Friday, 14 October 2016

Hoorah for Denzil Forrester!

Denzil Forrester, 'Witchdoctor', oil on canvas, 240 x 360cms, 1983

Hoorah for Denzil Forrester!

I saw some photos an artist friend recently posted on Facebook of her attendance at a Denzil Forrester exhibition in London, a painter I used to, and still do, admire a great deal but whose work I rarely see or hear of these days. Curious, I found myself looking Denzil and this exhibition up on the internet the following day at work and was delighted to see that Denzil seems to be enjoying some renewed and much belated critical acclaim and recognition for his work in an exhibition curated by none other than Peter Doig in a gallery, ‘Tramps’, that he runs in London.   
 Artist Peter Doig and Denzil carrying one of Denzil's paintings at his home in Truro, Cornwall

Apparently Doig too has long been an admirer of Denzil’s paintings, and has been also been instrumental in introducing Forrester’s work to a New York audience with a forthcoming show at the White Columns gallery in that city, which is run by British curator Matthew Higgs, following a sell out show of Denzil’s drawings at Frieze New York. 
A selection of Denzil's nightclub drawings at NY Frieze. These drawings were all made on location in these clubs in the Seventies and Eighties
It’s great to see a painter so talented, yet overlooked, getting some much deserved recognition and success. I first came across Denzil’s paintings of London’s Blues and Dub clubs and British Black Caribbean street life when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Sunderland in 1990 when his touring exhibition, ‘Dub Transition’, came to Newcastle’s Laing Gallery. Forrester was a friend of our Head of Painting, Virginia Bodman from their days at the Royal College of Art together and he came to the Painting Department as a visiting tutor twice, giving the most amazing talk to students which contained a strong political and social dimension, to a packed out lecture theatre, and I had tutorials with him on both occasions about my paintings I was making at the time about the white, working class night life of West Yorkshire. 
Denzil Forrester, 'Untitled', oil on canvas, 180 x 120cms, 1983

He became a big influence for a while on this work, especially his dynamic and very intelligent use of colour and the very sophisticated way he described space in his complex compositions, and I learned a lot from his work, but I did also feel a bit pushed in that direction by the tutor’s enthusiasm for his work, and it ended up being a bit more difficult to find my own language for my ideas.
'Carnival Dub', oil on canvas, 240 x 300cms, 1983
Funny now that I know Doig is an admirer, how I can see Denzil’s influence in his own work inspired more by the tropical landscape of Trinidad, his adopted home, particularly in his own use of colour, but especially in his increasingly expressionist depiction of the figure.   
Peter Doig, 'Cricket Game/ Figure By The Pool', oil on canvas
Denzil back in the Eighties 
So, I love Denzil Forrester’s paintings, but the ones I know and have seen, and are currently on show at Tramps, were all painted in the Eighties: I can find no evidence of any paintings since….so what has he been doing all this time? He has said, I noticed, with his new found New York success he is giving up his teaching work to concentrate on painting full-time so I will eagerly await to see the results.




Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Love and Loss in 'A Minor Place'...

'The Road', oil on canvas, 15 x 15 cms, 2015
Private Collection
I was packing up my small paintings on Tuesday evening in the Upper Gallery at The Artists Workhouse at the end of the ‘A Minor Place’ exhibition when I noticed that there was a red dot on the label for ‘The Road’. My heart beat a bit faster as I went through my box, which I thought I had been packing with this and the other small canvasses that had accompanied it. It wasn’t there but I hadn’t noticed until now. My heart now sank. Not that one, I thought. ‘The Road’ was my personal favourite, one of those paintings that only come along every few years, and a painting I had deliberated for ages about before putting it in the show as to whether I should label it ‘not for sale’.  But I hadn’t and now it was gone.

And I never had chance to let it go personally as it had been sold by Dawn at the gallery just five minutes before the exhibition ended altogether on Sunday afternoon, so it had been wrapped and taken away there and then. I’m aware now of sounding a bit mawkish, and it is great Dawn managing to sell it; to an Australian visitor who lives in Stratford but works in London, the painting reminding her of her commute but also possessing something unidentifiable that drew her in. The same unidentifiable quality I loved about it too. It’s nice that someone else ‘connected’ with it enough to want to buy it.  ‘Just do another one’, joked Andy and Hugh. 
'The Wait', oil on canvas, 15 x 15cms, 2015
Private Collection
I also did a nice swap with Hugh with ‘The Wait’, another favourite from this series, for one of Hugh’s artworks, so now, having sold another in January from my ‘The Lie Of The Land’ exhibition, with this set of paintings being now quite depleted it does feel the time is right to do another one. Or more. It’s always best to look forward, not back.

As Hugh, Andy and I slunk to the pub after packing up our respective artworks, with each of us having sold a few pieces, and the positive reception the exhibition has received, there was a pleasing satisfaction with the whole experience felt between us and a feeling that we had pulled something off, with a little help, that had been really good. 

I could write more about it all, but I never took many photos, so I think it might be better to direct you to some great posts by Hugh on his blog about it. He shares some great photos and as ever, some thoughtful ruminations about it all too:

Thursday, 1 September 2016

'A Minor Place' by Hugh Marwood

'Vestige 8', Hugh Marwood, 
Acrylics, Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel, French Polish, Misc. Solvents& Decorator's Caulk on Panel, 60 cm X 60 cm, 2016

I'd like to share the text that artist Hugh Marwood has written to accompany the exhibition, 'A Minor Place' at Artists Workhouse, Studley...

A Minor Place

Wandering and wondering in a minor place.   Bathed in the sick glow of industrial light and irradiated sky.  Be-totemed with blank Cadmium.  The high-tension hum within the skull, where purpose falters - adrift in the amnesiac zones.

Night falls in through particulate dusk, and the ticking intervals of cooling diesels.  Looming tractor-units corralled in galvanized stockades.  The petro-dollar trail of oiled tarmac and the iridescent film on a sluggish canal.  An economy falters.  Cargoes at statutory rest - just in time.

An ice field of clustered cabs.  Blue TV flicker through a screen of filth.  The camera, winking red with each passing.  The parasite whine of servo motors - high above the city’s distant quake.  Remotely monitored, Auto-land.
'Artic Landscape', Shaun Morris, oil on canvas, 200x150cms, 2015-16

And on - drifting, disembodied amidst dirty render and cataract panes, in an endless Now of abandoned occupancy.  The scraped palimpsest and wiped window.  Vestigial frames and the petrified squiggle of redundant mastic.  Searching for anagrams amongst scattered shards of signage.  Take no notice – the passage is redacted.  Your name erased – wiped in solvent.  Listen for the echo of lost voices – dying away in haunted spaces.
 'Wiped Windows 15, Hugh Marwood, photograph

Nothing left now, but the assemblage of new fictions.  Erect a pin-board of forgotten dreams.  Memos of abuse on adhesive notelets.  Navigate with new, bogus mythologies – rejecting useless maps of uncharted territories.

Salvage these halftone tatters and discarded communiqués.  Compose a fitting memorial.  Only collage serves now – if new clues are to emerge.  Gather the lost, plastic cattle, herding them indoors, and into pastures new.
 'What Makes You Act So Cruely and Violently Toward The Children?'Andrew Smith, collage and acrylic on canvas 

There is abundant birdlife beneath the interchange.  And a warehouse of meaning out there, somewhere - on a permanently illumined trading estate.  It hums softly, in the shadow of the motorway, at 3 am.

Hugh Marwood, 2016

The exhibition opens on Saturday morning 3rd September. Hope to see some of you there....

'What Am I Doing Hangin' Round?

We worked hard last night to install ‘A Minor Place’ at The Artists Workhouse Gallery in Studley. When I say ‘we’, I mean myself and my fellow artist friends Andrew Smith and Hugh Marwood, with Hugh travelling down from Leicester.
None worked harder though than the gallery director, Dawn Harris and her partner Martin, who patiently and without complaint to physically hang each piece, giving us invaluable advice and guidance.
Due to our respective work commitments, we couldn’t start till in the evening at six, working through until 10.30. A celebratory pint at one of Studley’s seventeen pubs(!) later was incredibly welcome later.
I think the show looks really good. I’m incredibly impressed by Andy and Hugh’s respective paintings and other artworks, and felt a bit wobbly about my own work in comparison. It felt rather unsophisticated and clumsy. A bit like me. It will be interesting to see how it is received on Saturday evening’s Private View…

Friday, 26 August 2016

'We Had Stayed Up All Night'

'King of The Road', oil on canvas, 2015 
Ahead of ‘A Minor Place’ opening next Saturday on September 3rd, here is a piece of writing by artist Andrew Smith. It will feature in a new publication by Indigo Octagon designed and created by artist Chris Cowdrill that will be for available for sale at the exhibition.

Andrew’s piece is a response to my lorry paintings, and is an adaptation of ‘The Futurist Manifesto’ by Italian artist Marinetti, written in 1908 as a ‘celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry’, in which Andrew has combined lots of phrases and language associated with trucks and the trucking life on the road. It’s a typically highly imaginative and surprising response from Andrew. I love it: 
'The Road', oil on canvas, 2015
‘We had stayed up all night’
We had stayed up all night, my friends and I, one with dispatcher brains, the other deadhead with tow chain of filigreed brass.  Sometimes we were driving by braille, at other times eyeballing the colouring book.  For hours we put the hammer down on the big slab, up to the last confines of total logistics control and blackening many a blue eagle with our super single tyres.
An immense pride was buoying us up, because we felt alone in those hours, like proud old gears, or forward knight squires against an army of hostile pole cats glaring at us from galaxy 949.  Alone like suicide jockeys feeding on motion lotion at the pickle park, alone with the training swifts who grope in the red-hot bellies of the freight shakers launched down their crazy courses, alone with the high speed chicken feeders reeling like wounded birds into the disco lights.
Suddenly we jumped, hearing the squawk box, and the huge off roaders that rumbled by ablaze with confusion lights, like massholes on holiday suddenly struck and uprooted by the flooding performance cummins.
Then the silence deepened.  But as we listened to the blue radio tooth muttering its feeble rambo, and the creaking rocking chair, we suddenly heard the famished roar of the nada trucks.
“Let’s go!” I said. “Friends, away! Let’s go! The polar bear and the better half are defeated at last.  We’re about to see the birth of the Pumpkin … we must smash the gates of life, brush our hair and comb our teeth.  Let’s go! Look there, on the earth, the very first dawn!  There’s nothing to match the splendour of the salad bar after winter, the ball bearing turbo slashing through the millennial gloom!”
We went up to our three snorting beasts, to lay amorous hands on their torrid breasts.  I stretched out my covered waggon like a corpse, but revived at the wheel, felt the hammer threaten my stomach.
High speed chicken feed swept us out of ourselves, blew our doors off, drove us through the clean shots.  And like young lions we raced after Death, the meat wagon: to be greasy side up, and back in the yard.  Death, domesticated, met us at every turn, holding out its paw like a city kitty. “Let’s break out of the swindle sheets, the chicken coop of safety, shake the bushes like the wind.  Let’s give ourselves utterly to the Unknown, not in desperation or at 10-33 or on cheap cb, but as comedians starting a new career at Paschall Services.”
Andrew Smith and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.
 'The Tyres Rushing By In The Rain', oil on canvas, 2015

Thursday, 11 August 2016

'A Minor Place'

