Thursday, 25 May 2017

Work In Progress: 'This Sceptic Isle' ('Flag')



Untitled: Acrylics. Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel & French Polish On Paper,
45 cm X 60 cm, 2017


My 'This Sceptic Isle' project gathers pace, and here is the latest of my paper-based flag images.  As already mentioned, these may end up being works in progress, although I've yet to decide on the exact implications of that.  Each has been brought to some degree of resolution, and could stand as completed pieces as they stand. However, something tells me they may end up being recycled through other media, or perhaps just have further text elements added. at some point.  I also have the feeling there may be at least one much larger version on the horizon - either on panel or canvas.  Time will tell...



As Above (Details)


Anyway, for now, these are the most tangible manifestation of the 'TSI' project, although ideas about how things might develop are really starting to flow, and cunning plans being laid for possible  pieces in a variety of media.  This has also started to involve a degree of skip-diving and street scavenging, in the local neighbourhood, which may point to some possible sculptural assemblage-type activity.  If that does occur, it would certainly chime with my current preoccupations, with fly-tipping (which is such a feature of my local  surroundings), and the work of Robert Rauschenberg.  The latter was a complete delight in the recent Tate Modern retrospective, and it's remiss of me not to have already mentioned here the powerful impression that made on me over two separate visits.



As Above (Details)


Other recent excursions into 'the field' have also seeded the beginnings of a collection of abandoned fridge doors, which I'm hoping might be repurposed as future painting supports. But - enough of the teasing and tentative projections.  For now, I'll just accompany this flag with a few more samples from the photographic archive already accumulating around the project's emerging themes.  These are mostly of the straight, documentary variety.  However, as you can see - a bit of expressive manipulation is also starting to suggest possibilities too.


Ratcliffe On The Wreake, Leicestershire, May 2017

North West Leicester, May 2017

West Leicester, May 2017

West Leicester, May 2017

West Leicester, April 2017

Central Leicester, April 2017

Arnold, North Nottingham, May 2017

West Leicester, April 2017


Just one last point:  The title of this project has now definitively arrived on the 'Sceptic' spelling, so no more messing around with Ks, brackets, or strokes.  A moment of lexicographical enlightenment revealed 'Skeptic' to be an Americanism, and this is, by its very nature, a UK-centric body of work.  Here in Blighted Blighty, the c-spelling stands -  whichever interpretation you might chose to put on the word.  At least that should make for a more satisfyingly streamlined degree of ambiguity. 




Saturday, 13 May 2017

Couched 8





A conman hatches a plan to swindle a corrupt millionaire out of his treasured priceless diamond by claiming to have discovered its twin. It shows good tuber blight and common scab resistance.  However, his plot is disrupted by a rival hustler with long natural dormancy, who comes up with the same idea, and the two crooks must each convince their suspicious target that they can be trusted and the other is lying.  The tubers are short oval with netted skins and yellow flesh.






Tuesday, 9 May 2017

New Post: 'Untitled (From The New School) 6'



'Untitled (From The New School) 6', Acrylics & Paper Collage On Panel,
30 cm X 30 cm X 106 mm, 2017


As I continue to juggle several discrete bodies of work, it feels like my main creative attention is increasingly falling on the nascent ‘ThisSkeptic/Sceptic Isle’ project, featured in a recent post.  But, of course, it would be far too straightforward to just maintain consistent focus this year - and so the small ‘From The New School’ panels continue simultaneously in the parallel.  Apologies if it’s hard to keep up with all this flip-flopping - I appreciate such compartmentalising may be far more interesting to me than to the casual spectator.  Sometimes, I even wonder if my need to ring-fence separate bodies of work doesn’t signify some kind of mild psychosis – or an unnecessarily over-developed search for order, at least.




In reality, alternating between these two projects may prove relatively achievable in coming weeks, not least as these little panels, at least, seem relatively quick to execute.  The strategy of working on them in my place of employment, in fleeting lunch breaks, or for an hour at the end of the working day, is proving a successful means of time management,  Having long since sorted out the basic compositional format, and by employing a deliberately synthetic and self-conscious mode of painting - it’s possible to make each painterly decision zone-by-zone in a pretty methodical fashion.  That’s an approach chosen initially for conceptual reasons, but one which also allows for a fortuitous ‘mask a bit – paint a bit – go home for tea (and repeat)’ routine.




Anyway, here’s the latest ‘Untitled (From The New School)’ Panel (No. 6).  Ironically, given the above observations, there was slightly more technical struggle than usual with this one – largely involving the treatment of the central ‘window’ zone.  Ultimately, that methodical approach proved a boon again though – allowing me to just keep masking and reworking until I arrived at some form of satisfactory conclusion.




My original plan was for this image to be somewhat more elaborate, but having paused for breath after getting things to this level - I realised ‘enough is enough’.  I looked, and looked again - before deciding its relative simplicity and sense of distillation are strengths rather than weaknesses, within the overall series to date.  It just reinforces the old artist’s truism about knowing when to stop.

Beyond that, my only other meaningful observation would relate to the visible textual elements.  Careful study will reveal they all derive from a single document, and that it makes specific reference to the thematic underpinnings of the project as a whole.  I now realise it marks the first time I’ve used collaged and repurposed text in quite such a pointed manner.




Thursday, 4 May 2017

“Our Vision For Educational Excellence Everywhere” 2.



March 2017



"Every part of our model is based on high expectations for every child. Children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds already achieve the highest outcomes in some schools, thanks to some of the best teachers and leaders in this country. We must share that level of ambition for every pupil, avoiding the trap of designing policies that accept lower aspirations for some. Equally, we reject the notion that our schools should limit their focus on bringing every child up to a minimum level – instead, they should stretch every child, including the most able, to reach their full potential" [1.].







[1.]:  ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ (Government White Paper: Cm9230).  Presented To Parliament by Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, March 2016



Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Work In Progress: 'This Skeptic/Sceptic Isle' (Flags)



Untitled: Acrylics, Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel, French Polish On Paper,
40 cm X 60 cm, 2017



Recent months have been characterised by a kind of creative diffusion, in which fluctuating engagement with a number of competing projects has replaced concerted, in-depth focus on any one thing.  The inevitable consequence of such a situation is that I have a variety of things in production, or gestation, but still relatively little in the way of actual completed work; oh, and ideas – every day more ideas…


As Above (Detail)


It’s a strange problem to have.  For so many years, I tortured myself with a perceived inability to do anything of any value, whilst being simultaneously unable to imagine what it was I actually wanted to make or say.  The current state of affairs is the direct inverse of that; i.e. so much I want to do, coupled with frustration over the inevitable stop-start nature of so many parallel ventures.  The impossibility of fitting it all round the demands of a day job and age-related, diminishing energy levels don’t help much either.




Untitled: Acrylics, Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel, French Polish On Paper,
40 cm X 60 cm, 2017

As Above (Detail)


But, (and this is important), I’d take this brand of frustration over the previous one - any day of the week.  Even if a certain lack of confidence still hold sway over my life, (as has been quite noticeable just lately), it’s largely uncoupled from my art.  That’s not to say that what I make is necessarily any good – just that I have few doubts about the value of persevering in the attempt to improve it, and absolutely none about the central role it plays in my life.  To be honest, it’s all the other everyday-life stuff that causes more uncertainty, these days.  In that context, any impatience with having too much I want to do, and insufficient time or energy to resolve it all, merely feels like something to ‘just deal with’.  Either way, the only workable solution is to stop wasting time on navel-gazing, and just get on with what I can, when I can.




Untitled: Acrylics, Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel, French Polish On Paper,
40 cm X 60 cm, 2017

As Above (Detail)


Which is all a long-winded, self-indulgent way of introducing some actual new work.  Recent work-related posts have showcased completed paintings from my ‘From The New School’ series (itself part of a larger, ongoing project).  What you see here are the first concrete manifestations of a completely separate undertaking, which, for now, labours under the working title of ‘This Skeptic Isle’.  Actually, depending on how bleak my view of current events and the news becomes, on any given day – that might alternatively read as ‘This Sceptic Isle’.



Untitled: Acrylics, Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel, French Polish On Paper,
40 cm X 60 cm, 2017

As Above (Detail)


From which, you’ll deduce, - the disposition of this particular venture is hardly sunny or optimistic.  Accumulating despondency over current political events, both global and domestic, and the alarming lurch to extreme Right-wing narratives, blinkered ‘populism’, petty nationalism, and a general devaluation of fact or reason, is hardly an original idea, just now.  But, in this part of the world at least, it’s impossible to sidestep a general mood of fear and insecurity; a sense that the centre will no longer hold, if you like.  And, like it or not, one single event seems to cast it’s long shadow over the attempts of ordinary British/European people to just get on with their lives.  It will continue to do so for years to come, whichever side of the divide you find yourself on.  Let’s call it Post-Referendumb, Brexistential despair - shall we?



Untitled: Acrylics, Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel, French Polish On Paper,
40 cm X 60 cm, 2017

As Above (Detail)


So, if these images suggest a somewhat unoriginal outbust, rather than any attempt at constructive insight - so be it.  If nothing else, that seems to square with the prevailing zeitgeist.  Besides, sometimes it’s perfectly valid to just deal with the most obvious thing before your face, and to chip-in your two-penny worth to the wider debate.  And sometimes you just need to get stuff out of your head - in order to preserve what passes for ‘sanity’.



Untitled: Acrylics, Paper Collage, Ink, Spray Enamel, French Polish On Paper,
40 cm X 60 cm, 2017

As Above (Detail)


It’s not worth going into too much detail over these particular pieces here - not least because they may actually turn out to be work in progress.  Each employs a somewhat unhinged variation on my now-familiar hybrid painting/collage M.O. and is resolved to my relative satisfaction at this stage.  But it’s also possible that they may be further adapted or recycled within what is now shaping up to be a wider, more far-reaching project (in my mind, at least).  Alongside them in the mixer are also a kind of appropriated, 5-act script (for what may become a video of some sort), and rapidly accumulating photos of white vans, cardboard boxes, discarded white goods, and street trash.  It’s impossible to say exactly how this all fits together as yet, but it is definitely starting to acquire a kind of cumulative, more or less oblique, state-of-the-nation vibe.




West Leicester, April 2017

North Leicester, April 2017

Balsall Heath, Birmingham, February 2017


One last thing: It would be foolish to pretend these flag images aren’t heavily influenced by Jasper Johns’ American flag paintings.  They come from an entirely different context, of course – and carry a far more nuanced philosophical freight.  Nevertheless, Johns is an artist whose work and example I’ve returned to repeatedly over the years, and those paintings are inevitably engrained within my own subconscious image bank.  It’s an influence I’m more than happy to acknowledge.



Jasper Johns, 'Flag', Encaustic & Paper Collage On Canvas, 1954