Vallis

 

This latest series of paintings continue my explorations of the ways of paint and the local Somerset landscape, focusing on the beautiful wooded valley of Vallis Vale, near Frome.  It is a place that I never tire of, constantly surprising me with undiscovered secret paths, which can lead under a fence into a hay field, or end at a precarious makeshift camp perched on the cliff edge of an abandoned quarry looking out above the tree canopy.  It is a place that has layers of industrial, and geological heritage that have been reclaimed by nature.  Steep wooded valley sides are crisscrossed by a myriad of tracks made by exploring kids and wild animals. Over time, the twisting paths of two streams, and the hands of forgotten quarrymen have shaped the vale into a series scooped out interconnected spaces that hold there own unique microcosms.

 

Pallet 65 (Reflections)

Pallet 65 (Reflections)            26x36cm

I am fascinated by the way that this unique landscape describes the space around us, providing pockets of distance that stretch away from the random jumble of trees, undergrowth, rocks and water. It is an environment that is spot lit by the sun, which picks out, in glorious riveting detail, the architectural splendour of a messy patch of weeds that the day before I might have walked straight past. It’s a place constantly changing, but at several different speeds, as the spin of the earth creates circles within circles. From minute to minute, as clouds filter the light and the sun moves across the sky.  From day to day, as different weather systems create different atmospheres, and over weeks as the slower turn of the seasons orchestrate the exuberant plant life.

 

Wild Tracks

Wild Tracks           140x290cm

I have tried to capture some of this variety though this series of paintings but feel I am still only scratching the surface.  Different scenes evoke different reactions, sometimes I’m happy to represent it close to how I see it but on other days I want to push the paint around further, experiment with colour and perception to try to create an image that can break the boundaries of a specific moment in time. I don’t know if I always succeed, but to strive for something that’s just out of sight is all a part of the journey. Often a painting will take a turn in an unplanned direction, mistakes can lead to a different path taken, ending up at an interesting new place.  Messing around with colour is a constant source delight for me and I have enjoyed breaking some of the rules in a couple of these paintings by getting out every colour in the box. I have tried to transmit some of the energy and vibration of life though the marks I make, the gradual progression of carefully placed marks are punctuated by a calligraphy of explosive scribbles. In the end, what motivates me most of all, is a simple desire to recreate the sense of wonder that I feel about this beautiful, transient, world around us.

 

Where The Waters Meet

Where The Waters Meet         140x290cm

 

 

 

Tangled Light

Tangled Light     90x90cm

 

 

Autumn Morning

Autumn Morning    100x140cm

 

 

Leaves in the Stream

Leaves in the Stream        140x290cm

 

 

Pink River

Pink River         140x140cm

 

 

 

Pallet72 (Hawthorn in the Quarry)

Pallet72 (Hawthorn in the Quarry)       30x40cm

 

 

 

Pallet 69 (Trailing Branches)

Pallet 69 (Trailing Branches)      30x40cm

 

 

Pallet62 (Glade)

Pallet62 (Glade)           26x30cm

 

 

The first Day of Summer  140x140cm

The first Day of Summer          140x140cm

 

 

And On Again  140x190cm

And On Again          140x190cm

 

 

The Way Through

The Way Through        80x100cm

 

Wending Away

Wending Away        95x190cm

 

 

Pallet68 (Moonrise Through Trees)

Pallet68 (Moonrise Through Trees)     30x40cm

 

 

Pallet 70  (Undergrowth)       30x40cm

Pallet 70 (Undergrowth) 30x40cm

 

 

To Make sense of this You really need to read from the bottom – (is it finished yet?)

November 2014 – Black Swan Arts

So the show is up and I have had to draw a line under it all, although I could have kept working on it for another couple of months.

Black Swan Gallery left

Black Swan Gallery left

Black Swan Gallery Right

Black Swan Gallery Right

This project hasnt gone the way I imagined. – What I imagined, was a pair of painterly, abstract images making a series of gradual changes, steps and progressions that would lead steadily towards a finishing point.  Instead there have been a series of lurches in new directions as I made compete changes of mind about the subject matter

I think I probably got a bit lost in the sea of possibility and have ended up in a completely different place to the planned route. Off course – here be monsters…

In the process I have effecively destroyed several paintings that were beginning to show some potential.  I have ened up retreating from unknown waters to firmer ground. Something a bit more tangible. But it still  just feels like a step along the way, and not the final destination.

