Interrogating and simplicity

March 31, 2013

Stone and tree copy

I have a love hate relationship with the word interrogate.  Actually its mostly hate! Considered a more rigorous term than merely questioning it has become the  art speak term of choice for investigating something, often giving woolly ideas a veneer of intellectual seriousness which they do not  merit. Every second artist seems to be interrogating something!  My distrust, dislike of the term goes back a long way.  As an eleven year old, in a school French exam I was confronted with the instruction,”convert the following sentences into the interrogative”.  I was good at French easily capable of getting full marks for this but along with the rest of my class I got zero for that question because not one of us knew what interrogative meant.  It clearly still rankles!  I think art speak risks equating simple language  with simplistic ideas.  So, rant over,  simplicity is where I am heading.

I met up with my friend Jem this week for a drawing day. We have been doing this in a desultory way for a year or more but have now set ourselves a goal:  to produce five pieces of work in just over a year.  Although music is a common interest we are beginning  to look at architecture and think about space and the simplicity of structures like cloisters.  Sharing a variety of music throughout the day from Bach’s Cello Suites to Karl Jenkins The Armed Man, Mass for Peace to the opening bars of James Macmillan’s Tuireadh, his lament for the Piper Alpha disaster we settled down to draw. I am currently revisiting the compositions of Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico and in our conversations we touched on the classical influences  on Brunelleschi in the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence. I suspect that with these ideas fresh in my mind, having earlier observed a rhythm of light falling on angles of stone walls balanced by a riot of bare tree branches, I started my first drawing for this new project. Stone and Tree. I have no idea where it will go from here.

Running in tandem with these regular drawing days I am about to start work on a new personal project in response to Bach’s cello music and I have just bought a large format sketchbook, 30 x 42 centimetres and a book of manuscript paper. So to work…..


Drawn 2013 Open Drawing Exhibition at the RWA

March 21, 2013

Third Nocturne

Third Nocturne, one of my 2012 drawings made in response to listening to music, mostly Chopin’s nocturnes has been selected for the RWA Drawing open.  The exhibition opens in Bristol on Friday and runs through until June 2nd.  After the January blues I  finally got back into the studio and started working on a new group of drawings, Partita 1 – 5 made whilst listening to Brahms cello sonatas and piano trios.  They are now posted on my website with the Quartet drawings which I made last year.  I am introducing underlying grids into these drawing which are creating an interesting counterpoint to the slashing diagonals which are struggling against the vertical lines.  Still unable to resist these verticals which are suggestive of the neck of a stringed instrument.

Partita 4

Partita 4. 2013  Mixed Media on Arches HP 300gm.  76 x 56 cm

Anonyme Zeichner, Berlin

March 4, 2013



I have two drawings in this show!

Anonymous Drawings 2013
800 international drawings
curated by Anke Becker

exhibition: March 24 – April 20, 2013
opening reception: Saturday 23 / 7 pm

Kunstverein Tiergarten | Galerie Nord
Turmstraße 75 / 10551 Berlin
opening hours: Sun March 24: noon-6 pm
afterwards: Tue – Sat, 1-7 pm

Last days and a finished drawing

November 16, 2012

My last week at Cill Rialaig went incredibly quickly as I struggled to find enough time to finish my drawing about memory.  But I did finally get it done.  It was helped by the fact that the last few days were so misty that it was impossible to see anything. There was no opportunity for taking photographs of the beautiful islands offshore because they were invisible. The last photos were taken last Monday in the evening when there was still enough light.


Detail of – Remembering and forgetting – (needs a proper title) but now pretty much finished.  pencil on Heritage rag paper, 102 x 138 cms

A lot of the time I was working on this drawing in very poor light because the only wall in the cottages suitable for s large sheet of paper is at the other end of the room away from the lovely light which pours through the glass roof over the studio area.  So it will be very good to see it in a different space when I get home and make the final adjustments to it. It will also be good to get it properly photographed.

