Figuring out…

FullSizeRenderMy Rough Cartography series is such a long standing practice that it seems now just habitual. Wherever and whenever I’m somewhere away from home I pick up those freebie tourist maps and once back in the studio they are pasted into one of the sketch books. Over time…lots of it!…they are gradually painted in.  Why I do it I’m not at all sure but the letter below maybe gives some kind of clue to it.

Dear old friend,
Today you would have reached pensionable age but, as things go, sadly you’re not here to celebrate. Later I will raise a silent glass for you. I remember back when we were still youngish men sitting and discussing making work, why we do it and what it means. You asked me about my peculiar habit of keeping scraps of maps in my sketchbooks and colouring them in…and us both laughing at my complete inability to explain any purpose behind it. Well I think I may be on my way to understanding now. Not bad eh, its only been thirty plus several years after all!
Its something (if I understand it properly) contained within an essay in the catalogue for Contemporary Masters From Britain – a show of 80 paintings touring China from the Priseman-Seabrook Collection. Dr. Judith Tucker suggests that painting retains a capacity to capture our attention precisely because of its materiality; its “sensuous, viscous quality” as she puts it. This is coupled in the essay with a notion of painting as “quasi-subject”; a site in which bodily experience of the artist in making the work is somehow a residue within this materiality. I think it may be at the very least something to do with these ideas that keep me, all these years later, fiddling with those damn maps.
I’m also dwelling on the good fortune that allows me to keep working and how, over time, opportunities present themselves through a myriad of circumstances. It’s in my mind because of the show just mentioned. Its been through recommendation (and I owe thanks to the talented Terry Greene for that) that I’m part of this exhibition. Other possibilities open up and suggest themselves too.  I suspect that over the past decade or so you would have cemented your reputation not least because of the way in which your last works were opening up new avenues and directions. Amongst the many things I miss is the opportunity to have argued and wrestled with these ideas and outcomes that never happened.
With affection and remembrance,

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More information on Paul Mason can be found on my blog on him here.

Contemporary Masters From Britain is available through Amazon.  The show opens at the Yantai Art Museum on 7th July 2017 and runs till 3rd August before moving to Nanjing.

Terry Greene’s blog is a must for all contemporary painters!

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

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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…

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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).

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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.

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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.

 

Those few hardy souls who drop by here on a fairly regular basis might be forgiven for thinking I’ve dropped off the radar…or even the perch!  My excuse is that I’ve actually been properly working for this past week…helping install and assess across the three years of the Visual Arts pathway at Bishop Grosseteste University.  It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience to be part of a team that has mounted the best show ever for this course.  Now it’s back to business and I’m looking forward to meeting up tomorrow with curator Lisa Denyer who is selecting my contribution to the show below,  if you have the chance please go take a look!:

About Painting

Claudia Böse, Louisa Chambers, Lisa Denyer, Terry Greene, Matthew Macaulay, David Manley, Andy Parkinson, Anne Parkinson

Curated by Lisa Denyer

Venue: Castlefield Gallery, 2 Hewitt Street, Manchester M15 4GB
Preview: Thursday 19th June 6–9pm
Exhibition continues: Friday 20th June – Sunday 29th June 2014

Terry Greene, 'Adventures in Naples' 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 35x45cm

“The aim of art, so far as one can speak of an aim at all, has always been the same; the blending of experience gained in life with the natural qualities of the art medium.”
– Hans Hofmann

About Painting is an exploration of contemporary abstract painting. The exhibition documents systems based, highly structured pieces as well as those demonstrating a freer and more spontaneous language.

Painting is about being in the moment, exploring the properties of the medium to their full potential and allowing investigation into the multi faceted characteristics of paint. Abstraction is an engagement with the fundamental nature of the world through perceptive means. It is ambiguous and open to interpretation. It doesn’t pertain to any single subject, and has the capacity to represent a multitude of thoughts, feelings and visual stimuli.

