Friday, June 29, 2007

Kielder - Up and Running

General view of the Duchess gallery at Kielder Castle showing some of Iain Sloan's work in the foreground and two pieces by Emma Hunter adjacent the door.
Another general view. This time it is my painting, "Group" in the foreground and just beyond it, one of Neil Wilson's "Tarkus" series.
Four of Neil's paintings.

Two works by Nik Ingham, "Spray No.7" and "Spray No.8."
All these artists are part of Luneside Studios.
Three of piled the work into a car this morning and set off north to Kielder. It was a pleasant journey, both ways. The sun came out and we enjoyed the unfolding scenery which became increasingly wild once we'd left the A7 at Canonbie. My two companions had not been to this neck of the woods before so they looked on all with fresh eyes.
It was a busy four hours setting up the exhibition and by the end of it we were all fairly tired. I for one can give a sigh of relief now it is all up on the walls. I was the one charged with organising it. But all credit to the rest of the Studio, they all mucked in and helped. The stressful part is making the necessary phone calls only to find I was talking to an answering machine. And of course, later returned calls talking to my answering machine. It leaves that uneasy feeling, 'Is anything happening? Is it going to come together?'
Well yes, in the end, it all did. Phew!
Some of my musician friends say it reminds them of the build up to a concert performance. You rehearse here and there, things persistently go wrong, small snags magnify themselves out of all proportion and then come the performance, it all slots into place.
Yes, I can see the parallels.
Now I can focus my attention on the Merthyr Tydfil exhibition coming up in a month's time. I still have three new pieces to make for this show. But I won't be able to start until next midweek at the earliest; I'm off to Oxford tomorrow for a few days. I might get time to visit the Ashmolean on Monday but we'll wait and see. My wife tells me we have a fairly full programme seeing friends and family. So I'll report ere I return.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Its Jazz, Man...

Last night we had a double birthday celebration for two of our Studio members. We had an enjoyable social evening in "Crows Restuarant and Bar" on King Street in Lancaster. The local Artist tend to gravitate to here or alternatively the bar at the Dukes Theatre. So now you know.
But, we had a good night, talking about this and that and t'other.
Walking back through the town at 11-00, it wasn't quite yet dark. I fancied a bag of chips and got some then strolled back home passing various pubs and clubs with their doors flung open and the strains of live jazz pouring out into the night air. There's a lot of jazz played in Lancaster these days. Looks like we might become the New Orleans of England.... well, the North anyway.
With all this rain we're having, the high tide at St. George's Quay could get higher than usual and cause a bit of flooding which is another thing we could have in cvommon with New Orleans. Then again perhaps not.
Talking of flooding, Yorkshire and the Midlands have had more than their fair share of it. At Least with Lancaster, major flooding is impossible. Most of the city is on the side of a hill. But around the Lune estuary, thats a different story.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kassiopi - Kerkyre

Kassiopi is a small village in the north-east corner of Corfu, an island just west of the Graeco -Albanian mainland. Much of the village is now given over to the tourist industry and the more modern developments reflect that. However, there are still one or two hidden pockets of the original village once you get off Kassiopi's main street. Just down towards the harbour and almost directly opposite Kosta's Taverna where, during the season, Greek dancing is laid on every evening, there lies a narrow alley leading to a Greek Orthodox Church. This marble plate shown here that I drew on site circa 2004 sits on the boundary wall. It tells you the church is dedicated to St. Spyridon, the patron saint of Corfu.
What struck me about it was the viridian pigment embedded into the carved letters. Time and weather are gradually eroding it. It looks as if it has been there since the days of Spyridon himself.
I'm sure my daughter Cath will know this place.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Just to the east of Limassol in Cyprus stands the remains of an ancient temple to Aphrodite, - Amathus. It dates back to 800 BC or even earlier. The whole complex is large and excavation work is still ongoing. It is an interesting site with plenty of atmosphere. When I visited last October it was a lovely warm day, as most days are in Cyprus. I took the photo then settled down to do a drawing. By the time I had started, black clouds laced with continuous bolts of lightning started to roll in. The drawing was done at a rather less than liesurely pace! I only had time to note down the essential elments before the storm hit.
Eastern Mediterranean thunderstorms tend to take on biblical proportions. The thunderstorms we get here in England are quite genteel affairs by comparison. But one thing in the Cypriot storm's favour, - the rain is warm! In less than a minute tee shirt and shorts are literally soaked through. No need for a raincoat. The storm stops as abruptly as it started and the hot sun re-asserts itself. You dry out almost as quickly. Unlike England. Damp misery!
Ah well, I'll be back in Cyprus this October. Only not in Limassol this time but in Larnaca. The studios has moved.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This one isn't (going to Kielder)

I was sorting through the work I'd identified for this exhibition and this one was going, until disaster struck. I unwrapped it so that I could fit a pair of D-rings to the back of the frame. But once the bubble wrap was removed I saw the glass was cracked from top to bottom. No time to put that right now... (a) no time and (b) no cash. Its the wrong end of the month. Anyway, for what its worth....
The picture is called "Progressions" and is a forerunner of the sea series such as the Atlantic pictures. each of these squares, like all the others, are 10 x 10 cm. That makes this work a tad under 60 cm x 42 cm. Drawn in varied media on 300gsm cartridge paper. The idea is to show changing apearance as one progresses along. In this case, walking along a Foresry Commission track. The bottom set show the same piece of forest but with varied interpretations.
The glass breaking may have been a blessing in disguise. I have thought about separating the two strips and mounting them as separate works each in their own 20 x 60 cm frame. But that's for another time.
The work was made in 2004.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another Picture going to Kielder

At first, this might look a bit abstract. But if you look closely, you will see it is a section of forest floor; a tangle of roots, stones, bracken and other undergrowth. The dense canopy of Sitkas makes this a rather shaded area but the sun does filter through creating pools of light that gives an added quality to the objects to be found there.
This picture is called "Roots" and is 42 x 30 cms, a graphite drawing with tinted undertone.
The exhibition, simply called "Luneside Studios" will be at the Duchess Gallery, Kielder Castle to run throughout the month of July.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Countdown to Kielder...

