Well, this years open studio event at Leegate House has been and gone. Many thanks to those that made the journey to this little corner of southeast London. Thankfully the heatwave abated, just for the day, and we didn’t all melt in our studios.
These open studios events are a prerequisite for studio providers to maintain their charitable status – to demonstrate they’re “engaging with the community”. In my experience, many studio providers will only make a token effort, and most artists will see it as an inconvenience.
I’m pleased to say that Bow Arts treated this event with a lot more enthusiasm, as did most of the artists here in Leegate House – it was the most enjoyable open studio that I’ve taken part in. Some of the nicest conversations I had were with local people who’d seen a flyer in Sainsburys, and thought “I must go along to that”. I spend most of my time locked away alone in this room on the fifth floor. It’s actually quite nice opening the doors to the public once a year.
I’ve started work on a series of headless nudes. It’s a development of some figure studies I have been working on. I was interested in seeing to what extent a sense of the sitter’s identity could be conveyed if, first, they were stripped of their clothes, and then, as in the case with this painting, their heads were cropped from the painting.
This is a portrait of my friend and fellow artist Tarique. Some of his paintings and ceramics can be found here. It was an interesting challenge painting his painting (which we used as the backdrop), and having to use a quite different palette.
I was recently clearing out my late Mum’s house, when I came across a self-portrait that I must have painted when an Art School – probably 1983-84. I don’t have any of my old student paintings, and so this is an interesting reminder of my old painting technique. I’ve shown it below along with my most recent self-portrait, to show the difference in styles.
So, I’ve been working with glazes this morning on one of my current paintings. When I finished, I thought that, instead of throwing away the leftover glaze and cleaning my palette, I would use it to try and finish this painting that has been lying around the studio for a long time now (I think I had the original sittings with the models in July 2013).
I do have a problem working on these older pieces. The sittings are usually from so long ago, that I can’t recall exactly what I had in mind as I directed the model. But most importantly, this painting belongs to a body of work that I was working on over a year ago. It’s only natural that my compositions and also my technique will have changed during this time.
At the moment, I have in my studio a collection of unfinished paintings; some of them started well over a year ago. Although anxious to resume work on my “Feast of Venus” project, I shall try and finish some of these pieces first. They are all important to me, and are only unfinished because of the wretched time I’ve had this past year in finding a suitable studio.
I’ve settled on a provisional layout for my Feast of Venus painting. Most of the figures are quite well defined for this early stage, but there are a few unresolved areas. I will have to make some decisions about the background in the top right, and the tree behind the central figure of Venus. So today I went out with my camera, photographing trees. I must confess that I’ve not spent much time looking at trees in the past, and to begin with I was amazed by the huge variety in form and texture….. After four hours, they all started to look pretty much the same.
I now have a selection of poses that I’m happy with, which I can present to the model when she arrives for the first sitting. This first sitting will just enable me to work on the layout to a greater detail, so I can make decisions about how I want each figure to look; then I can start looking for suitable life models.
I recently came across an interesting project by the artist Inga Krymskaya, where she is inviting artists to contribute their own interpretations to her ongoing project: “3045 Variations on The Feast of Venus…..an ongoing project by the Dutch artist involving the adaptation and reinvention of the Flemish Baroque painting by Rubens entitled”. I usually have absolutely no interest in creating pieces specially for themed shows. The pace at which I work normally excludes me from any such activity. The generous deadline for this project, 26th February, 2016 (nearly four months from when I write this), is still a bit tight, and I don’t expect I can get anything worthwhile completed to my satisfaction in that time…, but still I keep thinking about it.
What started as a casual perusal of this particular Rubens painting, turned into a more detailed analysis of the composition, and the treatment by Rubens of this subject. And then I started to consider how I would approach the same subject. Well, the Cherubs would have to go, as would the Satyrs; they just don’t have the same meaning in our modern artistic vocabulary. But the underlying themes of the painting are just as valid today as when Rubens put brush to canvas. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d like to arrange the figures in my composition, and spent a few evenings working through endless compositions. Eventually I settled on a layout that borrowed enough from the original, whilst being a continuation of my current work, and able to convey a meaning to a modern audience. By now I realised that I was working on my next painting.
It has been a few days now since I first came across Inga Krymskaya’s project, and I have barely worked on anything else. I have arrived at an initial layout, with alternative poses for most of the figures. The background is rather less defined at present. I believe I can make do with as few as three different models, and have already arranged a sitting with one model for the preparatory work; in order to work through most of the poses, so that I’ll have drawings with which to start arranging the composition on the canvas. It is only then that I can settle on the composition. From there I might have a better idea which models will best suit each figure, and I can only hope that I will finalise the poses for their figures with one sitting each. That 26th of February deadline is beginning to look very close!
I’ve been working on a few different hanging arrangements for the forthcoming New Artist Fair. The organisers had mentioned that they prefer the displays not to be too crowded. Well, if they had any of their larger spaces still available, I would gladly have left more white space around each canvas. As it is, I’m trying to fit the bare minimum number of works in 2m of wall space, that will fairly represent the range of my work.
Last night I delivered my “Relationships Series No.3” painting to the Espacio Gallery on Bethnal Green Road, for the upcoming “Punch” exhibition – part of Sweet ‘Art’s Summer Art Festival.
I’ve only shown this piece once before, in an unfinished state, at the first Cork Street Open exhibition. My reluctance to show it since has largely been because I became uncomfortable with the personal nature of this piece; it was just too stark a reminder of a very difficult time in my life.