Further to my November 2017 post about Dark Mountain 12: Sanctum, to which I was a contributing artist, I’m pleased to announce that my work also features in the new edition – Dark Mountain 14: Terra. Here’s the proof:
I’ll let them off with the ‘s’ on the end of my surname, as it’s a common mistake (along with people assuming it’s Rowling…). My contribution this time around was a black & white ink drawing from 2014:
‘The Poacher’. See it’s companion piece – ‘The Gamekeeper’ – here. It’s always a pleasure to see my work reproduced in any format, as that was my idea of success when I was kid – just to get your work published. I harboured no ambitions to see my work hung in galleries, as those were places where other people – the kind I saw only on TV – went. Art, for working class kids, was comics and book or album covers, and the only gallery that mattered was the one inside your own skull, where all those images that had really made an impression would hang for all eternity.
Anyway, back to Dark Mountain… I like what they’re about. My younger self might have once dismissed them as a “bunch of hippies” but in their acceptance of the darkness awaiting us all just a little further ahead down the wild highway, and in their attempt to forge a positive artistic response to that darkness, I find I have much in common with them, which is why it’s a pleasure to be asked to contribute. Special mention must go to the artist Jenny Arran, whose work has been used for the cover design. I’ve never seen anyone draw with an axe before, and certainly not with the ability to create such impressive results. Certainly puts Mr Burroughs and his shotgun ‘paintings’ into perspective. Dark Mountain 14: Terra is out now. Get your copy here.
Another film from Bevis Bowden (see previous post here). Observations from Isfryn is an ongoing series of “seasonal sightings” and this latest – ‘The Kestrel‘ – captures my favourite bird flying around over a stretch of common land, somewhere in Wales. “Nothing happens”, but I found it deeply soothing, especially after a long day in the office hamster wheel.
Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man would not look for harmony but simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.
Photograph taken in Churwell, Leeds, April 2014.
I’ve often wondered where the inspiration for the work I now produce came from. With the kestrel paintings (A Kestrel For A Knave, Against The Sky and The Hill Of Summer) I know it comes from early exposure to the film Kes, and the Barry Hines novel it was adapated from, but as for the landscapes and the other animals, I could only put it down to seeing Tales of the Riverbank or just growing up on a council estate flanked by fields and woodland. Seeing this poster recently was a Proustian moment for me, as it brought back with significant force the memory of reading Tarka The Otter when I was around ten or eleven years old. This was around the same time I read Watership Down, and I remember how much I loved the cover painting, reproduced above as a beautiful poster for the 1979 film version. Perhaps all my paintings of the last few years are just my way of trying to relive the sensations of looking at this as a ten-year old, marvelling at how anyone could paint something so good. Henry Williamson’s prose is, if memory serves, richly detailed and hugely evocative of the idyllic Devon countryside, but he never shies away from the violence and darkness that is the absolute reality of it all. Ted Hughes always cited the book as a significant influence on his adolescent imagination, and ended up living out his later life close to the location where Tarka The Otter is set. I suppose I should probably re-read the book, but part of me does not want to desecrate the newly unearthed golden shrine of its memory.
Coinciding with the opening of George Shaw’s new exhibition – A Corner Of a Foreign Field – the Yale Centre for British Art has released four specially-commissioned films that explore different aspects of George’s life and work. A Humbrol Art by Lily Ford focusses on his chosen medium, Humbrol enamel paint, that seems to be an often discussed aspect of his working methods that many find unusual. I don’t. My first attempts at painting in the early 1990’s were done using the first paints that came to hand, which was an old box of ‘tinlets’ of Humbrol enamel that I tried to use to make paintings of comic book characters like Batman or The Punisher. The results were most politely described as ‘mixed’. As George explains in the film, they’re a sod to work with, but you do get some interesting results in terms of colour contrasts and textures, especially when it comes to flesh, so I was not entirely surprised by some of the shots of his studios which revealed paintings in progress, some of which are nudes, which marks a significant change in his subject matter:
The film also features some of the work made around the time he started his studies at the Royal Academy in the mid-90’s:
These were made referring to photographs he’d taken of graffiti on garage doors, which led to the epiphany of just taking a step back and painting the actual garage itself. He went from paintings like those above – which was the kind of work that got him accepted into the Royal College (“the crap I showed them was unbelievable”)- to something like this:
‘Scenes From the Passion: Late’, painted in 2002, which is a a formidable amount of progress in such a relatively short period of time, especially when working with a paint that was never designed for making masterpeices. From what he reveals during the film you get the very real sense that this vast and intensely focussed body of work had been inside him for years, waiting patiently until he was ready to make it.