Painting continues to be relevant because it is not convoluted or arbitrary, but honest and immediate. The painting process is reliant upon intuitive processes and the discovery of new possibilities. It involves being responsive, analytical, and fully engaged with the materiality of the medium. Dialogues, synergies and tensions are created, and polarities of colour explored on a given surface, often evoking a sense of recognition.

Every experience a painter has informs the making of work, just as the viewer brings their own knowledge which informs interpretation. In this exhibition, the viewer is invited to consider the decision making involved in the creation of a painting in terms of a series of significant events that align to form the compositional whole.

About Painting is part of Castlefield Gallery‘s Launch Pad exhibition programme.

 

Painted Thought

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Joker (Full Metal Jacket), Acrylic on Aluminium, 380 x 436 mm., 2014

It’s good to get confirmation of a show that you’ve been invited to be a part of.  Matthew Macaulay asked me some time back if I’d be interested in this one.  Now I’ve the details…Painted Thought will open Thursday 20th February at 6pm in Cardiff at the Queens Arcade in the city centre.  Hosted by Pluspace Coventry and curated by Matthew the show also features work from: Neil Clements, Gordon Dalton, Andrew Graves, Terry Greene, Rhianne Masters-Hopkins, Rachael Macarthur, Sarah McNulty, Phoebe Mitchell and Mircea Teleaga.  The introduction to the show reads:

The idea that painting must die out and be replaced by newer art forms is not the case. Painting as a discipline over the last twenty years appears to have taken a back seat, and it does not enjoy the widespread cultural attention that it enjoyed for hundreds of years. In this exhibition we offer up a group of painters that show how individual painters are deconstructing and reinventing what a painting is and what it can be.

The artists on show are all critical in the creation of their paintings, and their work reflects the growth of painting. These painters have recognized areas of activitiy not previously associated with it, and revealed new freedoms for the medium.

The change and diversification of the components of the paintings production and presentation show that painting today does not exist in a bubble and is developing. While some artists have maintained a link with traditional materials in their practice they have still been influenced by new technologies and art forms. The new forms are not conflicting, but together with painting, are parts of an expanded field.

Painted Thought continues a thread of Pluspace exhibitions, such as Without an Edge there is no Middle (2013), Form / Function (2013) and Meditations (2013), that examines contemporary painting.

Its great to be showing with a range of diverse and interesting artists, one or two of whom I know of and quite a few new to me.  It’s also very pleasing to be amongst quite a few young artists and seeing how they are picking up the baton of what painting can be nowadays.

I’ll be showing work from the Full Metal Jacket group of pictures…two of which are completed…and six of which I should be getting on with right now!

Another Old Picture…

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I’m delighted to be doing a swap with Terry Greene of an old painting called Yellowgate that I made in 1973.  I thought I had a couple more of these little (roughly 12 inch square) pictures somewhere about.  So earlier this week I had a rummage around the cupboard and found this one…It needed a little remedial work but scrubbed up ok. Imagine my 40 year old paintings being loved for the first time in four decades!

New Beginnings (of sorts)

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Now that my show at Lakeside is up and running (til 3rd February) I can side those projects and move on.  Of course I have several ongoing projects that I keep coming back to but it’s an opportunity to start over with something new as well.  So here’s the aluminium shapes that I had made quite a few months back coming into play and for reasons I can’t entirely fathom this cross floated to the surface when I put paint to the surfaces earlier today.  I’ve written before about how imagery emerges in abstraction so I don’t want to repeat the thoughts I had back then but thinking specifically about this work it may have something to do with residual memory of photographs from the Vietnam War (the actual shape is derived from a famous Don McCullin photo of a US Marine) and bandages about heads…or maybe it comes out of the near acquaintance with some images from the painter Terry Greene (they are currently on show in our studio)…or then again I thought as I rolled the paint across the form that this simple sign of negation spoke to my ‘idea’ for these works – to be collectively titled ‘Full Metal Jacket’.  Then again the cross may disappear altogether as the series develops!