2 Parts (Vine Black, Orange, Pencil), oil and pencil on gesso on wooden panel, 30 x 40cm, 2017
When I went into the studio on New Years Day 2017, I had already decided that I wanted something a bit more difficult and challenging in the work – some kind of change but I wasn’t quite sure what. I had become weary of the locked in geometries that kind of fixed the compositional elements and made the colour do all the optical shifting and moving, and sometimes struggling to do so. I was looking at a painting from last October, Three Part in Greens, which had been a bit of a surprise at the time – in the way that painting can do that. It had something of the lightness that I knew I now wanted and it felt less wilful and more open.
The new work grew from that painting. It uses the same grid elements with one as a mirrored reversal. 2 Parts (Vine Black, Orange, Pencil) like the first painting, was left at an arrested moment, the intention to go further abandoned. The drawn out pencil lines that delineate the underlying grid structure and usually operate as a guide or get pushed back by the colours were left as a visible and active part of it. Another preparation -the gesso sottile surface – inflects the painterliness of the transparent and glazed colours so that the gestural drawing is reversed so to speak, and is both within and underneath the surface.
Overall these things give the painting lightness and an understated quality with a more freed up sense of its organising principles.
Michael Harding Vine Black
Winsor and Newton Cadmium Lemon
Mussini Vermillion Red
Stabilo Pencils in Red and Yellow
Ampersand wooden panel with four coats of gesso sottile
Radio 3 (in studio)
Outside of the studio – Mozart Concert Arias, Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Vaughan Williams, Symphony No 2 (London)
Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock
My American Friend, Wim Wenders
Walking in a north Italian rural landscape at the beginning and end of each day
“before the work conveys reality it must achieve its own reality, before it can be a symbol it must rejoice in being a fact, and the more it affirms its autonomous reality the more will it contain the possibility of returning us to the reality of life.” David Sylvester
DIARY OF A PAINTING – Scotch & Water, Acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm., 2017
a) Choose a support…well there’s another 30 cm. square plywood panel, wood primed and then gessoed with Golden primer to hand so thats it. As it stands that suggests another in my All That Jazz series of paintings that started just over 15 months back with am ambition to muss up the geometry of my Wonky Geometry pictures with a littlee more incident and contrary imagery.
b) Ground…not exactly sure why but I tend to split it in two colour wise. Here’s a lightened up Dioxazine purple that I mixed up too much of so I’ll slap that on half the panel.
c) In my mind to use a dirty yellow to counterpoint the purple…an obvious primary/secondary combo but then again why not?
d) oh – now the ‘idea’ stage…as it’s going to be another in the Jazz series…I have a ‘sketchbook’ of forms and elements (culled in part from fifties album sleeves and wallpaper/fabric designs) so time to rifle through these I guess.
e) but not until I’ve put something on the panel to resist the inevitable sanding back with this series. I favour GAC500 from Golden.
f) now a form to work with…or against. Its usually a triangle but maybe this time a rectangle – and as for colour…another batch surfeit.
g) mussing up time…a stroke across the lot.
h) ah…the image…working up from photoshop…listening to Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur album, there’s lot of young UK jazz talent about at the moment and they are amongst the best. I tend to spend a wee bit too much time on this as the resulting image is simply a rough guideline.
i) right…let’s get to it…session one with a soundtrack of Derby County v. West Brom in the FA Cup on the radio. Lots of colouring in now that I find is one of the most comforting parts of this funny old business. Now back to the garage for a light sanding back. Session two a couple days later with a soundtrack of the marvellous Billy Jenkins (I can only manage instrumental music when painting though the spoken word is oddly enough ok).
j) So thats broken the back of it methinks…a period of cogitation now. Getting on with other projects (too many really) with it just sitting there. I know it will only be minor adjustments, I just don’t know what! Some of the thinking takes place whilst out and about in the north east of Leicestershire walking around villages as part of the early stages of the Melton project. Itself a part of a larger plan to make a small canvas for every village in the county.
k) Ok sit and really think. The soundtrack is Cannonball Adderley’s early 60’s sextet and on the album is an early Zawinul composition – Scotch & Water that will do nicely for a title. All sorts of things go through my head now, poems by Cavafy and Seferis have been on my reading list as I’m tucking into Mary Jacobus’ Reading Cy Twombly…and he referenced them a fair bit. Oddly though I’ve had a copy of the Penguin Four Greek Poets since August 1969 I’d never properly read them. An omission that I’ve managed to rectify after nearly 48 years…
l) So a few adjustments the most significant being a blue ground change utilising a lightened prussian blue. My old college friend Dave Thomas comes to mind with his oft repeated maxim that any picture is improved by slapping some prussian blue on it. Pity I’ve added a large dose of titanium white but there you go. I’ve been invited to show in Colour: A Kind Of Bliss by curators and exhibitors Lucy Cox & Freya Purdue at The Crypt, St. Marylebone Church in April through June this year (with Andy Parkinson, Julian Brown & Jeff Dellow) & this painting is one I hope may be selected.
m) So that’s it then…Scotch & Water…maybe I’ll have one, after all the Xmas gifts included bottles of Jura, Glenmorangie & Talisker.
Fluo Pink Pigment
Dioxazin Violett Pigment
Titanium White Pigment/oil
Flesh Tint Old Holland
Brown Pink Maimeri
Permanent Yellow Orange Maimeri
Vandyke Brown Maimeri
Quinacridone Rose Light Maimeri
Perlglanz Pyrisma Gelb Pigment
Golden Clear Sealing Pollymer GAC 700
Solveig Anspach: Queen of Montreuil,
Dardenne Brothers BOX
Andrea Arnold: American Honey
The Paradise Bangkok Molam International
Museum Ludwig, Cologne: 40 Jahre Ludwig
K20, Düsseldorf: Wolke&Kristall
Amy and Jordan, Mark Beyer
Article about Man in Blue by Francis Bacon
Guston, Modern Masters
Interview David Sylvester-Francis Bacon
Le Cheval Blême, David B.
Cistus Incanus Tee
Organic White Vanilla chocolate
Japanese Style Taro Mochi
I have been studying at the Royal College of Art since October, and this painting was the last to be made in 2016.
The painting began with a few drawings I made whilst unwell at home in bed. The drawings were made with an effort towards breaking down rules I had set in my practice over the last three years, to allow the work to grow without as much restriction. My previous paintings had become a bit one-dimensional and reliant upon singular methods to foreground incidents that might complete a painting, or searching for accents or nuances that bring the painting together. Ultimately the aim now is to set up a more complex pictorial relationship in the paintings through introducing other painting and pictorial registers.
The drawings naturally necessitated precision and slowed things down. At first I was not aware but after finishing a few drawings I had in my mind the possibility of translating them into paint. I was intent on discovering what might happen if I was to give all the elements of the image detail, and if each component of the image could be just as interesting as each other. I was also drawn to the opportunity of playing with illusion and ways of creating space in an image.
Alongside the drawings I have photographs and found images that I am drawn to that lay around the studio that can act as stimulus, a point of departure, reference point or as a prompt/reminder of the things that excite me. These images sprout anywhere from biological journals to photographs of graffiti removal.
Having been kept out of the studio for quite a while, I approached the painting with lots of energy. This was the largest canvas I had ever worked upon and was eager to wrestle with that challenge. I began with a rough outline in charcoal directed by a drawing or two then went straight into the painting with washes of colour and built it from there.
Cadmium Yellow was first and created a soft skeleton that might have echoed eye floaters or algae on which to work into and on top of, and then out of this I began to describe suggested forms with washes of nuanced reds, browns and greens.
I remembered profound childhood hallucinations, became particularly nostalgic, remembered certain parts of conversations with painters, Rose Wylie’s Stealth Bomber, plant growths in slow motion, Guston’s legs and feet, cell behavior, eye movements, relationships. Instinctive marks met descriptive strokes and heavily worked areas found life next to sharp lines from the tube. Organic qualities in the washes of paint were preserved where needed and cast aside in the hope of new territory and depth. Frank Auerbach came to mind destroying all that’s nice about an image, and Terry Winters visualization systems, the painting changed rotation frequently as forms displaced one another, paint dripped and splattered.
I then began to feel familiar and eventually became restless; the painting was far too instinctive and known, a warning sign to walk away. I take a walk out of the studio and lunch comes in the form of a baguette from the local cabbie hut. Walking always seems to give me perspective and allows free thought, perhaps keeping the right side occupied so the left side of the brain can think a bit more clearly. Once the painting has begun I find it hard to stay still for very long, and whether it’s walking outside or around the studio I am nearly always on the move, even when I’m looking.
Back to the studio and I sensed that something could be close, I felt exhilarated but that I had been controlling the painting too much, and needed to keep myself on the tender brink of potential between knowing and not knowing…let the paint have its say again. I worked with thicker and wetter colours, thick Raw Sienna fused with Indian Red straight from the tube, loaded brushes describe, accentuate and destroy, pushing and pulling the image in and out, arming and disarming myself and itself.
I stepped back to assess what had happened, moved forward again to make a move to control a slip in the paint and second-guess myself; something stopped me in my tracks and I sit down to look with headphones out. I felt that something is coming to life and decide it feels about right to leave it there.
Cadmium Red (Hue)
Cadmium Orange (Hue)
On Not Knowing, How Artists Think – Elizabeth Fischer and Rebecca Fortnum
The Space of Literature – Blanchot
Bridget Riley – The Eye’s Mind
Usually I will listen to a playlist I have made for the studio on shuffle, and I’ll skip the track with the clicker on my earphones if it doesn’t feel like it matches the tempo of where I am at with the painting. Sometimes I need a kick into gear, whereas sometimes I will need something reflective/nostalgic etc. Occasionally I might listen to a podcast or two but recently it’s been electronic music. I can give you the first few songs I had on today to give you an idea of what I might listen to..
Chino Amobi – The Prisoners of Nyamphaion
Them – Gloria
Eliphino – Isabella Road
Morgue – Wiley
Bonobo – Kerala
Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M
Rose Wylie at David Zwirner
The Infinite Mix at Southbank Centre
Nicole Eismann at SMAK
Malcolm Morley – Xavier Hufkens