29 June 2020

Making during CD 19 lockdown: Early Spring 2020

The lockdown came at a time when I was planning to be in the studio for a time of production as for the past two years I have been travelling on residency placements and in most cases, new work has been left with the host collections as part of the terms of Residency.

Therefore as the light began to improve in February, the desire to work in the studio was high plus, during March and April, due to the warm weather the studio began to warm up sooner.

Initially in February drawings were made. These are large acrylic works using black and white with a mixed grey seeking to explore gesture, expressive application of media and tonal relations. I aimed for an overlaying of liquid paint to become an expressive force.. emotionally charged and fluidity in form. In contrast to previous more geometric work, I sought to consciously redefine. With the colour of blacks, Pierre Soulages (1) and Franz Kline were, and have been constant sources of inspiration and now seemed to be the time to embark on a redefined language in my work. I think it is a huge step to break away and redefine ones language in this way; followers and identity are shaken with this change of direction.. but the desire and challenge remain so this transformation of practice maybe is part of the objective and clear state of a questioning practice.

Working on large boards with three sheets of paper on each, moving from one to one as floor based production is in play due to the fluidity of the paint, working in series really takes precedence here; each flows on from the other and in a way there is no direction to them in a linear sense. Backwards and forwards, top to bottom, drawings are worked on in an unconscious semi automatic way; responsive to what is already present yet cancelling, adding and changing at the same instant.

A number of canvases I had prepared from just before I went to Australia remained waiting in the studio and now able to use. Primed for oil paint and all mid range in size on stretchers I had made ten years earlier (at least) I now embarked on a series of oil paintings that would directly develop the progress of making that had taken place on the residencies, namely the more expressive way of working. It is closely aligned to the medium and allowing viscosity of paint to be developed and adapted in as broad a range as possible and moreover, specifically to attempt to have a liquidity for oil paint that would enable the most fluid non brush mark.

I found myself, applying paint and leaving, so with oil an element of overlay would be possible. Technically I had never done this before and using long liner brushes, the paint line is distorted but has a tension that is away from the direct hand drawn brush mark and creates painting that is almost as if it has developed on it own accord. This is always a priority for me; that paint and colour look as if they have just come together. This is still a key aim, despite the almost opposite way of applying paint: no masking tape and a fluid almost splash like mark. The paintings, at the time of writing, are still drying (oil paint takes six months plus) but the results look promising. Certainly image wise, there is good result in several of these paintings I feel. One technical note of importance is that after twenty years or more, I have started using pure linseed oil (bought from Paul A Daniels in Hackney E9 in the late 1980s) that has remained on my palatte for this time (in the sunlight) and it is in first class condition (not the plastic container!) . This mixed with pure turpentine makes a heady medium for oil paint adding to structure rather than destroying (as white spirit does). The medium of oil paint remains for me the premier paint.

Photo shows oil paintings on the easel and on the floor the acrylic on canvas paintings in progress

Preparation of two canvases on stretchers made 25 years ago and recycled. In the foreground the acrylic on canvas paintings progress

A4 Luxlakes Art Museum run an artist in residency programme and devised a project Artist Voice for the lockdown, currently showing as 60 Days of Lockdown. Participants would answer a number of questions preferably by video. I answered the questions with a one minute video of the everyday journey to the studio and sketch of things going on. This low resolution video is designed for mobile screen size:

featuring Batwa No.5 Oil on Canvas completed early on in the lockdown time

(1) I travelled to Paris in early March for the retrospective of Pierre Soulages at the Louvre; but it was closed because of Cd 19 on the day I went but a good selection of his work was at the Pompidou.

30 March 2020

INDIA: Dhrupad Sansthan (Gurukul) Mural

Right to left: Anant Gundecha, Umakant Gundecha, Siraj Saxena and myself at Bhopal

My joint exhibition with Siraj Saxena in Bhopal was due to be opened by his friend the famous Gundecha brothers musician Ramakant Gundecha. His passing a few days before our exhibition was felt greatly in the creative community of India and Siraj had a brilliant idea to create a mural in his honour at the famous Dhrupad Sansthan music school near Bhopal. After discussion with Umakant Gundecha, Anant Gundecha (son of Ramamakant) and Akhilesh Gundecha at the main centre in Bhopal, we spent four amazing days at Dhrupad Sansthan, on site and living with and listening to students and staff focus intently on the creation of Dhrupad music. This was very new to me but I was enthralled particularly by the lesson with Akhilesh Gundecha and his students and the concentrated effort to achieve the right sound. The Sansthan is full of sound and we absorbed much in this special place in a short time.

Dhrupad Sansthan (Gurukul) Mural. November 2019. Siraj Saxena and Andrew Smith

Dhrupad Sansthan arranged for the acrylic paints (camel) and we set to task in the main Gurukul hall at one end of the main performing area. The green walls and subdued light created an ambience to work with and against. Some light was required in this areas high hue was use. Siraj and myself had very little time to prepare for this and probably if there had been more time to plan we would have found many reasons not to do it or to do it in a less spontaneous way, probably separating ares. In the actuality we had to do it and working on a joint or same [painting is an action I have never done before. It was challenging as our methods are different, particularly with regards to layering and using layers to cover and leaving areas uncovered had to be negotiated through our differing sensibilities. In effect, I was pleased with the result and felt that a lot of what I had absorbed in India seemed to appear in the shape and colour. In effect and result the work is a good joint painting statement with combinations of method combining surprisingly well.

Th photographs of progress over the three days can be seen here.

The Dhrupad Journal review of the work can be read here. (A fine interview and article by Eesha Srinivas).

The Times of India 19.11.19

10 March 2020

India: Mandu, Shadiabad (City of Joy) Malwa, Madhya Pradesh

Mandu 1470 to 1500 is set high on a plateau against Vindhya hills at Malwa, close to Indore.. including Jal Mahal; Jahaj Mahal (ship like palace); Baz Bhadurs’ palace; Rupmati pavilion (above) (high point at 365 meter overlooking Nimar valley); Hoshang Shah mausoleum and Jami Masjid mosque.
The cross over of Islamic (Persian) and Hindu architecture is some of finest in India and inspiration for Taj Mahal (particulary Hoshang Shah)...elegant arches creating symphonies of interior space and distinctive curved window and door arches with cusp point. Here, the location and architecture fuse together.
Thank you Navneet Mhatre and Siraj Saxena. Photo shoot and information here.

Jahaz Mahal or the ship palace was built by Ghiyas-ud-din to serve as the harem for his 15000 maidens. The name of the palace is derived from its narrow shape, resembling a ship, lying between two lakes—Munja and Kapur.

India: Sanchi and Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

Rock shelters and paintings at Bhimbetka were discovered in 1957 dating to 100000 BC. Among 500 shelters there are paintings in mineral colours of hunters, dancers and warfare with humans riding elephant and horse. Geometric design and a depiction of a child’s hand are among images that predate many other world sites. There is a mystical feel to this place with the natural architecture creating an ambience of timelessness. Never have I been able to get so close to ancient wall painting...thank you Siraj Saxena and Nirmala Sharma for this visit...Photo shoot including information here

Sanchi Stupa

Sanchi Stupa. 1st to 2nd century (Shunga Dynasty) sculpture at one of India’s main sculpture sites. The sculpture represents the life and teaching of Buddha and mainly on the the railings and gates around the hemispheric memorial mounds (Stupa). Sanchi has an external railing with four monumental gateways (Toranas) at the main points of the compass, covered with luxuriant sculpture of allegorical and symbolic narrative of the life of Buddha, who never seems to appear on the steps sculpture, but is referenced obliquely with the wheel of the law, the lotus of his birth, the tree of his enlightenment, the stupa of his consecration, and the umbrella (on top of the stupa) symbol of his royalty.

The decorative female nudes on the corners of the main gates are very alluring. Known as Yakshis (yakshinis)they are a prehistoric, animistic and associated with tree spirits, controlling all process of growth and human fertility. Visit with Nirmala Sharma and Siraj Saxena..thank you. Photo shoot here.