Christmas Comes Early…

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I’ve said before that I often find lyric music difficult whilst painting…but I just took delivery of the latest Keith Christmas album…so it had to be first up today.  Go to his website and buy a copy!  

In any event I’m now onto finishing the final touches to Petrarch Reads Augustine the last of the Rock Of Ages so its that light headed feeling that sees some optimism in the gloom that I find when I look at what is going on outside my studio!  And to a certain extent that pervades Keith’s latest album too.  With a bunch of tracks celebrating life and relationships and a lighter hand on the tiller of anger and outrage that characterised a deal of the (nonetheless) excellent songs on his last album (Crazy Dancing Days -why not purchase that one too whilst you’re at it).   I’m also having a bit of fun with another of my TFTLR pieces… that lighten up the mood too…

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Thirty days on…

The Mount Of Sands
The Mount Of Sands

from my last post…goodness knows why really.  It does get harder to have much to say other than that ‘events’ sometimes get in the way of the activity of both making and commentating on work.  And does that matter much?  As I get older I’m realising that productivity isn’t the only criterion – though its one I do put some store in.  Hence my desire to see the completion of the Rock Of Ages, the third and final part of the Landscape & Memory trilogy.  So here is the last but two of the eighteen that make up this group.

Domesticity…

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Visiting friends is lovely but visiting friends who’ve bought work is even nicer!  And work takes on another life when seen in a different environment from either studio or gallery.  Especially when it’s a piece on paper exquisitely framed. So it is with Pan Tadeusz here in my pals, Moira & Allan, living room in Dorset.  Pan is one of the Waldgeschichten, the Forest Stories, part one of the three parts that make up Landscape & Memory.  This project is now finally coming to its conclusion, the fourteenth of the eighteen works making up third part Rock of Ages just now resolved to my satisfaction, and joining the other fifty with only four to go.  Given that the early stages of the whole scheme started back in 2014, it’s only been five years in gestation.  That might seem an inordinate amount of time but given my dithering and distraction I reckon half a decade ain’t too bad!

Stephens Climbing Account
Stephen’s Climbing Account, 106 x 93.6 cm., mixed media on paper,July 2019

 

Finding a Black Box…

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No. 1

When a plane goes down, mercifully rarely, the first thing that happens is a search for the Black Box.  Hopefully it tells investigators what happened, and how.  So this group of little sketches, doodles, scribbles, or whatever is part of the record of the larger, more carefully considered and constructed works. The Black Box sits somewhere between the Wonky Geometry series and three even smaller boxes of even more provisional pieces.

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No. 2

I enjoy these a lot.  First it helps avoid waste – I can’t abide waste – by using papers from projects that failed and using up paint that would otherwise be discarded (not into the watercourse though!).  Alongside that it’s an activity that can carry on alongside the reflection, the mulling over, of what to do next on the more substantive works. No time now for idle hands. And finally there’s the freedom to play around – to not be too serious.

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No. 3

As yet I’ve no idea how many will be made, as with the Wonky Geo‘s these come off a large pile of sheets cut to the size in a rotation as my fancy takes me and are numbered on what I consider completion.

Quiet Authority…

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I mentioned Lawrence Carroll a few days back.  And now I just took delivery of this very handsome monograph.  Whenever people tell you, as they get older, that they have no regrets don’t believe them.  Ok if you’ve lived a bit they may be modest ones but there will be some things that could have, may be should have, happened.

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2:80  Mixed media on paper, mounted on glass fibre, 38 x 36″

Around about the late 1970’s my work seemed to me to be complicating itself to the point where I needed to step back and rethink.  Over a year and a bit (from late 79 through 80) some very minimal pieces were made that – I hoped – had a certain ‘quiet authority’ and communicated through their simple presence in the world.  Only one or two were ever exhibited (in group shows) and I never had a chance to see them in a decent space where their cumulative impact might have been greater.  

 

They were large works, with minimal titles too.  Made on big sheets of paper I backed them with glass fibre resin.  Over the year the use of this, naturally with scant regard to health and safety back then, resulted in some extremely deleterious health issues. Coupled with a change of circumstances (work, home and studio) my dissatisfaction with this work led to an abandonment.  When I settled into my new circumstances months later I began re-complicating my work and over several years this accelerated, culminating in a brief period of figuration in the mid-eighties (I wasn’t alone in this).  Over the subsequent thirty plus years a certain seesawing between a more minimalist position and a complexity in my work has continued to this day…though I’ve rarely gone as far out as the 1980 works.  One regret I have is that I never got a chance to see more of Carroll’s work. My other regret is that I’ve not been a wee bit more disciplined and plotted a more steady course over the years.  Whether this would have produced better work, or I would have been happier who can say?  

In any event activity continues…Rock Of Ages, the third (and final) part of my Landscape & Memory project is slowly drawing to a close.  With three of the 18 that make up this section completed over the past couple days, only 11 to go now.

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Pompous Ruskin, acrylic on paper, 106 x 94 cm., June 2019

Another passing…

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I only just learnt of the death of Lawrence Carroll, some two weeks after the event.  Following on from Thomas Nozkowski, whose fame in the world of art was greater I suppose, its very sad.  Carroll I first came across back in 1992 on a visit to Documenta 9.  In a single room I saw my first ‘ribbon’ Marden‘s in the flesh, ditto my first Jonathan Lasker‘s and my first sighting at all of Olav Christopher Jenssen.  It was for any painter quite a sight and I was there for a long while.

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Admiring the Carroll’s with Jenssen’s Lack Of Memory series as backdrop

Documenta 9 was quite heavily criticised at the time.  Belgian curator Jan Hoet was a bit of an outsider, very pugnacious and quite opinionated it seems.  I imagine he didn’t take prisoners.  Besides which he used the opportunity to promote fellow countrymen (and most of those he selected from wherever were men) including now well-known Luc Tuymans, Thierry De Cordier, Raoul De Keyser and Jan Fabre as well as others less so, Michel Francois, for example.  As an aside I’ve no problem with this – Hoet had an opportunity to showcase talent from Belgium on the wider stage and grasped it, putting someone like De Keyser into an arena one suspects he’d otherwise never have been recognised in.

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Lawrence Carroll

He also had a ‘thing’ for the obdurate, insistent, gestalt object.  Besides Carroll’s lumbering wall objects several other painters and sculptors could be grouped together.  Michael Biberstein‘s canvas, Helmut Dorner‘s groupings of paintings and Anish Kapoor‘s Descent Into Limbo were just some of the pieces that made up a strong showing for ‘blank’ perhaps best exemplified by the inclusion of the grey paintings of Gerhard Richter.

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My friend, the sculptor Paul Mason, admiring a Richter…

But the Carroll’s have lived with me for many years now and although I have moved far from the idea of the ‘gestalt’ in my work I recall them fondly.  His obituary by David Carrier tells of his life in Italy and also of his continuing career, mostly across Europe, rather than here or in the States. Sad to see him gone.

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me explaining Kapoor to bemused German’s!