This is a mixed-media landscape painting on a 61cm x 61cm deep edge canvas. It is semi abstract and expressionistic in terms of technique and style. It is based on my day to day experience of living in the dramatic Fenland landscape of East Cambridgeshire in England. The word ’till’ is interchangeable with ‘until’ and I have tried to reflect both meanings in this piece. Working with the land is about understanding time and intervals of time, it is about rhythms of activity and inactivity, of waiting, of anticipating……until. It can also refer to a vault; a place to hold treasure.
The heavy texture of the painting combines gesso, sand, plaster, marble dust, bitumen and oil paint. The material and paint is applied with a variety of tools including brushes and palette knives. The surface is built up in layers and glazes over a period of time. I have been influenced by the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter.
There are no hills in the Fenlands, but here and there low ridges break the flatness. In our fevered imaginations these 5 to 10 metres of reluctant altitude become the golden hills of a shared aspiration. Keen cyclists who have lived here far longer than they really ought to, speak of ‘brutally steep inclines’, ‘body position’ and ‘low gear momentum’. As painters, we take liberties with the time/space continuum…..creating our own interpretation of events. It isn’t a translation, its more of a transcription. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
I am currently working on this relatively large painting in my studio. It is based on the extensive fields of barley, maize and wheat surrounding the small city of Ely here in the heart of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands. I have tried to show the intensity of the warm golden colours we experience at this time of year and also achieve a lustrous paint surface. You will note that this work has little connection with photographic reproduction but is more concerned with the exuberance of growth, the fecundity and entanglement found in nature. The materials I work with are unconventional but offer the potential for inspirational outcomes if unexpected and unpredictable. The role of chance in a painting like this is critical and I am constantly alert to the interplay of line, tone and texture, that in my view, create the warp and weft of a successful image.
The materials include oil paint, plaster, bitumen, metallic enamel, cold wax, pumice stone.
This is a large painting on stretched canvas (100 x 120 cm) using readily sourced materials; these include bitumen, plaster, wax, oil, bleach and enamel paint. The landscape of the fens is a difficult subject to represent with any degree of fidelity. It certainly fails in terms of accepted notions of pastoral beauty. Being primarily flat, agricultural and man made, this landscape exists without obvious grandeur and distinguishing features. Endless dykes and artificial waterways inscribe, demarcate and score the surface. Visiting the same locations throughout the year there is a sense of intermittent yet cyclical activity; the earth is repeatedly gouged, scoured, exploited, exhausted, replaced and renewed. This painting is an attempt to reflect those processes over time.
This painting is currently on view at the exhibition at Storey’s Field Centre in Cambridge at Eddington Ave, Cambridge CB3 1AA .
This painting, as with many of my recent pieces, has been inspired by my residency in the New Forest in England. The title refers to the sense of architectural power conveyed by the towering, magnificent columns of ancient trees. For me, the forest does indeed represent an authentic spiritual temple and is a precursor to all of our man made structures.
The medium is oil and cold wax. I hope the additional detail photographs will allow you to see the complexity of the surface texture within the darkness of the forest undergrowth.
Cambridge Open Art Exhibition Top Twenty
Thursday 24th October – 21st November
Showings Mondays 09:00 to 20:00 Tuesdays 09:00 to 20:00 Wednesdays 09:00 to 20:00 Thursday to Sunday times vary depending on other bookings at the Centre.
This is a short video of me at work on a relatively large painting. It will give you some idea of how I approach the challenge of working on big surfaces. This is a 200 x 150 cm custom made canvas and the scale presents new challenges, forcing you to adopt different methods and techniques.
I have deliberately avoided brushes for this stage of the painting: an assortment of rollers and palette knives are used to block in the main areas of colour. For me, it is important to establish the overall composition as quickly as I can, it really doesn’t matter if these early indications and suggestions are obscured or abandoned. I am always alive to the notion that the painting will undergo many changes of direction; in a sense each new direction can only be based on previous decisions and judgements. The key is to make some judgements and decisions, they can always be modified as the work progresses. These early layers are essentially a way of breaking the ice, they may be obliterated by subsequent layers but they do begin the process of finding a composition whilst simultaneously building impasto and texture.
Paintings on this scale use considerable amounts of material and this has to be taken into account at the outset. There would be little point in adopting a parsimonious attitude towards materials and thereby restricting your creative options. Part of the joy of painting this big is the freedom to use materials with genuine exuberance and conviction. If you are worried about the quantity of paint you are using, I imagine this concern and hesitation would inevitably show in the work. Painting big requires physical movement, energy and action and you have to resist the temptation to reach for the fine sable brushes. Playing safe always seems like an attractive option but it is generally counterproductive in painting; in an effort to exert control over the exciting events unfolding in front of you the encounter becomes more about accountancy than art.
As you can see, the painting is in the early stages, I’ll update you as I progress over the next few days and weeks. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.
In the last day or so I have added additional layers to this work and tried to ensure that the selected materials interact in both challenging and unexpected ways. The inclusion of shellac and emulsion paint with powdered pumice stone creates unpredictable textural qualities and patina. Gloss, satin and matt painting media combine to reflect and absorb light. Bitumen, partially diluted with turpentine has been allowed to flow across the surface settling in crevices and darker pools. I am much happier with the overall direction of the work now, although it would be fair to say that the more experimental approach has clearly resulted in a loss of definition and resolution. Whether this is acceptable in the long run…only tomorrow will tell, when I begin all over again.
I thought I would share some of my working methods with you today. This is a painting of a well known landscape in Cambridgeshire called ‘Devil’s Dyke’. I have photographed the location on numerous occasions and in many different weather conditions; I have always found something new and exciting to reveal. A while ago, I decided to translate this scene into oil paint on canvas using a cold wax medium to render textural qualities.
It is a work in progress and I have been developing different ideas for a couple of days now. I am trying to achieve a balance to the recording of the pathway, the fields and the tonality of the sky; as you can see there is a great deal more to do here. I enjoy the fact that cold wax allows you to draw directly into the paint surface but there is always a tension between the purely illusionistic elements of light, tone and colour and the physicality of raised marks and incisions.
I’ll keep you updated and show you the next stage in a week or so.