COG12 Copy
City of Glass 12 - (W107thSt, E69th St)   150x120cms

SAT 8 JUNE 2013

Went deeper and deeper into the painting today and found my answers. The orange is immense. I was painting in my sleep last night and went into the studio with a bunch of ideas. Firstly, I felt the left side/west side of Manhattan was too soft, not tough enough. The drawing was strengthened by filling, with flatter paint, the fantastic shape of the Hudson between Manhattan and the left side of the canvas. I found a green that set off the orange/reds. A warmer green line was added to the edge, running in parallel to the now straighter line of the West Side and connecting to the vertical drips of the avenues. I'm still looking for more, for something else - I realised that the grid of Manhattan needed a horizontal or two to break up the verticals so i introduced W107th St and E69th St, the green lines flanking Central Park and the streets where author/detective Quinn and his client Peter Stillman live* Already, there was a subtle scaling up of the street-grid on the right side of the painting, so taking the main horizontal of E69th St, I introduced the image of a tiny ziggurat-topped apartment building, illusionistically three dimensional not flat, so I could repeat the angle of the lower West-side. The building went in and went out: all the painting needed was the tiny angle.(below)
COG12 6 Copydetail
COG12 2 CopyE69th St
COG12 8 Copy
Janie told me about a thing on TV - 'What do artists do all day?' My seven hrs today were spent moving the painting from below to above. Forwards? Buildings went in and went out - they complicated and cramped the space. I enjoyed the freeing up of Manhattan and the emergence of emptiness. With that came the refinement of proportion and the very special bottom right corner. But it all seems very familiar - does this piece need more? It still may be the left half of a larger piece - we'll see tomorrow. I still think there is a painting somewhere that links my last two 'StillmanStillman' paintings with the other paintings in the series, a painting that contains the island-shape of Manhattan and the figure of Stillman.
COG12 3 Copy
The obvious problem is that if you put the two side by side, the figure becomes a giant, which I don't want: it is the new Tower of Babel that is giant. One solution was to make the Manhattan-shape a painting of Manhattan within the painting (referring to Matisse's 'The Red Studio') with the figure of Stillman disapearing behind. Another idea was to have Manhattan on the extreme left , and the figure of Stillman on the extreme right of a very large painting which is why I rushed home for a second canvas on Thursday. The idea was to have the Manhattan shape and the figure the same-size but to make the figure appear smaller by gradually scaling up the grid of the streets as you move left to right. At the end of the day, I put one of StillmanStillman canvases alongside this painting and saw that the paintings are linked: they are both shapes in colour, connected by the paint handling, composition and the subtle horizontals. And of course the shape and proportions of Manhattan suggest the human-figure. 
COG12 7 Copy
COG12 9 Copy
COG12 4 Copybeginnings
* From 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

COG13 Copy
City of Glass 13 - (Entrance)   120x150cms

This painting began in June with three Manhattans side by side (of increasing scale from left to right). In COG 2 & 9 I had two Manhattans in the same piece so why not three? A New York Trilogy? The idea was to explore space by moving the Manhattans around, touching or tucked behind each other or placed apart to see what works best. The three shapes were connected visually by each having 42nd St on the same long horizontal. Once again the idea was stronger than the execution - there was no space, the painting was cramped and claustrophobic so I made the decision to keep the strongest, the Manhattan on the right. There are ghostly traces of the other two in the swirling paint on the left side. I'll go back to the idea with a wider canvas.
A friend described the shape of Manhattan as ugly - can't argue with that! - but throughout the series I have made a point of isolating and highlighting the island-shape and seeing in it the curves and proportions of the human-figure.
In this painting, Grand Central Station is a door, the entrance to the implied tower - the new Tower of Babel in New York*- in the surrounded streets, emphasized by shape and a narrower grid, with fake streets and false avenues. I toyed with the idea of calling the painting 'False Avenues' - I love the dual meaning: avenues that don't exist out there and the faklse avenues we find ourselves travelling down, in life, as artists, as detectives....I'll save the title for another painting. The almost-solid orange Hudson River also suggests architecture, a building 'there but not there', the top cut-off and open and the left-side deliberately straight. The colour, flatness and physicality of the paint all help create space, with the purple tucked in behind, and the large curve leaving the canvas and popping up as a purple stripe in the bottom right corner.
COG13 1 Copydetail -architecture implied in the streets around Grand Central...
COG13 4 Copyearly days- COG 13 on right
*From 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

COG14 1 Copy
City of Glass 14 - (Dialogue)   120x80cms


City of Glass 14 - (Dialogue) was painted during a two week Residency at Bude Castle, alongside a solo exhibition 'The New York Trilogy' at the Willoughby Gallery.



