I don’t often ‘cross the streams’ in this blog…some time back I decided it would only focus on painting rather than veer into other topics. But although this isn’t especially about my painting it is about painting more generally. Occasionally I dip my toes into the wider art world and – curation. Actually I’m not entirely convinced that’s what I’m up to. Curation for me is a far more nuanced and complex activity. What I do, and what mostly happens in the art world generally nowadays, is selection. We (and that includes virtually everyone out there) select a group of artists (that admittedly we have given some thought to their suitability to be shown together) and put on an exhibition. And so it was here.
This group included artists from as far afield as London & the North East, Leicester, Lincoln & Nottingham. The show I titled ‘A Riotous Assembly’ and it took place in Derby at the excellent Dance based Arts Centre Deda. The brief intro says:
Letting go, running riot, it has to be admitted, is very liberating – and often a lot of fun.Then of course comes a reckoning, a sense of order being re-established if not completely restored. A lot of abstract painting practice runs on such principles.When you confront the blank sheet of paper or canvas it can be the best way of getting going…don’t agonise but dive in.Put a bit of stick (brush, roller etc.) about and just see how it goes for a bit.Luxuriate in the gloopy, resinous or wishy washy qualities of the paint, gorge yourself on the intensity of the hues, and delight in the chance elements of the collision of colour, form and facture that result.Yes, it may be a tad messy but trusting your instincts is an exhilarating ride and what comes through often surprises you with a fresh take on what you thought you might want to achieve. A new direction or approach to image making and, if you’re lucky something new in your work.
In this riotous assembly though (and whisper it in terms of whats just been said) there may be far more considered initial moves than might be supposed from a first casual look.For some of those present here neither want, nor one supposes could, let go with such abandon.Their first marks are deliberated, even agonised over.And those manoeuvres that follow are equally premeditated.Its simply part of their artifice that to the viewer comes an initial sensation of liberation, an easy, relaxed and reckless pleasure in the pure act of painting.And colour too can seem in some pictures to be be jostling and jockeying for position in random fashion when in truth there is a deal of experience at play, much of it hard-won over years of trial and error, with carefully controlled and thoughtful weighing up of what will ‘work’ with what to achieve a satisfactory and often thrilling outcome.
Here then is a show of seven artists who run the gamut of what’s possible for painting now.They span several generations and cover a fair bit of the country from the North East to London by way of parts of the East Midlands.They share no common agenda and have only been connected here through an invitation from myself.But there are connections and reflections aplenty if you look hard enough.Enjoy!
The show is now sadly over but as always its been hard work but really enjoyable. My thanks go to all the artists for their participation and to Deda, and especially their departing Director (off to a new challenge) and Technical Manager Geoff Harcula as well as the rest of the staff team for their assistance.
Make Colour Singis the title that Laine Tomkinson has chosen for the exhibition she has curated at the Nottingham Society of Artists gallery on Castle Gate in the city. It’s an intriguing title, not least as alongside all the works in which colour features as a significant force, there are lovely etchings by Michelle Keegan that are resolutely monochrome – raising the old chestnut as to whether black is ‘properly’ a colour. My own pieces use a raft of colour combinations that bounce about in a reckless manner. This piece – A Sun Door In The Harbour – pretty much nails colour confusions and plays them off against one another within a loose geometric arrangement. The show features Laine’s work, a delightful and playful exploration of form and gesture in her chosen medium of screen printing. And much else besides; Martin Heron with a range of equally delicate and intense repeated drawn elements that coalesce into form that is almost as solid as his sculptures yet shimmer and dissolve before your eyes; John Stockton‘s collaged photographs that evidence strong graphic style; Andy Parkinson‘s obsessive preoccupation with repetitive mark making that gradually off registers to compelling effect. There are plenty of other marvellous things on offer. Laine asked me to write a short introduction to the show that I’m reposting below:
A gutsy, powerful and emotional vocal performance is a stirring thing…be it Beyoncé’s Check On It or Handel’s Oratorio and so it is with colour in art, whether it’s loud vibrant hues played off against one another or quiet sensitive interactions modulated by tone and texture.Either way for many artists – and especially those gathered together by Laine Tomkinson here – Make Colour Sing, her chosen title, seems so appropriate.
Laine has ranged both close to home and across the nations of these isles to source artists for whom colour interactions are either the main spring of their interests or at the very least a vital component of the mix that makes up the work.Not surprisingly, given her own intuitive, sensitive process for making paintings and prints, several of those she has assembled allow chance to play a significant role in the creation of work.Insofar as colour is concerned this opens up possibilities that the artist might not have envisaged for herself and truly reveals fresh opportunities for the colours to sing out – in both close harmonies and also, occasionally, dissonances that act as counterpoint and contrast.
Of course for some of those invited the procedures are much stricter. It may, in musical terms, be much more a closer reading of the score, indeed a literal translation of it where nothing is left to chance, each colour combination the result of finely considered adjustments, every action pondered at length.
Either way, and acknowledging that for some it might be a case of both approaches deployed together, colour remains an elusive, slippery customer.Over several centuries now distinguished figures from Goethe to Albers have tried to pin it down, codify and tame it only for it to spring back as vibrant and unruly as ever.It has many voices and plenty of diverse ditties, from every avenue of the creative impulse, and quite a few have been assembled here too.
to have been part of the extraordinary adventure that was stimulated by, and masterminded by, Robert Priseman. I have Terry Greene to thank for suggesting I contact Robert over a year or so ago and beginning my own small part of what has been quite an amazing story.
It was the exchange of paintings, mine from the Very Like Jazz series and the gift of a lovely panel picture from Robert in return, that led to the invitation to be included in Contemporary Masters From Britain currently on show at Tianjin Academy of Fine Art having visited three other large Chinese venues since the summer. Tianjin is, apparently, the sixth largest city on the planet! and I’m ashamed to say that until recently I’d not even heard of it. Things in the world are changing fast it seems.
Being a part of this tour that ends in January is only a small part of being in the Priseman-Seabrook collection as it features on the Art UK website and is an on-going venture that unites a great many of our best painters. It’s been good to meet and get to know artists such as Lucy Cox, Freya Purdue and several others…and hopefully more in the future.
Its helped me over recent weeks as I’ve been feeling unwell and am still struggling with a (so far) mystery ailment that is severely restricting my productivity. Not least in keeping up this blog as well as getting on with my painting. I had hoped to end the year with at least two current bodies of work pretty much rounded off, but sadly they both have a way to go yet. So it goes.
Nonetheless the New Year already promises fresh opportunities. Firstly my good friends Jackie Berridge invited me to be a part of an exchange with artists in the Honfleur area of Northern France in April. As a long time fan of Boudin, a local boy made good, it was too good to miss. And another friend the excellent painter (and printmaker) Laine Tomkinson is putting on a show in Nottingham Make Colour Sing in May so much to look forward too.
I’ve noticed of late that several of those lovely people who occasionally follow this blog have drawn our collective attention to the way in which making art is a kind of therapy. I guess thats true for all of us really whether or not we have occasional ailments or for those who sadly have ongoing conditions. I’m fortunate to be presently in neither of those states but have known how disabilities of some kind – when the psychological and physiological circumstances permit – can be ameliorated by creativity. I’m currently wrestling with a dozen or so medium sized collages based on the idea of Forests and though they are hardly working out at present (see above and below…) the act of wrestling with them is very therapeutic and also has the benefit of keeping me busy when, truth to tell, I haven’t many pressing engagements.
Luckily time moves on and though this week is very quiet more is happening in the following one including the exciting prospect of seeing some of my work on a gallery wall again. It is courtesy of an invitation from the artist Laine Tomkinson who has enterprisingly curated a show in Nottingham that I’m helping install next Wednesday. Here’s the poster (though the very excellent Martin Heron has been added to the selection shown below).
You’ll notice that it opens on Saturday 30th January at 6.30 pm. – why not pop along and say hello!