A bit of a delay in news as I was ill over Christmas and the New Year. Fit again now and back playing tennis . The next showing is listed in the News section but I,m also engaged in a series of new paintings that are ‘without figures’ . This is a departure and at the moment it is going very well . I haven’t abandoned the figure ,just taking a rain check . At present I’m talking to a few public spaces about the possibility of a large show which would be at the earliest next year . So this year, 2018, could be a quieter one with a lot of studio work to be done.
I have had a computer failure so this hasn’t been updated for a while. Just opening in Woodstock , Oxfordshire at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum is an exhibition called ‘Conflict’ . I have 5 large paintings in the show plus my film ‘Waterproof’ . Its in conjunction with a Jenny Holzer installation and exhibition at the nearby Blenheim Palace. On for a month .
Also there will be news of a London showing of three new small ‘Dirty Yellows’ soon .
Final preparations for the ‘Dirty Yellow ‘ solo exhibition at the New Ashgate Gallery , Farnham. It opens on June 24th and runs to August 5th . There will be many new paintings in the show mostly relating to the Dirty Yellow series . Also the ‘Skin’ exhibition at Ferens, Hull as part of their Capital of Culture programming continues until August. I ‘m showing a very large work from 1999 called ‘Rise 2’, its next to Stanley Spencer as you enter the show. Many notable names in the exhibition and I’m delighted to be part of it.
Just posted in the news section details of exhibitions in Paris and Farnham .
Jan 12t 2017
Happy New Year! I’m currently showing in the Qingdao Biennale at the Qingda0 Art Museum in China in a survey exhibition of watercolour called ‘Synthetic Color ‘. The Museum has done me the honour of purchasing all five large paintings that I’m showing there -this will be for their permanent collection . I hope to be attending ceremonies and seminars in Feb at the exhibition , my first time in China.
The book is now out through leading booksellers and online (Unicorn, Amazon, Wordery, Blackwalls, Waterstones etc . The exhibition starts on October 8th at Cameron Contemporary Art in Hove/Brighton and I will be doing a talk there at 7.30pm on Wednesday October 19th . Its free but ticketed- details from the gallery .
Sorry about lack of updates here -I do tend to use Facebook more and more nowadays. The book has now gone to the printers and will be published by Unicorn in late September . I will be having a launch and exhibition , my first for 20 years in Brighton , at Cameron Contemporary in Brighton/Hove. Many of the works in the book will be in the show . More news nearer the time and details about the book .
January 2nd 2016
A happy New Year . This year could be a significant one with a proposed monograph coming out in late September and a number of exhibitions being planned . As usual up to date information is now posted on my Facebook page including images . I have been interviewed already several times by the writer James Attlee both in London and Brighton and with the designer I’m now going through 40 years of paintings to be edited down to about 160 . A tough task .
Head down in the studio at present working on new ideas and paintings for a possible solo show . Not confirmed as yet, but I need to build up a new bank of work . I was planning to take some work to the studio in Italy but now I have to stay here in Brighton . Next year I will use it more and bury myself for a month in the Umbrian hills where my sole company will be wild life .
I’m working on ideas based around a project now 7 years old . A number of years ago I was fortunate to meet the American poet Robert Creeley when we were both at the Vermont Art Center . He came to my studio one night and liked what he saw and we had quite an amusing time together with his wife Pen . A bit later on I asked him if he would write something for my next show in London which was based on the work I did in Vermont . He did more than that and produced a poem ‘Shimmer’ and a great introduction, the poem is now in his last book ‘On Earth’ . Sadly he died not too long afterwards . I have been wanting ever since to do a series of paintings based around some of his poems but I couldn’t find a way in . But now I have – more to follow once I get going .
Paris now finished and the paintings move onto Atlanta, Georgia in the States. This is an area I have never exhibited in before – should be interesting. Meanwhile back in Brighton I will be working with a few models in the studio on ideas for new paintings and also visiting the house and studio in Umbria, Italy .
Sorry about the long gap between now and November . We have had technical difficulties with the new web site and it will take a while for everything to be up and running again . I still have to re-caption many of the paintings , when I have a chance .
I shall be exhibiting with the Salamatina Gallery (NY) at the forthcoming Art Paris at the Grand Palais from the 25th -29th March . This year I have quite a strong grouping of new works .
Waterproof will soon be available through Art Films Digital to buy and to stream . This is primarily an Art Film Education site though they plan to have the DVD on sale in a number of museum outlets . There will be 4 films on the discs , the earliest from 1990.
Pleased to say that after one whole year ‘Waterproof’ the film is finally finished and a trailer should be up on the site soon . Very proud of it , a sure labour of love that absorbed me for quite some time . Credits are Joe Murray(camera and shared editing) , David Rhodes(music) and Tim Oliver (sound) . We are now editing part 2 which is the interview section .
From the 19th I will be exhibiting over 40 new ‘Footprints’ paintings at Judith Wolberink Galler in Rosengracht 55 , Amsterdam . These are the very small works that I have been making for several years now . They have been described as ‘starter pack’ pictures for collectors . I don’t know how true that is but this new batch are some of the best .
I will be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair, Amsterdam this Autumn – details soon . Don’t forget I keep regular updates and also postings of new paintings and descriptions of other older ones on Facebook .
I will be showing two new limited edition silk screen prints at the Curwen Gallery in London from September 3rd. These were edition at Artizan Editions earlier this year . Also ‘Waterproof” nearing completion .
Very pleased to say that my large painting ‘Boundary Beach1’ (on front of this web site) has been chosen for the Threadneedle Art Prize Exhibition to be held in late September in London . Further details soon .
Film now called ‘Waterproof’ . Its in two parts – first is with sounds and music only and the second part is an interview . We might re-edit if there was chance of a television sale . Working on a number of new series of paintings which also feature in the film – so we film as we go . Interesting way of working .Maybe some news from America soon – I will keep you posted . I am due to have a meeting with Fabriano in Italy soon to discuss a collaboration involving paper and my work . I like invites like this .
Finishing line is approaching with the film . I’m very pleased with the way its looking and also the new series of paintings are looking strong . There something about going back to go forwards again – cyclical .
Continuing to film and edit and also to exhibit . Next outing is at Art Monaco from April 24-27th with Salamatina gallery of New York . Second time of showing in France in a month and first time in Monaco . Just about to start a new series of paintings – these follow on from the recently completed ‘Boundary Beach’ paintings which will also be in the film . I plan to make several new ones so that we can get them into the final edit in the summer . Its taken a lot of filming and hours spent editing but its just starting to knit together .
Excellent response in Paris to the new works . Also now half way through a new short film – made with Joe Murray. Should be ready by the summer.
Next Art Fair will be Art Paris (March 26th to March 30th) . I will be exhibiting a number of works with the Salamatina Gallery of New York . Also showing will be Andres Serrano – I’m very pleased to showing with someone whose work I have been following since he did ‘Piss Christ’ now several years ago .
I will be having a solo show at Mid Century Modern in Hoorn , Holland opening Jan 25th and another solo show at Van Breugel Art Projects in Utrecht from January 25th to March 30th.
First ouying in the New Year will be at the London Art Fair in Islington from January 15th to 19th . This will be with Waterhouse and Dodd and I will be showing a new large painting -‘Ghost Ship 7’ . Also more solo exhibitions at the end of January in Holland and plans are for a solo in the south of England – more details soon . The limited Edition prints will be available soon as well .
Meetings, e mails , phone calls – shows being planned for next year and beyond . Possible new , interesting places. First off will be Amsterdam early in the New Year. News soon .
Just started, this week , working on some new limited edition silk screen prints with Artizan Editions , Hove . They are a short bike ride from my studio which makes a real change . I live and work in Brighton most of the year but unfortunately I have nothing to do with the artistic community here – everything I do is either in London or more often than not , abroad. But this year I have two projects on which are very local – one a new short film around my work which is being co-directed with a filmmaker within walking distance of the studio and the the other is this new print making venture . These will be the first handmade prints I have made in over ten years , the previous ones were all with Edinburgh Printmakers .
About five months ago someone posted my ‘Close-Up Kiss’ painting from 1988 on their Tumblr page . It has now been re-posted on other peoples pages 50,028 times . I guess that is near to being classed as viral . Most of my other paintings are into the thousands but nowhere near this number . Now, if I had a penny for each re-posting.
Hoping to be working on a number of new projects which I can start to announce soon . There is a new short film which has already started but is only very slowly being worked on . No dialogue – only sounds . I’m also working on the second part of the ‘Ghost Ship ‘ series – more complex configurations !
Plus a new model is coming in this week to start a new figurative series around a theme – details later . As other projects are confirmed I will post them here and on Facebook . Also off on more travels -Amsterdam , Perugia , Rome and more . It feels like the school term has started again ……
I shall be exhibiting in Brighton for the first time since 1998 . Its for a charity exhibition for dogs and I will be showing a small , very small self portrait dated 1999 . It will be odd exhibiting in the town where I live and work – I thought I would never do it as there is hardly anywhere here to show .
Pleased to be exhibiting again in Moscow at the Moscow Art Fair with Triumph Gallery of Moscow . It runs from Sept 18th to 22nd and I will be showing smaller works . More details on my Facebook page .
Still nothing to report but many meetings about future projects so hopefully some news soon .
Nothing new to report . Working on new paintings, ideas for a new film and an idea for a possible museum show.
Just started to make short videos on Facebook around my activities . They are called GDcheapTV and are very informal and direct . Apart from those handmade ones , I’m making a new proper short film with Joe Murray . Last day at Scope also .
Next exhibition Scope Basle , June 10th -16th with Frans Jacobs Galerie .
For the first time I shall be having a solo show in Moscow at the Triumph Gallery near Red Square . This will run from the 10th to the 24th April and works will be essentially from my last three solo exhibitions plus rooms devoted to the films . It is a large space. There will also be a catalogue . I will be attending the opening .
TEFAF, the Maastricht Art Fair is opening this thursday and runs for 10 days . I will be exhibiting two of the new large ‘Ghost Ship’ series with Frans Jacobs Galerie . TEFAF is the prestige art fair with works of art from Egyptian/Etruscan all the way through to Contemporary . Quite unique. All works are vetted by a large committee to see if they are of the right museum quality as well as validating their status .
Feb 15 th
The Galerie Dis exhibition will now run until the end of May . I shall be doing a small talk on Saturday March 2nd at the opening at around 5 pm . This is all dependent on Euro Star and local trains all running on time .
Works now being sent off for my solo exhibition at Galeries Dis, Hotel Dis, Maastricht in Holland . It starts on Saturday March 2nd and runs for approx two months . Several new works including the Ghost Ships series . Also exhibiting one of the Ghost Ships at TEFAF, Maastrict Art Fair with Frans Jacobs Galerie, 15th -24th March . The solo exhibition will be a good size across a number of spaces at Galerie Dis. Photos will be posted on my Facebook page.
I was about to go to the London Art Fair last week and I decided to try and work out how many art fairs that I had exhibited in since I started . I soon gave up, it was far too difficult as the very first was the Basle Art Fair in 1974 . At least I started at the top. There must have been 3, 4, or five a year since then . I appreciate that for anyone interested in art they are a great place to go to but I don’t know of too many artists who like them .They do tend to reward the ‘look at me ‘ type of one off pieces – sublte works can often get lost amongst the visual noise.
I admit I have come to dread them as you can almost feel the pressure coming from the galleries – if you don’t sell you are not justifying your place . And these things are expensive for the galleries. I still value the solo show to showcase an artists work – its the only way to see how their ideas develop and to see the links between works – but everything is about context in the artworld . So it also boils down to where an artists solo show is – which space, which gallery , which Museum . All these factors feed into the status and attention or not that the show will generate.
Jan 12th 2013
New small paintings at the London Art Fair with Waterhouse and Dodd – Jan 16th to 20th . Also preparing for a new solo show at Galerie Dis , Hotel Dis in Maastricht , Holland . Starting early March and running for approx two months . More details soon .
A very happy Christmas to everyone and I hope 2013 will be as good as we all would like it to be . Exhibitions are currently being planned , new work is in preparation and I’m looking forward to it .
At present I’m a guest artist in a group show in Amsterdam at the C&H Gallery near the Jordan area . I’m a guest of Josien Vogelaar who I have know since a residency in Kerala , Southern India in 2000.
Also working on a new series of large scale paintings – one series being ‘Ghost Ships’ which are a little bit different to whats gone on before . And there is another series on several huge heads with figures. More details soon on where these will be shown as there are a few possibilities coming up in 2013.
I will be exhibiting an earlier lithograph print -‘Decoy’ in The Original Print Show at Waterhouse and Dodd , Cork st , London from Nov 21st to Dec 14th . This was from a small edition that I made at Edinburgh Printmakers about a decade ago – 2001 in fact and its an edition of 36 . I worked on several editions of silk screens , lithographs and some trial proof etchings but these were the last handmade prints that I have made.
Oct 21 st
Just getting info for a new solo show for late Feb next year in Maastricht to coincide with the Maastricht Art Fair (TEFAF) . more details soon – it will be a mix of brand new work and ones from this year and last year .
Interesting to see a survey show of Caillbotte on in Frankfurt . There are two images which I have had on my studio wall for a long time and both were sneered at by serious artsworld visitors in the seventies and eighties . One was a Hopper and the other was Caillbotte’s ‘Floor Scrapers’. Both have been critically reassessed in my life time but I do wonder at certain art critics/curators/academics and their trainline opinions – they should know better , but I guess they never will .
I forgot to say in a previous post that the Bath exhibition attracted over 18,600 visitors which is a record for me . Now I’m back to thinking about new ideas , experimenting, trying out a few more unusual approaches. This period can be frustrating until the day they seem to gel and something unexpected happens . In the meantime it is head down and concentration time – one minute thinking you will never do a good painting ever again and the next thinking you can conquer the world ! I can see all too clearly the correlation between mental instability and creativity – its because of these bi-polar opposites which are day to day activity in the studio.
In between coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose I have been finishing off works for the Pan Art Fair in Amsterdam from 18th to 25th November . Several new small ones and a few from a couple of years ago never having been shown in Amsterdam before . I will be the Frans Jacobs Galerie.
Sept 26th ,
I have been using handmade paper (Khadi) from Southern India for over 23 years now but I have only just found out that the paper is made up from T shirts . I always knew it to be rag paper – i.e. bits of cloth that are mushed up,pressed and made into high quality handmade paper- but I had no idea they were T shirts . These are , no doubt , first made in the Far East for Western shops then the ones that don’t sell or are damaged are presumably sent to India where they are then turned into art paper to be exported back to the West . Some journey . I’m now working on ideas around this T shirt theme .
Don’t forget for those who haven’t visited my Facebook page , I regularly post new small work /ideas on there. I find this is an excellent way to road test new ideas – that direct feedback that you don’t get through the traditional gallery system .
It’s good to get back to my other work – taken a while to re-focus but I’m starting to produce several small new ideas . One has a working title of ‘Shush’ which could be a large painting – its a work about officialdom .
I had a potentially exciting e mail last week regarding next year but I will have to wait until its a bit more solid . However, I only say this to illustrate how strange an artists world is at times – one minute you are looking at a blank page wondering where the next idea will come from and then an e mail request sets off a hundred ideas all at once.
Back from a very , very hot Umbria – up 40 % and a bit uncomfortable at times. Don’t think we will try mid August again . Bath show is continuing to pull in visitors – now around the 14,000 mark and its still two weeks to go . I’m now back in the studio attempting to focus my thoughts on new work . It took me a long while to re-focus in order to make the Olympic series and now I have to do the reverse. I’m looking forward to getting back to my territory though .
And 2,500 for the second week in Bath and London is now kicking in with the spirit of the Games – the foreign press have had a field day reporting how negative and cynical the British are about the Olympics . I guess its in our nature – especially Londoners , but then again the same is always said about Parisians and Romans in their countries.
I’m winding down now , slowly getting these two massive shows out of my system . Three weeks at the house in Italy will sort that out though – again we have a full rota of guests out there . I like that – its what suits it best.
Both exhibitions are now up and running – Bath and London . Bath had 2,500 visitors for the first week which sounds a lot to me . Apparently there are ‘rave comments’ in the visitors book . I’m off to do a gallery talk – a tour around the exhibition , this friday at 1pm . Its free , no need to book .
Catching my breath in between exhibitions and I’m back in Brighton , and the studio, for a week . Wonderful time at the private view in Bath with well over 300 people attending despite the heavy rain and Mr Murray on TV . Some very good reactions as well and coverage in the press which is all welcome after two and a half years of work . Now , the attention moves to London for the opening on tuesday next week and then I’m back in Bath for another talk , this time a ‘tour’ of my own show . I have no idea what I will say as I tend to do this sort of thing ‘off piste’.
I have been posting a number of photographs from the show on my Facebook page for those so inclined .
Just posted details under News re. my talk on the 28th .
I’m starting to post pages from the new catalogue on my Facebook page .
Recieved the catalogue over the weekend from Waterhouse and Dodd – it looks really good, and well designed by Jamie Anderson at the gallery . Often catalogues can be a let down through poor reproduction or photography or design but this one hits the nail . Currently I’m packing paintings, organising invites for both shows and finishing a late piece for possible inclusion into the Bath show . Only one month to go .Plus I’m starting to think of the next series – one or two ideas . I will also be showing soon at Basle Scope with Frans Jacobs of Amsterdam .
Exhibiting with Frans Jacobs at KunstRai which starts today in Amsterdam. This is the start of an important 4 exhibition run for me over the summer .
We have had to retitle the Victoria art Gallery and Museum , Bath exhibition and the Waterhouse and Dodd exhibition . They no longer have the Olympic motto (Faster, Higher,Stronger) as their title but now they both have ‘ Fitter, Quicker, Longer’ as the exhibiton title . This is due to the governing Olympic body for London -LOCOG- putting a legal embargo on the use of certain words with Olympic associations .
I will be exhibiting with Frans Jacobs Galerie at the Kunst Rai, Amsterdam from May 30th -June 3rd and at Scope Basel from 13th -19th June .
I’m now working on the last paintings for the ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ exhibitions to be held in Bath and London over the summer . Its been a long but rewarding two and a half years since I first visited the Boat Race to get my initial images and ideas . Since then there have been cold , wet days trying to keep warm at all day track events in Birmingham and Crystal Palace , wrestling in Worthing, weight-lifting in Croydon, paralympic events in London, swimming, diving, et etc in Brighton . Places and events I thought I would never visit . More details on the shows soon .
Two talks by myself are now confirmed for the Bath Exhibition . Please see News section for details . I’m currently in talks about many activities surrounding the Victorian Bath Museum show and the London W&D show . More details to follow but at the moment I’m planning on a small limited edition print – ‘The Diver’ -on watercolour paper and set in a box . This will be available for sale at both venues at a special exhibition price . As soon as I have details I will post them here and on my Facebook page . There will only be 100 available .
Other interesting things to come ……..
Currently exhibiting at the Hotel Dis in Maastricht, Holland . This is prior to new work at TEFAF- the Maastricht Art Fair with Frans Jacobs Galerie . Also exhibiting my large Art egg in central London . More details and photos on my Facebook page .
The Williamson Museum show still on for another month but meanwhile events are gathering pace with the next few exhibitions . TEFAF- the Maastrict Art Fair, probably the most prestigious art fair in the world, is coming up in mid March . I shall be exhibiting as usual with Frans Jacobs Galerie, Amsterdam . I’m also starting to have meetings re. the Faster, Higher, Stronger exhibitions in Bath and London for July . These are going
to be big shows – two and half years in the making . I said to someone the other day that I was in the last lap of making these works without realising the pun I had made . I suppose I should also say ‘I can see the finishing line’ . I will post more about this in the next few months.
There will be two talks about my work at the Williamson exhibition by Colin Simpson , the curator . These will be on Wednesday March 7th and Saturday March 10th at 2pm .
Due to popular demand the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead have extended the 60th birthday exhibition until March 11th .
Returned from Liverpool/Birkenhead after a hectic few days of visitors, press and school trips on preview day of the exhibition . I have posted photos on Facebook to give everyone who requested , an idea of what it looked like . I had three rooms – two being huge and I’m relieved that I took one or two very large paintings to try and combat the space . This is the important thing with Museum shows as opposed to gallery ones – space becomes a crtical issue. But it has also been good to road test several of the small Olympian series and I know now that I will need to create some larger works for Bath so that the exhibition can ‘hang’ around them . Exhibitions nowadays are as much about the curating as the showing – I think there is much more thought that now goes into large exhibitions than there was twenty odd years ago . But what I love abot doing these shows is the chance to let rip on some really big paintings and see what develops . I still have ambitions to one day construct some of the largest watercolours ever made .
Back working on the Olympian paintings and I now have confirmation of the dates of the show – details in news section . I’m really pleased with several new small ones which I may make up into larger pieces . I have been experimenting with some new colours – contrasting ones – they are quite vibrant and trippy . I have been looking at all the colours now found on sportswear – in some cases very luminous . Sportswear has really a life of its own nowadays .
All works now being packed for the Birkenhead show . I think it is goping to be a strong show complete with a first outing of 18 small ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ paintings . I will also be showing a few 1988 ones which have not been seen since that date . I was suprised how powerful they looked when we got them out of storage – so into the show they went . And they looked big – that was another suprise. The egg is also ready to go to London . I have now switched my attention to the Maastrict Art Fair works and also back to the Olympian paintings .
And a very happy New Year to everyone . A busy time planned for 2012 with two museum solo exhibitions and a London solo gallery exhibition plus possible performances later in the year of ‘Painting Music’ . First off will be an appearance in a new French documentary – ‘Ballade pour une Reine ‘ on the Tv channel Arte , dates to be confirmed but possibly January .
A very happy Christmas to everyone – I hope that next year will be better than the one before ……..
A wonderful response from everyone – friends, supporters and collectors of my work, for my 60th birthday . I have had countless e mails, text , Facebook greetings from all around the world and they have all meant a great deal to me . I will single out AD Chivers video song that he made and in fact I was woken up to by wife bringing me the laptop to bed ! I wasn’t expecting that . And also one of my longest and close friends, Peter Gabriel , who composed a song to the tune of ‘Old Man River’ – in this case ‘Ole Man Deanie’ . I’m afraid the words are a bit personal and rude to publish here . Others got their own back after years of abuse from me – including many ‘hair’ or lack of hair jokes . All in all a great day – at this stage in my life, I’m not so interested in acquiring more ‘stuff’ – our house is full anyway , but personal messages mean more than trinkets . Well that’s a relief then , I can hear some friends say ……
last day of still being classed as ‘not old’ .
When I was in Venice last weekend at the Biennale I managed to see about 30 minutes of ‘The Clock’ – if you ever get the chance to see this then do . I loved the way the brain wanted to make a narrative out of a non narrative film – but you were literally carried along by the simple movement of time , waiting for the next sequence featuring a watch , clock or verbal mention of time . I really liked the more suble sequences – there was one involving a girl in chuch with many lit candles . It was only later I remembered that candles used to be an ancient timepiece . And another involving a mortuary and ‘the time of death’ . Clever stuff and a piece of work that any artist would be proud of making in their lifetime .
Just had confirmation of a ’60th’birthday solo exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead , Merseyside.This will be held from the 28th Jan to 26th Feb 2012 . I will exhibit a number of works made in the last decade plus some very recent and also a number of very new paintings prior to my ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger ‘ exhibitions next year .
