And back to the Very Like Jazz series with this one…Blues & Roots after the marvellous Charles Mingus album of that name from 1960.
Because the year is still (just) under a sixth old I’m fairly relaxed about the progress of the various bodies of work underway. Besides several are nearing completion to my satisfaction (and who else is there to consider!). These two, roughly the same size, around 40 x 60 cm., are amongst them. It offers an opportunity to compare and contrast. There are obvious differences in origins and in materials and methods. As for the latter the picture above is on board prepped with hard sandable gesso (Golden) and using a fair bit of various mediums added to the thin washes of pigments. For the one below 12 oz. cotton duck has a lightly thinned plain gesso with a goodly variety of acrylics, including heavy body applied. Mind this one also has a substantial number of thinned washes involved. In terms of content and form the first is part of the on-going Very Like Jazz series where a certain looseness of approach and call and response is the primary process drawing upon fifties modernist art and design tropes; whilst the second is rooted in observations and intimations of my experiences on our recent Cornish adventures. Is there anything else to be extracted from their quite separate personalities other than to underline my inability to stick to one plot line? I’m not at all sure!
Nothing concentrates my mind like the impending end of the year. I know its foolish of me but the wholly artificial milestone of the 31st December tipping into January 1st has me frantically endeavouring to tidy up production of work. Given my equally absurd penchant for multiple objectives for my work in the form of various ‘series’ or ‘projects’ this is, as one might imagine, something of a tyranny. So I have three more of the Coastal Banners to complete – will they get resolved? I’m revisiting a host of the Playground Of The Midlands canvases to see if I can put more of them properly to bed. A number of Very Like Jazz follow ups are assuming a more prominent place in the pantheon of T2R2 (those that require resolution) not least because Better Git It In Your Soul is, courtesy of the energetic and exceptionally talented and generous Robert Priseman (who has done so much for Contemporary British Painting) is on tour again in 2019. So I’m thinking this strand of my work that has been quietly bubbling under for the past year needs more of an outing.
And of course I’m heavily into part three of the Landscape & Memory project – Rock – that I’d dearly like to have fully completed by the time the clock ticks over again into 2020 but at my rate of prevarication means quite a lot of cogitation as well as more painting (though mercifully all of them are in play now). Of course I have all those small things that bump along more or less all the time. The Wonky Geo series, now heading north of 60 in total, a set of little abstract landscapy things as yet untitled (and unseen) and two more tiny boxes full of half baked and half realised workouts…oh…and the glacial progress of the i series as above. And just to top it off there’s a host of Paintings Standing Up, experiments in three dimensions, that I cannot for the life of me decide are worthwhile pursuing or not. Yep nothing fogs the mind like the impending Year End!
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed
So his Royal Bobness fetched up in Nottingham for the first time (I think) since 1966…opening up his set with these particularly pertinent lyrics – at least for yours truly. Maybe (mostly) its a consequence of my age but they seem to sum up our ridiculous and crazy world. How we can be sleep walking towards totalitarianism across the western world I really don’t know – just shows how seventy plus years of stability makes people (or rather a lot of them) complacent I guess. We can only hope that once things start getting seriously askew they may wake up.
And Bob has also changed everything, not least the tempo, tone and even the melodies of some of his best known songs alongside those many more recent and less well known ditties (a solid bunch off the Tempest album). But it was a decent show, house lights down on the dot of eight pm. and an hour and forty minutes of non-stop boogie, hard rock and some alarming crooning! But Bob always goes his own way and as one of these standards said ‘Why Try To Change Me Now’? So I kind of appreciate this bobbing and weaving to keep the audiences guessing.
I’m flitting between bodies of work in my painting too. As is by now well known to any followers of these ramblings I don’t do a ‘signature’ style but address each set of pictures in whatever manner seems to me to suit the occasion. Its especially messy right now. In one corner sits the canvas pieces for the Lavanderia series, in another the lumps and bumps of my Paintings Standing Up. Over on one wall another in the extending series of Very Like Jazz whilst right here is another of the twenty five or so small oils in the Charnwood series Playground Of The Midlands. Up on the balcony are the Water paintings (the second part of the Wood, Water & Rock pictures that take their cue from Schama’s Landscape & Memory). And somewhere at the back a small panel collection provisionally titled The Rigged Deck. Of course there’s also the painting of maps, the Wonky Geometries and the RagBags that just chug along forever. So who am I to call the world crazy!
