Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Jack Dee on Desert Island Discs...

I listened with a great deal of interest to Jack Dee discussing his life on Radio Four’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ on Sunday. I love this show: the simple format of it, and the fascination it holds for me to just listen to people, from whatever walk of life they exist in, talk about their lives, which I also love. I found I had a great deal of empathy for certain key things he discussed, one of them being education and his experience at school, and how he just had a massive problem with just sitting in a classroom being asked to listen and write about stuff. This is something I now realise I have a problem with even now, and which emerged during my time at high school as I became increasingly bored and lost with what school was all about, what it could offer me and what I had to offer. I gradually got worse and only just scraped my O levels , and completely failed my A levels, lacking any motivation between the ages of 17 to 18 other than music, with art being the only subject I was remotely interested in. It was only when I started studying on a Foundation Course in Art and Design, having managed to secure a place based on my portfolio only (one of the reasons I failed my A levels-once I realised I didn’t need them anymore for the Foundation Course, I was gone), that this whole world of painting and art slowly opened up in front of me, and, with some key encouragement (a massively important thing!) I found a passion and a purpose. Ever since then, through two degrees and a long and disciplined painting practice, I have been a model student. 
'Factory', oil on canvas, 120 x 80cms, 2014
Despite now standing at the front of the class as a lecturer, I still feel very uncomfortable as a student in most situations that are more classroom based, such as the continued professional training sessions that one is expected to go to at work.  I’m truly terrible sometimes, easily reverting to my teenage self: sitting at the back if I can, out of the way, fidgeting uncomfortably: easily bored or distracted; daydreaming, reluctant to join in the group activities. I’m very aware of these feelings of education when I’m teaching, and work hard to subtly manage the students and the studio so they are all comfortable, which can cause me a headache at times when things get a bit chaotic, but I think that is all part of trying to deliver a creative subject. 
 i-Pad study
Dee also discussed how performing is not a problem in his life, but non-performing is. When he is not doing that, or working towards it, he feels completely deprived of something he needs. I completely understood this in relation to my painting, and it picks up on points I made in a recent blog post.  If you’re in any way creative you need an outlet, and as Dee further stated, ‘you ignore this at your peril. And it’s a pain’. It is a pain. And it can be a pain for those around you too, but it is just something you need to do. I’ve been thinking a lot about these issues lately, reflecting on the difficulties I encountered in Norway, and putting my family through that because of my painting. I found Jack Dee’s insights really affirming. 

Friday, 9 May 2014

Weightless Again- The Handsome Family

I’ve been revisiting the many albums of The Handsome Family this week, having happily read about some long deserved commercial success for the married duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks with their track ‘Far From Any Road’ being a hit all over the world after it’s use in the soundtrack of HBO’s ‘True Detective’ series. I’ve got most of their records and enjoy them all, and have seen them live on several occasions, which is a great, and very funny with the dry onstage banter between them, experience. They are currently on tour over here which would be worth checking out if it hasn’t sold out on the back of this recent success. 
The records are all consistently good, but I particularly like ‘Last Days Of Wonder’. The music itself is a mixture of lots of folk and country influences and the Harry Smith Anthology, with Brett’s wonderful George Jones like timbered baritone, singing about all sorts of weird and wonderful things, often to do with a the natural world and our relationship with it, with the lyric’s penned by Rennie, a gifted writer. Much is made of the weird, occasionally surreal, themes in the lyrics, but they equally write very affectingly about broken relationships and the more existential qualities in the mundane and ordinary. It was in fact such a song, ‘So Much Wine’ from the great ‘In The Air’ album that got me into them into in the first place many years ago, and took me to a rather dingy pub in Birmingham to see them live, and witness one of the most memorable gigs of my life. It turns out lots of friends I’ve since made were all there too. This great music brings people together…Here are a few links to enjoy:


I made this small study in oil on paper based on some photos taken at a large transport depot underneath the M5 outside Oldbury. In it’s view of the rear of some large articulated goods lorries seen through the railings. Everything is half seen or cut-off and in this way it seems to assert the abstract geometric shapes; the squares, triangles, rectangles, in the recent things I’ve been making. These qualities seemed to present themselves more during the painting and the more careful looking required.
 Elizabeth O'Reilly, 'Red Container', oil on panel, 18''x17'', 2007

It’s a bit clumsy and heavy-handed, but reminded me a bit (in my dreams) of the paintings of Irish American painter Elizabeth O’Reilly (above). I admire her modest paintings a great deal, enjoying their direct lightness of touch and the vitality in the mark making, as well as the urban, off-the track subject matter of course.  
'Green Trailer', oil on panel, 16''x15'', 2007
 She’s a friend and former student of painter Lois Dodd, which makes sense, and apparently they often go on painting excursions together. Wish I could join them…

Friday, 2 May 2014

'Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better'

I like to exhibit my work and try and communicate with an audience, but really it’s just the act of painting, or creating something, that drives me on. This seems much more so as I get older. I like thinking about something, and then developing it through drawings and studies and other things, and then trying to make a painting. When I’ve done that, I hopefully get to the point where I believe I’ve nailed it in some way, but usually by the next day I’m thinking about the next one. Let’s face it, most paintings I make are exhibited briefly and then are largely hidden away and rarely looked it after I’ve made them. I think these feelings of ambivalence are pretty normal for most artists. I think the gallery experience often feels like something you feel you should have to do, rather than something you want to do. With these feelings in mind, I’ve been painting over a few older paintings lately, or taking them off stretchers to reuse the frames for new work.
I completed this painting last night. It’s taken about a year to complete, but I finally completely re-painted it in about an hour. It just suddenly felt like the right time.