Travels…

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The trip to Gdansk was exceptional for many reasons.  Chiefly perhaps that it was so unexpected and unplanned.  The marvellous and enterprising Robert Priseman must take the credit for organising the Made In Britain show drawn from his (and Ally Seabrook‘s) collection that propelled the decision to take a visit to the city.  Although I only have a very modest ‘walk on’ part in the event going over seemed like a no brainer.

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Gdansk the confluence of the marina with the Motlawa river

The show itself looked very handsome.  And hopefully my picture didn’t let the side down, settled on the wall, between Lucy Cox and Stephen Snoddy – so at the least it was in good quality company.  The collection is full of excellent work, both figurative and abstract, with both a smattering of famous names (I doubt my work will ever be nestled so near to Alan Davie‘s, one of my teenage idols!) and good representation from many of us regionally based painters as well as, inevitably, many from the capital).  There are many that I rate very highly and several I know well.

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foreground, Lucy Cox, then mine, then Stephen Snoddy plus Ben Cove & Mary Webb

On the floor above there was a smaller grouping of artists from the collection, where a grouping of works allowed more in depth study.  Robert was amongst them with a group of portrait studies that looked very handsome, their meticulous considered style suiting the juxtaposition with the Judith Tucker works opposite; both in black and white but showing how material,  handling, and facture as well as subject matter can provide figuration with many moods and responses.

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David Ainley

David Ainley, is a friend (disclaimer) but his fastidious and controlled abstractions build over time to something quite transcendental and luminous that I believe show immense quality.  James Quin is an artist I’d not previously seen but I loved both his picture in the collection and his reflections on Las Meninas that made up his contribution to the upper floor show.  A different approach to Ainley but an equally intense luminosity to the work.  I’m guessing that – perhaps – James will be represented in the forthcoming Enough Is Definitely Enough  if not he jolly well ought to be!

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Museum of the history of WW2

What of Gdansk itself?  Well it was one of the worst hit places in WW2, indeed it was the location of the commencement of that ghastly conflict and is now home to the huge and monumental museum dedicated to it.  As a consequence much of the centre of the city is rebuilt but contrary to what might be expected of somewhere that has spent much of its post war within the ‘Iron Curtain’ it has been (and as far as one could deduce continues to be) done with great sympathy for its longer term heritage – particularly its role in the Hanseatic League.

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Gdansk with its famous crane in the foreground

Of course driving out to the coast (Gdansk is the south side of the ‘Tri-City’ that also comprises Sopot and Gdynia) the soviet era concrete apartment blocks begin to appear but then they too are subsumed into a more vernacular architecture that in Sopot spoke to me at least of seaside grandeur across much of Europe (though here much less faded than to the west).

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Sopot town centre

 

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Sopot from the end of the pier, mercifully bereft of ‘amusements’ etc. just one lovely cafe.

 

So Gdansk turns out to be quite an experience – the centre a thriving and bustling place with many interesting and lively tourist attractions and an excellent cuisine (our particular recommendation is Bowke) but of course Poland is still a relatively poor central European country.  Perhaps it was that aspect that led me to choose to photograph it in B&W so here is the centre of Old Town in full colour that I imagine is how the tourist industry wants it to be seen!

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Sound and fuzzy…

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Here’s a rarity – a kind of semblance of recognisable imagery with this – the penultimate piece in the L’Histoire De L’Eau section of my Landscape & Memory series – The Vain Water-Poet.  Named in honour of John Taylor whose escapades fit well within the broader history of English eccentrics.  As always there is little that connects the picture with the event beyond the very loose form of the boat and the text but that is not really the intention as I’ve suggested before.

As it happens this image, most likely because it was the one up on the wall in the studio at the time, is featured in the visual advertising for Lucy Cox‘s enterprising series of podcast interviews – Painters Today where I am honoured to be the third artist in this endeavour  – connected to the Contemporary British Painting group and the excellent Priseman-Seabrook collection.  Whether anything I said over the course of a longish interview has any value is for others to judge but it might shed a little light on the activity I get up to and is recorded here.

Bliss…& after

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So Colour: A Kind Of Bliss has ended. It was a privilege and a pleasure to have been asked to participate by the curators Lucy Cox & Freya Purdue.  At the discussion event I rambled on about the pleasure that results from rethinking and then repainting a ground and then having to wait until the very last stroke before knowing whether or not it has ‘worked’.  So it is with this diptych – a painting that started life nearly nineteen years back – and that, although it was shown once, I was never happy with. For most of the life of these two canvases (180 x 35 cm.) the ground was a dirty white/cream colour and the dribbles sat a bit uncomfortably on top.  So today I set to and repainted, twice, the grounds. Is it blissful? I dunno but it kept me busy and I rather like the resulting work.

There’s the rub…

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Wonky Geometry No. 24, Acrylic & oil on paper, 27 cm. square, June 2017

I can’t abide waste with materials…so I’m an inveterate hoarder. Several of my ‘projects’ are the consequence of this compulsion. The Waldgeschitchen series began by raiding my box of failed paintings on paper and pasting bits onto fresh paper, the Lavanderia idea utilises canvas offcuts and the Tales From The Lumber Room recycles all manner of wood bits and bobs (both of these still in process right now). But the sheer volume of failed paper pieces some time back forced me into drastic action. I had acquired four rather lovely boxes some 27 cm. square and began to trim and re assemble pieces with an ambition to fill them with a new series of small works. This increasing avalanche has the title of Wonky Geometry and they sit somewhere between the more straitjacketed Geometry paintings (some of which can still be seen at The Crypt in St. Marylebone Church until 30th June) and my Very Like Jazz works (and the Winter Cycle that preceded them). And the voluminous quantity liberates them a good deal. I’ve tried not to be precious or hidebound with them…I’ve even co-opted some of the existing imagery, not only my own but occasionally that of my children and others. Whether there is any genuine quality alongside their undoubted quantity – well theres the rub as William had Hamlet remark.

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Wonky Geometry No. 16, ink & acrylic on paper, 27 cm. square, May 2017

Of the show in Marylebone its worth reminding that there is a discussion this coming Friday week (9th June) at 3pm. If nothing else its an opportunity to chat with several of the exhibitors including myself and the show’s curators Lucy Cox & Freya Purdue.

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detail, Six Miles High, 72 x 48 cm., Acrylic on aluminium, 2017

And another shameless plug – one of the Geo series Six Miles High – is featured on the Auction blog set up by the artist Andrew Bracey. He has assembled quite a cast list for this charity event inspired by the death of his father last year and in support of Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital. A really worthwhile cause and the opportunity to pick up a work by some great artists at bargain prices.

Over thinking…

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Sevens Autumn Store, 72 x 48 cm., acrylic on aluminium, 2017

it (the making) is something I’ve not thought about for, oh, about thirty five years or more.  I do recall being concerned that it might be happening to the large paper panel pieces I was making in 1980 as I was also fretting over the use of fibre glass to back them (it was the coughing up blood that finally persuaded me to abandon that idea!).  But earlier today I was working on my Paintings Standing Up (still far too early to post here yet) and realised that I had put several vocal performance albums to accompany the activity.  I’ve written before that when painting I normally only listen to instrumental music and it got me to thinking why did moving into 3D suggest I could make the change?  Did I value the work less, did it require less focus?, is it a different order of thinking?  Sitting making some more components for these new pieces it struck me that perhaps my ongoing feeling of dissatisfaction with much of my recent painting process (rather than the pictures themselves) comes from over thinking them.  As a young painter I’d just crack on with the work but over the years I’ve taken to thinking hard about each stage of the process – even those parts of it that are intuitive or seemingly random have gone through a deal of soul searching.  Enough already methinks…from now on I’ll put on whatever tunes I damn well like and try to actually enjoy painting!

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Six Mile High, 72 x 48 cm., acrylic on aluminium, 2017

In any event, as is my habituation, I’m stepping away from the Geo series for a bit.  The two above are the most recent, whilst three of the earlier pieces are slated for exhibition at The Crypt in Marylebone soonish.  Invite below, get along there if you get the chance.

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A Kind of Bliss…

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Nine Lives Of Fives, Acrylic on aluminium, 72 x 48 cm., 2017

no…not the painting you fool!  Even I’m not delusional enough to think it’s that spectacular (though I’m not unhappy with it). You can’t quite see it in the photo but the interference red over the mucky blue does pull it together reasonably well.  No I’m thinking how fortunate I am to be in the position to be dabbling with these pictures this morning rather than (as my wife is) stuck in traffic on my way to paid work.  And though that’s pretty gruelling she’s fortunate to have reasonably decent paid work so what about all those without that? We often forget that for many people decent living conditions, regular food & water, healthcare and so on are a permanent struggle and thats just in the so-called ‘first world’…let’s not even go on to ponder the ‘bottom forty percent‘, over a billion people living on less than a pound a day.

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Confused Fives, Acrylic on aluminium, 48 x 98 cm., 2017

So today I’m focussing on my good fortune to be in the ‘top ten’ percent of wealth across the globe (and before you run away with the idea I’m rolling in it to qualify only requires assets in excess of a couple thousand pounds).  Indeed this morning its blissful here…I’ve got some of my favourite music playing, I’m tinkering with the pictures, the dog is relaxing and I’ve just made a good coffee (with a smidgen of brandy in it)  And to top it off I’m sorting my recent work out for selection by Lucy Cox and Freya Purdue for their upcoming show – Colour: A Kind Of Bliss – at The Crypt in Marylebone Parish Church where its my good fortune to be exhibiting in a few months time.  They are showing their work with mine, and with three others.  Its a privilege to have been asked to exhibit alongside the two of them and the also really talented trio of Julian Brown, Andy Parkinson and, well bless my soul, Jeff Dellow (with whom I was a ‘Cheltenham Fellow’ way way back in time).  Of course like everyone else I’m trying not to think too hard about what’s happening in the news but, right here, right now, I’m a happie chappie.