Working on ideas for a 2 and half feet painted egg !. Its for a big charity event in London next year – a sort of Easter egg hunt with hundreds of eggs and hundreds of artists. A few years ago it was a life size fibre class cow -the things I get involved with …
Next outing for a number of new works will be at the Pan Art Fair in Amsterdam from 20th to 27th Nov . This will be with Galerie Frans Jacobs , stand 100 .
The exhibition on ‘identity’ is still continuing at Galerie Maubert in Paris . I shall be over there next week for a few interviews and of course to see the show . It will be a hectic day return from Brighton at the crack of dawn . Meanwhile, I’m roughly two thirds the way into the ‘Faster, Higher, stronger’ exhibitions for next year . Possibly the longest time I have worked on exhibitions – they are coming along , quite pleased with several of them .
Had a wonderful time in Maastricht , the rain kept away and the performance was really good . It was a beautiful setting – in a very attractive square with the stage and screen at one end , right next to the Basilica where my exhibition also was . I have posted a number of photos onto Youtube . Soon there will be a short video clip from the film .
Next up on the ‘Painting Music’ mini tour is in Maastricht on September 11th . It will be outdoors again so I hope we are not unlucky twice with the weather. Also I believe it is seated with cafes down the sides in one of Maastricht old squares and its free. The main screen will be one of those uber projections used when they show such things as daylight football matches . So clarity and colour should be excellent . I’m changing several of the images for this one .There are a number of short clips being posted on Youtube and other sites but the main documentary will be ready soonish .
Great reactions from the performances so far . Aachen we had over 600 in the converted church and I loved the way the images played off the structure of the building . Heerlen was completely different – huge ‘rock and roll’ stage in a massive piazza. The screen was equally big so we installed another on the stage . Alas a thunder and lighning downpour spoilt the evening quite a bit making it difficult to paint and for David equally hard to play – cold and rain , but thats nothing compared to the audience who braved it out . Compliments to them . i’m posting updates on Facebook and Youtube have a number of clips from other peoples films . There is an official documentary being made .
Preparing for the performance/installations with David Rhodes in Germany and Holland – it seems to get bigger every time . Quite a production now with a great crew . In the meanwhile I will be exhibiting at a number of shows coming including Galerie Maubert in Paris (20, Rue saint Gilles) and this will be a group exhibition on the theme of identity starting in September. I will have up to 9 works in the exhibition . More details to follow alomg with other shows.
No entries of late as its been 24/7 in the studio . Very early morning starts and hardly a day off but sometimes you just have to flow with the current. Firstly, rehearsals are starting soon for the Performance /Installations in Aachen, Germany on Aug 24th at 8pm Aula Carolina, which is a converted chuch in the centre of Aaachen.This is part of the ‘Across the Borders’ Festival, directed by Rick Takvorian . We then go onto Heerlen on Aug 27th at 10 pm -outside the main theatre . As its outside we have to wait until darkness . This is part of the ‘Cultura Nouva’ Festival . And finally its Maastricht on Sept 11th – outside again in one of the old squares in the centre. All events are free .
Its all starting to come along , David Rhodes music sound great and live it should sound stunning , both inside the church and outside in these European towns . I just have make sure my bit is up to the same standard . Its certainly more complex than originally intended – hundreds of images – about 40/50 to be created each night , several projectors , a VJ editor and multi cameras . There are many visual cross references and colour coding throughout for those sturdy people who stay for the whole hour . It is intended to be something that you dip in and out of but who knows what the final result will be and it maybe more intriguing than we hoped for . Very experimental , which I think is healthy in this age of digital contolled technology . We are using thebest available but essentially this is something being worked out with our own hands in front of the audience .
May 26th ,
I now have confirmation of the ‘Painting Music’ performances/collaboration with David Rhodes (Peter Gabriels’ permanent guitarist) . Please see the News section for details . I have worked with David many times on my early film soundtracks and we have been invited to make these live events where I will be working on up to 50 small paintings -live- and these will be projected onto the walls , floors, ceilings , people etc of the venue and David will be playing live with haunting, atmospheric sounds/music . Difficult to perfectivly describe what we hope the effect will be but it is hoped that it will be like walking inside many of my paintings as I make them . The first is in a wonderful church in Aachen and then we take it outdoors to Heerlen and Maastricht . More details to follow but the first dates are in the news section .
Brighton Festival now in full swing, haven’t had a chance to see most things – only one or two including a great Thomas Tallis’installation’ at Fabrica and a French open air production centred around fire which was in our local park . Very lucky to live close to these things .
Preperations are firming up for the summers ‘Painting Music’ performances , two of which will now be in the open air . More details soon . Otherwise its head down into the paintings – more Olympia ones, the show is now taking shape and I’m really enjoying making these pictures . Six months ago I didn’t think I would utter those words.
Early summer feel here in Brighton , the beaches are packed already with some pale to pink looking English people and olive skinned ones from further afield .
I have just finished a new ‘Olympic’ large painting this morning and tomorrow I will see the return of the first framed ones . It’s strange, for a series that gave me so much grief when I first started them , that now they are storming ahead . I guess it’s all down to focusing and eliminating . I’m really enjoying this series now and soon the season starts up again after the winter break – next subject archery . I’m also starting to focus on the work for Aachen and have storyboarded the paintings for the live ‘performance’ that I will be doing with David Rhodes – who is presently on tour in Italy . I’m planning on a ‘painting’ a minute over the hour long performance – this will be seat of the pants stuff – the adrenalin will be in full flow along with the paints. More descriptions and final dates soon . Hope some of you can make it to one of the performances.
Tefaf – the Masstricht Art Fair was on top form as usual . I saw some incredible Egon Scheille drawings on sale there and a solo show of Mapplethorpe plus other outstanding works from the Eygptians and Etruscans to the contemporary . And I did well too, so a good trip . Went onto Aachen to look at venues for the forthcoming live performances (more later) and I was knocked out by the converted church that it will be held in . It will be an excellent space – white walls , pillars down the sides , a small stage where the alter would have been . Working on ideas for it right now .
Off back to the airport in the next day or so – this time to open up the house and studio in Italy after the long winter break and to have a few meetings .
A week or so on Facebook , someone I knew posted something about suffering life drawing when they were an art student . I remember those days all too well – frustrating , annoying , tiring – hours and hours spent in the life room trying to get the drawings right only to be told they weren’t. And then one day they clicked – I’m not saying it became easy but that hard work paid off .
When I left art college I decided to ‘keep my hand in ‘ as they say , and I attended evening classes every week – back to the life drawing . I remember a fascinating group of models at the Hammersmith classes in London . Once an unbelievable pretty French girl posed but for some reason she had an older chaperone next to her – couldn’t work that one out . And then another time an older ,very flamboyant guy with lavender hair posed in what I could only describe as theatrical poses . I only found out later that it was Quentin Crisp.
One evening someone asked me if I had a book on Hockneys drawings . I said I did and I would bring it in next time and I wrote on the corner of my drawing ‘Hockney Book’ to remind me . A few years later , a curator came around to my studio in London and asked to look at all my drawings for an exhibition . He took away several which I didn’t really pay too much attention to . When I went to the opening of the show I saw that one my drawings had been credited as ‘life drawing by Hockney Book ‘ ! They were mortified when it was pointed out , I just thought it was hilarious .
I know I’m a bit late with using technology but i’m now trying to post onto Facebook new paintings – some staight after being finished . Its a form of road testing new ideas – I’m only trying out small works to begin with . Please check out Facebook under my name and I’m easy to spot as I have used the same painting as at the beginning of this web site .
Just heard that the Melbourne International Film Festival will be showing a very early short film of mine called ‘Any Special Peculiarities’ as part of their 60th anniversary . It runs from July 21st to August 7th . I think it was the first one I made with David Rhodes doing the soundtrack . This seems to be a year old old material resurfacing .
I have ,as a friend has just said, decided at last to join the ‘me’ generation by posting on Facebook . So, in between waiting for paint to dry, which I spend a lot of time doing, I will try and post news of shows and other events and also studio photos of new work. So if anyone would like regular updates join up on Facebook and even become one of my cyber friends . It does seem a quicker way to reach people and I would appreciate any comments about the work , exhibitions etc. It really does help at times .
A couple of important events for next year are being planned as I write .
One of which is a live performance piece with David Rhodes (Peter Gabriels’ long time guitarist) to be held in Aachen in Germany as part of their ‘Across the Borders’ Festival . This will take the form of a live painting performance which will be projected across the floors , walls and ceilings of the Ludwig Forum in Aachen with David’s haunting and strange guitar sounds – we will ‘play’ off each other as colours immerse the room . It will be like being inside one of my paintings .
It seems appropiate to perform this with David as I introduced him to Peter over 30 years ago . I will also be having a large exhibition at the 2012 ‘Across the Borders’ Festival there and this one will be on the theme of European Identity . More details to follow …………
I’m currently dipping into into the coverage of the Commonwealth Games as much as I can in order that a few ideas might germinate . I was meant to be there getting reference for the Bath Museum project but the Arts Council refused me a travel grant , so no deal . Could be a blessing in disguise , not sure , as the photographers tend to be herded into media pens like sheep . The TV crews are given the special access as they are paying for it but for someone like myself who is looking for something different , it can be very frustrating . Consequently, it has made this project a far harder proposition than I thought and it means countless visits to sports events,games,gyms,church halls, leisure centers – you name it, I have been there . I can’t deny that it has been a struggle to get the feel of what I’m after – but slowly I think I may be progressing, though on a bad day I can easily contradict that !
I will be showing back at Art London for the first time for a few years in October in Chelsea, with Waterhouse and Dodd . Also working on a possible major project but more news soon when or if I will have the green light, as they say . Otherwise the Olympics themed show is coming along with several small works and three large ones already finished .
Back to Liverpool at the weekend to catch the first Liverpool game of the season at Anfield . Last time it was against Arsenal as a birthday surprise , and we lost – expecting an emphatic win this time please. I’m going with my son and we hope to have a short tour of Liverpool centre whilst we are there , no doubt taking in the new mega shopping experience .
The first painting in the sports series is coming along fine ( rowers)- had a breakthrough weekend when things clicked together , and I also came up with the exhibition title which is something that was eluding me as well . That’s the never ending fascination of art – just when you think all is lost something unexpected can happen and a painting can morph from a potential disaster to a success . I have often wondered if photographers ever have that feeling or the artists who use fabricators – they musn’t ever get that feeling of working through something – its a very hands on experience that I know painters will understand all too well.
I’m now immersed in my ‘sports project’ which will be at the Victoria Art Gallery and Museum in Bath , but not until 2012 at the time of the Olympics. I’ve had a few false starts and I admit its not been easy but gradually there are cracks of light appearing. Continuing my reference which, so far, has taken in rowing , weight-lifting and swimming , I’m off to Crystal Palace for the next few days for the major Aviva athletics meeting . Checking the weather out , I think I’m in for a downpour – but hey, its August in England , what do you expect ? I have media accreditation and access but I just hope I can get close enough to the action – although my approach to this show is quite oblique , I still need to have first hand experience of this world I have entered and getting close to everything does seem to be a problem . Its a challenge and its taking me out of my comfort zone which is what I hoped .
Back into the UK after an Italian excursion from a 3 day party in Sardinia to the casa in Umbria . Scorching temps but the rock pools were still high at the house so we could all go swimming to cool off . Sardinia was wonderful but like a strange balloon in a cocoon so I won’t even attempt to describe the somewhat hedonistic time we spent there as it would sound like I was making it up .!
