jeudi 31 décembre 2015

Last drawing of the year.


I thought a lot about drawing whilst I was away in England, three weeks is a long time. When I returned home I was able to continue drawing but this one is the last one made today. Drawing is such a physical and emotional engagement. The reciprocity which exists between the observer and the observed is there to be discovered, the disclosure self being disclosed in turn.

I think that a likeness is often hidden and it has to be encouraged out of itself and in drawing it does not always wear the same face, or rather the face is made as an image of itself, with patience, with determination, with love.

Although the above really was the last of the old year there was this other that preceded it.

A Happy New Year to all.

dimanche 27 décembre 2015

The disappearing subject part two.

Two pieces from a number of re- workings of the view from my workplace. The drawing is one of several that I have made and re-made and the painting has been underway at the same time: scraped off, repainted, over painted, scraped off etc. It remains a topographical painting and as such a disappointment because what I want is for the subject to be subsumed by the paint, to be painting first and painting last.

ink and emulsion on paper. 65x50cm                                               oil on canvas 30x30cm

It seems that in the process of working there are times when one comes near and then finds the whole thing to be elusive and all one can do is to start over again.                        

mercredi 28 octobre 2015

Disappearing subject.

ink, emulsion on paper 65x50cm.


                                                       ink, emulsion on paper 65x50cm



                                                    ink and emulsion on paper. 65x50cm

ink and emulsion on paper. 65x50cm

I am spending time drawing, looking hard but trying to make the subject the drawing and not the thing observed and it isn't in any way an excuse for not being able to engage with the thing observed, in this case a tree in my garden, or rather this part of my garden which abuts the tree.

While I am drawing I am asking myself what it is that I want to happen and if I am at all successful will the subject of the drawing become the drawing itself and will the other subject disappear and so a transmutation of sorts  occur and so a new thing made.

So it was of great interest to me to be lent a copy of John Berger's The Shape of a Pocket and read about the subject disappearing. He cites among other things two very different artists, with different approaches to drawing, Leon Kossoff is one; Vija Celmins the other.

He suggests that the painter is continually trying to discover the place which will surround and contain his present act of painting but that the trouble is that when a painting fails to become a place, it remains a representation or a decoration. However when, if, a painting becomes a place there is a slim chance that the face of what the painter is looking for will show itself but the longed for return look can never come directly to him, it can only come through a place.

What any true painting touches is an absence - an absence of which without the painting, we might be unaware.

This example of absence is also to be found in the Fayum portraits: and in the making of these there is an acknowledgement of the exchange, a reciprocity.

dimanche 13 septembre 2015

Simplifying language, expanding ideas, perception and paint.

Having that one thing that I spoke of before has its advantages in that as one ages one can simplify, try to do with less, say what needs to be said with brevity. I love language, the richness of it but just as much I would love to find the equivalent of a haiku in paint.

Would this require me to erase all superfluous marks ? Would it mean that the paint should be devoid of the signs of the passage of the brush, no longer able to convey the twist of the wrist or the tempo of the gesture?

Clearly this is not what I want so in order to pare the perception and yet engage with the material and interest the viewer enough to stay awhile I need to find a balance.

y ant qu'une chose que j'ai parlé d'auparavant a ses avantages dans lesquels comme un âges on peut simplifier, essayer de faire avec moins, dire quels besoins être dit avec la brièveté. J'aime la langue, la richesse de cela mais autant j'aimerais trouver l'équivalent de haïku dans la peinture.

Exigerait-il que j'efface toutes les marques superflues ? Signifierait-il que la peinture devrait être exempte des signes(panneaux) du passage de la brosse, plus capable de transmettre la torsion du poignet ou le tempo du geste ?

Clairement ceci n'est pas ce que je veux ainsi pour réduire la perception et encore m'engager avec le matériel(la matière) et intéresser le visionneur assez pour rester pendant quelque temps je dois trouver un équilibre.

jeudi 13 août 2015

Having just the one thing.

Red Ash drawing. ink and emulsion on paper.

Red ash and field pattern. oil on canvas.160x120cm

Red Ash. oil on canvas.77x60cm

Red Ash. oil on canvas. 77x60cm.

It is not uncommon for an artist of any discipline to feel that they have just the one offering in them: I would like to think that we can work with that and not worry about fighting it.
 Just attempting to put down something that is true to oneself is a worthwhile goal. We all have recurring themes and I don't think it limits us but rather gives us the architecture on which to build something for ourselves. We examine something and hope to understand more about our histories and motivation. Undeniably there are grand themes and great sweeps but also quiet contemplation.

