samedi 30 décembre 2017

Last painting of the year - the garden in winter.

The garden, the painting, the time it takes, the outcomes of chance. I have attempted to impose my will on this only to find that , in the end it was I who succumbed. I looked at the living garden, I looked away. I saw light and dark, solid and space and saw only paint and surface. It feels like defeat: another failure and another mark of my limitation.

So what next ? Another go, another approach. In these circumstances what else can we do ? Stop ? Go on ? To go on is all that is left. To stop is to acknowledge that I have wasted my time.

mardi 12 décembre 2017


When I wrote that one might need to know a landscape to paint it I had not thought to wonder how that connection might be made and what it would take to effect it. I don't know any landscape painters, not personally, so I can't ask and would they be any more able to articulate how it happens?

I wonder what moved someone like Thomas Jones to make those small, beautiful paintings in Naples, so unlike his other work? What was he thinking?

I have been making this new painting: I am thinking that the familiarality of this view, a space that I can walk in, be in, think in, is in fact entire of itself and that the connection can only be made by approaching it as Martin Buber suggests in I and Thou. The transforming of what I experience as the spaces and solids, the movement of air, branch and leaf in the garden / landscape into the experience of the painting is as mysterious as ever and a description equally elusive. I feel on that ridge of my own making with all that made by others laid out on either side, observable but unknowable. A connection still to be made.

mardi 7 novembre 2017

Painting now - in November.

oil on paper.78x65cm

                                                                  oil on paper 78x65 cm

oil on paper. 78x65cm

                                                                      oil on paper. 78x65cm

Some say that to paint landscape requires that one knows it. There are many ways then of knowing.
Fundamentally, knowledge can be empirical and knowledge applied to the painting is acquired through observation and practice. These paintings, made in the last few weeks, keep returning to the land even though I do not want them to. Believe it or not my intention is to not make a landscape painting: my intention as I start each piece is to create a dialogue about space through the act of putting paint onto a flat surface but I have worked from the surrounding garden and fields for so long now that it is hard to separate my understanding of my surroundings from my understanding of the paint.

mardi 22 août 2017

Twenty Twenty Gallery, Shropshire, England.

                                                Bush and garden. oil on paper. 30x30cm

Twenty Twenty Gallery will be twenty years old in September . Meabh and I will be there for the p.v. on Friday 22nd September. Mary Elliot is showing a range of work from artists and makers who have contributed over the years. More information will be available later on the Twenty Twenty website.

                                                               Meabh Warburton

                                                  past present future. tapestry. 20x20cm
                                                 past present future . Tapestry. 20x20cm

jeudi 10 août 2017

The last bush - for now.

oil on paper. 65x78cm.

I have been painting this little bush for a long time ( it must be years now) and here, for the time being is a point at which I can stop. I spent a long time thinking this through but in the back of my mind there was another painting to be made, something that would be more expansive and at the same time more focussed on making drawings in paint. See, I can't even explain it to myself. There are lots of examples of course and there is a Van Gogh that I can think of`: none of this is new. This other painting, this elusive, turn one's head and it's gone painting, is nagging at me.

New landscape.

oil on wood 160x160cm

white cloud and garden. oil on paper. 68x75cm

untitled garden. oil on paper. 68x75cm

These two paintings are from a group that I hope will move on from the paintings of the bush. If I am not mistaken they will develop an earlier piece that was an attempt to develop an idea of seeing the whole through a small focus and using the painted surface to explore things that I had learnt through drawing. Certainly whilst in the making, they felt very much like drawing, holding the tube of paint and drawing with it, using hands, scrapers and other implements - usual stuff.

mardi 25 juillet 2017

Martin Buber and the Ash tree

oil on canvas.

It was in fact whilst searching my mind for a phrase to add to a description of the work of Daniel Lefranc at La Tour Montsales that I remembered I and Thou by Martin Buber. It was only today that I started to think again about that relationship that he described. whilst I sought to resolve this painting of the Red Ash in my garden.

