Xmas comes early…

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Above another small painting on paper from the Deadly Delicious series back in 2012…yours for an awfully (almost obscenely) cheap price at the Harrington Mill Studios Xmas Sale!  (Shameless plug no. 2).  Yes your Xmas could come early if you fetched up from 12 noon this Sunday!

And for myself and my wife Xmas really has come early with the news reaching us of the opportunity to spend August 2017 at The Booth in Scalloway!  We visited Shetland back in 2014 and found out about the place then.  It’s exciting as our recent two weeks at Brisons Veor on Cape Cornwall has to be the UK’s most southerly Artists’ Residency and I’m pretty sure The Booth has to be the most northerly?

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The timeframe is good because it gives time for reflections and connections as to what to do whilst in residence.  I’ve already researched some of the previous residents and their activities and of course one of the easiest ways to use the opportunity is to reflect the amazing land and sea scape.  There’s nothing wrong with that but bringing something new to that is a pretty tricky business…thinking caps will be coming into play!

Our experience in Summer 2014 was quite exceptional…not least the couple days of glorious sunshine.  Some more of that would be welcome but over the course of a month, even in summer, we may expect some more rugged activity.  As one can see its location gives plenty of opportunity to savour it up close.

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Reports greatly exaggerated…

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Were I to have any regular followers on social media they might be forgiven for thinking I’d stepped off the planet of late!  However it has simply been a case of the long awaited fortnight in Cornwall at the lovely Brisons Veor finally coming to pass.  Its not that one cannot get online there (actually there was a decent BT ‘hotspot’ one could purchase) but simply that other things took precedence.

So a self imposed ‘media exile’ then.  An opportunity to reflect and enjoy this most magical of locations.  I’m sitting at a small desk that faces south from Cape Cornwall towards Sennen and beyond to Lands End. Through the window is nothing but the heaving swell of the ocean as it makes the shore in Priests Cove, below me and away to my left. It is the kind of cool, windy, misty and dank early evening in late autumn that this most westerly part of England excels in and from the vantage point of this small and warm cottage completely blissful.

Today we took a trip out, away from our immediate surroundings that we have come to know pretty well. We took in the Terry Frost centenary exhibition that is taking place across the Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange in Penzance. It was organised between Tate St. Ives and Leeds City Gallery and in truth the whole enterprise seems a little off kilter, maybe the product of too many hands on the tiller or just as possibly not just one with a firm grip on it.

Then again I should confess from the get go that I’m not a massive fan of the artist whose work has always seemed to me to be either a little too hesitant or overly designed…and whose exuberant use of strong primaries is a little too much ‘in one’s face’ for my taste. That said the early work, focussed mainly on the space at The Exchange is very solid and does contain enough strong paintings to put him into the premiership in fifties British painting.  For me it is the pictures towards the back half of the decade that really hit the mark.

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In these the handling is freer, the gestures less forced and the colour is turned down a few notches.  Force 8 is a pretty fitting encapsulation of what it seems to me that the best of Frost is all about.  The ground is wristy and provisonal, the marks positive and yet unforced, and there’s a really intriguing landscape/figure dichotomy that hovers around the composition that keeps the viewer guessing…and looking which of course is ultimately what its all about. I guess that the sixties were a busy time for the artist, he seems to have been whizzing about all over the place, not least the States, and the influences from here, coupled with a move to acrylics, clearly impacted on him.  Not for the best in my view as the paintings are overtaken by the intensity of the colour, what the gallery handout calls “its presence as a character in itself”…and the works correspondingly have a strong designed element.  Now in the hands of a hard headed and unsentimental character like Frank Stella this ‘character’ was wrangled and rail roaded into submission in the 1960’s to make convincing pictures but with his adherence to forms and feelings from outside the rectangle of the painting there is often a falling back on earlier ‘boats’ or suchlike in Frost’s work that seems rather formulaic and a tad repetitive. The addition of a couple sausage like constructions do little to suggest a sustained engagement in seeking out new forms or invention.

