Second Wind: Three 4'x4' acrylic on canvas March/April 2015
Third Space Studio April 15th 2015
Well I finally made it back to painting in what must be the most convoluted way possible. To start painting again don’t go via my route. Seven years teaching web design in academia, a fine art M.A. in art research (through drawing) then a abandoned attempt to do a Creative Writing M.A. Oh and then two months sorting out what the hell I was doing in painting in the first place (the Archive)
All of this so that I finally can go into the studio in mid-March 2015 and stare at a blank wall and wonder what the hell it all about….
It seems like a very long way round to arrive back where I started. I studied fine art painting at Hornsey College of Art in 1978-1981. My first love was painting not poetry or songwriting. I was ‘good at art’ at school. I was offered a place at the Royal College in 1981 on painting M.A. which was my dream. I wanted to be the new David Hockney….I almost did it but Margaret Thatcher took away the grant funding and my working-class parents could not afford the £9K, even then, fees.
I have always despised the Tories ever since. I ploughed on and re-applied to the Royal in 1985 (see this post in archive). this application was the high water mark of my early abstraction. I never got back to this level until today. It has taken 30 years to be able to paint full time if only for a couple of months. I am not a part-time painter.
The paintings in the posts above are my finding my way again after all this time. I naively aimed to be the best painter in England between 1981 and 1985……right now I’m just happy to get a second chance. I was however always a serious abstract painter…and that I remain. I dedicate these paintings to my Father who would have been 83 last Monday. I call these paintings ‘second wind’ for an explanation see poem here:
Back in the studio on a beautiful sunny day. Painted over the ‘Suit of Nettles’ “illustrations” after photographing them so I can create a single print of that work. So I have 12 x 2 feet square canvases to work on.
I also tried out a small box of chalk coloured soft pastels and this produced the three drawings above. The titles random or joking for instance ‘Welbeck’s Revenge’ celebrates the Arsenal’s win over Man U and no I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Gray and never will.
A good start and I hope I keep momentum up until Lady Bay show on 16th/17th May (and F.A. cup final 30th May :-). Last year’s Lady Bay was unforgettable as we came from behind to beat Hull:-)
Key Quote for the day:
Action is the foundational key to all success.
i.e. just do it stop thinking about doing it …..
So after 40…yes 40 years (I started at the tender age of 16 in 1975) as an infrequently practicing artist I find myself finally with a studio and time to paint so as of next Monday there no more excuses….
Artworks 1975 – 2000 ARCHIVE here
What will it look like? Well going by the last completed canvas above from May 2014 probably a bit cartoony, a bit abstract, a bit colourful….somewhere along the fault line between Contemporary British Abstraction (see show on now in London poster below ) and a crazed version of Disney trapped in a hunting lodge…so think David Lynch and rabbits…paint…it’s all about the paint..stupid….
So her it is or there it was and now it is or almost now …or something….whir..dribble…splat..thunk….
Read Andrew Parkinson’s piece on the show here Why Abstraction Now PDF
1985-8 London abstract work used as covers for The Weather Prophets band.
These the only three pieces of work this year and they were all submitted.
The selectors took the two drawings..have to work harder on paintings 🙂
The full list of exhibitors here: http://nottinghamcastleopen.com/
Bit of a shock to system this. I knew my artistic output had ‘slowed’ but as I can only find one canvas and two drawings from the whole last year it not slow it slithering to a stop.
Mostly the result of the gradual wind down of the Multimedia course and its attendant crap ( not from students I would like to make clear) and the failure of NTU SAD to recognise anything else I did..and an attempt to bury me in graphic design…
I did not have much time to paint I was too busy trying to save my job until I gave up trying and did something I enjoy instead i.e. creative writing which fabulous…and such a relief at least for a year….I due to return in June 2015..we shall see…
Silly blog post title of month. it amused me to write that especially as I just wrote that the future of painting is behind us…a smidgen of irony here.
At 55 years old and with a back catalogue of failed projects, dumb moves and shit jobs behind me (before I shipwrecked on to Academia Island) I have decided to once more ride into the valley of death armed with nothing more than a paintbrush and some blank canvases. Why? Why not everything else is shot to bits so might as well tilt at the greatest windmill of all….the painter of modern life.
I spent the day clearing out the cobwebs in my too often deserted studio and discovering that I had actually painted a few canvases in the past few years. Not many because I remain unconvinced that it an honourable occupation or even a perfectable art..see below. If I am like Will Self trapped in a Guston led Gutenbergian brain then so be it. I think paintings matter. I think they can change the world and that’s it really. Sod the consequences….life too short.
