Moving on …

Mary Fletcher reviewed my show at Redwing and I thought I needed to reply.

I live down here, out on the raggedy edge, in Penwith — witchy and wild, beautiful and hard and a long long way from any metro­polis.

Why would I try to evoke the atmospheric landscape, why would I want to wallow in expres­sionist, material, slippy sloppy slidey, sweeping, oily paint. It’s all too easy and all too hard — impossible. Been there. Got lost and lonely and felt the strength draining from my hand.
Sunrise can take your breath away, the thundering surf can inspire real awe, the hard undertow of riptide and granite batholith beneath your feet can unnerve you, one false step … the wind can scour and the wide skies drown you, beauty is real and terri­fying, so what can I do, say, about that? And why would I want to? There’s more to life than this.

shrooms

Be honest. Be simple. Be modest. How modest can you be?

I make things. Decor­ative panels to decorate. That’s all.
And that’s a lot. I am confident, skilled, still and hard. I know what I’m doing. I think.
And the subject matter is arbitrary. Stuff.
And not. Surreal in that it bubbles up, crystal­lises, makes real dream images.
Nothing, no-one is blank … we can’t pretend to be … we are moved by forces bigger, deeper than us. I deal with it, OK. I want to be blanker so I take what I’m given.
Then work.

lamassu

It can be grand in terms of culture but does anyone care that the Lamassus were the guardian spirits of Mesopotamia? That Reapers are hunting them down?

What do I think about our alien­ation from the natural world, “real” food, “authentic” poverty? How do I react to the fetish­ising of weapons, to the visceral fear and hatred of the dispos­sessed? How do I feel about the abuse of power and the immunity of privilege?
It’s complicated.
I am furious and raging and impotent and confused … glamour is glamour, power is power, the world as it is is all we have, and we are just what we are. I want to look it all in the face … and try to under­stand, not lash out and condemn — I know what I believe but who am I to judge?
The English are implacably binary: if it turns you on it’s porn, if not it’s erotica. If an image of heroism doesn’t inspire, conjure up, illicit heart pounding, wide eyed pride, what’s the point. If an image of fear and despair doesn’t unnerve you, disarm you, crush you a little, what’s it for. If an image of something powerful doesn’t give you a moment of swaggering, arrogant superi­ority, why bother? Good drugs make you feel good, no?
I am ambivalent. Implicated. Guilty. And sad. And angry and full of joy and fear like all of us.
And busy … making images.

Red Flag

Banksy does what Banksy does and does it brilliantly but I have no interest in easy scores, in polemic, lectures, stand-up … one-liners. All I ask, I suppose, is that you stop.
Stop and think. Question. Pause.

silly sisters

Every minute you spend with a painting, a work of art, is a minute you are not being bought, sold to, exploited, working for someone else … it’s a minute for you, your time. So precious.

hammock

And so I’m drawing like crazy. Searching for a theme, a guiding star.

I’m so unsure that I need a head of steam, can I do it, is there enough, does it make sense, is it strong and true, does anyone care? And so … getting there.

Smile - Ferry Crossing

So the plan is … a sketch a day … a theme will emerge. Ideas are already accreting: Doing, Women … we’ll see.

And then … today … I didn’t get to finish anything.

Except this …

Social Disease

party
Opening Party

Andy Warhol had “social disease” — he’d go to the opening of a toilet seat.

Me too.

Still haven’t quite come down. Been busy making prints and renov­ating my fixer-upper website but still grooving on the amazing support and encour­agement from all our friends last week.

I’ve only just noticed that everyone kept their coats on — it was that cold? And people are reading?

Thanks N … it was lovely.

Life is too short

flatforms-redwing-3
Prints

But it isn’t … and if we don’t do this shit it will be even more impov­er­ished.

Finally forced my way through the shitty waves and made it out to sea, put up a perfunctory gallery of pics from my Redwing show last week.

It’s not as though there aren’t more important things that I should be doing: like doing what I can to help our PPC Alana Bates and the whole fucking Labour Party win a fucking election.

Like supporting NCB and doing something to keep our home in one piece.

But life goes on.

And if you couldn’t come, you can get a feel for what it was like.

I had visions of a bit of any easy time once this was over.
7 hours a day, 7 days a week for 7 months has a sort of biblical ring to it and I was looking forward to a secular sabbath. Ho hum.

Now I need to make the prints and try to get some decent archive pics of the paintings … and then set to again.

Enjoy.

What’s it all about …

The Adoration of the Golden Calf
The Adoration of the Golden Calf

Words, words, words.

Not comfortable with them. Don’t trust them.
That’s why I paint.
If you want to win an argument, if you want to change someone’s mind, if you want to change the world, you need words. I’m sure of that. And I stumble and forget and get confused but when I paint … it flows.