Ce n'est pas rare pour un artiste d'aucune discipline pour estimer qu'ils ont juste l'offre de celui dans eux: je voudrais penser que nous pouvons travailler avec cela et pas nous inquiéter de nous battre avec cela.
Juste la tentative de poser quelque chose qui est fidèle à soi-même est un but digne d'intérêt. Nous tous ont des thèmes se reproduisant et je ne pense pas qu'il nous limite, mais nous donne plutôt l'architecture sur quel construire quelque chose pour nous-mêmes. Nous examinons quelque chose et espérons comprendre plus de nos histoires et motivation. Indéniablement il y a de grands thèmes et de grands champs, mais aussi la contemplation calme.

mardi 14 juillet 2015


                                drawing for Red Ash tree. ink, charcoal, emulsion on paper. 84x70cm

Red Ash. oil on canvas. 60x60cm

Bush. 3rd version. oil on canvas. 160x120cm

R.S. Thomas begins a poem, Here is a post card from middle age, you must come here someday.
Whatever his protagonist expected it to be like I know not: but in looking at a painting I like to see if I can see the story unfolding, like reading a letter: to be a part of the conversation and see history unfold.

This small bush; this large tree, I planted ten years ago when I began my garden. I had no idea that they would become motifs or that I would want to engage with them in this way but they have insinuated themselves into the very paint.

R.S. Thomas commence une poésie, Voici une carte postale du moyen âge, vous devez venir ici un jour.
Quoi que son protagoniste s'est attendu à ce que cela ait ressemblé je ne sais pas : mais dans regardant une peinture j'aime voir si je peux voir l'histoire(étage) se dérouler, comme la lecture d'une lettre : être une partie de la conversation et voir histoire se déroulent.

Ce petit buisson; ce grand arbre, que j'ai planté il y a dix ans quand j'ai commencé mon jardin. J'ai eu aucune idée qu'ils deviendraient des motifs ou que je voudrais m'engager avec eux de cette façon mais ils se sont insinués dans la même peinture.

lundi 29 juin 2015

Listen with Mother.

The painting of a landscape is a story and the telling of it is in the organisation of the spaces on the surface and the marks across that surface.

The European model seems to have been for the most part, that of an object, a kind of still life, save for those who thought of it as an emotion, a conveyance of mood. I can't tell how many painters have made the surface that they have observed become that which they have felt: that in the act of painting they have made a new thing, a new land that supports reflection, sets up a conversation and brings with it the excitement of glimpsed possibilities.

Long, long ago, the BBC aired a weekly radio programme  for young children called, Listen with Mother and in the introduction the narrator would always ask the listeners. "Are you sitting comfortably?" " Then I'll begin"

Toward the boundary. oil on canvas 160x120cms

garden. oil on canvas.160x120cms

garden. oil on canvas. 100x80cms

I received a very kind note today from California and as a result found two new sites of interest. TerrystJohn and Tom Maderos. The sort of painting that makes me exclaim OH YES!

dimanche 21 juin 2015

Following on and what painting might be used for.

Painting is personal: I can imagine life without it as a daily activity, either practising it or reflecting upon it but it is not something that I want to happen. I don't want to give up on it, not yet. It is the practice which motivates me ; which poses each day some new challenge; which moves to ask what and how. It   doesn't matter too much if it is something engaged with entirely in private and though it would be disingenuous to claim uninterest in other peoples interest, it is never the less a fact that for me it is a conversation with oneself and when that conversation becomes uncomfortable and a modicum of talent becomes almost unbearable, one can only try harder, because in the end that is all that can be done other than to stop, play chess or drink. I am not ready for that, not today, not yet.

 Because I see the paining as a place where my thinking is made visible, where also marks become emotive, where the passage of time and the course of debate are made  manifest and I like the accretion
 of marks made over time, bearing witness to my thinking about painting, which is why I often paint over a previous piece and use it to develop a new one. The surface builds and is cut back, is reworked and adjusted : the passages discarded are reflective of the ways I might have thought, positions taken but not held now. But the history is there and without that history I do not know who I might be.

vendredi 19 juin 2015

Simplifying shape and colour.

oil on paper. 20x20cm

oil on canvas 50x50cm

oil on paper 30x30cm

                                                               oil on card. 30x18cm

I am really trying to exclude anything unnecessary in these recent pieces: it is hard to give up on things that have a degree of familiarity. The small size doesn't help either because I feel the need to be expansive, to work outside any comfort zone and of course there is a huge difference in the marks made when the arms gesture is wider. Having said that, the small size of these still means two or three days work or in some cases, weeks. I said earlier that I wanted to try not to revise, to set it down once but I don.t think that I am up to it or maybe it is the reworking, the breaking down and rebuilding that I like.

 The light is very bright here in June and the colour of the trunk of this tree changes throughout the day along with shadows .

dimanche 14 juin 2015

Problems of seeing: seeing more.

                                                       small bush. oil on paper. 30x18cm.

