on nothing, to be done

lonely road sign
[a country road, a tree, evening...]

it was meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be,
it will happen, it might never happen

my life seems to have become quite beckettian of late…

i can’t claim to know much about the works of samuel beckett, other than what was required reading in my youth (waiting for godot, naturally)… beckett’s sardonic, sparse dialogue seems to make more sense now, in what i will fondly call the middle ages, in the middle of a sometimes barren & lonely landscape, on a road somewhere between what was and what will be… perhaps now is the time to immerse oneself in a closer study of samuel beckett. a quick ‘google’ has unearthed a few texts and many other resources online but nothing can quite match the tangibility of a real book…

these last couple of weeks have been a time of not quite knowing what will happen next; uncertainty is no ally of reassurance… just waiting to hear, waiting in a waiting room, or waiting in a queue, or waiting for the call back, or waiting in especially for the post to arrive (which more often than not is near enough lunchtime) just in case, only to receive a bundle of junk flyers on the benefits of hearing aids, double glazing and sky tv – so, no news is godot news..?

a couple of weeks ago i finally drafted my work proposal for a prospective exhibition, along the lines of this is what i want to do and why, this is what i will do and how. i have been playing around with these notions for ages but the chance to write a proposal gave the work some focus. i will start work on this very soon, just as soon as… well, some waiting is inevitably involved and i could say more about it but – it’s a secret for now…  i know what will happen…

[sketchbook page, vessels, early august 2010]

in these lean times i have, in the evening hours mostly, also been making more of these papier mache vessels. i like the repetition of this activity, it’s like making daily bread. they are made of my own handmade paper – seemingly delicate and yet robust – when i tap them they sound a little like hollowed-out wood or eggshells. the eggshell reference is perhaps no surprise. i like the disparity between lightness and solidity. these little vessels will, in time, have some of the environmental characteristics of my paintings, a bridge between object and subject, between appearance and substance, between fulfilling a need and having another purpose… as seems to be my habit these days, i have lots of little projects or themes in varying degrees of development and completion – is this normal practice for an artist?

[papier mache vessels]

i was prompted to to consider the issue of artistic rejection the other day, while waiting to pay for a book in a charity shop. the next customer in the queue spied that it was a book on turner, turner’s venice. the brief exchange went something like this:

hmm, turner, eh? i don’t like turner.
you don’t like turner? but the nation likes turner!
i like paintings that look like something, that you can recognise.
have you seen any of turner’s paintings – those in the tate?
yes, but i didn’t like them, they were all wishy-washy, nothing…
but turner, like monet, was suffering from failing eyesight they say…
no, couldn’t see anything in them. turner, very overrated i say…
what about turner’s earlier paintings of castles & ruins?
nope, turner, not what i would call proper painting, i’m afraid…

hmm… and i was afraid he would then say he liked paintings of classic cars, aeroplanes or racing horses, so i promptly paid my £3 for the turner book and then left the shop. i suppose it does help to see another person’s point of view, that the work is too different in style from what they have come to expect a landscape painting to look like, that they bring to it their own values and preconceptions about what is art (as we all do) – but art history often gives us a wry reflection on this cultural phenomena – on what is now highly regarded was perhaps once critically rejected… but there again…

in a recent conversation with another artist it was suggested to me that people (people who are likely to buy art from galleries or exhibitions) are most drawn to art that gives them a sense of joy or wonder about the world, hope for life not a reminder of the end of things. i didn’t agree entirely, but perhaps he was also referring to what is known as the ‘grey £’, since he then went on to explain why retired people like gardening so much – a sense of hope in the possibility of renewal. then i thought about vanitas, paintings which i view with a child-like fascination as much as seeing them as darkly symbolic allegories on nature and mortality – the memento mori. perhaps i seek out signs of imperfection & decay for a similar, symbolic significance, that death or decay is inevitable, but in a curious way it also signifies change and renewal…

[intaglio print on paper, mounted on canvas]

this small intaglio print on fabriano paper is from about five years ago. at some point i decided to adhere the print to a canvas, but then it was shelved. sometime later, i took the canvas into work where it hung up in the staffroom for a couple of years – but now it is back home again. it will serve to remind me that i shouldn’t dismiss things so easily…

lastly, this art journal (or blog) is also five years old… so, shall i go on..?

thank you [...] is there anything else?
no, i think that’s everything… no wait, there is one last thing…
yes? what’s that?
it’s nothing, i just wanted to ask if….
ok, just wait there while i [...] you don’t mind waiting..?
no, i don’t mind waiting, thank you…


  1. charlie
    Posted November 24, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Your work symbolizes hope for me, so i don’t agree with what that guy was possibly trying to imply. When you have accepted some of the grimmer aspects of life, or the one truth that we know *will* occur, it can have the profound potential of freeing onself almost as a liberating ‘epiphany’ moment. For me it was when I realised my personal mythology was one amongst many and that I wasn’t so distant from the materials of the landscape.

  2. Jazz
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    thank you for the comment… and much flattered you consider my work in some way hopeful…

    you are right about the ‘epiphany moment’ – the relentless will of humankind to arrest time or tame nature seems both fearful and futile… i am always mindful that this earth that we walk upon daily is our ultimate destination, as with all those that have walked before us – thinking of all those accumulating layers of the ages of man beneath our feet…

    i went out sketching the other day, wondering how i might see the landscape again, since autumn seems to have been overly romanticised by artists … but there are still many shades of green in the hedgerows, some trees are still holding onto their greeny-yellow leaves, the fields are either sprinkled bright green with winter wheat, ploughed brown or a tarnished grey-brown-gold of moulding stubble, which made the sky look quite mauve in contrast… it’s those sort of sensations i want to preserve…

    thank you, charlie – much to think about…

  3. Posted November 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    We see the world much in the same way, and i also must disagree with this ‘hope’ (meaning in the context it was spoken) aspect.. i look to your work as more ‘connected’ with the earth; and for that reason.. has entirely more ‘hope’
    i cannot understand why people have their own barriers inbuilt and put up, turner is wishy washy? nothing? – this is not to say you have to love everything, but when i can stand mesmerised by the cracks in the pavement.. i cannot understand what people ‘don’t see’

    I love to read your words, please, another 5yrs, at the very least..

  4. charlie
    Posted November 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Hope your sketching went well ! Hope you wrapped up warm as it is rather chilly up here in Yorkshire! I guess I could say that for me, your work is about ‘transformation’, if I was to ‘pin’ a (very reductive) label on the work which misses all of its other aspects.

    I guess that people want to indeed distract themselves and clutter their minds with everything else but simple truths.

    BBBbbbbrrrrr its stew time in my flat

  5. Posted December 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Can I second what Steven has posted? Another 5yrs, at the very least….please. Your posts are so well written and refreshingly well considered that I would sorely miss them.

    My interpretation of your work is renewal and regeneration which I think is always hopeful.

  6. Jazz
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    thank you for those words

  7. Jazz
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    thank you for that…

    another five years? gawd….

  8. Jazz
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    thank you for your comments (once again)… yes, transformation seems quite apt and describes many things…