Archive for the ‘Oil and charcoal on canvas’ Category

discovering drawings at the British Museum and continuing to paint in my studio

January 23, 2011

Going to any exhibition is always a delight but discovering an artist for the first time is very special.  At the British Museum last week in the exhibition Picasso to Julie Mehretu Modern drawings from the British Museum Collection, I came across the drawings of Edda Renouf.  I was blown away by her exquisite, timeless, quiet work.  It is very beautiful and her philosophy is in tune with the ideas that inform my own work. The following quote from Edda Renouf’s 2009 Statement, which I found on her website and am printing here with her permission, is particularly significant.

My works are thus a record of the days, weeks, months and seasons when they were created becoming a journal of my working process, while at the same time their structures and signs relate to thoughts and memory; to music and sound, themes that point to the idea of ‘making the invisible visible’ thereby revealing the movement and hidden presence of wave structures in our universe and again the abstract energy within my materials.’

© Edda Renouf,  2009.


Picasso to Julie Mehretu  Modern drawings from the British Museum Collection, Room 90, is on until 25 April 2011. It is a really good show with work that ranges from a huge Michaelangelo cartoon, German expressionist George Grosz, Gerhard Richter and finally a small black and white Julie Mehretu.  I have Catherine De Zegher’s book on Mehretu, (Rizzoli, 2007) but haven’t seen her work in the flesh before so was disappointed, expecially since the show is titled from Picasso to Mehretu, to find that there was only one drawing by her. However there is  a fine line drawing, Untitled Subway Drawing by William Anastasi which absorbed my attention.  A show which takes up two rooms,  is always a treat; time to really look intently at each piece and not too many visitors because it hasn’t had the blockbuster marketing treatment.


Life in the studio continues.


Finished this week; Unstable Horizon painting 5.   oil charcoal and graphite on canvas.  80 x 100 cms, 31 x 40 ins.  above, details below


there is something about horizons fading into darkness

January 14, 2011

At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,

The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable

And you are in the dark again.

These lines from Seamus Heaney’s  ‘The Peninsula’ have a particular resonance for me and the whole poem is a magical evocation of shoreline reminding me of Achill.  They accompanied me as I came to the end of  my first large Unstable Horizons painting.  Heaney talks of breakers being ‘shredded into rags‘,  ‘leggy birds‘ which suggest to me the exquisite white egrets which stand in the river that runs alongside my studio; and ‘Islands riding themselves out into the fog‘. Achill again.  Such wonderful imagery.  Seamus Heaney’s collection Opened Ground Poems 1966-1996 was on my wish list but I ended up buying it myself.  Couldn’t wait! And it is wonderful.

The painting, for now just Unstable Horizon Painting 3, has been looking at me for weeks daring me to put the final marks on it.  Pencil, graphite, charcoal one after the other in destabilising lines, blowing charcoal dust all over the studio as I go.  Then covering the surface with butter soft paint and cautiously scraping it away again, stopping  the charcoal from smudging and muddying the paint.

Top. Unstable Horizon Painting.  Oil charcoal and graphite on canvas, 80 x 100 cms. 31 x 40 inches.

Below.   from my sketchbook, Achill Island

The unstable horizon from a small boat in wild seas

December 6, 2010


During my two residencies in Ireland this year I worked extensively in sketchbooks.  In Ballycastle my house faced the sea, nothing between me and Greenland, and every morning I drew the rapidly changing horizon, the light, the weather, and the mountains of Donegal appearing and disappearing like ghosts. At The Cill Rialaig Project on the Kerry coast  there was nothing between the wild rocks and America apart from the Skelligs, inhabited in the fourth century by a group of monks. For them their location was the edge of the known world. I went out to the Skelligs in wild March seas in a ferociously bronco-bucking, little fishing boat and once there, climbed to the top. Two of the scariest things I have ever done! The sketchbooks full of horizon drawings, the drawings from the cliffs in the Ballinskelligs, the memory of my trip to the Skelligs and getting to know the local people in Co. Mayo has translated itself into a body of work concerned with Unstable Horizons. They reference the physicality and history of the land and my experience of it as well as the uncertainty of the economic and political situation in Ireland, which is also part of my family history.  These small paintings are the beginning of a determined exploration of these ideas and I am already working on two larger canvases.

History of a pavement

November 29, 2010

Hundreds of thousands of people walk on pavements everywhere, every day, each leaving a little bit of their story behind. Mud, dust, wet footprints, a hair, a button, cigarette ends, sweet papers. As the pavements deteriorate and crack little bits of these multiple histories silt up the cracks leaving a residue of people, whose presence there was fleeting, or who have long ago died or moved away. If pavements could tell their stories…..the daily repetition – trudging to work, pushchairs, pub fights, dogs, rain, ice… The Cracks in the Pavement drawings open up their own stories, following the, lines covering them up, reinventing them. These are my little bits of history from Ballycastle in Co. Mayo.



