Ten down in The Water…

Priestly Acoreus

So you like to think you can extract yer digit when required…but then you go somewhere that makes you realise what a hopeless slowcoach you are.  Still here’s Priestly Acoreus, number ten in the water subset of my Landscape & Memory series. What with the first group of eighteen filed away, the eight others of this lot well advanced and fourteen of the eighteen of the final Rock lot underway not so shabby really (after all I only started this particular project a couple years back!).  But of course I had to go and spoil it by visiting the Picasso at Tate Modern…and crossing Millennium Bridge on a fine Spring late afternoon I reflected on how inadequate me and lets face it, most of us are compared to real genius!


It’s not what you look at that matters, It’s what you see…


It’s been a really special week or so for acquiring some terrific pictures.  Take this gorgeous little panel by my dear friend Sue Disley.  I’m jealous of her talent as not only is she a terrific painter but also one of the best ceramicists in the country.  I’ll come back to this one in a few moments but first onto another of the new works.  When I saw this little canvas by Stephanie Bates in the degree show at Bishop Grosseteste I knew immediately where it would hang if I could get my hands on it.  The corner of our bedroom where the spiral staircase takes me up to the study area above…already has a wonderful piece by Lauri Hopkins and adjacent to that my truly marvellous Terry Greene painting.  So now as I ascend the stairs to where these rambling are written you see Steph’s canvas next…


And once I’m sitting at my mac I have Stephen MacInnis’ work from his ‘Long Series’ to oversee my deliberations…so put them together and it doesn’t get better than that.

Not strictly a new acquisition but my current boss and good friend John Rimmer restored his ‘In My Room’ canvas from 2003 to our care this week.  John has been mainly working with video over the past 7/8 years and though the work was really fascinating (in brief he explored notions of abstraction in painting through collaged film clips put through extraordinary digital convulsions) I’d love to see him get back to painting directly.  John has been consistently inventive in his painting over the years (recognised by two inclusions in the prestigious John Moores).

John Rimmer – In My Room, Mixed Media on Canvas, 36 x 35.5 cm. 2003

The work has all the hallmarks of John’s interest in the fractured and disjointed figurative image, in this case wallpaper pattern, put through some considerable painterly intelligence.  I’d have made an effort to take a better snap but really you need to get up close and personal to see the variety of media and mark making displayed to great effect.

Another acquisition from the show on the course that John leads at BGU and that I occasionally teach into is this lovely little picture by Jordon Lawrenson. Jordon is the source of the quote that heads this column…by Henry David Thoreau and used it in talking about her work for the degree.


The greatest pleasure in teaching is seeing students make real progress.  Jordon worked hard in the final months synthesising her own ideas and images with those of her two year old son.  Picasso said memorably “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” and I feel that Jordon has in a modest way latched on to that idea here.  Anyway I love it!

For me looking at work that’s around me and that I liked enough to purchase, swap or blag out of people makes me hungry to do better myself.  And these pictures all come into that category.  Sue’s small panel is a case in point.  As it happens I know the very spot that image is synthesised from…so maybe it actually matters greatly what you look at…and what you see.




My wife said I’d love Madrid and she was so right.  I want to say so much about the experience of the last three days that I’m going to have to break it up to into separate entries – it really really is a ‘painter’s paradise’.

Having arrived pretty late on Thursday evening (and turned the first corner out of our hotel into the lovely square above for some marvellous tapas) we began in earnest on Friday.  A brief walk around the Botanical gardens was followed by a visit to the extraordinary rail station that resembles nothing as much as a huge indoor jungle repleat at the business end with a small pool containing more terrapins than I imagined might be assembled in one location.



Truly there are times when I wonder what art can do to cap nature and of course in many respects it simply cannot…we can only as sentient creatures seek equivalences and observations on the glories of life – or as so often in what’s to follow the depths that the human condition can sink to and how we can find yet other ways to express our sorrow, outrage and hopefully sometimes optimism that we may rise above it.

So then across the road and straight into the Reina Sofia.  The very first things we are confronted by is a row of Goya etchings from the Disasters of War series…very definitely underlining the tone of what we may expect in these monumental venues we have come to visit.  We drift through the first few galleries, inspecting one or two works more closely but in truth very conscious of the thing we have really come to see.  So suddenly and without a great deal of discussion we both find ourselves hastening towards Guernica.  You can hear the hubbub from a couple rooms away…and suddenly we are in jostle to get pole position before it.  After a few moments the gaggle of primary children sitting scribbling notes in front of the work moves on and we get front row, centre stage.  Its a much flatter painting than I’d imagined from repro…and the subtlety of the tonal adjustments, especially in the off whites is quite remarkable.  Although of course there are many preparatory studies you kind of get the feeling that the actual canvas (and it was as enormous as I’d imagined it to be) was painted at a lick…and this, something I’ve observed many times with Picasso, takes your breath away with the sustained energy required to make such a picture.

So what else detained us in the huge beautiful spaces of this gallery?  I remember a stunning little synthetic cubist painting by Diego Rivera…with a relief cigar in the foreground!  There was a stunning early cubist picture by Braque…and of course Picasso was represented from the same period but, as I think the late great Robert Hughes said, Braque’s paintings are all about love whilst Picasso is always angry.  I got to see not one but two fine examples of Clyfford Still’s pictures (someone I’ve admired my whole life but whose work is a rarity in the UK) and a very fine late Guston.


One of the current shows by Juan Perez Agirregoikoa was noteworthy,  lovely vigorous charcoal drawings of dogs and human relations…something that is very much a part of madrid street life.  Richard Serra has a whole wing devoted to a single work in a room that is just one of the sensational spaces.. four of his trademark hulking brutes of corten steel aligned in an immaculate manner. . Serra very much a man after the Spanish sensibility I think.


But of the current work on show the large exhibition by Cristina Iglesias titled Metonymy was the scene stealer.  I missed her large 2003 show at London’s Whitechapel in 2003 but quite a few pieces reappeared here from that outing with other newer works added into this display.  It seemed that everything she makes has a rich layer of authority despite quite often composed of simple means.  Presentation and lighting help establish spaces that have a wealth of alliterative meanings…and I especially loved the large screen printed panels that featured blown up drawings and altered photographs of mock ups of the sculptural installations, and of these, those on metal had a particularly intense imaginative visual presence.


Phew! what a day’s art experience – and The Prado to come tomorrow!


IMG_2343Friday night dinner at Le Trucha,  grilled trout and asparagus tips…with a delightful white rioja!