Enough Already…

As we start to whoosh through 2019 (I can’t quite believe we’re in February already) I realise that my way of making work makes for an uncomfortable feeling of dread…

The endless prevarications could see me shuffling off this mortal coil without completing some of my many projects unless I get my digit extracted!  For a while, 2 or 3 years back, I instigated a schedule for the year ahead to be sure of getting through work with some discipline, and it worked to a degree though inevitably crumbling a bit at the back end of each year.  

Enough is Definitely Enough poster

And then the unexpected comes up to further disrupt things.  Of course one can (and occasionally does) turn them aside.  But some are just too intriguing to disregard.  So it was with Enough is Definitely Enough another fascinating and compelling project from Andrew Bracey.

I’ll let him explain: 

Over 40 contemporary artists have made new artworks in response to a postcard version of Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas for an exhibition at General Practice in Lincoln. Enough is Definitely Enough’ which opens on 30 March and runs to 13 April, features a huge variety of different artistic responses to the Spanish painter’s masterpiece – arguably the most widely interpreted of all paintings.

Art Historian Daniel Arasse reflected many people’s view that everything, or perhaps even nothing, has been said about Las Meninas -“what’s the difference, enough is definitely enough!”. The artists in the exhibition build upon previous interpretations by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Richard Hamilton, Francesco Goya and Eve Sussman. Artists have long been actively influenced by the centuries old painting by Velázquez; with their responses, in turn, offering influence back to Las Meninas to enable new readings. With the artworks made for Enough is Definitely Enough’ there is potential for new relationships with Velasquez’s original painting to open up.

The exhibition is curated by Andrew Bracey and forms part of his PhD research at the University of Lincoln. He is exploring how contemporary artists have used and appropriated existing paintings by other artists, through a position of using the metaphor of the parasite and symbiosis in connection with painting.

Whether or not my contribution is parasitical, symbiotic or just plain daft you’ll have to pop along to Lincoln to judge…

Made in Britain

And it isn’t just requests for contributions to projects that pop up.  As part of the Priseman-Seabrook Collection initiative another show of selected works including my own opens in the Polish city of Gdansk in mid March with the title of Made In Britain.  It seemed too good a opportunity not to visit for the opening, not least as Poland is a country I’ve never visited.  So its off to one of the seminal sites in the resistance to communist rule in Eastern Europe.

In the detail

Rock Crushedit’s often in the detail that you get a proper idea of what something is about.  I was re-reading my friend Andrew Bracey‘s excellent catalogue for his detail exhibition where he quotes the painter Malcolm Morley saying that it was in the detail, very close detail indeed that the energy of the painting resided.  Maybe its so…I just started out on the Rock sub set of my Landscape & Memory series…and thought it would be interesting – at the early stage of each of the eighteen works – to take a detail from each.  What it tells me who knows…but anyway I’m studying them nonetheless.

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Besides getting on with this project – I’ve set myself a deadline of Christmas to have the lot completed – I’m also setting a harder deadline for the Playground Of The Midlands sub project (the Charnwood leg of the Leicestershire set that began years back with the From The Earth Wealth (aka North West Leics) group.  The third leg of this one – Painting The Town Red, the Melton district – got started at a lick last Spring and then fizzled out towards the end of May. So yesterday myself and my partner in crime Simon rebooted and got over to Bottesford, the most northerly outpost, to begin the task of completing the set.  It has to be admitted that as we plough through what will end up being over two hundred plus settlements across the county it gets harder to find distinctive features  in the many sleepy small villages we encounter!  As often mentioned before head over to Simon’s blog for the decent photos – me I settle for tatty aide memoires for what will become the paintings.  So above is a photo from Bottesford…and below the painting that resulted from a trip, quite a long time back now, to Hathern.

Hathern
Hathern, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm., 2018

There’s the rub…

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Wonky Geometry No. 24, Acrylic & oil on paper, 27 cm. square, June 2017

I can’t abide waste with materials…so I’m an inveterate hoarder. Several of my ‘projects’ are the consequence of this compulsion. The Waldgeschitchen series began by raiding my box of failed paintings on paper and pasting bits onto fresh paper, the Lavanderia idea utilises canvas offcuts and the Tales From The Lumber Room recycles all manner of wood bits and bobs (both of these still in process right now). But the sheer volume of failed paper pieces some time back forced me into drastic action. I had acquired four rather lovely boxes some 27 cm. square and began to trim and re assemble pieces with an ambition to fill them with a new series of small works. This increasing avalanche has the title of Wonky Geometry and they sit somewhere between the more straitjacketed Geometry paintings (some of which can still be seen at The Crypt in St. Marylebone Church until 30th June) and my Very Like Jazz works (and the Winter Cycle that preceded them). And the voluminous quantity liberates them a good deal. I’ve tried not to be precious or hidebound with them…I’ve even co-opted some of the existing imagery, not only my own but occasionally that of my children and others. Whether there is any genuine quality alongside their undoubted quantity – well theres the rub as William had Hamlet remark.

