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16 SEPT 2021

'Yellows on a wet Red-Oxide/Phthalo Green ground first...then the beach-huts. Work the imge, work the ground, re-draw the image with the ground...move the image, get the spacing right, open up the image, allow the ground equality: this is colour, this is drawing, this is composition, this is instinct, this is knowledge, this is now, this is art history, this is painting...'





I recently hosted a 2-day painting workshop at Paxford Village Hall, deep in the Cotswolds, where we explored a shifting relationship between 'Image & Ground', working with the motif of Beach Huts. The nine artists were asked to bring studies/drawings/photos of their favourite beach-huts as a reference but everyone's beach huts painting developed into something more personal, more ambiguous, more interesting, as much about ideas, process and imagination as the source material.


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The workshop began with a talk, illustrated with many historical and contemporary examples, showing how, in the history of painting, the role of the background changed, from a purely secondary one, supporting the image, to something much more prominent and equal. As always, the talk was followed by a demonstration, and then the artists began their own paintings, alternating between image and ground, shifting scale, colour, composition, even orientation, until the paintings began to emerge.

During the 2 days there were further demonstrations and plenty of one-to-tuition, with many of the artists working on a second canvas

The ambition behind every 'Freedom in Painting' workshop is that instead of painting the subject, we are using the subject to make a painting. In the Paxford workshop, this ambition was achieved by all the participating artists in their painterly, inventive interpretations of the subject.


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The aim in all the 'Freedom in Painting' workshops and courses, is to offer a space where can artists can embrace new ideas and challenges, expanding on existing skills and knowledge, in the pursuit of something new, different and exciting in their work. 

We recently held our third online 'Freedom in Painting' workshop, this time looking at the world of interior spaces in all its' guises: narrative, the autobiographical, the decorative, the symbolic, the intimate, the playpen for exploring pattern, textures, design, colour, light & space.

The 10 participating artists were asked to bring two pre-coloured canvases to the workshop, together with studies, drawings, ideas of a real or imagined rooms, with or without the figure.


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Jane Crane                                                                                       Karen Martin


After the artists introduced themselves and their ideas to the group, I gave a Powerpoint presentation of the many uses, styles, interpretations of the interior in painting thoughout art-history, including many contemporary examples. As artists, we all part of one, big, continuing story...

After two demonstrations in the morning session, the artists were encouraged to begin their paintings in 2 different ways, the first using tone, with a light source and the second springboarding from colour. The 'interior' in my painting was an imagined one, taken from fiction, a new 'City of Glass' painting. 

In the afternnon, personal tutorials were interspersed with further demonstations and instructions for the artists to follow, with the aim of creating a shift, an alternative to explore in their work. On Day 2, there were further demonstations and tutorials followed by silent working time. Everybody enjoyed the opportunity to share and discuss the work made in the Group Critique at the end of the day. As ever, with the focus and intensity of working there were many surprises and evolutions over the 2-days of the painting-workshop, resulting in another strong body of work. Hats off to the artists...






'Thank you for an interesting two day workshop. I found it both thought provoking and challenging.' Karen Martin

'Brilliant painting days, thank-you so much..still painting in my head.' Jane Crane

 'I really enjoyed getting the inspiration and having a reference from the slideshow of other artists who had tackled the same subject matter. And just having the opportunity to play with no agenda.'  Sam Pentin

 'Really liked Ashley's research on artists who had painted rooms. I liked seeing other artists work and hearing their views.' Peter Waters


MON 29 MARCH 2021

After a 4 year gap, a new 'City of Glass' painting': 'the triad of selves', (p:6, 'City of Glass'), the interchangeable identities of Daniel Quinn, William Wilson, Max Work - author, pseudonym, fictional detective. The painting focuses on Quinn's return to the now empty apartment on E69th St in the novel's final pages, as he reflects on 'the life he had lived before the story began'.  For many reasons, this had to be a blue painting. The trio of identities are referenced by the three linear circles of the empty plate on the floor, the rounded light fitting and the middle circle in the column of dots, in turn a representation of Quinn's red-notebook...

The breakthrough was in painting the same circle, then the associations came flooding in. The circles, of course, bring in spatial complexities and ambiguities: if they are same-size, are they on the same plane or is it 'illusionist' co-incidence, i.e. they are different sizes but 'appear' same-size. The question distorts and twists the space incessantly...

The painting has a satisfying visual and contextural harmony - looking forward to showing it for the first time in 'Painting the Novel, at Linden Hall Studio, at the end of June. 


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The painting was started in the 'INTERIOR: Painting the Room' online workshop that I hosted recently. For my painting, I chose the small empty room in the Stillman apartment on E69th St, where 'City of Glass' ends. A room of sadness, reflection and despair - this had to be a blue painting. What to include? A room 10 x 6ft, four white walls, a wooden floor, a small window, a light fitting, a tray with a plate of food and carafe of wine, an adjoining windowless bathroom. The most important item, Quinn's red notebook, the last pages filling up fast, the last sentence: 'What will happen when there are no more pages in the red notebook?'


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'Painting the Novel', a solo-exhibition at Linden Hall Studio, Deal, 27 June-17 July 2021'


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'20 Books = 20 Paintings' can be seen in 'Painting the Novel', a solo-exhibition at Linden Hall Studio, Deal, 26 Jun- 17 July, 2021


18 FEB 2021

Great elation with the completion of the series, paintings spawned from the crime-fiction that I read incessantly. BOOK 7 has been re-worked several times - a beast indeed -  but now,finally, we have a strong painting. A three-year project that took me deeper into painting, with many moments of pleasure, despair and surprise. In the search for ideas for paintings, many books were read, many were rejected, many favourite authors didn't make the cut.

Working in series brings in a competitive element: the recent reworkings have brought greater clarity to several of the pieces. Now there are no more brushmarks, adjustments to make, no more scouring the pages of the novels for further possibilities. Instead we have the exciting anticipation of seeing the series together for the first time in the beautiful space at Linden Hall Studio. 

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’20 Books = 20 Paintings’ celebrates the act of reading, the twin canvas-format referencing the physicality of books, of holding, turning pages. But these are paintings, books that don’t close. 

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These interpretations of the novel continue a lifelong interest in the frisson and ambiguities between information and imagination, between image and the shape of place, between ideas and process. In contrast to the 63 paintings of the 'City of Glass' series (from Paul Auster's'The New York Trilogy), where I had the space to develop both the breadth and detail of the novel, in this series the challenge was to sum up the essence of each book in a single paintIng. Although each are different, there are common threads: a distinctive, specific palette in each, a critical image perhaps, locations, on differing scales,often wth pointers to where the bodies were found. 

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In the spirit of the genre of crime-fiction, I have deliberately withheld the source novels, leaving a space for the viewer to become a detective themselves in interpreting the clues in the imagery, palette and titles. If they wish. This elusion forced a new discipline within each painting - what not to put in.  If I felt a visual 'clue' was too obvious, a new solution had to be found. 

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The series opens-up the question of whether outside references are needed at all to enjoy/understand the work: painting is, after, all a visual medium.  This dilemma has been my challenge, the edge in the series, the juggling act between context, communication and the formalities of painting.  

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Viewer, the choice is yours: however you wish to 'read' these paintings, my hope is that they engage and intrigue you, as purely visual entities, working on the senses or as a bridge between the visual and written worlds. Or both. The pleasures of looking...