all I’ve been fiddling around with these for months (though you might not think so) so it would be nice for them to be seen.
Fifteen works on paper, 94 x 107 cm., Acrylic on paper, collage…all in progress but clearly an upside to the digital age is that its a very simple matter to be able to review where the whole shebang is on screen. And its a strange thing (that I know several others have observed) that looking at these things on screen as well as in the flesh is quite helpful to thinking through where they need to go next.
More of the work as it progresses…or so one hopes…and turned, as seems fit, to landscape format. And I swear its a fact as these images loaded iTunes put Wild Wood by Paul Weller into my headphones….so thats now the title of the series too…
And I say, “Climbing forever trying”
You’re gonna find your way out
Of the wild wild wood
Say that, you’re gonna find your way out
Of the wild wild wood, of the wild wild wood
At least that’s what I imagine we would like to hear…that and the sound of other jingle bells. Its the Harrington Mill Studios Xmas Sale and like Banquo I’ve been invited to be at the feast, albeit I left the studios twelve months back. It’s really lovely to be asked. So there’s plenty of work, paintings, prints, jewellery and other art objects to be perused and all at prices between £25 and £100. It’s all on show from 12noon to 3 o’clock in the afternoon each Sunday for the next four weeks (22 & 29 Nov. and 6 & 13 Dec.).
I’ve plucked out six or so works on paper from four series, Mirrors & Tides from 2001/2, La Terrace Au Printemps from 2007, Deadly Delicious from 2011/12 and the current Wonky Geometries. All as cheap as…!
Another in the Winter Cycle series. Good to have time to focus on these properly…and hopefully complete it shortly. Though today was the best fun in several weeks – a trip to Leeds with my pal…and a mixed bag of work including a room full of 80’s paintings including this one from Bruce McLean…memory lane indeed and it looked pretty fresh too.