Tout ce qui tient à l’arbre y est impliqué : sa forme et son mécanisme, ses couleurs et ses substances chimiques, ses conversations avec les éléments du monde, et ses conversations avec les étoiles, le tout enclos dans une totalité.

I contemplate a tree. I can accept it as a picture: a rigid pillar in a flood of light, or splashes of green traversed by the gentleness of blue silver ground. I can feel it as movement: the flowing veins around the sturdy, thriving core, the sucking of the roots, the breathing of the leaves, the infinite commerce with earth and air – and the growing itself in the darkness. 

I can assign it to a species and observe it as an instance, with an eye to its construction and its way of life. I can overcome its uniqueness and form so rigorously that I recognize it only as an expression of the law – those laws according to which a constant opposition of forces is continually adjusted, or those laws according to which the elements mix and separate. 

I can dissolve it into a number, into a pure relation between numbers, and eternalize it. Throughout all of this the tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and condition. But it can also happen, if will and grace are joined, then as I contemplate the tree I am drawn into a relation, and the tree ceases to be an It. The power of exclusiveness has seized me. 

This does not require me to forego any of the modes of contemplation. There is nothing that I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number included and inseparably fused. Whatever belongs to the tree is included: its form and its mechanics, its colours and its chemistry, its conversation with the elements and its conversation with the stars – all this in its entirety. 

The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no aspect of a mood; it confronts me bodily and has to deal with me as I must deal with it – only differently. One should not try to dilute the meaning of the relation: relation is reciprocity. Does the tree then have consciousness, similar to our own? I have no experience of that. But thinking that you have brought this off in your own case, must you again divide the indivisible? What I encounter is neither the soul of a tree nor a dryad, but the tree itself.

mercredi 12 juillet 2017

Five pieces of garden.

oil on board. 114x40cm

oil on paper 110x40cm

oil on paper 68x55cm

ink, oil, emulsion on paper 65x50cm

ink,oil,emulsion on paper 65x50cm

One never really knows when something from the past will catch up. Some time ago I made some small paintings which I thought might lead on to something but it didn't seem to be the case. Over the last few weeks those ideas may have caught me up as have drawings that I made some thirty years ago. Not the same drawings but the same sense of drawing. This is part of the richness of making things. One moves forward one hopes but at the same time carry dormant ideas into the light of the present.

vendredi 30 juin 2017

Landscape is by no means permanent.

Of course it isn't and just working on these drawings and paintings reminds me that everything shifts. New islands appear old ones submerge : marks on the surface also undergo transformation. The difference is that we are trying to create something stable out of the chaos; a new thing. I see my garden and I see the drawing take place which is of that garden but pared away, moved around, composed and erased - and wait while I go and cut that hedge again, mow that path again, so that when I look again it is my drawing and my drawing is it.

dimanche 18 juin 2017

Work in progress

oil on board 85x54 cm

oil on board 56x40 cm

oil on board 56x40cm

oil on board 36x20cm

oil on paper. 78x60 cm

ink, charcoal, emulsion on paper.120x110cm

Very different pieces in progress at the moment. The drawing is tentatively entitled The bush in the rain.
The upper paintings are a move away from the descriptive/figurative work that has been the result of repeatedly engaging with the subject of the bush. I felt pressure to break from that and I intend to push on with this to see where it leads.
I must just mention La Tour, Montsales, Aveyron in France. There is a truly lovely exhibition there at the moment, a Tapestry show, but with baskets, photographs, small scale very fine tapestry and three dimensional work from Scotland and France. The website can be found at Two weeks left of the current show.

lundi 22 mai 2017

One blog at a time.

field. oil on paper.

bush, morning, oil on paper

                                                       salabert, bush, oil on paper . 78x60 cm

I would like to draw attention to Painting Perceptions, an American blog. I have no connection to it but it is something that I pay attention to. There are a number of very interesting writings about painting on the web; Painter's Table is another one: Sharon Knettell writes  informative, personal and challenging pieces on Painting from Life. The work featured differs markedly from my own but I feel that there is a lot to learn from differing view points and a great deal of commonality too.