It's done. And so, finally is my application to the Pollack-Krasner Foundation - ping, there it goes. Twenty years in the making according to Denise.
Possibly, maybe...'Dialogue' refers to the dialogue between left-side and right-side, in particular the perspective line of the roof that 'talks' to the angled spike of the Williamsburg Bridge. It seems to lift Manhattan and make it vertical. .The last acts were tuning up the orange, making it warmer with the introduction of Indian Yellow and warm orange glazes and increasing the tonal shift from top to bottom.  'Dialogue' of course has a literary reference...
The grids are in harmony, verticals and horizontals, powerful intersections. All along I've tried to integrate the different grids: the grid of the streets, the physical grid of the painting itself with the canvas divides, the process mapping-out grid, the grid of the facade of a building. The canvas divides are along streets critical to the story* W107th St and 42nd St. The new Tower of Babel, the building that emerged with the removal of the paint on the right - the beauty of the revealed -  is giant, corporate, sinister... it appears transparent, made of glass.....
COG14 2 1 CopyUpper West Side
COG14 6detail
COG14 3 Copy          COG14 5 Copy
COG14 4 Copy
*from 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

COG15 CopyCity of Glass 15 - (Stillman walks...)   50x40cms


City of Glass 15 - (Stillman walks) was selected for the 2014 The Discerning Eye by colector Chris Ingram and the image was used for the advert for the exhibition in Galleries Magazine


The smallest painting yet in the City of Glass series. It's always a challenge going from big to small - there is no room, no space! - but I think that problem has been resolved.
In this painting I returned to the idea of how to place both the figure of Stillman and the map-shape of Manhattan in the same painting, without Stillman appearing giant.  The painting started with Stillman in a gallery, walking past a painting containing the Manhattan shape (City of Glass 1) but the verticality, which has been a constant throughout the series, was missing. I think the solution is far more ambitious and intiguing. The vertical grid on the right is a specific section of the Upper west Side. As 'detective' Quinn discovers, Stillman's daily walks (where he invisibly writes the letters that spell THETOWEROF BABEL) are all within 'a narrowly circumscibed area, bounded on the north by 110thSt, on the south by 72ndSt, on the west by riverside Park, and on the east by Amsterdam Avenue. No matter how haphazard his journetys - and each day his itinerary was different - Stillman never crossed these borders.'
Next painting: 'City of Glass 16 - (1 block= 1 brick)', investigating again the enormous scale of the new Tower of Babel, which would be 'large enough to hold every inhabitant of the New World'
COG15 1 Copy

COG16City of Glass 16 - (Private Eye)  210x100cms

FRIDAY 24 JAN 2014

 It's exciting when everything comes together, when a solution is found from within the painting and from outside. I have in front of me something that surprises, something I cannot yet fully explain or understand but which feels right and complete. I sat in my chair, looking at the painting, thinking of tinkering with the concentric circles at the top but worried that by strengthening them, making them more like the image of an eye, i would draw attention away from the intersection of the canvases. All sorts of thoughts appeared simultaneously: I thought of cross-hairs and targets and how, in the nove, there is a strong possibility that Quinn is a target, a set-up, a victim in a fiendish experiment, that ends in the apartment on E69th St. I thought of Giorgia O'Keefe's fantastic 'New York St with Moon' (below) that I found doing research for the recent 'Circle' workshop in Canterbury. And so the final act in the painting was to draw large concentric circles centered on the main axis, with brush, nail and string, representing both the eye and a target, creating focus and strangeness, and although faint, the perfection of the circle, pushes the map-shape of Manhattan, already fragmented, further into the background. And, of course, there is the visual link with Columbus Circle and the circles at the top. I am going to continue with this idea of 'building' tower-shaped paintings, a tower that is there but not there. In this piece the tower can be considered un-solid, transparent, made of Glass.....


COG16 5


 New York Street with Moon Georgia OKeefe 1925Giorgia O'Keefe

Nearly there - one more session I think. Bad day Yesterday, trying too hard after getting the rejection email from the John Moores. The colours are starting to work on the right, with some new purple-greys and more intense greens and the switch from red to pink. Love the reverse 'Z' towards the top. The top panel felt separate - now it's connected by the extension of the central vertical of Park Ave, ending with the concentric circles, which suggest the eye and repeat the motif of Columbus Circle. Maybe the eye is too subtle - it was more powerful and graphic earlier, more of an image of the all-seeing eye....I'll redraw tomorrow and make a decision on it's strength within the painting.

The novel is Quinn's story, the writer of detective fiction who becomes a detective. At the beginning of the story, Quinn muses on the triple meanings of the term 'Private Eye: 'I' for investigator, 'I' for the self , and 'eye' for the 'physical eye of the writer, who looks out from himself into the world and demands that the world reveals itself to him'. The intersection of the main axis is the location of the Stillman apartment on Park Ave and E69th St, where Quinn's life/role as a private eye begins and ends....

In a homage to Quinn, the painting is now called 'Private Eye'


COG16 4 Copy


COG16 2 Copy


Early days for the new City of Glass painting - '1 brick=1 block'- but now going through the gears with longer sessions in the studio. Still trying to establish the scale of Manhattan and position of Central Park. The only certainty is the central axis of 69th St and Park Ave, the location of the Stillman apartment, withe the vertical divide leading the eye to Grand Central Station. As it is, the painting is too fragmented, everything needs to be simplified, including the colour-scheme. The grid pattern of the streets will be extended over the entire canvas forming the bricks of the tower-shape.

Music has been been driving the painting: Neil Young's 'After the Goldrush' and 'Sleeps with Angels' with the epic, rambling 'Change Your Mind' and 'Closer' by Joy Division. 'You can't replace the fear and thrill of the chase...'  Sums up painting really


'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster