And time passes…and I’ve not managed to post in very nearly a fortnight. Perhaps I’m running out of things I want to say…or just too busy with other things (but what?) or just too plain idle. But there are small moments of thought that might have made decent posting. Like the economy and certainty in the 50’s and 60’s of Francis Bacon’s paintings that moves into a kind of Mannerism later where the paint thickens and becomes perhaps a little less sure of itself (at least to my eyes) – seen in the rather good display at Tate Liverpool (now sadly closed I think). Or the sheer genius of Louise Bourgeois in the display in the new Switch House at Tate Modern. Here I was especially taken with 15 drawings made in her 97th year…and I’m certain mistakenly labelled as etchings? (or not..the etching is the base on which she drew further marks so the link says)..although maybe I’m wrong (as without looking too carefully I mis referenced to my companion a Whiteread as an Andre!). I was less excited by Wifredo Lam than I had expected…too much influenced by others (even after the early days) and thinness in process taken perhaps just a wee bit too far. And the Liverpool Biennial display at Tate which (sorry but) looked like contemporary art but was pretty much just stuff by and large.
In my own work I’m busying myself with various projects, making inroads into what has become the second part of a three part romp through Schama’s Landscape & Memory, getting into the Playground of the Midlands canvases, but also casting around for a form for a series of paintings stimulated by the East Coast (a follow on from the Cornish Coast group). At first I experimented with a tall upright and agonised over the exact dimensions settling eventually on two competing sizes and ratios. Then I pretty much settled on the thinner of the two at 130 cm. high (the turning of the flat coast in the east on its side an idea I nicked from Shelagh Cluett, oddly enough one of whose works from the relevant series was up in Tate Liverpool). But – and I imagine anyone unfamiliar to art practice will wonder what I’m agonising about! – I’m still not happy so I have plundered the far past for a ‘fresh’ idea (see top of post) a take on my proscenium arch idea that I first deployed in my practice in 1969. There’s nothing new under the sun…well certainly in my practice!
We were out and about again earlier this week on the ‘Playground of the Midlands’ project – I’m just ordering the canvases to get the paintings underway soon. But looking at the landscape as the first buds of spring got me thinking about the way in which creative activity is beginning to turn as more and more of us are, thankfully, living a good deal longer and the opportunity has been given to those of us of the post war generation through good pension provisions at a younger age to carry on making work into old age. It has come to the fore with the news that Phyllida Barlow will represent the UK at the Venice Biennale next summer – and how good it is to have the pavilion given over to an artist over 70 who is enjoying a substantial ‘late flowering’ in reputation.
She’s not the only one who, having had some initial success as a youngster, rather faded from view over the years when earning a living through other work, but has come storming back of late. I’m a great admirer of Sam Gilliam, who I knew from magazine illustrations as a student but who then seemed to disappear (at least here in the UK) until I was surprised a couple years back at Tate Liverpool to see an early work of his in the flesh for the first time. This was followed shortly after when he featured in a room of colourfield painters at the Met in NYC on a visit there. And just now here’s a feature in Hyperallergic…good to see Sam looking very sprightly in his ninth decade!
Of course there are many others…Carmen Herrera immediately comes to mind…so as I approach my ‘old age’ – I’m a pensioner in a few months – there’s plenty of good reason to be cheerful and to get in the studio as often as possible!
Here is my detail…centre image, bottom row…in the (detail) exhibition in Thailand earlier in the year. The juxtaposition of 144 artists individually chosen images of one of their works is interesting and frankly a wee bit crazy when used a cladding in a gallery that culturally is quite a distance from a classic ‘white cube’. How it will look in something (a bit) more akin to that we will see when it opens at Transition Gallery in the studios on Regents Canal in a couple weeks time. Grateful thanks are due to Andrew Bracey whose energy fuels this whole project.
So detail is in mind at present as I struggle to write something about Mondrian & His Studios: Abstraction Into The World, currently running at Tate Liverpool. How do you say anything interesting or original about someone over whom many writers have picked about since the early 1920’s? Still I’ve agreed to write something so I’d better get it underway. One of the things I’ll dwell on is the detail…as it seems to me thats where the real Mondrian mystery lies.