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The Sea  80x80cms  2016
'The Sea'    80x80cms    2016

 

A writer and friend Ali Day has written a perceptive essay on my latest painting 'The Sea' and through her words i am looking again at my painting in a different way. Her observations pinpoint the principles that define my practice, finding that elusive balance between Freedom and control, succinctly described by Anselm Keifer in the forward to his exhibition 'Il Mistero de Cattedral' at White Cube:  'If there is too much order it is dead; if there is too much chaos, it doesn't cohere. I'm continually negotiating between these extremes'

 

To read the essay 'Porthleven Painting', click here

City of Glass 38 T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L. oil on canvas 2016 25x30cmsx15City of Glass 41 - (T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L.)    25X30cms (X15)

SEPTEMBER 26

Babel rises....'built' brick by brick. A new Babel in New York. In the spirit of the novel, each brick/canvas contains one of the letters that spell THETOWEWROFBABEL, hidden in the real or imagined grid of New York, 'fact' and 'fiction' once again intermingled. As I have mentioned before, what is exciting about this piece is the flexibility offered by the rearrangement of the bricks. Perhaps, the new Babel will look more like the arrangement below, from this years Open Studios...

 

41cat1 Copy

 

This painted tower was always intended as the centrpiece of the series, the finale. The idea was always lurking in the background. However, after after a break of a few months there are new ideas and memories of half-explored ideas, unresolved. The City of Glass series goes on...

APRIL 2

A very short session in the studio- one thought, one tool, one colour, one action, one line....the Tower is complete.  Looking forward to a day off with the family.

The extension of the line works for me, fading out towards the edge....I have really enjoyed making this piece- not least because it has forced me to work in the landscape format and on smaller canvases (25x30cms), where changes can be made very rapidly. While enjoying looking at the Tower, the downside is that each individual brick/letter/canvas is undervalued and hard to see. I think some of the paintings are as good as anything I have done, especially the later canvases so I am going to give each a City of Glass number to recognize their quality. It might take away a bit of the fun of working out the letters but perhaps they are obvious anyway....

City of Glass 38 Brick 15City of Glass 56 - (T)

APRIL 1

Reflection: I'm seeing the painting in a different light- it's the New York canyon thing,...fiery sun... it's aerial view and image and a letter and the final brick..Now for the final arrangement...  

A long session in the studio, the Tower is one mark away from completion. The horizontal needs to extend further across the painting, almost to the right edge. It was there but the falling paint took it away.  A necessary subtle, subtle line to counteract all those verticals, a cut or the edge of a blade...

56CAT Copynearly there...

 

Studio Brick 15small painting...big mess

 

paintpots

MARCH 31 p.m.

A looser, more flamboyant painting, I usually have Manhattan on the vertical, but this time I've using the natural 60 degree angle. It's undeniable - I must have been thinking about the terrific Mali Morris painting on Paul Behnke's recent post in Structure and Imagery. Thanks to you both!

Having a look again: leaving the gap between the 2 angled lines of the grid is critical, keeping it open, an entrance to the painting. It's done.

City of Glass 38 Brick 14City of Glass 55 - (A)

MARCH 31

When you look into the nothing what do you see?

I am just enjoying this painting as sensation, colour, peace, that beautiful central divide when i went back in with the colour. In terms of context, the painting is based on a 'real' district of New York, but there is the ambiguity to enjoy of what is water, what is land....

City of Glass 38 Brick 13City of Glass 54 - (E)

MARCH 30

I was seeing these colours in my sleep - in the studio at 5 this morning. Magenta+ Emerald Green + a bit of Hookers Green + White has made 'Lush Lilac' and an orangey Indian Yellow/Cadmium yellow mix. The single line de-flattens the space and offers an escape... two bricks/letters to go...

Went to Charlestown today, to escape from my cave. The Tower was still in my thoughts-  I was looking at mortar between the bricks of the harbour walls!. Love the reduction and the colour and the purity and the emptiness in this latest painting.

MARCH 29

City of Glass 38 Brick 12City of Glass 53 - (O)

Q: When is a square not a square?   A: When it is a double-square

The excitement builds getting towards the completion of the Tower, hopefully by the end of the week.

