A quieter time activity-wise has enabled me to get some painting done, ahead of 5(!) more events in the next month – Reading Contemporary Art Fair, Hertford Open, Nude Tin Can Gallery in St. Albans, Digswell Open Studios and Landmark Arts Fair. It was great though to be back at Sunbury for a workshop – welcome to all who I met there. And something different – an interview on BBC 3 Counties Radio! Artwise, I’ve been keen for some time to try working outside, and with Spring having sprung, I’ve been doing some of that.
The French impressionists made working outside fashionable, even compulsory for generations of artists that followed. They were of course interested in the fleeting effects of changing light, but the move to working outside was made possible by the invention of metallic tubes for storing oil paint in. I’ve been keen to try working outside, both because I’m interested in how I might respond directly to the subject, and also because I want to find ways of working more quickly. I feel my work improves when I’m under time pressure, less thought more impulse! I’ve also entered Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year, which if you’re familiar with this excellent series requires artists to complete a landscape outside in 4 hours.
I was aware it would be a challenge though, as my work uses collage, I often get the board very wet, and it’s a very layered process, which ideally requires drying time between layers. None of this obviously translates well to working in a field! My first two days out were exciting, but were in early March in cool weather with drizzly rain. A real challenge, and I learned a lot. For example by taking a small bag of ready-torn paper, and spray mount, collaging was manageable (and actually much quicker than using glue). A picnic table also helped save muddy knees and a sore back. And the next improvement will be a cordless hair-dryer! It is very exhilarating though, and feels like I’m learning so much, and there is certainly more energy in the work. I’ve been focussing initially on scenes around Digswell which I intend to show at the Open Studios in May.
En plein-air with Digswell Viaduct My first, very muddy, set-up!
Shows to See
A couple of excellent shows have just opened at the National Portrait Gallery. Howard Hodgkin has a retrospective of his abstract portraits, given added poignancy following his death last month. The development of his style, through 70 years of painting, was interesting to see. I personally preferred his earlier portraits, which retained some representational elements – indeed they reminded me of my own surreal collaged figures. His final work, made for the show, was a self-portrait, and was very moving.
Girl in a Bed, 1965, Howard Hodgkin
Whilst there though do not miss the Gillian Wearing / Claude Cahun show. Gillian is a conceptual artist who uses masks heavily in her autobiographical work, as does the French artist Cahun, working in the early 20th century. It’s a very different, and fascinating show, especially in the context of our current selfie-addicted times.
As I’ve said, a busy few weeks coming up, but I do hope you will be able to get along to at least one of my events and say hello. It would be lovely to see you again and to show you some of my new work.
Digswell Arts Trust Open Studios, 60th Anniversary Celebration, 6th-7th May 11am-4pm
The Forge, Hertford Rd., Digswell,
Reading Contemporary Art Fair, 22nd – 23rd April, Riverside Leisure Centre, Reading
Private View on Friday 21st. If you are intending to come, please do let me know, as I have a limited number of free passes for the Private view, and 2 for 1 tickets for the whole weekend
Hertford Open Exhibition, Sunday 30th April – Sunday 14th May, Cowbridge Halls Hertford.
This is the Annual Open exhibition, where I hope to have 4 or 5 paintings among the 250 or so on show.
Great Escapes, 27th April – 7th June Nude Tin Can Gallery, Hatfield Road, St. Albans.
I will have 4 works in this small exhibition, in this always interesting contemporary gallery in St. Albans. I will be at the showcase night on Friday 28th April.
St. Albans Art Society, Wednesday 3rd May, Marlborough Pavilion St. Albans
I will be giving a short illustrated talk on my “career” as an artist, following the society AGM.