Making Colour Sing…

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A Sundoor In The Harbour, Acrylic & watercolour on paper, 124.5 x 30 cm. 2017

Make Colour Sing is the title that Laine Tomkinson has chosen for the exhibition she has curated at the Nottingham Society of Artists gallery on Castle Gate in the city. It’s an intriguing title, not least as alongside all the works in which colour features as a significant force, there are lovely etchings by Michelle Keegan that are resolutely monochrome – raising the old chestnut as to whether black is ‘properly’ a colour.  My own pieces use a raft of colour combinations that bounce about in a reckless manner.  This piece – A Sun Door In The Harbour – pretty much nails colour confusions and plays them off against one another within a loose geometric arrangement.  The show features Laine’s work, a delightful and playful exploration of form and gesture in her chosen medium of screen printing. And much else besides; Martin Heron with a range of equally delicate and intense repeated drawn elements that coalesce into form that is almost as solid as his sculptures yet shimmer and dissolve before your eyes; John Stockton‘s collaged photographs that evidence strong graphic style; Andy Parkinson‘s obsessive preoccupation with repetitive mark making that gradually off registers  to compelling effect.  There are plenty of other marvellous things on offer.  Laine asked me to write a short introduction to the show that I’m reposting below:

A gutsy, powerful and emotional vocal performance is a stirring thing…be it Beyoncé’s Check On It or Handel’s Oratorio and so it is with colour in art, whether it’s loud vibrant hues played off against one another or quiet sensitive interactions modulated by tone and texture.  Either way for many artists – and especially those gathered together by Laine Tomkinson here – Make Colour Sing, her chosen title, seems so appropriate.

Laine has ranged both close to home and across the nations of these isles to source artists for whom colour interactions are either the main spring of their interests or at the very least a vital component of the mix that makes up the work.  Not surprisingly, given her own intuitive, sensitive process for making paintings and prints, several of those she has assembled allow chance to play a significant role in the creation of work.  Insofar as colour is concerned this opens up possibilities that the artist might not have envisaged for herself and truly reveals fresh opportunities for the colours to sing out – in both close harmonies and also, occasionally, dissonances that act as counterpoint and contrast.  

Of course for some of those invited the procedures are much stricter. It may, in musical terms, be much more a closer reading of the score, indeed a literal translation of it where nothing is left to chance, each colour combination the result of finely considered adjustments, every action pondered at length. 

Either way, and acknowledging that for some it might be a case of both approaches deployed together, colour remains an elusive, slippery customer.  Over several centuries now distinguished figures from Goethe to Albers have tried to pin it down, codify and tame it only for it to spring back as vibrant and unruly as ever.  It has many voices and plenty of diverse ditties, from every avenue of the creative impulse, and quite a few have been assembled here too. 

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Over thinking…

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Sevens Autumn Store, 72 x 48 cm., acrylic on aluminium, 2017

it (the making) is something I’ve not thought about for, oh, about thirty five years or more.  I do recall being concerned that it might be happening to the large paper panel pieces I was making in 1980 as I was also fretting over the use of fibre glass to back them (it was the coughing up blood that finally persuaded me to abandon that idea!).  But earlier today I was working on my Paintings Standing Up (still far too early to post here yet) and realised that I had put several vocal performance albums to accompany the activity.  I’ve written before that when painting I normally only listen to instrumental music and it got me to thinking why did moving into 3D suggest I could make the change?  Did I value the work less, did it require less focus?, is it a different order of thinking?  Sitting making some more components for these new pieces it struck me that perhaps my ongoing feeling of dissatisfaction with much of my recent painting process (rather than the pictures themselves) comes from over thinking them.  As a young painter I’d just crack on with the work but over the years I’ve taken to thinking hard about each stage of the process – even those parts of it that are intuitive or seemingly random have gone through a deal of soul searching.  Enough already methinks…from now on I’ll put on whatever tunes I damn well like and try to actually enjoy painting!

