mardi 28 décembre 2010

Towards the end of the year.

Towards the end of the year one wants to look back and see how the work has been developing, trying to see whether there are clues as to direction. I was walking this morning and had to smile:the light was so very sharp and tonal changes severe but at the same time there was a subtlety in the undergrowth that made me realise that there is much to work with . So I stood for a long time just looking with the intention of trying to bring what I was seeing back with me - I had deliberately walked without taking a camera - and use this information to give more layers to the two current paintings.

dimanche 5 décembre 2010

I came in one morning...

I came into the workshop one morning and realised that it just wouldn't do so I had to remove a lot of what was there and plod on- nothing new I know ,think Auerbach, Kossoff, but never-the-less I needed to change things and this is it for now.

mercredi 24 novembre 2010

What an artist makes of a painting less a matter of freely choosing among a variety of options than it is of making the most of a few intuitions that are absolutely of ones own. Every time a painter paints , we want to see what those intuitions are.To paint is to show ones hand. This is from Eye Witness, by Jed Pearl. Basic Books, New York. Autumn 2000.

and from an interview with Gary Wragg, by Emma Biggs: For me there are three sets of things painting does, but all painters do them differently and that's what is interesting. These are: opening out a space or closing it up; making something full or empty and the simple opposition of positive and negative. He says that when he paints he's trying to create a weave of different levels, to get across the canvas leaving no dead areas. This being more about cultivation than expression.

jeudi 18 novembre 2010

Making anew.

Whilst feeling that I had painted myself out of the previous painting I had this one on the go at the same time and felt that it could be the beginnings of something. I have had it in progress for a while, one of those things that one comes back to without quite being able to pin down its direction : I spent a long afternoon sitting and going back through piles of photographs and reading Auden.
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters,how well, they understood
Its human position;how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.

dimanche 14 novembre 2010

Presence and Object.

Progress was slow, changes incremental in the end. For now though, I am at that point where I think that I have painted myself out of it.
I was hoping for a shift from near lower foreground to upper recessional space in that way that one looks out from what is immediately at hand towards the distance and back again , like when walking or standing watching the wind moving grasses in the distance, whereas at ones feet, the ground is sheltered. Well that is how it developed at one remove whilst the painting itself gave clues as to how to shape the space. In the end it is itself and only may suggest or remind one of something else, part of the way that a painting can be an object and a metaphor.

lundi 8 novembre 2010

The progress of a painting.

This painting began in a flurry in August : by a series of additions and deletions I have been trying to move it along to a point of resolution. I have mentioned before that I have a tendency to tinker rather than make a more resolute movement but I know that anything that holds me back because it looks nice will ultimately have to be sacrificed to bring it off. Not dithering, I tell myself, but getting my facts together before making a decision. Watch this space.

mercredi 22 septembre 2010

Trying to move on.

I've been amused by people trying to turn my paintings sideways all the time and so made this one deliberately horizontal although no doubt someone...........

I will return to the square shortly: actually it allows me the freedom to move around the canvas on the floor and gives the painting more of a chance to influence direction. I think Jackson Pollock often decided very late on which way was up.

Lastly these paintings come out of other paintings which come out of looking but in that there is a lot of failing and rebuilding. Prunella Clough said in an interview once that her failed paintings didn't fail forever, not if there was something in there that would start bothering her again.

lundi 6 septembre 2010

Arriving late by way of Constable and De Kooning

There are days when one wonders why it took so long : I have been looking at Constables work again and trying to imagine what it was like for him to be painting , even accounting for reading C.R.Leslie's Life and the letters. Then for weeks now I have had an essay on my desk on De Kooning by Bill Berkson that I have peered at often (wrong spectacles) but didn't read until today when I decided that I had finished my current painting- or painted myself out of it.

The title of the essay is, De Kooning with Attitude and he means for the reader to equate attitude with balance or more probably a balancing act. I liked too that De Kooning said that the idea of space is given to the artist to change if he can and that the subject matter in the abstract is space. Which brought me back to J.C. because that seems to be precisely what comes across, that he was thinking about space, pushing and pulling that lasts perhaps only a couple of seconds, like light, but to me takes on attitude.

vendredi 20 août 2010


In the making of these two paintings it had not occurred to me that they might be hung together until I laid them out on the studio floor and found them to be visually linked. It is not my usual practice to make a sequence and the paintings do not normally follow one another in any way, rather I try not to let that happen. However, in this case I would like them to be seen together, with the lower of the two here on the left.

dimanche 15 août 2010


This , from Sister Wendy Becket's interview with the American painter, Robert Natkin. In a reply he says that he doesn't see a difference between what is and what could be. In the finality of it the editing process is what he thinks a person (Becket) might call prayer and which in his case is considered the editing process of how he can make all aspects of his life be of some positive value. This strikes a cord in that life is not a narcissistic thing beginning and ending with oneself, but rather an engagement with humanity - approached with humility, nakedness even.

dimanche 1 août 2010

Bicci di Lorenzo

In the Ashmolean museum at Oxford there is a little painting by this Florentine artist, depicting a scene from the Life of St. Nicholas. The work can be seen to be divided more or less in two halves of light with the arrival of the saint, and dark, where the sky merges with the sea and the horizon is less clear. The sailors appear to be throwing something overboard , perhaps their belongings , perhaps something else. In three paintings that I made a few years ago I focussed on this object: there are times when something strikes me and there is a confluence of ideas that I need to respond to . I tried to do this here. In the history of my family there is an incident of incarceration, a straight jacket, a loss. I was already working with this when this beautiful painting was shown to me.

lundi 5 juillet 2010

Days,Months,Years almost.

