Being the third of the current silver birch ‘woodscapes’, this composition takes as its inspiration and starting point a location and view a few yards to the right of the first in the sequence and features a representation of information gathered from a photographic snapshot and then mostly from empirical observation and notated sketches over a series of return visits in accordance with working practice in relation to the woodscapes as subject matter.
oil on canvas/50 x 100cm/February 2018
Again, the technical emphasis is on communicating the nature of oil paint as a textural, fluid medium and the act of painting with it and attempting to present an analogy to the physical presence of the landscape and being present within such an environment, with its profusion of sensual information.
A little late in the posting, but a second silver birch-centric ‘woodscape’ composition based upon information collected from the local woodland was recently ‘resolved’, following quite a protracted wrestle, a harder-won image than is sometimes the case, and is presented below.
oil on canvas/50 x 100cm/January – February 2018
The process began from the choice of a photographic snapshot taken on a summer evening during last year, featuring the basic composition of the tree-lined rough pathway that forms the left third of the canvas and the denser area of trees of the remainder, this being something inspired to some degree by certain of Ivon Hitchens’ paintings employing a device suggestive of a particularly recessive space to one side of the picture plane.
Subsequently, empirical observation was carried out on a frequent basis in order to establish details, the space as experienced and so on, as has become the habitual working practice in relation to the ‘woodscape’ paintings.
More silver birches have been transplanted into the scene of the painting than were present in the image of the woods as they exist, exchanged for the ubiquitous pines (this being a small area that was not subject to ‘management’ last year), these being based on observation of nearby examples and represented in a manner to be consistent with the sense of the whole, e.g. the fall of dappled sun-lit highlights in particular.
As with the others in the ‘woodscapes’ series (plural – i.e. the original seven of 2016-17 and these latter three comprising the latest development of the aesthetic), the materiality of the paint and its presence and presentation as such directs the technical approach to the process, emphasising the physical qualities of the medium in terms of texture, fluidity and so on – the painting is about the act of painting, with the medium of oil paint, demonstrably so, supported by the armature of the visual subject.
‘Mark E Smith’
graphite and eraser on paper/30 x 21cm/April 2008
In tribute to one of this parish’s musical heroes, a repost of a repost (faithfully observing the 3 R’s of ‘Repetition, repetition, repetition’, of course – I’d like to believe the subject would approve) of a drawing, processed almost a decade ago, of Mark E Smith, who sadly passed away yesterday.
His art will endure, as it has already for 40 glorious years.
Following the recent immersion in the photorealist portrait project, the Christmas recess has encouraged a return to thoughts of engaging with the local woodland and representations of the experience of being amidst that was providing the grist to the creative mill at this time last year and indeed continued into the Spring.
These considerations turned to active contemplation, with brushes being taken up and applied to a canvas that had originally been composed and underpainted last June, becoming a painting featuring as its image-content a mossily-floored copse of silver birches, indigenous trees that feature sporadically around the peripheries of the larger areas of commercially-planted pines and larches that still, after extensive culling early last year, form the bulk of the woodland.
On Saturday, some form of resolution of the canvas was arrived-at, an image of the resulting object, on the easel, pictured below.
‘Woodscape #8: Silver Birches’
oil on canvas/50 x 100cm/January 2018 (begun June 2017)
Previous rules apply, with the intention of achieving a painterly surface, a physical record, a ‘tactile space’ analogous to the empirical experience of being present in the woodland with its profusion tending to over-abundance of visual and other sensory information. Whilst keen to emphasise the texture of the support and medium, this was reined-back somewhat from the previous explorations, feeling them perhaps to have had a bit too much paint thrown at them for its own sake, resulting in a certain clagginess, hopefully allowing this canvas to breathe a little more. At the same time, the painting process was freed from the rigid horizontal/vertical brushwork of the previous attempts, led by the strict verticality of the subject matter of the pine trunks, which in retrospect seem a little too obvious. The nature of the silver birch bark lends itself to a more horizontal approach and this in turn helps achieve a more ‘overall’ surface. As ever, whilst trying to plot a path at least some way in to represented spatial depth, the application of the paint is intended to return the spectator to the immediate picture plane at any given moment, as might be appreciated from the details below.
‘Richard E Grant After a Photograph’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/December 2017
Continuing with the photorealist portrait ‘project’, this painting in fact being completed prior to Christmas, the image subject here is a monochrome representation of a print of a photograph of the actor and perfumier Richard E Grant, whose Instagram feeds are closely followed around these parts in addition to the enjoyment gained from his acting performances.
Again, the technical approach is intended to foreground a painterly surface, keeping things pretty loose, whilst at the same time attempting to capture a certain expression.
Continuing with the recent series of photorealist portraits, and having another source image featuring Nick Cave amongst the available model stock, this one with a few more years on the subject’s visage, thus the painting process proceeded to a point of resolution, again soundtracked by the many wonders of the Bad Seeds’ back catalogue.
The source image seemed to offer the possibilities of a more expansive mark-making approach than the previous example, thereby resulting in what I’d consider to be a more satisfying painting experience and result, although, regarding the latter, that underlying dread doubt always nibbles away, of course.
‘Nick Cave After a Photograph #2’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/December 2017
Pictured below is the painting adjacent to the source from which it was produced, the actual working environment…
And also, in an amusing juxtaposition, one of those serendipitous moments, with the first Nick Cave portrait in the background, at its shoulder (it’s just something about the pose and expression of the latter)…
Continuing with what seems to have become the project (of sorts) of painting from photographic sources, the latest product on/off the easel features an image of the artist and author Tove Jansson, another of the favoured cultural icons around these parts.
Again, the emphasis is primarily on the process, the materiality of the paint and its mark-making properties, the rendering of tone and tonal transitions, but the image-content, and some form of faithfulness to and resolution of, is of course ever-present.
‘Tove Jansson After a Photograph’
oil in canvas/20″ x 16″/November 2017
Following on from the recent photorealist ‘portrait’ of Samuel Beckett, the latest painting on and now, resolved, off the easel has been along similar lines, employing similar means, albeit on a reduced scale (having exhausted the existing stock of larger canvases: had one been available, it would have been utilised). This latter aspect proved itself to be less satisfying than the preceding endeavour – more cramped, less painterly, offering less scope for the brush strokes to just ‘be’, to be representative of the process of the ‘work’ of art, with, rather, virtually every mark having to be more descriptive in nature.
The portrait subject is Nick Cave, with the pose offering the bonus of describing the hands in addition to the head/face, the immediate object of reference being an A3 monochrome print of a colour photograph.
‘Nick Cave After a Photograph’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/October – November 2017
Ever since hearing The Birthday Party on the John Peel show, and catching the band live in 1981 (bottom of a bill supporting headliners Bauhaus with Vic Godard and Subway Sect between, at the Liverpool Royal Court), Nick Cave has loomed large on the personal cultural landscape, being a firm musical favourite as his career and repertoire has evolved, and it’s been a profoundly rewarding pleasure to listen, chronologically, to a good deal of Nick and the Bad Seeds’ back catalogue as an accompaniment to the painting process (providing the perfect excuse to indulge), if a bit strange to be looking so intently at an image of the artist as he performs.
Today marks the 13th anniversary of the passing of the mighty cultural ‘uncle’ that was (and remains) John Peel, whose influence lives on undimmed, indeed probably burning ever brighter in such times. In celebration, of the life, we’re listening to Captain Beefheart‘s ‘Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), just one of the many artistes and fine records to whom and which Peel provided an introduction – walking in to the day job this morning accompanied by the groove of ‘Tropical Hot Dog Night’ certainly helped make me feel more kindly disposed than is habitually the case.
Another The Fall ‘Imaginary Compilation Album’ (#3) been also posted on the essential The (new) Vinyl Villain – get on over and get listening, you know it makes sense and it’s what Peel would have wanted.