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Six Mile High, 72 x 48 cm., acrylic on aluminium, 2017

In any event, as is my habituation, I’m stepping away from the Geo series for a bit.  The two above are the most recent, whilst three of the earlier pieces are slated for exhibition at The Crypt in Marylebone soonish.  Invite below, get along there if you get the chance.

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A Kind of Bliss…

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Nine Lives Of Fives, Acrylic on aluminium, 72 x 48 cm., 2017

no…not the painting you fool!  Even I’m not delusional enough to think it’s that spectacular (though I’m not unhappy with it). You can’t quite see it in the photo but the interference red over the mucky blue does pull it together reasonably well.  No I’m thinking how fortunate I am to be in the position to be dabbling with these pictures this morning rather than (as my wife is) stuck in traffic on my way to paid work.  And though that’s pretty gruelling she’s fortunate to have reasonably decent paid work so what about all those without that? We often forget that for many people decent living conditions, regular food & water, healthcare and so on are a permanent struggle and thats just in the so-called ‘first world’…let’s not even go on to ponder the ‘bottom forty percent‘, over a billion people living on less than a pound a day.

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Confused Fives, Acrylic on aluminium, 48 x 98 cm., 2017

So today I’m focussing on my good fortune to be in the ‘top ten’ percent of wealth across the globe (and before you run away with the idea I’m rolling in it to qualify only requires assets in excess of a couple thousand pounds).  Indeed this morning its blissful here…I’ve got some of my favourite music playing, I’m tinkering with the pictures, the dog is relaxing and I’ve just made a good coffee (with a smidgen of brandy in it)  And to top it off I’m sorting my recent work out for selection by Lucy Cox and Freya Purdue for their upcoming show – Colour: A Kind Of Bliss – at The Crypt in Marylebone Parish Church where its my good fortune to be exhibiting in a few months time.  They are showing their work with mine, and with three others.  Its a privilege to have been asked to exhibit alongside the two of them and the also really talented trio of Julian Brown, Andy Parkinson and, well bless my soul, Jeff Dellow (with whom I was a ‘Cheltenham Fellow’ way way back in time).  Of course like everyone else I’m trying not to think too hard about what’s happening in the news but, right here, right now, I’m a happie chappie.

Pareidolia | Pluspace

 

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Louisa Chambers ‘Balance I’

21st August – 14th September
50 Bishop St, Coventry CV1 1HW, UK

Ralph Anderson
Louisa Chambers
Frances Disley
Jack Foster
Rachael MacArthur
Ellie MacGarry
David Manley
Pheobe Mitchell
Andy Parkinson

Visit info

Comfort 2013, Oil on board, 17x14cm

Phoebe Mitchell / Comfort 2013, Oil on board, 17x14cm

It’s very rewarding to be a part of these shows…this one created by the energetic and very able Matthew Macaulay…that are carefully created to bring together work that shares a certain personal ‘vision’.  The result is that you can find yourself showing alongside artists of tremendous variety – certainly as regards age, gender and backgrounds – but with some characteristics that you recognise in your own work.  Given that I’ve been working for many years it occasionally surprises me that artists that I’m old enough to be the grandfather of (just I should add…) share some interests in painting that I do!  Whether that says something about me or them I’m not sure – but I hope it says something about the rude good health of the ‘tradition’ of non-objective painting despite the climate in the subsidised visual arts community in the UK.  That it takes enterprising and self effacing talents like Matthew to do these things without evident financial reward is sobering but heartening.  It shows that the things one cares passionately in are in good hands in the generation coming through right now.  If you can take a trip over to Pluspace – it sits just around the corner from the Bishop Street car park in the centre of Coventry.

