Tag Archives: lichenscapes

re: surfacing, once again

Friday 20 August 2010

resurfacing, from some dark days spent in the artist’s studio… it has been raining quite a lot lately but today was bright and breezy. august is now always such a washout; it never used to be like this. i have lots of green tomatoes but no chutney jars…  listening to the evening breeze, it could almost be the rushing sound of the sea in the distance…


some paint pots and some paint brushes

some works that are still in progress

actually, i have left these two paintings (the lichenscapes) well alone for the last week, concentrating instead on finishing some smaller pieces…

these are (or will be) mouldscapes


some small paintings drying on a washing line

these are looking quite mouldy but they are not at all mouldy… sometimes deep within this stuff lies a cure, a solution, the answer – it’s mould, but it’s not always bad… i had brief dip into charles darwin’s the formation of vegetable mould 1881, the natural formation of mould as in the breakdown of organic matter (green manure) to produce a friable, fertile soil and earthworms’ vital part in this process… darwin studied worms very closely and deduced they had no true sense of hearing (although they are sensitive to vibrations) – he wrote extensively about his observations & many experiments, but without (obviously) any intentional humour:

They took not the least notice of the shrill notes from a metal whistle, which was repeatedly sounded near them; nor did they of the deepest and loudest tones of a bassoon. They were indifferent to shouts, if care was taken that the breath did not strike them. When placed on a table close to the keys of a piano, which was played as loudly as possible, they remained perfectly quiet.

[from charles darwin, the formation of vegetable mould, 1881]

it does conjure up quite a comical scene – and i presume it was darwin loudly playing the bassoon…

so, back to the mouldscapes – perhaps i should work on dreaming up more lyrical titles for these? someone once wrote in an exhibition visitors’ book that my work was refreshing in that it explained its source without recourse to the written word… although i do go some way (here at least) to explain the things that fascinate me and the parallel desire to make work (for want of a better word) about them; the processes and concepts merge to the point that neither can exist without the other.. i figure (or fear) i’ll forever be consumed by the processes of decay/change/renewal because it is a big subject to explore and each time one thinks one can do it better or differently… my concepts and reasonings for making art seem quite focused but i think (or procrastinate!) about working in different media, a different format or scale… when i look back at some of my student work i can see that the sculptural elements have also persisted but have never quite progressed into 3d…

i also made a fresh batch of handmade paper this past week… i was quite taken by the ordered but irregular, deckled edges as i stacked up the dried sheets, and the 3d form they constructed, creating a strata of sorts, a layering of a different kind (3d again, take note)…


a neat ‘n’ tidy stack of handmade, deckled papers

i also pursued some sketching, around the irregularity of forms and surface imperfections were/are still on my mind… can the indefinable wabi sabi aesthetic ever be deliberately crafted?


some sketchbook drawings

i am still working through these notions of imperfection, by creating a series of vessel-like forms – that is, i am quite clear about my intentions and reasons for doing so but have yet to construct them and i have not answered the repeated call for action on the matter… something for a future post no doubt, when the lichen/mould paintings are truly done & finished, and after the artworks group exhibition opens to the public in september – the current lichen/mould paintings will form the main body of new work for this show, but i will also submit some smaller pieces for the exhibition’s shop… watch this space…

i framed this intaglio collagraph print in preparation for a new exhibition opening at the harleston gallery next week (i have put in two other collagraph prints for the gallery’s browser)… the broad theme of this group exhibition is the allotments and i considered that this collagraph, as the composition evolved out of looking at the surface structures of old sheds & barns, just might fit the allotted criteria – although, having visited the local allotments just once (on the second occasion they were locked up) i did not see any ramshackle, old tin sheds, it was all rather neat and tidy…


an old tin shed, intaglio collagraph, 2010

the exhibition at the harleston gallery is called ‘breaking ground‘ and it will open on thursday 26th august, the private view is 6.30pm-8.30pm. the exhibition continues to 25th september 2010. if you are local to or perhaps just passing through the delightful, waveney valley, please drop in to see the exhibition – and, one could also partake in a nice pot of tea and some lovely cake from the gallery cafe…

i also applied to a professional artist mentoring scheme; my application was considered but i was not selected for the programme – i may write about that process in a future post, but the first thought that came to mind was must try harder. perhaps all i need to re-invigorate my work  and/or recontextualize my practice is an all-expenses-paid trip to the venice biennale – i would become more critically engaged with the ‘issues’ in contemporary art/painting – and i would also, probably, still be deeply enamoured by the distressed architecture, those old, crumbling facades with their outward appearance of a slow and very elegant decay…

