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 completed this relatively large acrylic piece about 2 years ago and it is definitely lighter and more colourful than my recent work. Generally abstract in terms of technique it is loosely based on the rhythms and cycles of growth seen in nature. I guess we all go through cycles in our approach to painting – and life – moving between what might be considered irrational exuberance and returning to the safe haven of sober reflection.
The surface is built up with impasto medium, combined with tissue, leaves, newsprint and card. In the later stages, translucent glazes have been added to increase the perception of depth and luminosity. I have long since arrived at the conclusion that my fascination with Cubism and Futurism is inherent in everything I do creatively.
In April 2018, I completed a two week residency in the New Forest. The residency was awarded to the winner of a competition organised by the UK based company ‘Little Van Gogh’. I was given the opportunity to work in a studio located above a blacksmiths workshop near the village of Ashurst in the New Forest. This was a wonderful experience in many ways and an extremely productive period for me creatively. I am still working on paintings and ideas that have developed from the residency and I will be holding an exhibition of the completed works next year. View my New Forest Series here.
In the Cambridgeshire Fenlands I often stumble across defunct and discarded farm machinery, sometimes surfacing, sometimes sinking, like forgotten clusters of alien bones amidst fields of wheat and barley.
A Fenland house possessing all the pretension and self-importance of a full-sized house. I could see Dougal having a problem with the scale of this one… Is it small? Or far away? Who lives in a house like this?
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.
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.
This painting is from my New Forest series and the materials used include oil paint, cold wax medium and a solid block of oak. The oak block is 20 x 20 x 5cm. I have worked on cradled boards many times and have found that the harder surface encourages a more aggressive approach to mark making. The weight and density of the oak block takes this strategy a stage further and allows you to exploit the resistance and grain of the wood. That my subject matter is trees and I am working directly on the ‘machined’ surface of a tree only enhances the poetry and mystery of this activity we call painting.