Paintings & Drawings

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2016

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New for 2015

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Tresco Summer 2014

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2013

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Coast

Walks & Work

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2012

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Winter 2011

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Coast

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Tresco Summer 2011

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2009

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Coast

<h1>Walks &amp; Work</h1>

  • 2016

    2016

  • New for 2015

    New for 2015

  • Tresco Summer 2014

    Tresco Summer 2014

  • 2013

    2013

  • Coast

    Coast

  • 2012

    2012

  • Winter 2011

    Winter 2011

  • Coast

    Coast

  • Tresco Summer 2011

    Tresco Summer 2011

  • 2009

    2009

  • Coast

    Coast

Musings

Overlooking North Cornwall coast.

Overlooking North Cornwall coast.

When I am pondering on a painting, or a group of them, the ideas ebb and flow. It might start with something concrete; like the colour or form, but it just as easily might be a wispy thought. Joan Miro, the Spanish painter, wrote that, “one invents nothing, it is all there.” Is it? Or not – before coming to terms with whatever I am painting, I can’t help but think of others who have wandered up and down well-trodden creative paths, with some angst.

Where to start – with paint alone and no predetermined form… I might randomly waft paint around in a Jackson Pollock style. He suggested that his paintings were supposed to paint themselves, without planning. He used hardened old brushes, sticks and even basting syringes as paint applicators. He also moved away from only using his hands and wrist, and used his whole body to paint, laying his canvasses on the floor and rolling on them. In this way he felt nearer to his art, to be literally in the painting.

I could drill a hole in a can of paint, as the surrealist Max Ernst once did, and let the paint flow willy-nilly. I once used a sanding machine to blast off a few layers of paint here and there on a piece of cardboard that I had been fiddling with for ages. The haphazard result was much more exciting that any of the previous attempts.

Sandwiched between periods of activity are the longish times of pondering. Occasionally I will streak ahead and paint something worthy and leave it at that. Slow progress is usual for me, with lots of revisions going on. Apparently Cezanne was said to wait fifteen minutes between brushstrokes. Anne Redpath (Scottish painter 1895-1965) was said to have put more thought than activity in her work, plus she liked to use a piece of chainmail to scrape off bits. In 1962 her accountant told her she would make a better living if she didn’t use so much paint. She admitted that more paint was scraped off than remained on the canvas; the accountant suggested she reuse this discarded paint. What would he know!… actually I reuse old globs and blobs all the time.

I remember coming across work by the German performance artist, theorist and more, Joseph Beuys (1921-1986). He spent a lot of time and effort ruminating about his stuff and everything else. In his first solo exhibition “how to explain pictures to a dead hare” Beuys cradled a dead hare in his arms whilst mumbling into its ear the significance of his work. Explaining things to a dead animal was important because as Beuys said “even a dead animal preserves more power of intuition than some human beings with their stubborn rationality.”
Beuys also sang loud shamanistic songs and poured honey over his head during a show. The pouring of honey was meant to do with thinking and represents bees, who embody an ideal society of warmth and brotherhood. Beuys also clanked around a show with a metal sole on his shoe; intermittent noise broke the silence. This seems to have been the action that most captured peoples’ imagination. “On one level this must be because everyone consciously or unconsciously recognises the problem of explaining things, particularly where art and creative work are concerned, or anything that involves a certain mystery or question.”

Beuys drew heavily from his life experiences (or not – some witnesses have questioned his version of events.) He had been in the Luftwaffe and in 1943 his Stuka dive bomber was shot down over the Russian Crimea, he survived the crash and claimed he was found by a band of nomadic Tartars. They covered his body in animal fat and felt to revivify him. This led him to use fat and felt in his shows later in life (fat chair 1964). He wanted to change society with these shows, maybe he did, he is now regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
So there was a man with plenty of ideas, lots of thinking going on, but what happens when ideas run out? It’s a bleak prospect, gazing out at landscapes seascapes vistas galore, sketching away, returning home and then encountering a barren time when nothing seem to be translatable. Is that because the technique is all wrong or because the ideas are gone? I love the story about Dante Gabrielle Rossetti, poet, illustrator, painter and translator. Rossetti loved his wife Elizabeth Siddal passionately. She died from a laudanum overdose after only a year of marriage. A grief stricken Rossetti buried the only manuscript of his poems in her coffin. Unfortunately ideas were thin on the ground seven years later so he dug her up and published the poems.

