…The name Cézanne immediately conjures up images of choppy interwoven brushstrokes. At first glance, his mature paintings have the appearance of a distinctively systematic approach – every painting just screams “Cézanne”, but to generalise about his painting in this way is a misreading, as throughout his work we find a remarkable breadth of enquiry.
…In short, don’t go looking for pictorial illusions, but deal with the space you have available to you and maximise that. Let the space develop accordingly – illusions will occur with colour and do not need the added choreography behind them.
…Figurative space is indeterminate because of its duality. That duality is its virtue. Take a good painting of a landscape for example and that painting does not rely on its physical size to deliver its content as much as its illusory relationship, through rendering, suggestion or even evocation, to a known – external – reality.
…..During the same year that Picasso was mooching about Montmartre, Matisse was down in Collioure, towards the Spanish border, painting some of his greatest – soon to be known as – Fauvist works. His Landscape at Collioure (1905), a study for the seminal Bonheur de Vivre, is a work that I have prized all my adult life – so much so that in my twenties I made a special journey to Copenhagen to see it.
Bonnard’s “The Studio with Mimosa” 1939 at The Pompidou, Paris is an intriguing painting - a slow meditation on colour and space. I have become increasingly fascinated with Bonnard's work of late (partly due to a course on colour in painting I am running at the RA with guest lecturer Nicholas Watkins). I was previously unsure about his colour which at times looks laboured or even sour in patches; in so many paintings though, he quite wilfully moves your eyes about, as things quietly emerge into focus: heads; fruit; cups; chairs, all seem to materialise covertly without you noticing it. Bonnard seems to create "peripheries" which exist ironically, right in front of you,
These 8 images show the development of a recent painting. There were a number of colour decisions, not photographed here, made in between several of the stages but the general development of colour and line in the painting can be seen. This work had a particular "temperature" that was emerging and I kept working, painting it out and in to fine tune that temperature. The final painting (number 8) is called "The Squeeze" 2018 acrylic on canvas and is 130cm x 80cm wide.
Movement is different in sculpture and painting. By movement I do not mean capturing something in movement or even moving things around as in a kinetic sculpture. Movement starts firstly as the harnessing of actions made in a “fluid decision space”, where things can change and adjust as they take shape. Secondly it is about our eyes’ responses to differences. We have evolved as a species to scan a distant horizon and they swoop our gaze to a scrutinise something held in our hands
I have recently had a book published on my work. It is part discursive, instructive, theoretical and reflective. It covers paintings from my student days up to the present. Some of the content that been written after experiences gained through teaching my classes at the Royal Academy. The book is available in paperback and ebook through Amazon and other online retailers. Please see the link on the announcement bar at the top of the website to the Amazon listing.
I was delighted this year to have my website archived by the National Library of Wales as a site of historical importance to the culture of Wales.
I have just stretched up my most recent paintings. 9 new works which were started in the early Spring. 3 of them: "This Way Up", "Jump" and "Tick Tock" all feature in my book on "Abstract Art and Abstraction: They have a new attention to line with a number of looping linear passages working their way through the painting, enclosing or opening up around and about passages of colour. - sometimes locking in colour "chords".
(Blog app testing) Rock and roll looks to be the music of relationships; jazz feels like a music of community - it feeds off an audience and classical music is the music of solitude. Similarly painting operates in these ways in people’s lives.
At a recent Brancaster Chronicle whilst Tony Smart, it occurred to me that the language used to describe the work often ran into conflicts. Smart's work is radical and exciting and is part of an unfolding of work which could be categorised as "Open Sculpture". Below are some thoughts on the language used or touched upon in a Chronicle such as this and the respective possible meanings of certain words. Please comment if you wish. (the Chronicle will be posted on the branchron.com site shortly)
I enjoyed the first Group show of The Brancaster Chronicles that I have exhibited in (being unable to participate in the initial one). It is on show at the moment in the Heritage Gallery in Greenwich’s Naval College buildings. Stunning Wren symmetry and grandeur. A great location on the river. The show features 1 work from 9 artists who had a Chronicle last year.