Art, music, a painting never changed anything. Never changed anyone’s mind.
The greatest paintings, individually, they’re 4 minute pop songs. With all the trivi­ality of that and, sometimes all the deep connec­tions and lingering emotional charge and potential of that. We hope.
But they can grab you for those 4 minutes. For those 4 minutes you’re not alone. We can commune. Us. Share. Dance together in our imagin­ation.

And at my opening on Friday people kept asking questions … derr … of course you did … I would.

And so …

Take my piece: The Adoration of the Golden Calf.

I started with the “civil” war in Syria.
Guilt and shame tearing at me.
And I look to Nicholas Poussin’s painting.

The Adoration of the Golden Calf
The Adoration of the Golden Calf

Because it’s embedded in my cultural world.
Because it’s in “the canon” — so it’s embedded in others’ worlds too.
Because it’s shared in our stories, the stories that still, almost, bind us together.
Because, when I started on it, we were “commem­or­ating” the end of the First World War.
And because it was Aaron what done it. Fucked up. But he still got to lead us to the promised land. How does that work? It was a little bit personal.

OK, so we need an altar, a plinth. And I take Edwin Lutyens’ cenotaph on Whitehall. An empty tomb (a kenotaphion).

And then I need Wilfred Owen’s poem, written during the first world war, quoting Horace: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and right to die for one’s country), yeah, right, whatever. English lessons at an English school. So it goes on the plinth.

And then we need a golden calf. And so I take Arturo Di Modica’s tacky and revolting Charging Bull from Wall Street as an appro­priate stand in. What drives this sort of inter­na­tional politics after all? Money … wars.

And we need a place for it all to be and so I steal the mountainous landscape from Poussin’s own painting.

And in the sky, tracer fire over Damascus.

And I put it all together and make a drawing. Lots of drawings.

And do you need to know this shit? No.
But does it help? Maybe. Maybe it always did. It did then, in the 17th century.
And maybe we shouldn’t forget the way our culture grew and consumed and subsumed new ones and can now welcome new stories and bind us all together in a shared dreaming.

Making it real

Sea Watch

Getting it right …

Hmmm … it’s just not good enough. Doesn’t come close.

Going to have to put some serious thought into how to properly photo­graph my paintings.
Their dynamic range, gamut, whatever it’s called, is too wide to grasp with my DSLR. We do have a big white gazebo‑y, tent‑y thing that might do as a giant lightbox in lieu of monster strobes. But that’s going to have to wait for the rain to stop so … who knows … it is entirely possible that there might be a dry day next year … some time.

I’ve tried to put up some pics on Facebook and Instagram as well but I’m not sure how well they work and as these things take anywhere between 2 and 6 weeks to paint, they’re not exactly going to be frequent posts.

It’s weird: social media totally baffles me. It’s not that I’m anti-social, don’t want to share … don’t get me wrong — after all: it’s what I do all day.

Maybe I’m just more comfortable monologuing like a psychopath in a third rate super hero movie. Or communing, wordlessly like a shaman.
Or that once I’m done, I’m done in. Nothing much left to say.

Strangely, in the past couple of weeks I have heard two singers talking about how important it is to take your instruc­tions from the outside.
One of whom was a shaman from the Amazon talking about the importance of performing the ritual absolutely correctly or the gods would be displeased and punish him.
And the other was a great Sufi singer who said that, when you get it right, you do not sing, you are sung. I loved that: by the song, by god, the universe, whatever.

And I’ve always been very uncom­fortable about tradi­tional crafts being shown as “Art”. Masks and statues and fetishes. Their making so often absolutely precludes self-expression of any sort — the god cannot come and inhabit the form if it is not exactly right. It is almost the opposite of what we usually mean by “Art”.

The weird thing that happens when I’m painting, so close I can’t see the image, often upside down, so I can’t see what I’m doing, is that the line seems to draw the brush, not the other way round.
It’s not when you step back and see that it’s right, it feels right as it moves, as it heads off wherever it wants to go. And the fear goes and the doubt and you trust … believe. Or not.
And I love to paint them so much because vectors and Bézier curves on the computer, rock and flex and rotate so elegantly but they have no intention, no destin­ation, no purpose, no reason, no meaning.

The feeling of being sung is beautiful indeed.

Show Time

Mackerel on a Plate
Mackerel on a Plate

Back in the saddle after quite some time …

Showing my new work, Flatforms, at the Redwing Gallery in Penzance.

Hero
Hero

Had a wonderful Opening on Friday … lovely to see so many people.

Ray Gun and Sphinx
It all began with Raygun and Sphinx

Must partic­u­larly thank Harry and Irene, Simon and Gillian, Steve and, of course, Nicole for so much help and support. Could not have done it at all without you all.

Prints
Prints

Show’s on till Thursday.

