Earlier this autumn I put on another show at Deda in Derby. My contributions are shown above. I donated Cape Poem to the organisation as part of a fundraiser and contributed a short video piece that can be viewed here. I’ve a great fondness for Deda and been a long time supporter as well as putting on shows there. I’d appreciate any support that others might give them!
It’s difficult to know what constitutes efficiency in the matter of painting. After all a good deal of the ‘magic’ resides in the capture of time. Of course this can be accomplished in a matter of moments (although even the experts in this probably often have longueurs between actions) but for some of us the endless prevarications, adjustments and alterations are very much part of the process. Nonetheless with some pictures it takes me months to sort them out to my satisfaction, perhaps that’s why I have so many on the go at any time. Add to that occasional periods of ill health and the onset of the winter (cold studio, poor light…) and things can take a dickens of a time.
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.
So this new series of paintings now has a title…from a quotation by Will Self. “I am a great believer in the idea that seascapes exert some kind of lunar pull on the imagination.” that comes from a short essay of the year he spent on Rousay – one of the Orkney Isles. This picture utilises yet another Peter Redgrove poem extract from the 1972 collection Dr. Faust’s Sea-Spiral Spirit & Other Poems.
I had a very deep pocket and access to a very large gallery! The Landscape & Memory series is now complete, not before time it must be said. After all the first tranche (the Wood section) began back in Spring 2016 with the first completed works dated that summer. the second (Water) dallied through 2017 and into last year with the final group (Rock) starting then and bringing us up to the beginning of autumn 2019. It is 54 works in all that I have always envisaged in three blocks of 18, most likely 2 up and 9 across (as was the case with the first section that I showed at Harrington Mill – though a tall space might suggest a more vertiginous arrangement?
As for the cash…I did show at HMS with the works (all on paper) pinned directly to the wall but the framing up of one piece from Wood courtesy of a purchase by friends and posted here a while back clearly showed up how much better they would look all done.
This would likely require an outlay of upwards of twelve grand. Any takers for a bit of sponsorship then?!
I recently commented upon the sad passing of Thomas Nozkowski. I’d been resisting the monograph on him produced last year until now (not least as I have several catalogues of his) but this week took delivery of a copy. If you are unfamiliar with his work you’ll not know of his regular practice of making over his canvas boards through erasure and re-painting. In John Yau’s excellent essay he quotes the artist saying: “I don’t like tinkering. Whenever I go back to a painting, I try to open up the entire surface – you know, run a wash of colour over it, or I’ll scrape it down, or I’ll rub it off with a rag – so that everything is back in play.”
Now I love his work, and (I hope) in my modest way see him as something of ‘a fellow traveller’ in several respects…but not in the matter of ‘tinkering’…it’s something I absolutely love. Indeed it goes to the heart of my dabbling! Paintings can, and usually do, sit around for months, and even occasionally years, in order that small additions, adjustments or obliterations may take place. It is also the case that, rather more rarely for me, the outcome can be ‘opening up’ the entire surface as well. But it’s the tinkering that mostly takes centre stage and the very thing I celebrate. And so it is with these three paintings all ‘in play’ since Easter but not significantly altered – as yet – from their early states…but still likely I think to some jolly tinkering!
I can’t really explain why this seems important right now but it does. So I’m reading a good deal, mainly poetry (of which I have a pretty decent, if rather ancient for the most part, collection). When a fragment takes my fancy and fits with the emerging form of the painting I’m working on (as usual there are several on the go) then it is plucked from it’s context and put to work around the edges.
How the originator might feel I do not know, but for the most part, so far, those chosen have shuffled off this mortal coil. In Tomas Tranströmer‘s case some four years back but I like to think he wouldn’t have minded too much…