Friday, November 17, 2006

Early work using any old materials found in the studio.
The marriage of forms through branch reminds of early abstractions of trees by Piet Mondrian and some of the self-taught charcoal tree studies by Van Gogh. I wanted a fluidity of line and the scale of thepiece allowed me to get the human body in the piece.
'Airy Hill Road Farm II' (, 6x7 feet oils and acrylics on canvas ) , this was painted in a day in November after a week in the studio having a lot of fun with paint...these large drip paintings have the surface of large textile pieces aswell as the splashes acting as a veil for the image below.

Above this is the most recent 'Barnscape'...revisiting the first painting I did on Airy Hill Road three months on with a less illustrative approach and fuelling by the recent experimental work I have been doing in the studio since November. The image directly above is the 'Fall Trilogy' I am working on at the moment and the blue bands represent the close of summer and the linear branches are being visited with more vigour and commitment.
Another passion I have aswell as my art is athletics, fell-running and cross-country competition has been a part of my life for nearly twenty years and this canvas as a celebration of that back in the late 1990s.....the interplay of forms and 'doodles' to the right lung could represent lateral thinking and a certain lack of discipline and structure necessary in creativity and the left hand side with the figurative ribcage a symbol of harmony and convergence of thoughts in sport. An urban image painted back in 2000 that was in direct response to the 'New Look Red Brick and Glass' architectural style that was not only seen in my home city of Leeds but across England. The artificial and lifeless form of straight,neutral and perpendicular cityscapes produced a reactionary response...the absence of figures in the painting was not accidental. A traditional 24x34ins. reduction linoleum print of Jubilee Clock Tower in the heart of Otley....I attatched a kite out of darkness to the figure in the foreground to add an element of surrealism and suprise to what otherwise would have been a purely accademic exercise in printing technique and landscape art.
'Fish Out Of Water' (card, 36x24x12ins.) made way back in the mid 1990s when I was an artist-in-residence in a high school in Yorkshire......appears to be quite a harsh image here but although it should represent my experience of living in another country and culture ,I don't feel out of water in the slightest, in fact my new found discipline in creativity makes me feel more and more like this is my new home.

This is the second 5x4 feet painting of the autumn in Otley...the over-elaboration and decorative qualities in the image and the removal from true colour makes for a surrealist outcome.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I made this 4x4feet oil painting series in a space of a week, ...the work deals with visual bombardment of the senses..the experience we have when in the heart of a large bustling cosmopolitan centre anywhere in the world, in this instance stood as a tourist in the middle of Times Square in New York on a warm August morning.
This shows the series against the Airy Hill Studio wall and the multiplicity of imagery that has been used making the images caustrophobic and direct, they also attempt to displace everyday symbols and by means of juggling them in and out of context present questions to the viewer. They were not intended to be a narrative, more in a visual interplay with audience and artist....the fall of the bitten apple could symbolize the flaws in modern day technology or the string of red love hearts could represent suffering endured post 9/11......the topics and issues in the works serve to ask questions and the subject matter is far too complex for me to attempt to unpick in a short dialogue/critique slot here.
I remember a few years ago I saw the early paintings of Marc Chagall in New York and the memory of the richness of colour and strange dreamlike disslocation within the picture-plane stayed with me. The images here are not of quiet villages and floating figures in coloured robes but I wanted the vibrancy of colours and gentle distortion and abstraction of shapes.....the difference is that these were produced in 2006 and employ a culmination of icons and symbols of our time.

Five years ago I came to New york and took a series of photographs of Times Square...back in England I made a number of works and sketchpads from the visit but it has taken until now for me to visit the subject with any real purpose....

