The Storm

Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,

The waves not yet high, but even,

Coming closer and closer upon each other;

A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,

Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,

The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,

Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness

Thinking this one may have a metaphorical content at present.

Quote from Roethke poem of the same title…

Shameless additional plug…

I just donated my piece in this show to the cause…to get a book of the contributions made….and at the last time of looking it seems (with a little over a week to go) that it has only 22% left to raise. So why not head over to Kickstarter and pledge? There’s a range of goodies on offer and the book itself will be really interesting. This initiative from Andrew Bracey has already been a terrific success so please consider capping it with a contribution.

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know how I made my contribution…luckily well ahead of C19! But besides my work there’s plenty of others to tempt you!

Meanwhile back at my ‘day job’ I’m pushing on with part two of my epic journey around Leicestershire…the Charnwood Borough (with its strap line of Playground Of The Midlands…). Today I’ve signed off on Wymeswold (above) & Walton (below).

Bittersweet…

BeforePlay
Before Play, 30 x 24 inches, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 2020

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.

Only share…

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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*).

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The legendary Simon at work…reflected in Vasconcelos’ work I’ll Be Your Mirror

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.

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Brian Fell

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…

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Botanicals 1, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8″

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.

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Botanicals 2, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8″

  • 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…)

Yes/no…

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Unfinished work!

Being involved with the Contemporary British Painting setup has been a delight.  Not least for the opportunities that it has afforded.  I owe it a vote of thanks and also that terrific painter Terry Greene for the introduction.

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And so we come to this…yes/no an initiative curated by Deb Covell, Paula MacArthur & Judith Tucker and built by Isaac Ashby.  With all the ‘lockdown’ craziness it is wonderful to be involved.  Check it out on the link above but I’ve put my bit and the fly through below.

 

 

 

Pest Control…

But first…Wonky Geo No. 158

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Wonky Geometry No. 158, mixed media on paper, 27 x 27 cm., August 2020

So I’m casting around last evening for entertainment and chance upon theYouTube video of Andrew Graham-Dixon sashaying about Sotheby’s pimping their sale (a few days back)…actually rather more interesting and informative than might be imagined.  And this morning I briefly looked up the results. A goodly proportion of the lots went and most within their estimates.  However a Banksy nearly doubled its upper estimate figure going for £2,235,000.  This triptych of altered pre-existing paintings of seascapes references the on-going tragedy of migrants endeavouring to cross the Med.  Setting aside my profound antipathy for mega wealthy individuals (both vendors & purchasers) salving consciences in this way, the means employed – riffing on the altered readymade pioneered by Duchamp over a century ago – seem a bit tired and hackneyed.  Nonetheless to the credit of those concerned all proceeds will go towards building a new acute stroke unit and purchasing children’s rehabilitation equipment for BASR hospital in Bethlehem.  Better that than redistribution from billionaires (Oligarchs etc.) to mere millionaires (Gerhard, Tracey, Damien, Jeff etc.) …

 

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Auctioneers Fears (PSU No. 34), Oil & acrylic on reclaimed timber, c. 40 x 48 x 17 cm., August 2020

But what took my eye particularly was the attachment  of  a Pest Control Certificate of Authenticity to the work.  Why one wonders?  My hunch is that these three rather manky canvases were picked up in a local bazaar and might be subject to dry rot or other assorted mange…and if you’ve just podded out over £2 mil you probably don’t want to see it fall apart that quickly (though long time Banksy watchers might hazard the guess that’s precisely what he intends!).

It got me to thinking about my Paintings Standing Up (most recent example seen above), after all were one ever to sell then given the dubious sources of their materials perhaps they too should have such a certificate.  But who issues such things…Rentokill perhaps!

Just carrying on…

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April And Silence, 45 x 61 cm., acrylic on canvas, 2020

Goodness – this strange time of ‘lockdown’ has seen something of a lack of productivity on the blogging front.  I very nearly let a month slip by without a post…not that there’s been any shortage of work going on.  On the contrary it’s been quite a busy time what with an absence of movement out of the studio.  And despite suggestions to the contrary I notice a marginal increase in COVID cases over this week rather being over shadowed by exhortations by the ‘powers that be’ that we all go shopping alongside a return to work. In any event I’m going nowhere until I’m personally sure the risk is significantly lessened so the painting likely to continue at a lick.  This picture draws on another poem (with its rather prescient title) by the great Tomas Transtromer.

I blame Shakespeare…

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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.

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Wonky Geometry No. 126, 27 x 27 cm., 26th March 2020

 

A more optimistic kind of picture…

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.

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On The Margin, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 85 cm. 2020

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.

Minervois?

The generation of an idea for a painting, or a series of paintings, isn’t really that hard.  Actually finding the form for the notion and then committing it to canvas or paper (or whatever other support you come up with) is a darn sight more tricky – for me at least.  I sometimes envy those painters who go to work day after day (even year after year) knowing that it will be more rectangular stains or oily stripes or spots or whatever, and that these vehicles can encompass all their feelings for what they think the picture might stand for.  

And as I come towards the end of a group of like minded pictures (occasioned by either a natural or practical conclusion) I start thinking about what may come after.  But rather than moving forward with freshly minted thoughts it seems like one of those times to think about mining older shelved projects. So I’m toying with a set of canvases that will be based on the stack of collages made off the back of a trip to the Minervois way back in 2007…

But for the present here’s one that started out down in Dorset…text then from Robin Robertson’s poem of the same name…

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Between the Harvest and the Hunter’s Moon, acrylic on paper mounted on board, 104 x 31 cm. 2020