There are ideas that remain unfulfilled , that I was sure would come into the story, but in the end just didnt fit, or were passed by because another path was taken.

The moment there was a fire it seemed to draw the attention and any uncertainty was relieved by moving closer to it. Zooming in seemed to resolve some problems but just created others.  I would like to end up going further in, and almost out the other side if you can follow what i mean.

I have always been really interested in the macro micro nature of the universe and the way that patterns and shapes seem to repeat themselves as one zooms in at greater and greater magnifications

There seems to me to be a cross over in the way that digital information is, or can be manipulated, and I have become fascinated with the patterns that can be created in the gamma corrections of photoshop at high magnification.

I ended up messing around with the photo of the abandoned quarry further in photoshop in a kind of parallel way to the paintings.

The Unconformity - limited edition high definition Sublimation print on Aluminuim

The Unconformity – limited edition high definition Sublimation print on Aluminuim

From it I produced many more images as I zoomed in and manipulated the colours. Of which I have printed up 5 using a new Sublimation technique onto aluminium that looks beautifully crisp and glossy.

The Children of the Unconformity 1

The Children of the Unconformity 1

2

2

3

3

4

4

5

5

on the wall

on the wall

 

Some of these have a visual relationship to maps and satellite imagery that then takes them back towards landscape but from a completely different angle,  I think this ties in with what I mean by though the other side.

I can talk alot about connections , but in the end they are just bits of random colour that just sing together in a beautiful way for me.  The serendipity of their discovery has a parallel with the creation of my pallet paintings which can be seen at happy accidents.  The moment to stop with these can become even more acute.  because they are so much smaller a single gestural mark can radically change the whole image, and there seems to be a fine line to walk between abstract marks and finding and picking out the imagined imagry in them.

Will post more images manana…

 

Here is the poster created by my neighbour Simon Attfield.  You can see more of his great work here :  http://www.simonattfield.co.uk/  He also suggested the title Flux. He said that it seemed to stand out as a well used word on the blog… I looked it up and it comes from the latin to flow;  I dont know how smoothly this whole project has flowed but it has kept moving.  It is mainly a scientific and mathematical term, but part of the wikipedia definition describes it as : “the flow of a physical property in space, frequently also with time variation.” which will do for me…

Poster

Poster

 

 

With 5 days till the show opens, I’m thinking about obliterating this one….   The Bird in the bush is singing a beautiful song of possibility.

Twist, Stick or Burn

Twist, Stick or Burn

Well I did it –  I think it was worth while because I really wasn’t that happy with the bonfire –  As I said before its not easy to paint something as live and constantly moving as fire.  So here is my final effort:  I think its achieved a much greater sense of shimmering heat.  You need to see it for real to appreciate this though – The paint is a lot thicker now, had some fun dragging it across the canvas with a long straight edge, and I had to end up mainly on the pallet knife which gives it a good variety of marks

Blaze

Blaze

.

 

Well time is almost up, but as ever I could do with another few weeks…  I think if I had them I would make another major compositional change, and zoom further into the the fire and the ashes.  But I will have to leave that idea, because I really don’t think I could turn both paintings around in a just over a week.  This is where I have got to at this point in time,  everything is still in a state of flux and I will be making more changes, but nothing too major.  The focus has shifted from day and night to the fire and all the loaded imagery that comes with it.

Stoke it up

Stoke it up

I love fire, its consuming beauty is endlessly fascinating . It is such a potent symbol of mankind in so many different ways, and it stirs something primal in us all…   But its not easy to capture in a still image;  its all about movement, light, sound and the physical sense of heat. These are qualities that paint doesn’t have.  So I think whatever I try to do, it will always be missing something, but that no reason for not trying.  I want to try to get across the way it sucks in everything about it, consumes it,  and then radiates it back out.

What we are left with a few hours later is just a sense of what has been…  All that energy and all that remains is some light fluffy ash that can blow away in a gust of wind,  and the detritus and fragments of what escaped the conflagration.

Broken Circle

Broken Circle

The fireplace has an almost henge like stillness.  Though it is still the focus, the energy has transferred to the grass,  and the periphery;  which fights for the viewers attention, drawing the eye out of frame and asking –  whats next?    Well, those are just a few of the thoughts that have come me as I look it. Might sound like I’m reading a bit much into it, but when you spend a long time with a large painting though the creative process, the mind does wander…

The scale on the screen doesn’t really get their full impact across so come along to the show at the Black Swan and see them for real.  It opens on the 30th October at 6pm and runs for most of November. There will also be a series of ‘pallet paintings’ that were a by-product of their creation, and I’m hoping – a series of limited edition prints, if I can get them printed in time.

Simplify

 

Been a while again…   I decided that the landscape image wasn’t working, particularly on the daytime painting so have had to make another radical change.  Zooming in on the fireplace to simplify the image.

Fire

Fire

Next step:

 And Smoke

And Smoke


 

Its fun to start splashing the paint around again, though I’m beginning to get a bit concerned about the lack of time I have before the show which opens on the 30th October at Black swan Arts in Frome.

Veridian Obliteration

Veridian Obliteration

I tried to save some of the bits that I thought were working quite well but with a change in composition, it becomes quite difficult to do that.  Maybe Masking would have been the way forward, but I haven’t found an effective way of doing it with oil on canvas. I think I’m going to reproduce some of the details, and it would be be fun to make some sort of digital composite if I get  the time, but more on those ideas nearer the show… Here is the mess I ended up with, which I’m about to go and attack now….

What Remains

Done a bit more on this :

Ash and Stone

Ash and Stone

with some of the detritus from the night before:

Fire place Detritus

Fire place Detritus

Clearing

So I have had enough of floating directionless on the sea of possibility, and have decided give myself something to steer a course for…    There is a spot I love in our local woods, a small tucked away abandoned quarry that makes a beautiful naturally sheltered amphitheatre.  By day it is a geological structure of scientific interest called the ‘De La Beche Unconformity’,  where the Jurassic meets angular Carboniferous Limestone with a geological age in between, swept away by a pre historic sea.  See more here.  By night it is a great spot for a camp fire, drinking and storytelling…

I thought I could use an image of it to give me the detail that seems to be missing from this project so far.  It still has the opposing dichotomy of day and night, but also provides a link back to my previous work…

Here are the first two steps in that direction.

Clearing Day

Clearing Day

Clearing Night

Clearing Night

I feel a bit happier about it all now that I have something to aim at.

The first steps are the freest but I felt I needed to add alot more detail into the day and start to explore looming shapes in the night…

 

Unconformity by Day

Unconformity by Day

Unconformity by Night

Unconformity by Night

Will need to go alot further yet but I think I’m heading in the right direction.

Any thoughts? Tell me what you think.

——————————————————–One week later…

Have spent some more time battling with the pallet of the Daylight painting and here is the latest stage…

 

The Clearing Day

The Clearing Day

Had a bit of a battle with the colours which were getting a bit out of control but have reduced the pallet a bit and  there are areas of it which are beginning to sing.   But I think there may be a fundamental flaw in the composition.  The Night scene works better because its more unified. This one is a bit to busy – busy’s good for getting across an opposing feeling to night, but it might not be best for this particular scene.

The Cold light of Day

The Cold light of Day

Not sure about this composition after all,  I think I’m going to have to throw it all in the air again….

 

Back Towards Colour Fields:

Here is the latest stage in this meandering journey,  I seem to be working my way back towards simple colour fields.  Maybe thats because of the loose and ambiguous nature of the subject matter.

The Heat of the Day

The Heat of the Day

 

 

 

Impenetrable Darkness

Impenetrable Darkness

I do feel a bit like I’m groping around in the dark here.  I’m beginning to think that I need something,  a more fixed and narrowed down idea to work around.  If you can go in any direction, you sometimes end up going nowhere.  So I’m beginning to think that I might make better progress if I had a clearer image to work towards.  All the time I have been working on these two paintings I have been seeing stuff that I really want to paint.  Should I hold my course and push on into the unknown, or take a turn and introduce some more literal imagery?

Getting Messy

Bit of a pause in posts though I have still been painting. As I said before, it still doesn’t come naturally to me to write about what I’m up to, so it often slips down the things to do list.  Its also been beautifully hot n sunny too which makes it even harder to sit myself down in front of a screen. But its raining now so the words can flow

Both paintings have gone though a few stages so I will post them in order and try to remember what I was thinking at the time.

I did make a few more tweeks to the ‘Day’ painting once it had reached a ‘finished’ stage. It became more and more multi faceted.  To be honest I could have kept dividing triangles for weeks, so I felt I had to reach a point where I could draw a line under it – or in this case, all over it…

Brilliant Day!

Brilliant Day!

I have found that one way to keep on rolling over an image that feels pretty finished is to totally mess it up… So far I feel I have been following a path of gradual immersion. Step by step edging towards the deep end.  This is more akin to taking the plunge into cold water; in fact make that a splashy bomb coz its made a real mess:

 

Mess 1

Mess 1

 

Mess 2

Mess 2

So one of the good things about making a mess is that things can only improve.  The mind has been freed from trying to hold onto whats there – Its gone…  and in the clean up process there is room for more ideas to wiggle in there. I found myself thinking of the beach, and lying on the beach looking at the sun through semi closed eyes. This is a past-time I love, creating little chinks of light in the warm vermilion glow of the back of the eyelids… Then stretching and warping the light with touching eye lashes. Sometime you can catch a glimpse of the transparent amoeba like creatures that seem to float in the liquid of the eye (I’m sure they aren’t creatures, but just the transparent cells of the lens, somehow focused onto the retina). The result of all this staring at the light is retinal after images – squiggles and dots of bright opposing colours which float around in the vermilion pool…

After image in the vermilion pool.

After image in the vermilion pool.

Its difficult to get across the effect on a small image, when you stand close to the painting, it fills your whole field of view. And if you focus on the blue blob for a while it starts to wobble and lose definition. I find these kinds of optical effects fun, and they have always held a fascination for me. I couldn’t quite let go of the triangles so I masked a few before obliterating them, and you can see them faintly reappearing here.

In the end I had to lose the blue egg because it dominated too much.

 

Optical Ripple

Optical Ripple

Dont know what I was really trying to do here but it didn’t work that well – I decided that I needed more paint on the canvas coz despite the many layers they are all fairly thinly painted. I have in mind that the end result will be encrusted in layers of scumbled colour which will bare witness to the painting’s journey, so decided to start laying it on a bit thicker.

 

Heat shimmer

Heat shimmer

Still a bit weird, and not really going the right way at all, but at least the paint is building up…

 

Detail

Detail

 

So I haven’t done quite as much work on the ‘Night’ painting, maybe because I’m a bit happier with where its at but here are a few stages:

 

Swarm

Swarm

 

Story

Story

 

Lightening

Lightening

 

Gothic Mist

Gothic Mist

Again, Not necessarily going in the right direction but then thats what this is all about. Sometimes by painting on – you lose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going over the finishing line:

So I have reached the point where I could call both paintings finished for the first time… And realised that its gonna be quite difficult to keep painting over the top of them.

Feel free to comment if you think I should twist or stick.

Make your Mind a Blank

Make your Mind a Blank

When I was small, If I couldn’t get to sleep, I would go and get into bed with mum. She was totally amazing at going to sleep in a couple of minutes. She used to say to me:

“Relax every bit of your body, starting with your toes and moving up to your head… Now make your mind a blank.”

“What do you mean.” I would say

“Imagine everything is blackness, with nothing in it” she would say.

But my contrary mind wouldn’t allow me to think of nothing, I would imagine an empty blackboard, but then little lines of wiggly chalk writing would start to creep in at the edges. The harder I tried to push them out, the more would come… While mum slept, an advert for her technique,  I would lie   in the darkness, playing space invaders with words…

 

Brightness of the Day

Brightness of the Day

This one now has a greater sense of space to it. I feel it embodies the warmth of a hot mediterranean sun, which I was imagining as the opposite of a cool star filled night. The angular nature of the shapes suggesting the energy of a manmade environment to oppose the mystery of form found in the darkness.

They stand on their own quite well, but when you see them together, they jar at one another. I don’t know if this is something I’m going to have to embrace for this project or whether I will eventually reach a point where they seem to come from the same circle.

 

studio shot of both paintings

studio shot of both paintings