Category Archives: Series

The Waltz – Review

A huge thank you to everyone who attended the opening of my exhibition The Waltz last week. The turnout was great and I was absolutely thrilled and humbled by the overwhelming positive response I received. For those who didn’t make it there are some installation photos below, but the show’s still on through until May 5th at Darbyshire Frame Makers. Open weekdays only, do let me know in advance if you plan to visit so I can either come and meet you there, or if that’s not possible, alert the chaps at Darbyshire to your imminent arrival.

I plan to begin putting a selection of the smaller works from the show up for sale on my online shop quite soon, which will be priced at £30 +P&P each. More info on that in due course…

Installation in progress.

Installation in progress.

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The Waltz. The complete set of 108 works installed.

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A selection of framed works.

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Completed installation view.

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The Waltz 2f (R12280) 2017 One from a series of 108 paintings in tempera, emulsion, acrylic & varnish on canvas 122.0 x 80.0cm (each)

New Paintings.

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. I 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. I
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. II 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. II
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. III 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. III
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. IV 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. IV
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. V 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. V
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. VI 2016 Tempera & emulsion on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

It felt really good, yeah we really had a good time. VI
2016
Tempera & emulsion on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

New Paintings

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). I 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). I
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

 

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). II 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). II
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

 

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). III 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). III
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). IV 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). IV
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). V 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). V
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). VI 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). VI
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). VII 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). VII
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). VIII 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). VIII
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). IX 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). IX
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don't fit or need repairing (we can help). X 2016 Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas 25.5 X 20.5cm

If your clothes don’t fit or need repairing (we can help). X
2016
Emulsion, tempera & glitter on canvas
25.5 X 20.5cm

Well do ya?

The ‘X’ has numerous uses and associations; negative, positive, historical, contemporary. It is arguably the most basic written signifier, being simultaneously an illiterate’s substitute signature, an indication of error, a confirmation of political leaning, a kiss and of course a letter of the alphabet to list but a very few. It is also one of the simplest and most natural forms of mark making. I have observed it personally as the immediate precursor to a child’s use of written language, long before contextual or communicative connotations come into play.

Ordinarily I would avoid any charged or symbolic subject, but the ‘X’ has such a wide and inconsistent relevance that I don’t believe my use can possibly be pinned down to any one specific meaning. The aspect I’m most interested in is the natural, instinctive way the marks are made, not the way in which they may subsequently be hijacked.

I have pressed it into employment as a vehicle through which to indulge in mark making. If what I have observed is universal and not unique to my daughter, then we are all deeply familiar with drawing or writing an ‘X’ from a very early age. It is the most basic abstract combination of 2 marks and I believe that my familiarity with making those marks in that formation, born of continued use over decades, allows me to release some of the tension associated with ‘drawing’ and embrace the freedom that comes with writing.

Well do ya? I 2015 Emulsion & varnish on canvas 25.5 x 20.5cm

Well do ya? I
2015
Emulsion & varnish on canvas
25.5 x 20.5cm

It is true that the tension cannot be broken immediately. As familiar as these marks are, biro in hand, swapping ballpoint for brush changes the scale and the emphasis. Initial experiments on a 2-stroke painting (illustrated above) did not prove entirely satisfactory. It takes time for the freedom to build (or the tension to seep away) and so my solution has been to paint the ‘X’ multiple times – 10 or more, over and over so that no single stroke can be held responsible for the final form:

Well do ya? II 2015 acrylic, gloss, glitter & varnish on canvas 28.0 x 20.4cm

Well do ya? II
2015
oil, gloss & varnish on canvas
28.0 x 20.4cm

Repetition loosens the movement and cumulative value defines the end result, thus I need not be precious about any one mark in particular. I am freed to dab away at the canvas and allow the natural beauty of the paint to appear through loose and perfunctory marks.

You have been watching…

A few explanatory notes on paintings I have recently posted:

Too many dinner parties. This painting is part of the Preachinin a language that’s completely new series – hence a straightforward covering of the canvas in a singe colour –but it differs slightly insofar as it has a final, semi transparent ‘pea-soup’ glaze over the rich gold impasto acrylic. The colours seemed an unusual, perhaps unpleasant, mucky, combination, which in my book is reason enough.

Ha! He’ll be eaten alive! Again from the Preachin’ series, in this case once the multiple coats of emulsion were almost complete I poked at the canvas from the back, cracking the thick, brittle surface in those areas I could access (the rectangle in the centre not shielded by the stretcher). The now slack painting was then given a final coat of emulsion to retighten it (the drying process of paint is constrictive, particularly in water based paints. As the carrier is lost through evaporation the surface contracts and can pull a loose canvas taught), and this tidied up a messy surface, while retaining the cracked texture. Finally I gave the whole thing a coat of varnish. In hindsight the varnish may have been unnecessary as I’m not sure it improved the appearance. You live and learn.

The Pervert Upstairs I. Making this painting was the result of failure elsewhere. Attempts to replicate the Time Gentlemen, Please approach using gloss paint, wet on wet, didn’t work. They looked wrong. However, they reaffirmed a pleasant paint behaviour – the liquid movement of gloss and the slight change in fine form as two colours settle together. The approach is once more in line with the Preachinpaintings, the basic aim of the activity being coverage of the entire canvas, but using a second colour, hastily brushed through an existing wet ground. The result is a painting exhibiting clear evidence of a roughly scrubbed application, but as the 2 colours sit together they shift and settle ever so slightly producing a beautiful marbling liquid effect, the overall structure and composition of which is set by the brushwork. It retains its minimally considered appearance, the movement of the paint not being enough to obscure evidence of the manner of application, but it develops a glorious natural fluidity as the thick, sticky liquid naturally levels out.

Time gentlemen, please.

Originally posted 26/8/2014

This series explores the development of aestheic quality as an inadvertant by-product of painting in a purely functional manner. A requirement to cover a surface with paint and the system of doing so – making one mark after another, each adjacent to the previous – can yield energetic and dynamic abstract compositions if the task is arrested earlier than its practical nature dictates. My intention is for these paintings become successful, pleasing abstract compositions that have developed naturally, reducing the need for preconceived aesthetics as far as possible.

I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

Originally posted 3/5/2014

Each work in this series comprised of two or more individual abstract marks. Composition, i.e the specific points at which the marks are placed within the confines of the picture plane, is randomised in order to reduce the degree to which the completed work is a result of aesthetic and design decisions made by the author.

Both the number of marks that go to make up the painting and their location within the boundry of the support’s surface are determined using a random number generator. The number of strokes is decided simply by asking the generator to select a figure between 2 and 10. The location of the marks is then prescribed by breaking the support up into a milimetre grid and plotting points by retrieving a pair of coordinates based on the painting’s width and height.

9. Could you be the most beautiful girl in the world?

Originally posted 4/4/2014

Could you be the most beautiful girl in the world? 2014 Nothing on canvas 91.2 x 63.5cm

Could you be the most beautiful girl in the world?
2014
Nothing on canvas
91.2 x 63.5cm

Was making this thing fun? Well, there wasn’t any actual painting involved, so not as much as if there had been, but there is something undeniably satisfying about a blank canvas. It’s a nice object, easy to make and pleasant to behold considered on material qualities alone. Furthermore, stupid as it is there seemed no reason not to make it. A blank canvas is obviously just a blank canvas, however having posed the question of a reductive limit and in response taken it to this, its exceptionaly complex logical solution, I have an answer; 1-1=0. A painting that is completed with zero action. Doubtless there are numerous examples of the same littering the textbooks. I’m not familiar with them, but to be honest it makes no difference. I made the thing, fully aware that it’s just a bit daft, and I present it here as a terminally bifurcated punchline.

