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8 February 2019
Ideas for etchings. I search everywhere for a little slice of an image of terror, that it may stand in for the big stuff in this broken world. Especially in Prufrock: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws, Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” Or in John Clute’s Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror. Utterands, his word, frightened and frightening characters, burnt into strange shapes by the story of our planet, “They march to the tune of history turning out of Eden.” But beware! I remind myself, of icons too pinned down, too already defined by other people. I should look up and sideways; the uncanny can be found everywhere. Also there’s hidden away in my mind a magic box of shifting images from Hieronymus Bosch, Alexander McQueen, and Inuit artists in Cape Dorset. These, my emblems of a world gone wrong, needing to surprise, me, alone, pressed into dampened Somerset paper, one hundred percent cotton, acid free. And Alexander McQueen laughs pallidly.
Sixteen Tons 2007 plate size …. 215 x 138 mm
28 January 2019
Shape of Content. “If I descend too far, then I can’t do the actual work.” This, from the end of my note on Masques of the Disappeared. I’m therefore needing to say something about the canvas itself, or the image, printed out as an etching. How does the artist do the job? Sorry if the following sounds like playing with magic, but the shape of content is consistently listening to hints of rules that come from the work itself. You set out to do one thing and it keeps moving in different directions. This colour, that colour, morphing. This line, that line, changing. Shall I tell you the most important element for me in the making of a work? It is to spot a wrongness along the way. If, as I’m weeks or even months into a painting, I ever get the feeling there is an element of “illustrating”, or a dubious association, then I paint out that “wrong” part. The magic in some way comes from having studied, over the years, paintings in museums etc. But when you make a work of art yourself, you clear your mind and forget everything. You just work. And there are many times when you smile and punch the air. As I’ve said before, it feels a privilege to have been doing this all my life.
According to studies of eye movements, it has been said that an artist and a non-artist tend to look at paintings differently. I suggest we could all play the game of looking as the former would. Let your eye be led by the shapes on the canvas – whatever catches your eye first, and then move around on the surface as the shapes set up relationships. Relax and trust what you see. As you do this, the shape of content makes sense. The picture – its meaning and the making of it – become one.
22 January 2019
Masques of the Disappeared is a series-title designed to emphasise the overall thrust and timbre of many of my individual works: an undertow throughout of the sadness of the world gone wrong. If I tell stories (sometimes I do) they are meant to show that world. If I don’t tell an individual paraphrasable story (mostly I don’t) of the world, maybe think of a masque whose actors leave marks that may not immediately declare themselves. I’d like to think all the same that you can see, in the clarity or murky shapes of content, an angle from which to judge what is going on, a pulling down or building, characters sometimes re-drawn into strange shapes by their relationships, their environment.
The Masques I make are to spite the disasters I have witnessed (we all have witnessed) as well as the ordinary small, terrible cruelties people inflict on others they perceive as different or simply of less importance than themselves. For instance, I can’t get out of my mind an image from an online film I saw recently where a man finds a sheep in the middle of a country lane. He picks up this “thing”, this “obstacle”, and throws it over a fence. The animal lands askew and limps in pain, having broken one of its legs. The man might just as well, straight away, have killed the animal. Rather than torturing it to death.
Or to the bigger picture. This planet is plagued so manifestly everywhere by wars and boundary maintenance. “Blood Simple” is voiced several times by the protagonist in Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel, Red Autumn. The title of the Coen Brothers film, Blood Simple is taken from Hammett’s book. The phrase might be hyphenated. It’s not that blood is simple (though in a terrible way it is). It’s that we become blood-simple when we get drowned in the terror and cannot stop drowning. I can’t help thinking that “Blood Simple” perfectly describes our predicament; I can’t help thinking that we are, all of us, contaminated by our communal blood inherited from our ancestors, those fighting chimps. That’s the bottom line. I hope our culture of humanity and kindness will sustain us.
And so we tell each other our stories. We make our art. On some level we know that we are powerless to help, to ease, the continuing pain of others. Hence the sadness that sits in the centre of many of my paintings and etchings. But as an artist I can never be completely despairing. If I descend too far, then I can’t do the actual work. To tell you the truth, all artists are like this: at some point we close down all input from the outside world and get on with the job at hand. And there is incredible joy in that job of making. I feel privileged to have been doing this all my life.
20 January 2019
Getting background text material ready for the Camden Image Gallery.
