at least I’m not spending cash during ‘lockdown’…rather revisiting and reworking stuff I’ve had kicking about the place. For example there’s my large series of TFTLR that have been ‘repurposed’ (what a ghastly word!) as Paintings Standing Up. I’m also unearthing the ‘failed’ pictures on paper from my earlier virus series and jollying them up to show a tad of insouciance in the face of the you know what…
Though I think I ought to write something about current practice presently I keep recalling this quote from Proust…”Authentic art has no need for proclamations…it accomplishes its work in silence”. So I’ll just shut up for once.
The sun has made a welcome return and…ta da! I’ve filled Box Three of my Wonky Geometry series. I’m happy about this on two counts – as not only does it mean only one to go (admittedly an arbitrary self-imposed diktat) but also it’s been (with five other items) on my annual targets for work production for the year. Perhaps lockdown will see me complete all five this year (rather than has habitually been the case several being rolled over to the following year). Then again maybe at some point we may be allowed out again!
inevitably it’s becoming a tad irritating being confined to barracks even if, as most of us are, artists are quite solitary. So time to scrub about in the corners of projects forgotten or abandoned in some way. So it is with the Rough Cartography. An explanation (of sorts) for this one can be found here. I’ve gathered the lot (well all those I bothered to take photos of) together in one place, fiddled with them digitally (who’d have imagined back in the 1970’s any of that malarkey would be possible) prepping them for a – yes a publication (something else that seemed damned difficult as well as expensive back then.
So The Map Room is in production now with a publication date set for early summer…betcha can’t wait!
I first came across Billy Jenkins as part of Burlesque, a band playing support to the Kursaal Flyers. They were the most anarchic and surprising rock act I’d ever seen, and Billy was the focus of the most bizarre aspects of a fairly weird outfit! Sadly neither of their albums could properly capture the live act. But some years later I came across his early jazz recordings, the first I purchased wasUncommerciality vol. 1and I became an occasional follower though being both busy and out of London observed live performances were very few. No matter…Billy’s work has always been brilliant, full of character and joy, sometimes more ‘difficult’ for some but never dull or unforgettable. I’ve been catching up with the more recent stuff over the past few days including those episodes of The Billy Jenkins Listening Club I hadn’t got round to. These ‘snapcasts’ are excellent giving both a flavour of the man and the music. I also went online to pick up his most recent outing Ghost Music by BUYING IT. I say this loudly as I’m firmly of the view that artists should be properly paid for their work! I don’t know Billy personally of course but I’m pretty sure he’d like (or maybe it was his doing) that when I put the downloads into iTunes his album came up as ‘Unknown Genre’. Magnificent! I’m thinking my artwork (if it ever sees the light of day again, postviral) should be tagged with the same epithet!
“He always maintained that you’ve got to be able to play straight to really play wonky”
Beowulf “Wulfie” Mayfield, discussing Billy Jenkins musical philosophy in Episode Six, Series Two of The Billy Jenkins Listening Club
The continuing ‘lockdown’ is probably sending a lot of us a tad nutty…certainly I’m bouncing around the studio playing with all sorts. This includes my growing collection of Paintings Standing Up that developed out of an earlier series TFTLR (Tales From The Lumber Room). These scrappy little constructions have been littering the studio for several years and over the past week or two I’ve dusted some off, given them some TLC and given them titles. So there’s now a ‘body’ of work (well seven or eight) to put up online. The first and second are here now…
These are tough times for sure. However much one tells oneself that the studio is a fine place to ‘self isolate’ (see last post) there’s a need, fairly regularly, to get out and replenish the batteries. I often do so with my pal Simon (see many previous posts!) either on one of our Leicestershire projects or visiting shows – often at hand or more occasionally far flung. One of the latter several years back involved an almighty cock up whereby we planned to set out for the Louvre – Lens not realising it was a French public holiday! Discovering it at the last moment we swerved away north to Bruges and back via Ostend. This enabled us to take in MU:zee in the city. Its a large rambling modern building that looks rather as if it may have been a department store (it was) and as I rambled around I was powerfully struck by several of the Belgian artists represented. Chief among them is of course Ensor but there are fine works by Permeke, Brusselmans and more recent figures such as Jan Fabre and Wim Delvoye. But what really got to me were works by the hitherto only vaguely remembered Léon Spilliaert. His self portrait in particular seemed both haunting and haunted, a study in depression and insomnia. It struck me as easily the equal if not possibly more harrowing than Munch’s The Scream.
So I had been limbering up for a visit to the show of his work currently holed up in the Royal Academy and thinking just my luck as it now seems certain that its run will end before the curfew lets up. Luckily however the Academy have put up a video of the show – not a substitute of course – but something to help out. It’s worth a look, not least if you are a painter now. Although notionally figurative many of his works are of equal interest to someone wedded to abstraction and his range is truly astonishing. It’s a mystery to me that he’s not better known or better regarded – and given that he’s lucked out in London likely to remain so for many. Check out the video so you’re not one of those…and we never did (as yet…?) make it to Louvre-Lens!
Have you noticed something with all the commentators and interviewees on the telly during this awful ‘lockdown’? It struck me a few days back that nearly all these middle class people (and generally all those featured ‘at home’ are so) have virtually no original art on their walls. In fact most seem to have some spectacularly awful stuff hanging in their homes. It reminded me of something a Scandinavian gallerist said to me forty or so years back that whilst his clients in Sweden would spend a lot on a painting and little on the sofa in front of it, the British, he opined, went the other way (mind I guess Ikea was mostly operating at home back then?!) and so he was glad to be over there and not here and suggested I joined him if I wanted success as a painter…
And in turn I recall a British artist (I think it might have been Scully or Hodgkin) once saying that we were a literary nation not a visual one…and hence the remark about the Bard. No matter…keep yer eyes peeled on the walls behind whichever ‘expert’ or interviewer pops up on screen – you’ll see what I mean!
Like quite a few other painters I know this ‘self isolation’ is just studio time by other means but I’m also glad that (for those of us hereabouts) the weather has been kind in these first few days (see above). But I’m also very aware of the massive debt we owe to all those keeping the world going and to those much less fortunate in their accommodation arrangements (or worse still without any). Making work keeps one sane methinks – and I am so grateful to be able to do it.
A few days back my daughter suggested I stop posting my virus paintings from 2014 and forego a group of ten paintings of Plague and instead focus on something a bit more optimistic…I can’t imagine why…
However anxious to please I’m putting this latest canvas, an outlier from my Lunar Pulls series, titled On The Margin after the quotation utilised in it. Taken from a poem of the same name by David Wright.
It’s earliest iterations were less exuberant especially as regards colour but in the current circumstances a brighter palette seems a good idea. Wright is much under rated I reckon…and the poem referenced (of which the text utilised is simply the opening stanza) is a long peroration on art and life encompassing references to the author’s profound deafness) is most excellent. Take care of yourselves and keep washing your hands folks.