The New Ashgate show has now started with very good reactions , and Art Hamptons NY is about to start on Friday and I’m busy organising models and reference material for a large museum exhibition for 2012. Seems a long way off but this one is not easy . So I have decided to take some time off now both here and in Sardinia and then Umbria in preperation for a major work period starting August . It seems an apt time to recharge batteries – I have had back to back exhibitions now for over three years , and you need to stand back once in a while and take stock .
I have been working on the small oil on canvas paintings for the past few months and now I feel I’m getting ‘beyond the surface image’ and really getting something out of these. At the moment I can’t think of doing anything else but that is the way of immersion – it has to be myopic , shut out the rest of the stuff. Next stop is to move up a gear or two . These do feel like a strange hybrid between oil and watercolour . Being water based , the oil can be manipulated into whatever you want it to do but I can well understand some artists having a problem with these paints if you are not used to their qualities.
Currently finishing off new work to be shown at a solo exhibition and film showing at the New Ashgate in Farnham . July 3rd to 31st. If anyone would be interested in the showing of the film and the Q&A session that follows it then please phone the gallery for details – 01252 713 208 . The reception evening is on July 2nd – with the film being shown at 7.30 pm . Quite a few new paintings on show as well as work books and small new oil paintings. This is a slightly different type of show , far less structured than previous ones – more akin to walking into my studio albeit a neater version !
A bit slack of late with updates but I have been busy . I’m experimetimg big time and working on canvas for the first time in 20 years ! And its oil or should I say , or should I say water based oil on canvas . And I’m really into it – more soon , back to the studio…….
These seem to times of catching up with friends – last night it was the turn of Peter Gabriel performing at the 02 . Splendid evening and Peter was on top form for a man of his age ! I don’t think I’ve heard his voice so strong . Peter decided to hire a boat to take us all back along the river to the Chelsea Embankment so that was a treat in itself – meeting up again with everyone at Real World . Also on board were Elbow who I didn’t manage to talk to which was a shame as their record must be one I play the most whilst working in the studio. The funny thing was we all had to leave the concert before the very final song in order to get on the boat . Peter then did a mad dash after his final bow to get onboard . This was all because of the tides on the Thames . The tide was rising and we had to leave as soon as possible otherwise we wouldn’t get under Westminster Bridge . In the event I think we cleared it by 20 centimetres ! I imagine that most the audience were thinking that there was a laid back backstage party going on as they filed out – unknown to them was this dash to get the boat alongside the 02.
Great poem in the Times yesterday from my friend Roger McGough –
‘ Forgive me if I do not understand many of your poems. In fact , any of them . For I am told on good authority, that they achieve ”the rich complexityof reality” and that you are a poet ”of luminous curiosity, confident in melding myth with redemptive ambiguity” . The fault then must surely lie with me. For I lack the confidence and curiosity to clamber over the wire fence surrounding your complex actuality. Without a torch , I would lose my way, and in the melding myth of the compound risk being torn to pieces by Cerberus, or falling into the pit of redemptive ambiguity. Forgive me . ‘
Brilliant stuff – he adds that ”There are poems published , much lauded by critics, that leave me cold. I used to feel guilty about not sharing their enthusiasm, but no longer”
I have the same feelings but also towards popular culture . I shall never get the X Factor for instance . The singers all sound fake and the music comprise of non tunes – I just don’t get the popularity of it . Also , and I’m a real lone voice on this one, and this almost amounts to an act of heresy – another one I don’t get is Bansky . To me it looks like polite ‘middle class’ illustration produced by someone who is very knowing and savvy . Everyone tells me how radical it is but they end up buying the prints in their millions . They all hang them on their walls as if its an act of dangerous rebellion – very street. I did however like the title of his film -‘Exit through the Gift Shop’ – says it all really . But as I said I’m a lone wolf on this – everyone I know seems to disagree with me !
Hot on the heels of Maastrict will be a solo show of about 20 paintings at the forthcoming Utrecht art fair – see news and exhibitions . I ‘m also really busy in the studio on several new paintings which will have a debut at the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham in July , where I’m doing a Q&A around the showing of ‘Falling Between the Floorboards’ . I have also entered the film for the Amsterdam Documentary Film festival – any news will be posted here . Many more projects and shows are in the pipeline – difficult to know what will happen and what won’t at this stage . Oh, and also a large painting of mine will be on an ‘Escape to the Country’ TV programme coming soon .
From this coming Monday I shall be exhibiting some new paintings at the Maastrict Art Fair (TEFAF) until the 21st . My work can found at the Frans Jacobs Gallerie stand opposite Haunch of Venison Gallery .
Back to Italy soon , open up the house after a long winter and disturb the resident spiders of their habitat. It will be good to see it again . I seem to have spent the past couple of weeks being a travel agent as there are so many trips over the next 6 months . A big one over the summer will be a friends (rock star friend) 60th birthday party in Sardinia, then a ferry crossing to the mainland to meet up with other friends , a short trip to Tarquinia and then onto the house, and then a few nights spent at the Perugia jazz festival , hopefully to see Leonard Cohen. Then a bit later on in the year I’m planning to get to Delhi to get a ton of reference for a new major project . But more on that later.
It’s the last week of the London exhibition – several pleasing comments from collectors and supporters , always welcome . In fact any feedback is good ! The past week has been strange if not dramatic as I suddenly developed an abscess in a back tooth and I have never in my life suffered such intense pain . I was crawling up the walls , wow, if anyone has had it they know what I mean . The only way I could smother the pain was to sip cold water , which might be contrary to the usual ‘hot or cold liquids’ line . But it meant I had to sip it at thirty second intervals all day and all night . This was exhausting , I was done in .
So tomorrow I sadly have to have the tooth out . My dentist used to buy my work to hang in his clinic and often we would swap treatments for paintings – unfortunately that arrangement ended a while ago but he’s got some notable ones in his collection .
I once was invited , in my early days as a painter, to do another swap deal with the notorious and legendary Peter Langham when he was setting up his large Brasserie off Piccadilly . I remember that Hockney did the menu, Antony Caro made a sculpture cheese trolley and I was amongst a handful of artist making large paintings for the walls . The idea was we would all eat off the cost of the works . After a short while Peter sold mine to a German Collector , I remember he sprayed champagne over a large Patrick Procter and no doubt others has similiar fates bestowed upon them . I remember other stories of him getting on his hands and knees when really drunk and going under the tables of pretty girls in the restaurant and giving them somewhat of a surprise – to put it mildly .
Reactions to the ‘Sleepers’ show have been great – the best I have had for a long time . I must admit when I walked into the gallery to see them hung last week I was struck by the energy of the show . I wasn’t expecting that at all as i thought they may come across as slightly sombre, in that twilight world that I was after , but in fact the opposite was true . We also had the busiest opening I think I have had for a very long time , it seemed full the minute the doors opened . So, a good start ….
‘Sleepers’ is starting next week and I’m looking forward to seeing the works framed up . Initial reactions to the show are very encouraging , and that goes for the film as well . Positive all round . I read somewhere once that an actor knows if his performance is good or not when friends call round his dressing room after a show . If they say ‘ and how was it for you?’ then he knows its a bummer . I guess the same goes for artists – you dread the word ‘interesting’ or ‘ I like the frames’ or ‘the space is good, isn’t it ?’ ! Next week will reveal all but I’m feeling ok about this one .
‘Sleepers’ will start in two weeks at Waterhouse and Dodd , 26 Cork St , Lodon W1
Part 1 of Falling Between the Floorboards is now on You Tube – under ‘Graham Dean’ . It is a 5 minute segment.
The London Art Fair has now opened with a good showing of my new work at Waterhouse and Dodd. In a way its a preview for the upcoming solo show at the gallery and the reactions on the opening night were excellent . I found the Fair, though, a little duller than previous years with a few exceptions including the vibrant Art projects space . I think they need to give more space in the future to galleries like these and this way they can capture the vitality of the Zoo Art Fair and others of that ilk. The main hall was just too full of galleries with the same old stuff that we have all seen a hundred times at previous London Art Fairs . I also noticed an increase in galleries with Modern works as opposed to Contemporary – this is a worrying trend and not good for the Fairs longevity.
Jan 1st 2010
Happy new year to everyone – judging by the e mails I’m getting most people are very glad to see the back of 2009 .
Last night, suffering the effects of colds, we decided to limit our celebrations to 15 minutes on the beach at midnight . It was quite magical , the sea was calm , there was a full ‘Blue’ moon and the colours of the sea and sky were of several shades of blue grey – bright enough to see the horizon . There were hundreds of people about , lighting fireworks, toasting the new year with anything in a bottle but best of all were the lantern lights which have suddenly become really popular . These are the ones that you light and the heat makes them literally take off to great heights. This army of yellow burning fires in the sky came over constantly from Brighton towards the beach and then they drifted off over the sea – a whole sky of these yellow dots . It looked amazing and strangely spiritual . Couldn’t quite explain why but there something very magical about the whole experience.
As you can see , the DVD is now on display on the front page of the site . I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and for many people I’m sure, a welcome New Year of 2010 – the last one has been a strange one , when we saw many of the foundations of this society in which we live start to rock and become unstable . So here’s to a better New Year ………..
The ‘Sleepers’ exhibition now has dates – please see news section and today I re-record a vice over for the opening sequence in the film and then its all finished . The artwork for the cover is also done and dusted so copies should be printed soon , phew ! Reactions so far are very good , those who have seen a rough ‘finished’ cut . Everything seems to be finishing at the same time as I’m also taking the final ‘Sleepers’ paintings into Waterhouse and Dodd today . Its a good feeling getting things finished and then waiting for feedback from the various projects but it also throws up the question ‘what next ?’ and that is something that is going to occupy me for the next few weeks ……
My last show of the year is coming up at the Pan Art Fair in Amsterdam – see news section . Next exhibitions will be the London Art Fair , Islington with Waterhouse and Dodd in January 2010 . Followed by my solo exhibition ( ‘Sleepers’) later on in that month at W&D . I will also have a new opening section to the web site featuring work from the ‘Sleepers’ exhibition , plus a short clip from ‘Falling Between the Floorboards’.
I started the film over a year ago and I started making the new paintings about nine months ago but now, at long last, I’m relieved to say things are close to finishing . But it has been exhausting , though hugely enjoyable experience – especially the film . I always refer to this process as ‘being in the zone’ – its a necessary if not vital position to adopt . But it can play havoc with your personal and social life as you are constantly inside either the paintings or the film . This time it has been at its most extreme due to completing a film at the same time as an exhibition . I have been going to bed thinking about them and waking up , often in the dead of night , with ideas for shots or paintings. The exhibition has as its theme ‘sleep’ and for want of a better phrase ‘the twilight hours’ . So, to really immerse myself in this theme , I started to get up about 3 or 4 in the morning to experiment with working in this transient state . I was surprised by how mentally alert I was – and I did do some good work – but I remember the feeling of exhaustion around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Again this was interesting – to paint whilst almost falling asleep . In my research for ‘Sleepers’ I read accounts of armies in the war marching whilst exhausted and due to the rythmn of the march they were literally ‘walking asleep’ . These accounts, I believe , are the only ones of human beings being asleep whilst upright . We all naturally fall over if we ‘drop off’ , unlike say , horses who can sleep standing up . Its a fascinating area, after all we spend a good portion of our lives asleep . I have combined these ideas with a trip I made to Norway last winter – this was a field trip to explore ideas around twilight . I chose the period when the days were very short -often only 4 hours of daylight , but a lot of the time was in an odd twilght world hovering between the two . These paintings are all under the generic title of ‘Four hours of daylight’ . Expect the unexpected , they are quite different from a lot of previous work . I have been experimentng with dyes, mixing these in with the watercolour . The effects echo the visual feel of Norway in winter under snow . One time whilst walking through very thick snow down the main shopping area in Oslo, I remember looking in at a shop window selling what we would call Fair Isle jumpers . There were rows and rows of these things – they are the ones with a strange decorative pattern on them – usually at the top . Turning away from the window and looking across the road to a park I saw the same patterns repeated in the snow laden branches of the trees – it was a strange visual experience . But this goes along with my theory that people dress to blend in with their surroundings or they take in the imagery they see everyday to the extent in comes out in their designs . Almost a form of animal camouflage – like zebra stripes that only make sense when viewed at sunset – the dangerous hunting time – when zebras can be seen on the horizon next to small trees or bracken . I have seen film of this , and they really do blend in with their background.