Apparently blogging is old hat: instagram is the way forward. See for yourselves.

I'm off to mow a few paths.

vendredi 19 mai 2017

Here lies the body of Ezra Pound.

                                    painting for my mother revised. oil on canvas. 100x80cms.

Lost at sea and never found.  Which is what it feels like this morning after what I thought to have been a productive session . I knocked over a few things and found the bottom two paintings which then made me look at a whole bunch of things made previously but misplaced. I think that I prefer them.

dimanche 14 mai 2017

Early summer trunk.

oil on canvas. 50x50cm

oil on canvas. 30x30cm

I am ducking reworking a larger painting which has already been repainted several times. I am being cowardly and I know it: I thought that I had finished ( Painting for my mother ) but I know it won't do so in the meantime worked on these two: restarting the bigger piece and doing a lot of sitting down, getting up, looking at the bush, the light and dark, trying to remember my mother, being quite sure that I don't know enough about her or how she thought or for that matter how she lived brings me to the brush, the material of the paint and an odd mental juxtaposition  that whilst the painting is not a metaphor for loss, it is about change and about the only thing over which I have control.

jeudi 27 avril 2017

Two garden paintings.

It was Van Gogh who said something like that one person could provide material for many paintings and I feel the same way about the narrow view of my garden. It is always different, always challenging, always providing opportunities.
I photograph my garden a lot: I don't refer to them when I'm painting but they do capture a lot of information that I can use to remind myself of shifts in shadow and how blocks of light and dark can work together. Sometimes they provoke me into considering possibilities that I might otherwise miss and together with the drawings, help to search for some truth. There is quite a difference between these two, given that they have been made within days of each other and I find myself moving between closely observed painting and that which allows for more reordering, invention, call it what you will. It is however still rooted in the view, in the bush as object, in the space as theatre.

dimanche 16 avril 2017


This is a painting that I started just after I turned sixty six and four years later and much repainting I am at a stage where I might let it rest. Is it a likeness? Well, if it and my head were ever to be exhibited together, then maybe but does it really matter? Painting a portrait is about many things, certainly about paint; certainly about context. The painter changes from day to day, hour to hour: the accretion of paint, the working of the paint in fact is as important as the scrutinisation of the head being painted. There are many self portraits which are about the act of painting rather than making a likeness but the questioning that goes on - is it like this, is it more like that? Is it more yellow, is it Naples yellow or Naples Yellow and a touch of Raw Umber ; what is that shape? where is that line exactly?

In Malcom Gladwell's book The Tipping Point (2000) he states that context is crucial to all varieties of human behaviour. We are affected by both large and minute changes and what I am at any one time and in any one place changes as a mutating human organism. So it is indeed a moving target.

I have a friend who entered a competition, filmed in the manner of The Great British Bake Off. She attempted to get a likeness of her sitter without the aid of tablets and squaring up apps. She looked, she applied brush to canvas, she watched the clock. I admire her guts because I wouldn't be able to do that. I need time, years obviously. I will revisit the portrait because it is very interesting and because next time it will be different again. And I am my own sitter and am always here -  for now.

mardi 11 avril 2017

A painting for my mother.

                                                                  the bush. oil on canvas

My mother liked order in her garden, plants well spaced, plenty of soil visible and found the apparent chaos of mine (no soil visible, only gravel) puzzling. Why is it so full? she would wonder. Gardening is trying to force nature into constraints that are the antithesis of wildness. There is a symbiotic relationship between my gardening and my painting. I have to cut a hedge before I can begin to paint it: I have to mow before I can see where to draw.

                                                                charcoal on paper.

mardi 7 mars 2017

Three small garden views and a thank you.

My travels between England and France have taken a toll: at the same time they have, in the time allotted between visits  meant that I could plunge into these small paintings with a kind of abandon that celebrates living and I think, has carried me through the grey days . A parent dies and yet everything continues. I am happy to keep painting, comfortable with saying goodbye and thanks.