A thought I often have when beginning a painting: What is about to be made could be the best painting ever. This is entirely and undeniably true – it could happen. Only when the first mark is made is that potential lost. So far this has occurred with unerring regularity. Call it a 100% failure rate.

The worst part of making a painting is that first stroke. The one that kills potential dead and confirms the likely outcome; regrettably this is not going to be the world’s best painting after all. Following that any further work one attempts has as much chance of improving it as it does pushing it in the opposite direction, therefore a painting comprising just that first mark is immeditely more likely to be the worst painting ever made than the best, which gives some context to the series At least things can’t get any worse.

But this ‘painting’ avoids the problem entirely. I haven’t ruined it so far and I don’t intend to. As long as that remains the case it could yet be the very best. Maybe even forever. The fact is I’ve ruined it time and again. This particular stretcher has supported 7 or 8 different attempts and until now as many failures. It’s my single most abandoned painting and so makes an apt choice for this particular work. It shan’t fail again. From now on it could always be the most beautiful girl in the world.

Boom boom.

(tumbleweed)

Postscript

Having come up with this answer to my query, There is probably little reason to pursue the question of reduction further. On a reasonable level this is clearly the end. Consideration of anything that could exist between the single stroke painting and the blank canvas means reducing that one stroke without it disappearing entirely, and as far as I can see this can only be done on a minute and insignificant level – make it smaller, remove colour and so on. I’m not paricularly keen to get sidetracked by uneccessary theory. Martin Creed made what I think is the best minimalist artwork with his light going on & off. and anyway, I’m not a minimalist. The work has taken on the appearance of minimalism essentially, but does not subscribe to it excusively. Whilst I don’t rule out the possibility of progress on this front, it’s not something that is going to be offered a great deal of ongoing consideration at this time.

 

At least things can’t get any worse.

Originally posted 28/2/2014

The focus of this series of paintings is a single mark. Maintaining the production criteria set out at the start of Preachin’ in a language that’s completely new, the intention is to further distil the act of painting and take the opportunity to appreciate a brush stroke on its own merits. To enjoy the quality and sensation of moving one type of paint across, over or through another, or simply against an unpainted support alone.

It is a developement of two previous ideas; A progression on the Preachin’ series, shifting attention away from the completely covered, uniformly coloured surface by either adding to it or omitting it completely and an abstraction of a series I made in 2008/9 in which I sought to describe a figurative object – a bar of soap, using a single mark painted in oil and gloss, wet on wet.

1. Preachin’ in a language that’s completely new.

Originally posted 16/8/2013

Over the course of 2012 it became clear that to continue making large scale work in the series If this is paradise I wish I had a lawnmower on anything like a regular basis was highly impractical. Lack of time and suitable space rendered it an abortive pursuit and as such for close to a year I made no paintings at all. Whilst I was able to make greater use of other media during this time (the Project) the desire to return to painting remained. In order to begin again and make painting on a regular basis a viable pursuit a complete and radical overhaul of my working practice was required. An assessment of exactly what I wanted to achieve on the simplest level and how best to do so was necessary, therefore my question was;

What the first and most important reason I can give for painting?

The simple answer is fun, enjoyment and pleasure. For the sensation engendered by the process of making a painting and the materialist satisfaction offered by the finished object. If I am to simplify, concentrate, distill my practice down to the essential then it is a selfish and indulgent personal pursuit undertaken to improve my mood. Perfectly acceptable reasoning in my book, but how best to achieve it? Apparently simple enough: Identify the good aspects – those which enhance pleasure and retain them. Select the bad ones which diminish my enjoyment and reduce or remove them as far as it is practical to do so.

Critical to the intended end result is that I identify these aspects as broadly and simply as possible. I want to avoid complexity and ambiguity in my decisions. With any painting there are myriad intricacies that act to push it toward success or failure. Bits that work and are pleasing, and bits that don’t. And then bits that might, but might not and may remain unresolved one way or the other. I need to set aside these things and focus as strictly as possible on simplifying the aspects in question into 2 straightforward lists, which are as follows:

Good

Painting (the act)

Paint

Aesthetic characteristics (colour, texture, shape)

Resultant object

Title

 

Bad

Error

Lack of quality

Impatience

Failure to finish

 

With these lists in place the next task is to devise a way in which the good can be indulged and the bad at least reduced.

