I’ve been away travelling about in the UK for two weeks so I’ve missed my beloved workspace although it’s be really great spending time with people I love and seeing some wonderful exhibitions too. I had to take care of a bit of business in London and then spent some time with my family up in Lincolnshire, with my friend the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins and his partner Peter in Wales and with my dear pals and former neighbours Paul and Phil in Whitstable. I was also fortunate enough to catch Clive’s extraordinary exhibition Dark Movements at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The show blew my mind and will stay with me as one of the most beautiful, powerful and moving shows I’ve seen in a long time. You can read a post about the exhibition on Clive’s blog here and also browse other posts to see how the show came together. I started putting a post about the show together but It started turning into a book, I could go on and on, so thought it best to put in a link to Clive’s blog which says it so much better.
While I was in Whistable I was able to visit the Horsebridge gallery where I’m showing new work in Decemebr this year and have a good look at Gallery 3, the space I’m showing in. It’s very small, but I have it for a whole month and I can paint and generally modify it to make it more of an immersive experience. Thanks Phil for walking round with me and coming up with such interesting and useful ideas.
And I’m learning it’s good to have a break every so often; the chance to stop, step back and take stock has been really useful and mulling over work and progress with other people who I admire and respect is invaluable. I’ve returned with new ideas, things I want to try and lots of energy to get cracking again.
The first thing I’m doing this week is a complete departure for me; making models to aid the creative process, something I’ve never really done before. I felt I was getting a bit stuck in the way that I was working this year. It’s not that I don’t like the images I’ve made in recent months, I do, but I felt my worked lacked some focus, that is wasn’t quite sure what it was, and that the various collage elements I was using too often muddied the image a bit and sapped its energy rather than enhanced it. I’d also lost the sense of what I wanted to do with form and volume, and I wanted to resolve this when I came back and not continue fudging it. Having talked it over with Clive while I was in Wales he suggested I try making models to draw from and to use as compositional aids to work out new pieces. I’d never have tried this if Clive hadn’t suggested it so I’m grateful and I’m already appreciating it’s possibilities. My first (very) wobbly model, made from a cornflakes packet and strips of gummed brown paper, is supposed to suggest a gatehouse (continuing the theme of portals I’d explored earlier this year) in the expressionist style evident in the designs of films like The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, directed by Robert Wiene in 1920, with amazing sets designed by Hermann Warm amongst others. I love the expressionist style in art and architecture, it’s full of emotion and I’d take it over the clean lines and elegant spaces of the more rational forms of modernism that evolved around the same time as expressionism any day.
The model making has been a useful exercise already. It’s made me really think about how shapes are put together and how they work from different angles. I made two models before I realised just how exaggerated and distorted the expressionist style was in those 1920s films and that it was impossible to overdo it, and that, to really give my model that feel, I had to push it much further. I remade the model, then remade it again, each time skewing the angles more, and my next models will go further still.
I also made a rough base for the gatehouse to sit in, and propped up a reject painting behind to act as a backdrop. The following photos show the model in natural light and colour and also with the ‘noir’ filter cranked up to try and give it that 1920s film feel. I’m having fun, so thanks Clive! Now I have to start making some drawings from the model and the photos and turn them into some paintings :-) .