Monthly Archives: September 2011

on landscape photography

Monday 26 September 2011

these landscape photographs have all appeared in previous posts, from 2005-2010 (part of an ongoing recycle & reuse images whenever possible philosophy due to the sheer number of images accumulated). i decided to collate this small selection of photographs of the east anglian landscape in one ‘place’ as it were as a simple means of a personal review, having been lost & buried elsewhere in the ‘blog’. these photographs were all taken from a humble point ‘n’ shoot perspective. there is the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words but here the apparent air of mundane detachment or plain objectivity contained therein means they are perhaps unworthy of many words…

suffolk fields, old airfield, passing place sign
[a field, a ‘passing place’ sign]

from previous post: passing places part ii may 2006

old airfield, overgrown by fields, suffolk
[edge of old airfield, with rubble]

from previous post: beware of banality december 2005

suffolk fields, old airfield, passing place sign
[old airfield track and fields, a misty winter morning]

from previous post: farmscape painting february 2010

[field, late afternoon]

from previous post: on vacant and empty landscapes april 2010

[stubble field in winter, with ground frost, norfolk]

from previous post: some secrets revealed november 2010

on a train, passing through the fens, winter fields
[fields, seen from a train, the fens, winter]

from previous post: passing places april 2006

[misty morning by the lake, winter]

from previous post: mist opportunties again may 2010

[early morning mist, reflection of trees in lake water]

from previous post: winter solstice december 2009

[high snow drift, a field, two trees and a farmhouse, winter]

from previous post: from white snow to grey earth january 2010

[snow on ground, meadows, ditch, late afternoon light, winter]

from previous post: walking, in winter, wander land december 2009

[hoarfrost on trees next to the lake]

from previous post: the art of making soup january 2009

winter field, misty morning
[field, early morning, winter]

from previous post: mist opportunities january 2010

[the north sea, a view from dunwich cliffs, suffolk]

from previous post: on vacant and empty landscapes april 2010

[covehithe cliffs, suffolk]

from previous post: on vacant and empty landscapes april 2010

[salthouse marshes, north norfolk]

from previous post: salthouse surveyed march 2009

[on southwold beach, the north sea]

from previous post: two pebbles, a drawing october 2009

i used to take quite a few landscape photographs but i have not been very inclined to do so in more recent times. these landscape photographs seem no more ‘vital’ to me now than having just a memory of the time, place or location to draw upon. perhaps it is just photography fatigue. not only does it become all to easy (with digital cameras) to take yet another photograph but one feels simultaneously guilty for not taking a photograph, for not framing the moment as witnessed there and then. then, much later, one wonders whether it should be kept or erased, whether it has any lasting use, significance or meaning.

from previous post: taking the scenic route april 2009

to swiftly conclude, here is a photograph (not really a ‘landscape’ per se) of a lone seagull on a roof in the pleasant seaside town of aldeburgh, suffolk – all appears to be quite innocent, peaceful and calm…

‘thinking should be done beforehand and afterwards, never while actually taking the photograph.’

henri cartier-bresson (as quoted in on photography, susan sontag)

off the wall, on the exhibition

Thursday 15 September 2011

this is the barn wall (at blackthorpe), all four metres of it (although it doesn’t look it), the barn wall which i encountered a while back, where i would have to display (and since have) my art for the new ‘artworks’ exhibition.

old medieval barn wall, beams

there is so much surface ‘activity’ and ‘incident’ in this stretch of barn wall already that i feared the new works i had been quietly making would soon disappear into its rustic, aged surface. yes, two or three large, colourful paintings would work well in this location but all my 2011 work (a prerequisite for this exhibition, which is good) are all about twelve inches square (or smaller).

sometimes, you just have to commit to your artwork and hope it will work out in situ (i did ‘do’ a wall plan). so, not wanting a wall of repeats, i ended up putting in work from three different but related series – green woods, broken earth/circle/relics and the earth/bound panels. wood and all of its derivatives are the uniting factor. i didn’t fully break away from the format of the square, but i have intervened in subtle ways…

abstract art, new exhibition, blackthorpe barn, suffolk

[my artworks hung above the patchwork barn ‘tideline’]

the private view (or preview evening) was well-attended with over five hundred people milling through the exhibition over the course of a couple of hours. i talked to new people about my work and i bumped into other people i knew who i hadn’t seen for many years – it was all good.

here are two photographs taken before the PV, of some new work mentioned in two previous posts, on going green, again and on a broken art.

green wood bark textures - abstract painting - in art exhibition, suffolk, jazz green

out of the wood/shed III, 2011, paper, oil & pigment on wood, 150mm x 150mm

broken relic - abstact relief - jazz green, art exhibition suffolk

broken, 2011, mixed media paper relief, 300mm x 300mm

in the absence of a more neutral wall/interior i did feel (ever so slightly) that my work was drained of it naturalistic colours.

