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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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!: