Monthly Archives: October 2008

A painter's progress

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Fog and fug, grit brown, deep striations, a blush of pink rises through a glaze of smoke… a burnt orange melts into a caustic violet ash…

bubbling umbers, of oil and residue, the cool breeze of cerulean blue… then, a mechanical yellow, breathing blisters from a greenish bronze…

Mere descriptions, slowly unfold a hidden narrative, representing nothing, in reality…

Just colour, applied; some of it lived and some of it died…

making waves

Sunday 19 October 2008

I recently went to an illustrated talk given by the artist Maggi Hambling, as part of a fund-raising exhibition. She was, as predicted, entertaining, forthright, outspoken, although not as scurrilous as we were led to believe…. She talked about her life from her early art schooling in Suffolk, then on to Camberwell College of Art and the first artist residency at The National Portrait Gallery in London. I sensed a melancholic resolution in her latest series of paintings, North Sea Waves, vigorous and painterly coils of froth, surf and wavebreaks. She visits the coast daily.

Unlike JMW Turner, she doesn’t paint en plein air (she is realistic about battling with the elements) but instead makes numerous sketches and then works from them back in the comfort of the studio… in these new works there are no references to the people, places or events of her colourful life that we have come to expect, but a quieter reflection of the self mirrored in the forces of nature. These images are paradoxically fresh and sensuous in their use of paint, but with a violent and threatening undercurrent, the variables of the sea.

I haven’t been a huge fan of Hambling’s work before now; an artist that I was only vaguely aware of, notably from her weekly appearances on the TV show Gallery with George Melly. Then, through the whimsical laughter paintings, and the notorious semi-deconstructed Scallop on Aldeburgh beach changed all that.

However, when you get the rare opportunity to understand an artist’s work as a whole, inseparable from their character, their life, their experiences, you can see how how all these seemingly different elements of their work come together… the figurative sculptures, the monoprints, the portrait paintings and drawings – each purposeful, brutally honest and true to the moment.

There was one pivotal image in the slideshow for me, an early painted portrait of an old woman, crippled by arthritis, hands twisted and gnarled like the roots of an old tree, a defiant and yet vulnerable individual. This broad theme of fragility seemed to permeate throughout her work, a tougher outer shell, much like the Scallop, showing the cracks of time and yet still weathering the storm.

Hambling is a great painter, and I think under-rated, perhaps because her many artistic associations, her sharp wit and the prickly personality get in the way of the work; sometimes you need to forget who did it to appreciate it. I turned up the chance to acquire a signed copy of her new book; not because I didn’t want it or think it was good but because I am trying to curb my spending on books. Anyhow, I left the event feeling much more motivated to draw, to paint, than I would from any artist’s book. If I lived a little nearer to the sea I think I would also be drawn daily to witness its power, awe and solace, as subject and matter.

maggi hambling - north sea waves painting maggi hambling painting of old woman with gnarled hands
Wave Breaking, 2008, and Frances Rose II (in the Jerwood Collection, London.)

To see specific works from the North Sea Waves exhibition (in aid of charity) go here, or to see more of Maggi Hambling’s work, visit her website.

Canvasing, a small means of support

Friday 17 October 2008

Do you want to show your appreciation of art by making a small contribution? Perhaps you have enjoyed viewing my artwork or have been entertained or informed by my musings on art in my artist journal… then click on the button below. It’s not compulsory of course, and there is no minimum amount you have to donate (from one quid or a dollar or two), and it would go towards more art materials as I’ve used up all of my large canvases – they were kindly donated to me! I would like to develop my photography into limited edition prints, and any contribution would also support the cost of designing and maintaining this website. I’d like to publish a book of paintings and photographs too, perhaps through the website… it would be quite good, I promise…

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