History of a pavement

oil, charcoal and graphite on canvas, 80 x 80 cms

Cracks in the Pavement – sequence of 12 drawings.  pencil on paper, 21 x 21 cms

A new painting, Rachel Whiteread drawings and the Turner Prize

November 18, 2010

The first painting using the unstable horizon drawings as a starting point. Unusually for me, I used a really big brush for this 12 inch square canvas,  I often don’t use a brush at all, and I had forgotten what a painterly effect it achieves.

I went to see the the Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain last week finding Dexter Dalwood’s complex paintings very interesting. His deliberately borrowed imagery and eclectic painting styles are a little disconcerting at first but once you stop artist spotting; Jasper Johns, Botticelli, Van Gogh, and have worked out the literary references you can enjoy them for the big meaty paintings they are.  Peter Doig came to mind whilst I was looking at them.  Of the other shortlisted artists: Angela de la Cruz’s stretcher-less paintings revealed a rather wicked sense of humour and  her three legged chair was very touching.  Susan Philipsz’ sound installation was very evocative  in the enclosed space of a gallery but I would have liked to hear it in its original location outside on the River Clyde in Glasgow.  I found the Otolith Group’s installation, banks of screens, sound and movement from all sides rather overwhelming and actually found them talking about their work in the final room more digestible but to be fair I know I didn’t give them enough time so I need to go back again.

Finally I went back again to look at the exhibition of Rachel Whiteread’s drawings which I saw in September.  I enjoyed it as much on a second viewing.  I love the simplicity, the masking out of lines and the unpretentious use of graph paper.  But essentially just drawings that make you think, that you want to stand in front of and absorb for a very long time.  Drawings of mattresses, floors, door knobs, things that essentially are unimportant and go unnoticed.  I like that! It resonates with the things that I like to draw.

Untitled..Double Mattress Yellow (1991) by Rachel Whiteread

Cill Rialaig about to be revisited

March 9, 2010

About to leave for another residency at Cill Rialaig.  I am gathering things together to take.  Lots of books, camera, sketchbooks, charcoal, paper, pencils, canvases and paint.  The most recent painting which I finished about the last residency is below.  It will be interesting to see where this one takes me.

Alternative Topographies

Oil charcoal and graphite on canvas  30 x 30 cms

From Picasso to Kuniyoshi with lots of drawing in between

June 24, 2009

The Illusions of Space show at the Brewhouse came down and the talk on the last saturday with the launch of the catalogue was good. I am really pleased with the catalogue since we finally got a decent shot of my big drawing which was heinously difficult to photograph. If any one would like a copy feel free to ask. The text and some images have just  been published in Art Cornwall, (click on the link in the sidebar). Before the show ended I went up to London to the National Gallery to see the Picasso show. I must remind myself never to take any notice of what reviewers say because it got a really bad press and it was wonderful. I got there just as it was opening so there were very few people in there for the first hour which was a bonus. There was lots of work which I hadn’t seen before and the connections that were made with other artist’s work were fascinating. I loved how the monumentality of Ingres’s portrait of Mme Moitessier is reflected in Picasso’s portraits of Marie Thérese Walter and had to rush over to the French rooms afterwards to look at it and my favourite Degas painting of a woman combing the red hair of another woman which Picasso used for another work. The Kuniyoshi was much harder work because I was completely unfamiliar with his work and it was rather a case of information overload and I just couldn’t take it all in. I did love his big A2 sketchbooks with fold out triptyches though. I think I might try that myself.

So back in the studio and I have today finished a big painting inspired by the Transition show at Exeter Castle. I have been working on it for weeks and it is the same dimensions as the drawings and so the same as the floor area of the prison cells, 180 x 120 cms. I have had real trouble with the paint drying too quickly in the heat and so had to put an extra layer of paint on it today to make it work. Its isn’t as smooth a finish as I had originally intended but given the subject matter I rather like the rawness of the finish.

Robinson F. 01 Veils of Memory

I have called it Veils of Memory which is a bit of a nod to ‘dropping from the veils of morning’ in Yeats poem, The Lake Isle of Inisfree which I love and which is about solitude.

Details below

Robinson F. 02 Detail 1

Robinson F. 03 Detail 2

Robinson F. 04 Detail 3

Studio Visit

February 5, 2009

With a studio visit planned for tomorrow, my workspace is looking uncharacteristically tidy. It won’t last like this for long! New drawing in progress for the Transition Show at Exeter Castle and the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, on the easle.






Work in progress, progressing very slowly!

September 15, 2008

The third of the paintings, this one exploring that break between sea and sky which is so dramatic at Cill Rialaig. I think, probably not finished yet.