I don’t own a car and I don’t drive . There seems little point when I live in central Brighton but also I tend to get around by bike or walk . I took my bike, which is not that old, into a ‘bike store’ to get it checked over and have new brake blocks fitted . A fairly simple task you would think . Not only did it take for ever to have it looked over but then some young , over confident guy rang me up to say that really it wasn’t worth doing as it needed new brake cables, blocks, gears and countless other things . He said they would do it for a stupid sum . My reply was forget I will pick it up . Thinking I had a dead bike I decided to try some guys around the corner who had a small business run from a garage in a mews – Gee wiz I think they are called . They were real nice guys who immediately checked it out , said the bike was fine and they would change and clean the breaks and I could have it the next day – all for £15 ! No stupid paper, labels etc , just take it in and they hand it back . Moral – never trust the corporate outfits – they are there just to milk you of your money . Lets hope this recession spawns more start up businesses that can keep a level head as to how they go about things .
Amsterdam opening went well , the Major seemed a live wire of a guy, much younger than you would normally come across.
The Aalsmeer show opens its doors today but the official opening is on Saturday at 4pm if anyone is in the area . I don’t normally extend invitations like this but as my gallery has it on their web site then I guess its ok . I will be there but sadly my film won’t – more post production this friday . Its been a long time in the making but it’s great to get to the stage of discussing the artwork dor the DVD cover . Anyway , I hope I might some people on Saturday – it should be an interesting show .
I have been told off by Judith , who is my Amsterdam dealer ( art not drugs) – apparently Aalsmeer is only 30 minutes away . Every time we go somewhere by car in Holland it seems to take twice the time it should – so there we go, I’m sure it’s not Judiths’ driving. And also the Mayor is honouring us by opening the exhibition . The last time this happened was a show in Lubeck , Germany . The Major gave a speech and then turned to me and asked questions in German . Hope the same thing doesn’t happen again . The great thing about Holland is that most people speak excellent English . All this is great for us Anglo Saxons, but it certainly makes us lazy when it comes to languages. And I’m as guilty as they come .
Back from a number of trips so I have been a bit slack with the journal and news . The next outing for the paintings will be in Aalsmeer, Holland in October . This will be at the Kunst and Cultuur centre in Aalsmeer – about an hour out of Amsterdam – from the 8th October to the 115th November . I have been trying to get the film finished to be ready for the show but I don’t think I’m going to make it , there is just too much to do .
I will also be exhibiting in a specially curated exhibition as part of the Milan Trianniel in Italy in November . These will be a charity exhibition to do with Aids . More news when I have it . The new paintings are also proceeding at a fast pace – I’m on a roll with these- and the first reactions are excellent . I’m combining some new techiques and subject matter, maybe a few suprises .These will be exhibited at my next solo show in London early next year. Again , further details soon …….
Back again from Italy, but this time the Venice Biennale and boy, was it hot . Some of the art was hot as well , I think I enjoyed this one more than many other Biennales but also because of a visit to the new Pinault museum at the Punta Della Dogana . The latter knocked me out and I’ve seen many over the years and you half expect the cynical aspects of your character would take over . But this was superb design and architecture where the surroundings didn’t compete with the art but instead complimented it . There were also some great works there such as the Sigmar Polke room and the Charles Ray sculpture but you could tell any artist worth their salt would love to exhibit there . I also went to the Palazzo Grassi which I have visited before . Not so good , maybe an anti climax after the Punta except the new Richard Princes ‘Kooningesque’ paintings were superb .
It was a great visit, I came away energised with Art again and grateful I was an artist . That might sound a touch trite but it really was a genuine feeling …. I wanted to rush back to the studio to make paintings again . Also the Biennale was not wall to wall or booth to booth video . As much as I like video/film, it is a time demanding medium which leads me on to the beef i had with the British entry or really I guess the English one as Wales, both Irelands and I think Scotland were all represented separately . The problem for me was the presentation of Steve McQueens piece . I didn’t get to see it in the end because it meant waiting in the heat of 35% for the timed performance. This seems to go against the notion of a video installation where you can drop in and the decision to stay and see it is yours . I always thought that was the difference between art film/video and cimema type films . I think he had created a piece of cinema in the pavillion with a captive art audience . I saw many people walking away, and I couldn’t blame them, they just didn’t want to stay and wait in that heat – if you have already visited thirty or so other pavillions before this one you are already feeling the effects . ART OVERLOAD .Never mind the vast size of the Arsenale . The Arsenale had some really good works in there by the way . Back to the Giardini and the one I thought should have one was the Polish pavillion – another film projection piece but superbly realised with great sound.
Venice , with the new mayor is getting it right again . I wish it were a cheaper place but, hey, I guess that is what is called a visitors tax . Back to the studio now and work on the new paintings and more on the film and then Italy again in a few weeks .
Back from a glorious if not very humid week at the house in Italy . Though we had perhaps one or two more meals than I should have at our favourite restaurant – Picolo Mondo, in San Vito in Monte , which is technically ‘our village’ . There is a closer one – Migliano and that too has a restaurant the castle but Picolo is fresh fish from Friday to Sunday . All of this in the middle of Umbria half way up a mountain . So that means a stringent diet of tennis from now on to off set our pleasures . I will have several works on show at Art Hamptons , New York this weekend , one or two are new ones . Otherwise I’m now fully into work for the next London solo show and they have turned the corner and starting to look good.
Just booked to go to Venice for a few days for the Biennale . I try and do this every two years , it’s possibly the most exhausting couple of days you will ever do but as an artist ‘if you don’t have any input, you won’t have any output’ . It is important to get the buzz of what is happening and at times you come away thinking ‘what the hell was that ?’ but then there just maybe something around the corner that will blow you away . This time I have also booked a good, quiet hotel in the Dorsodoro , behind Peggy Guggenheim’s place . I like the restaurants around there, so important after the art overload . It’s also two minutes away from Francois Pinaults new space in the old customs building at the very point of land . What a location . I like the way the mayor of Venice is accommodating Pinault and indeed embracing contemporary art . Venice could turn into a museum city of the past – a relic, but this is breathing new life into the place . Looking forward to this visit – it will be the first time of being in Italy for a long while which is not at our house . I will have to get used to being a tourist again .
Italian weather seems to have come to Brighton with the beaches packed out with lobster pink Londoners and tanned , lithe Europeans . The English don’t tend to look too good with their clothes off and down here we see all shapes and sizes descending on us . The ones from London have the palest skins , you can spot them a mile off – plus often the worst dress sense . I always find it odd that for a nation with such a strong visual culture – at least of late – many of us seem to dress in the worst possible way . Or is it that we tend to see people down here with less clothes on – and that makes them seem worse !? When we are in Italy we see all manner of different styles in our local , more provincial town . Lots of black and gold and sparkly outfits . They also like wearing clothes with English slogans on – but I’m not too sure if they understand the meaning of them . I have often seen ‘Sex Beast’ written across a middle aged woman’s chest (on a top, I should say) and others like ‘Take me hard’ which I saw on a young girls T shirt , or ‘Spank me’ . Bet her parents didn’t know . Its hilarious to think they may assume these are sophisticated phrases or do they see it as chic street culture ?
Recently heard that the ‘Kite’ exhibition which has now been on tour around the worlds museums for over 30 years, is scheduled for Cuba next year . It has been a great shame that the exhibition never made it to the UK despite the Goethe Institutes best efforts .
It is a strange thing to be buried inside your work . That is where I am everyday whilst working on this show . I suppose the equivalent is an actor ‘in character’ or a musician who says they are into the groove , or maybe a dancer – flowing in a trance like state , or perhaps a writer who says that they inhabit their characters and ‘ the book wrote itself’ . This is the condition that all creative people aspire to, to do what they need to do . At the start of any given project – art, music literature etc there is a circling of the scene , a pacing of the cage , a weighing up of the whole thing before committing and diving in . But at the stage I am right now, you are still not really sure if you have taken the right path , if these things really are working or not . Am I repeating myself ? Are they any good ? Are they alive ? Do they mean anything ? What am I saying etc etc . I’m never too sure if this is of interest to anyone who looks at Art – do they really want to see the workings or does it enhance or spoil the finished article .? When I was younger I was always fascinated by the minutiae of what artists did – I wanted to know what they had for dinner , who they met , where did they go in the evening , who they slept with – but then I was totally obsessed with the idea of being an artist , that is what I wanted to be . I used to read books on Picasso and imagine living the life he did , I was in that book , pretending to be an artist. To say I was myopic was probably an understatement ! But this has always been the case ever since I can remember . There may have been odd diversions along the way but there really didn’t seem to be an alternative path for me to follow – it was art school or nothing . I was always told it would be too difficult to work solely as an artist , to live off my work – everyone said it was impossible unless you were David Hockney ! This was back in 1968 when I first went to art college . But I was still told the same thing in 1973 when I left . Now I’m unemployable, I have no work experience ! My CV for work is zero , but my CV for exhibitions goes on for three pages .
C’est la vie.
Head down in the studio of late . Today I’m aching after many tennis matches over the last few days – and as I’m gluing a new painting on the floor , getting up and down is met with numerous groans . The works are slowly coming together but as usual, this early stage is an odd one – sometimes you feel as if you are achieving zero and then other times you are pleased with the results. We are are also grabbing odd days for editing the film – when time allows it . Again , another slow process but there are already a couple of sequences which have knitted together extremely well . More updates and news soon ……..
It has been an odd, unusual but frantic time here at the studio . For some reason – I think it’s down to working on the film – the floodgates have opened with a spate of creative activity that has not happened for a while . Ideas are just coming thick and fast , usually in the night which is destroying sleeping patterns . It also means I’m more often than not up at 4am writing down complex ideas in the studio but once a door is opened it’s difficult to shut.
This has happened to a limited degree in the past when I have had a film on the go at the same time as a show but this is exceptional . I hope I’m not building up the film too much but the ideas going into it are certainly strong . We will see if this is the case in the final edit which is now some time off due to the amount if imagery which is needed .
Research, help needed ; I’m looking for the most boring town or place in the midwest of America . I have been asking my American friends and they have kindly given me a list but any suggestions, more than welcome.
I will be exhibiting for the first time at the Dubai Art Fair in March – see News .
Could be interesting though we had to be careful on which works to take .
Another quick visit to Amsterdam – we went to Aalsmeer to visit an exhibition space for a show in October . It will be similiar to the ‘Fragile Lessons’ exhibition but including the new film ( when its finished) . Otherwise it is bearing the cold and head down in the studio with new ideas / new work . At this early stage I have to remind myself that future exhibitions always start this way – slowly and in a sort of zig zag manner until I find my feet . There are a couple of things working but it hasn’t kicked in yet .
The title of the film is now ‘The Colour of Water’ . I’m looking forward to the serious editing – often wake up with possible ‘cuts’ in my head . I like this feeling of being inside the film or inside a painting – I talk about this in one of the interviews .
We have started a rough edit of the film – not too sure how long this epic will be, anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes . It is looking good, however, watching endless footage of myself wittering away can be disturbing. The editing of the interviews I have really left to my editor Gus as I need a more objective stance . It is odd watching yourself say things – you tend to focus in on all the small gestures that you didn’t know you made when talking . Gus had assured me that most of my shots will be replaced by other footage -leaving just the audio . That’s a relief anyway .
January 2nd 2009
2009 – what will it bring ? Most of us seem to facing the most unpredictable year for a long while, even more so for those in the artworld . I can see a return to art that has substance once more – this doesn’t mean it has to be retrograde or return to traditional values and conservatism . But it does mean ‘works’ which have integrity, maybe a sense of spiritual value – no doubt, less high profile / less media friendly than before . But for many artists I know they will be looking at the year in terms of survival – are people still willing to go out and buy works of art ?
A very happy Christmas to you all . Next year looks like it could be a difficult fiscal one for many. Let’s hope the financial managers, dealers and traders who have created a powerful and abundantly rewarded position for themselves over the past decade show they do have a moral compass after all and perhaps life isn’t just about the chase for more and more wealth .
My Aunt, who I have mentioned before sadly died on the eve of my birthday . She was nearly 101 – gave up smoking when she was 96 and continued to avidly paint her nails until she died . As an epitaph I cannot think of a better tribute than the story my mother has told me on how in fact she did die . She was in the ‘home’ which she had living in for the last number of years and she asked one of the helpers if she could have a brandy . She was fond of the odd glass and my last present to her was a bottle of good cognac . The helper couldn’t find any brandy as my Aunt had obviously finished her supply a while ago so she gave her a straight gin instead . She soon downed that , believing it was brandy and asked for another which she partook of quite swiftly . After the third gin she said what she really wanted was a brandy . They managed to find a bottle in their office and brought a glass back for my Aunt . After finishing it she announced ‘she was now going to have a nap’ and put her head on the pillow and promptly died . What a way to go ………..
It’s my birthday so I’m celebrating ……….
Had a rare privilege last night to see Leonard Cohen at the Royal Albert Hall . It will rank amongst the best concerts I have seen – truly outstanding . You could feel a need in the audience for something of this quality and depth – as someone said ; ‘an outbreak of good taste has broken out’ . Spoke on the mobile with Peter Gabriel who was also there and he said that Cohen must be be the greatest lyricist in rock music – ever . A good testament that I’m sure Cohen himself would like to hear . I would add that I think he is the greatest living poet right now .
For the past week I have had films being projected in my head – these are of films that don’t exist , I’m making up shots , creating scenes, trying to nail down some potent images for the new work . At present I’m just working on small, quite evocative paintings to see which ones can stand up and be countered for larger pieces. It has been enjoyable – it’s good to start a new series when they seem to take off . If I wrote this two weeks ago then it would have been different -a blank page – not an idea in my head – and then one small thing can unlock something I didn’t think was there and bingo .
Important news ; My apologies to anyone who has travelled to Hilversum to see my exhibition over the past few days . We had to close the show early due to very unforeseen circumstances . If anyone who has tried to visit would like to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org then I will respond personally . This was a very unusual situation, again I’m sorry for any inconvenience .
Stayed up until the early hours watching the USA election results – I found it gripping, almost impossible to switch off but I waited until Ohio was confirmed and then gave up and went to bed . I then got up at 7am , switched on the radio and started a small painting – one of the prayer ones- in my workbook . I recorded this on film, it seemed an appropriate thing to do at such a historical time . Another day that I will remember for the rest of my life ……….
Cold weather hitting Brighton, such a contrast to Italy last week where we were eating outside, evening in the evening . I got an e mail last week from a BBC radio producer who is making a programme on the Carl Andre ‘Bricks’ sculpture that the Tate bought in 1976. At the time I was in my gallery (who had a notorious reputation) and the Daily Mail rang up and wanted a young contemporary artist to help with a piece they were doing on the ‘Bricks’ scandall . I was led to believe it was a fairly serious art piece but in reality it turned out to be a typical Mail set up – in fact a double page spread in the paper and I had the main photo . They had me positioned as if I was building a wall outside the Tate and then attributed qoutes to me that I’d never said . I was a very young, naive to the journalistic world, artist at that time and quickly I learnt a lesson to be more aware of the ways of the papers or certain types of papers. It has also dawned on me that in this internet , multi channel media world, there is no escaping from the past – best to own up and get on with it .
Back from late summer type weather in Umbria . The flight back was the usual social occasion – meeting friends and also some who I hadn’t seen since my time in Rome. As there only a few flights out of Perugia each week it’s great to see who is on your flight – it is the only airport where they always seem to remember you from last time.
The Holland show is going very well and I’m now back in the studio working on new ideas via the work books . There seems to be hardly a break nowadays from finishing one show and then starting another and this is now the case with first ‘footsteps’ towards my next London exhibition . I have no plans to rush this one so we have provisionally booked in early 2010. More later ……
Back from the Hilversum opening and a great few days in Amsterdam – the weather was superb . The show looks good , I was again surprised by the size of the space and it was alarming to see which works could handle this and which didn’t . The Bird Boat series looked lost so we ended up just hanging one of them but I think in this case all they need was a frame to contain the imagery . With a large figure work the size of the figure countered the size of the space . One of the most successful hangs was a lone figure on one of the pillars – it just worked really well . I filmed the show and will include it in the final edit .
Took a long walk across Amsterdam to the Jordan area where we stopped for coffee . As it was so pleasant we decided to take an outdoor table by the canal . I only then realised it was directly in view of one of those old fashioned ‘pissoir’ pissing stations which I had only seen before in Paris . I had no idea they were in Amsterdam . So for the next twenty minutes we had a succession of men pissing in front of us and readjusting their clothing whilst we had our coffee . It was slightly bizarre.
Still lying on the sofa under the weight of this cold – hope it goes soon , I’m in Amsterdam in a few days . I have been reading an extract from Cosmo Landesmans new book on his parents – Jay and Fran Landesman . I lived in their house in Islington in the mid seventies, renting a top floor studio space in return for a few paintings to help out the rent . It was a crazy, boho house, exactly how Cosmo describes it . I painted upstairs, Fran wrote poetry in the middle room and Miles’s band (with Phil Daniels) practised in the basement . There were constant coming and goings of people who were famous or about to become famous . The list is too long to relate but I remember meeting Tom Waits on his first visit to London . He arrived with his manager and wanted to speak to Fran about Kerouac who Jay and Fran knew . Cosmo and I didn’t know what to make of him as he was our age but acted like an old hobo – odd . He liked my work though . He gave us tickets to Ronnie Scotts and we were all blown away – just knew he was going to be huge . That first album still brings back memories of that time . When I write a book (!) I will talk at length about some of these episodes ……
Just been reading an article about men suffering from ‘man-flu’ whilst lying on the sofa suffering the very same thing . We are given a bad press here – don’t women realise how ill and near to death we can get ? I did laugh when the journalist said that ‘ it can come on all of a sudden – one minute fine and the next minute a full on flu attack, totally unconnected with the number of beers he might have had the night before ‘ . This is true. I was watching Liverpool play in the pub enjoying a few beers and feeling a little hot and the next morning I was completelty knocked out with death defying flu – odd that .
I’m now starting to really look forward to the Holland exhibition and this will be first time I will meet some of the collectors of my work who have been buying me at the various art fairs in Holland over the past few years . I will also be filming it for inclusion in the new film which is now in production . ‘Fragile Lessons’ will be a large showing of the paintings ranging from the small ‘Footprints’ and even smaller ‘Fingerprints’, which are in the special catalogues, to the very large ‘Bird Boat’ paintings and works like’ Hold 2′ . One week to go ………
A sample of the proof pages from the ‘Fragile Lessons’ catalogue has just come through – they look really good . The designers have done a great job in combining drawings from my work books with quotes from my journal – unusual for a catalogue, but it works very well . It was a filip to the end of a very trauma driven week with the economic world turning itself inside out . My spirits rose when I looked at the proofs helped along with a fine bottle of red wine, of course. I am now impatient to see the rest of it . I am starting to think that this could turn out to be one of my more interesting exhibitions and I might change the feel of the film to include footage of the show .
Plans for the Hilversum show are coming along at a pace . The place is quite industrial – an ex garage and 90% of the works will be unframed so there should be quite a raw feel to the show . Looking at the size of the space, I reckon that it will be the largest showing of my work since my last museum exhibition almost a decade ago .
Just been reading about the Francis Bacon exhibition coming up at Tate Britain . He had a big impact on my work , especially early on, but I remember many arguments that I had with critics and even artists who just didn’t rate him the way I did . I saw him as a European painter in the grand manner but honed into an existential frame – no wonder the French took to him before we did . Most of English art was very parochial at the time when he was coming out with these extraordinary angst ridden images that at the same time could be quite beautiful . I never saw them as ugly – the quality of the paintwork was just too good .
I only met him once, around about 1976 or 7 . I was taken to the Colony Club in Soho, London by Jay Landesman – ‘Francis, I want to introduce you to a hot new painter, Graham Dean’ That was Jays style . I must have been about 25 and Bacon looked at me not in the least bit interested in art but wether I was worth chatting up . The conversation didn’t last long, I was obviously not his taste !
There are plans for a special collectors limited edition of the catalogue for ‘Fragile Lessons’ . This would be in addition to the normal catalogue to accompany the exhibition in Hilversum, Holland . The collectors edition would be a specially packaged catalogue, an edition of 50 and each one would include a small ‘Fingerprint’ – an original watercolour on Arches paper . This would be priced at 200 euro . I don’t think I have had a work of mine at that price for over twenty years but this is an unusual, one off event . Each ‘Fingerprint’ measures 13.5 x 8.5 cms approx, I don’t think I have painted anything so small before – almost like minatures . Each one will also include a real fingerprint from myself !
It is hoped that there will be a separate sheet made available of all 50 of the ‘Fingerprints’ so that collectors can choose the one they want . For pre-orders and enquiries please contact Kimberly Giese -Timmer at the Frans Jacobs Gallery ; kimberly@
I am still working on these so the sheet won’t be available for another few weeks . There will also be a wall of new ‘Footprints’ in the exhibition . It is hoped that I will have a considerable showing of work , including several new major, large works . Most will be unframed which will be in keeping with the space which was once industrial . There will also be three of the new large ‘Bird Boat’ paintings .
Umbria – I’m working in the studio and really enjoying it, it feels good here . The large chapel like doors are wide open allowing the breeze to cool the furnace outside . It feels strange to work on very small paintings with so much space around me , I almost feel the work should combat the space – at least in scale . As I don’t drive I’m literally trapped here but is a comfortable prison . I’m also reading a new book – a proof copy which will be published in October. It is called ‘Seven Days in the Artworld’ by Sarah Thornton . This is an excellent book and I recommend it to all artists/ future aspiring artists and anyone else interested in how the artworld runs . I have read a few other books like this and none have got it bang on – but she does, no doubt down to her extensive research . One phrase I liked was the implication of being an artist was ‘ constantly driving against the traffic ‘ . .
The book is quite American centric but International at the same time which is probably a reflection of the artworld though the rise of London of late shouldn’t be overlooked. The only thing missing from it was a closer examination of the role of the artists’ dealer and their relationship which after all is at the core of the whole affair . She has detailed the work of Takashi Murakami who is like a comic boy geek – American obsessed and ‘kidadult’ approach to the world which is quite universal right now . But he is a one off artist /buisnessman , God help us if things go full tilt that way .
Reading this journal of late you might have assumed that I have slipped into ‘grumpy old man’ mode . I feel this could be true, I blame it on Radio 4 , so I’m taking myself off to the Umbrian house to work on new paintings in the studio and to feel happy. I think I have caught the morose mood of the country right now – we seem to be a reflection of our calvinistic leader , dour, pragmatic and prudent. Listening to the radio or reading the papers gives off a ‘battering down the hatches’ vibe to everything. Are we going to look back at the Blair years as the happy, sunny, feel good ones and the Brown years as the new puritanical age ? German friends in Palermo, Sicily, call the UK ‘that dark, cold ,northerly island’ . Its interesting to see how others see us .
So in full contrast I’m off to a 38% furnace . That’s if I make it past customs as my hand luggage comprises of a mini cd system with speakers, tubes of paint, brushes and loads of paper . It must look very odd on x ray.
My application for an Arts Council grant to help me make my new short film has been rejected. I’m not too sure if I can continue with it now – this is a body blow as it was starting to look good and I was asking for such a pitiful amount of money that it was almost laughable that I could make a film on such a tight budget. But I guess I don’t fit the Arts Council criteria . Under the Labour Government the Arts have become a branch of Social Services . My heart sank when I read the lengthy application forms – it suddenly looked like it wasn’t a good idea to be an individual artist . As a friend said to me, if I were making costumes for a community carnival or arts project for the unemployed then I would get a grant , no problem . This is tick box culture . The forms took me weeks of work and worry . Worry that if I didn’t use the pc correct buzz words I would fail in the application . Apparently they operate some points system – I must have come pretty low . The irony is that a number of younger artist have come to me this year and asked me to help them them with grant forms, introductions or references . I have done so and they have all been successful . I apply and I get rejected !
My worst experience of this was back in the mid seventies when I had a large Museum show organised by the very supportive Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead. We had the idea to tour the exhibition but they were turned down by everyone apart from Brighton Museum . The mid nineties were not a good time to be a painter – this was when critics were talking about the death of painting . What a waste of space. Due to the lack of success the Museum was having in finding venues, I rashly decided to ring up a few curators to help the process along . Or so I thought, not my best idea . Several let out thinly disguised snorts of derision , others were openly patronising , and most disapproved of actually speaking with ‘the artist’ – apparently ‘I had not gone down the right channels ‘ . My worst experience was a provincial museum in south Wales . I rang up and asked to speak to the curator . Her reply was a gem – ….. ” Well, the problem is, you are a male , middle-aged , figurative or semi-figurative painter and I’m afraid that is unacceptable to both myself and my committee ”
So from a very unacceptable artist, this will be the last time I apply to the Arts Council or any other institution of that nature .
I have been asked by the the Dutch PR company who are working on my show, to write a short piece about exhibiting in Holland . They have already lined up a few interviews for me when I’m next over and I will be intrigued to see what the questions will be . Call me cynical, and many would, but I will be inwardly timing them to see how long it will be before I get the ‘ And do any famous people buy your work ?’ question.
This is always the stock question that most non art journalists ask – and I have to say it is always female journalists. It’s as if they are at a loss as to what to ask you – ‘Art ?’ urrgh .. or that you are of so little interest the only way people will read about you if you know someone famous. This is the age of celebrity . My last encounter along these lines was a short time ago when a young female journalist rang up and her opening line was ‘Can you tell me which famous people have bought your work ?’ . She had hardly said hello . So, I gave up and put the phone down on her …. harsh , maybe, but I’m not as bad as Anita Roddick who used to to hang up halfway through a conversation if she got bored ! Life’s too short, she used to say .
Anyway here is the piece I wrote : ‘ I have always had a gravitational pull towards Europe, even when I was young, growing up in Birkenhead. I looked different and thought differently . It only seemed natural that when I did start exhibiting my work, it was going to be outside of England.
If I remember rightly, the very first painting I sold with a gallery was at one of the earliest Basle Art Fairs in 1974. Germany followed and Holland was one of the initial countries who took me seriously. Again my memory is being put to the test (this was 30 odd years ago ), but I think the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation bought a large painting – then on canvas – around about 1976/7 and a few years later the ING Bank bought probably the best painting of that period , ‘Compartments 2’ . This is in the ‘early works’ section on this site. I was told I was the only non Dutch artist in their collection at that time, which I thought was unusual . A few years ago I paid a visit to the ING headquarters to see the painting for the first time since I painted it in Oxford in 1979. It was a surprising experience, a part of me felt like it was by another Graham Dean, one who existed in the seventies but equally I felt really proud as it looked strong, still relevant and fresh as a daisy. I wasn’t expecting that at all .
More recently , the Scheringa Museum have bought one of the large ‘Boat’ paintings for their collection and it appears I have now quite a few new private collectors in Holland via the Frans Jacobs Galleries in Amsterdam . So now it almost feels like my third home, after Brighton and Umbria . I definitely feel an empathy with the Netherlands and I think, or hope it may be reciprocal .
The ‘Fragile Lessons’ exhibition will be at ‘Cube White ‘ gallery in Hilversum, near Amsterdam from 11th October to the 9th November. Hilversum is where the TV studios are about 30 k from Amsterdam.
Sometimes, images drop into your head like slides projected onto a screen . This happened with the Bird Boat series for reasons I can’t explain . Perhaps I was thinking of caged birds – the ribs of the boat resembling a cage . I ‘d already made several Boat paintings based around a small book my father gave me as a child ‘ How to draw Boats’ . Birkenhead, where I was born was built around shipbuilding .
Recently , at the Umbrian house, a strange thing happened . I like to get up very early and go down to the large terrace by the studio and watch the sun come up over the hill .I have had a very long seat built into the terrace wall and one morning I was lying down and I must have fallen asleep for a short while. I remember opening my eyes , looking up and there were about 50 to 100 birds – swifts, I think – perched on the telephone wires directly above . The sky was deep blue , the birds black – it looked like one of my paintings . I was transfixed . I went back at the same time every morning for the rest of the week to capture it on film . They didn’t return .
Preparations are underway for the Amsterdam exhibition in a new venue for Frans Jacobs . I’m looking forward to it as it’s a chance to show several new large, unframed works . Some are very different such as the Boat Bird series , 1 to 3. For more details on the exhibition please refer to the Frans Jacobs web site or if you are interested in attending the show or would like more information then contact Kimberly Giese-Timmer at email@example.com
NEWS….. as in the news section, a painting of mine is in the new NIKE advert for the Olympic Games . However you will need a slow mo to see it as its an extremely fast cut film, but with a great song by the Killers. You can check it out already on You tube – a prize for anyone who can spot mine !
Back in Italy. It’s dawn and I’m in the studio in Umbria, up very early as I’m making a new short film – a self portrait without the artist. It’s still half light, the sun has yet to appear over the hill in the valley and I can hear the tractor in the distance just starting work for the day, a dog barking in the house up the hill- they leave them out all night here, and the bells on the sheep in the top field behind the house. It looks like another hot day.
I’m thinking of my next show coming up in Amsterdam in October and mulling over a possible title in ‘Fragile Lessons’ . This title could sum up my life and work – the lessons I have learnt over the years to do with both success and failure. ‘Imposter’s, both not to be trusted’, wasn’t that said somewhere far better, before ? There does seem to be an absence of middle ground in what I do – feast or famine, good or bad, passion or despair – an endless list . Paintings can appear fragile when in fact they are strong, and robust when they mask confidence and can be born of caution and indecision. Other times they seem to go off on their own with gusto and with me just guiding them on their way . Making them can seem like walking a tightrope between success and failure – one extra mark, one more layer of colour , another brushstroke that shouldn’t have been made.
There is no going back in what I do , no erasing, no overpainting or correction .This is it – this is as good as it gets . Fragile Lessons.
Returned from the studio in Italy , working on a few things . the fireflies were out on the terrace under a full moon – magical . Could be interesting news in next journal entry but don’t want to tempt fate ……
The other day I was asked by someone to tell them more about meeting Robert Rauschenberg (a journal entry last month) . It appears everyone loves a good anecdote especially in this fame obsessed world – even the artworld, something I thought I would never see, So, not being a man to disappoint , here we go ; We , that is the other artists in Japan at the exhibition, first saw Bob as he became known, with his two assistants . One was a film cameraman, though it was rumoured he had also other ‘duties’, and the other was a proper artists’ assistant who cut an impressive figure . He was a native American with a long black plat down his back on which he permanently wore a long white coat. He also carried a small silver suitcase with him wherever he went. We plucked up courage one day to ask him what was in the case and he willingly opened it to reveal rows of neatly stacked notes of different dominations and different currencies . They were on a world tour and this seemed the best way of holding the finances . We struggling younger artists thought this was the very pinnacle of being an important, International artist, – to have your own assistant with a silver suitcase of money. One day this could be us !
Anyway back to Bob . I saw Bob drinking water all day – that’s what I thought until I saw him getting Saki out of the vending machines that where everywhere in Japan . It was well known that he liked a drink . Later we heard that he was stopped at customs on the way out when one of his other suitcases was found to be full of bottles of liquor . But the man had style . The interview we did together was at the end of a long day – some of it taken up with drinking so I think we had both had a few at the time . I remember the film in the camera running out but we kept on talking and I think the funniest parts were on that tape . I would love to hear them again someday. Apparently the clip was shown on Lufthansa planes as part of their news footage for some time. They found it funny , apparently . I have a feeling I was a bit rude to him , but there we go, no change there . He was good with stories – living with old people in Florida, and generous tales of Jasper Johns . Being a young artist at the time, this is what you wanted to hear from such a totemic figure . Other memories were of us dancing in line imitating, in a drunken way , some Japanese dancers that we had seen when we left a restaurant after a very boozy meal . Now that would have been good on film ……….. The artworld needs these figures , I’m pleased I met him.
Just a few updates on work and ideas ; At present I’m working on several new ‘Boat’ paintings , some of which feature birds in negative form. This may seem odd at first glance but they do work , I’m quite pleased with them but I don’t know where or when these will be shown , but watch this space as they say.
Also plans are underway for a new short film starting this summer in Italy. It will be my first film for over 10 years and I follow up to one I made 18 years ago . A long time for a sequel – paintings are quick, films are long . The new one will be very different though still in a ‘self-portrait’ mode. No brilliant musical soundtrack this time, I’m afraid – at this stage I’m thinking of natural sounds, though slightly unusual . More to follow as I don’t want to talk myself into something that might not happen .
Other developments under being planned but it looks like these will be next year – exhibiting wise this is my fallow year.
After writing a brief item on Robert Rauschenberg a week ago, I have just heard that, sadly ,he died yesterday aged 82. A great , big, premier league artist – I’m sure the testimonials will bear this out over the next few days
A short film that I made centering around my work called ‘Paintings 1987-90’ is now available in two parts on YouTube. It’s an older work and I look very different but it still holds up today – I think .
It will also soon be available on davidrhodes.org He did the soundtrack to it and I think that’s probably better than my direction !
I see Robert Rauschenberg is in the art press again . In 1987 , way back then, I was invited by the Goethe Institute in Japan to contribute to a large International show concerning Art kites. A long list of artists were sent washi paper and encouraged to paint an art kite which would then be made up by master craftsmen in Japan . Flattered, I painted mine, sent it off and didn’t hear anything else . Then a note came through which was a little cryptic saying they loved mine and are looking forward to the opening festival and if I can make it , these are the dates.. I wrote back, after checking the cost of flights to Japan, and said ‘great, I will be thinking of you and I hope mine takes off ‘ What I didn’t realise , in my English way, was that they were inviting me to go and business class tickets were in the post.
Well, it was a hell of an occasion which turned into a 25 year old world tour of most the Worlds museums. Back in Japan , we were in a group of artists who included Rauschenberg . As the only other native English speakers we gravitated together and ended up doing a joint interview I think the film of which is still available – Google it ….
Bob , as he became known , was on fine form and very Texan in his manner . I remember the kites going up one by one – in some cases multi thousand pounds pieces of artwork subject to the elements. Suddenly Bob shouts out ‘ That’s Franks’ ! FRANK IS UP – I gotta ring him and tell him he’s up !’ That was Stella, Frank Stella, he was talking about – it was like a history of contemporary art in the sky. Bobs came crashing down at one point and he just shrugged his shoulders and said they would mend it – and they did .
