Bittersweet…

BeforePlay
Before Play, 30 x 24 inches, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 2020

As one ages excessive alcohol consumption requires practice; and so those of us who have endeavoured to cut back begin to realise that over indulgence on a more occasional basis leads ever more often to severe hangovers.  So it was yesterday.  The consequence being a severe drop off in productivity.  There’s a modest upside though.  The dulling of the brains prevents bravery and so a certain plodding ensues.  In this case plugging away at a canvas that has been through a serious amount of surgery.  But I’m none too disappointed with Before Play.  A tad ironic title (coming from a poem from the great Vasko Popa) but also referencing the endless pissing about this one has gone through.

Drudgery…

bruminfanta
Brum Infanta, 2020

For reasons that need not detain…it’s been hard going of late.  Hardly anyone mentions it but making work can be drudgery…at least for me.  Not least in these strangest of days – sort of post-lockdown but with many of us still testing the bounds – when motivation is hard to find.  I’m still pushing the Paintings Standing Up but also endeavouring to drag one or two pictures that stubbornly refused to ‘work’ first time around kicking and screaming into satisfactory conclusion.  Easier said than done.

Two things to trail…firstly Enough Is Definitely Enough curated by Andrew Bracey with a piece by myself opens at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough on Friday 18th September 6 – 9pm alongside other private views at The Auxiliary and Platform A. The show then runs 24 September – 17 October 2020, 10am – 4pm, Thursday to Saturday.   Andrew is also running a fundraiser for a book of the show – why not subscribe?

Secondly my good friends Moira & Allan are running a show – Days Like These – in Lyme Regis this autumn with work by myself, my wife Sarah R Key & Stuart Reid as well as themselves- details here…with more to follow!

 

Only share…

IMG_1249

Only share…experiences with those you trust completely.  First trip out of the district since the self imposed ‘lockdown’ and some five plus months since the last time.  To dear old YSP with my chum Simon and it was a treat…not nearly as tricky or odd as might have been expected. Yes we were masked in the buildings (other than in the restaurant where we managed a nice table out on the verandah) but otherwise much as before.  Lets hope it stays that way (though despite a general consensus of government. media and – it must be said – much of the public cases seem inexorably to be creeping up again*).

IMG_1251
The legendary Simon at work…reflected in Vasconcelos’ work I’ll Be Your Mirror

What of the art then?  I enjoyed both offerings.  Joana Vasconcelos is big, bright, jazzy, post modernist internationalism with a good dose of feminism, local culture (Fado, Catholic symbolism etc. – she’s Portugese) whilst Brian Fell is rooted in modernism, an Abstract Expressionist cum New Generation vibe (I immediately thought of sculptors like David Smith and particularly Ibram Lassaw on the one hand and early abstract Caro, King and Witkin etc. on the other – though Brian is mostly in the more complex physical spaces of the earlier of these).   Both rewarding in their own ways; inevitably my personal interaction with Brian’s work more satisfying given our ages, cultural reference points and aesthetics.

IMG_9290
Brian Fell

So a good trip out…next week back to Derby for a further dose of 20c. modernism with Ronald Pope as well as a show by previous Vickers award winners.    As for the studio…

IMG_1271
Botanicals 1, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8″

Botanicals…a group of small paintings with quite a history even by my tortuous machinations.  I’m fairly sure these started back in 2007 in the backwash from my bypass op. certainly there’s a number of clues in some of the forms.  They were fiddled with for a year or so before being bundled into the store cupboard at Harrington Mill until I left there in, I think 2014/5?  Back at the Chapel they went back into storage – and might have stayed there but for the ‘lockdown’.  But now they are being revised, reworked and put to bed.

IMG_1267
Botanicals 2, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8″
  • My paper has a headline telling me that 67 cases have appeared in NZ implying that they are ‘failing’…meanwhile no mention (unless you search it out) that the UK recorded 1400 + that same day…)

Yes/no…

Manley:SITN5:mixedmediapaper27x27cm.:2020:.jpg
Unfinished work!

Being involved with the Contemporary British Painting setup has been a delight.  Not least for the opportunities that it has afforded.  I owe it a vote of thanks and also that terrific painter Terry Greene for the introduction.

yes:no sky flyer text.jpeg

And so we come to this…yes/no an initiative curated by Deb Covell, Paula MacArthur & Judith Tucker and built by Isaac Ashby.  With all the ‘lockdown’ craziness it is wonderful to be involved.  Check it out on the link above but I’ve put my bit and the fly through below.

 

 

 

Turn about…

Thurcaston
Thurcaston, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm., 2020

A complete volte face…back to my Playground of the Midlands series…and the lay off means having to put a very different ‘head’ on.  Back to working off of specific visual sources (that is referencing images crudely constructed from photos take on site). Working to resolve them whilst readjusting to using oils and as Thomas Nozkowski used to say keeping them open “so that everything is back in play”.

Sileby
Sileby, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm., 2020

Another passing…

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Barrie Cook recently.  Like many another painter he ought to have been more celebrated but we’re not good at recognising the worth of  them here in the UK.  I didn’t know him well but I do recall two occasions, one many years back, one more recent, when he was much in my mind.  The more recent happened on the occasion I wrote about here.  For in this most unlikely of locations I passed round a large free standing wall in the middle of the upper main gallery to be confronted by a fine example of Barrie’s spray canvasses.  How he had come to know Piet Moget who had assembled the amazing collection there I don’t know…but Moget (and Barrie Cook himself) were well travelled and connected.  Sadly I didn’t get an image of the work on the day.

interior8
The main upper Gallery at L.A.C. 

The earlier occasion speaks volumes for the warmth and generosity of the man.  He had just taken up the post of Head of Fine Art at Birmingham and had called into the Ikon where I worked.  I think he’d had a meeting with the boss but as he was leaving he mentioned that someone on the staff had told him I was a painter.  We exchanged pleasantries but then he suggested that if I was finishing work shortly did I fancy a drink?  We ended up sharing a couple pints with him looking over some slides of the work I’d just embarked on and offering encouragement and sound advice.  He also gave me a copy of his small catalogue from the recently completed Gregynog Fellowship that I’ve treasured over the years.

IMG_1205

I haven’t seen him in many years but it seems he was still working away daily down in Cornwall and had a good life, and that is heartening to know.   A talented artist, a good teacher and a smashing bloke.

BarrieCook-portrait_small
Barrie Cook, 1929-2020  Interview Art Cornwall   

 

 

Its funny…

IMG_1187

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 reverberating  in my thinking with Chapter Three of Jeff Young’s Ghost Town.  I’d spent a good deal of a day sifting  through 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.

Borglums
Borglum’s Escape, Mixed media on paper, 106 x 94 cm. 2019                     from Rock Of Ages

A red letter day…

IMG_7405
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.

IMG_2582
Charles Houghton Howard’s Painting (1), 1961 out for my research!

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.

Wonky Geometry (cont.)

 

WG140
Wonky Geometry No. 140, 27 x 27 cm., oil, acrylic & pencil on paper, May 2020

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’!

WG145
Wonky Geometry No. 145, acrylic on paper, June 2020