For reasons that need not detain…it’s been hard going of late. Hardly anyone mentions it but making work can be drudgery…at least for me. Not least in these strangest of days – sort of post-lockdown but with many of us still testing the bounds – when motivation is hard to find. I’m still pushing the Paintings Standing Up but also endeavouring to drag one or two pictures that stubbornly refused to ‘work’ first time around kicking and screaming into satisfactory conclusion. Easier said than done.
Two things to trail…firstly Enough Is Definitely Enough curated by Andrew Bracey with a piece by myself opens at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough on Friday 18th September 6 – 9pm alongside other private views at The Auxiliary and Platform A. The show then runs 24 September – 17 October 2020, 10am – 4pm, Thursday to Saturday. Andrew is also running a fundraiser for a book of the show – why not subscribe?
Secondly my good friends Moira & Allan are running a show – Days Like These – in Lyme Regis this autumn with work by myself, my wife Sarah R Key & Stuart Reid as well as themselves- details here…with more to follow!
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.
Sometimes you’re taken away from painting by other work or chores…or simple fatigue or recreation…but we all need some interaction with family and friends. As for friendships they often tend to be longstanding, often forged way back. As one gets older they really do go way, way back. In this instance we all met – pause for reflection – forty seven years ago.
It started with a trip to Trent Bridge for the third day of the second Test against South Africa with my pal Allan. Cricket (along with Snooker I feel) is very much an artists game, something to do with space and time. And margins too, fine ones that can change the course of a match irrevocably. Despite England’s increasing forlorn chances of saving the game it was a good day’s outing. We followed this with an evening in the company of the fine singer songwriter Keith Christmas who played his latest album in its entirety explaining that he had conceived it with the live performance in mind. I cannot recommend it too highly.
On the way home we got to discussing what makes a great artist (in any form) and Allan repeated a conversation with his own son, Adam (himself a very talented musician) who suggested it was simply intensity. And I cannot agree more. Keith has it in spades and I like to think it may be something to do with age – Keith’s latest has some of his best work ever and quite rightly he wants it out there and admired by as many as can experience it.
On Monday last I was away to London to meet up with another pal from the graduating class of 1973 at Falmouth School of Art, Stuart. We were at Tate Modern to take in the Giacometti show that didn’t disappoint – full of well presented masterpieces. It was intensity personified – especially as regards the spacial awareness in what constitutes formal integrity. Over two days that took in a studio visit our conversations ranged widely though several of them were situated in his garden, a relatively small space but full of flower intensity that, to me at least, spills over into his paintings, ostensibly concerned with landscapes (mostly in Dorset & Spain) but just as much focussed on vibrant colour, light and form.
Our talks about painting were easy and relaxed – 47 years does that! – and some of it homed in on intention and ambition. What really matters to us is simply what our heart and head says to us in the moment – not all that extraneous matter that creeps in once you start situating the work in any kind of context. Is that what we mean by intensity?