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I recently hosted two back-to-back Freedom in Painting courses in Porthleven, welcoming artists from all over the country. As per usual, each course ended with a one day exhibition in our studio at the Old Lifeboat House, with its fabulous location at the the harbour-entrance in Porthleven. 


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Early morning in Porthleven: the Ship Inn with the studio just beyond


Each Porthleven course has a theme, this year it was 'Curve & Boat', which caused a couple of groans when the theme was announced!  The artists were introduced to a range of images exploring the theme, including Van Gogh, Munch, Kandinsky,Dufy, Matisse, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Bridget Riley & Ellsworth Kelly.

Both courses followed the same-format with a mornings drawing session around the harbour, working with the theme and searching for ideas for paintings. Following the theme, on our gallery day this year we visited galleries in Penzance and Newlyn, with further drawing sessions around both harbours with different shapes and larger boats.

We saw some fantastic paintings by Jeremy le Grice at the Tremenheere Gallery and paintings and inventive collage by Robyn Denny at the Newlyn Art Gallery plus some inspiring work by contemporary Cornish artists. 


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The group-exercises this year included starting a painting with twelve curves, each different in shape, weight, colour or execution. On another, the artists worked with paper, using shapes taken from the landscape, which then became a template for a painting.




There was an amazing work-ethic in the studio, inspired by the beauty of Porthleven with the sound of the sea through the open studio door. No-one can expect to resolve a painting in a couple of days but the quality, quantity and range of work produced was a revelation. There was plenty of socialising in the evenings aswell, often with the artists returning to the studio after a visit to The Ship next door. 

As always, exciting times when the studio is cleared and the paintings revealed for the exhibition. Congratulations to the 14 artists!




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My two paintings from the October courses.




'I think all good painting looks as though the painting has escaped from the thicket of prepared positions and has entered some sort of freedom where it exists on its own, and by its own laws, and inexplicably has got free of all possible explanations' 


'The more courageous that I am in destroying partial success, the more likely it is that I will get something alive and true'


A brilliant 2 day Freedom in Painting workshop at Creek Creative in Faversham, using the ideas, ideals, methods and the work of Frank Auerbach as a springboard for our own search for truth in painting 'clearly and raw'. Without the luxury/challenge of 200-300 sessions with the model to finish a piece, each of the ten artists went deep into painting, acknowledging destruction and change as a neccessary part of the creative process, to push their paintings forward to find the unexpected.

An introductory talk was followed by an intense 2hr drawing session and a painting session after lunch. On the Friday morning, the artists were given the option of erasing the previous days work and starting again, mirroring Auerbach's discipline since the mid 70's. As always, the workshop ended with an invaluable group critique.

 A special thank-you to Sharon Smithers, our model and inspiration for the selection of paintings in the gallery below. 


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'I have learned to be not care but to really be me. It was a profound but not easy experience - I went beyond limits'  KATHLEEN ALBERTER

'Ashley made me take risks & get out of my comfort zone'  HAZEL MCINTOSH

'This Auerbach workshop was extremely inspiring. Ashley's knowledge and enthusiasm shone'  MARGARITA HANLON

'Good enthusiastic class helped by active teacher'  JOHN CACKETT




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'Black Harbour'  80x60cms


Disparate sources providing ideas for the new painting.  Joni  Mitchell's 'Black Crow' from 'Hejira' on the way to the studio- love that album, all-time favourite. The three versions of Dufy's 'Black Cargo'. Richard Diebenkorn's black and orange 'Ocean Park 133'. The dark paintings of Jeremy le Grice at Tremenheere - stirring. 

Inky, dense blacks, mainly Prussian Blue and violet + another: Hookers Green, Magenta, Raw Umber.  A single focus - find a shape, find the shape. Paint poured and pushed towards the edges and corners, obliterating the unncessary.  Shape refined, drawing and re-drawing, exhilerating, Female. The left-side, dark to light to reveal and contrast the beauty and density of the black harbour-shape. The last act: the fat pale- blue brushmark, top to bottom- twice. Spawned by Porthleven, this painting escapes 'place' and simply 'is'.

A last look at the sea: it's relentless, like life...

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The painting from the recent Porthleven course, exploring the course-theme of 'Curve/Boat'.  Playful, graffiti marks - movement though the gaps between piers to the the two paralell lines of the slipway, top-right. Purple to purple. Shapes taken from the landscape. The shape with its scalloped-corners revealed at low tide on the top-right pier. Triangle motif,  green to set off the orange and pink. Pastel-palette- looks different. The key to painting Porthleven harbour is to find the shape- a shape, different each time, to position in the rectangle of the canvas, using the structure to structure the painting. 



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'Porthleven 30 '- beginnings..



From the moment they were resolved, I have wanted to show the two figure paintings as a pair, with the subversive, negative space of the building in 'Prophecy' on the left balanced by the building in relief in 'Coat of Paint' on the right. Side by side, they were interesting but never convincing. This new arrangement excites - the two figures seperated by 'The Space Between'.

It was meant to be- all three paintings the same height.  The dark violet-void the same proportions as the two flanking figures, its curve linking to the curve of their backs. The identity of the dark-space now multiplies: it is Central Park, the 'Space Between' West Side and East Side. It is the view through the window of the Stillman Apartment. It is an alley, through which the figures may walk. It is hierachial, with the central curve higher than the others. It is the third figure - Quinn? It is allegorical. It is the alley from where Quinn obsessively watches the apartment. It is infinity. It is 'Nowhere'. 'And this was, finally, was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere'*

We go full -circle: we are back once again in Grand Central Station, where Quinn has to choose which Stillman to a madman, one an innocent or imposter...


* p:4, 'The New York Trilogy'