Three paintings and the passage of time: music and silence and finally a new place to make work. One of these paintings was made in a matter of days, one has been almost a year in the making and another I started in May when the barn began to be transformed into the clean white space that it has become. It is here in the silence of afternoons that I can finally see what I'm doing: literally having the space to step back and contemplate and because I also have electricity I can listen to music , Scarlatti, Berlioz, Brahms, Huddonit, and a very moving work by the american composer John Adams, The Transmigration of Souls.

lundi 26 avril 2010


I looked and looked at the painting that I had come to think of as Salabert pool and just couldn't leave it the way it was. Each time I saw it it reproached me. I went out and looked at the site, looked at photographs and did a lot of avoidance therapy,i.e. mowing but it still bugged me that I was falling short in some way. So this is the new version. Its companion gave me hope that I might at last be able to do it differently, for a while at least. The land here-abouts is going through its annual Spring transformation and is impossible to ignore. Alas my reach falls short of the sense of it, the power of it. One has to give it a go though......

mardi 30 mars 2010

Four new paintings

The most recent of these has occupied me for what seems an age but is now in a place where I know that I am tinkering. There is in fact a lot of tinkering in the process interspersed with something more determined -I am reminded that Francis Bacon threw white paint onto a painting just to force it past an impasse- seems I do that a lot, recognising the stall and needing to do something about it. The other three paintings have been in progress for a while too, being revisited and nudged in another direction.

There are great sweeps of light and wind here at the moment but yesterday was calm and hot and the shadows are becoming bolder in the strengthening light. I am trying to pay attention to this or at least to be aware of the fact but working as I do in a confined space it is something that is outside of my room that I am trying to let inside my painting.

jeudi 11 mars 2010

Hill at Moa

From my window the cold of snow and minus temperatures connected me to the hill that circumscribes my view. I received new canvasses this week and have started a new painting that I am trying to let have its own direction. Each time I make a painting I try to let go of stuff that I know.

lundi 15 février 2010

A shield day. The antidote to the black dog.

We call the bright searing blue days here shield days, an admittedly obscure term culled from the Lord of the Rings, riding out. It never fails to work for me.

samedi 6 février 2010

Keith Jarrett, black dog, Phaidon et moi>

Last night I was explaining the black dog to two very articulate french friends with wide ranging interest in the arts. I can't explain the reason for, or the place from which the black dog comes but Keith Jarrett says that he tells his piano students that if they are going to play, they should play like its going to be the last time. That is what I try to think about - make the painting as if it is the last time. Hence I think, the black dog, because as he also says, it is NOT natural to (in his case) sit at a piano,bring no material,clear your mind completely of musical ideas and play something of lasting value.

In my case trying to clear the mind of painterly ideas is mostly too much to achieve and that's when I feel that it should be the last time. But as my friend last night asked, then what? There will, in fact be a last time and not to have made the commitment to try will truly have been a waste.

However, there is something in my head that nags at me - it is there and not there, a call to jump perhaps towards the next place. And I fear it ( I've looked at that word fear hard for a while now , in isolation a word can look strange) and the jumping is the very thing that I take clearing the mind (in Keith Jarrett's case) to mean. Every action, every mark made, is made because I know its history so finding a new mark or gesture is a jump to a place that I have not been before. It's a journey away from the comfortable but predictable architecture of marks.

I was looking for examples of those who have jumped, or stumbled, amongst the plates of Phaidon's Book of Twentieth Century Art and these friends seized upon it and took it away with them as they had never seen it before. How, I wondered later, could they have missed it?

vendredi 22 janvier 2010

Cruciform shadow

After thinking about being in the woods and waiting for the sun to break through the recent leaden skies, I realised that I had the makings of the kind of painting that I was carrying in my head already.

Last Spring I had begun a piece and it niggled me all year that I hadn't been able to resolve it . It was there but not there: often it is like that and one knows that the thing one wants is out there, it's just hiding a while. I ask myself why that is: why is it not possible for me to see the future and get it right first time.

One answer is that the process is what is important, the thing that must be worked through, revised and reworked. I don't know what it is like for a poet for example, but there will be those who will recognise that feeling at the end of the working session, that it has gone well only to see it afresh the next day and realise how horribly wrong one can be.

I was talking with a painter once about the process and he told me that he liked beginning and he liked the end but it was the middle which gave him the problems.

mardi 19 janvier 2010

On the cusp of the year

On the cusp of the year I looked again at the photographs that I had taken in the woods: there was snow all around me and the air was biting, the colours cool and muted. However, in the making of the paintings which spanned the newness of another year the action on the canvas shifted back and forth away from and towards abstraction.
I read a while ( I think it was Susan Rothenberg who when asked if she had had a good day in the studio replied that she had read a good book) , and thought about where the emotive power of some of the past paintings had gone and whether it was possible to bring that elusive quality to the abstraction of the experience of the woodland edge. There is something that I would like to distil from Martin Buber's Presence and Object and work with it or work something of it into these paintings.

small photo

on the cusp of...

oil on canvas 120 x 120

oil on canvas. 120 x 120 cm.

vendredi 8 janvier 2010

The way it goes.

It begins with looking and looking begets walking and walking begets thinking.
I don't take my camera with me each time because I think that I might become too reliant on it and stop looking but there will be times when I want to use it and looking ahead can begin to imagine the image, whole and collaged. It might be a simple thing like here, or more an attempt to set down bits of the walk. There are lots of tracks around here that only a few people use. Anyway the paintings begin this way at the moment. Begin with a sense of the place and then move on to develop an independent place of their own.
I,ve been asked how it is that I can so readily overpaint them and the answer is simply that the doing is what matters, the experience: then I move on.