Do you have as untidy a studio as mine? I only ask because I’ve been trying for quite a while now (the very decent Climate Change weather helped…the studio can be perishing in mid-winter) to do some housekeeping. Tucked away in back a bunch of smaller canvases that, for whatever reason, never got fully resolved. Including these two from back in the day…well five years or so ago. Around the time I was working on a bunch of big canvases (well biggish nowadays) that showed at the Carnival Of Monsters in Beeston, Nottingham in 2014. These had started out as the continuation of the Conversation Pieces that in turn began back in the late noughties but altered tack during the painting process erasing the more biomorphic forms with a renewed interest in formalism (albeit of a cranky kind). I say biggish because at 7 by 5 foot they would have been considered fairly tiddly back in the days I was a student at Birmingham where the legacy of John Walker was writ large – literally so!
But alongside the bigger pieces I made these smaller panels, indeed I made several even smaller still. Getting them out suggested they might have made the cut…excepting that they needed a small adjustment here and there which is exactly what they’ve just been given. Are these new completed works to be dated 2014/19 or is that as pretentious as I’ve always thought it to be when seen about the place..?
Me, not him, of course (though who knows). So three days away under big big skies in Lincolnshire between Louth and the Coast at Theddlethorpe with weather that, though cold (and nowhere near as its sometimes been) behaved itself well enough.
And no painting going on. But Saturday was Record Store Day and being near Louth I thought to go to Off The Beaten Tracks – that would have been fun…except for the big queue awaiting me! So not the only vinyl junkie around then.
With wife and friend and Mindy dog patiently waiting my return I decided to give it a miss. Instead we took to the coast with good results until we hit Chapel St. Leonards where the dark clouds gathered and we head back in land to Alford. Being Saturday afternoon most of the shops here (independent traders) had closed up but Lee’s Music Store was open. Oh deep joy, no lengthy queue outside or in (only one other customer looking for DVDs. Picked up this one, alongside a Joan Armatrading & Dexys, the former the first one of hers I’d never purchased, the latter one I had but disappeared down the ages. I know its not one of his best but its one I never owned on vinyl (I bought quite a few through the late 70’s to 90’s on cassette or CD) and the condition is excellent. So got a fix and at very good prices. Tip top trip!
Well time to stick our fingers in our ears…and hope the news (wherever its coming from it seems) goes away… I’m picking out pieces from projects that really need pushing on…like Playground Of The Midlands… So I give you South Croxton.
Doubt anyone out there will recognise it..though the last time I said that (about Quorn I recall) someone knew exactly where I picked up the imagery. So you never know. I wonder how many remainers there were out in South Croxton – you would likely only need one hand!
I rarely comment on matters other than painting here but…given the ‘significance’ of today I’m venturing briefly into other territory.Back in 2013 I curated an exhibition I titled ‘fotografische werk’(german meaning ‘photographic factory’). It was first exhibited at the Harrington Mill Studios, an artists space set up by Jackie & Jem Burridge in 2008, in an old textiles factory in Long Eaton, Nottingham, UK
It was one of five group shows in the 2013 programme at the Mill Studios in which I chose to place an aspect of my working practice into the wider context of activity in that medium or discipline.In thinking of my photographic pieces I was struck by the fact of most of them had only ever been exhibited outside of the UK – most in other, various parts of Europe.My introductory text said:
“The European dimension seemed important back in the winter when I began planning…now it seems to be everywhere.Indeed the whole European project is on fire, not only here in the UK (where it seems to have become quite unhinged) but across the continent as a whole.By bringing together artists from far flung parts of it I hoped to show a certain kind of solidarity, a sense of camaraderie and collective aspiration that had, one believed, become a solid and enduring feature of current art activity.Now maybe we cannot be so sure, and it’s not too fanciful to see this show as a defiant gesture, a stubborn refusal to accept a gathering orthodoxy.
We forget how far we’ve come – when I first took work to Germany back in the late 1970s we filled out nine separate pieces of triplicate paperwork and had the consignment custom sealed four times!Now I simply load up the boot and turn on the ignition – and needn’t stop till I reach Stockholm, Porto or Prague.That’s the practical aspect but its the connectivity and shared interests and aspirations that I find most inspirational.In my adult lifetime I have been privileged to experience and understand how much we have in common with one another right across our continent and to share ideas about art and life with people that a generation or two ago most likely I would never have met.
And yet, there are questions a plenty in the work on show about where Europe is and what it means to be a part of it.This is a group only in the sense that I am connected, in one way or another, to each of the participants.But all the work shown here has, I think, shared particularities.Firstly there is a definite and abiding passion for individuality, our own place in time and space, and secondly oblique references abound to environment concerns.Other than that I leave you to decide on meanings.”
If our relationship with the rest of the continent seemed ‘unhinged’ back then…I struggle to work out how I might characterise it now!As we all know today is the day we were due to leave the European Union.It might, or might not, have meant unimaginable changes to what I’d written back then…and may yet?Of course I was blissfully unaware then that such a thing could even be conceivable.There were constant rumblings about it at the time but they were for many of us a third or fourth order concern and about as likely as England winning the World Cup or some such.Even when I canvassed in the 2015 election nobody, repeat nobody of the 200 or so households I spoke to raised ‘Europe’ as an issue.But then Cameron’s surprise win catapulted us into a binary vote on whether or not to ‘leave’ Europe (indisputably an impossibility!) and a ‘majority’ of the UK decided to do it.May translated this narrow result (51.89 to 48.11) into the ‘will of the people’ an impressive ‘fake news’ when nearly 28% of the electorate didn’t even participate and so the actual margin of victory for leave was c. 2.7% of all those eligible. She continues – even as I write – to bludgeon the UK with my way or nowt.
But it’s unfair simply to tar her with the ‘fake news’ brush…after all everything on pretty much both sides of the argument has been pushed into the binary yes or no.Even had we left at 23:00 this evening I’m fairly certain the morning after would have been little different from today.As someone who voted remain it would have left a nasty ideological taste in my mouth and I’m certain that over the middle distance costs and inconveniences would rise (my betting is that however and whatever ‘outcome’ is achieved this will happen anyway).But the more dire predictions of us ‘remoaners’ are pretty ridiculous and about as much so as the equally inane indifference and complacency of the ‘arch brexiteers’ (although the richer you are the easier to insulate yourself against the costs and inconveniences).In any event my hunch is that far from being momentous and defining as the media have it whatever happens over the coming weeks, months and years (as I think we have plenty more of this to come) it will fast pass into another footnote in history and mercifully one that occasioned a lot less destruction than many others concerning continental matters.
All that said the next time I’m tempted to freight some work into or out of mainland Europe I’ll be awaiting the possibility of the triplicate forms, the custom seal, checks and delays…just like the ‘good old days’!
The trip to Gdansk was exceptional for many reasons. Chiefly perhaps that it was so unexpected and unplanned. The marvellous and enterprising Robert Priseman must take the credit for organising the Made In Britain show drawn from his (and Ally Seabrook‘s) collection that propelled the decision to take a visit to the city. Although I only have a very modest ‘walk on’ part in the event going over seemed like a no brainer.
The show itself looked very handsome. And hopefully my picture didn’t let the side down, settled on the wall, between Lucy Cox and Stephen Snoddy – so at the least it was in good quality company. The collection is full of excellent work, both figurative and abstract, with both a smattering of famous names (I doubt my work will ever be nestled so near to Alan Davie‘s, one of my teenage idols!) and good representation from many of us regionally based painters as well as, inevitably, many from the capital). There are many that I rate very highly and several I know well.
On the floor above there was a smaller grouping of artists from the collection, where a grouping of works allowed more in depth study. Robert was amongst them with a group of portrait studies that looked very handsome, their meticulous considered style suiting the juxtaposition with the Judith Tucker works opposite; both in black and white but showing how material, handling, and facture as well as subject matter can provide figuration with many moods and responses.
David Ainley, is a friend (disclaimer) but his fastidious and controlled abstractions build over time to something quite transcendental and luminous that I believe show immense quality. James Quin is an artist I’d not previously seen but I loved both his picture in the collection and his reflections on Las Meninas that made up his contribution to the upper floor show. A different approach to Ainley but an equally intense luminosity to the work. I’m guessing that – perhaps – James will be represented in the forthcoming Enough Is Definitely Enough if not he jolly well ought to be!
What of Gdansk itself? Well it was one of the worst hit places in WW2, indeed it was the location of the commencement of that ghastly conflict and is now home to the huge and monumental museum dedicated to it. As a consequence much of the centre of the city is rebuilt but contrary to what might be expected of somewhere that has spent much of its post war within the ‘Iron Curtain’ it has been (and as far as one could deduce continues to be) done with great sympathy for its longer term heritage – particularly its role in the Hanseatic League.
Of course driving out to the coast (Gdansk is the south side of the ‘Tri-City’ that also comprises Sopot and Gdynia) the soviet era concrete apartment blocks begin to appear but then they too are subsumed into a more vernacular architecture that in Sopot spoke to me at least of seaside grandeur across much of Europe (though here much less faded than to the west).
So Gdansk turns out to be quite an experience – the centre a thriving and bustling place with many interesting and lively tourist attractions and an excellent cuisine (our particular recommendation is Bowke) but of course Poland is still a relatively poor central European country. Perhaps it was that aspect that led me to choose to photograph it in B&W so here is the centre of Old Town in full colour that I imagine is how the tourist industry wants it to be seen!
I’m a passed master at swapping horses in mid-stream…after all I’ve got three smallish canvases completed since Xmas with another seven, one a fair bit bigger (a metre square), underway. All of these are probably, even with my piddling about, quite near to completion so – just the moment to turn away from them and reconnect with something quite different! But that’s my M. O. as anyone following this blog will know. So back to the Landscape & Memory project and getting into the final stage – the Rock series. Here’s the second of the eighteen that will make up this group – Contemplation By St. Francis. Click on the relevant tag for some kind of explanation about this malarkey.