The rise of the nutters…

Its been too long since I made a posting and sadly I’m too busy right now to do the kind of detailed discussion of several of the things I’d wish.  So it’s a brief round up instead.  Of course the way the western world is turning right now is a wee bit distracting too.  I try to refrain from comment on these matters here but sometimes it seems that the craziness out there is getting worse at the moment.  My good friend Simon has put the UK insanity over the ‘European’ question down well so go read him if needs be.  And looking across the pond it looks equally bizarre…so we watched again the other evening the classic ‘The Thick of It’ that puts it all into some kind of perspective I guess.  Another friend of mine has, with much admiration from here, put his boots on the ground in the cause of the refugee crisis that the antics of the UK government succeeding in knocking off the European leaders agenda when surely they ought to have been focussed on that (see his blog for details).  But enough of that from hereabouts…it’s hard not to feel powerless in all this.

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But carrying on painting does occasionally feel very indulgent and a bit futile in the face of all the mayhem.  Still its what I do I keep telling myself.  And taking an idea from the excellent Andrew Bracey I keep tweeting a detail a day of whats cooking so in this blog there’s a couple of them.

Besides working there’s been some trips out…one to the Harley Gallery in Welbeck, North Notts.  Here artists Craig Fisher, Louisa Chambers and Rob Flint have been jazzing up the space using the notion of the ‘dazzle camouflage’ – that got quite an airing a couple years back at the centenary of it’s ‘invention’ with Carlos Cruz-Dias redoing one in Liverpool, Tobias Rehberger doing it in London and with the most media coverage Peter Blake knocking one out on the Mersey Ferry.  I’m pretty sure the idea behind this show was more the eliding of their three various and varied approaches to abstraction and the use of pattern and geometry and ‘seeing’ where it might take them and the space they occupied over the show period (sadly it ends tomorrow).  When I saw it a goodly portion of the show were the various readymade works installed and the additions were still very much on progress.

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But you still got an idea of way in which the collision of particular pieces, pattern and colour throws up new and surprising visual tropes and how this broad field of abstraction still holds a fascination for a much younger generation of painters than those of us who grew up with the geometry of Vasarely or Riley or Stella and Noland and so on.  If we do now live in the post-factual world (as I heard a commentator on the rise of Trump say a few days ago – Prof.Larry Sabato,Newsnight BBC, 24 Feb) then ideas of what ‘works’ in abstraction are as irrelevant to a consideration of a show of this kind as facts are to the likely GOP candidate this coming Fall.  One of the most interesting aspects of the show here was the way in which each artist privileges process and material.  Chambers use of folded paper models as subject matter in what might otherwise be quite traditional modern paintings, Flint’s use of washing up cloths as ground and figure and Fisher’s OHP projections.  All in all it was intriguing and visually compelling and even in this relatively early stage, commanded and shaped the space oddly – not least with the willingness to use lively – even sickly – colour combinations.  I’d say, and its meant as a compliment here – all a bit nutty…but here in a good way!

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Coming more up to date Simon and myself did the Mayfair Gallery circuit earlier this week…and took in as a centrepiece the RA Garden show.  Its a pot boiler and I’m sure on the evidence of our visit going to fill the coffers.  But overall it seemed messy and sloppy with way too much ‘filler’ getting in the way of the best and most intriguing works.  We took in Albert Oehlen’s new work at Gagosian that, if nothing else, was an intriguing departure from his usual schtick that I’d applaud.  There’s a lovely show of Simon Hantai paintings at Timothy Taylor and a fair bit of minimalist allover type stuff about (Manzoni Chromes at Mazzoleni and Park Seo-Bo at White Cube in Masons Yard.  The latter giving me pause for thought about paintings I made and abandoned back in 1972!  However one of the most intriguing things of the day for me was a visit to Waterhouse & Dodd where refreshing they stick the prices on the wall next to the work.  In this instance revealing that a modest sized Paul Feiler at £160k beats a large Terry Frost by £100k…I bet that ratio would have been at least reversed 10 years back and probably then some.  Whether it says more about the demise in Frost’s reputation or the rise in Feiler’s or a bit of both who can say…what it does tell us is that its a very fickle business indeed…

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Away from the bright lights (and the money sadly) my work – in a modest way – is out on the gallery wall at present at Repton’s New Court, where I showed the Winter Cycle a few months back.  The show is titled ‘View Of Delft: The World In Art‘ and is curated by Charmaine Tam, currently at Repton School but shortly off to Cambridge to read Art History.  She interestingly mixed student work with five artists, myself, Jackie Berridge, Lisa McKendrick, Melanie Russell and Ruth Solomons.  Wisely and modestly she didn’t show herself but her curatorial eye was good and the range of work covered a lot of ground with the diversity of material offset by sound judgments about what would line up intelligently against one another.  Overall I am very pleased to be part of this project that shows off the department’s sixth form work well and suggests that Charmaine may be somebody to watch in the future.  Besides Jackie’s work that I know well and have great affection for (full disclosure: we have been friends and sometime studio sharers for many years) I was much taken with Ruth’s small informal drawings on envelopes and Melanie’s small panels (see one below: Box Head & Shoulders Portrait II) accompanied by Hannah Walker’s Map II.