Valencia Island, big Charcoal Drawings and Agnes Martin’s writings

November 9, 2012

Monday finally, as promised by the forecasters, was warm and brilliantly sunny so I headed off for Valencia Island via Cahersiven.  I didn’t need to go that way but the Petit Delice French Patisserie there has the best almond croissants I have tasted outside of Paris.  So had to be done and armed with my croissant I headed for the ruins of Ballycarberry castle and sat on the beach watching sandpipers, who didn’t stay long and a stray oyster catcher.  As I sat there enjoying the solitude a couple of vans arrived and and I heard French voices!  They really were French vans and then a tractor turned up with a long trailor on it and everyone togged up in oilskins and headed off towards the point – I can only assume they were all going fishing.  But it was the end of my peaceful reverie so I left.  I started at Knight’s Town on Valentia Island, a pretty village and the port from where the ferry runs to the mainland but I suspect only in the Summer.  There was no sign of it in November.

I headed back towards the other end of the island and did some drawings of the skelligs in the distance.  Then I wandered back through St Finans bay climbing straight up the amazingly sheer cliff to the top followed by a descent with the tightest s bends I have seen in a long time.  But St Finan’s Bay is spectacularly beautiful and there is a chocolate factory nestling at the foot of the hills where you can sample Vanilla Grenach, Champagne truffles and other delights.  Just for the record I don’t have a sweet tooth I just happen to like dark chocolate and almond croissants though my favourite is apricot croissant but they don’t do those in Cahersiveen.


Tuesday was not such a sunny day but I have started work on a very large drawing which is very process-led and slow and tortuous.  I have wanted to do a piece about memory and forgetting and silence for a long time and now seemed just right. \as an antidote to the slow meticulous working process I spent some time out on the cliff-side with a board and sheets of cartridge paper doing large free drawings in charcoal.  It makes a nice contrast to the quick sketchbook studies I have been doing and gives me time to stand back from the drawings about High Cross House which need a breathing space.  I have also been reading some of Agnes Martin’s writings which are feeding into my thoughts about solitude although I do take issue with some of her statements.

Hailstones and dancing witches and cats

November 3, 2012


It is Saturday morning and the sea is heaving with sludgy waves topped with little flecks of white.  The glass roof of the studio area is completely covered with hailstones landing in a staccato cacophony and slipping glutinously down the slope of the glass. It’s like being in some subterranean cave. We have had these hail storms for the past couple of days, beautiful sunshine and then a few minutes later the sky is black and it starts to hail or rail heavily.  The forecast for Monday and Tuesday is no rain and bright sunshine so I am going to head out to Valencia Island, which is spectacularly beautiful


I have been doing lots of small studies in my sketchbook of the hills and islands, which I can see from the cottage.  I have done them so many times but I do find them irresistible! There weren’t many people here when I arrived but the few who were had  a little gathering in the meeting room for Halloween.  I made a paper cutout string of witch and cat which we strung it over the fireplace while we sat in the dark of the fire and one candle drinking wine.  In the interests of authenticity I asume the meeting house doesn’t seem to have electric light in the main room so it  just like it would have been in the nineteenth century, which is fine in the Summer when it is light until eleven o clock but slightly more challenging in the winter when you can’t find your glass in the gloom.

Wild winds and sketchbook drawings

November 1, 2012


A wild wild night with roaring winds and torrential rain but this morning it is dry – just.  I watched curlews flying fast along the lea of the coast and there was a hooded crow on the edge of the cliff.  Yesterday the islands and the headland opposite were appearing and disappearing by the moment but this morning they are all visible and the sea is a deep dark bluey grey, lightening in the distance where the water shallows at the islands’ shoreline.

In the afternoon I stopped in Waterville  and the light looking out to sea before it started to rain again was moody and dark, such an amazing colour on the horizon line.


Later I made a long thin drawing of the sketches in my little square sketchbook and then started wok on some larger drawings exploring the High Cross House ideas.


Notes from my sketchbook.


Return to Cill Rialaig

October 30, 2012

Return to Cill Rialaig.


