Its funny…

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how things collide in your head during this isolation (I’m still too frit to properly venture out) especially as contacts with others is confined.  So just as I begin sorting out the next substantial project – based on Alexandra Harris’ Weatherland – I find its concerns reverberating  in my thinking with Chapter Three of Jeff Young’s Ghost Town.  I’d spent a good deal of a day sifting  through the former arranging a series of quotations by others that Harris had used to be the framework on which my series will hang.  Literally insofar as they are ranged around the perimeter of the canvases I’m intending.  And then this very morning I find Jeff musing on the importance of weather…”The weather is memory and memory is the weather. It seeps into this place, becomes layered into it. The meteorology of memory.”  And whilst I had been attracted to a brief passage from the introduction to Weatherland as the title of my sequence “I have tried to hang a mirror in the sky” my wife pointed out its connection to a title I have used before ‘Nothing But Mirrors And Tides’ (that stolen from Anne Michaels wonderful Fugitive Pieces for a solo show at Derby Museum nearly two decades back) and I’d already thought it perhaps overlong.  And now – glory be – it seems that not only have I a marvellous title ‘The Meteorology Of Memory’ but those few words also crystallise the core of my thinking behind these paintings.  

Because unlike the three series that comprised the reflections on Schama’s Landscape & Memory (Waldgeschichten, L’Histoire de L’Eau and Rock Of Ages) where the impulses for the form of each work preceded and then ran alongside the textual content here I have zoomed in on the texts (setting them in a framework of the months of the year) and hope to evoke memories, form, colours and reflections of each month as it unfolds.  At least in the conception of the work as a whole because, unlike my normal way of working, I intend to make a sketch or cartoon (if you wish!) for each painting before making the full size work.  Within this sits another secret source of imagery drawn both from my own reservoir of images and ones stolen from other observers of the world around them…something that has become so easy since the advent of the digital when everyone is a photographer of some (albeit) occasional distinction.

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Borglum’s Escape, Mixed media on paper, 106 x 94 cm. 2019                     from Rock Of Ages

A red letter day…

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five years back I was heavily engaged in putting together a show of Kevin Coyne‘s art.  If you don’t know Kevin was a ‘cult’ musician (i.e. little commercial success but feted by several critics and other musicians and suchlike – John Peel was an early champion) but also an artist and writer.  He was a proud son of Derby and a group of three, his longtime pal Paul Warren, filmmaker Doug Smith and myself, put together a modest exhibition at Deda, the dance based arts centre in the city on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death.

We crowdfunded the thing and included a small catalogue as part of the ‘rewards’.  And as part of the catalogue the excellent Jeff Young allowed me to use a lovely piece he had penned for The Guardian feature ‘The greatest albums you’ve never heard’.  This is all by way of a shameless plug for Jeff’s marvellous memoir Ghost Town.  It arrived this morning but I had to be out early and have only now been able to tuck into it.  But even after the few pages of the first chapter its contents are as great as the production values of the Little Toller imprint – first rate.

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Charles Houghton Howard’s Painting (1), 1961 out for my research!

And whilst I was ordering Jeff’s book I recalled a conversation back in February when I was at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery  giving a talk on Charles Howard (an obsession of mine).  A couple came up at the end & mentioned their research on Clifford Webb.  I think the chap mentioned a book he had recently completed on him…and Little Toller published, last year, a marvellous volume on Webb…whether it’s author – Simon Brett – was the man I met I cannot be certain (February seems an awful long time ago now!).  But the book is, like Jeff’s, beautifully produced and I’m looking forward to it immensely now I’ve purchased it alongside Ghost Town.