I went for a walk at the Lickey Hills this afternoon. The mist-shrouded trees reminded me of a painting I did at the start of the year, ‘Winter Painting’. It started me reflecting on my art this year and some of my ambitions then and where I am now, as I enter 2011.
“Winter Painting’s’ image of trees is interesting to me now for a number of reasons. When I made it I was feeling rather lost with my work, and struggling to find a more sustained focus for my painting. It is a feeling that has prevailed for much of the year. Even my Dad, occasional reader of the blog, picked up on it in the summer. He’d read the recent entries and remarked one afternoon, ‘You seem a bit confused, son.’
It’s interesting also because at the end of the year, over the last few months, I’ve found myself painting nothing but trees. I’ve been having a great time too. One piece has happily lead to another and I’ve been happy to just follow my instincts and go with the flow, making large, colourful, but also quickly executed paintings. I’ve found a more sustained focus, and it feels good to be trying to see a series of works through without thinking too much about it at this stage.
I’ve been reluctant to post anything on the website about this as I just wanted to keep things to myself, and felt that I was perhaps showing too much too soon with the blog entries, with paintings made that I’m now not very happy with (see ‘Six Hours In The Studio’ blog). I’m happy to post this one painting below for now though, which I’m particularly pleased with, to illustrate some of what I’ve been doing.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern with the students at JCC. It’s always a bad sign when you find your pace quickening the further you go in the gallery. The paintings just didn’t ‘do it’ for me, which sounds a bit crass I know, as there is so much to admire in Gauguin’s work. It just didn’t touch me at this moment in time. I hastened out of the gallery looking for something a bit meatier and found it in the work of Barnett Newman’s and Lee Krasner’s abstract expressionist paintings. Newman’s paintings particularly gripped me as his thick stripes very much reminded me of tree trunks, and my own current preoccupations. That was a nice bit of contextual reference work for my sketchbook!
In music, I’ve loved many different things this year. My two favourite artists, Bob and Bruce, released some amazing records of previously only bootlegged or unreleased material, ‘The Witmark Demos 1962-64’, and ‘The Promise’, respectively. My most played album and ultimate favourite this year had to be former Czars frontman, John Grant’s debut solo ‘The Queen Of Denmark’. The 70’s soft rock melodies and acerbic, black wit of the lyrics were an amazing combination. I’ve recommended this record to nearly everyone I know.
I’ve read a lot this year too, but mainly books and articles on different artists rather than any novels this year. These have included Jane Frielicher, Rackstraw Downes, Ivon Hitchins, Barbara Rae and many others. I’ve also enjoyed the poetry of American John Ashberry, in his collection ‘A Wordly Country’. Hs poems can be really inscrutable and leave me perplexed, and yet I really enjoy reading them. This reading, particularly around different artists, has been intense at times and has really informed some of the decisions and thinking around my painting.
I previously had intentions of staging an exhibition of my own in November at Chameleon Arts In Walsall. I had booked the space too, but then changed my mind. It felt like it would have been too costly and stressful, for the usual handful of people to see it. It made me question how worthwhile this would be. I’ve done too many exhibitions like this. I want to try something different, and will be planning something in 2011. Anyway, writing about one’s art can be self-indulgent, and I fear that this blog may be tipping into this territory. See you on the other side in 2011…