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..?
I’m sitting in on Carnival of Monsters today (18 Oct.) from Noon till 3pm and tomorrow from 4:30 till 6:30pm. if you’ve time to pop along and have a chat about the Conversation series (showing alongside HMS colleagues). When I’m not there I’ll be working on the catalogue for Happy Little Fat Man – Art by Kevin Coyne on at various locations around Derby in November, December & January – more details to follow shortly!
Making decisions about what kinds of paintings one might make is, in my experience, quite a curious business. Sometimes it seems obvious what the ‘idea’ should be but in the making it turns out to be very different indeed. My recent Conversations have certainly gone that way with a vengeance in recent months. But at others you can find yourself fiddling around for quite a while before the combination of form and content (and as regards non-objective painting lets not get into that one right now) seems about right but then you can be off and running for quite a distance before it runs out of juice for you. These Cornish Coast paintings pretty much fell into that category minding the fact that the formal structure was one I first deployed back in 1972!
Right now I’m pushing on with a formal scaffolding that I’ve seen used, here and there, by a variety of painters over the forty five or more years that I’ve been studying pictures with some seriousness. Not that that matters of course because in my head at least I’ve got sound reasons for using it. I’ve put up a canvas above simply to show how the ‘working out’ of the notion can be an ugly business…this started out with a first idea that simply wouldn’t (or maybe I just couldn’t) resolve. At the moment I’m reworking it with a sketched out second ‘notion’ that I’m a tad more hopeful will succeed. Only time will tell but I shall post up the reworked canvas even if it doesn’t make it… Is it these peculiar (and I suspect to the layman rather absurd and pointless) personal struggles that make painting still, despite our image saturated media world, a rewarding experience?
So goes the Conversation Series. Some time back I decided these needed pulling back from the wilder shores of the gesture. Of course the background chatter is still there but I’m slowly but surely bringing both speakers into line, a polite exchange rather than the slanging match they had developed. At home the series of Cornish Coast paintings has pulled up just short of Cape Cornwall. They will get going again onwards up towards Geevor and beyond once I’ve had a bit of on the spot top up.
Sometimes one embarks on a way of working that involves a bit of straightforward labour and then it is simply a matter of just cracking’ on with it… there’s a couple pictures of that kind in the photo above!
Is just along the beach from Sennen Cove. I think I have another half a dozen or so of these left in me for the moment, at least until I’m done with my large Conversation canvases. The change of scale between the two is quite bracing mentally meaning that the selection of brushes and handling takes on a harder aspect than usually. That said on the big picture I’m working on the palette knife is currently doing most of the work…
I guess that when it comes down to it we are all prisoners of our own history. This is hitting home hard for me at the present time. Although I think I have five (yes, I realise this is at least three more than is sensible) projects on the go at the moment the one that is really exciting for me is the Conversation series. And a goodly part of the reason for this is that the size and materials take me right back to my student days. When my back is really up against the wall in terms of what makes me want to keep making work its the prospect of a big billowing stretch of 12 oz. cotton duck in front of me and a bucket of a good brand acrylic (at the moment Liquitex and Golden are slugging it out for my affections). Two of these paintings go back a pretty long way…I don’t rightly recall when Get Your Tanks Off My Lawn was finished (the answer may be further back this blog) but Corey Rings The Blues (thats the one at the back with the orange ground) has only come together for me in the past few days and the other one featured above is being pulled together right now (the ground colour change made this morning). And right at the front that spanking fresh canvas just waiting on me getting started. Very nearly all the earlier paintings in the series were a standard size of 60 x 50 cm. so these – at 220 x 150 – are a bit more demanding, physically as much as otherwise, but I’m loving the change of scale that the size is occasioning. And it all comes back to my formative years at art school…the size, the material and the ambition…that’s why I’m locked me…and loving it!
Today I started a class in French courtesy of the WEA and the timing of it made it hard to get to the studio so rather than get stuck into a watercolour or pastel I did a bit more archiving. I guess we are all archivists nowadays…even if only in the digital realm…but this is one of those ongoing tasks I set myself when I gave up fulltime HE some five years back now. So given how little progress I’ve made its clearly not something top of my ‘to do’ lists. Still the process I’ve established – clearing one drawer of one of the plan chests, photographing, measuring and recording the info before carefully inserting with tissue paper – does give one time to reflect on what one did then – and what relationship if any it has to what is done now. And these pictures from 1976 it seems to me share certain similarities to my ongoing ‘Conversation’ pieces that are hopefully going to get their first proper public outing next year.
Busy times persist…this week starting to move into my lovely new space at Harrington Mill. I’ve been very fortunate to get the space vacated by Sheila Ravnkilde who has moved out. It gives me a great deal more useful wall space that will allow me to keep larger canvases ‘on the go’ rather than having to perpetually shift things around. So far I’ve moved only a few things in…and already I can see that storage is going to continue to be an ongoing issue. But for now I’m just enjoying the space that has allowed me the opportunity to see all the larger canvases in the on-going ‘Conversation’ series together for the first time. And being able to get back a distance from them is very helpful in the endeavour to resolve them. Sadly just as I’m getting stuck in I have to break off to go and teach. However I’m also really looking forward to the next three days in the studios on the excellent Painting & drawing BA (Hons) degree at the University of Northampton.