‘Green Barn, Suffolk’ was painted through the late summer/autumn 2018 on to cardboard packaging from an Ikea delivery. Several other works are on the same material. I have no idea whether it lasts well or not, but it is a great surface to paint on. It also costs nothing – a not entirely negligible factor in these days of increasingly expensive canvases. Anyway, potential longevity is of little interest to this painter for whom the ‘performance of painting’, the actual experience of making the work, is the important part of painting.
This painting was an especially enjoyable ‘performance’. For once I knew exactly my objective: to create a work primarily of deep, rich yellow. The simple framework for this was supplied by an actual view from beside the modern A144 road (the Roman road ‘Stone Street’) near the parish church of Ilketshall St Andrew between Halesworth and Bungay (lovely Suffolk names). Up a slight slope was a large field with a barn on a skyline – and that was it. I cut out much extraneous detail and just concentrated on working up the space provided by the field into a deep, rich yellow. To this end, and over several weeks, I used up much of my remaining yellow pigments from happy forays to the old quarries and excellent modern shop at Roussillon in France: some 8 or 9 layers of slightly different yellow ochres were used to produce this thick, un-lemony yellow.
I hope this comes over as an abstract and, for those who have such a template in their mind, as a carefully observed map of a landscape or a vertical, coloured air photograph of a landscape. That it is truly an abstract is borne out by the fact that no such landscape exists: the image is completely imaginary, though it is made up of many actual features e.g. the line of a Roman road diagonally from top left to lower right perpetuated by a near-continuous line of extant hedgerows.
This is obviously an old-style Fowler painting, reverting to a familiar ‘megalithic’ topic and thick-oil technique; but back in October, after experimenting a lot with ink-washes and new styles, I suddenly felt an irresistible desire to produce a blue painting. This, eventually, was the result, but it came to look like this by a tortuous route.
In part this was because the ‘blue’ painting was on top of a basically brown and green painting of a ruinous windmill at Stukey, Norfolk, in the garden of a house I rented there for a family holiday some years ago; and I tried in vain to keep some ‘good bits’ from this earlier painting in this new one. In the end, the small brown patch is the only remnant in a sea of some five or six different blues in thick oil.
In one sense this is an unusual painting for me because it carries no particular meaning. It is simply a composition in blue using elements – upright stones loosely derived from Avebury – arranged with one behind the other to give a 3D effect. I sometimes wonder if the white rectangle in or on the front stone is a mirror reflecting the present or a window looking into a blank past.
The painting has been submitted for the open exhibition at The Cut, Halesworth, Dec. ’17 – Jan. ’18.
I came across this early ‘painting’ the other day and thought it had worn well over 14 years; so I am giving it an airing.
At the time (2003) I was travelling alot on behalf of UNESCO and ICOMOS promoting the idea and practice of ‘cultural landscape’ as a type of World Heritage site. One of the most memorable places I visited was the vast extent of irrigated fields stepping up steep slopes in the mountainous region of the Cordilleras, Luzon, in the northern Philippines. This was what lay behind this work, one of a number I did at the time using different seeds/grain in a rather ambitious (uncompleted) series on the theme of staple foods.
Though entirely imaginary, this image conveys in general an impression of a vertical, coloured air photograph recording an area of English landscape on light soils such as river gravel or chalk downland.
In detail, the marks are typical of archaeological – and geomorphological – features which characteristically show up as crop-marks, that is changes in the colour and height of crops as a result of buried features such as ditches and walls which affect the root systems and hence the growth of the various plants. On the ground, this area would look completely flat; from the air it can be seen to contain a (prehistoric?) rectangular field system contemporary with and overlaid by rectangular enclosures.
But all that is irrelevant really. Without knowing any of that, does it make a good abstract? The only thing that matters is whether or not it makes a satisfactory image. I’ve done quite a number of paintings over the years based on memories of vertical air photography; this is a simple one and none the worse for that.
The painting has been submitted for the Open Exhibition at The Cut, Halesworth, Dec. ’17 – Jan. ’18.
Another image painted on a used canvas, in this case over two earlier works; and about not just the land and the sea but the relationship between them.
It is not of any particular place or view but is about the idea of sea becoming land in contrast to the prevailing view today of land becoming sea. By placing two decrepid jetties in the foreground with their supporting timbers on land, and a disused jetty in the background and in the sea, I hope the idea of change is indicated: clearly this empty creek was once a busy place but now, for whatever reason, it has become silted up and is deserted.
So within this perhaps quite attractive view lie two aspects of change, changes in human activity and changes in natural process. But was the silting up in fact ‘natural’? – perhaps a decline in economic activity allowed it to happen. Alternatively, may be an irresistible process of silting forced shipping away and the abandonment of the associated facilities – as happened at Dunwich, for example, and Orford, both once prosperous harbours on the Suffolk coast (co-incidentally, presumably, the silted-up harbours at both places are now car-parks). Such ambivalence is carried through into the actual image: are we looking more or less horizontally down a widening creek towards the sea or out to sea between two cliffs depicted in profile in the vertical plane?
The view along the sea wall south from Aldeburgh towards the Martello tower: see my posts in Commentary 10 January and earlier; and now my post of June 2018 re the paintings of this scene by Jason Gathorme-Hardy
This is one of several field sketches carried out as an exercise with my tutor, Michael Horn, in July 2015 in north Norfolk. On what was the only non-raining morning that week, we visited a curious nature reserve cum public park called ‘If not now when?’ (see the painting of that name in The Gallery and my blog at the time (28 July). The field is managed as a ‘wet meadow’, now a rare habitat in the region, and in it are plantations and various structures. The latter include a small monumental arch (rear, right), a timber ‘henge monument’ (right foreground; like Stonehenge but in wood and common in Britain c 2000 BC); and a mound shaped like a large horizontal question mark, of which the mound in blue (left centre) is the dot.