Ashbourne & beyond

Night In Tunisiaw
Night In Tunisia, 59.8 x 75 cm.

A bunch of newish pictures are shortly off to the Ashbourne Festival.  Although they are related to the series ‘Winter Cycle’ they take the idea of the geometric exploration as their starting point and have proceeded by way of fifties and sixties Jazz album design muddled and befuddled by some riffs drawn from that charming strain of modernist design of the the nineteen fifties.  At the core of this has been a desire to complicate the frame further and extend the range and nature of the forms and especially the colour relationships.

Ghetto-Walk
Ghetto Walk, 75 x 59.8 cm.

Whether any of this is either of interest or assistance to the potential audience is debatable – indeed it is always rather nerve wracking putting paintings of this kind into a context of a show where most of the work is of a fairly traditional and conventional character.  But of course like most artists I want to see my work out there.  For many years I didn’t think it mattered a great deal but in the past few years (as old age creeps on apace perhaps!) it seems more important to me.

Tango Tengow
Tengo Tango, 30 x 30 cm.

I’m taking a break from this series now…although in my ‘bitty’ way there are several others in process that I guess I’ll come back to at some point in the future.  Not least because come the end of the week we are off to Italy for three or four weeks…and quite what I’ll make there I haven’t the faintest idea yet.

Better Git It In Your Soulw
Better Git It In Your Soul, 59.8 x 75 cm.

That said we are taking some lino cutting gear with us…now that’s something I haven’t worked with for many a long year now!

Pedal Point Bluesw
Pedal Point Blues, 30 x 30 cm.

 

 

 

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The rise of the nutters…

Its been too long since I made a posting and sadly I’m too busy right now to do the kind of detailed discussion of several of the things I’d wish.  So it’s a brief round up instead.  Of course the way the western world is turning right now is a wee bit distracting too.  I try to refrain from comment on these matters here but sometimes it seems that the craziness out there is getting worse at the moment.  My good friend Simon has put the UK insanity over the ‘European’ question down well so go read him if needs be.  And looking across the pond it looks equally bizarre…so we watched again the other evening the classic ‘The Thick of It’ that puts it all into some kind of perspective I guess.  Another friend of mine has, with much admiration from here, put his boots on the ground in the cause of the refugee crisis that the antics of the UK government succeeding in knocking off the European leaders agenda when surely they ought to have been focussed on that (see his blog for details).  But enough of that from hereabouts…it’s hard not to feel powerless in all this.

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But carrying on painting does occasionally feel very indulgent and a bit futile in the face of all the mayhem.  Still its what I do I keep telling myself.  And taking an idea from the excellent Andrew Bracey I keep tweeting a detail a day of whats cooking so in this blog there’s a couple of them.

Besides working there’s been some trips out…one to the Harley Gallery in Welbeck, North Notts.  Here artists Craig Fisher, Louisa Chambers and Rob Flint have been jazzing up the space using the notion of the ‘dazzle camouflage’ – that got quite an airing a couple years back at the centenary of it’s ‘invention’ with Carlos Cruz-Dias redoing one in Liverpool, Tobias Rehberger doing it in London and with the most media coverage Peter Blake knocking one out on the Mersey Ferry.  I’m pretty sure the idea behind this show was more the eliding of their three various and varied approaches to abstraction and the use of pattern and geometry and ‘seeing’ where it might take them and the space they occupied over the show period (sadly it ends tomorrow).  When I saw it a goodly portion of the show were the various readymade works installed and the additions were still very much on progress.

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But you still got an idea of way in which the collision of particular pieces, pattern and colour throws up new and surprising visual tropes and how this broad field of abstraction still holds a fascination for a much younger generation of painters than those of us who grew up with the geometry of Vasarely or Riley or Stella and Noland and so on.  If we do now live in the post-factual world (as I heard a commentator on the rise of Trump say a few days ago – Prof.Larry Sabato,Newsnight BBC, 24 Feb) then ideas of what ‘works’ in abstraction are as irrelevant to a consideration of a show of this kind as facts are to the likely GOP candidate this coming Fall.  One of the most interesting aspects of the show here was the way in which each artist privileges process and material.  Chambers use of folded paper models as subject matter in what might otherwise be quite traditional modern paintings, Flint’s use of washing up cloths as ground and figure and Fisher’s OHP projections.  All in all it was intriguing and visually compelling and even in this relatively early stage, commanded and shaped the space oddly – not least with the willingness to use lively – even sickly – colour combinations.  I’d say, and its meant as a compliment here – all a bit nutty…but here in a good way!

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Coming more up to date Simon and myself did the Mayfair Gallery circuit earlier this week…and took in as a centrepiece the RA Garden show.  Its a pot boiler and I’m sure on the evidence of our visit going to fill the coffers.  But overall it seemed messy and sloppy with way too much ‘filler’ getting in the way of the best and most intriguing works.  We took in Albert Oehlen’s new work at Gagosian that, if nothing else, was an intriguing departure from his usual schtick that I’d applaud.  There’s a lovely show of Simon Hantai paintings at Timothy Taylor and a fair bit of minimalist allover type stuff about (Manzoni Chromes at Mazzoleni and Park Seo-Bo at White Cube in Masons Yard.  The latter giving me pause for thought about paintings I made and abandoned back in 1972!  However one of the most intriguing things of the day for me was a visit to Waterhouse & Dodd where refreshing they stick the prices on the wall next to the work.  In this instance revealing that a modest sized Paul Feiler at £160k beats a large Terry Frost by £100k…I bet that ratio would have been at least reversed 10 years back and probably then some.  Whether it says more about the demise in Frost’s reputation or the rise in Feiler’s or a bit of both who can say…what it does tell us is that its a very fickle business indeed…

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Away from the bright lights (and the money sadly) my work – in a modest way – is out on the gallery wall at present at Repton’s New Court, where I showed the Winter Cycle a few months back.  The show is titled ‘View Of Delft: The World In Art‘ and is curated by Charmaine Tam, currently at Repton School but shortly off to Cambridge to read Art History.  She interestingly mixed student work with five artists, myself, Jackie Berridge, Lisa McKendrick, Melanie Russell and Ruth Solomons.  Wisely and modestly she didn’t show herself but her curatorial eye was good and the range of work covered a lot of ground with the diversity of material offset by sound judgments about what would line up intelligently against one another.  Overall I am very pleased to be part of this project that shows off the department’s sixth form work well and suggests that Charmaine may be somebody to watch in the future.  Besides Jackie’s work that I know well and have great affection for (full disclosure: we have been friends and sometime studio sharers for many years) I was much taken with Ruth’s small informal drawings on envelopes and Melanie’s small panels (see one below: Box Head & Shoulders Portrait II) accompanied by Hannah Walker’s Map II.

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But enough…I think I’ve caught up…so back to the painting…another detail below – all this makes me wonder – Am I a nutter too!:

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Journey’s End

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At the New Court Gallery in Repton (incidentally probably the finest space in Derbyshire) the Winter Cycle gets an airing less than nine months after the journey began.  All in all I am delighted with the outcome and last evening it opened with a pretty good turnout (especially considering that quite a few of my oldest and dearest friends and family couldn’t make the event) though some others (they know who they are!) had made quite a considerable effort to put in an appearance.  I was most pleased.  I owe a debt of gratitude to Louisa Chambers (and the rest of the Repton crew) for the opportunity not only to exhibit but to do so in this space and at a location near to both my own home and studio and that of poet Reg Keeling (whose work partially inspired the project).

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Here’s a cheesy picture of me, Reg and on the right Julian Broadhurst whose recording of Reg’s poems first drew my attention to them.  We are standing in front of the three pictures that are dedicated to the two of them and to the Flute Interlude that divides the reading of the poems from the interview between Julian & Reg on his recording. From the top of this blog follow The Winter Suites link to see all the works with the poems.

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And whilst on the subject of cheesy here’s one of me standing in the space looking pretty pleased with myself…perhaps a little too pleased as there are at least a dozen of the works that – now they are on the walls – I feel need a little (or in one or two cases quite a lot of) revision!  But I guess many of us often feel that way.

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However overall its turned out decently and looks – I hope – pretty solid.  I’m just now working on getting the whole sequence of the actual Cycle onto my website with the full text of the accompanying poems.

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So pretty much sorted and on to my next project – the prep for the trip to Cape Cornwall – courtesy of the Brisons Veor Trust.  Its less than two weeks away and I’m really looking forward to it!

