I’ve said before that I often find lyric music difficult whilst painting…but I just took delivery of the latest Keith Christmas album…so it had to be first up today. Go to his website and buy a copy!
In any event I’m now onto finishing the final touches to Petrarch Reads Augustine the last of the Rock Of Ages so its that light headed feeling that sees some optimism in the gloom that I find when I look at what is going on outside my studio! And to a certain extent that pervades Keith’s latest album too. With a bunch of tracks celebrating life and relationships and a lighter hand on the tiller of anger and outrage that characterised a deal of the (nonetheless) excellent songs on his last album (Crazy Dancing Days -why not purchase that one too whilst you’re at it). I’m also having a bit of fun with another of my TFTLR pieces… that lighten up the mood too…
I can’t abide waste with materials…so I’m an inveterate hoarder. Several of my ‘projects’ are the consequence of this compulsion. The Waldgeschitchen series began by raiding my box of failed paintings on paper and pasting bits onto fresh paper, the Lavanderia idea utilises canvas offcuts and the Tales From The Lumber Room recycles all manner of wood bits and bobs (both of these still in process right now). But the sheer volume of failed paper pieces some time back forced me into drastic action. I had acquired four rather lovely boxes some 27 cm. square and began to trim and re assemble pieces with an ambition to fill them with a new series of small works. This increasing avalanche has the title of Wonky Geometry and they sit somewhere between the more straitjacketed Geometry paintings (some of which can still be seen at The Crypt in St. Marylebone Church until 30th June) and my Very Like Jazz works (and the Winter Cycle that preceded them). And the voluminous quantity liberates them a good deal. I’ve tried not to be precious or hidebound with them…I’ve even co-opted some of the existing imagery, not only my own but occasionally that of my children and others. Whether there is any genuine quality alongside their undoubted quantity – well theres the rub as William had Hamlet remark.
Of the show in Marylebone its worth reminding that there is a discussion this coming Friday week (9th June) at 3pm. If nothing else its an opportunity to chat with several of the exhibitors including myself and the show’s curators Lucy Cox & Freya Purdue.
And another shameless plug – one of the Geo series Six Miles High – is featured on the Auction blog set up by the artist Andrew Bracey. He has assembled quite a cast list for this charity event inspired by the death of his father last year and in support of Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital. A really worthwhile cause and the opportunity to pick up a work by some great artists at bargain prices.
It’s difficult to post whilst one is on the move…especially when staying in charming, but very rural, French hotels where the wifi is quite fugitive. Although to be fair on this occasion of the thousand mile trek across Europe it worked pretty well and my absence online has been more a consequence of my mystery ankle injury. This has made walking quite difficult and more to the point made me tetchy and restless…and its that really has kept me away from my blog. I seem to be on the mend at last so I’m back!
Although my mobility is still a little restricted I’m getting on with some work. Plotting out the upcoming show at Harrington Mill ought to be taking precedence but as usual I can find plenty of other distractions to keep me from closing the deal. Alongside the large paper works that are concerned with woodlands I have the Playground Of The Midlands project, the ongoing Rough Cartography, more of the Wonky Geometry both on board and on paper, the 50’s Jazz pictures (quite a few of which need collecting from the recent outing at the Ashbourne Festival), the Lavanderia d’Italia, my Ragbags, lots of the TFTLR constructions and some related sculptural pieces! So hardly any wonder I struggle to focus on just one project at a time and it is hard to refute the notion that I’m always spreading my creative energies too thinly.
Like many other people in the UK I’m also totally perplexed and a little discomfited by the current political situation and tempted to give vent to my feelings here. However so much is being said by so many about it all (and most of it opinion and speculation) that I don’t see much point in adding to it. Nonetheless it is all adding to a terrible sense of turmoil and upheaval that certainly isn’t good for the soul. I pondered this recently whilst viewing Out Of Order, a large solo show by Michael Landy, currently at the Museum Tinguely in Basel. He’s an artist that I’ve rarely given any thought about…other than his famous Breakdown work (where, in case you don’t know, he destroyed all his possessions in a fortnight) and if I expected anything it was that it would be a ‘typical’ YBA stuffist show…lots of rather fey bits and bobs. In fact it turned out to be both a thoughtful and extraordinarily intelligent show with a lot of very accomplished ideas well executed. He had jumbled up work going back over twenty five or so years in a kind of warehouse landscape aesthetic lending a chaotic air to a body of work of real substance. Rather like Tinguely himself Landy uses this air of entropy to disguise much deeper feelings about values and our idea of worth. I came away with a great respect for an artist that operates in a diametrically opposite location to my own preoccupations.
