Long time observers know I work on series of pictures. Some are relatively constrained to a few months or a year perhaps. Not so The Heart Of Rural England. Actually this title has only just been chosen as the first part of it started way back in the late 1990’s. Back then I was working on a series of canvas pieces that were mounted on board and based on imagery drawn from villages nearby my home. These were abandoned in favour of the series of canvases that became the project titled From The Earth Wealth shown at the Tarpey Gallery in 2011. During an interview for the Leicester Mercury I jokingly suggested I might go on from that project (featuring a painting by each place featured in the district of NW Leics handbook) to make a series for each of the other districts in the county. This lay fallow until around 2015 when myself and my pal Simon started on the documentation of the Charnwood Borough. In turn the canvases for each place in their handbook began towards the end of the following year.
The first – Loughborough – was completed in February of 2017 (by which time the photography for the next district – Melton – was just starting) but then progress on the paintings stalled. But though the wheels grind slow they do grind fine with the last handful of the Charnwood series (titled from a phrase in their handbook suggesting it is ‘the Playground of the Midlands’!) just drying as i write – so they should be all put to bed by year’s end. I’ve ruefully suggested before now that with the glacial progress to date there’s a good chance the project may out live its progenitor so in order to try and forestall that I’m now pushing on.
This starts with reviewing the images from part three (luckily most of which are already captured) that of Melton (with yet another title from their Handbook of ‘Painting The Town Red’) and ordering the necessary canvases. This will be followed in the new year – COVID restrictions permitting – with recommencement of the photography for part four – Harborough District – that we started on back in February of the current year but then never followed up – I cannot imagine why!
My last post suggested we were nearing completion…well if 27 of 35 is getting close then four more is closer still. Above we have (my vision !) of Mountsorrel, Rothley, Barrow upon Soar & Beeby. Luckily very few – maybe only one – of my regular observers will know any of these places!
I started Playground Of The Midlands rather a long time back*. Nothing that unusual as anyone who has followed this for some time will testify. But with these two this part of the larger project really is coming to a close. Of course there are some seven boroughs plus the city so, even with two completed, there are six to go…phew – will I get there? Who knows? But at the current rate of completions you’d be brave to predict success!
I just checked and the first From The Earth Wealth canvas was completed back in 2011.
I just donated my piece in this show to the cause…to get a book of the contributions made….and at the last time of looking it seems (with a little over a week to go) that it has only 22% left to raise. So why not head over to Kickstarter and pledge? There’s a range of goodies on offer and the book itself will be really interesting. This initiative from Andrew Bracey has already been a terrific success so please consider capping it with a contribution.
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know how I made my contribution…luckily well ahead of C19! But besides my work there’s plenty of others to tempt you!
Meanwhile back at my ‘day job’ I’m pushing on with part two of my epic journey around Leicestershire…the Charnwood Borough (with its strap line of Playground Of The Midlands…). Today I’ve signed off on Wymeswold (above) & Walton (below).
A complete volte face…back to my Playground of the Midlands series…and the lay off means having to put a very different ‘head’ on. Back to working off of specific visual sources (that is referencing images crudely constructed from photos take on site). Working to resolve them whilst readjusting to using oils and as Thomas Nozkowski used to say keeping them open “so that everything is back in play”.
Well time to stick our fingers in our ears…and hope the news (wherever its coming from it seems) goes away… I’m picking out pieces from projects that really need pushing on…like Playground Of The Midlands… So I give you South Croxton.
Doubt anyone out there will recognise it..though the last time I said that (about Quorn I recall) someone knew exactly where I picked up the imagery. So you never know. I wonder how many remainers there were out in South Croxton – you would likely only need one hand!
Nothing concentrates my mind like the impending end of the year.I know its foolish of me but the wholly artificial milestone of the 31st December tipping into January 1st has me frantically endeavouring to tidy up production of work. Given my equally absurd penchant for multiple objectives for my work in the form of various ‘series’ or ‘projects’ this is, as one might imagine, something of a tyranny.So I have three more of the Coastal Banners to complete – will they get resolved?I’m revisiting a host of the Playground Of The Midlands canvases to see if I can put more of them properly to bed.A number of Very Like Jazz follow ups are assuming a more prominent place in the pantheon of T2R2(those that require resolution) not least because Better Git It In Your Soul is, courtesy of the energetic and exceptionally talented and generous Robert Priseman (who has done so much for Contemporary British Painting) is on tour again in 2019.So I’m thinking this strand of my work that has been quietly bubbling under for the past year needs more of an outing.