If you can make it, do pop in.

And it’s all for sale.

Copper and Pink Car Crash
Copper and Pink Car Crash

A new exper­ience for me to see it all up together.

And to answer questions and hear what people think.

New Stakhanov and The Annunciation
New Stakhanov and The Annun­ci­ation

So my studio’s empty … house isn’t big enough … and I’m almost as good as I hoped … and I just said that out loud.

A gallery full of “bobby dazzlers” as my Dad used to call them.

Sea Watch
Sea Watch

Sheesh … that’s a lot of work.

And still so much to do.

So … watch this space

No More Heroes

Anymore …

Whatever happened to all of our heroes … ?

All our Shakespearoes?

Buggered if I know.

We required them to be too pure perhaps, we grew up a bit too much perhaps … but then, perhaps, wisdom is not all it’s cracked up to be?

My tribe tell me that it matters who the the next “leader” is, Prime Minister is — this sclerotic absurd farce of an election for a tory leader … Rory’s our sort of toff shit.

I’m sorry. Seriously. Like I should give a shit?

I know I risk sounding like an old fart who doesn’t appre­ciate contem­porary pop music or something, and I don’t much it’s true, but … seriously …

Nye Bevan

These people built our world.

Problematic … well, derr … but they had vision … and they got shit done.

Compromised and very not PC and not terribly pro Europe either for that matter  but practical and focussed and hard-working and brave and unima­ginably strong … heroes basically

… sorry.

Change of Plan

painting bits
OK, wasn’t expecting that …

Life cannot be navigated without delusions … but shedding them can defin­itely aid flotation.

A separate website of my recent work is just not going to happen any time soon.
Images have been metaphor­ically propped against the walls of my online gallery for over a year and it’s still a bloody building site.
Just too busy actually painting. This is good.

So … move on.

Going back through my most recent notebook/sketchbook the same words and phrases, admon­i­tions and ideas crop up again and again (excluding the flat tires, the hangovers, the flies and the fear):
No colour, no prettiness, no sleight of hand, minimal, pure and abject, maximal, all-over, horror vacui, complexity, grain, dust, residue, precip­itate, scurf, flocculate, material, stuff, palimpsest, strata, trans­lucent, chemistry, atmospherics, organic, fractal, self-organ­ising, crystal­lising, algorithmic, non-determined, uncon­scious, repetition, ritual, process, alive, lost, found, in cycles, dreams, fairytales, collage, mosaic, grids, paradoxes and contra­dic­tions and lots and lots of time …
separ­ating judgement and choice from painting — in time and medium, sidestep the fear, trans­lation from digital to analogue, set the initial condi­tions and then run the simulation, place but no place, specific but out of time, constructed, no focus but focus on everything, no picture of, no open window but an image, an object for the mind, object, no narrative, no story, no drama, no personae, no view, not grand or gothic or romantic, mundane, not spiritual, absolutely no feelings beyond the feeling that everything deserves the attention …
Painting for the love of touching and moving mud and seeing it come alive and change and as a way of having a technology independent, electricity and mediation-free, data-dense method of recording as much of the process as possible …

So it’s all going here … it’s somewhere … somehow … for now … that’s the plan.
That better than a way?

Cornwall Boogie Woogie

cornwall boogie
click to enlarge

The work I’m doing at the moment starts with a grid … well, no: it starts with an image which is then trans­lated into a grid … well, no: several independent grids … aye aye aye, whatever — I need my grid. It’s where I start.
And it’s not just a pretext — the grid has to work on its own, to dance and to tell tales, even if I’m the only one to hear them.

But this one tickled me more than most — getting better at this. Two days ago I was convinced I’d bitten off more than I could chew … and then …

I’m sure I’m a bit weird but I find this strangely rewarding and the making of it as much like a dance as I am comfortable with — so here’s my Cornwall Boogie Woogie, Piet.

Janitor

janitor
click to enlarge

I think the hardest job I ever did, apart from a few excru­ci­ating teaching days, was in the stock rooms of a giant West End store, on the night shift.
It was relentless, physically demanding and left you utterly drained, mentally and physically exhausted.
You passed out rather than fell asleep just when the world was getting up and then as they settled down in front of their TV’s it started all over again.
In those days it was reasonably well paid and no-one monitored you on cctv.

But every night at about 12:30 the cleaners arrived. I think we were their third or forth job and there were many more to do before morning. They worked hard too.
And they ran.
They even managed to snatch breathless snippets of conver­sation with us in broken English.
In a grim way they were heroic.

In my on-going quest to discover in or bestow upon the most humble things some sort of “heroic” dignity, this is my Electrolux Janitor. Studio vacuum cleaner, still going after fifteen years of extremely hard work.

I joke but … it’s also kind of true — there’s so much we overlook, never mind what we unsee.