I went to Rome to draw for a few days and wandered around, stopping all the time to make quick drawings of scenes that caught my eye – just the particulars of that moment – knowing it will be different and won’t catch me in the same way next time I pass.
This is what I do when I go drawing. I go to refuel, to feed up on colour, shape and form. All the better to improvise with in the evolution of my invented paintings. This time, though, the plan changed. I came back and began to use the drawings directly, copying them to make paintings from. Just as artists returning from the Grand Tour once did. Only now Rome is another place where millions of people go to which changes the dynamic and with it my painting – different thinking makes different pictures – reasoning that, knowing so much, the viewer needs far less to evoke thoughts about somewhere that exists as powerfully in the imagination as it does in actuality, these pictures of Rome are much simpler in appearance than usual.
The minimal aesthetic I have adopted for this purpose stands in contrast to the denser, more complex “house-style” and “dubbed” paintings with their worked surfaces, layers and depths of half-hidden imagery. Recently, I have begun to experiment with expanding the choice of pictures in the exhibitions I’ve held. Rather than stick to one thematic selection the plan has been to group more sorts of work together. Partly, this is to test what is permissible in a culture of artistic freedom, but mainly, it is to bring the act of looking itself to the attention of the viewer.
Different kinds of pictures, each one, demands a different way of looking. To meet those demands, between expecting how something ought to be and investigating how it actually is, is the connection between my painting and the relation of art and life. Looking, in all its forms, exerts its continual fascination for me and how looking configures with thinking is really the subject behind all my art.
Looking: …from the glimpse to the gaze; looking to observe, looking to admire or dismiss, in disgust or delight; looking for spaces, solids, texture, weight…, anything tangible – where is something stretched, draped, taut or sagging? Looking to see the difference, looking to find qualities, means drawing such questions from ourselves not from outside. Connecting imaginatively in different ways brings us closer to the sense of how things are. What we look for we see – we always find what we are looking for… And when we draw from life we find it is never how we imagined, it’s always different, stranger than we think (it would be).
Lots of people are gonna have their volcano stories, travel travails and ruined trip stories, stranded because of ash in the stratosphere stories…, mine is I went to Rome to do some sketching, Stephanie sent me there, as a birthday present, so as I could get stuck into some uninterrupted work and before leaving for the airport, she said to me from England, “Don’t worry if you haven’t done as much as you want to, you’ll be going back.” She didn’t mean the same day!
Considered getting a train but was so expensive thought I would wait to get the next available flight. Didn’t know Rome (and Madrid) was where everyone flying to Europe was going to be landing. When I realised the situation wasn’t going to improve very quickly I went back to the station. By then it was jammed solid and had to queue for seven hours to get to the ticket desk by which time the only way to get north out of Italy was by a much more circuitious route that by where of the fare had pretty much doubled.
Well, once I’d adjusted to things I got back to drawing but, apart from missing the teaching I was scheduled for, there’s an exhibition I’m taking part in, opening tonight in Cologne, and so here I am. Journey was fun, went to the morning market in Rome ‘n’ stocked-up with provisions, shared it out at lunch-time, in international company, as the train wended its way through Switzerland – a panoramic picnic – out of the window, alpine lakes, snow-capped peaks, flower-filled fields and apple trees in blossom… don’t get that on the aeroplane.
So that was all because of the old roman god, Vulcan, and his not wanting the northern Europeans to have Ariel carry them anywhere – or maybe it was Iceland’s revenge on those same governments who’ve done a Versaille-like number on the poor pöpulation there aiming to skin them forever for their banks’ financial meltdown. Sorry, slight deviation there from the story, will have to tell you later, about m’sketching trip to Rome.
Trixi and Dirk Mecky invited me to have a show at Salon Schmitz in Cologne in October 2009. When we discussed the exhibition, Trixi said she would like about 100 paintings in the show and that I should mix all the different sorts of work I do. With the help of my friend, the painter, Bolan Chen, who came over from Japan specially, we drove over to Cologne with over 250 drawings/paintings. Trixi and Dirk made an initial selection and the artist, Walter Dahn, advised on how the show should be hung. The main hanging space in Salon Schmitz is a long 20m x 5m high wall. Walter’s idea was to have a lot of space, with a few large oil paintings on the first half of the wall and a crowded hang on the second half. I was pleased with the result and hope to post some photographs taken of the show soon. The exhibition, which I called “Pics for Schmitz”, ran from 30 October 2009 to 15 January 2010.
The hang in Cologne meant I had quite a few paintings spare, which I brought back in October and hung in the Magdalen Arms in Oxford, which more about later.
On the way back from Cologne, after the Pics from Schmitz show ended, I left some of the paintings and dubbed photographs from the exhibition in Belgium with Galerie Hoge Bomen, Veurne, for my exhibition there in August.
My plan was to rehang the pictures in the Anchor & Hope with the work I had brought back from Cologne. The last hang I put up there looked very chic, a double row of elegant black and white box frames, closely spaced, holding a set of dubbed photographs of Istanbul that I painted for Gilles Blaize’s film “Dreaming Istanbul”. [Read more…]
Biarritz! At last I was on the way, after as many promises as promptings, to see my friends, Miyuki and Steve. Calling me in London, Steve asked if I’d like to take part in a performance during my stay; the idea being to paint a large canvas to music in front of an audience, with Miyuki playing the piano alongside an American artist friend of theirs, Lesley Varela, and myself splashing the paint about the canvas. Good for an evening’s entertainment; an improvisation in colour and sound; I said, “Yes” straight away and thought about it later.
I had yet to meet Lesley but Steve’s reports were enough to think we’d get along, which we did, just fine. As for the show, we knew what we were doing, the details we’d plan at the time. I took along some equipment we might need – long-handled brushes, pigments, stuff like that – and gave myself over to toying with the notion of an art performance. What is it? [Read more…]