And of course I’m heavily into part three of the Landscape & Memory project – Rock – that I’d dearly like to have fully completed by the time the clock ticks over again into 2020 but at my rate of prevarication means quite a lot of cogitation as well as more painting (though mercifully all of them are in play now).Of course I have all those small things that bump along more or less all the time.The Wonky Geo series, now heading north of 60 in total, a set of little abstract landscapy things as yet untitled (and unseen) and two more tiny boxes full of half baked and half realised workouts…oh…and the glacial progress of the i series as above. And just to top it off there’s a host of Paintings Standing Up, experiments in three dimensions, that I cannot for the life of me decide are worthwhile pursuing or not.Yep nothing fogs the mind like the impending Year End!
Lack of Recognition…not of myself (though nobody would turn down more!) but of the location of the latest of the Playground Of The Midlands group of works. After all not even the most observant of the denizens of the village of Newton Linford would recognise it from the painting I’ve made. Its a pity really as this one has been a bit of a blighter. Not helped by the inordinate delay in tackling it (and the rest of them that have been languishing in the studio for yonks. Still I’m redoubling my efforts, as with several other series, to get them resolved rather than moving onto fresh work!
I’m wondering exactly what may be the unintended consequences of working from my mashups of the photos I take in preparation for my series Playground of the Midlands. Perhaps it should have occurred to me a lot earlier. After all I started playing around with photographic source imagery back in the 1990’s! But in all honesty I’d not really thought it through much until earlier in the week. Stepping back from one of the canvases the choices of elements were shockingly clear – yes – you could see what it was! Usually my mashing up, or colour choices or plain cackhandedness takes care of any original referent.
One of my many painting heroes is Thomas Nozkowski. I like his clearheaded and unfussy approach to the business of making a picture and the plain commonsense of much he says about it. He is rightly admired for his certainty that everything he does is grounded in real world experience. You get a really honest insight into his process from these videos made by his son – here’s the other – where he expands on the idea of how the work evolves. I guess one of my reasons for liking his work is my similar idea of how to construct a picture. In a 2015 catalogue he talks of his work becoming “more open ended. That’s to say initially I prided myself on sticking close to my original source material…but I’m much more interested in all the evocations and echoes and implications…so instead of a tight little knot, I think it’s now something that’s a bit more open for interpretation”. I’m wondering whether or not I may allow some movement in the other direction – or should I – as Thomas suggests – work harder at the taking out rather than the letting in?
So that’s one conundrum going around my head (where a gummed up ear is making it a rather lonely and frustrating place right now). Another that’s been bugging me for a while is the point of all this anyway. I mean doing what I’m doing right now…’social media’ that as David Byrne recently suggested may actually do as much harm as good. After all if there’s a point to painting it has to be in substantial part the engagement with the actual object. It’s not lost on me that both the bodies of work I’m particularly focused on right now have no obvious outlets in the real world – and that is equally frustrating too. Maybe the memo to self is to start searching for opportunities to get the work out there…though after I have resolved it all!
I’m putting up six of the Playground of the Midlands canvases here…only one of which I think is quite finished (though I think two others are pretty close) because its supposed to be a painting blog. Though I don’t feel so good today so I’m doing a lot of displacement activity instead. I doubt I’m the only painter who does that. Part of the avoidance has been some clearing of shelves – I’m an inveterate hoarder so have way too much ‘stuff’ – and I came across a copy of Flash Art from Summer 1999. That led me to wondering what had happened of late to that Flash Art favourite of the 90’s – Mark Kostabi. Was Kostabi World still in action?
So to that marvellous invention for all us avoidance merchants – this Internet thingy! It appears Mark is now mainly to be found on Facebook…and that (unbeknownst to me) he did for quite a few years write a magazine column. And in the spirit of my online flaneur I came across his review of Italian painter Giulio Turcato – also previously unknown to me (and without being immodest many pals will tell you that’s quite rare…). But I’m now loving his work…so not entirely an afternoon wasted…
And with him having to chosen Rome to live in for part of his time alongside his articles and cable tv show Mark has gone up a little in my estimation of him!