I do not identify drawing in terms of delineation or as a vehicle for tone, rather I see it in much broader way as the 'mechanics of making.' I am an abstract painter and handling colour through painting requires organisation, strategy and that old chestnut, persistence. These qualities are, to my mind, determined holistically by drawing. Getting the drawing up to speed establishes how successful the painting will be - how well made it will be. Colour is the seeing - drawing is the making. I will often draw after making a painting to look at the lateral forces at play and explore further possibilities. Taking these forces back into paint compels me to be confident and this in turn dictates my sense of scale. Everything comes from the drawing.
The crux of making art lies in the attitude to spontaneity and having a skill set to tackle problems as they arise. Problems that arise when things are being made – the friction of creativity.
Decorative as in not having a specific descriptive function which obeys acquired rules of construction (“compare European sculptures based upon the ‘muscle’ with African ones based upon the medium” Matisse paraphrased) Did Picasso ever escape this approach or rather moved to the extreme end of the same axis…? , not decorative as in not just a ‘streamlined’ arrangement of colour and pattern (Louis Valtat a minor example, though if you want to start a sword fight with anyone – compare with Derain?)- this is the notion of colours just existing in their own right with no “pressure” (witness recent discussions on Abcrit) , decorative as in a full synthesis of perceived – real, fluid- space translated into painted space -(absorbing and extending the lesson of Cézanne and NOT coming up with cubism which took his vernacular and returned it to point 1 – see above), not decorative as in a systematic synthetic formatting (which is where twentieth century modernism went). I think it’s such a complex word to explore and may well continue to be redefined. Matisse saw colour as a “force” and used colours which “collide” into one another, however his painting journey to get to the late 40s (for it was a wilfully investigative one) was delightfully meandering and lit up so many intriguing side roads (for so many others to wander down).
Although Cézanne’s approach was to synthesise what he saw, he maintained the nineteenth century instinct to depict. I think his level of synthesis is what transcended his depiction and made him essential for the twentieth century and why it still resonates so deeply today in the twenty first (not for some…perhaps). The issue of synthesis needs a new focus maybe; the relationship between what is seen and what is made does not pivot on depiction. It is far more symbiotic than that (not for some…perhaps). A writer wants a narrative. You cannot escape this; it is this desire that has fuelled the rise of curation. Curation is rooted in the literal. At its best it can be enlightening but it is never ‘essential’. If a painting has gone through the necessary heat of synthesis, it should come out fully cooked – any trace of the mix means it’s not done yet. A post modern lens will always pardon the lack of this ‘essential’ as a quality as the oven is never on anyway so everything gets served cold.
...It’s funny how bravado dissipates to chic melancholy with the passing of time. It could have been the fact it was a lovely mild December evening, the hour was late and the gallery sparse, for I actually quite enjoyed wandering around the show and just let it wash over me...
CIA Headquarters, Langley, 1955. A warm, damp Autumn evening; leaves rush and whisper, shaking off their rain drops as the twilight slowly fades yet lingers long enough to kiss the last puddles of water a gentle good night.
On the fourth floor we see a stark light burning out incandescently from a solitary window, opened slightly to let in the cooling Virginia air. The whole building below in almost complete darkness save the foyer and janitor’s cupboard; its occupants have long since left for home or the few bars that welcome the emotionally troubled or down at heel with equal benevolence.
Inside this lit room sit 3 men around a modest table; a polished walnut affair with a pleasing solidity yet fine slender legs. Scattered out over the table top are an array of photographs, black and white, images of what to our eyes now would look like familiar abstract paintings, the kind of thing pastiched in a thousand high schools during an afternoon Art class...
The reviewing of a body of your own work can cause confusion as you narrow down your approach and condition yourself to continue working in the same vein. Just doing something and bearing down on it, is enough. The choreography of style is a major hinderence to making work of true merit.
I recently saw the Caro show of "Book Sculptures" at Annely Juda in London. I enjoyed it - it’s like having a really nice meal in a fancy restaurant - everything is put together so well (and tastefully) with such great ingredients. Once you get to a level of skill, experience or competence the safer route is to produce more and more of it.