There is a world of artists out there. Many of them are of course dead now, but they are with me, in my head, all the time. We talk together. I started to play this serious, deeply meant game of conversation in the 1960’s when I was in Vancouver living in the studio of Françoise André and Charles Stegeman, apprenticed there with two other young artists, Pamela Zoline and Peter Wilson. The three of us talked and talked, and worked and worked, but I would also disappear for long sessions, burrowing into the André/Stegeman art book collection. There I discovered Wifredo Lam, for instance, and was fascinated by his way of coping with the strong characters around him when, as it transpired, he was in Spain during the Civil War. Be friends with Picasso, learn stuff from him, but keep your own mojo? I would ask him, how did you do that Wifredo? How did you learn to talk with Picasso, and enter his world without it burning you?
Share by learning, learn by sharing.
Later in 1969, when I was in London, I was looking at a pamphlet about artists who had apprenticed in their ancient culture but who were experimenting with different materials. They were Australian Aboriginal artists working in the remote Kimberley area and an outsider named Roland Robinson had come to them and suggested that, as well as painting on rock, they might put some imagery on pieces of bark. All that was real in time and place, but for me it sparked an imaginary exchange. I took into my world, Jack Karedada, and his friends. In my mind we were a fellowship sitting around a kitchen table breaking bread and drinking wine. They would tell me to work on simple board and they advised the colours I should use. I respected them immensely. They suggested tricks, they told me to make up stories. I am grateful for those “kitchen table sessions”. You can see the first of the set of “boardpaintings”made at the time.
Moving on a few years, I’m still painting on board and still using simple acrylic paints, and still thoroughly inspired by these workers, but the colours have shifted. In Measuring 1972, you can see the continuing diagrammatic references to buildings.
Then a little later the conversations are opening out and getting more complicated. I’d been looking at some Picasso drawings from 1922 in his “classical” mode. Picasso had suggested this, “you really must study the line drawings of Jean-August-Dominique Ingres”. In Ingrates 1975, you can see I’ve painted in acrylic (the same paint type as from 1969) the very delicate Ingres lines. It’s a copy from one of his little portrait drawings and I’ve hedged in that image with a couple of 20th century women and a Bird-of-Paradise.
The “conversations” and the feeling of being in a fellowship continues. One of my most ambitious paintings is the Great Chain of Being Show where the mix includes a reference to a medieval Apocalypse painting. I imagined when I was making this – it was 1976 – that I was amusing those 14th century artists by warning them that I would have them rubbing shoulders with 20th century comic strip art. This painting is, in serious fact, all about aggression and sadness and loss. Its size is 1485 x 1245 mm.
So introducing artists, one to another, happens all the time in my paintings. For instance, in 1988, I made a painting that has the beautiful 15th century painter, Jan Van Eyck, coping with the brash American Modernist artist, Stuart Davis. See the Radiance of the Genes,
If that encounter is a little edgy, then here’s a more gentle one. Claude Monet gets to see young girls visiting Camden Town. See Bonjour M. Monet,
Imagining how painters thought about their work is the continuing game. In 2013, I wanted to introduce Hieronymus Bosch (Catholic and European) to the very British pagan figure of the Green Man. See Parley,
This game is all alien and impossible, and then it is not. It is both. Hieronymus Bosch died in 1516 and that puts him too far in the past. We must only guess at what we share. Perhaps that respected pre-Protestant Christian Fraternity he was a member of, the “Brotherhood of our Blessed Lady”, even allowed for “let us suppose” games. Perhaps, then, there might be a key to unravelling Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. And it might be at the very bottom corner of the third panel. Perhaps the Abbess Pig is whispering into the ear of a character who is Bosch himself. She is whispering the whole story that he then unfolds before our eyes.
Abbess Pig talk to me.
11 January 2019
Today I shortened the “Overview” introduction, thinking those words would be better placed here. It had started with the statement from my 2016 exhibition at the Camden Image Gallery, ” To present painterly arguments about what it feels like to be a human animal living deep within our history on this planet”. I had said that since I’ve been on this planet since 1942, I’ve had some time delving, and that I’m still experimenting with new/old imagery. My painterly arguments go back and forth to, for instance, the wise sages that lived on the North American Continent before the white man inhabited the land. Those sages suggested we should walk lightly upon the earth and live in balance and harmony.
The above mention of my exhibition at the Camden Image Gallery in May 2016, brings me to the fact that I have another exhibition there coming up soon. The one was called Darkening Garden, while this will be titled Masques of the Disappeared. The name of this site. The date is from the 16th to the 22nd of May, 2019. And here’s the gallery link: http://www.camden-image-gallery.co.uk/
5 January 2019
Stairwell beneath the main cupola at the V&A
One decadent Item in the Fashioned from Nature exhibition. The “leopard skin” dress is made of tiny beads. Thousand and thousands of hours of work.
