Size and scale…

Sketch for January, Weatherland series…mixed media on paper, image 30 x 48 cm. 2020

As regular readers know I have a genius for prevarication. I have been planning the Weatherland series since I completed my large Landscape & Memory project some time back. I managed to make sketches for the twelve paintings – one for each month – that will comprise this series (rather than the 54 in the L&M group!) but have been dithering for many months on the size of these canvases. Reviewing the sketches much of my agony revolves around the question of scale. Not least as regards the size of certain marks translating into the body movements required to accomplish them and the relationships between them. The question of scale is often in mind when planning something in advance – one reason I often just get going with a panel or canvas rather than having it plotted out. But I’ve now settled on a metre high by 1.6 wide…not quite exactly the dimensions of the sketches but pretty darn close – and critically just right in the sweep of my hand across the canvas…

Edmundthorpe, Painting The Town Red, 30 x 40 cm., oil on canvas, 2021

So I now need to sort out the dreary business of stretchers, canvas and priming not my favourite pastime. Luckily the Heart Of Rural England project that is trucking on (now on the third part – Melton Borough:Painting The Town Red) has a rigid 30 x 40 cm. format that clarifies matters, not least in utilising shop bought ready made canvases. This group is progressing nicely now; Edmundthorpe is the twelfth completed with the other fifteen on the studio wall (at least four of which are pretty much cooked).

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.

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