i-Pad painting 9/12/2013, Oldbury
I was in the studio painting a large canvas on Sunday evening, the night before going back to work after the festive break. It occurred to me that since I became a parent two and a half years ago, I create an awful lot of my paintings on a Sunday night. I’ve become the proverbial Sunday painter. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that, but maybe it’s closer to the truth than I’d like to admit sometimes.
It’s a New Year, and I’m approaching the second year of my Arts Council funding in February. After much thinking about my Scandinavian experience and the work I made there, I’ve decided to just get on and enjoy exploring some of it in some larger canvasses, more excited now about the possibilities it holds to open up some new areas in my practice, than other problems they may hold. On Sunday I worked on a large banded seascape, which felt rather exhilarating. I loved working with a different palette after the recent motorway work, and also to try and fill a painting with a sense of air and light after the dark oppression in the other paintings. I felt like I was by the sea, breathing in the fresh air. I’m not sure if the painting reaches that feeling though, but no matter. I feel like I’m at a point now after much procrastination, where I just want to dive in and see what I can find. It’s so often like that when it comes to my work.At the same time, I’m also equally committed to getting back out into the ‘edgelands’ and seeing what I can find on my day off, and weaving any work about Scandinavia around this. The motorway paintings have presented to me the idea that a particular place that may contain more personal resonances is of importance to me in regard to working from the landscape, and that when I look more carefully at other landscape artist’s this is obviously the case for most of them too. It seems an important part of the tradition. I’m just always a bit wary of being too conscious of tradition with regard to my own work, as if that may kill something more unselfconscious off for some reason.
John Constable, 'Salisbury Cathedral'
But these things are there to consider: from Constable’s relationship to Suffolk’s Dedham Vale, Graham Sutherland’s to Pembrokeshire, George Shaw and his native Tile Hill in Coventry, Diebenkorn’s Santa Monica and ‘Ocean Park’ abstracts, Hockney’s Yorkshire Wolds, or Alex Katz and Lois Dodd’s Maine or New York. Shaun Morris and West Bromwich doesn’t seem quite the same does it, but George Shaw and Tile Hill is a good example of how an artist can say so much about the seemingly inconsequential and overlooked place. But in a way, I think all the above artists do this: we now see these places through their art.
Graham Sutherland, 'Fallen Lift Shaft'
George Shaw, 'Present and Correct'
David Hockney, 'Late Autumn'Richard Diebenkorn,'Yellow Porch'
Lois Dodd, 'Late November Afternoon'
Anyway, on Thursday I found myself once again underneath the M5 in the cold January sunlight, this time near Oldbury, at a spot I’ve had my eye on for a while; craning my neck as I drive over the bridge that crosses the canal beneath to catch a view of the striking reflections. When I got down there I discovered a great spot. The motorway pillars loomed much taller here, and in places were arranged like a dense concrete forest. The sunlight really animated the space with the long cast shadows, and strong tonal contrasts and bouncing light on the pillars themselves. The reflections were also incredible, with their offering of this deep spatial, upside-down illusion, which giddily draws you in. I’m going to fall in one day as I edge nearer and nearer. I just know it.
I made an i-pad study of the flickering shapes and shadows on the perimeter wall of a large industrial plant that backed on to the canal, which held equal fascination. I also took some photographs and made some drawings to help me consider some compositional ideas. I hope to return there next week to do some further painting on location, but also would like to return in the evening to capture the sodium light from the motorway above reflected in the water.
Walking out of a dark, low tunnel to experience these science fiction-like structures eerily rising up is not something you come across every day. There are lots of hidden things in the edgelands….