Thursday, 31 December 2015

A New Year

Just in the remaining embers of 2015, I thought I'd write a few lines about what has been an extraordinary year.

My uncle once said to me that as you get older, time passes more quickly.  Which is very often true.  However, there have been so many amazing things this year, that time has, in fact, elongated and curled and bitten its own tail, and generally done some very unusual timey-wimey things.

For a start, I've been to an awful lot of places, from side to side and up and down the country from Northern Ireland to Cornwall, to take photos for my shows

Lands End

to France

and Italy

Cerasi Chapel, S Maria del Popolo, Rome

and across the east coast of America.  Sometimes seemingly all in the same day (starting in Florida, and via New York, ending up in a hot tub in Connecticut, for example).  I saw an awful lot of the New Jersey Turnpike this summer.

I've also been to an awful lot of art exhibitions.  As well as standards such as the Royal Academy Summer Show, Barbara Hepworth's studio in St Ives and museum in Wakefield, and visits to the major galleries in New York, Paris and Rome, there's been 

Lee Miller and Picasso in Edinburgh (all about Picasso - no sense of Miller)
William Morris, Anarchy and Beauty at the National Portrait Gallery (not much about Morris)
Inventing Impressionism at the National Gallery (stunningly informative exhibition, you can read both parts of my blog here and here)
Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain (curated by the man himself, and all the stronger for that)
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World at Tate Britain (disappointing)
Sonia Delauney at the Tate Modern (interesting and worthy)
Peter Lanyon at the Courthauld Institute (small, perfectly curated and inspirational)
Julia Margaret Cameron at the V&A (very interesting modern approach to the possibilities of the medium, allowing herself to be open to the blurred, the out-of-focus, the accidental, the shouldn't-be-there, the cracked plate, the collaged image and the experimental, letting the medium dictate the image.  However, the woman herself came across as rather overbearing)
Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy (blown away by the man)
Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust at the RA (insular and bonkers)
Lee Miller at the Imperial War Museum (if there was nothing of Miller herself in Edinburgh, it's all painfully here at the IWM)
Bill Viola at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and St Paul's Cathedral (both incredible.  Normally it's £18 to get into St Pauls, but if you go along at either 11.30am or  2.15pm Mon-Fri and say you're there to see Bill Viola's Martyrs, you can get in for free.  The artwork is down at the end on the right hand aisle.)
Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy (not as inspirational as I felt it should have been)

Then there's been an awful lot of concerts.  Australian Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Focus,  The Enid, Public Service Broadcasting, Grant Lee Phillips, Richard Thompson, Death Cab for Cutie, Simple Minds, Archive (twice), King Crimson (twice),  Steven Wilson (three times)

Steven Wilson, Royal Albert Hall (second night) - listen to the track that was playing to these images here

Steve Hackett (four times)

Shepherd's Bush Empire - I was in the front row.  It was so close I could see Steve's long fingernails.

and of course Yes (four times) 

 The setlist from Foxwoods, Connecticut

Billy Sherwood at NJPAC, Newark

Jon Davison at the Borgata, Atlantic City

Steve Howe playing in Brooklyn

In amongst all this, were exhibitions in London, Glasgow, Suffolk and Perthshire, and a full programme of preparing for and painting the work.  Plus Real Life as well.  Sadly, not everyone that we started the year with has ended the year with us. 

It does actually seem unbelievable that it all took place in only a year.

So, all in all, it's been the most amazing year.  Its been brilliant and beautiful and epic and life-affirming, and full of all the light and dark and colour and surprise that you could ever hope for.

So thank you to everyone.  You know who you are.  

And here's to next year.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Michael Palin's Quest for Artemisia

If you've an hour to spare over the holidays' then you could do worse than have a look at the sunny Italian backdrop's in the Michael 'art historian' Palin film, Quest for Artemisia.

It's like tucking yourself up in a big knitted blanket, popping on your slippers and settling down with a big, big soporific dish of white bread in warm milk mixed with sugar and calpol and valium and lots and lots of golden syrup.  Yup, really.

This despite Artemisia Gentileschi having one of the most explosively lived-right-on-the-edge-and-to-the-full, mould-breaking, astonishing, vibrant, stratospherically talented, creative, intelligent, raw, brutal, visceral, brave lives of anyone who's ever lived on the planet, during some of the most amazing times is could possibly be to be alive in, set in some of the most incredible places on earth. 

Thanks, Michael.  Thanks BBC.  Thanks for taking art history seriously, yet again.

Read a quick blog about Artemisia Gentileschi and the theme of Judith HERE.

Doctor Who and The Face of Evil

Sometimes during the Christmas holidays, you end up mining nuggets of golden programmes tucked away in strange darkened corners of television schedules.  

And so I found myself watching Fourth Doctor Tom Baker-era Doctor Who episodes from the golden age of 1977, called The Face of Evil 

These were the days when stories ran over four twenty-five minute programmes, so it took a month to tell one story. But people kept on watching (Face of Evil gathered a million viewers over the course of the 4 episodes, finishing on 11.7 million).  That's because exciting things happened, plots developed, and there were fights with aliens, rubbish shoot-outs in long silver corridors, and lots of eye-popping improvised costumes. None of this solopsistic self-aware convolutedly obfuscatory the-narrative-created-by-the-author-is-more-important-than-the-characters-ooh-look-did-you-see-what-I-did-there claptrap that you get now.

The first episode of this 14th series (which you can watch HERE) introduced Leela - wonderfully played by Louise Jameson, who manages to totally rock being a strong woman running about in a low-cut pleatherette wisp (designed by John Bloomfield, fact fans) whilst bending forward a lot in an unreconstructed 70s kind of way.  

Go, girl!

I've absolutely no idea at all what the plot was about - something about Doctor Who landing on a planet he'd been to before, but couldn't remember being to before, and a giant face (his, apparently) which he climbed inside at one point in a weirdly Freudian way, and two tribes who had evolved from other people from an Earth survey expedition who had crash landed on the planet leaving their technology behind, which was then all wrapped up in religion and incorporated into costumes.  Phew.

Which was all a bit startling, as apparently this survey team must have arrived on the planet driving a fleet of classic minis.  It's the only possible explanation for the appearance of the shamen character of Neeva (on the left below) rocking a Mini Cooper 1275 copper cylinder head gasket as a chest plate.  

Grrrroooovy!!  Now that's what I call style.

Happy days....

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Season's Greetings!

Happy Christmas!

Thanks to everyone who made it a wonderful year.

 Nollaig Chridheil agus 
Bliadhna Mhath Ur Dhuibh Uile!

Monday, 21 December 2015

London Goes to London

Perhaps appropriately, I also have a number of paintings of London in my London show.  You can read about how I took the photos for the paintings earlier in the year on my blog HERE and HERE.

Dusk, the Thames (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

St Pauls Through Trees at Night (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Tattershall Castle at Night (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

North Berwick Paintings Travel South

Here's another selection of the "From City to Sea" paintings that have just arrived in London.

These ones are all of the Scottish East Coast at or near North Berwick.

Boat on the Horizon, Bass Rock (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Rocks and Seaweed, Sea Cliff (Oil on linen, 20 x 20)

Sun and Light Breeze, Bass Rock (oil on linen , 26 x 32)

Sun on the Rocks, North Berwick (Oil on linen, 12 x 12 )

Two Sets of Footprints, Sea Cliff (Oil on linen, 20 x 20)

Light Breeze, Bass Rock (Oil on linen, 32 x 48)

West Coast Scotland Paintings Arrive Today in London....

...a group of paintings of the beach at Camusdarach on the Road to the Isles, near Mallaig and Morar.

Grasses in the Wind, Camusdarach (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Wide Sweep of the Sand, Camusdarach (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Then there is a selection of paintings slightly further north, of the Isle of Skye.

River near the Cuillins, Skye (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

The Cuillins with Yellow Flowers, Skye (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Heather and Grasses, the Cuillins (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

Northern Ireland Paintings Arriving Today in London...

...a selection of Northern Ireland paintings, all set around the Causeway Coast...

Clouds over White Park Bay (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Fuschia Hedges Looking Across to Fair Head (Oil on linen, 20 x 30)

Montbretia, Causeway Coast (Oil on linen, 20 x 30)

Old School House, White Park Bay (Oil on linen, 20 x 30)

Rain over the Sea near Fair Head (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Thistles at the Giant's Causeway (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

Towards Portrush from Rinagree (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Water's Edge near Ballycastle (26 x 32)

Yellow Flowers at Rinagree (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)
Read more about these paintings in my blog HERE 

As usual, if you'd like to know more, either email me or contact the gallery at

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A Group of Waterlily Paintings

This group are also on their way to London.  They're all of waterlilies, painted from study visits to Edinburgh and Kew glass houses, and also Central Park in New York.  You can see a selection of the photos that I took in Edinburgh and Kew HERE and HERE.

Here are the canvasses together in the studio.

Waterlilies are a theme that I explored in a number of paintings many years ago, and it’s a pleasure to return to them afresh.  For my solo show, I think of how I can juxtapose different themes and types of painting - so there is the calm and intimate close-up pattern-making of the waterlilies, which I can place against the powerful, exciting, energetically abstract shapes of waves in the seascapes, or wide, open landscapes of empty beaches or huge skies.

It's also a good way of exploring texture and shapes, and lots of pattern-making pictorial rhythms. 

Blue Waterlilies (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Pink Waterlilies at Kew (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

White Waterlily, Central Park (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Pink Waterlilies in Sunlight (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Tranquil Waterlilies, Kew Gardens (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

A Group of Autumn Paintings...

Here's another group of the paintings that are (at this very moment) heading off down to London.

These are all my autumn paintings, based on photos of London parks which I've already blogged about HERE.

The first couple are from Green Park.

Autumn Green Park (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

Sunlight on Autumn Trees, Green Park (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

This is a group of cherry trees in the gardens at Kew.

Cherry Trees, Kew Gardens (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

This is Hyde Park, walking down past Kensington Gardens heading towards the Albert Hall side, and looking over to the Round Pond.

Autumn Trees near Round Pond, Hyde Park (26 x 32)

This last one is Hampstead Heath, near the Well Walk entrance.  Rather uncomfortably, I was standing in amongst a thicket of brambles to take the photos!  You can see the openness of the Heath in the distance beyond the canopy of the copse of trees.

Early Autumn, Hampstead Heath (26 x 32)

If you'd like to ask me anything about the paintings, or get a catalogue for the show when they become available, drop me a line!