Finding a Black Box…

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No. 1

When a plane goes down, mercifully rarely, the first thing that happens is a search for the Black Box.  Hopefully it tells investigators what happened, and how.  So this group of little sketches, doodles, scribbles, or whatever is part of the record of the larger, more carefully considered and constructed works. The Black Box sits somewhere between the Wonky Geometry series and three even smaller boxes of even more provisional pieces.

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No. 2

I enjoy these a lot.  First it helps avoid waste – I can’t abide waste – by using papers from projects that failed and using up paint that would otherwise be discarded (not into the watercourse though!).  Alongside that it’s an activity that can carry on alongside the reflection, the mulling over, of what to do next on the more substantive works. No time now for idle hands. And finally there’s the freedom to play around – to not be too serious.

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No. 3

As yet I’ve no idea how many will be made, as with the Wonky Geo‘s these come off a large pile of sheets cut to the size in a rotation as my fancy takes me and are numbered on what I consider completion.

Year End…

I Give You The Morning
I Give You The Morning, Oil on linen, 15 x 15 cm., Nov. 2018

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. 

Made in Britain

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!

The terrors of twilight…

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I’m not a great fan of the winter months – like quite a few painters I suspect.  The absence of light gets to me.  Not so much in the early morning sessions as the coming of day sort of makes up for the gloom.  No it’s more that time around three in the afternoon on dull days like today when the darkness starts properly creeping back.  And the getting up early hasn’t helped of course as I’m getting tired with it.  I do have my lovely daylight lamp to offset the gathering gloom but my productivity takes quite a dive.

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So I tend to hunker down after lunchtime, sitting in the kitchen, tinkering with my Wonky Geo‘s.  There’s 58 completed in the series now – and here’s 54 to 56 for perusal.  I’ve said before that these are the fun things where ideas, even bloody silly ones, can be tested out.  And the pile of uncompleted ones is heavy, like properly heavy, now.  Goodness knows how many I’ll have eventually!

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Ah revisionism…

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and rediscovery too…  I’ve been absent from this site for over a month I realise, making use of quite a bit of the good summer weather and being (unusually) at home to drag work out of the basement.  I have stored older work down in the dark recesses over the years despite knowing full well that the fetid conditions rapidly rot canvasses away.   Those that survive often require some restoration but its those that never got properly resolved, or where I lost interest that are most interesting.  Some remain intractable but I have found myself increasingly interested in resolving and completing others.

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I’m looking at these two from the Conversation Pieces (part two) series.  And have decided that part of their resolution will be to join forces as a diptych where two conversations get crossed wires.  Part of the process for me is re-imagining it as I did when first working on them…around six or seven years back.  Mostly I don’t work with tapes preferring to paint to the pencil line but just occasionally with these I chose to tape up a block to get that crisp, slightly raised line.

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Another interesting thing for me is rediscovering old pictures I’ve quite forgotten about.  This one comes from a series made in the mid 1990’s and was the only one of a group of a dozen or so in landscape.  It never quite fit with the rest, stylistically as well as format, but only now do I realise it was a precursor of the large series of paintings that began in the late nineties through to 2004/5 and formed the backbone of a solo show at Derby Museum ‘Nothing But Mirrors & Tides’

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Go for it…

WG47It’s been quite a while since my last post…more pressing matters plus a short holiday has meant scant opportunity to do so.  But I’m also increasingly aware that finding anything worthwhile (to me at least) to say gets harder over time especially as, several years back now, I decided that only painting matters would be discussed here (and I’ve managed to mostly stick to that).  So here’s the thing…does time away in other environments affect the outturn of works initially influenced by other impulses and locations?  Here’s a Wonky Geo picture (No. 47, if you’re keeping count) that, as regular readers will know, comes from an enormous stack of them that have been on the go, on & off, for several years now.  But I just decided it complete, with additions of the past few days since a week in Italy…?

Proper Lovely…

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As anyone reading this will know we are living for the month in a small bedsit on the harbour in Scalloway on the Shetlands and its proper lovely as we Devon folk say.  In fact when the sun shines (and we’ve more good days than not) it reminds one of how the West Country seemed to be when I was a child.  Nowadays the crowds down in Devon & Cornwall make it harder to love but back then before motorways etc.  Anyway enough of my misremembering as, apart from sitting staring out the window or visiting unspoilt and empty beaches, we are here to work.

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On Nesting Fault, Acrylic & watercolour on paper, 120 x 30 cm.

But the rub is that you start to think about what you do and how you go about it.  Yes I know one should be doing that all the time anyway…but holidays just exacerbate this…and added to which there are fewer materials and supports to hand…and ideas get stuck in your head in ways that just don’t happen at home.  Its all rather confusing!  So here I am rethinking, tinkering really, with both the Wonky Geometry and the notion I had arrived with (outlined a few weeks back) and fetching up with something that’s quite a departure.  Should I be worried or concerned?

60 degrees north

tryout

So shortly we are off to the Shetlands, to Scalloway and to The Booth.  For a month we will be living and working there and it is always tricky on such an expedition deciding what to take by way of materials.  You don’t want to be too prescriptive on the one hand but properly equipped on the other.  Especially so as material supplies may be tricky there (though of course it might be much easier than I’m imagining).  Nonetheless I have drafted a sort of plan!  Some time back I was rather taken by a small clutch of Knitting Sheaths that reside in the museum there – I’m hoping to see them during our stay.

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And I’ve riffed on them over the past few months in photoshop…so I have at least the beginning of imagery that hopefully relates to my Wonky Geometry.  Then a trip to the Ashmolean a while back with my pal Simon to see the wonderful Raphael drawing show had us wandering through the room of Japanese scrolls – kakejuki…brilliant!  Just the thing for a trip away…paper based and roll em’ up to transport back easily.

Content…

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What constitutes content in abstraction will, I suspect, always evade us.  Damn good job too.  It is probably one of the handful of things that can sustain painting as an activity in the contemporary world.  Anyway this is a detail from a picture I’m working on now – and in my head it has something of a festive feel to it.  So I’m using it as my way to wish all a very contented yuletide.  I always struggled with Christmas as a youngster…I felt trapped by the shut down of ‘real life’…but now it seems to be a welcome (and all too brief) moment of calm in what seems now to be an increasingly sour and vulgar world.  I hope it gives all of you a sense of calm and contentment too…and comes with my very best wishes.