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
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
I’ve recently started a four month residency in Berlin and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what specifically influences a painting and how those influences manifest. I think that visually the architecture of the city is having an impact on my work, along with the branding and design I’m encountering. I’ve been thinking about the graffiti too, especially in relation to signs and symbols. This has been on my mind for a while since looking again at the paintings of Gottlieb. I’ve been going to lots of shows and studio visits, so with all of this going on I am expecting to see a few changes in my paintings.
At the moment I’m reading Walden Two by B. F. Skinner. I’m really interested ideas around utopias and dystopias, particularly in the balance between the organic and the artificial. I think this is reflected in my work through the contrast between spontaneous brush marks and a more ordered geometric aesthetic.
I’m also looking at a book called Platonic and Archimedean Solids by Daud Sutton as part of a collaborative project with artist Alyson Olson back in Manchester. We are working in response to the book and with the wider conversation around materiality, the rectangle, containment, framing devices and the object in mind too.
I’ve been to a few exhibitions showing digital work since being in Berlin, including Free WiFi/Gratis WLAN at Eigen + Art Lab, and Death Imitates Language by Harm van den Dorpel at Neumeister Bar-Am. I had been thinking a lot about internet aesthetics before that too, as well as how the adverts, logos, and branding that we encounter on a daily basis infiltrate into the work. I’m really interested in the contrast between the slow, considered process of painting and the sensory bombardment of daily life, and how contemporary painting deals with those polarities.
Pale Grey emulsion
Silk Purple acrylic
Metallic Green acrylic
Fluorescent Pink acrylic
Fluorescent Yellow acrylic
Pale Lemon Yellow acrylic
Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
Vitamin P, New Perspectives in Painting
Platonic and Archimedean Solids by Daud Sutton
The Less I Know The Better by Tame Impala – hearing it everywhere at the moment!
Lisa Denyer Painter
Are You Experienced? One week in the studio while making ‘Folded Soldier’ still unfinished Autumn 2016.
Ipad entry Mon in studio. To carry on unashamedly, with head held high, my mode of writing that is full of overly long sentences and concocted half backed metaphorical flourishes and similes…. Bollocks. (Only a snippet, the rest is too rude and aggressive.)
Fragments of ready died orange canvas splattered with blue Indian ink. Carpet underlay, black paint splattered grey Lino, cut up drawing on yellow paper stained with black coffee. Cardboard Pot noodle delivery crate. skin of PVA puddle red with black striations pulled up from studio floor. It’s a ill looking yellow when isolate it, with white pot noodle writing printed all over it- gives it a nice sick like tinge. Corragated cardboard drawing in watered down black ink fired from washing up liquid bottle from last summer.
11.20am. Phone call tip off about some good stuff in a fly-tipping incident in Hackney Wick. Nothing worth taking but on the way back into Poplar I find a rotten car seat for ‘Scuttle King’ and remnant of Lorry tarp caught up in a tree by Northway. It’s a deep tar smeared olive green. I remember using the same kind of tarp a couple of years back. Mass production messes up time. Unimaginable patterns of time and space reconfigured in repetition and its waste. One piece of work can be enmeshed or dissolved completely into another.
iPad entry Tues. Getting prepared to see Tate Mod Rauschenberg show. Here’s a little cut and paste alternative Rauschenberg narrative based on the Brechtian notion of the epic form. This approach questions other dramatic story telling forms that purport to transparency and objectivity yet are full of coercive indoctrination, dubious assumptions, power-play and highly subjective, ahistorical mumbo-jumbo.
Turns the spectator into an observer
Arouses capacity for action
Forces us to take decisions
Picture of the world
We are made to face something
Brought to the point of recognition
The spectator stands outside, studies
The human being is the object of the enquiry
We are alterable and able to alter
Eyes on the course
Each scene for itself
People as a process
Social being determines thought
Twitter feed on Weds 6.30am. Here they are looking serious by the windows of their big new studio (great light!). Here they are photographing acres of paint splattered studio floor. Here they are worrying about their Cadmium Red. Here they are worrying about their second studio in Tuscany after those brutes voted out! #studioporn
iPad entry Weds in studio. Anguish at response to my critique of a painting in the AbEx show at RA. “Heaven forbid that one should stop being “irresponsible”! I say to myself. And my only hope is I will be generously handed more opportunities to give “…art writing a bad name”. Cue Bon Jovi! But someone is playing Jimi in a studio down there in the dark.