                                                    garden. oil on canvas. 30x30cm

                                                   garden. oil on canvas. 30x30cm

tree and field. oil on canvas. 80x80cm

There is a YOUTUBE video of the TED talk that Sargy Mann was to have given. It is a very thought provoking piece.

jeudi 11 juin 2015

Romantic Tradition.

oil on paper. 30x30cm

oil on canvas 80x80cm

                                                                 oil on canvas 120x120cm

Amongst the trees in my garden is a small bush which attracts my attention: it figures in some form or other in all my paintings of late. It is not significant in size or species but it stands there and I am drawn to it.

Wind blows it; light falls upon it; time passes. As an image it can be subsumed in paint or be clearly delineated. I use it as an anchor, an apt metaphor because I am at sea here, lost and trying to gain my footing within a tradition of landscape painting in the British Isles that goes back to the eighteenth century.

 The sense of landscape must have been present in some conscious way before that even if it was not formally recognized. Blake and Palmer used it to lament a passing of an age: perhaps a mythic one. Constable and Turner saw in it proof of Godly design and they were not just concentrating on surface appearance, not really precursors of Impressionism.

 Landscape as a lived experience, Lanyon or metaphor, Nash and as engagement with the world  has continued through Modernism and remains for many a vital, questioning focus of a romantic tradition.

Parmi les arbres de mon jardin, il ya un petit buisson qui m'attire - il est figuré dans une forme ou une autre dans tous mes tableaux récents.
Sa taille ou sa variété n'ont pas d'importance, mais il m'attire.

Il bouge avec le vent, la lumière l'éclaire, le temps passe...Comme image il peut être englobé par la matière ou clairement décrit. Je m'en sers comme d'un ancrage, une métaphore pertinente, car je me sens déboussolé et perdu en train d'essayer de m'orienter dans la tradition du paysage des iles Britanniques du XVIIIe siècle.

Le sens du paysage a dû être présent à l'esprit avant cette époque, même si ce n'était pas formellement reconnu. Blake et Palmer s'en servaient peut-être pour regretter la fin d'une ère, (une qui était peut être mythique). Constable et Turner ont vu dans le paysage la preuve de l'existence de Dieu alors qu'ils ne se concentraient que sur des apparences superficielles - Ils n'étaient pas vraiment des précurseurs de l'impressionisme.

Le paysage, dans l'oeuvre de Peter Lanyon se présente comme une expérience vécue ou chez Paul Nash comme une métaphore.

En tant qu'engagement avec le monde cela a continué à travers le Modernisme et reste pour beaucoup d'artistes d'un grand intérêt et une interrogation concernant la tradition romantique.

lundi 25 mai 2015

Painting out of doors, working from photographs, going to the gym.

Let us take painting out of doors. It is a given that that is what so many do and there are many good examples, obvious examples, of the practice. John Virtue is one which springs to my mind: in his case the sheer physicality of the process, the engrossing nature of the commitment resounds. Why would one not do it? Well I suppose there are lots of reasons and one can think of artists who have used the camera obscura and the photograph to their own ends and still do. The camera is a tool after all, and an aid: I use it. I use it a lot. I take photographs to remind me. I take them to tear up and collage to make myself reappraise looking; I take them just to look at; just to ask myself questions. This year though I am painting outside because I started drawing out there and it seemed logical to paint there too. It is different: the experience is quite other and reminds me of my youth for one thing, getting up at cockcrow and taking my sketchbook and paints into the fields before school. Cue violins. Perspective is another thing: getting up close and personal, zooming in with my feet. I walk a lot when painting, even though I don't cover a lot of ground. Which brings me to the gym. A friend of mine spends a lot of money running in the gym whilst outside is a park. It seems odd but he must have his reasons. I think painting from a photograph of landscape when one could be there is also odd but I guess it works for some until it no longer does. So collaging my photographs for example brings elements of chance and a mark that can be used that I have not previously thought of or an image that has escaped me.

 So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rain water. wrote William Carlos Williams and so it does.

Here is Francis Bacon writing on Matthew Smith:

He seems to me to be attempting to make the idea and the technique inseparable. Painting in this sense tends towards a complete interlocking of image and paint, so that the image is the paint and vice versa. Here the brush stroke creates the form and does not merely fill it in. Consequently every movement of the brush alters the shape and implications of the image. That is why painting is a mysterious and continuous struggle with chance - mysterious because the very substance of the paint, when used in this way, can make such a direct assault upon the nervous system; continuous because the medium is so fluid and subtle that every change that is made loses what is already there  in the hope of making a fresh gain.

It is sometimes hard for non painters to realize how much energy and thought can be poured into a small area of canvas but that is where painters attentions are focused and where their thoughts and gestures contact the canvas and where emotion and intuition meet, where confrontation with the imperfect resides.

Back to painting out of doors.