Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Question 5
Regarding the 'pebble project'
('Single Striped Pebble', Oil on canvas 86 x 78 cm)


'You talked earlier about avoiding narrative meaning, and I would argue you have been successful. Instead, you have created something deliciously enigmatic and mysterious, yet your titles are dry and matter-of-fact. Can you say more about your titles? Are you tempted to call your paintings something more mysterious?'


My titles are carefully thought out. I deliberately want to give a very dry 'pointer', rather than a more enigmatic title. By giving the paintings matter-of-fact titles I hope to give the viewer a factual starting point, to allow the further reading of the image to be free and open-ended.

I have called the painting: 'Single striped pebble', because that was my starting point. It was what I was looking at, initially: a pebble with a single, thin stripe running round it.
Lets imagine some different titles for a moment. I could have called the painting: 'Large pebble found on sunny Devon beach' (already the title gives (unpleasant) emotional pointers).
I could have gone full-on Howard Hodgkin, and called it: 'Birthday cake on beach love was dead'... Or perhaps more abstractly poetic: 'Fracture of spirit'...'Emotional map #3'.... 'Meditation on divided space'. Etc. etc.

All those titles makes me cringe... I feel strongly that the only 'right' title is a factual one.
To call my paintings 'untitled' would also be wrong to my mind... If I call the painting 'untitled' it somehow suggests that I'm asking the viewer to tell me what they are looking at. I guess the irony is that we do in fact, as artists, ask that question: ...what is it you/we look at??... but I think the image needs to ask that question by itself.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

'Thinking about painting/thinking about drawing'

Oil paint, and charcoal on primed canvas
Rita Kaisen

The idea that painting and drawing can somehow be combined is an old obsession of mine.
Many attempts at this 'combination idea' ended with me pulling my hair out in despair.

I came to (largely) separate the two distinctly different ways of expression. The work produced for this exhibition was an experiment, and it has reminded me of how co-dependent the two disciplines really are.

This painting/drawing was a deliberate question: when is a painting a drawing?....when is a drawing no-longer a pure drawing?...and why? And most importantly: does it even matter??

This is not a comfortable work, and this was not plain sailing. It's never easy to draw, or paint, but this was difficult for other reasons than the usual ones.

It was very difficult to keep the questions I was asking myself at the top of the agenda... I forced myself to leave certain marks, (quite a lot of marks) because they felt true to drawing, but less so to painting.

The image is a painting/drawing of a small stone. The stone is largely grey/black/white, but with a tinge of red and blue in the dominant white stripe.
I originally wanted to keep the image monochrome in line with the idea of pure drawing, but simply had to put the red and blue in there! (and again: is drawing necessarily monochrome??)
the yellow was a happy accident. I used Buff titanium/mixing white.....it's a tube of paint I bought to bulk out the white in the undercoats, to save on my Titanium white. It shows up as yellow, and happens to be almost identical to the colour of the raw canvas. That tickles me, because of the huge importance of the paper, or ground, in drawing.... especially if a drawing is to be viewed as original and not a reproduction.

Some prominent questions:
  • Monochrome ? …... No, not necessarily.
  • Ink, pen, brush, pallet knife ? …..... Not really important.
  • The base/surface ? ….. not really important.
  • Drawing digitally, with shadow etc. ? ….yes, any tool.
  • Line, dot, line becoming a shading.... 'taking the line for a walk' ? …. Yes, all of that stuff.
  • Can drawing and painting be combined ?? ….. yes... and no!
  • Is drawing and painting totally different things?? ..... yes.
  • Is painting and drawing co-dependent?? ….. yes, to me.
  • Does it matter?? ….. yes, to me.

Exhibited as part of the group show 'towards each other', curated by Stephen Carley and Sean Williams, June 2018 at 35 Chapel walk, Sheffield. An exhibition asking the question: what is drawing?

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Question 1
regarding drawing


Stephen Carley describes drawing as 'a form of collating, remembering, archiving, information gathering.' What is drawing for you?


Drawing is a lot of different things to me.. (and a lot of things besides!)
The sketch ..the quick recording of an idea, for sure, but I have never really been a 'sketch book artist'. I tend to write about my ideas in notebooks, and a quick drawing might be needed, but really only a doodle...having said that.. I do quite a lot of doodling!

As I'm now mostly painting from life....I use drawing as a way of 'getting to know' the object/pebble I'm going to paint (Stephen's definition in a way?).... But when is a sketch a step towards something else ?.. and when is it a work in it's own right?? (an issue that kind of separates modern art from the classical, traditional 'method'... probably starting with Cezanne who (maybe seen in retrospect) elevated the 'sketch' to a work in it's own right … he also had some pretty weird, and contradicting ideas about drawing!)
But when I'm doing relatively quick drawings of the object I intend to paint in order to 'get to grips' with the shape and structure.... I think this makes my approach to painting quite traditional. I do value those drawings too though...as they 'express' something that the painting can't.

Drawing is also a separate, and entirely self-contained expression for me. In a way I paint what I can't express in drawing, and draw what I don't feel I can properly achieve in painting. My paintings are observational, and my 'graphic novel format' drawings are born out of a totally different culture/genre, and set of ideas.
I spent years trying to 'combine drawing and painting'.. and I'm not even quite sure what that really means anymore (only that I was never happy with the results) ... I think good painting depends on good drawing, but my drawing is not dependent on my painting... only in that one can't substitute the other, and both feed of each other.

Question 2
regarding drawing


Please tell me more about your graphic novel work. I think they would surprise people who only know you mainly for your wonderful Pebble paintings.


For me drawing came first. I was drawing way before I started to paint... (when I was a kid.)
Drawing is much more important to me than painting... and I think that might come as a surprise to most people. There are two sides to my art, and they do not really combine.

The 'graphic novel format' drawings (I call them that for want of a better description), are born out of a complex tradition, originating (or at least developed) on the continent. I grew up with a vast amount of graphic novel books/art.... some of very experimental quality. My dad was also drawing in this format (his day job was as a graphic designer)... So we basically sat and churned out an enormous amount of drawings ...me and my dad ...in the 1970s (and ever since, to be honest...)

When I started on my Degree course in England, things got difficult... It turned out that the English were a bit behind in their appreciation of this kind of art... I started to concentrate fully on painting.
5 – 6 years ago I realised how much I enjoyed, and absolutely loved drawing...and I started to draw again in earnest.

I still find it very, very difficult to explain what it is I want to 'express' with my drawings... I have tremendous fun doing the work... (probably more so than when I paint). I use a huge amount of references, and sources of inspiration. It's a very playful process, and often with abstract elements of pure 'mark making appreciation'. I'm inspired by everything I see, and read, and experience.
I try to free myself from 'traditional linear narrative'... (something I also try to do in my painting, but in a completely different way, and for different reasons.)

Wow, Just writing about it makes me want to start some pages of 'playful absurdity' .....

Monday, 2 October 2017

'Tiny Torquay Pebble'
Oil on canvas
10 x 15 cm

Monday, 25 September 2017

'Striped Pebble from Devon'
Oil on canvas
88 x 160 cm

Saturday, 4 July 2015

So that what with one thing and another, and with Watt's not wishing this, and with Watt's not wanting that, it seemed that Watt, as he was then, could never get into Erskine's room, never never get into Erskine's room, as it was then, and that for Watt to get into Erskine's room, as they were then, Watt would have to be another man, or Erskine's room another room.

Samuel Beckett