2 December 2018
Manhattan Wanting 2018 plate size …. 85 x 180 mm
This is one of my recent etchings. I feel it is strong enough to support a playful intrusion on top of several proof prints. I’ve put images cut from newspaper to make a little triptych:
Manhattan Wanting X 2018 plate size …. 85 x 180 mm
Manhattan Wanting Y 2018 plate size …. 85 x 180 mm
Manhattan Wanting Z 2018 plate size …. 85 x 180 mm
30 October 2018
I’m finally setting out a chronological display of “everything” in paintings and etchings. Here below is one of the first paintings from 1969.
Boardpainting 6 1969 acrylic …. 610 x 1220 mm
28 October 2018
As well as keeping up with the making of new paintings which seems to take months and months, I’m getting a number of etchings mounted and framed. Here’s Blood Simple.
Blood Simple 2018 framed etching …. 520 x 405 mm
And here’s another.
Are You Together? 2015 framed etching …. 388 x 325 mm
7 October 2018
The etching from late summer, “2666”, required a lot of work to pull through to its final shape in an edition of 9. Here is 6/9 , framed size: 434 x 383 mm.
“2666” 2018 framed etching …. 434 x 383 mm
16 August 2018
A new etching. Something I’ve never tried before. I have printed three plates, one after the other, on one paper (dampened each time) to make one single print. It is based on a plate I made in the 1980’s, “Acclaimed”, and the other two are from one plate I made in 2008 for Henry Wessells’ s publication “Forever Peace: To Stop War”. It is titled “Tally” and refers to men lost in the Battle of the Somme. The resulting print makes reference to Roberto Bolaño’s long novel, “2666” .
“2666” 2018 etching …. plate size 220 x 200 mm
23 July 2018
With reference to the Arts Lab Continuum show opening on the 5th of July, I just received some photos from Morna Livingston. She was staying with me and so we had arrived together. She captured my anxiousness at the onset when David and I were wondering if we had everything in order. But of course I had forgotten to take off my handbag and had neglected to tuck the scarf under its collar. Whatever. Thank you, Morna, for capturing these early moments.
Morna managed an especially good angle so you can see people looking at Biddy Peppin’s posters made for the Arts Lab films in a big portfolio, and also we can see people sitting in a comfy couch looking at (out of shot) David Curtis’s text of the history of the Arts Lab projected onto the wall.
Also, an image of me being funny with Mathew Downward and Krishna Roy.
11 July 2018
Finally some pictures are emerging from the opening party last Thursday (5th July 2018). We have had record shot problems – just like the arts lab, where in the late 1960’s it was the moment that mattered, and never mind recording it. First one camera failed and then another was forgotten (mine). Whatever, here is one photo right at the beginning. Anne Wittman and Krishna Roy are talking. You can see David Curtis’s power point in the background, on the wall.
And below, people are sitting, watching the story of the old Arts Lab at that power point.
A view beyond Pamela Zoline’s board game, where we have the backs of Judith and Barry Forshaw, and Paul McAuley facing.
Here are two book sellers. Good people always. Mathew Downward and David Tobin of Walden Books (almost out of picture).
The so-called Sky Gallery had a few of my etchings. Here is David Selley standing in front of some. David Selley is also www.DianeChorley.com. Not to me missed.
Also upstairs (with a couple of my paintings in the background) was Graham Stevens. He is to be found at bluegreen.com. Solar energy and all good things dealing with water and the atmosphere.
7th July 2018
The Arts Lab Continuum on Thursday night (5th July) at Spitalfields Studios was a grand party. Thank you to everyone who turned up. Below is a calm picture of my “Night and Silence” triptych taken before visitors arrived. (Cavé – Night and Silence – Cliff).
And here’s the note that went with it. “This set of three paintings titled Night and Silence, rests within the overarching Blood Simple category that obsesses me these days. It is my way of staying true to our Arts Lab intentions of the 1960’s when we knew, as we know today, that all the governments of the world will send young people to fight their battles. Old men and old women in executive positions killing off young men and young women: I know it’s part of our animal nature but I still try to make a statement. And try to, as Pamela has put it: “shift our interior furniture, just a little, bit by bit, and so the world moves.”
In the main room: Judith Clute’s table, see below. The painting is “Voiced”, and on the table is a range of things like a print rack and also, almost invisible in this photo, John Clute’s “Stay” (Beccon Press) with this painting depicted on the cover.
5th July and 6th July 2018
“an arts lab continuum” at Spitalfields Studios. See below.
1st July 2018
As I work deep down in the factory of the mind there is a certain shape syntax that develops and likewise a sort of – word syntax. This may not make sense but I can’t think how else to explain that place I inhabit where I try to establish visual meanings: meanings that will not resolve into easy outcomes. There are stories within stories being told. And this is all totally visual. The works dramatise the feel of being a human animal in the global village we all inhabit. Again, visual. Ben Shawn once said: “Shape of Content”. I like that.
The paintings and etchings have developed into themes. There’s one responding to the sad issues of war throughout our planet: Blood Simple. And the one that has somehow always been there – even before John Clute wrote his book with this very title: Darkening Garden.
Some of my ideas are lifted (sampled) from Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and also from Inuit art where compelling designs seem to come from the heart of our old world.
I intend that my work continues to sharpen an underlying presentation and a recognition of the contemporary world. This is becoming more and more urgent. My work is not bricolage; it is recognition.
21 June 2018
Antonia Moore, photographer, organised a little show at Gerry’s Club Soho. I was the mystery guest. It was fun. I sold all my etchings. We plan another in September.
29 March – 2 April 2018
Eastercon (Follycon). Poster for my work below. John Clute and I drove up with Stan Robinson, writer GOH, to Harrogate and I set up a small selection of etchings within the gallery arranged by Selena Culfeather with her partner, John Wilson. I sold 5 out of 12: a 70 % reduction made it possible for Eastercon fans to buy.
Then John Clute and I went to Knaresborough, famous for its beautiful 1852 viaduct crossing the Nidd Gorge. It is depicted on 1930 travel posters. And also special to Knaresborough are a few old buildings with sections painted in black and white squares. It seems that the old manor house, was treated to this pattern on its upper sections in 1832 because the then owner was mad about chess. Subsequently a few other buildings were likewise painted in this most striking checkered pattern.
13 January 2018
A note on blood synchronicity: a painting, “So Tell Me I’m Wrong”, from early 2017 and the cover artwork for the record “Yo Mae Leh” currently being played on radio 6.
I like the record and especially the strand of chanting which seems to reference Native American ceremonial singing. And I do wonder if it is synchronicity in the artwork or perhaps in fact, I myself, am being referenced. Either way, I’m happy.
31 December 2017.
Art note – how I got to where I am now. I feel that I’m still that same human-creature/machine-in-harness that I discovered myself to be, back in the 1950’s. In English class I learnt about T.S. Eliot. He helped sort some of the confusions around me. I was a child born during WW2. I was, like many others of my generation, safely away in Canada, specifically kept from any stories of the war that had just finished. I was part of the clean slate. But that wasn’t going to work, was it? My Darkening Garden theme started then, although of course I didn’t put it in those words. When I was at school I was reading not only about WW2, but also about some of the awful things that happened in WW1. How to make sense of these terrible losses and all the others around them? A world of big sadnesses. Then T.S. Eliot and The Waste Land. And a little later, Science Fiction and Fantasy. Books, all sorts of books, but mainly fiction. The stories we tell ourselves: they all feed – present tense – into these big rooms, my inside factory where art happens. It’s all a-hum in here. And so I’m still making paintings. Just the way I used to.
But back in the day when I was starting out, I noticed, for instance, Joseph Kosuth, a young American painter of my age, rejecting painting and going a quite different path. I saw him sailing off from “my” pond arguing that only ideas mattered in art. Fine: we’ve already had Marcel Duchamp and his urinal in 1917. But that moment in the late 1960’s had me smiling and crying because the rift was being clearly set up between “ideas” on one side and “making” on the other. I felt somewhat depressed by painting being lessened in that way and not until the 1970’s in London did I get to grips with my problem. I got John Clute to help me with my titles. I wanted people to see that there really was thinking embedded in the craft of making these works.
Titles. They should help you as you look, reassure you, that you can interpret as you choose. I give open-ended directions. But that’s not to say there isn’t an element of mystery. In this context I’d like to pass on a neat observation by Peter Viereck in his play, The Tree Witch: “Truth is not graph and glare, but fluff and side-glance.”
21 June 2017
The touring for “I Can Spin a Rainbow” has finished this June 2017 and Amanda has given me signed copies of the Vinyl and the Cd: they are signed by Amanda Palmer and Edward Ka-Spel of course, but also by Patrick Q. Wright who played the violin. What a delight to have done this artwork for them.
And here is the back of the Vinyl.
20 June 2017
I want to thank the ESFS (European Science Fiction Society) for the award they have just given me. I’m entered in a tie with Aurélien Police for Best Artist in their Hall of Fame award this year, 2017. Thanks to everyone involved.
14th to the 17th of April 2017
Artist Guest of Honour at the Birmingham Metropole Hotel: Eastercon.
7 March 2017
Exhibition in Gainesville, Florida.
Judith in Artichoke print workshop, January 2017