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.