So here the sweepings from the last few years soon to be revealed at Lady Bay in my old schoolfriend Stephe’s front room. Not quite the Tate but you got to start somewhere:-)
p.s. not the big ones they aren’t finished…
Spent the afternoon in a not too cold studio (it has basic radiators thankfully) as starting to come out of over two weeks of severe chest infection. After looking at the neo-primitives below I thought I’d try black acrylic paint straight to canvas and compare it with other methods. Pencil and chalk, paint this was because I forgot to take some Sharpie pens to the studio. So I could theoretically call this an experimental artefact led methodology although I can only gain ‘qualitative data’. I have posted on facebook so be interesting to see what reaction I get.
I was vaguely thnking of the kind of memory painting Arshile Gorky did (most of his major works refer however subliminally back to his Armenian childhood) but after I’d finished the last piece I realised that today’s news about Hurricane Sandy and the associated imagery had leaked into my sub-conscious. I therefore named the drawing ‘Sandy’.
The smaller image in the gallery of two ‘badges’ is from 1987 and were a couple of examples of laminated drawings that I sold in aid of Greenpeace at my show that year in Hornsey Library. Proving that nothing changes and I was doing Burgerman before he was knee high 🙂
Looking closer other influences which I can see in the drawings include Leger, Mariscal, and Miro all major influences on my late eighties work so it feels like I have somehow carried on from a point then of semi-abstraction before I went more figurative and lost some of my spontaneity. I picked up a book from my library at studio called ‘Arshille Gorky: The Breakthrough Years. Which I will examine along with my present reading. I was heavily influenced by a book I subsequently lost by Harry Rand called Arshile Gorky: the implications of symbols ( I have now found it as paperback on amazon although out of print). The Gorky fascination is not so much in his application of paint but far more the way he created ‘memory symbols’ analogous to Miro. These repetitive symbols came from his childhood. I repeat similar motifs from my past almost like an alphabet and maybe analysing where this came from would be productive. In fact at one point I did try to make a pictorial alphabet of simple symbols. I will try and find the examples I drew. We then stray into both semiotic and literary territory. I will leave the deeper examination of this to the research pages.
Ok so here I am back in the studio at the beginning of the second year of my M.A. by registered project and after a summer of drawing related ‘research’ I am standing in front of a very old work on paper (c.1988) and two new canvases done over the summer in the time not spent researching Frayling’s Categories (which wasn’t much). So what do the canvases have to do with research if anything?
I am struggling already to codify or analyse the works from any kind of methodological perspective. The ideas ’embedded’ in the paintings are intuitive, visceral (acrylic paint applied to canvas) and come from a half-formed naive idea of ‘comic’ forms from looking at various comic and graphic novels and studing Philip Guston’s work in some depth especially his drawings. I did read the book ‘Night Studio’ by Musa Meyer which I remember was quite a harrowing account of how his depressions and rages affected his family ( Musa is his daughter). It did however convince in describing the sheer effort that went into his work.
I suppose if I mined back into other works on him I would find material relating to his genesis of the comic forms that replaced his earlier ‘abstract expressionist’ period. I also own the book ‘Sweeper up after artists’ by Irving Sandler which I was half way through and which is very telling in its depiction of the fraught nature of post Abstract Expressionist careerism in New York in the early 1960’s. But is this research…it is art historical research for sure but unless it impacts on my physical creation of an object could it be said to describe anything but ‘contextual knowledge’. To impact on the creation of an art object surely it has to be more profound than that?
I am just asking questions here as at the start of a difficult journey. Turning ‘intuitions, feelings and observations’ into theoretical research is a hard task. I am not convinced as I start this ‘Studio Diary’ that it at all possible but I may learn something else in the process.
I am standing looking at the works. Day One. I photograph them so as to show the similarity in pieces created nearly twenty years apart and in very different locations and circumstances. Maybe that affects how I create images. Maybe the context is more important than I thought.
I am also awed by the quotation from Dickens that I discover Guston had on his wall, which he held to, about complete devotion to the cause. I have never liked ‘sunday painting’ but never had the means to devote my life to painting and this the reason I have stopped painting for long periods. I found an interesting article online by chance detailing Guston in the studio by Dore Ashton.
This appears to be completely available online at:
Now here’s some art history to get my teeth into.
Quite a start…..but is it research?