In my last post I suggested there might be posts from the Outer Hebrides…sadly our location precluded it. Not because we had no signal, the 4G was healthy…but I swiftly exhausted my data allowance! But actually it did me a favour – quiet and no distractions from the amazing environs we were in and those we visited. I will refrain from posting endless glorious photos of these islands, if you haven’t been just go.
Some items to catch up on. First the CBP prize; one of the very few competitions worth entering, because its relatively cheap to do so and run by, and for painters. Still a week to submit!
I’ve a passion for poetry that began in my early teens. Actually it went underground between my twenties and sixties but has come back roaring in the past decade. I have an inkling its that way as regards our obsessions for many of us. I’ve rifled through a fair number of my favourites for the text that wraps around my paintings of late – Redgrove, in particular and Charles Wright is another. But recently I’m rather taken with Helen Mort‘s Division Street. Not least because of her poem North Of Everywhere that takes Shetland as inspiration. Perhaps because her work is more contemporary I’m wondering what the etiquette and legality is in using fragments of these many poets? Of course – as yet – I’ve not exhibited these works much (several were installed at Deda last winter but, courtesy of COVID, nobody saw them) and other than this blog they’ve not been publicly released but…
Anyway these two have been on the studio wall since late June, so time to get them completed ahead of our holiday…stand by for reports from the Outer Hebrides…
All being well – and one isn’t as sure as in past times – we should be off to the Outer Hebrides at the end of next week…nice… When I was employed the holiday season always saw me endeavouring to tidy loose ends and clear work before departing. Nowadays the studio serves that purpose. So I’ve been digging out work that, for one reason or another has never been properly archived. The Glowing Tree has for many years been stuck to the back of another work on paper (a result of a sticky glaze). Now restored and thoroughly dry it joins the stack in one of the 15 plan chests of ‘stuff’.
Lost Chord is a canvas that somehow was never resolved to my satisfaction but I’d kept rolled up in the back of the store. Now its re-stretched (quite a job…my wife helped wrestle it into submission) and given a subtle ‘make over’ so its a mute point as to whether the date is strictly accurate. Still two pieces of work mopped up and archived ahead of the hols.
Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what you are trying to do – take for instance the project I’ve mentioned once or twice – the Hinckley and Bosworth leg of my Heart of Rural England series. I went out on the first trip for this leg two weeks back and again this past week. But I was struck by the fact that my enthusiasm for taking the photographs that have previously made up the imagery for the canvases has somewhat waned. Not surprising really given that as I go into this part of the project it gets harder and harder to find arresting and original images that might make up the canvas in question. After all Burbage (trip 1) is really no more than a suburb of Hinckley nowadays and is not so different to several others…The villages of Ratcliffe Culey, the ‘Sheepy’s – Magna & Parva, and Sibson (trip 2) much like many others across the county. Maybe it’s time for rethink?
I mused on this whilst walking across to Burbage Common – a walk that took me away from the ‘town’ and into the Leicestershire Countryside, and again whilst journeying between the latter group, a longer trip of around 7.5 miles. Of course I took plenty of pictures in and between locations that might just be what I’m looking for on this leg of the journey. But it needs mulling over for a bit….more thinking required!
Something that doesn’t need much further thought is the alarming decline of our rivers and streams. The second trip involved criss-crossing Shenton Brook several times and passing the rivers Sence and Tweed. All seemed pretty much as dead as the dodo in regard to wildlife…a sad story if my surmise is correct? Meanwhile two more completed paintings from part three of the Heart Of Rural England (Melton Borough – Painting The Town Red)
As regular readers know I have a genius for prevarication. I have been planning the Weatherland series since I completed my large Landscape & Memory project some time back. I managed to make sketches for the twelve paintings – one for each month – that will comprise this series (rather than the 54 in the L&M group!) but have been dithering for many months on the size of these canvases. Reviewing the sketches much of my agony revolves around the question of scale. Not least as regards the size of certain marks translating into the body movements required to accomplish them and the relationships between them. The question of scale is often in mind when planning something in advance – one reason I often just get going with a panel or canvas rather than having it plotted out. But I’ve now settled on a metre high by 1.6 wide…not quite exactly the dimensions of the sketches but pretty darn close – and critically just right in the sweep of my hand across the canvas…
So I now need to sort out the dreary business of stretchers, canvas and priming not my favourite pastime. Luckily the Heart Of Rural England project that is trucking on (now on the third part – Melton Borough:Painting The Town Red) has a rigid 30 x 40 cm. format that clarifies matters, not least in utilising shop bought ready made canvases. This group is progressing nicely now; Edmundthorpe is the twelfth completed with the other fifteen on the studio wall (at least four of which are pretty much cooked).
Go and take a look if you can!
The Journey continues…
Days Like This (Coda), collage, acrylic & ink on paper, 100 x 140 cms.
I’ve rather been neglecting this site whilst working on my Fifty Year Itch project. But with two days to go till completion I’m turning back to other work. I’ve posted a fair few banners with the Days Like This title over the various lockdowns…is it foolhardy to title the latest in this manner? I guess we’ll find out as the journey continues…
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.
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…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*).
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.
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…
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.
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…)