And having had a day of looking at what Museum Tinguely and the three locations of the Basel Kunstmuseum had to offer I came away with little else that genuinely intrigued or challenged me. Of course there were plenty of examples of famous and not so famous works on display. They have, for example, some extraordinarily good examples of Picasso and plenty of big, and I do mean big in the case of Frank Stella, hitters from the post war period in the US. Maybe I’m jaded (yes let’s face it I am) but much of the ‘contemporary’ work of the past twenty or so years seems to be pale retreads of what came before. Sophisticated and polished perhaps (with the art market in mind of course) but without genuine feeling or emotion or even just that vague inchoate sense of discovery. And this sense of unease and numbness also infects my own creative process too.
Perhaps I just need to step away from it all. Whilst away I took this snap of a little drawing by Phil Thompson (owned by my friend with whom we were staying). Phil was a man of few words, I knew him mostly as the fella at the end of the public bar at the Griffin, but a terrifically talented artist when he minded to work. This tiny drawing owes a little something to the Circus pictures of Leger and others but is also quintessentially ‘Phil’. As we are often told history is written by the winners and art history is particularly cruel in that if the work is lost and destroyed then no amount of post hoc revision rehabilitates its quality. Over the past thirty or so years the self publicists and their pimps that have flooded the contemporary art market have ensured their initial longevity but not of course their place in the real history of art that only really forms a clear picture a century or two down the line. However I doubt Phil has any chance of posthumous recognition beyond the memories of those who knew him but we who do will continue to derive much pleasure from his work. So we take strength from that and keep on working.
So I must focus pretty quickly now on this sequence of pictures that use the idea of Wood as their central theme. For quite a few years I’ve been indebted to Simon Schama and his Landscape & Memory for some of my thinking about work. It was especially helpful to me whilst I undertook my major project for my photography Masters back in 2010. Now I’m back delving into section one and finding elements that resonate with the large paper panels that will be central to my installation at Harrington Mill in September. So far there are three completed, each with a quotation drawn from the text, though the images, as always with my work, are substantially intended to function away from the textual as much as hand in hand with it. Looking forward to completing the other fifteen panels that will make up the piece.
One wall of TFTLR at the Open Studio event this weekend past. I pinned up a brief statement by way of explanation…
“A few weeks back I was thinking hard about a next move in making some work. Encountering Lauri Hopkins work (on show by the studio entrance now) made me feel that the paintings on aluminium that Ive been labouring on for nearly a year were somehow over elaborated. Not surprising perhaps as the imagery has been at play for nearly two years now (earlier pictures, oil on canvas, watercolours) and I’ve fairly exhausted my capacity to deal with them and with the ways of making them. I got to thinking more about the predicament just as I was contemplating shifting out a huge stockpile of timber offcuts from under the stairs to our cellar. And that’s how these – Tales From The Lumber Room – came about.
The process couldn’t be simpler really…I take a few pieces of the lumber, clart them together with a little wood glue, and put some paint on them ( all in one session). And behind the actions as little premeditation as is possible. A complete contrast to the two years work that preceded it. There is one of these odd little pieces for each day if (as is inevitable in a busy life) I miss a day the next day I make two. What I make of them I’m still not sure but that’s always been the case with my work, and whether they are finished I’m still working out. How long I’ll keep at it I don’t know either…but there’s a big stack of timber still down there.”
It was a jolly lively day in the studio. First off the engineer condemned one of our heaters…maybe not so good with the winter approaching…still we have another to do the job. Second up a group of students on the Foundation Degree in Fine Art at Central College came over for a tour of ‘The Discipline Of Painting’ that encouraged me to think it had all been very worthwhile and finally Andy Parkinson came by to see how the show looked and seemed pleased with it – a relief as he’s the first of the exhibitors to see the show in the flesh. I’m looking forward to Andy reviewing a show he’s a significant part of as he is one of our very best writers on abstraction. In between times I got a couple hours reflection on the work underway in my own space – and managed to put ‘The Ha Ha Man’ to bed!
its rather difficult to keep up with the blog…but that’s how it should be. After all this is a kind of commentary on life…not a substitute for it. Since I last posted I’ve been to Chichester on the south coast (very nearly) and back to Hackney in London. Onto other locations nearer to home and out and about…including being a part of the event (badly) photographed above. As part of Derby’s Feste last Friday evening saw a performance of ‘As The World Tipped’ by Wired Aerial Theatre, an extraordinary piece of work where five performers and two accomplices scaled an enormous screen. It’s impossible to describe it adequately but this video may give you an idea… If you get a chance go see it live!
It got me thinking that creative practice is a very broad church indeed. And sometimes I’m a little overwhelmed by how insignificant my own activity is within it all. Over this period I’ve done little in the way of creative work…managing just a couple more TFTLR pieces in the garage…preparatory to getting in the studio tomorrow…when I plan to focus exclusively on my own work for a day…sheer hedonism!