and Dat Dere, as seen above. Another in the Very Like Jazz series. Oddly enough over fifteen or more years back I titled another painting the same (one of a series called Blue Note 45’s). This time around its taken directly from dear old Cannonball Adderley rather than chosen, fairly randomly from a couple of Blue Note singles compilations. I’m nearly out of panels for these now…so with two larger, and one 30 x 30 (as this is) that will be it for a while. The penultimate 30 x 30 is this one…titled after the first track on Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus an album from 1963 by – surprisingly enough – old Charles Mingus. II BS is titled thus because the man was finding it hard to choose a suitable title ( so two b.s. it was!). I’m getting to the point where I can empathise with him…
Another small panel in the Very Like Jazz series…and another with a title culled from the super songbook of the great Joe Zawinul.
I started the new year (it already seems a lifetime ago) with a plan. Yesterday I took a look and thought it was going west fast. It is dither that does for me…take a look at the Very Like Jazz new panels for example. I’m pretty sure at least half of them are fairly close but I’m dithering over them, fiddling about with the grounds and then taking out a shape here or altering its colour there. So with February being the deadline for four then I need to make some decisions. But (and its a big one) the ‘plan’ also suggests that by the end of the month I’ll have two Water paintings finished, two Paintings Standing Up resolved, and five Playground Of The Midlands pictures completed. And that doesn’t include the work that continues on the maps and a couple other things knocking around the studio that haven’t even got to a base camp yet! I know I could just try working on one thing at a time but that just isn’t my way of rolling…
So this morning I thought I’d try and get a grip…or at least a foothold. So back to the Water pictures then – and (I suspect partly as a result of no alcohol and a fairly decent nights sleep) glory be at least two of this series finished.
These are of course the follow on from Waldgeschichten, the series of eighteen panels that drew upon the Wood section of Simon Schama’s Landscape & Memory. So that’s all good then…just sixteen more of these to go. Now what about the Playground of The Midlands series?
It’s always gratifying when you plan something out and it pretty much comes together in the way you hoped. There was a plan of sorts that emerged over several months, starting with an almost whimsical experiment utilising torn pieces of failed works on paper collaged onto larger sheets, and then very gradually coalescing into a group of pictures around the loose idea of woodlands egged on by a careful reading of Simon Schama’s Wood section from his Landscape & Memory book from 1995. The form is a tight grouping of images – something I’ve done a lot of over the past few years – and here it reflects the notion of ancient woodlands as dark and enclosed spaces of the kind that have all but disappeared from the contemporary landscape. Installing them was easier that I’d imagined, in the main down to the hard work of my wife who did most of the heavy labour, and they pretty much fit the space as I’d intended. Ideally they would be viewable from a greater distance though that would dissipate the density idea so I’ll go along with Barnett Newman‘s initial rationale for Vir Heroicus Sublimis at Betty Parsons – its meant to be that way!
It sits on the long wall at Harrington Mill (where I’m showing till October 2nd) and faces off against several paintings from my Very Like Jazz series that have evolved over roughly the same period. How can I make such different pictures? Well its just the way I roll – I don’t have a specific style, brand if you like, never have and never will. For me very different subjects require very different treatments out of a creative mind that can think very differently at different sessions. The critique of this includes the accusation of dilettantism to which I’ll happily plead guilty as charged.
Take for example the Cornish Coast series, reworked from the small ten centimetre blocks, to a bigger format of 30 x 30 cm. by 7.8 cm. deep. These are quieter, more straightjacketed pictures operating within a constrained format where only colour operates loudly. But for me it is important that the experiences of the specific locations are enabled through the surface modulations and the colour juxtapositions, both sympathetic and jarring.
Another wall features a selection of paintings from yet another sequence, ongoing for two or three years now, entitled Wonky Geometry. These operate pretty much exclusively within the realm of ‘pure’ abstraction whereby a predetermined open structure is put through its paces by the intuitive operation of gesture and colour within it. In my mind its a kind of Mondriaan on acid(not that I take acid nor have any delusions that I’m in the same ball park as Piet)…I simply operate in the same manner!
Anyway all these paintings can be seen at the Mill from 2pm on Sunday till Sunday 2nd October. It’s best to check on access – better still get in touch on 07808 938349 – to be sure of viewing. But I’ll be in attendance from 2 to 4pm.on Tuesday 13th Sept., Friday 30th and Saturday 1st Oct. if you want to come along and see the work and have a chat about it.