This beautiful place on the edge of the Atlantic never fails to inspire me, it greeted me, despite the cold, with bright late afternoon sunshine.  I had been three days getting here.  Along drive to Fishguard to catch the boat to Rosslare, an overnight stay followed by an even longer day, first to Bray on the outshkirts of Dublin and then down to Cork, another nights rest and then the drive to Kerry. Slow going but I glimpsed my first hooded crow as I entered the Gaeltacht. My cottage was cold, one of the storage heaters wasn’t working but I lit the fire and tried to warm up without much success. I got a delivery of turf the next afternoon and the electrician turned up and mended the heater despite the fact that it was a Sunday and a bank holiday. Heavy rain on Sunday so I headed off to the Shiopa Cill Rialaig which is the gallery and cafe and had a cup of tea by their roaring fire.   I then came home and started to do some drawing.  Monday, bank holiday dawned bright and clear, despite the hour change I got up really early and managed to catch a view of a pair of kestrels high up on the rocks above my cottage.  I sat outside all afternoon in the sun drawing the islands and the headland which is my view from the cottage, for the upteenth time.  I just need to do it and get it out of my system.  I have started reading Sun Dancing by Geoffrey Moorhouse which is his fictional account of the monks over the centuries on Skellig Michael, the tiny out crop of rock which they lived on for generations.  Beautifully written and fascinating.  My bedtime reading is The Secret Garden which I haven’t read for ages.  I have a beautiful  edition illustrated by Inga Moore and published by Walker books.   It is safe reading in this remote place where a moonless night is so black you can’t see your hand in front of your face and youwouldn’t  want to be thinking of sidhe or  banshees!



High Cross House Dartington – new project

August 9, 2012

Halcyon summer days. Lizards sunning themselves on the terrace, scarce swallowtail butterflies on the lavender, drinking wine in the shade of the magnificent Acer tree which has grown out of all recognition from the little thing it was twenty years ago.

I am starting to work on my new project, a commissioned exhibition at High Cross House, Dartington for September to December 2013.  Originally designed by the Swiss American Architect William Lescase for the first headmaster of Dartington Hall School, the house is now being managed by the National Trust.  I made my first visit there in mid July and was entranced by the modernist architecture and the way in which the NT have retained the feel of it as a domestic interior.  There is original furniture including the Steinway grand piano, which anyone entering the sitting room is invited to play.  There are studios upstairs which are being used by artists in residence and the current composer in residence was playing his own compositions for a couple of hours during the afternnon.  The atmosphere felt vibrant and I am very excited about the oportunity to make work in response to the building and its ambiance.

Falling in love with geometry – Paintings by Jane Hedges

July 1, 2012

Medina Marrakech Acrylic on Canvas 120x120cms

I never thought I would say that, geometry not being my forté! However I am talking about painterly geometry not the mathematical kind. Two years ago during Dorset Art Weeks I bought a small painting from Artist Jane Hedges who lives quite near to Lyme Regis.  I went back again this year and fell in love with her work all over again. She tends towards two distinct palettes. My little painting in acrylics on paper is hot pinks, orangey yellows, purples and touches of  turquoise. Other paintings are darker, predominantly blue and indigo and in her most recent works greens are beginning to seep in. This bald listing of the colours that she uses fails to take account of their immense subtlety. A myriad of small triangles and diamonds in layered dragged paint are set within a geometric framework that is suggestive of Hagia Sofia or the floor plan of a Venetian tiled Palazzo. It is the way that she layers the paint, delicately dragging one hue across the surface of another so that the little squares look powdery, not quite hiding the colour underneath. Some of her inspiration comes from Morocco, which led me to think of Paul Klee as a reference and I was reminded of the wonderful pierced Islamic screens in the Victoria and Albert Museum.  But the V and A screens are pale, monochrome, whereas it is Jane’s  use of colour which sings out: so sure, sumptuous and mesmerising.   Her most recent work is beginning to incorporate curves which flow across the surface of the now more landscape-formatted canvases and are in fact a response to the amazing view across the hills which she can see from her studio window.

Evening Durweston Acrylic on Canvas 77x77cms

Towards Penn Farm Acrylic on Canvas 90x70cms

I hope to get the chance to write a longer piece about Jane Hedges work but this is just a little taster for now.