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Wonky Geometry No. 16, ink & acrylic on paper, 27 cm. square, May 2017

Of the show in Marylebone its worth reminding that there is a discussion this coming Friday week (9th June) at 3pm. If nothing else its an opportunity to chat with several of the exhibitors including myself and the show’s curators Lucy Cox & Freya Purdue.

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detail, Six Miles High, 72 x 48 cm., Acrylic on aluminium, 2017

And another shameless plug – one of the Geo series Six Miles High – is featured on the Auction blog set up by the artist Andrew Bracey. He has assembled quite a cast list for this charity event inspired by the death of his father last year and in support of Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital. A really worthwhile cause and the opportunity to pick up a work by some great artists at bargain prices.

In the details…

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It seems that busy times never leave you.  I keep thinking that the weeks ahead look fairly clear but then they approach full of activity.  This past week has seen me out on the stump (standing in our local elections…and yes I brought this on myself), teaching in Lincoln, up in Manchester and back in Lincoln for the symposium organised by Andrew Bracey to accompany the last days of the detail exhibition.  One shouldn’t complain – its good to be active – but sometimes there’s just a feeling that the work may suffer if there’s too many distractions?   Doubt and uncertainty are surely at the heart of any contemporary painter with pretentions to a level of seriousness. This came into focus at yesterdays symposium where each of the painters on the podium posed questions about either their own or other artists work whilst, it seemed to me, the one speaker without a practice as a painter (but rather as a commentator) tended to couch his responses to the work under discussion (that of Iain Andrews) with far more certainly and clarity than I’d have wished.  I suspect that one or two members of the audience (who voiced earlier concerns that the event wasn’t properly focussed on the explication of painting) may have found this reassuring.  From discussions with several of those painters part of the exhibition and in attendance at the event I’m confident that they, like me, are only confident that we aren’t confident about where serious contemporary painting  is at!

The event was good fun and gave an opportunity to meet up with a few other painters that one felt one knew but only in the digital realm.  For me it was good to be able to say hello to Ruth Philo, whose marvellously pellucid pictures I’ve admired in several shows, and to catch up with Richard Waring, whom I’d met some years back but lost sight of, a painter with a fluid yet sure touch and excellent eye.  I was there with my wife, and my pals John and Louisa…it was a good day…I gave Andrew one of my little ‘Place’ pieces as a thanks for the whole detail project (that must have been quite a job!) and took this detail of his detail in detail

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When you feel sluggish get out and about!

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Maybe it’s the new year, the change of studio, the weather or simply my mood but getting into the work seems hard at the moment.  There’s a series of small canvases and boards that I’m rather struggling with both as regards form and content.  I usually try to work through these periods but since the new year I’ve been heavily engaged in avoidance strategies rather than getting stuck in.  Amongst these getting out and about and seeing other work is probably one of the better ways of spending time.  It helps to see what’s out there and often feeds ideas and even technical tips back into ones practice – when you get down to it.  Earlier in the week past I took a trip to Nottingham Castle Museum.  Partly to take in the annual Open but more critically for me to check out Andrew Bracey‘s ReconFigure project.  Andrew is one of the region’s most prolific artists and has developed a reputation for original and thoughtful shows that engage in current debates around painting (possibly as an ‘expanded field’ though I think that expression ghastly!).  One of the things that I found interesting was his use of the triangle as the most basic shape that could be deployed as a masking device to obliterate the figures in the historical paintings – co-incidently I’ve been using several basic shapes as ground in these panel pictures (and in a series of ‘Conversation Pieces’ last autumn).  He suggests the use of the device as in part a means of focussing the viewer on the backgrounds, as those parts of works where the grounds are often the least carefully treated (or least regarded) aspects of the pictures.  In my panels I’m seeing these grounds as a regularising force to bring the viewer back to the gestural forms that populate the centre space and create some kind of tension between the two. What seeing his pictures did for me was to get me thinking about how much more I could do to get this ‘oscillation’ moving about in a more dynamic way.  In Andrew’s pieces he deploys colour and tonality in a much more lurid fashion than I have been doing but it has encouraged me to think about breaking out of the close toned (and dare one say rather too polite) arrangements.  The Castle show was due to finish this weekend but I understand it has been extended…best check to find out how long but certainly worth a visit.

In the detail…

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Here is my detail…centre image, bottom row…in the (detail) exhibition in Thailand earlier in the year.  The juxtaposition of 144 artists individually chosen images of one of their works is interesting and frankly a wee bit crazy when used a cladding in a gallery that culturally is quite a distance from a classic ‘white cube’.  How it will look in something (a bit) more akin to that we will see when it opens at Transition Gallery in the studios on Regents Canal in a couple weeks time. Grateful thanks are due to Andrew Bracey whose energy fuels this whole project.

So detail is in mind at present as I struggle to write something about Mondrian & His Studios: Abstraction Into The World, currently running at Tate Liverpool.  How do you say anything interesting or original about someone over whom many writers have picked about since the early 1920’s? Still I’ve agreed to write something so I’d better get it underway.  One of the things I’ll dwell on is the detail…as it seems to me thats where the real Mondrian mystery lies.