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Banjo Pier 40x30cms Copy
'Banjo Pier'   40x30cms 

 

The demonstration painting from two back-to-back Freedom in Painting workshops 'Looking at Lanyon'  in Faversham, Kent - started in one, completed in the other. This sticky painting survived both the journey home and the scrutiny afterwards. The instruction to the participating artists was to bring to the workshop evidence and memory of a recent journey. My own journey was a trip to Looe, with its' distinctive banjo-shaped pier....

 

This painting looks different, with the incredible tension of the Lanyonesque spiralling- line contained - just - by the structured lines along the bottom edge and right corner and the circle (of the 'banjo-pier'). A frenzied demonstration of mark-making designed to encourage the class to a freer second painting. Image and ideas and reactions forced into the painting. Cerulean and Ultramarine mixes in pots, palette and on the canvas.. a failed pure, poured curve...quick thinking, quick reactions..lets find another solution. Only traces of my journey- line remain - the start-point in the top left corner- but it has made it's contribution to how the painting moved forward to its conclusion.  Five dots reduced to two - 'The pink-dot a triumph' (Kathleen Alberter). Pourings, smears, brushwork, knifework, lines, curves, image, jostling for prominence and harmony. A sliver of yellow enough to provide an incident of colour and temperature contrast...

 

Echoing the submerged imagery in Lanyon's work and his alleged discovery of the two figures in 'Porthleven' after the painting was completed, only today did I see the tilted head, shoulder and forearm resting on the bottom edge...or a gestural line encapsulating movement?...or skywriting, vapour trail?. Spacial ambiguities: the view from the ground or the air?..if there is a 'view'...Abstract/figurative - who cares? Peter Lanyon was right to fight against putting art into boxes. It's a painting: both from an outside experience and the thrills and uncertainties of the painting process. What am I looking at? - this is my territory as an artist. 

dawn 1 Copy
Dawn Stephens

 

The latest venue for the 'Freedom in Painting' roadshow was the Queens Arts Centre in Aylesbury.  The theme for the 2-day painting workshop was 'Still Life', one of the major genres in Western art. After a talk on the history and lineage of still life painting - including discussion of the work of Chardin, Cezanne, Matisse, Braque, Soutine, Morandi, William Scott -  the eleven artists were split into three groups. Each group set up their own still life of six objects which included objects brought in by the artists themselves. The morning was spent drawing: three very different exercises resulted in a wall of drawings that opened up several possibilities for painting..... 

 

After lunch, when the paints came out, inevitably everything slowed down. Paint is a slower medium, with the added complexity of colour and wetness plus the artists were asked, initially to paint the still life as it was (with a twist) The aim over the next day and a half was to capture in paint the spirit, freedom and invention of the drawings. This certainly happened with everyone's work on the second day, which began with a freeing painting exercise. The resulting paintings are proof that a still life doesn't have to be still!  Below is a gallery of the paintings from Day 2- to see the full gallery see Freedom in Painting Group 

 

amanda 2 Copy
Amanda Curbishly

 

antonia 2 Copy
Antonia Glynne-Jones

 

pippa 2 Copy
Pippa Greensmith

 

Kalpana Mehta Day 2 Copy
Kalpna Mehta

 

Mitzi 2 Copy
Mitzi Delnevo

 

erica 2 Copy
Erica Shipley

 

brenda 2 Copy
Brenda Hurley

 

jo 2 Copy
Jo Rollnick

 

di o 1 Copy
Diane Oldfield

 

di1 Copy
Diane Bedser

'Arizona after Don deLillos Underworld Copy
'Arizona'   168x132cms

 

From the 'A m e r i c a s c a p e s ' series and one of strongest paintings of my career.

 

In 1997, I was awarded a Boise Travel Scholarship from the Slade School of Art and made a series of train journeys around the US before painting for two months in a barn in upstate New York (at the home of sculptor Jon Isherwood, a friend and contemporary at Canterbury College of Art). on my travels, I took a detour to the Grand Canyon where I had an incredible, sublime experience: alone, on the edge of a promontory, in a jaw-dropping landscape, buzzards flying overhead, total silence....

As an artist, how do you deal with that grandeur, that overwhelming visual, physical experience? Like the 'City of Glass' series, where I had the problem of painting the scale and familiarity of New York without cliche, I found my way in through a novel, this time Don de Lillo's epic  'Underworld'.

There is a passage where the main character Nick Shay, visits an artist friend of his from New York who is making an artwork at an air base in the Arizona desert. It's not an active base, it's where the US airforce keep their decommissioned B52 bombers, rows upon rows of them, neatly parked. The artist and her team of assistants are systematically stripping the silver paint from the aircraft and then repainting them in wild, vivid colours. Of course, it's a piece that can only be seen from the air, and as a birthday treat Nick and his wife see the artwork from a hot air balloon, a fantastic passage on p:83, where through Nick's eyes you are seeing a painting, that is beyond imagination. 

I was mesmerised by the scale and ambition and beauty of this (fictitious) artwork - in an interview, the artist talks about the desert being the frame - and it resonated with my experience at the Grand Canyon.

 

''This is a landscape painting in which we use the landscape itself. the desert is central to this piece. It's the surround. It's the framing device. It's the four-part horizon.'' 

(Artist Klara Sax, p:70, 'Underworld')

 

In the painting there is so much space and heat, the white, blank canvas of Mexico the hottest part. In the top-right corner is the image of the B52's, and in the spirit of the novel, although ordered in rows, each is different, individualised, 'decommissioned' from their military identity. There are fifty aircraft, one for each state, and if you tilt your head you can see the deliberate visual link to the American flag. Scratched into the paint, is a very subtle train-line, ending at the powerful dot of Flagstaff, where I caught the bus to the canyon....

 

Arizona detail B52s Copy
detail- B52's

 

 

Arizona and D.C. Diamond City Copy
'Arizona' and 'D.C.- Diamond City' in the 'Americascapes' exhibition at the Michael West Gallery

Surge Final Copy   
'Surge (Yellow and Blue)'   30x40cms

 

FRI 30 JUNE

We're done. An hour of looking and I added the heavy yellow-line on the right-edge (above). Perversely I put it in to make 'A' work because I felt the yellow was visually slipping out of the picture.  What it has done for me,  is to make the landscape less literal and the inner-frame is strengthened. The lumps and bumps in the yellow have shifted in the night!

 

surge studio Copy
a 'big' small painting

 
 
Porthleven 26 Porthleven 27 Surge Copy
'Porthleven 26', 'Porthleven 27' and 'Surge'
 
 
 
Surge B Copy
A
 
 
 
Surge A 1 Copy
B
 
 
Yvonne talking about 'B': 'I love how the sweep of blue between the yellow masses sails down and out. The bottom yellow creates a powerful foreground mass pulling from the flat to the 3D and back again'
I'm still undecided: the painting may need need a mark, a touch, to convince. Although linked to Porthleven, with the oncoming tide pouring through the gap between piers, the painting is more about the idea of harbour rather than a specific place. Of containment. Of fragility. of futility even, in the face of stronger forces. In 'B', the fragility of the inner frame seems more prominent, but there is a shift in scale: is it too obvious a landscape or waterfall? 
 
Another week of Open Studios. Bliss.

Crane Blog Copy
Crane  40x30cms

 

SAT 17 SEPTEMBER

The 'demonstration' painting from the September 'Freedom in Painting' course in Polruan. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they are a beginning...I had to wait a few days for the paint to settle down - to avoid it sliding off - before I could have a proper look on the wall.

It's fresh, it's exciting, it's different, it's done. There is both a flat-space and a hierarchy of receding space. The pink-shape establishes 'foreground' and holds back the yellow. The small purple marks at the top of the canvas, and the layers of paint tucked behind each other, together (accidentally) establish 'distance'.  Beautiful paint. The crane is a lifelong motif but specific to this wonderful place. It says Polruan to me.