Monthly Archives: June 2008

Go see, go elephants!

Sunday 22 June 2008

After a fabulous opening preview (a hog roast, ice cold beers and African drumming) by the organisers The Forum and Wild in Art, the elephants are set on go on safari this weekend across the fine city of Norwich… it’s a stampede for the Go Elephants! this summer…

Here are some of the elephants that I photographed at the PV..

Maps and guides can be picked up from around the city or you can download one here and read up about all the decorated elephants on the trail. This mammoth exhibition runs from 23 June to 31 August 2008…

Of course, I shall shamelessly promote the Harleston & Waveney Art Trail HWAT elephant…

…soon to be sited outside Cinema City in Norwich, a collaborative work of art by the sculptor Mark Goldsworthy, the mosaicist Bazil Leith and painters Jazz Green (me!), Dee Nickerson and Noelle Francis…

In black and white: the making of grey

Saturday 7 June 2008

The more you look at things the more new things seem to appear, and the more you try to unpack art the more complex it becomes… I’ve never consciously referenced other artists’ methodologies in the making of my work but recently my new paintings were described as Rothkoic… maybe my work does resonate on the scale of objective, non-representational painting, somewhere between the sombre hues of late Rothko and Robert Ryman’s squares.

In an interview on Color, Surface and Meaning Ryman describes the neutrality of white being reactive to the surroundings, unrestrained by a deliberate narrative, the viewer making the physical connections within the space.

Robert Ryman, No Title Required 2006; Jasper Johns, Flag 1958; Mark Rothko, Untitled (black on grey), 1970.

The square is the perfect embodiment of a neutral starting space which brings physical emphasis to the juxtaposition and pairing of surfaces. I too work within a square for its impartiality, with only a rough idea of an image, and of the colours I want to use, the reaction of materials creating the ensuing narrative or symbolism; quoting directly from Ryman, it’s not representing anything else [it is what it is], that is, we will either see something in it or see nothing at all. Ryman is reticent, ambiguous (like his work), revealing very little beyond the basic premise of his work, he leaves it to us to formalise the ideas and create deeper meaning from their context.

Another artist who comes to mind when thinking of objectivity is Jasper Johns and his use of the non-colour grey, as a recent retrospective of his monochromatic works called simply Gray was shown at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In an interview, he said that the absence of color made the work more physical, the paring down of painting to its substance, a real object. All artists feel a particular intensity about things, such as a colour, texture or form, but not everyone will share this personal vision. However, Rothko, wrongly defined as a colour field painter, remarked that he was not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else, only in expressing basic human emotions, something akin to a religious or revelatory experience. In his later works 1969-70 a profusion of browns,violets, blacks and greys dominated his paintings, all containing horizontal bands of colour within a portrait format. The painting Untitled (Black on Grey) in the Guggenheim collection, seems one of many with sombre dark, grey tones, and similar to these two works on paper which were up for auction in late 2007 (subsequently selling for $10.75 and $9.5 million).

I’ve heard that painting is dead in the water, very old school, worn down by its shiny new rivals, installation and new media art. I’ve been contemplating of late what justification I can give to pursuing painting in a post-modern art world. In the end, it’s about resonance and connectedness within the work, the visceral as opposed to the political. Yes, contemporary artist, we depend on our senses, and we breathe, communicate and think, and either explicitly (as through video or performance art) or perhaps more subtly through the mediums of painting or sculpture we explore the most fundamental existential themes of life and death… as an artist, it is those grey areas that I find most interesting…

Manmade in Britain

Sunday 1 June 2008

This week, I had the pleasure of walking through the perfectly prim Abbey Gardens in the historical town of Bury St Edmunds. This park is the epitome of British municipal gardening. Even after a weekend of torrential rain it was disturbingly perfect, having the look and feel of being planted only five minutes ago (but the gardeners and groundsmen were suspiciously absent, perhaps they work only at night). There was an mood of enforced restraint, a you can look, but don’t touch about it. This is a green-fingered cultural oasis akin to the surreal world of the Stepford Wives and The Prisoner. There could be no carefree skipping across the grass as a medley of beds and borders of the most unnatural shapes and designs surround you at every turn, planted with the most mathematical precision. I half expected a loud halo to sound from within the primulas and shout at us keep back! should we linger too long.

Abbey Gardens appears to be the gardening equivalent of a classy ready-meal, prettily packaged and perfectly proportioned, packed with artificial colourings, gardens-to-go for tired and hungry eyes. This style of gardening seems quite disorientating and a little austere in its efforts to look pristine, although high praise must be given to those that meticulously tend these verdant symbols of respectable Britishness; but within this very orderly environment any connection to nature is lost, there is little space for the sprawl of some native flora or fauna to give a sense of place. However, it’s still worth a visit if you are passing by and have an hour to fill – if a little sugar-coated horticulture appeals this summer then read more about the Abbey Gardens history here – and there is even an Abbey Gardens webcam for the curious; I’ll be checking it out daily for any signs of wildlife…

Abbey Gardens