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City of Glass 2 - (Hotel Harmony)   150x120cms


'CIty of Glass 2  - (Hotel Harmony)' was shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and exhibited in the 2012 Ludlow Open.



Big, big battle with this painting - finished at 3.30 a.m. Elation and relief. My head is buzzing with ideas for the next paintings. I am thrilled with this way of working, finding possibilities and direction for paintings in text (Paul Auster's novel, 'The New York Trilogy'). In the studio, I am surrounded by drawings and maps and maps of drawings but the book is driving the paintings and constantly referred to and images are flying off the page. I am reading it in a different way as well: instead of a fluid whole, I am taking fragments and collecting information, 'fictional-facts', to use in the paintings. The book itself has changed physically during the process, now battered and covered in paint. 


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In City of Glass 1 and 2, I have been concerned with depicting the facts of Manhattan being an island and its extreme verticality. To achieve the first, I de-cluttered the map to reveal the pure shape. The verticality is emphasised both by orientating Manhattan itself on the (just-off) vertical, then by using long drips of paint to form the avenues. It was amazing to see the buildings and architecture of New York implied within the grid-pattern of the streets.

With this new painting, I think the idea of a diptych with 'City of Glass 1' confused the issue - maybe I was trying too hard to do the same painting but with Manhattan on the left. Unlike 'City of Glass 1', I could not fix Manhattan into the flat, empty space: the drawing was not strong enough or graphic enough and I had a big problem with the Bronx/East River curve.


COG2 2 Copydetail 1 -the curve of Broadway


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The red stripe in this painting was introduced to smash the space, with the deliberate proportions of the Twin Towers referred to in in the novel (it was written in 1987. The stripe also suggested a window, a la Rothko, and implied a building of such great height that the whole of the island-shape of Manhattan can be seen below. This ties in with the biblical reference of the Tower of Babel embedded in the novel, a building so high that a man would have to walk three days to escape its shadow. ( this image will drive the next painting in the series). Initially, the stripe was too crude and my biggest critic, Denise, didn't like it at all.. The stripe was softened, refined, and expanded into the right-side of the painting. I hit upon the idea of introducing a second curve, the curve of Broadway from W103St to W108St , to mirror the East River curve. So in effect, the right-side is a blown-up version of an area on the left-side, the Upper West Side, significant to the novel - the location of the Hotel Harmony and the home of author/detective Quinn. This is the breakthrough in this painting, this repetition, this link, this duality and subversion of scale. The building on the right creates balance but is also ambiguous, the horizontal grid of the facade simultaneously being the cross-streets. This is the territory I've been exploring throughout my career.  I love the duality: the visual and the context working in harmony. In formal painting terms, the small blue rectangle is exquisitely proportioned, pulsating against the surrounding orange. It is also the Hotel Harmony.


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detail - Hotel Harmony


Denise likes the Painting.



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Only one way to find out if Manhattan works better on the left!
I think the background will be a silvery- blue tomorrow. This might be a diptych, with this one as the left side.

 Only one way to find out if Manhattan works better on the left! I think the background will be a silvery-blue tomorrow. This might be a diptych, with this one as the left-side.