no matter, i will continue to reflect on and write about art and painting, even if some of the creative musings don’t (yet) make it into finished artwork, they have been registered as having some potential at least, and myself the artist and my art will continue to exist, out here in the back of beyond…

regular readers might notice that i have a facebook badge thingamy–>

i have just set myself up a little fan page, which pretty much just redistributes what appears here – the account for a page is very limited, which is perhaps a very good thing… and now it seems that i have three fans, so thank you! but if i get twenty fans i then facebook lets me personalise the page’s url!

i thought that having a professional ‘page’ was maybe the thing to do, the way to go, another platform for promoting the art, but now i am not so sure – i always have nagging doubts about these things… this week i heard on the radio that in the future people might need to create entirely new identities (as if some people haven’t already been doing this) for their own security, such is the vast amount of personal information that has already been distributed or shared online… you/we/i have all been warned… so, i will try out fb’s pages until september and then evaluate its true worth… all i ever planned to do was to have a nice artist portfolio website and this artist journal has become a naturally inclusive part of it, occasional musings and thoughts from the artist’s studio… and i have also been wondering, what will supercede the supersonic twitter, for soon enough something else will..?

last chance to seerebirth at the Art 1821 gallery – the exhibition runs until 8 september 2010…

next exhibitionbreaking ground at the harleston gallery, 28 august to 25 september 2010…

coming up: the 11th annual artworks exhibition at blackthorpe barns, 11 September to 3 October 2010

breaking through the surface [paintings in progress]

Saturday 7 August 2010

more painting activity, paintings that are resurfacing again, breaking the surface tension in the matter of paint – developed from a liking for lichen-ness, off the wall and onto canvas… unearthing new content, in the source/subject of the painting and in the actions/processes of painting…

currently defined as paintings, given the use of traditional painting media and their appearance of something painted, in their overall flatness of the surface, but the surface textures discord with the formality of the painted surface, in the visual plane which denies perspective, in the containment of the square – a little disorientating in scale, disconnected from reality, but still a mirror of nature, one that could trick the eyes into seeing elements of beauty therein… and i find myself still consumed by the concept or dichotomy between perceptual depth and physical flatness in my work…

i have been considering the issue of them seeming to be contrived, in that i have, deliberately so, set out to achieve something that is expressing the wonder of the elements of nature in a manmade environment – and i have visually recorded and thus blogged some of those steps in the process. it seems to be in my character to be meticulous, in the attention given to the details – this may be an overly controlling approach in my painting, in that it offsets the possibility that some other form of art could arise out of the accidental outcomes of a series of processes – as nice as they might appear to be, they would not be driven by the original concept…

how ever art is made, constructed, modelled or fashioned, it will be in some way contrived and artists will seek to express content, meaning, emotions or philosophies through the outward appearance of their art… the artificiality of art (as object or process) is surely at the heart of any conceptual content… i once called it just smoke and mirrors but there is more to it than that… perhaps it is this very contradiction, between an earnestness to convey or express something unique, individual, with a desire for it to be perceived or valued as an object in itself, which informs the necessary requirement for an objective title, a lichenscape or liken-scape…

enough words; some images perhaps… these are proving to be quite difficult paintings to resolve, but i have the underlying matter of the content to remind me where i am duly headed…

if you don’t want to see the results, look away now…

lichenscape I

lichenscape II…

you can see previous working states of these paintings – achieving a perfect lichen-ness part one, part two and part three – the small discoveries & minor incidents within the wider process of creating a painting (or object of art)…

Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.
John Ruskin

current exhibition: Rebirth, curated by Lorraine Cooke, is an exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Art inspired by Ancient Jomon culture and Japanese aesthetic, in collaboration with the Unearthed exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. The Rebirth exhibition features works by Sahoko Aki, Megumi Baba, Shaun Caton, Veronica Grassi, Jazz Green, Tsunaki Kuwashima, Barbara Leaney and Keika Sako. Rebirth, the exhibition, is at the gallery Art 1821 in Norwich and runs from 29th July to 8 September 2010.

more grey sky thinking, out of the blue

Friday 30 July 2010

more cloud gazing this week, torrential rain all day on tuesday (a typically british summer’s day) – this was the view from the window at about 6pm…

electricity power lines outside a window, with cloudy sky
a room with a view

i hadn’t really noticed how prominent these power lines were before; my days must be slowly draining of any meaningful structure if i get distracted by this visual discordance with nature’s billowy curtain… today when i awoke, i did, for a brief moment, wonder what day it was, whether it was saturday already, and that a day of more domestic to-do-tasks await me, tasks which fuel so little enthusiasm as to be remotely filed and archived for just such rainy days

in the manner of these featureless, grey days i have been feeling somewhat melancholic in heart and the vast canvas of the sky seemed to be a reflection of the reality of recent events…

thus, i have not been motivated to paint much, well perhaps for an hour or so, here and there, when the mood takes. it seems too self-indulgent to ‘just paint’ when real-life concerns pile up like the laundry, and then there has been the issue of the quality of daylight

here are a couple of close-up images of one of my current paintings, lichenscape II (a work in progress), taken earlier on today…

lichenscape ii - abstract painting - lichen textures detail
detail of the surface of the painting, lichen on stone textures

i had a rash moment of destructive thinking when evaluating this canvas (perhaps inspired by these photographic reframings, seeing paintings within paintings), deciding that i might cut up the canvas into nine smaller ones – the lack of a decent-sized studio space to work in is almost unbearable at times…

i have found that in attending to these two large canvases (aka the lichenscapes) it has clouded my creative process – i realise that i am trying to condense into these two paintings a subjective concern which would be better pursued over eight or ten (or even more) paintings. myriad other thoughts (too nebulous to be proper working concepts or ideas) also run daily through my mind, and then i have to remind myself to just focus

lichenscape 2 painting - detail of surface textures
another detail of the textured surface of a lichen-esque painting

exhibition news

yesterday evening i attended the private view of the exhibition rebirth. lorraine cooke, the curator of the exhibition, has done an amazing job in bringing this show together. i feel most privileged to have some of my paintings included in this art exhibition.

i realise that i am still reticent in ‘working‘ the private view scenario, as i slowly perused the exhibition on the opening night – this is probably due to: a) being very slight and thus am always less ‘visible’ in a busy gallery crowd, and also b) a (now) love/hate relationship with my new dr marten boots. i walked to the gallery from the train station and worked up some fine blisters – such small injuries can really be the breaking of the spirit.

i also met and chatted with the artist veronica grassi – she has some quite beautiful textural, sculptural pieces in this exhibition. barbara leaney’s dogwood sculptures are also quite spectacular, as are the smaller, detailed works of the contemporary japanese artists included in the show. i urge anyone passing through the fine city of norwich to go and see the exhibition at gallery art1821 – it is open until 8th september 2010 – you can also read more about the rebirth exhibition on art 1821’s website

to further the idleness of my daily musings and observations, dear reader, may i introduce to you my humble sketching kit? (i always like to travel light, a habit instilled in me since my inter-railing journeys across europe)

winsor newton cotman sketchers watercolour box
my winsor & newton sketchers’ box of watercolours

very small jam jar for sketching watercolours
a tiny tiptree jam jar (for water)

assorted sketching pencils derwent and caran d'ache
an assortment of stubby sketching pencils, mostly derwent & caran d’ache

and here is a composite image of my sketchbookiness of the last few days, 21-29 july, 2010…

sketchbook pages - studies of clouds and skies, late july 2010
skies and clouds sketches

sketchbook drawing - study of a grey cloud
monday, mid afternoon, looking east across fields towards marshes, high up in the sky, grey centre… in graphite, pencil and watercolour…

sketchbook drawing - more skies and clouds
wednesday, early afternoon… looking east, cooler, bright, clouds moving fast… in graphite and pencil…

sketchbook drawing - study of an afternoon sky
thursday, late afternoon, slim, dark clouds moving laterally, about 5pm…

this is becoming slightly obsessive; i have a mild desire to master the morphing art of the east anglian skies…

and i penned another haiku style poem, or my own ode to a cloud

a cloud
tarnished silver
darkening the weeping willows

i am now thinking of joining the cloud appreciation society, whose pledge is to fight the banality of blue-sky thinking

see my cloud drawings animation from last year: the art of idleness

last chance to seetextures, traces & elements at beyond the image gallery – the exhibition closes at 4pm on sunday 1st august 2010.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust (remembrance of things past)