'The building of the Tower became the obsessive , overriding passion of mankind, more important finally than life itself. Bricks became more precious than people. Women labourers did not even stop to give birth to their children; they secured the newborn in their aprons and went right on working' (P: 44, 'The New York Trilogy)     Quite!

MARCH 28

11City of Glass 52 - (O)

 

Denise suggested the colour- scheme for the new 'brick' - pink and pale grey. Might tidy up the bottom and have the circle truly balanced on the line. The circle feels as if it might roll off to the right but maybe that brings a tension to the piece. Imperfect circles are best - Trevor Bell is the master

.MARCH 26

City of Glass 38 Brick 10City of Glass 51 - (W)

 

'Brick 10' has been a battle - I've just spent five hours in the studio trying stuff out, looking for a stronger, purer painting. I was bugged by being able to see the stretcher behind the paint on the left in (2) and needed to know whether the point of the triangle should touch the bottom of the canvas. I think (2) and the final painting work in different ways but I believe I've made a better painting. (2) is more decorative, busier, but the painting above has a strength in the drawing and the more intriguing space. I particularly like how the purple triangle sits on the line and its relationship with the pale-yellow corner.  The softer edges too against the severity of the scored lines. It's an uncompromising piece.

The scored line was technically difficult- drawn by hand in one go with no room for error and because of the thickness of the paint, there is was a build up of excess paint around the sides which had to removed afterwards with a knife.  A pure freeing mark- if it went wrong I would have to remake a flat surface again, losing the unique combination of colours and marks underneath.

Underneath? Where exactly is the line? The not knowing makes the painting interesting.

The composition and the key elements have remained from the first session (1) The angled paint is critical as it mirrors the angled streets of the district. The purple triangle is a specific detail that cuts the horizontal of the street and of course the 'W' is one of the letters in THETOWEROFBABEL. Within these parameters I've made a painting.

I hope my daughter Faye likes it- she was upset when I started to make changes.  I like how the painting is, I think I can leave it. Like the building of the original Tower of Babel, this piece has become all obsessive - five 'bricks' to go. I have the locations for the remaining letters- lets see what happens.

MARCH 25

1022

 

Possibly a new 'brick', maybe make the scratched angled line more precise. Found a new colour, Faye said it was one of those colours you can't name but she has come up with Kinda Cornish as it is a real sea-colour. Triangles (and letters) everywhere in this part of New York.

 

11

MARCH 24

I couldn't wait- I took off the blue paint with a knife allowing the underneath greens to come through. A vertical mark instead of a block of colour. I still need to straighten the edge. I've also taken out the scratched triangle at the bottom to allow the deep,deep violet to flood through the right side. A little bit of crisp drawing at the top of the column brings clarity and a suggestion of architecture....

City of Glass 38 Brick 9City of Glass 50 - (T)

 

A good session- I've been  looking forward to introducing a dark 'brick' into the tower to shake things up. Might put a dark blue glaze over the column on the right to push it back into the painting at the same time simplifying the composition. Got to wait a few days 'til it's dry. I also want to straighten the edge- it was straight but the paint slid off!

 9

MARCH 21-22

I like all three versions but particularly the whimsical feel of the final painting - the spinning wheel of the strange contraption held by the dark line. Just. Denise and Peggy (from Modern Artists Gallery) see a face...Although upright, it is also a 'real' location in New York...

Version 1 is very graphic but I felt the letter was too centered and too obvious. I do like the mysterious dark space though. Version 2 was nearly a contender- very sculptural, very still, pure and austere, but with too much downward movement.

83City of Glass 49 - (R)

 

82Version 2

 

81
Version 1

 

MARCH 17

7WEB
City of Glass 48 - (E)

 

The version below was too static, the letter too blatant. The purple line, above, weighted at the bottom, the tiny-angled purple line, and some vertical brushstrokes have transformed this painting - it's much more complex and intriguing.

 

7

MARCH 16

'Another brick (letter) in the wall....

6
'City of Glass 47 - (E)

'Another brick (letter) in the wall....

