The CIA and Abstract Expressionism - a mini story

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...

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Reviewing dangers

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.

Caro, orchestration and Picasso

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.

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Colour decisions - notes

Each time colour decisions are made, I try to avoid taste and aim for luminosity, by that I mean the result of how the colours interact - or at least the ambition I have when deciding upon the colour. I consider surface as meaning that the whole thing needs to be active and end up working together. I am not suggesting a miasmic soup. Furthermore I don't think dealing with colour means you can't build space into the work. Space can happen through the colour, but it is surprising - when you try to control it, it tends to lead to tonality - a sort of predictable and predicted space. Colour can 'breathe' or it can look turgid and there's a whole range of degrees in between. You can set up systems and so forth and find ways to describe them, but I think its simpler - either the colour adds up to something greater than its parts or it doesn't.

Memories of Geoff Rigden

Either you get Rigden or you don't. If you don't , you need to think again about your take on Art, because Geoff was bang on the line, the point at which Art gets made. His work bears this out - it's watertight , never leaks.

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The Cut Gallery Halesworth, Jan-Feb 2016

....A painter moves from a mode of philosopher to sportsman, from cerebral to physical. I never plan or even try to predict the outcome of a painting or even an instance of paint application. Instead I commit with intensity to each instance and believe it to the point that it should not only take care of itself but hopefully set up a momentum which will be maintained with every subsequent instance. This approach reassures me that I always gave it my best shot.

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Seeing and Responding

You have to work really hard to get to the “hum” of art, or you can chose not to try, but you’ll end up with silence and will have to rely on providing the noise after the fact.

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I have been making large sized ink drawings over the past few months. Although I have several on smaller sizes, it is when I am working on 8ft x5ft that I feel I am getting the maximum out of the physicality of the drawing.

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Matisse - The Cut Outs at Tate Modern 2014

I would venture that much of the ambition in the Cut-Outs is to find an answer to Pollock and other large American mural-scaled works of the late 40s and early 50s. He was acutely aware of them, through his son Pierre, and also discussed them with Picasso (who was Eurocentric and ambivalent to them).
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Making Painting: Turner and Frankenthaler

The two artists are represented by paintings and watercolours. In fact, water is one clear link between them: the way it carries colour, extending its reach into the corners, lapping against the edges, the bleeding and flowing of pigmented washes, suggestive of form or simply evocative of place as felt experience. It seems entirely appropriate therefore, that the show be held looking out on the spectacular backdrop of the North Sea on its way to meet with the English Channel. The gallery has light flooding in to its spaces and that mesmeric tidal flow framed by massive windows - nature's own watercolour.
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Words are getting lighter and their impact more... or rather, simply..less.
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NEW EXHIBITION: "Room for Manoeuvre" . As part of the Critical Forum , The Brancaster Chronicles.

"ROOM FOR MANOEUVRE" An joint exhibition of new work:  Emyr Williams and John Bunker

Unit 3 Project Space- Empson Street Studios , Empson St, London, E3 3LT

...a chance to open up and make some space for the scrutiny of self-conscious conventions which are often surreptitiously adopted in the guise of making ambitious art. In our different ways we hope to do this by placing greater importance upon the visually tactile and engaging dynamism that painting is unique in possessing.

By taking a transformative and questioning approach to abstract painting, we hope to celebrate and interrogate the dynamic , if tangled, histories within the modernist approach to practice. This visually rich and highly contested legacy continues to exude a magnetic negative/ positive charge in contemporary art and discourse. At a time when theory can turn from liberator to jailer, it may be worth remembering there's always room for manoeuvre.


"Oiler" acrylic on canvas 2013 - 51cm x 51cm


PRIVATE VIEW:  SEPTEMBER 12TH 2013 : 6:30PM onwards

Empson map..pdf

Work and transcripts of this show will be featured on the Abstract Critical website:

Reality and realisation

It takes time and considerable efforts and through this slog, an unforeseen acknowledgement emerges - you can point at it, but will (should) struggle to articulate it. It's a realisation rather than a reality - always in flux.
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Tones and colours

I am beginning to discover that figuration is best suited to tonal relationships, whereas colour is at it's most emphatic and far- reaching when it is abstract. Picasso's draughtsmanship was best realised in his drawings and prints and compromised somewhat in his paintings. I do not think that abstract art necessarily means an end to figuration either. The terms may need redefining anyway. It is about getting the most of out the medium - whatever medium you are working in.