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All that said overall it was a show of warmth and delight in the sheer physicality of the act of painting…and given the confines of the two venues and the absence of several key works perhaps shouldn’t be raked over as grudgingly as I have!  In any event from my brief acquaintance with him I doubt Frost would have given a toss what I think!

Its worth mentioning in passing that the little display of monoprints by Ben Sanderson in the picture room at Newlyn were a delight…there’s something of the spirit of Kevin Coyne at work here.

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They have a lightness of touch and a spontaneous wit that is, if you’ve ever tried it, much harder to pull off than might be imagined.

Journey’s End

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At the New Court Gallery in Repton (incidentally probably the finest space in Derbyshire) the Winter Cycle gets an airing less than nine months after the journey began.  All in all I am delighted with the outcome and last evening it opened with a pretty good turnout (especially considering that quite a few of my oldest and dearest friends and family couldn’t make the event) though some others (they know who they are!) had made quite a considerable effort to put in an appearance.  I was most pleased.  I owe a debt of gratitude to Louisa Chambers (and the rest of the Repton crew) for the opportunity not only to exhibit but to do so in this space and at a location near to both my own home and studio and that of poet Reg Keeling (whose work partially inspired the project).

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Here’s a cheesy picture of me, Reg and on the right Julian Broadhurst whose recording of Reg’s poems first drew my attention to them.  We are standing in front of the three pictures that are dedicated to the two of them and to the Flute Interlude that divides the reading of the poems from the interview between Julian & Reg on his recording. From the top of this blog follow The Winter Suites link to see all the works with the poems.

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And whilst on the subject of cheesy here’s one of me standing in the space looking pretty pleased with myself…perhaps a little too pleased as there are at least a dozen of the works that – now they are on the walls – I feel need a little (or in one or two cases quite a lot of) revision!  But I guess many of us often feel that way.

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However overall its turned out decently and looks – I hope – pretty solid.  I’m just now working on getting the whole sequence of the actual Cycle onto my website with the full text of the accompanying poems.

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So pretty much sorted and on to my next project – the prep for the trip to Cape Cornwall – courtesy of the Brisons Veor Trust.  Its less than two weeks away and I’m really looking forward to it!

Hiatus…

I can’t believe I haven’t posted something in over a fortnight!  However my excuse is reasonably decent…I’ve just completed the move of studio from Harrington Mill back to my home.  With work stored there going back into the 80’s and all the bits and pieces we accumulate over the years )I’ve been there since 2008) it was the equivalent of moving a small home!

I’m grateful to Jackie who tipped us off with regard to Liam – a no nonsense ‘Man With A Van’ who gets jobs done quickly, efficiently and cheaply – so that the bulk of the big stuff was back here swiftly.  However I still made six trips in the car to get the job done.  It’s taken two days and I’m feeling pretty knackered but of course its not the physical side of it that is difficult but the emotional.

Barnett Newman once said ‘Studio Is Sanctuary’ and whilst moving back home is practical its not entirely satisfactory spiritually.  There’s something deeply satisfying about going off to a studio, like going to work and seeing the making of art as a job. There’s the camaraderie of a group environment and the opportunity to programme a space, animate it and see it come alive with work.  How I’ll fare with the home environment again will be interesting…there is the comfort aspect and the cost saving and that welcome ability to go and take a peek at how its going at any moment one chooses.  So ups and downs I guess – we’ll have to see how it goes.

Lamorna Cove - a Saturday in December!
Lamorna Cove – a Saturday in December!

Before the move we had the pleasure of an all too brief getaway in Cornwall.  It gave me some time to scope the joint for the fortnight’s residency at Brisons Veor next autumn as well as allowing us the opportunity to experience first hand the switch on of the Mousehole Harbour Lights.  As always weather in Cornwall is fascinating – one day glorious summer and the next a real ‘black cat’ wet and dark.

Mousehole Harbour Lights - 2014
Mousehole Harbour Lights – 2014