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But enough…I think I’ve caught up…so back to the painting…another detail below – all this makes me wonder – Am I a nutter too!:

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In the details…

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It seems that busy times never leave you.  I keep thinking that the weeks ahead look fairly clear but then they approach full of activity.  This past week has seen me out on the stump (standing in our local elections…and yes I brought this on myself), teaching in Lincoln, up in Manchester and back in Lincoln for the symposium organised by Andrew Bracey to accompany the last days of the detail exhibition.  One shouldn’t complain – its good to be active – but sometimes there’s just a feeling that the work may suffer if there’s too many distractions?   Doubt and uncertainty are surely at the heart of any contemporary painter with pretentions to a level of seriousness. This came into focus at yesterdays symposium where each of the painters on the podium posed questions about either their own or other artists work whilst, it seemed to me, the one speaker without a practice as a painter (but rather as a commentator) tended to couch his responses to the work under discussion (that of Iain Andrews) with far more certainly and clarity than I’d have wished.  I suspect that one or two members of the audience (who voiced earlier concerns that the event wasn’t properly focussed on the explication of painting) may have found this reassuring.  From discussions with several of those painters part of the exhibition and in attendance at the event I’m confident that they, like me, are only confident that we aren’t confident about where serious contemporary painting  is at!

The event was good fun and gave an opportunity to meet up with a few other painters that one felt one knew but only in the digital realm.  For me it was good to be able to say hello to Ruth Philo, whose marvellously pellucid pictures I’ve admired in several shows, and to catch up with Richard Waring, whom I’d met some years back but lost sight of, a painter with a fluid yet sure touch and excellent eye.  I was there with my wife, and my pals John and Louisa…it was a good day…I gave Andrew one of my little ‘Place’ pieces as a thanks for the whole detail project (that must have been quite a job!) and took this detail of his detail in detail

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Moving along…

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So despite all the patronising blather the Westminster elite can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to their core business of placating and sustaining the international financiers and no doubt ignore the Scots and the rest of us… Moving right along I’m looking forward to being a part of Salon 6 in a couple weeks time…and although I know a fair few of the artists showing there will be new pieces that will surprise and delight.  Coincidently the selection of works that Rachael made of mine comprised the Full Metal Jacket series…though we both acknowledged that she couldn’t show all eight…and it is one of the images from that series that I took my detail for (detail) that opens tonight at Transition Gallery in London.

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I’d have been there but for the really nasty cold that has settled on my chest and, since my heart bypass seven years back, I tend to take these things quite carefully nowadays.  So at home for me I’m afraid.  It’s a triple blow really as I had hoped that my wife and myself could have taken in Late Turner and also showed up if only for a few minutes at the last ever Lion + Lamb opening.

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The loss of any gallery is sad of course but for us painters the Lion + Lamb is particularly devastating…it has been a beacon of light for painting over the past two years and the curation (and I use the term advisedly unlike as is often the case nowadays) has been of the highest order.  It will be very sorely missed.

So…moving on again…with Salon 6 and (detail) my wife Sarah R Key and myself will have shown together twice recently.  Now its Sarah’s turn to have another solo show – at the New Court Gallery at Repton.

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This opens in October so we are full on with preparations for this now.  The New Court is a smashing space so it should prove to be quite a show. Also coming up fast is Beeston’s Carnival of Monsters…where I’m hoping to show several of the large Conversation pieces…though I haven’t as yet managed to resolve all of them (note to self best get my finger out!). And of course following on not so far ahead from all this will be the Happy Little Fat Man show featuring the work of Kevin Coyne.  As I type this I’m also thinking that I’m feeling a little better today…and when I think of all the foregoing its probably just as well!

 

 

In the detail…

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Here is my detail…centre image, bottom row…in the (detail) exhibition in Thailand earlier in the year.  The juxtaposition of 144 artists individually chosen images of one of their works is interesting and frankly a wee bit crazy when used a cladding in a gallery that culturally is quite a distance from a classic ‘white cube’.  How it will look in something (a bit) more akin to that we will see when it opens at Transition Gallery in the studios on Regents Canal in a couple weeks time. Grateful thanks are due to Andrew Bracey whose energy fuels this whole project.

So detail is in mind at present as I struggle to write something about Mondrian & His Studios: Abstraction Into The World, currently running at Tate Liverpool.  How do you say anything interesting or original about someone over whom many writers have picked about since the early 1920’s? Still I’ve agreed to write something so I’d better get it underway.  One of the things I’ll dwell on is the detail…as it seems to me thats where the real Mondrian mystery lies.

(Detail)

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I’ve been invited to be one of 118 artists from across the globe (including some quite hefty names in the painting field amongst them) to participate in a project entitled (Detail).  Each of us is being asked to supply a detail from a recent work, the work and what we decide is a relevant ‘detail’ is up to us.  One of the drawbacks of a studio in a large Victorian Mill is that when the temperature drops it is all too easy to convince oneself to retreat to home and the warm study area…well at least today I had an excuse…

So I got out the camera and fixed the macro lens and shot several details from the two “Full Metal Jacket” pictures that are completed.  Its also easy to get seduced by the detail shots…and on the big screen they look pretty lively.

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So choosing the ‘right’ detail is quite hard…and does one go for something that is visually dynamic in its own right – or something that ‘represents’ the painting more accurately?  And does that matter in a context where each artist is ‘represented’ by a single photographic image of a detail.  It will also be quite fascinating to see what 118 ‘details’ shown together on a single wall will look like.

Anyway…I didn’t go for those above that seemed a wee bit too ‘theatrical’ for my taste but this one…

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