5
'City of Glass 46 - (L)

 

In the recent City of Glass paintings, the Tower of Babel, the central image from the novel*, has been neglected....In this piece, each small painting, 25x35cms,  becomes a brick in the Tower. In the spirit of the novel, each 'brick' will contain one of the fifteen letters that spell THETOWEROFBABEL, some obvious, some more obscure.

Further exploring the blurrings of 'fact' and 'fiction' in the novel and in the series, some of the 'bricks' are based on the street-grid of Manhattan, others are pure invention - they could be part of the grid. It is for the viewer to become detective to make these discoveries....

Manhattan is dismantled, fragmented, rearranged. There is a discipline: if one of the paintings/bricks happens to sell, I am obliged to replace it, find another way to paint the missing letter.

In this way the piece is renewed, kept fresh. I am looking forward to arranging the finished 'bricks'. Because of the infinite number of combinations, the piece need never appear the same twice. The 'new' Babel in New York may not be necessarily ziggurat-shaped....

This piece is for Geoff Rigden, who sadly passed away recently. Geoff taught me at Canterbury and set me on the road to becoming a painter, He often came to my Open Studios in London, and was very generous and perceptive in his comments about my work, opening my eyes to the possibilities in painting. Although, you don't normally associate 'image' with Geoff's painting, I hope that each individual panel contains something of the serious playfulness of his work.

The 'bricks' below may change, though I hope by not too much.

 

Brick4
City of Glass 45 - (H)

 

Brick3
City of Glass 44 - (F)

 

Brick1
City of Glass 43 - (B)

 

Brick2
City of Glass 42 - (B)

*'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster

DIEBENKORN POSTER 5

 

Without question Richard Diebenkorn's paintings have influenced many artists working today and during this two day painting workshop we will be using his ideas and methods as a springboard for developing our own paintings.

Dates: Thurs 30 June - Fri 1st July 2016,  9.30 - 5.30pm

Cost:  £80

Venue: Creek Creative, Faversham, Kent. See here for parking and location details.

To Book: email denise@ashleyhanson.co.uk or call 01208 77656

Shiro
'Shiro' Paul Behnke 32x30ins acrylic on canvas 2016

 

City of Glass 55 A 30x25cms
'City of Glass 55 - (A)' Ashley Hanson 25x30cms oil on canvas 2016

 

When I posted this painting on Facebook recently, as a 'brick' in my recent City of Glass 38- (T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L.)', there was A Strange Occurence. After posting,a split-second later appeared this painting by New York artist Paul Behnke. with the uncanny similarity of the triangles. A further co-incidence was that when I made my piece, I'm sure I had been thinking about a Mali Morris painting that Paul had recently seen in Cuts, Shapes, Breaks and Scrapes, at Seventeen in London and posted on his Blog 'Structure and Imagery'

 

Mali Morris
'And Ashbery' Mali Morris 24x28cms acylic on wood panel 2013

 

Seeing the paintings side by side made me think about our different approaches to painting and colour. In my work, I am happier with a context, my excursions into 'pure' abstraction proving to be a dead-end. The whole 'City of Glass' series is of course inspired by Paul Auster's novel 'The New York Trilogy' and in this painting the parameters were the the size and orientation of the canvas, a possible connection to the grid of Manhattan, and a choice of 'T' or 'A', the two remaining letters. That is where my triangle came from but the context goes hand in hand with formal considerations during the process.

I asked Paul about his triangle:

'For my part I'm not concerned with triangles as a form to work with. They come about more as a result of the process and a by product of the overall form I'm depicting. They are stylised elements within and part of that form'

I'm a great admirer of Paul's painting, the grandeur of their design and the scintillating colour. Again with colour, we have different approaches. In my own work, I am puritanical about the importance of mixing colour, finding colour. I asked Paul about his colour: 'what does colour mean to you? purely formal and instinctive? did I read somewhere that you prefer not to mix colour?'

'Yes, generally I don't mix. only rarely when I need something quick that I can't buy. I think color is all of that even in the same painting. Parts of a form's color can seem formal but color has the capacity to convey an over all mood. Since I have no color choices in mind when I start a piece a color choice is a reaction to a color previously applied - just like painting in general - I make a move then react for or against that move'

With different philosophies behind our art, it is how we use colour that provides the link, its criticality to the piece, sensually and formally, and our searching for those magical colour- relationships, each colour leading to the next....

City of Glass 38 T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L. oil on canvas 2016 25x30cmsx15
'City of Glass 41 - (T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L.)' Ashley Hanson 125x150cms 2016

 

Appropriately, Paul's painting 'Shiro' is part of the IF COLOUR COULD KILL - New Painting from New York City exhibition, curated by Jeff Frederick, at the Salena Gallery, Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York which opens 5 April until 29 April:

'Abstract painting is a color delivery device. But when does color become dangerous, even homicidal? If Color Could Kill imagines a world better than the one we live in: one where color is power. The works of these eight painters say Yes in a way that is louder than everyday life. Modern pigments free the painter from the boring colors of nature. This is color too strong to be safely observed by the naked eye, color so intense it overwhelms and electrifies our fragile, vulnerable humanity'

Paul's work can also be seen in 'Drishti: A Concentrated Gaze' at 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery, New York. April 11 - July 1, 2016.

COG 41Sunday
'City of Glass 38 - (I know who I am...)' ....113x77cms

WEDNESDAY 16 MARCH

I have sat in my chair for an hour, looking and enjoying this piece. There is already a soft, subtle curve to the right of the rose line- there is no need to embellish. This paintings' links to the novel may be obscure, but after the (deliberate) claustrophobia of the last two paintings in the series, it represents a state of mind, a renewal..it's a good place to be. It's done.

TUESDAY 12 MARCH

An online dialogue about the painting with the Freedom in Painting Group helped clarify my thoughts on the title.

A tale of obsession has become my obsession (in a good way)

SUNDAY13 MARCH

This is more like it...much more exciting...it's a space, a place (of escape)....the horizontals now all doing a job for the painting, the canvas-divide critical, the rose vertical - a signature- holding it all together. A grid has emerged not forced, open...the Ying/Yang of the two circles, one colour, one outline, contributing incident, difference, movement... This piece looks different yet looks like one of my paintings. I am not interested in straight image anymore or jack-off gesturing - painting is deeper...there must be an edge,,a question..

I have been watching 'True Detective' again. A line springs to mind from Rust Cohle- (yet another fictional detective) - who has a very dark perspective on 'being' but has no time for posturing, hypocrisy, compromise, bullshit.... 'I know who I am'.

This line could make a good title. in terms of the novel, it references Quinn's state of mind and freedom(?) when he finally leaves the 'locked-room' of the apartment on E69th St.

'The Locked Room' is the title of the third story in the Trilogy*. It is also the title of Episode 3 in 'True Detective'. It is also how I perceive the studio, where an artist must be alone with his/her thoughts and the piece.

I may simply call it 'Grid'.

 

412
p.m.

SAT 12 MARCH p.m.

I'm in a painting.

It's gone backwards since this morning A loss of purity and spaciousness, I've been looking at the idea of messing with scale: a book on end casting a shadow, suggesting architecture, landscape or tabletop? Echoes of Morandi's monumental still-lives.,,just a bad illustration. The figure is going back in on the right side, casting the shadow.....The paint needs scraping back on the left, it's too heavy, fade it out, build up heaviness on the right, take it to the edge of the canvas...The colour, tone, angle, execution, presence, of the yellow on the left side is much more interesting below. I was trying to be too clever- lining up the angle with the angle at the top of the shadow.Mistake. The horizontal plane needs to more subtle, maybe a line....

just like this morning..back and forth....exploring ideas....what is this painting?

 

411
a.m.

SAT 12 MARCH a.m.

Starting out with a word, 'Shadow' and it's dual meaning (a cast shadow and the verb-to shadow, to follow...), A familiar motif- the figure of Stillman - and the continuing, elusive objective of having Stillman and a building/tower in the same painting without the figure looking giant.

Just working out colours and composition, the placement and scale of the elements in the painting. A horizontal - introduced to counteract the powerful vertical of the central canvas divide- becomes a table-top and an idea emerges....

The central pillar suggests a book which I am going to move to the right-edge of the painting,
a more exciting,more extreme composition. The figure can go..for now.

*'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster.