A time to ponder…


over times long past.  Many eons ago I was party to an explosion of public art across the United Kingdom…aiding and abetting a variety of schemes that, for better or worse, were intended to ‘beautify’ and ‘edify’ public enjoyment of the environment.  It seems it wasn’t confined to the UK as here in the Lunigiana (wedged in the borderlands between Tuscany and Liguria in Italy) there’s a fair amount of it too.  Including this rather splendid piece in Piazza Cavour in Aulla.  It seems we are witness to a lively game of geometric footie…or calcio as its known here.  Or perhaps, given the garb sported, a game of volleyball or  some such.  Whatever the occasion and the exercise there’s a deal to admire – I’m especially taken with the knees myself.  It got me to thinking about who gets to make these works and who selects them…and that’s a topic on which I’ve quite a few stories from my involvement back in the UK (don’t get me started on the Shoe Last in the pedestrian precinct in Northampton…).  Anyway I rather like this one though I doubt many people give it so much as a glance nowadays.


And a good holiday is an excuse to have a play about (as well as sit pondering) on projects that as yet maybe don’t make a deal of sense.  I’m cutting out canvas letters to join my sewn canvas shapes using odd snippets of text that I wrote down from poems into a sketch book almost thirty years back.  They are so obscure I cannot begin to recall what the texts were or why I chose them.  But I did it here in Italy and I’m here again (courtesy of my chum Sue) where I’ve been shaping and sowing the canvas pieces over the past few years so there is a connection though what it is and why its significant to me I have no way of articulating as yet.


But of course time away from your usual haunts is mostly for the simple pleasures of experiencing other cultures and environments.  This part of Italy is framed by the Appenines to the back of us and the Apuan Alps away to the south east, its quite rugged and hilly, and at this time of year looking its best, the blossoming of the vegetation in springtime before the more arid days of summer…though we’ve been blessed on this occasion by warm and sunny weather.


(In Part) Walking around Foremark, found wood, acrylic paint, photographs on hahnemuehle paper mounted on aluminium, c. 40 x 40 cm., 2013

Much of my focus in this blog and with my time over the past twelve months is on my painting activity.  But I have always found some space for the inclusion of photography in some of my working practice.  When I was younger I kept this pretty much on the back burner, and although at various times with increasing frequency through the 1990’s I brought it into my painting practice in a number of differing ways, it was only after I returned to education and acquired my MA (in 2009) that I have used it very directly.  Even now it surfaces less frequently than it might had I more hours in the day!  I guess for me it is a way of rendering things I want to say about direct observation that I can’t, or just haven’t yet found to, say with the paintings…and in some cases it relates painterly activity to the indexical properties of the photograph.  Quite often it is (in my mind at least) a ‘legitimate’ way of bringing a very particular narrative into a work in a way that I would find clumsy and arcane if translated into purely abstract terms.

Works on Show in ‘Fabrica de Fotografia’, Casa Museu Abel Salazar, Porto, November/December 2013

A good case in point is the piece below (and the work on the right in the show above) – this is an extensively reworked composite image of the terrain around my friend’s property in the Lunigiana region of Italy.  I have tried to make paintings that relate to this environment without success over the years (I’ve been going to the location since the late 1980’s) but somehow the ‘translation’ of my thoughts, feelings and notions of the place has never found a good ‘fit’ with my paintings interests at the time.  I also wanted to bring the visual image that I had manufactured (an aspect of digital practice that I used extensively between 1999 and 2010) into conjunction with a fragment of text that, again, I couldn’t see it working with completely painterly means.

Dante’s Mountains, 2011

One of the attractions of using photography is to try and push it back in the direction of painting…of course there are endless ways of doing this but one that I enjoy greatly is the combination of the blurred image and the heavy inking of the inkjet image on a good paper (Hahnemuehle German Etching is a favourite of mine).  I used it way back in the early’ digital days for this work that was one of the first entirely photographic pieces I exhibited publicly .

Nights on the Veneto, 2003