 

Those few hardy souls who drop by here on a fairly regular basis might be forgiven for thinking I’ve dropped off the radar…or even the perch!  My excuse is that I’ve actually been properly working for this past week…helping install and assess across the three years of the Visual Arts pathway at Bishop Grosseteste University.  It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience to be part of a team that has mounted the best show ever for this course.  Now it’s back to business and I’m looking forward to meeting up tomorrow with curator Lisa Denyer who is selecting my contribution to the show below,  if you have the chance please go take a look!:

About Painting

Claudia Böse, Louisa Chambers, Lisa Denyer, Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay, David Manley, Andy Parkinson, Anne Parkinson

Curated by Lisa Denyer

Venue: Castlefield Gallery, 2 Hewitt Street, Manchester M15 4GB
Preview: Thursday 19th June 6–9pm
Exhibition continues: Friday 20th June – Sunday 29th June 2014

Terry Greene, 'Adventures in Naples' 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 35x45cm

“The aim of art, so far as one can speak of an aim at all, has always been the same; the blending of experience gained in life with the natural qualities of the art medium.”
– Hans Hofmann

About Painting is an exploration of contemporary abstract painting. The exhibition documents systems based, highly structured pieces as well as those demonstrating a freer and more spontaneous language.

Painting is about being in the moment, exploring the properties of the medium to their full potential and allowing investigation into the multi faceted characteristics of paint. Abstraction is an engagement with the fundamental nature of the world through perceptive means. It is ambiguous and open to interpretation. It doesn’t pertain to any single subject, and has the capacity to represent a multitude of thoughts, feelings and visual stimuli.

Painting continues to be relevant because it is not convoluted or arbitrary, but honest and immediate. The painting process is reliant upon intuitive processes and the discovery of new possibilities. It involves being responsive, analytical, and fully engaged with the materiality of the medium. Dialogues, synergies and tensions are created, and polarities of colour explored on a given surface, often evoking a sense of recognition.

Every experience a painter has informs the making of work, just as the viewer brings their own knowledge which informs interpretation. In this exhibition, the viewer is invited to consider the decision making involved in the creation of a painting in terms of a series of significant events that align to form the compositional whole.

About Painting is part of Castlefield Gallery‘s Launch Pad exhibition programme.

 

Fun Time

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TFTLR – The Ha Ha Man

It was a jolly lively day in the studio.  First off the engineer condemned one of our heaters…maybe not so good with the winter approaching…still we have another to do the job.  Second up a group of students on the Foundation Degree in Fine Art at Central College came over for a tour of ‘The Discipline Of Painting’ that encouraged me to think it had all been very worthwhile and finally Andy Parkinson came by to see how the show looked and seemed pleased with it – a relief as he’s the first of the exhibitors to see the show in the flesh.  I’m looking forward to Andy reviewing a show he’s a significant part of as he is one of our very best writers on abstraction.  In between times I got a couple hours reflection on the work underway in my own space – and managed to put ‘The Ha Ha Man’ to bed!

An exhibition continues…

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Perhaps it was the suddenness of the request from Luke (proprietor of the Tarpey Gallery) to mount a solo show when I wasn’t expecting it or the fact of the ongoing saga of the holiday breakdown and its aftermath but for whatever reason I’ve nor paid much attention to the current exhibition at the Tarpey Gallery.  I delivered it before the vacation and arrived back the afternoon of the opening…and that was that.  Until today when I went across to photograph it.

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As can be seen it is a relatively small display of seven of the aluminium works and three of the watercolours.  My thinking about the aluminium pieces is that because they had been conceived as part of the bigger display (at Lakeside this winter) the ‘in your face’ coloration is a bit much in this smaller, more intimate, venue.  And the traditional hang (pretty much the only way it could be done in the Tarpey space) doesn’t entirely suit the works either.  That said Luke did a good job in making them ‘work’ reasonably well and overall I’m not too unhappy with the way it looks.

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Before the work comes down I shall go back and spend a few more minutes with the pictures – for me the opportunity to see work on walls away from the studio is always worthwhile, and lends a perspective to the process of creation that for me at least I never get in my working space.

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I have also benefitted enormously with this show from Andy Parkinson’s very thoughtful review.  Its good to have the opportunity to read what someone else thinks about your work – especially from a commentator of Andy’s standing and repute.  And also pleased to see that it provoked further interesting debate.