on some things in passing

Saturday 13 July 2013

dear reader, last week i completed one large painting for the forthcoming artworks exhibition! i have been mostly painting in the evenings and at weekends to finish it on time (for the catalogue)…

i’ve also been painting some very small (postcard-sized) paintings on watercolour paper, with no particular plan or ideas in mind, merely a desire to paint shapes and colours freely and intuitively without any external influences.

the room in which i am doing these paintings is white and there are no pictures on the wall. there is a trestle table, paper, paint brushes and a shoebox of tubes of acrylic paints. this seems significant to the outcome, especially in regard to the importance most artists place on the art studio environment, surrounded by the ever-evolving clutter of inspiring objects and images.

i wondered if i could paint without any influences in sight, not even a sketchbook, although the painted postcards have become sketches now, i think. the large painting began in this way too, and i have said to artist friends that i intended to ‘paint my way out’ of a situation…  a different style of painting emerged, one that shows there is still something to be gained in traditional painting.

the postcards are visually unrelated to the large painting, and i plan to continue to to do a handful of postcard paintings each week, to see what else might emerge from the limitations of the process.

yesterday i went to see the Alfred Wallis exhibition at the Time & Tide museum (with artist friend Dee Nickerson), and i took some quick snapshots on the walk from the carpark (and one or two pictures in the exhibition). later in the day, on reviewing these images, i noticed some uncanny similarities to the earlier painted postcards…

was i intentionally looking to capture photographic images which matched my pre-existing preference/use of colours in the postcards? the postcards were not on my mind yesterday. i went to see an art exhibition, and i think, like most artists, make use of the opportunity to take snaps of small things that catch my eye. anyhow, this sense of uncanny similarity (the photographs after the fact) has caused some pause for thought today, how something seen in passing later relates back to an earlier event (enacted through painting). i cannot explain this oddly reversed visual connection any better, other than displaying it in pictures (the subsequent photographs are shown in the order they were taken yesterday):

orange black grey abstract postcard painting

[quick snapshot between buildings, on the walk from the car park to the museum]


orange green abstract art postcard painting

[through an alleyway, on the way to the museum]


green white black grey abstract art postcard painting

[looking up at a fern growing out of a brick wall, in an alleyway]


green grey abstract picture postcard

[closed shop storefront in the high street. unusual name, skippings]


turquoise white grey abstract art postcard painting

[house on the other side of the street, the door and the shape of the arch, medley of red brick buildings beyond]


beige blue abstract art postcard painting

[view of the exhibition, wanted to include the metallic blue barrier in the composition]


orange pale grey abstract art postcard painting

[another view of the exhibition, pale blue-grey wall panels display a quirky and compelling arrangement of picture frames and painting sizes]

p.s. i enjoyed seeing this exhibition (it is on until 8th september 2013). there was much to digest and discuss about the paintings in the exhibition: Wallis’s seafaring life before painting, intrinsic motivations to paint and draw, loneliness and solitude, change, the past, recalling memories and the paintings as process into and out of memory, painting/responding to contemporary incidents, the correspondence or contact with others more knowledgeable about art and their contact with Wallis, how collectors selected or framed his work (the arbiters of taste), the techniques & media in his modest and practical re-use of materials (the tattered board of a book, a box lid, household oil paint) using the card colour as atmospheric background/sky, vigorous brushwork of the sea, attempts at perspective, the detail of boats and other structures, etc…

it is interesting how Wallis’s work relates to artists today, those who knowingly paint in a faux naive style or incorporate mundane materials for aesthetic or conceptual reasons. there is a purity of intention and process in Wallis’s paintings and drawings – they seem to incorporate elements of both, the paint is sometimes drawn, or pencil used as a heavy, decisive outline to the paint. this honesty and naturalness now seems slightly tainted (a sad irony) by the spectacle of the exhibition (and the many private collectors), but this exhibition gives a generous insight into a humble and hard won life.

most of the work is undated which gives rise to questions about the work before and after being discovered, how much was Wallis influenced to paint pictures by Jim Ede (a notable collector, who never actually met Wallis, and his letters to Wallis are now lost), or how Wallis felt about the many educated collectors and admirers (most notably, Ben Nicholson, who discovered him), the people with whom he had little or no cultural or social connection – i imagine a sense of earnest politeness mixed in with some apprehension about being understood.

much credit to kettle’s yard and time & tide museum on a compelling, meaningful, and visually rich display (including letters, photographs and film) which avoids any over-sentimentality. the museum’s maritime context is perfect. and there is much content in this exhibition which could be compared or contrasted with lowry…

(i should edit this draft, but for now…)