Spent a large chunk of Friday in the studio storage space we have at the Storey Institute in Lancaster. Our time here is limited; the developers move in here soon. It seems to be be the lot of artists these days to be hounded by developers who want to make the old buildings we have utilised into luxury flats, or some such. We will be moving round the corner to what we hope will become more permanent address in the near future.
But I digress...
Some of my newer stuff which I would have preferred to show is so well crated up it is a bit inaccessible just now. But I have indentified some work previously unshown from last year. At least the exercise has now got things sorted out a bit. I will show forest pictures at Kielder, appropriately enough I suppose and concentrate on my sea pictures for the one man show at Merthyr Tydfil.
This year, others of Luneside Studios will be showing alongside me at Kielder. So I don't have to find quite so much stuff. I have identified some seven works, one of which Iis shown here. It is painted in acrylic on canvas and is called "Thorn". Well it is a thorn tree!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sea Foam - Shallow Water

Lovely summer days just now in this North-western corner of England. 25ÂșC if you please, could have been Cyprus! Still its good to make art out in the sun, watching the shifting patterns of the sea foam where the water is shallowest as it comes over the beach. Where the water is calm, this pattern can remain for quite a while but just the smallest ripple can change it completely.
As the Zen scripture says, "even the slightest twitch will surely change the rhythm." You certainly get an example of it here.
It makes it frustratingly difficult to do a detailed drawing of this "from the life". Only a cursory sketch is possible. This is where the camera comes in handy to freeze that changing moment for more detailed study later. Small ripples are a bit of a rarity on the sea shore; its usually more of a convulsion from the dying surge of the last breaker.
This image is also posted on The Draughtsman and with a more technical commentary.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Stirrings of Panic.

Funny how time has a habit of creeping up on you. Not so long ago there seemed to be loads of time to think about organising the next exhibition for July. Then this morning I woke up with the rising sun at five o' clock or thereabouts with the realisation that the hanging date for that show which is in Kielder is only three weeks away. There is a body of work I can use but recent events have prevented me from addrerssing these [art] problems. However, Brenda is getting stronger by the day and more independent; - right arm in plaster notwithstanding, so I am more free to return to matters artistic. Most of the work is in temporary storage, Luneside Studios are still waiting for the new premises to be got ready. Its all the paperwork that various agencies have that takes up all the time. The building has to be adapted for purpose and some repairs carried out, so it could be a while yet before we are up and running. Meanwhile, of course, exhibition deadlines and other commitments have to be met.

Today saw me out in the sun in the back yard of my house, fabricating gesso boards for more paintings. At least now I am getting down to doing something, and that gnawing anxiety that woke me in the small hours has subsided somewhat. I need to enlarge the current body of work, not so much for the Kielder show, but for the next one in August, in Merthyr Tydfyl. My seascape/beachscapes are proving popular so I need to paint replacements. A nice problem to have, I suppose. Much better than not selling anything. Not that I'm making a fortune out of it. It just about covers my expenses for my annual sojourn in Cyprus. In other words the art (almost) just about finances itself.

Tomorrow I shall get down to the storage facility and identify some stuff for Kielder. Once that's done it should take a load off my mind.

Life is not so simple though. The show hangs on June 29. Kielder is some hundred or so miles north of Lancaster in the heart of Northumberland's Border Forest park. Then first thing next day I have to get down to Oxford. A friend of mine is to be ordained as an Anglican priest at Christ Church Cathedral. Its all happening! Boredom is not the problem.

The picture with this posting is a triptych called "Beach #3". Three canvasses 20 cm square, done in acrylic. It will be on show at Kielder, if I can find it in the storeroom.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Back from Merseyside

The familiar view of Liverpool. The Liver Building with its famous bird topping off each of its' towers...

...and this is its more modern skyline. Cranes everywhere. Development work going on apace for the "European City of Culture, 2008". Will it all be ready for next year I wonder?
What I did find, or not find should I say, is the sites of many small galleries and studios have been swept aside to make way for all this. Abandoned industrial buildings that eveolved into artist's studios or small-time "underground" galleries have now become big holes in the ground with a crane parked in the middle. But to be fair to the powers that be, many of the displaced artists have moved to the Sefton Park area which is a bit out of town so I had to give it a miss anyway.
But I did get to visit the established galleries; the Walker, with its Aachen Altarpiece, the Tate Liverpool and a handful of other venues, more of which anon.

Of course I couldn't leave the Albert Dock without a picture of the masts and rigging of a square-rigged schooner that just happened to be there.

I stayed at the YHA Hostel near the Albert Dock for an overnight; it cost £20.00 for a bed and breakfast sharing a six bedded dormitory. One of the hostellers snored so loudly all night that none of us five others got much sleep. That's a down side of hostelling. Never mind, I slept well enough once I was back home in my own bed!