The Good

In terms of a physical process and satisfying result I derive a good deal of pleasure from painting outside of an ‘artistic’ context, as part of a DIY job for example. The enjoyment of paint as a substance, the physical process of laying it down and the resultant change of colour and texture all appeal a great deal and so painting in this guise fulfills a great part of the physical requirements in question, making it a perfectly valid inclusion in my new way of working. My enjoyment is not confined to the making of a Painting in the sense of a final, finished artwork, but can be found more widely in paint and painting as behaviour.

As it happens I do like painting canvases. Apart from being amongst the more convenient supports they’re nice things to paint. I like the contrast of the fabric against paint. They’re flexible in size and shape and identify as a Painting in an artistic context. Without wishing to contradict the previous paragraph too much I am still interested in Paintings being the final result. As much as the process and context of painting as opposed to making a Painting need not be differentiated, the resultant object is still to be considered in a different arena to a skirting board.

Clearly, the majority of my ‘increase’ list focuses on physical concerns of painting. The only aspect of a less tangible quality on the list is the title. In general I like to title my paintings because it gives me a chance to use language – something not so easily offered by a visual medium. The majority of titles I’ve used in the past have been lifted from things I’ve read or heard. By far the most common source is music – many are song lyrics, but literature, television, radio, conversations I have or am party to are all potential sources. A turn of phrase I find appealing which seems to sit well with the work in question is as much as I require. I see no reason to change this method as it is already rooted quite simply in my enjoyment of language.

The Bad

The problems identified in the Bad column are all based on failure in some form or another. Error is a pit wide, deep, and inescapable, and to state the obvious, reduces quality. Impatience stems from a lack of working time and failure to complete a painting is often symptomatic of this. The biggest disappointment I usually feel is that my paintings aren’t better. The drawing isn’t quite right. The composition could be improved. Aspects were rushed and I ought to have taken more care. To reduce these problems I need to reduce the chance of getting things wrong.

Faithful figuration, which could describe the vast majority of my work until now, is subject to many strict rules and too often I have not the skill, application or patience to follow them all as rigidly as I ought. Commonly a finished painting just makes me curse my laziness or inability and I continually make unfavourable comparisons with the hatefully superior work of others. Much as the production of the work is on the whole enjoyable, the result is never as pleasing as I’d like.

To cut out such problems then, the obvious change is to abandon the rules of figuration and address abstraction, but this can bare a multitude of alternative problems. If there aren’t any rules, where to start? And where to finish? And if you are able to make both those decisions, how do you know if the result is good, bad, or other? Options are problems.

So, perhaps certain rules are required, but they need to be few, straightforward, easy to follow, quick to execute and leave as little room for error as possible. The previously sited DIY job would be subject to such a set of rules:

1. Select a suitable surface

2. Paint it this colour

3. Make it look nice

Based on the criteria outlined so far I invariably achieve far more success undertaking DIY jobs than I do making a painting. Therefore the clear solution appears to be to apply these rules to painting in an artistic context. They offer all the physical aspects I seek to retain, whilst significantly reducing those aspects I aim to avoid; The opportunity to make an error is diminished when all I am doing is painting a surface in a single colour. I am able to work quickly, even on a large scale and therefore the likelyhood of my becoming impatient is reduced. I can complete Paintings; make satisfying painted objects and can indulge in the paint and the painting of a Painting entirely and without distraction.

I am in the early stages of implimenting this new approach. I have no doubt that as long as I continue to pursue it adjustments are likely to occur, however at this point it feels a refreshing and exciting change, not just because it will offer me the chance to return to working in a way I so deeply enjoy, but because it has opened up my approach and encouraged me to consider ways of working I might previously have dismissed.