Morning, Mingus, Michael & Me…with John in the mix…


It’s another of those grey, damp mornings that seem to be characterising our winter (so far) but best not to grumble. Not cold or waist deep in snow (eh, Stephen!) and my investment in the Daylight Slimline Table Lamp means I can work comfortably on the small Jazz paintings at the (warm) kitchen table. As is my habit I’m listening to jazz as I work (today it’s fifties and early sixties fare from the great Charles Mingus, a perennial favourite). But wait what’s this? Vocal music is usually a no – no when painting but here’s dear old Michael Chapman. He was prescient when he wrote Fully Qualified Survivor wasn’t he? Then 30 now 76 but in good voice on a beautiful album- 50 that is rich and full, a mix of older material re-recorded and three new songs. What a lucky lad am I sitting here in the warm working away to lovely music with Mindy the dog to keep pleasant (and placid) company.

Left & Right, 2012  John Holden

The daylight lamp helps me with colour in the compositions, always a tricky one for me, and gets me thinking about the exquisite colour combinations in my friend John Holden’s paintings. Besides being roughly the same age Michael & John share other characteristics I reckon. The jazz/folk tinged singer songwriter went out of fashion ways back as did hard edge abstraction and in terms of commercial success neither tide has come back in that much since. But both have real heft and solid quality for me (a generation or so after them) and its good to see both of them still giving it their all and turning out such great material. I saw John last week and am hoping there will soon be an opportunity hereabouts for his work to be enjoyed by others.

Neon City, 2008-10  John Holden

Bon Voyage


Something happened once the web really opened up that, contrary to its unsavoury aspects, was rather wonderful.  If you aren’t fortunate to have achieved real fame where once one’s only contacts came about through physical acquaintanceship (constrained by opportunities to travel) suddenly interest could spring from just about anywhere.  Online interest occasions many fascinating encounters, some from those just up the road but others many miles away.  And so it is that for the very first time I’m sending some work across the Atlantic courtesy of my good online friend Stephen MacInnis.  More details will follow but a package of six small pictures on paper are winging their way towards Prince Edward Island!  This is how the modern world works I guess but to me it will always be a minor miracle that such things can now come to pass.


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.

What should a person consider when thinking about applying to Art School?

Painting Studio, Falmouth School of Art, 1972

A couple weeks back Stephen B. MacInnis asked this question and posted some good, intelligent replies…I was supposed to answer it too…but typically though I did write something down never got around to posting it in time.  Well here it is…

Where do I feel most comfortable making art

Where do I feel most uncomfortable making art

Where can I see comfortable art

Where can I see uncomfortable art

Where will I be able to swing a cat

Where will I be able to swing several cats

Where will I find a ready supply of cheap mice

Where will I be able to skin a cat (or mice)    note: I do not advocate actually skinning livestock of any kind.

Who will I find to talk to me about art

Who will I find to listen to me talk about art

Who will have anything to say about art

Have I anything to say about art

Where is the nearest crafts (wo)man

Where is the nearest technician

Where is the nearest historian/theorist

Do they know what they think they know

Does this place have a good;



Woodwork shop

Metalwork shop

Print shop


Can you see paint peeling on the walls

Is there a healthy level of rubbish lying around the studios

Are the H&S notices half hidden or torn

Is this place lived in

Am I a bit wacky

Is the candidate next to me a bit wacky

Is the tutor interviewing me a bit wacky

Is the Head of Faculty a bit wacky

On to the next show



And now that ‘The Discipline of Painting’ is underway…it’s already time to start thinking about, and organising the arrangements for, ‘Painting Too’…the follow on exhibition that will look at more abstraction that, to put it rather indelicately, is a whole lot messier than the first!  Of course I am being rather cheeky in saying this as all the artists in this second look at abstraction are just as pernickety about their pictures as those that precede them.  It’s rather that, instead of a lot of planning and thinking through in advance of making in this show it is more reaction and response that is the hallmark of the works on display.  However one of those exhibiting was right on the money perhaps because he was coming to the show from so far away.  Stephen B. MacInnis will, I am sure, be pretty well known to most readers of this blog.  His extraordinary commitment to the ‘Long Series’ and the amazing originality and continuing invention of it is – I am sure – fairly unique in the current field of abstraction.  I am absolutely delighted to have a sequence of images from it in ‘Painting Too’