Yearly Archives: 2005

Beware of banality

Thursday 1 December 2005

I keep noticing the most ordinary things – trees strewn with the grey tattered remains of plastic bags, stumps of long dead trees by the roadside, the traces of tyre tracks drawn out along muddy, puddled lanes. Why I am attracted to these subjects and signs, only made complex by an interest in their very banality?

old airfled
[corner of disused airfield, Suffolk]

I grew up near to a second world war airfield. In between the criss-crossing of the disintegrating runways were wide expanses of arable fields (before the  industrial redevelopment of the many disused airfields made way for a creeping expanse of new buildings and businesses in the 1990’s). Our kitchen overlooked this unassuming vista, a landscape devoid of any complicated structures, aside from changes in the sky and the earth. The only visible changes to it were seen in the textures of agriculture – from freshly ploughed brown clods or furrows dusted with snow, to the regimental spikes of spring green, or the rustling, harvest shades of gold and yellow. Much of my childhood was spent cycling and exploring the deserted runways, dense thickets of bramble, blackthorn and elder evolved naturally out of the surrounding pockets of agricultural wasteland. Out of the crackle-patterned concrete tracks emerged small green patches of wind-sown wheat, linseed or meadow grasses. This was not a picturesque landscape; there was little cause for celebration but it was a place of escape.

abandoned - airfield
[disused airfield, Suffolk]

Fast forwarding to now, I see that this perception of the landscape is ever present (and perhaps haunting) in my work. I see a near level horizon, the melding of indistinct greys and browns on a misty winter morning, fragmented patches of ground. My work appears to need to acknowledge and distill these overlooked scenes of rural ordinariness, the blandness and the bleakness, but even banality has hidden depths…

Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.

WG Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

For seasons and reasons…

Saturday 26 November 2005

It’s been just over a week since I started my experimental “blog”, and I haven’t managed to keep up one entry a day. I’ve had one piece of feedback. This experiment is not showing the signs of fruit just yet. I think it is timely to look at some other artist’s blogs, and I’ve still to google “blog” as a term. The weather has been changeable too – we were all set for the big freeze which seems to have just passed us by. Yesterday, which was mainly dry and breezy, was interspersed with short flurries of sleet soon followed by episodes of sunshine. Even the talk in the village shop is how weather forecasts never quite come true; we have come to accept that we can and do have four seasons in one day.

Nature’s quartet has been a muse for many artists from Vivaldi to Twombly, usually and understandably as a series of four distinct works. As I write, the sun has slipped away yet again, a heavy lead grey sky slides in, indicating its arrival by the tinkling of raindrops on the window pane. Now, how to encapsulate this daily changeability, both visible and felt, in only one piece of work? Someone is telling me I should return to the humble sketchbook – remember, those small works of Constable and Turner? Haven’t you got a book somewhere? Yes, but I see the sun has come out again, and I really should tackle the garden pruning before it changes back again. Alas, the sunshine was only fleeting, reason calls, and so endeth this “blog” for now…

On painting…

Wednesday 23 November 2005

Time to catch up. I have had a good couple of days painting which feels good. However, my manner of working is so laden with an anxiety to get it right that I am exhausted. I have been making drastic decisions on how far to take a piece, layering, daubing and scrubbing back, with the result that I no longer have what I had at the beginning of the day, and a feeling of loss ensues. In normal life, I often deliberate too much, being overly critical in a desire for perfection first time. I have been reading An Archetypal Constable (by Peter Bishop); Amazon “recommended” this book to me based on my buying patterns) in which the author goes into some detail on the effect of “dewiness” in Constable’s paintings. Constable’s vision of England was one of a rich, fertile land, with little evidence of an encroaching Industrial Revolution. An almost spiritual respect for a land that gives us nourishment in all its forms pervade his famous scenes. I have been struggling with the effect of moisture, not the fertile, verdant vistas of Mr C, but the cold moistness of dark woods and composted bark. I have been splattering and spraying layers of varnish over thin washes of ink, sponging it back, so that when the light hits the surface it has varying degrees of refraction, illuminating in places and yet diffusing in others. I know I am not quite there yet…