Ideas are what it is all about for a contemporary conceptual artist and painter Michael Craig-Martin. In 1974 he exhibited the piece “an oak tree”. The work is a glass of water, standing on a glass shelf attached to a wall, in the National Gallery of Australia. When trying to enter the country with his ”Oak Tree”, the Australian customs officials wanted to bar it as it was vegetation. Craig-Martin was forced to explain that his oak was really a glass of water.

However Craig –Martin says that “the superiority of the artist’s intention over the object itself” is really the heart of the thing. So the glass of water is really an oak tree, because he has designated it as an oak tree. Like Marcel Duchamp’s “fountain”, this was not a fountain but a urinal. Text from Craig-Martin:

Q:” isn’t this just a case of the emperor’s new clothes?”

A: “No, with the emperor’s new clothes people claim to see something that wasn’t there because they felt they should. I would be very surprised if anyone told me that they saw an oak tree.”

What can a painter see or decide to see? Does a painter see things differently or purposefully paint things differently? What’s going on in that abstract painting or figurative work? Parts of turners work edge into abstraction. But what did he see as he looked about him.
Turner liked to get into the thick of things as much as possible, in one case he had himself tied to a ships mast during a snow storm at sea so that he wouldn’t miss a bit of the roaring and raging and colour of the sea. He wrote two tiny words on the edge of his sketches of this storm, “almost capsized”.

Anne Redpath had the ability to mentally file away visual experiences, and would paint away later regurgitating all those images indoors. Joan Eardley (Scottish painter 1921-1963) manifested Turneresque steely fortitude in her painting habits.

Eardley battled around Catterline on the North East coast of Scotland with 2 meter wide hardboards, in huge gales. She would weight her canvasses down with stones and incorporate into the paint anything that came to hand – sand, grasses, seed etc. She would paint from the same spot for weeks at a time, leaving her pots of paint out, creating an outdoor studio. Then when finished she would heave these large fantastic pictures up cliff paths and carry them on her Lambretta. All this while suffering recurrent depression, and wearing a cervical collar for a neck injury.

She worked in Glasgow some of the time, then when a phone call came from Catterline that bad weather was coming she would catch a train up to the North East coast I’m looking out at the darkness and the sea.

“I think I shall paint here. This is a strange place – it always excites me.”

Eardley was interested in Tachism, an intuitive form of abstract painting. (Spontaneous brushwork, drips and blobs of paint straight from the tube and sometimes bits of scribbling.) Much as she was curious about Tachism, she stated that she would never become totally abstract. Tragically she died from cancer aged 42 in 1963.

“Outside the sea is still beating and tearing at the rocks – uselessly, because there is no painter person at the easel.”

Antonio Tapies another favourite, is inspired in part by Paul Klee and Joan Miro. He is a Catalan abstract artist who had no formal art training. During the 1950’s he produced heavily textured paintings and constructions using ground glass and earth. There doesn’t seem to be any discernable drawing, some gestures on the surface are so minimal they are just a couple of scratches, but the whole package really works. The paintings stay with you.

So where does all this leave me? The creative process is personal and changeable. Just when one established route seems dependable, I find the process leading nowhere. I’ll be out in some field drawing away and planning a big picture, only to find the initial drawing better than the finished one. So I will carry out a canvas and attempt to paint outside, but this has rarely worked for me. I need the solitude of a room to really think out what I want to paint.

I imagine for most people creativity is helped and hindered by so much – for everyone the starting mid and end points are different. I can surround myself with drawing, photographs and teeming ideas. Working enthusiastically, later finding I have to strip everything away and just let the painting evolve. At the end of the day I could just follow Van Gogh’s words,

“You learn by working. You become a painter by painting”.

 

All of it….

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All of it…

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    All of it…

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CV

Edinburgh College of Art Ba (textiles, design & printmaking) 1992

Manchester Foundation Diploma (1989)

 

Exhibitions

 

2013 Group exhibition.

Gallery Tresco, Isles of Scilly

Currently exhibiting.

2012 Group exhibition.

Gallery Tresco, Isles of Scilly

2011 Group exhibition.

Gallery Tresco, Isles of Scilly

 

 

 

 

 

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