Finding a Black Box…

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No. 1

When a plane goes down, mercifully rarely, the first thing that happens is a search for the Black Box.  Hopefully it tells investigators what happened, and how.  So this group of little sketches, doodles, scribbles, or whatever is part of the record of the larger, more carefully considered and constructed works. The Black Box sits somewhere between the Wonky Geometry series and three even smaller boxes of even more provisional pieces.

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No. 2

I enjoy these a lot.  First it helps avoid waste – I can’t abide waste – by using papers from projects that failed and using up paint that would otherwise be discarded (not into the watercourse though!).  Alongside that it’s an activity that can carry on alongside the reflection, the mulling over, of what to do next on the more substantive works. No time now for idle hands. And finally there’s the freedom to play around – to not be too serious.

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No. 3

As yet I’ve no idea how many will be made, as with the Wonky Geo‘s these come off a large pile of sheets cut to the size in a rotation as my fancy takes me and are numbered on what I consider completion.

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Housekeeping & ‘completions’

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Conversation: Prime Real Estate, Acrylic on canvas, 76 x 61.5 cm., 2014

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!

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Carnival Of Monsters installation, Beeston, 2014

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..?

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Conversation: You Seen Circus Boy?, Acrylic on canvas, 76 x 61.5 cm., 2014

Truckin’ On…

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Etienne, Catherine, Leonard, Acrylic & watercolour on paper, 130 x 90, 2018

Trucking’ On…Time passes, and seems to do so with increasing rapidity as one ages.  It seems only a few weeks back that it was Christmas and we are rapidly approaching the longest day of the year after which, as my dear old mother was fond of saying, the nights will start drawing in.  I often feel that I don’t get much work made in a year but perhaps thats simply because I dither about making pieces (like the one above) that take for ever to get to a point that I’m (more or less) happy with.  This is the final outcome of the three banners that were to have gone to Honfleur (see previous posts).  Whether or not they may be able to be shown in the return leg exhibition is a moot point as space will likely be at a premium.  In the end I titled them after the three major churches of the town of Honfleur that I viewed one morning from the town’s best vantage point, Mont Jolie.

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And today I’m even more aware of time passing as its ten years since Esjborn Svensson died, tragically in an accident.  E.S.T. were always one of my favourite bands since I first came across them in the early 1990’s and his death was a sad reminder of tempus fugit.  All the more so a decade on.  Yesterday I played the above discs as I worked but today the maudlin’ might be a tad too much. So let’s just keep truckin’ on…

Procrastination

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You know how it is…what with one thing and another pictures can hang around in your studio for ages.  Making one’s mind up about what needs to happen next is a dickens of a job and procrastination is second nature to most of us – or at least it is to me.  Structures are straightforward enough until you start putting colour about and then it gets really antsy for me.  Do I start shifting elements about or reconsider the colour ways? Whats the ground here…and does it need changing or worse…starting over?

Decisions need to be made!

Cameraderie…

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Enid on the Hi-Line, Acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm., 2017

Sometimes you’re taken away from painting by other work or chores…or simple fatigue or recreation…but we all need some interaction with family and friends.  As for friendships they often tend to be longstanding, often forged way back.  As one gets older they really do go way, way back.  In this instance we all met – pause for reflection – forty seven years ago.

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Stuart Broad steaming in from the Pavilion End at Trent Bridge, July 2017

It started with a trip to Trent Bridge for the third day of the second Test against South Africa with my pal Allan.  Cricket (along with Snooker I feel) is very much an artists game, something to do with space and time.  And margins too, fine ones that can change the course of a match irrevocably.  Despite England’s increasing forlorn chances of saving the game it was a good day’s outing.  We followed this with an evening in the company of the fine singer songwriter Keith Christmas who played his latest album in its entirety explaining that he had conceived it with the live performance in mind.  I cannot recommend it too highly.

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Keith Christmas at The Musician, Leicester, July 2017

On the way home we got to discussing what makes a great artist (in any form) and Allan repeated a conversation with his own son, Adam (himself a very talented musician) who suggested it was simply intensity.  And I cannot agree more.  Keith has it in spades and I like to think it may be something to do with age – Keith’s latest has some of his best work ever and quite rightly he wants it out there and admired by as many as can experience it.

On Monday last I was away to London to meet up with another pal from the graduating class of 1973 at Falmouth School of Art, Stuart.  We were at Tate Modern to take in the Giacometti show that didn’t disappoint – full of well presented masterpieces.  It was intensity personified – especially as regards the spacial awareness in what constitutes formal integrity.  Over two days that took in a studio visit our conversations ranged widely though several of them were situated in his garden, a relatively small space but full of flower intensity that, to me at least, spills over into his paintings, ostensibly concerned with landscapes (mostly in Dorset & Spain) but just as much focussed on vibrant colour, light and form.

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Our talks about painting were easy and relaxed – 47 years does that! – and some of it homed in on intention and ambition.  What really matters to us is simply what our heart and head says to us in the moment – not all that extraneous matter that creeps in once you start situating the work in any kind of context.  Is that what we mean by intensity?

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Stuart in his studio, July 2017