so, given that i have no bold, graphic or colourful works to show off here, instead i will share some photographs of other works in the exhibition which blipped on my radar.

mike ashley paintings, exhibition, blackthorpe suffolk

mike ashley’s paintings are inspired by winter walks in the countryside, often transitioning between figurative and abstract elements in a vigorously worked yet gestural painted surface.

gill levin paintings, art exhibition, blackthorpe suffolk

gill levin’s work is concerned with structures, both manmade and natural. she states it is the ‘spaces between’ that interest her most as a painter, and on closer inspection they coalesce into rythmical, patterned abstractions.

eileen revett prints, art exhibition, blackthorpe suffolk

eileen revett has continued with the universal theme of time in this new series of large woodcuts, ‘analog‘. these are hand-printed on japanese paper and the delicate repetition of gouged marks suggest a contemplative, meditative process in their making.

anthony jones, abstract paintings exhibition, blackthorpe suffolk

anthony jones embarks on a mission of artistic time-traveller, envisioning how an abstract painter might work in the presence of the renaissance artist and mathematician piero della francesca. similar to mark rothko and italian frescos, anthony has developed his own visual responses to art history.

katie millard paintings exhibition, blackthorpe suffolk

katie millard’s new series of abstract paintings, while seemingly a departure from her more widely-known norfolk landscape watercolours, look to be playful magnifications of expressive swathes of colour in response to nature and the elements.

roger gamble paintings exhibition, blackthorpe suffolk

roger gamble’s very striking acrylic paintings also reduce the figurative landscape to its most abstract & formal elements – a pop art sensibility with colour combined with wry observations of our modern times.

both roger and anthony have made me want to re-evaluate my relationship with colour, since in ‘real life’ i am drawn to colours and geometric patterns (even the garden shed is styled on mondrian), but it never materialises in my own artwork. this is probably because i am still working through my experiences of the rural landscape, which nearly always take the essence of the materiality of time as the central concern (it’s a subject difficult to ignore).

i was thinking (of the dark wood barn wall) that some of my work is akin to camouflage, they they would quite effortlessly blend into the real landscape, that a type of environmental reality is constructed, although they stop short of being completely true. however, in the end, i have to create my own reality.

or, put another way, a conventional landscape painting is an open window to a memory, it invites you to travel back to the original moment. i would like my work to create the moment in the presence of the work, right here in the ‘now’. the visual associations, although perhaps drawn from prior experience, create a brand new visual experience, not a picture of a past event. i create very tactile, textural works in recognition of a sensory world, one that the pace of technology (esp. of communication) seems capable of eradicating. am i a luddite? of course not. we will create ambitious new sensory gardens in the concrete & glass jungles to appease the deprived..

‘painting from nature […] is a sort of diversion; creates a balance. i would say that landscapes are a type of yearning, a yearning for a whole and simple life. a little nostalgic. the abstract works are my presence, my reality, my problems, my difficulties and contradictions.’

gerhard richter, 1985

artworks exhibition, blackthorpe barn, rougham, suffolk, 10 september to 2 october 2011 (10am – 5pm, open daily). there is also the ‘artworks shop’ where i have some of my papier mache bowls (also relics of a sort) on display.

Artworks is a professional art group of thirty contemporary East Anglian artists. Each September we have a group exhibition at the medieval Blackthorpe Barn, set in the heart of rural Suffolk.

on a small painting, out of the woods

Sunday 11 September 2011

this is a small abstract painting on watercolour paper, completed a couple of months back. it’s for the forthcoming ‘mini artworks prize draw’ in the artworks exhibition. the sombre, muted colours and vertical, layered striations in this small painting appear to be slightly influenced by my time sketching trees and bark in local woodlands.

small abstract painting, trees, bark, dark green, woods, woodland
[wildwood iv, 2011. 6″ x  6″, or 15cm x 15cm]

there is also a small copse (perhaps it is now a real, grown-up, maturing ‘wood’) bordering the far end of the garden. although i see this small piece of woodland everyday, i do not go into it to paint or draw as it is privately-owned land – perhaps just to rescue an errant roosting hen who once had a free two-night stay on the wilder side of the fence. on the third (could-be) night of freedom, a short time after dusk she was eventually located by taking a slow, spiralling inward path around the copse, sleepily plumped between the lower fork of branches of a tree. this twilight woodland escapade inevitably disturbed the dozing wildlife of pheasants, wood pigeons and so on – and i was reminded of these words:

‘we do not have to be long in the woods to experience the always rather anxious impression of going deeper and deeper into a limitless world.’

[gaston bachelard, the poetics of space]

this ‘limitless world’ seems to be a psychological or phenomenological one, a self-realised world mostly obscured by the modern day-to-day concerns of stability, security & safety. it is not often that we are allowed go there. it is in our human makeup to have fear & doubt (and respond to it) and the experience of being in the woods (or forests, mountains, seas or oceans) enables both a sense of place and the natural order of things in the world – and it is most deeply felt when one is alone. the naturalist david attenborough has often said that we should always be reminded that we are just one of many species co-habiting the earth.

bachelard made an interesting distinction between the perception of woods (or forests) and fields. in the landscape of fields we are a witness and perhaps an accomplice to the passage of time; we experience, share and create memories in the seasonal or manmade rhythms of it. in the dark depths of the forest bachelard perceives time as ‘before-me, before-us’, that is, it is behind us, in the past. the forest is ancient and the trees are the ancestral markers of time. in the woods, i sometimes sense that time has paused, it has ‘disconnected’ me from the brightly illuminated present, time idles in the shadows.

when i have studied the more philosophical or poetic appeal of woodland i have found it overgrown with many metaphors, myths, rituals, stories and legends, often wildly conflicting with the socio-economic changes of the times (fuel, timber, hunting, livestock and so forth). by the 11th century it has been estimated there was no more than 15 percent of natural woodland covering england and the remaining woods and forests developed into sites of rural industries. it was ‘not an imaginary utopia; it was a vigorous working society’, as the historian simon schama describes it, later saying that the ‘greenwood idyll was disappearing into house beams, dye vats, ship timbers’ – and with more bureaucratic management of woodland, a little corruption and misdemeanour along the way.

it seems, quite naturally so, for there to be an urgent need to re-establish or conserve our woodlands, with something of a reversion to the pre-industrial green wildwoods of folklore, but if the woods are not really a ‘greenwood idyll’ or the way into a more mysterious, esoteric other-world, then what, exactly…

and that deep softness of delicious hues
that overhead blends – softens – and subdues
the eye to extacy and fills the mind
with views and visions of enchanting kind

[wood pictures in summer, john clare]

i have been reading carus again, and he sums up the experience of the woods in a manner that i relate to:

tranquil reflection takes hold of us; we feel our unruly ambitions and aspirations held in check; we enter into the cycle of nature and transcend ourselves.

[carl gustav carus, 1824, from nine letters on landscape painting]

whether there is any direct relation between this german sentiment and previously referred-to eastern aesthetics i cannot be sure – perhaps it is a universal sentiment which is merely muted by the concerns of modernity.

trees (or nature, as it is perceived) will continue to be seen as a symbols of hope over adversity. however, i am conversely reminded of the idiom, we are not ‘out of the woods’ yet. for the artist, ever aware of the past, present and future, hopes that every picture paints its own story – and i have been drawn into the woods in a desire to escape routine – and, like the errant roosting hen, it is one of those times when one momentarily forgets to take the usual path home…

so many words to accompany such a small painting! over a thousand words and i should thank you for reading them.

however, i must conclude dear reader, by saying that someone somewhere will (soon) acquire the small ‘wildwood iv’ painting on paper shown above. tickets for the artworks prize draw are on sale at £2 each (and you can buy more than one, too). all the mini artworks are 6″ x 6″ and they are window-mounted for easy framing. the thirty mini artworks are currently on display in the artworks exhibition (which opened yesterday). i will also purchase a prize draw ticket to be in with a chance of winning one of the thirty original artworks illustrated below, but if i won my own painting then i should have to give it away again.

the ‘janette place’ artworks prize draw is named in recognition of one artworks artist, janette place, who initiated the first artworks prize draw (she died in 2005). the prize draw supports artworks ‘artists in schools’ programme, with a proportion of the money raised given to a local nominated charity. this year artworks have elected to support Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Bradfield Green Oak project, an education centre built from green oak harvested from SWT’s own nature reserves as part of their conservation management programme.

the artworks prize draw takes place at 4pm on saturday 1st october 2011. you can read more about the mini artworks prize draw on the artworks blog.

i have ten works currently on show in the artworks exhibition at blackthorpe barn, rougham, suffolk, which runs from 10 september to 2 october 2011 (10am – 5pm, open daily). there is also the ‘ artworks shop’ with a changing display of small artworks for sale: paintings, original prints (no reproduction giclees!) and drawings, 3D works and an extensive range of artist cards. i have some of my papier mache bowls in the shop.

Artworks is a professional art group of thirty contemporary East Anglian artists. Each September we have an annual exhibition at Blackthorpe Barn in the heart of rural Suffolk.

some new works also on show at Reunion Gallery’s ‘Refresh’ tenth anniversary exhibition on now and until 22 Oct 2011