I spent a number of days walking amongst the trees and gathering information for a series of paintings through drawing and photography; I absorbed the sights and sounds of the trees in the forest and found a way to recreate something of that experience in paint.
I am interested in surfaces and textures and the way materials can be combined to create tactile qualities. Cold wax can be applied in thin layers or heavy impasto. It can be scored, scoured and burnished like a rich stoneware ceramic glaze; it can left dry, broken, fragmented and uneven. I have included up a number of close up photographs to give some indication of the extremely rich and highly textured surface of the painting; you can also begin to see in the reflections, the depth and lustre contained in the burnished wax.
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
’Til it’s gone…
Joni Mitchell, from “Big Yellow Taxi,” lyrics written circa 1967–68
A traditional portrait of the artist in monochrome. These are the paintings from the first week here in Woodlands, hope you like the ‘moody’ black and white photograph taken by my daughter Louisa….it’s a good option to show the texture of the works.
John Wise, author of The New Forest: Its History and Scenery, first published in 1862, knew a thing or two about the New Forest.
He offered this suggestion: ‘The best advice which I can give to see the New Forest is to follow the course of one of its streams, to make it your friend and companion, and go wherever it goes. It will be sure to take you through the greenest valleys, and past the thickest woods, and under the largest trees. No step along with it is ever lost, for it never goes out of its way but in search of some fresh beauty’.
I followed John’s advice and followed the Ditchend Brook yesterday, which I have to acknowledge doesn’t necessarily sound promising, but ……..what’s in a name? Always look beyond the label
And there are many streams to choose from: Linford Brook, Dockens Water, Latchmore Brook, Ditchend Brook, Mill Lawn Brook, Highland Water, Black Water, Ober Water, Bartley Water, the Lymington River, the Beaulieu River and far, far more. I think I may have some titles for my work.
Painting: Oil Cold Wax and Mixed Media on Canvas
Size: 80 x 80 x 2cm
This is a cold wax mixed media painting on a high quality canvas frame. It is based on my experience of the Fenland landscape. It is not a visual record of a specific place, or a celebration of a well known structure or familiar location. I am interested in surfaces and textures and the way materials can be combined to create tactile qualities. Cold wax can be applied in thin layers or heavy impasto. It can be scored, scoured and burnished like a rich stoneware ceramic glaze; it can left dry, broken, fragmented and uneven.
“Bones are patient. Bones never tire nor do they run away. When you come upon a man who has been dead many years, his bones will still be lying there, in place, content, patiently waiting, but his flesh will have gotten up and left him. Water is like flesh. Water will not stand still. It is always off to somewhere else; restless, talkative, and curious. Even water in a covered jar will disappear in time. Flesh is water. Stones are like bones. Satisfied. Patient. Dependable. Tell me, then, Alobar, in order to achieve immortality, should you emulate water or stone? Should you trust your flesh or your bones?”
Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
Close up detail of the painting surfaces
This is a large mixed media painting on a 122cm x 92cm professional quality canvas. It is partly expressionistic, partly impressionistic in terms of technique and style. The media, including bitumen, thick acrylic paint and an assortment of organic debris collected from the forest floor are applied with a variety of tools including brushes and palette knives. The surface is built up in quite heavy impasto and alternately glazed over a period of time. In places, the surface has been scorched with a heat gun to create unexpected interactions of materials and paint.
I have been influenced by the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter. If you have a moment, take a closer look at the detailed photographs to gain a more tangible sense of the textural qualities in this work.
Thetford Forest is the UK’s largest man made lowland forest with 18,730 hectares to explore. It was originally planted to aid the UK war effort. In common with many areas of East Anglia – including the reclaimed Fenlands – it is essentially a fictional world, artificial, planned and designed to resemble a forest. That it also happens to be an area of outstanding ‘natural’ beauty is a poetic irony. When I visited the Forest a couple of weeks ago for inspiration, I was informed by ‘Forest Rangers’ that the area I had just entered was private….I wasn’t happy but made my apologies and left. What part of rural England in the 21st Century England can we call ours?
This is a mixed-media landscape painting on a 103cm x 76cm 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 heavy texture of the painting combines gesso, sand, plaster and oil paint. The material and paint is applied with a variety of tools including brushes and palette knives with 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.
In nature time is always occupied; endlessly engaged, transforming surfaces, altering appearances….. staining and corroding, layering and revealing, cleansing and encasing.
This image uses successive layers of cold wax, allowing for heavy impasto and fine incisions with a variety of tools and instruments. It is based directly on the landscape of the Fens seen within a ten mile radius of Ely cathedral. Most days I am out on my bike, cycling through this landscape in all weathers…I stop to draw, take photographs and just allow the scenes to etch into my memory.
This work is inspired by the flat,expansive and mysterious landscape of the Cambridgeshire Fenland…a vast area of open skies and distant horizons, criss crossed by a lattice of artificial waterways…straight as an arrow.
I hope that viewers will be engaged by the layers of colour, texture and surface qualities of this cold wax painting and also that they will respond to the physicality of this work, the numerous marks, striations and incisions in the cold wax material. I hope too, they will enjoy the interaction of disparate surfaces and layers and the sense of time passing through the landscape and through the painting.
This painting reflects a diverse series of influences; from the ‘art povera’ movement, through minimalism, expressionism and colour field painting.
The additional photographs provide a clearer understanding of the translucency, subtlety and rich texture of the surface.
Detail from ‘The New Voyager’
Cambridge Open Studios will be taking place over the next 4 weekends and this is a fantastic opportunity to have a chat with some of the local artists in the county and look at their work. I will be opening my ‘garage’ – seems a little grandiose to call it a studio – for the next two weekends from 11am until 6 pm Saturday and Sunday. Everyone is welcome to come and see what I have been producing over the last copule of years. I will also have some of my photographic work on display alongside the paintings.
The shot above was taken today…just trying to organise the space as you can see…if you do drop in, just be careful of the wet paint!
This is a large acrylic painting on a 122 cm x 72 cm professional quality canvas. It is semi abstract in terms of technique and style. It is based on the rhythms and cycle of growth seen in nature. There is a spiralling arc of movement…….. upwards towards the light. The surface is built up in heavy impasto layers, these are combined with tissue, leaves, newsprint and card. Additional translucent glazes have been added over time. I have been influenced by the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter.