Its funny…

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how things collide in your head during this isolation (I’m still too frit to properly venture out) especially as contacts with others is confined.  So just as I begin sorting out the next substantial project – based on Alexandra Harris’ Weatherland – I find its concerns reverberating  in my thinking with Chapter Three of Jeff Young’s Ghost Town.  I’d spent a good deal of a day sifting  through the former arranging a series of quotations by others that Harris had used to be the framework on which my series will hang.  Literally insofar as they are ranged around the perimeter of the canvases I’m intending.  And then this very morning I find Jeff musing on the importance of weather…”The weather is memory and memory is the weather. It seeps into this place, becomes layered into it. The meteorology of memory.”  And whilst I had been attracted to a brief passage from the introduction to Weatherland as the title of my sequence “I have tried to hang a mirror in the sky” my wife pointed out its connection to a title I have used before ‘Nothing But Mirrors And Tides’ (that stolen from Anne Michaels wonderful Fugitive Pieces for a solo show at Derby Museum nearly two decades back) and I’d already thought it perhaps overlong.  And now – glory be – it seems that not only have I a marvellous title ‘The Meteorology Of Memory’ but those few words also crystallise the core of my thinking behind these paintings.  

Because unlike the three series that comprised the reflections on Schama’s Landscape & Memory (Waldgeschichten, L’Histoire de L’Eau and Rock Of Ages) where the impulses for the form of each work preceded and then ran alongside the textual content here I have zoomed in on the texts (setting them in a framework of the months of the year) and hope to evoke memories, form, colours and reflections of each month as it unfolds.  At least in the conception of the work as a whole because, unlike my normal way of working, I intend to make a sketch or cartoon (if you wish!) for each painting before making the full size work.  Within this sits another secret source of imagery drawn both from my own reservoir of images and ones stolen from other observers of the world around them…something that has become so easy since the advent of the digital when everyone is a photographer of some (albeit) occasional distinction.

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Borglum’s Escape, Mixed media on paper, 106 x 94 cm. 2019                     from Rock Of Ages

Domesticity…

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Visiting friends is lovely but visiting friends who’ve bought work is even nicer!  And work takes on another life when seen in a different environment from either studio or gallery.  Especially when it’s a piece on paper exquisitely framed. So it is with Pan Tadeusz here in my pals, Moira & Allan, living room in Dorset.  Pan is one of the Waldgeschichten, the Forest Stories, part one of the three parts that make up Landscape & Memory.  This project is now finally coming to its conclusion, the fourteenth of the eighteen works making up third part Rock of Ages just now resolved to my satisfaction, and joining the other fifty with only four to go.  Given that the early stages of the whole scheme started back in 2014, it’s only been five years in gestation.  That might seem an inordinate amount of time but given my dithering and distraction I reckon half a decade ain’t too bad!

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Stephen’s Climbing Account, 106 x 93.6 cm., mixed media on paper,July 2019

 

A rock on which to stand…

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or a series of such…Rock of Ages – the third and final part of the Landscape & Memory project.  This one Savoy by Walpole is probably nearer the first part of the whole work, the Waldgeschichten part than most of the other seventeen (each of the three parts comprise 18 individual works).

At least for the moment as this one is only the fourth to be completed in this last group.   Some kind of fundamental underpinning to what one does seems all the more important as the external world gets crazier by the day and appears to be spiralling towards nasty intolerance, authoritarianism and worse.  On top of the rest of it came news today of the passing of Thomas Nozkowski – a painter for whom I have had immense fondness for over twenty five years.  It’s nigh on impossible to figure out how to respond to these things for the best.

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RIP, Thomas Nozkowski, 1944 – 2019

Knocked sideways…

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I’ve had quite a time of it recently…several bouts of mystery illness culminating in a nasty flu that still has something of a grip after a week…picked up ironically at our local A&E whilst I was waiting on a family member who was ill at the time!  Best to stay away from hospitals if you can it seems.  Today I’m feeling just a little more human, enough to review progress on the various projects I have on the go (regulars will know I keep far too many differing things in play than is sensible).  Here is the second batch of the L’Histoire De L’Eau pictures – part two of the Landscape & Memory trilogy based very loosely on Schama’s book.  Working with these is a curious process…whilst I have already chosen my eighteen texts some of the individual panels immediately suggest which one should accompany it but others much less so, to the point where some have to undergo drastic reworking to make them applicable.  And of course as each text is taken this gets harder so that eventually (at least with part one, Waldgeschitchen ) I am forced to write out each remaining one and shift them around the panels till I can make it work (or in one or two extreme cases replace them altogether).  I guess some might say – quite reasonably – this seems a cock-a-mamey way of going about things but its my way for better or worse.

There’s the rub…

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Wonky Geometry No. 24, Acrylic & oil on paper, 27 cm. square, June 2017

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.

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Wonky Geometry No. 16, ink & acrylic on paper, 27 cm. square, May 2017

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.

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detail, Six Miles High, 72 x 48 cm., Acrylic on aluminium, 2017

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.

Dither…

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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…

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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.

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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?