The last few licks…

Summersevensw
Summersevens, Acrylic on board, 60 x 60 cms., 2015

are always a little bit tortuous…letting go and hoping that it will stand up when it goes out into the world.  But the moment has to come when you lay down the brushes and declare it completed.  My ritual is the scrawling of title and signature on the reverse – after that no more fiddling…even when you spot something that doesn’t quite seem right.  At least until it returns home after being shown.

Technology defeat…best stick to painting?

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I’ve been trying for over an hour or more to convert the jpg above into a readable but quickly downloadable pdf so I can invite people to the forthcoming exhibition of my Winter Cycle paintings.  I’ve just conceded defeat!  I like to think I’m outside the ‘silver surfer’/’don’t understand this new fangled stuff’ group of older citizens but it seems no…once I get past the absolute basics of the technology… I’m fairly clueless!

However the gist of it all (and given what I’ve just said I imagine that maybe the image above cannot be easily read!) is that the series of 27 small panel paintings that have monopolised much of my painting time in the first half of 2015 will get their first airing from the 10th to the 30th October at the lovely New Court Gallery in Repton, South Derbyshire.  There will be an opening on Saturday 10th October from 6 to 8pm. and it would be lovely to see you there.  Alongside the painting cycle we will have a proof copy of a small publication that matches the paintings with the series of 27 poems written by Derby based Reg Keeling – entitled A Winter’s Journey – and that I discovered shortly after setting out on my own journey.  I am very grateful for my friend, and fellow painter, Louisa Chambers for facilitating this exhibition and to Julian Broadhurst whose contribution was bringing Reg’s work to my attention.

Here is the text of a press release that tells a little more about the Cycle:

In this exhibition, artist David Manley offers new abstract paintings informed by his reflections on the passing of a season.

The Winter Cycle is the result of moving studio from an artists’ complex in an old industrial building shared with 16 others to his home. In the process of shifting his work he rediscovered a set of small panel pictures began and abandoned several years earlier. The move also saw the establishing of a working space facing a large plate glass window into the garden. He fell to thinking about the relative solitude of working from home, often alone for long stretches and the immediate presence of the changing climate. The notion of a group of works loosely based around the seasonal journey from winter to spring occurred with the initial thought of Schubert’s Die Winterreise as a possible connection.

However shortly after starting he fortuitously chanced upon Julian Broadhurst’s recording of Derby based Reg Keeling’s reading of his set of poems entitled A Winter’s Journey. The local connection appealed to him and the more he listened he felt (maybe fell) into an empathetic relationship with the text. The relationship of the work to the Japanese form Haiku, and to the use of Renku, (linked verse) and Kiru, the ‘cutting’ or juxtaposition of two images or ideas as well as the underlying principles of capturing moments in time and simplicity of language appealed to the painter. As the individual works in his Winter Cycle developed he found himself reflecting on how these ideas might work visually.

The Winter Cycle is comprised of 27 small panels each taking a cue (and a title) from a poem in the collection.  In addition, and in keeping with Julian’s recording (available online), three larger works, two dedicated to Reg & Julian and one entitled Flute Interlude (a portion of a work by Julian that he uses on the recording as a marker between the readings of the poems and the interview between the two of them) make up the project. There are no literal readings between pictures and texts or any explicit connectivity.  Both can and do standalone, but there are sympathetic relationships that run between the two and extend outwards to Schubert and many others who have derived meaning from the cycle of seasons and the metaphor of the journey.

The Last of Winter

Winter Storms
Winter Storms, Acrylic & Pen on Board, 30 x 30 cms., July 2015

It seems very perverse now to be – finally – finishing off the Winter Cycle.  After all if mid-July isn’t summer here in the UK then there’s really something awry with our climate.  But here I am fiddling with the last four of the ‘poem’ panals in this body of work so I can fully focus on the three larger pieces that will complete the project (in truth these are pretty near to it too) and then give all my attention to the works that will be my contribution to the show I’m putting together to open at Deda in Derby in September (Geometry:Wonky & Otherwise).  I’m sure some people are organised and ahead of the game but I’m not one of them…I seem to have a hard wired ‘buggeration’ gizmo inside me that always takes me to the wire.  So I can already see that getting everything together for both G:WAO and for the first outing of the Winter Cycle (that will take place in October – details to follow) is going to be a stretch.  But it was ever so and today when I might have really borne down on some of the key tasks I find myself in endless cycles of avoidance activity…