I’m excited to share this poster and flyer about a forthcoming exhibition I am showing some of my recent paintings in and have organized with artist friends Andrew Smith and Hugh Marwood. The exhibition, ‘A Minor Place’, is at the Artists Workhouse in Studley, just twenty minutes drive from Birmingham, and opens on Saturday September 3rd. I will be exhibiting some of my new large paintings, at 200 x 150cms the largest I made in some time, and in contrast some of my smallest canvasses based on trucks etc. I’m also boldly previewing a video animation I have made based on my digital i-pad paintings, which I have shared on the blog recently. 
The animation was Hugh’s idea as a way of presenting them and I’m pleased to say it seems to have worked quite well, although I am also thinking of making a small book and having some mounted for sale at the exhibition too. I hope to share it on the website soon, and also put it on Youtube, which is a first for me, although I have made several films about my work over the years I have not shared publicly. I’ll be posting a few more things about the exhibition this month as it gets nearer, but for now I hope you like the poster which has been designed, based on a photograph of mine, by my good friend and artist Chris Cowdrill. He’s also currently collaborating on a publication to accompany the exhibition too.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


Sculptor Des Hughes
Through my membership of Eastside Projects’ ‘Extra Special People’ I enjoyed the opportunity yesterday to meet ‘1-2-1’ with artist sculptor Des Hughes at the gallery about my own work. I’d applied hoping that the common ground we seemed to share in our individual interest in transforming the everyday and familiar in our practise might be of interest to him and getting some valuable critical feedback on my current work.
Des Hughes, 'Do You Think Of Me Often?', 2011
I really like Des’s sculptures-they are right up my street. I enjoy the skill and craft of the work, but also the wit and imagination and all the different contextual and historical references that they explore, play and converse with, both materially and conceptually.  (You can see some examples through this post). 

I’m pleased to report that Des was exactly the same in person and we seemed to get on well. The conversation flowed easily for twice our allotted slot of 45 minutes and he seemed to engage seriously and have a keen sensitivity to many of the issues I am trying to explore in my own work. This was in relation to my own interest in the craft, materials and process of my work, but also pushing me to think more about the ideas behind the work, what I am trying to say, which is something I’m not as confident about. It all seems to have multiple possible meanings and associations, which is ok on one hand, but also hard to discuss coherently. We talked about my relationship with the places I’m depicting, with Des stressing that, for him, it was ‘all about the spaces’ in the paintings: the spaces that the trucks occupy and the spaces in the trucks themselves. I’m left thinking about that most keenly, and feel that my new large paintings are my attempt to explore some of those issues. 
Des Hughes, 'Rust Never Sleeps',  2015
I had taken three of the more modest sized paintings to discuss as well as looking at my website, which he had viewed before our meeting. Des was also very enthusiastic about the new black and white digital i-pad prints I have made, which I laid out on a long bench in the gallery. I’ve now made nearly twenty of these, and Des commented how he thought the scale of them worked perfectly, which is what I think, but you never know how other people will respond. I took these hoping to gauge a more objective response, as these digital works are a new development for me, and so I was really pleased by his enthusiasm., and we discussed how best to present them which is a dilemma I have. I hope to exhibit some of them in the group show I am putting together with Hugh and Andy in August. 
Des and I are the same age, and completed our Foundation Courses at Bournville College of Art in Birmingham at the same time. I recognised in him the same passion and commitment to making work that I have. He’s just managed to translate that into being much more successful as an artist than I have! (I’m referring to him being able to support himself full-time through his work).   

As I ate breakfast this morning I stared at my bookshelves filled with countless art books and monographs, which I can afford now, but also the countless small catalogues I used to acquire and read and take to the studio to inspire over the many years when I had no money at all but still painted as if my life depended on it. As I get older, you do wonder what it is you are doing and why, as I know I am never going to translate any of this hard work and conviction into anything more successful, and I think that gets even harder as you get older. And also you make all this ‘stuff’ that accumulates and accumulates, and yet I can’t seem to stop. Nor do I want to.