Monday, November 13, 2006

Here we have an inner- city style/subway art rendering of a barnscape...I remember first doing this and the blue underpainting was in desperate need of attention, an awkward start to a painting back in the UK could quite happily have been left in the studio for weeks but over here in the States and the regular meeting of Airy Hill Artists at the house where I live every Wednesday night forced me to act ! out came the stencil sheets and my aerosol spray needed a bit of an optimistic 'silver lining' and this is as near as I could get. The strange metallic surface and angular cubist forms along with the liberal use of media convey a sense of strength(armour,steel andmechanical parts) and conviction ( the work is 8x4feet and to maintain singularity and discipline with the application of line was aided by the media's immediacey). The image reminds me Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' and to date it is probably the most abstracted image of a barn I have produced.
The image above is of the last canvas (oils aprox.7x8 feet) from a series of three 'grand abstracts' that I produced in July 2006 before I got on the plane out here. It was originally a series of Wharfedale skies but in anticipation of coming to the U.S. I 'let the paint rip'......this has a wide range of references, there is order out of chaos ,symbols of religion, everyday consumer society, social dialogue and human emotion, ...I was wanting the work to be a fresh,contemporary celebration of the visual bombardment we are seeing in the media and on computer screens in the world of work. The application of colour and shape was intended to imitate basic computer graphics, and the overlay of patterns and form echo the work of Picasso , American Abstract Expressionists and contemporary German Expressionists.
There is a small section to the right in the work where you see a blue tight-rope walker skipping over an orange hurdle bar...this is self portrait at the time, the colours symbolize art teaching (tools of the trade!), and the balancing act and vulnerability symbolizing the change of life I was about to embark upon coming to the States as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher.

Above is a photograph I took of a local pig you can see from below , back in August on a scorching hot summers day the reflective qualities on the metal in direct sunlight and my own ignorance of what purpose the building was actually used for helped me produce an almost iconic image of American agriculure. This notion of transformation and exageration of the real has been a constant factor in my paintings, I enjoy the challenge of taking the everyday and revisiting it with a 'magical optimism'.

The lighting and melancholic ambience I have attempted to render the image in was intentional and a certain element of timelessness and isolation are captured in the this blue colourfield. The painting portrays a small section of an American agricultural landscape and attempts to present a monument , the worms-eye view I have used enhance this. Not knowing the content of something that on the outside appeared to be beautiful allowed my imagination to flourish..on reflection I like the idea that I have been tricked !

Below is a photograph I took during the fall on the Big RockTrail (a quiet sensory loop off the Horseshoe Trail near Mount Gretna) and the connection with this and the previous image is the recess of shadows and the bold linear shapes of the tree trunks and their distorted shadows as they fall across the rocks.

I have made a number of tree studies in the past in oil pastels and I now find that I have documented the fall through photography so much that I've exhausted my desire to paint them ...I was hoping that the drip paintings I moved onto in November would rekindle this but I'm still waiting.

When at art college I was heavily involved with still life studies and an artist I came across was Georgio Morandi and I'm sure that his small sensitive observations in a restricted colour range (pastel greys, terracotta and creams) of a selection of small-scale objects in various juxtapositions are influencing my paint handling of these barn yard compositions.

This is a Yorkshire landscape I painted back in July2006, before I came to the U.S. I was hoping to convey fertile grounds , a rich dense moist colourfield with an obvious reference to the farming tradition of the Yorkshire Dales.....there is a connection here with the immediate surroundings I now find myself within the Pennsylvanian countryside.
This tree at the beginning of the fall near Lancaster......
...and this image of sunlight through the trees on the Horseshoe Trail near Mount Gretna ....
..have materialised in this vigorous rendering of Autumn foliage in this quick study (the painting is aprox. 3x4feet and was made in about 20mins.) The liquid application and loose brush strokes of paint suggest moisture and the singular image portray the tree as an emblem or monument.
One of the farms just off Airy Hill Road where I now live, the geometric placement ,scale, nestled recesses of soft greys and pyramidical motif were all factors in it's selection. The foreground 'sea of whistling green earth lines' allowed for abstraction and elements of surrealism to creep into the piece......albeit hiding in the foreground field, add to the ambiguity of realism in the work. This cascade of sunlight on the Horseshoe Trail and linear silouette are now prevalent in the newer, more abstract paintings.
Obvious homage to Pollock again, but also a personal need to reinstate figuration and in this case the symbol I've come accustomed to using for my new home...the silo tower and barn.
Now this was the first painting I made of the large farm on Airy Hill Road, the memory of the sunny afternoon when I first came across this is still fresh with me three months on. The light and magical invitation of the path along with the tree-high cornfields and the reflective pond against the clean white and pure farmhouse building facade captured me immediately. I hope to revisit this spot a number of times this year for those reasons.

Here are some recent drip paintings made in the studio, the increase in output and the linear aspects of woodlands in the fall have taken me towards a free expression in form...last night in the studio I began to reintroduce urban aerosol and the silver coating in particular helps transcend the works...more to follow.
The farm to the left is situated just over the bridge at Speedwell Forge, and the playfulness of simple colour planes and their association we make with children's building blocks and the memories of watching t.v. as a child and seeing 'Little House On The Praire' and now I find myself living almost in this 'Innocent Utopia' ....all this is fuelling creativity.

Here is a series of photographs I have taken around the Lancaster County area. new eyes to an area may or may not see the same as accustomed locals. When travelling around there has been a sense of urgency and 'carpe diem' captuing the essence of a place the light change due to sudden cloud shift has often altered the mood of the landscape,one late evening in October I remember leaing the house at 4.30 pm. and 'chasing ' the sun going down... A hundred images in 30 mins and found myself at a crossroads filming the early moon set against a silouette of a Silver Birch .
The painting above has a number of subliminal messages....the use of two near identical buildings and towers beside one another but each having a variety of colour and unique features addresses the issue of identity and conformity. The fronts of the buildings facing to the East and the division of earth and sky by an ominous dark woodland along with the 'ghost-face' image in the shifting cloud formation all add to the intrigue and curiosity for the viewer. When I was at art college I made a study on the work of 16thCentury artist Albrecht Durer, and one of his master engravings 'Melancholia' had a hidden image of his recently lost mother's face, this along with the distorted skull inthe foreground of 'The Ambassadors' by the Flemish artist Hans Holbein both have references here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This is a 6feet canvas in translucent oil washes, on e of my intentions with this piece was to encompas my own physicality in the work...the curves of the clouds in the sky are the natural arm curve I made when 'nose up' to the canvas ...the 'proportions of man' by Leonardo Da Vinci and the idea of a colossal page from asketch pad are both evident here.
This is the Bonfire at the house celebrating Guy Fawkes day on the 4th November...I plan to produce some paintings inspired by this visual phenomena, no two flames are the same ,they never repeat themselves and speed and vibrancy of the burning form are all magical ingredients that I aim to recapture in oils and aerosols in the studio.
Work in progress at Airy Hill Studio ,I've three of these 6feet canvases on the go at the moment ...there is almost a weight removed as I am allowed to be free and libereated in the large quantities of paint I am moving around and the freedom to 'paint eyes open' with no reliance or need to use the many landscape photographs I have scattered around the studio . The closest I need to move these works towards reality would at this stage be in their colour reference to the changing season of the fall and the onset of abundance of black lines there and my friends back home would say 'horses for courses' I'll have to not disappoint !

Landscape and tree phoptographs I have been taking recently ,the linear and layered quality of the tree images have moved my work onto a more spontaneous and continuous format. There is the obvious referance to Pollock and American Abstract Expressionism but also a constant reminder of the subject matter through figurative reference...fields, towers clouds, etc.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BARNSCAPES, and a series of landscape orientated works made over the last couple of years...

These three 4x4 feet paintings were composed from photographs I took on my arrival in Pennsylvania back in early August 2006. They use both a limited palette and media, the aim being not only to express the saturation of light in the landscape I was experiencing but also attempting to convey atmosphere with limited means.

The appearance they have of large scale watercolours and expanse of sky pay homage to JMW Turner however the introduction of aerosol sprays and stenciling is very much a reference to to my own urban memories of childhood.

One of the intentions of this new work is to journey back to childhood memories, the first experience of warm sunlight which was an emotional uplift in an otherwise harsh industrial blue collar environment....light and sensitivity hold hand in hand.

  • This was an earlier expressive sky in Otley,UK where expression and gesture are more important than colour harmony or painterly discipline.
    An earlier breakage of sky and loosening of figuration, the face is that of a Man Ray muse.
    A softening of both subject matter and media, the purples and orange distant field owe as much to the Fauves as anything else.....what Franz Marc could have given us?
    A small 5x7in. drypoint of Stoodle Pike monument high on the hills of northern England...the dark satanic mills of the 'Lancashire Lament' standing firm against the elements. This a celebration to the great outdoors,the long tradition of fell-running and
    strength of the individual against adversity.

Above we have a 4x4 feet colour study of a ficticious landscape, a barren narrow sand strip and expanse of sky broken by a surreal rocky mountain range....this was an exercise in colour as much as anything else. One of the constant elements in work of this period(I did about eight of these in a week !) was the geometric simplification of landscape, horizon tensions and basic coluor wheel harmony....a kind of illustration you could use in school to help complimentary and local colour understanding, from my own creative point of view it was a nice place to visit on a wet yorkshire evening !
When I first moved into Chevin Hall in Otley ,Yorkshire five years ago I went on a run from the house on trails to Ilkley Moor....I seemed to have time to take photographs at neary every stile/gate I came to (jogging back then and relegated to the Fell-running ranks of the Pudsey & Bramley A.C. 'B' team !). I made a series of oil pastel studies from these photographs but this was the only painting I produced at that time and it is in this collection as a reminder of the rich and varied subject matter I have waiting for me on my return to the Yorkshire Landscape.....I can already picture my studio full of grand-scale oil paintings of such subjects as Malham Cove and the limestone landscapes of Kettlewell and beyond.
As a child I was brought up in a house close to the centre of the urban city of Leeds, there have been dramatic changes to the architecture and culture of Leeds over the last twenty years or so and this large-scale reduction linoprint in it's angular and heavily exagerated tonal form aimed to convey the modernity of the 'New Look Leeds'......if you were to venture down to that 'kneck of the woods' opposite the Royal Armouries Museum over Crown Point Bridge you would find a lone robust Yorkshire Rose carved out of a one ton block of limestone on the spot where I carved my first plaster carving a teenager sitting in the sunny garden of Chadwick Lodge.
This is just one of the Wharfdale Skies series I did back in 2005, the playfulness of shapes and simplification of farmlands is an approach I keep visiting with the work I am doing here in the U.S. the over reliance on black lines is evident here.....I would hope the strength and conviction of line communicates a sense of empowerment in the viewer more than an excuse for weak observation on my part but I'll not be the judge of that.
Above is an abstraction from the stone steps that run up the Chevin , near Otley, Yorkshire.
Here is a quick oil pastel study of a dry-stone wall found somewhere in the Engligh countryside, the introduction of the meandering coloured lines and their adjacent shadows executed in this rustic muddy media remind me of some of the work I produced while studying at Leeds College of Art on my Foundation Art American artist called Matta was influencing me at that time I do recall.
The second 'Sleeping Muse'(4x8 feet oil on board) ,after one of the early photoworks of Man Ray symbolizes the wet rain-drenched rural landscape of Yorkshire as a resting place, a refuge and a setting where you can quietly contemplate and reflect.
This is a view from the top of MalhamCove in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National, land, and rock.
The open spaces and natural elements you often experience in the 'Great Outdoors' is reflected in this 6x8feet canvas. I did a series of three large canvases likes this in five hours back in the summer of 2005 at the end of the school year.....I should have come to the States then as they now have all been painted over ....but not to worry I could do them all again tomorrow in three hours if I needed to !....There is always the possibility of getting the images back again in the future through lazer technology, they are now under the 'Grand Abstracts' series I made in July 2006 !


This one of my earlier 'barnscapes' inspired by the atmospheric detail of a Pennsylvanian farm. The exagerated lighting and menace of the cloud and sky formations allow me to express presence and feeling within an empty setting. The painting allows you to enter an environment both isolated and forboding but at the same time offers an appreciation of the symbolism held within the simple form of a wooden barn.
I pay homage to lighting often seen in paintings of Edward Hopper from the American Landscape tradition aswell as the religious connotations made with lighting of an El Greco master, it would be impossible to portray such a subject from the 'eyes of an outsider' without such a lyrical association.
The painting was made in oils on canvas and measures 4x4 feet, the frame of which was made by hand and with fence poles ,this again pays a homage to the strong industrious agricultural wortk ethic that I now witness living here in Lancaster County. The painting was painted in a day and was completed at 3.30am so it is not suprising that if I was receptive during it's execution that elements of loneliness and quiet reflective melancholia are important factors in the work.
The light and the celebration of the archetye are the most important reasons behind the work and as I now find myself as a creative living artist observing a completly different environment and culture with afresh conviction and enthusiasm for capturing the landscape around me.