Sunday, 27 March 2011

I am working on an oil painting of Brick Lane.

Well technically it is Sclater Street although most people will know it a part of Brick Lane market.

Brick Lane
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Like any area in transition there are quite distinctive parts. On the south side can be found the Bengali community who replaced the Jewish community, and in the north side you will find the self appointed Shoreditch trendy’s on fixed wheel bikes ‘Oh yeah! The maintenance is significantly reduced on fixed wheel, it’s a MUST buy!’ Jammed in between however is this tiny market. The only demography here seems to be poverty which is found in all shapes, ages and sizes.
Women chatting
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The new railway line above their heads is now linking London East to West and this is bringing in huge investments of area regeneration money. The significant word of course is ‘area’. As with most regeneration projects it is for the area and not for the people who live there. They will have to go and live elsewhere. So with rents rocketing all around them these people will not be here for much longer.

Man walking
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I drew the main part of the market and some of the locals: A friendly atmosphere. I considered taking out the four meter graffiti monkey head malevolently leering over us, In the end however I felt it was a rather fitting metaphor for the fate of this small community so in it stays.

Cello player
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Friday, 18 March 2011

Threadneedle disaster at Southend-on-Sea and Clacton-on-Sea

At the weekend I went to Southend-on-Sea and Clacton-on-Sea to paint something for the Threadneedle Prize. I was most excited and planned it for weeks. This over planning was the beginning of the as yet unseen problem. In my ferment i had it all done it in my head first before checking the places out. I wanted it all too much.  Like the child that gets too excited about going to a party and ends up being sick 10 minutes after arrival and has to be taken home.

Well i got to Southend-on-Sea at 8.30 am on Sunday and quickly I became a mess. My Mojo completely deserted me and my pencil and paint went on strike. I was left wondering around eating chips and drinking tea out of a plastic cup. Defeated I decided to try Clacton-on-Sea for inspiration. I bet no one has said that before.

I got lost on the way and it took me two hours to get there. Clacton-on-Sea was worse than Clacton-on-Sea. An empty well!

Near the pier there is a Wetherspoons which was packed full of Sunday locals having cheap beer and food. It did not take the smokers outside and their children long to notice me. I occasionally get mistaken for a vagrant when i sit in the street drawing. Well here I don’t think they thought i was a vagrant but I just didn’t look like them. One girl of about 12 shouted “hey! You look like a twat” Her father guffawed with savage approval and her friend continued, a podgy whelp she was “Nice outfit!”. On it went while I was trying to draw. Dozy cider slapped faces idly gazing on, I was the only interesting thing to look at I presume.

I decided to go over to a shop window and draw me (more laughter) if only to see what the fuss was all about. I have not surprisingly a sad face and I do look different from them I suppose. I feel however “twat” was rather harsh.
 Click on the image to see it larger

It started to rain and left with nothing in the bag aside from some sardines I bought in a fish shop near the sea front. On the way back the windscreen wipers packed up and i almost got killed on the A13 at Dagenham.  

My life feels like an Alan Bennett short story. In fact as I read back what I have written I can hear his cosy northern brogue. ‘Ohh what will Mam say?’

To lick my wounds I decided to paint some of my Sardines. Satisfying to do. The trick is to get them looking shiny. Il have another, calmer go at the Threadneedle Prize next week.

Click on the image to see it larger 

Friday, 4 March 2011

finished oil painting of a family allotment

 In a previous blog or two i went through the process of how i build a painting up from the drawing stage. Since that time i have painted the picture and it sits below. You may notice there are a few changes since the initial  drawing. I have taken out the landscape at the back as i preferred the zig zag of the rooftops.. I have also taken out the two children because I felt that they cluttered the composition and the eye was left wondering about in the middle.

I don’t often change my mind at the  last minute though for this painting it was the right decision. The cabbages were great fun to do. I was surprised how much purple and lilac they contain.
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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Modern British Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts - A laymans point of view

It all started with that latrine, you know the one, originally cast to be just another receptacle in the privies of Paris. Then in 1917 it was re-cast by Duchamp to take centre stage in a revolution. He signed it, interestingly not with own his name, and boldly declared that anything can be art. This simple act created a seismic shift in the world of sculpture which still resonates today.

The exhibition begins from 1920 just three years after Duchamp's ‘Fountain’ and ends at more or less the present day. It tracks the vibrant and creative the freedom the 20th Century released and also pin points, to my mind at least, the place where it all started to go wrong. More about this later.

The first rooms feature works by Barbara Hepworth, Eric Gill and Jacob Epstein next to their ancient, long dead influences. These artists flocked to the Victoria and Albert and British museums and drew on the powerful, passionate and raw influences they found and re interpreted them for a modern world. You can also clearly see the creative touchstones of Picasso’s genius pick-and plunder-and-mix approach to painting and sculpture. It was he after all that said ‘Great artists steal. ‘

The next room contains the single alabaster sculpture of Jacob Epstein’s ‘Adam’.

To me, Epstein represents Adam just seconds after nibbling on the forbidden fruit. Here we see him, awakened, head thrown back and charging smartly through Eden hunting down his Eve. Sporting, it has to be said, a vast, swinging, bludgeoning member. She, as yet unseen, pretending to run away!

The twin set and pearls crowd were stopped in their tracks. The shock of knowing where to look delivering the all too familiar ‘not knowing where to look’ feeling. Adam proudly uncaring shooed them into the next room only to be met by Queen Victoria, her un-amused face staring directly over our heads back at Adam. Surely this positioning was deliberate?

Adam and Victoria stare each other down
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Moving through, you will find ceramics followed by a room containing a single work by Henry Moore and another by Barbara Hepworth. Moore’s is a reclining, writhing androgynous figure and Hepworth’s a sharply worked stone facial silhouette. Both these pieces were created in the 1950s and you can see in both a desire to communicate to the whole of post-war Britain. A naive, optimistic place where they hoped to make it fit for heroes with a long awaited national health service and the Grammar schools which were soon to deliver us Alan Bennett, Mike Leigh and a fistful of Prime Ministers. Although these pieces are ‘accessible’ (now a dirty word) they are still challenging. They urge you to look again at the human figure and relook at the shapes and emotions we all exhibit and perform. ‘What am I like?.. really?’

Moore and Hepworth
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Where it goes wrong
Someone far smarter than me once said “You don’t just leave a job! You go to one”. Here, to me at least, there seems to be an abandonment of the figure in sculpture. Which is fine, but it needed to be replaced with something worthwhile. This to me (with the very rare example) has not happened.

This is the stage of exhibition where the visitors become more interesting than the exhibits. Here we have the ubiquitous pile of bricks by Carl Andre who is American anyway, which is snappily entitled ‘Equivalent VIII’. The visitors stand before it. Children snigger and adults squint and become confused and throw each other glances for re assurance as if to say ‘Tell me what to think’.

The highlight of the room was naturally Damien Hirst. He delivered to us a sealed glass room containing an abandoned BBQ with raw meat scattered about. In amongst this were thousands of flies and maggots feasting on the rotting food. Subsequently these flying, hapless exhibits were being lured in by an ultra violet light before finally succumbing to the merciless appetite of an eclectic insect killer.

The Hirst BBQ
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Like the footballers of today who once got buses to the match with their fans but now distance themselves from the plebs in monstrous cars with blacked out windows, here too the artists have distanced themselves with the smoke and mirrors of alleged intellectuality. This made all the more obvious with the sublime beauty of Moore and Epstein just meters away.

I suppose many will say that the great creative tide of the late 20th century has completely washed over me. I have disappeared beneath the waves while above Cap’n Emin and Boson Opie ride high and dry down Dean Street for another celebratory rum ration at Grouchos. I don’t feel like that. I feel like the tide has gone out to an arid scratch on the horizon and I’m sitting on the abandoned beach sniffing a latrine and only Damien’s flies for company.

Now there’s a painting!

Exhibition runs from:
22nd Januray to the 7th April

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House
London W1J 0BD
Royal Academy of Arts opening times

10am-6pm Saturday-Thursday (last admission to galleries 5.30pm)
10am-10pm Friday (last admission to galleries 9.30pm)