Cut to Woodstock 1969. This is the year that Jimi Hendrix makes his scorching and by turns haunting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It rings out wavering, screaming into an American morning (that came, very definitely, ‘after the night before’) thick with the rage and the love and the pain that would set the stage for the end of era in American history and thus world history. The electric guitar captures both the raw power of a young nation coming of age and the angst and vulnerability of a paranoid new culture snatching its moment from history.
Cut to 18th Oct 1973. Mr Scull is making art world history by ‘selling off’ his recently acquired works of the Pop artists. Cue the footage of the fur coat clad Rauschenberg making his appearance at the wedding of art and commerce that he had not been invited to. Bob pushes at Mr Scull. He’s physical and tough, he’s pushing and pushing back at a new art world order- a world that his and only his generation could digest and still survive, an immunity built of years of guzzling up and re-imagining the toxic socially segregated and highly stratified ‘Land of the Free’- all revealed as never before in the explosion of the mass media imagery, readily available world wide…. Of course, Mr Scull told Robert that he had just raised his profile immeasurably, and he was absolutely right. They then embraced and laughed…..
Painting processes past and present. [Tate handbook for teachers] “When acrylic paint first became available to artists in the 1960s it was marketed as the first new painting medium in 500 years and was described as ‘to painting what the electric guitar was to music’.”
But in reality there seemed to be rules of engagement that foregrounded a stringent obsession with medium on or in the canvas weave that became ever more paramount. Staining, dripping and pouring suited this new medium and the vogue for a cooler and more reified abstract art.
Cut to Sunday July 25 1965 at the Newport folk festival. Bob Dylan “….electrified one half of the audience and electrocuted the other.”
Cut to 2016 and Mr Engdahl’s speech, justifying Dylan as receiver of the Noble Prize for Literature. He said “What brings about the great shifts in the world of literature? Often it is when someone seizes upon a simple, overlooked form, discounted as art in the high sense, and makes it mutate.”
Rauschenberg “… makes it mutate.” But what does he make mutate? He makes every day objects mutate, he makes mass media imagery mutate. So what does he make it mutate in to? Whatever it was, it was far more interesting than the arrival of acrylic paint and far more like the real electrification of art…. Solvent, transfers, screen print, crumpled aluminium BUZZ, SPARK, SMILY TEETH, PARACHUTE GODS…
Photography was so important to Rauschenberg right from the beginning, right to the end.
Cut to May 1958. Many second generation AbExers were busy trying to find themselves within a clear new hierarchy. Bob and a few others were determined to lose themselves in the realms of a new visual culture. This realm of the visual was vilified as ‘kitsch’, it had been placed firmly out of bounds by the already ossifying aristocracy of AbEx and art criticism based around the the post painterlys who were rigidly holding court in New York. While Greenberg chuckled that someone had to rewrite how trotskyism turned into art for art’s sake, there were those who were already looking for “other criteria”….
Studio visit Fri 2.30pm. “God, it’s a bloody state in here mate…” Pointing at Tetch “They are really dirty, aren’t they…”
I say “…what about Folded Soldier?” They say “….Nar, not finished yet….” I think to myself, it probably is then.
And Leo Steinberg was brought in by Hilton Kramer to keep the rabble in their place. Alas, Leo went on to make it a whole lot worse for the righteous (and mostly Rightists) of what would become The New Criterion- those embattled lovers of the ‘great’ in Great Art.
Folded Soldier not finished. Fishing for Picasso’s between 1912-14 in the “inner net”. Nice rotten pink and white cordoning off tape coiled up like a dirty pink ribbon finishes ‘Tetch’. Time for a Pot Noodle, a couple of tins of Stella and I’m all set for I’m a Celeb Get Me Out of Here final. Happy days! #thetragicemptynessofnow
Email Fri night. “Is that Press Release ready? I want to give it to the others before Xmas….”
Annoying phrases for today “commanding presence” and “simple unifying purpose.” I cant get around them. Folded Soldier will have to wait till Xmas is done.