For my part , I started off as one of the rookies and within a short time became one of the more prominent figures in the show, featuring on posters and in the press – so it was a great time to be flung in and compared to people who were way above me in the art world, whilst I was still on the nursery slopes ..
I have just noticed that my Dutch gallery, Frans Jacobs, have put part of this journal on their web site . So if you are reading this over there then ‘Dag. Hoe gaat het met u ? Ik wil graageen fiets huren’ . The last bit reads that I want to hire a bicycle, sorry about that but I have a limited phrase book . …. As the weather is better here in Brighton I have been experimenting with my watering can on some new paintings . At some point I would like to get this on film as its a fascinating but a dangerous practise ! I don’t know many other artists who will completely paint over a perfectly fine painting – either with thick white paint or even dark blue and then slowly retrieve the image by eroding the paint with water . I do sometimes get it hideously wrong – either by washing too much off or just getting the colour balances wrong . Then you have to start again . Who said watercolour was an effete medium ? You need nerves of steel with this stuff .
I got asked the other day what are my paintings like ? They said They had heard I was a watercolour artist . I couldn’t think of a worse description of myself – in fact in answer to this question I very rarely mention the medium as people always get a mental picture in their heads which couldn’t be nearer everything I don’t represent. I have now had over twenty years trying to reinvent this medium and I’m still dealing with its dubious status .
No news at present , just working in the studio on new paintings . There is a strong female subject line starting to develop with these, could be interesting.
On my travels again – sorting everything out with the new studio in Italy . It was cold but fine in the studio with the wood burning stove at full volume. I am so pleased with the work of the builders – it’s a smaller space but the high ceilings and arches give it the feel of a small chapel . Its one of the most serene studios I have ever had , I’m intrigued to see if it changes what I do . There is a huge window and door with views straight down the valley past the river and the large terracotta terrace . Not a building or sole in sight. The house is surrounded by a river , it’s on a rock promontory – very zen like, if I did yoga it would feel perfect . I also bought a new wood burning stove for the main house . This thing was called ‘Monte Bianco’ for very good reason , it was massive . It should pump out so much heat that I hope will go on to warm the whole house . These are very basic subjects to mention but life becomes that when you are there . The idea of keeping warm dominates your day along with trying to get the new well fixed . We rely on spring water at present – showering in ‘Evian’ or the Italian equivalent.
I have just returned from a trip from India hence no updates. A great time apart from a 19 to 20 hour delay on the way back , I’ve heard about these but never been involved in one. All night in a hot Indian air terminal is no fun. There was one tea bar which served tea and coffee always with sugar even if you asked for no sugar . You ask if its got sugar in it and you always get the shake of the head which could mean yes or no . You get the feeling they will tell you what they think you want to hear, so if you want sugar then the tea has sugar and if you don’t then the tea has no sugar – even if it does have . More to follow when I sort out the studio .
Just returned from a bitterly cold Liverpool , with the wind coming off the Mersey . It felt strange being there again – a sense of the familiar mixed in with new developments, odd buildings that I didn’t recognise, usual landmarks highlighted by backgrounds that looked like they had come from another city. I had some art business to do and then on the Sunday we had a small family celebration of my Aunts 100th birthday. I say small because the family is small – not many of us at all and in one or two cases the people are small (short).
I belong to the taller side which is a relief. My Aunt took everything in, you could see the brain working behind the eyes but as she hadn’t seen some of us for many years it was difficult for her to comprehend . She also told me she didn’t like the fuss. It was great to see how she still had pride in her brightly painted nails which looked in fine shape for someone who is a hundred.
It’s been head down in the studio over the past few weeks – long hours, very intense , but today I really made some headway .Pleased with the results. At time like this, it feels as if you are living inside the paintings – you go to bed thinking about them , wake up in the night trying to work them out and the same again when you wake up . Its strange but rewarding when it they come together – but its almost as if the process is an essential part of the work . I can’t understand these artists who ‘order’ their work up by computer or over the phone – ‘the idea is everything’ philosophy . They miss out on a hell of a lot of hand to eye – and I think the work shows it .
Attending the pv of the London Art Fair I realised it is now 34 years since my first ever art fair which was Basel . I had just left art college and Basel was grand but not as grand as now . There were only a handful of English galleries who participated in international art fairs – they were seen as a new development and rather looked down upon by some snooty galleries – perhaps too sales oriented. Of course every gallery is sales oriented, they just don’t like saying it. Nowadays art fairs dominate – there are probably way too many of them, but there you go, we are in a sales driven world where the profits of supermarkets are headline news -‘oh my god, they are down a point on predictions, the world is going to collapse ‘. I’m beginning to think we have too much news . I remember saying this a number of years ago to someone I know who is a BBC foreign correspondent . It felt like heresy. But when you have 24 hour news and then hundreds of digital channels, minor stories will become major ones .
My reference trans came back from the lab and for a second I had to check that they were in colour. I have never seen so little colour on sheets of transparencies. If you live in a landscape devoid of colour then it must really jar when bright colours are used . I wonder if they have the colour balance turned down on their TV sets. My father used to turn his up on the premise that if you are paying for a colour television and license then you should get your moneys worth.
Oslo after a great nights sleep.
I have just experience one of those rare magical moments when you feel all is well in the world. I took a long walk in the thick snow to the Munch Museum , which is a superb place and somewhere I have wanted to visit for decades. However it could be a lot bigger and I know they have vast archives of his work and can only show a fraction at a time. But it was still good. On the way back I put Sigur Ross on my i pod and walked slowly back through the park – the light was fantastic and it was one of those times when it was good to be alive. Sometimes the combo of Art and other sensory experiences gives me a better high than any drug. This has just been one.
I then took an even longer walk right across Oslo – the boots just kept on walking – all the way to the other major park and the Vigelandsparken . This is the work of Gustav Vigeland, essentially an open air sculpture park. I have always felt that Figurative art, both painting and sculpure, has been given the short straw in the history of Art. The lineage has always taken the Abstract to Conceptual route , both critically acceptable. There is an alternative, yet to be documented, alas, take on this which links Rodin, Munch , Scheille, Matisse through to Hopper, Keinholz, Segal, Hanson , Bacon , Hamilton and the present day of Gormley and others. I have left many out but you get the jist . After seeing the Vigelandsparken I wish Gormley would be given a free hand to create something like it in the UK. This is a work that almost works . In the smaller friezes it does, but these are generally ignored for the sake of the larger set pieces which entertain the tourists. There is just something to folksy and populist about this. As much as I enjoyed parts of it on one level, I found I was getting irritated by it on another – it just could have been so much better. Maybe this sounds harsh but I yearn to see some great public sculpture. The thick snow on the works certainly gave them a slightly surreal appeal – I wonder what it looks like in the summer ?
I have a hatred of 90% of public art which usually means bad sculpture. Its been dumped on city centre, shopping malls etc all over the UK and its crap. These councils suddenly think they know about art and commission god knows what from people no one has heard of . I have long suspected they are jumped up designers and faux architects – this stuff has little or no merit. That’s my rant over for the day ……
On the train to Oslo very early. Dreadful night in the hotel as it was a sales peoples annual get together – drunken loud Norges banging on doors, moving furniture, shouting for girls names – at least I think they were , and generally acting like marauding Vikings. They finished at 6am and I got up at 6.30 am to get this train . And to cap it all I had asked for a quiet room !
So its a bleary eyed start to the journey but the train has now stopped at Voss and they have announced that there is an avalanche ahead and we are turning back to delightful Bergen and the Vikings…..
Just been talking to the crew on board and they are going to put us in taxis for the airport and from there we can get a flight to Oslo. Unbelievable as they are paying . Would you get this in the UK ? No way .
7th January 2008
Just back from my reference/ideas trip to Norway – here are some of my random thoughts on the hoof, in the snow ……
Oslo, Wednesday the 3rd
Went to sleep last night with the sound of trams in the snow , so much better than cars. Very European, I always think of Le Carre novels. This morning I’m off to Bergen by train, hoping to get the reference I need. It’s a long journey – about 7 hours which I will be repeating on Saturday. Todays’ sunrise is about 9.30 am so daylight won’t be for another hour after that and then it starts getting darker about 2.30pm. So I have about 4 hours to get the work done.
I’m now in Komfort class on the train which means komfortable free coffee and Komfortable free Norge newspapers. There is one interesting area which has two lounge type seats and a picture window – looks promising. We have been going an hour and it’s still dark, no wonder they drink a lot.
It’s strange how the landscape is drained of colour – it reminds me of their fair-isle jumpers, they could camouflage into the background. We are now nearing the highest point – apparently the highest railway track in northern Europe and its white-out outside. There are a few skiers with sail planes but no one else, this looks tough territory.Who lives here , why ?
Bergen , Friday.
Bergen is a beautiful city, an ex capital of culture . Took the cable car up to a hilll station and then a wonderful walk through the woods , lakes, frozen rivers etc. Maybe an idea or two on the way up. Felt good to get fresh air into my lungs – less good when middle aged Nordic women briskly strode past me in a purposefully manner. More to follow ….
‘It’s 4 in the morning, the end of December’ – I always think of Leonard Cohen’s song at this time of year – ‘Music on Clinton street ‘ etc . Where I’m going it will be up to -18c and lots of snow. A number of friends of mine all have the same ‘4 in the morning’ experience – waking up at that hour . Birth/death ? Maybe , I’m not sure, but I can be wide awake with a hundred ideas flying around my head at that inhospitable hour. Just me and the cat ……
I would like to wish everyone who takes the time out to read this diary, a very happy Christmas and New Year. I shall soon be off on my travels again , seeking reference for a series of new works, travelling across Norway. I may not make it back due the promise of BAA strikes at the airport . Can’t wait.
First snow at the Italian house – sounds great . Friends say that they are huddled around a two foot radius of their wood burning stove, any distance outside of that and it’s freezing. The big difference between Brighton and there is that they still have four marked , distinct seasons.
Reading in the papers about James Murdoch taking the helm at Sky …. I was with James at the British School in Rome where I had a residency in 1992. At that time he wasn’t too sure of his future and seemed more interested in music than anything else . I remember him being my tennis partner in the somewhat chaotic matches that the artists had. Other memories had better stay with me, that is until I publish a book and he can pay me huge amounts of hard cash to keep quiet !
An exhausting couple of days in Amsterdam to go over things with my gallery there . This also coincided with my birthday on the 5th – and in a cliched way , I don’t remember much about finding my way back to my hotel on one of the canals . Then it was back on the plane to Brighton to find a new model literally waiting for me on the steps of the house. Talk about hitting the ground running but we got the work done I now have the start of some new ideas for several paintings for next year.
There are some interesting developments in line for 2008 , I will keep you posted ……..
I often think that the artworld has turned into one big art fair. Over the past few weeks I have had one International Art Fair segway into another – Amsterdam has just finished yesterday and now Abu Dhabi starts tonight. When I first started, art fairs were limited to Basle, FIAAC, Cologne and then London started initially at Olympia before moving to Islington. It meant that I didn’t really sell in this country for almost a decade and consequently most of my work is in collections abroad. It seems a strange time now with Frieze becoming known more as an art fair than a magazine and where an artists exhibiting map of the year is peppered with fairs across the globe. I can see it being easier for collectors who are time short but they can’t be the best way to show an artists work . Galleries will argue that they are vital showcases for their artists but really they are a way of banking major sales which might or might not be there in a solo exhibition . I often wonder if the bubble will burst…………
I’m getting reports from Italy on how the studio and the new well are getting on and I’m wishing I was there. It can get cold in the evenings though and the woodburning stove in the studio isn’t installed yet so maybe it’s just as well.
I’m working on ideas for my next project which could be a large, cinamatic one – in painting forms. It’s called ‘Four hours of daylight’ – that, at least is the working title. It involves a few train journeys across Norway which I will be doing in January – but more later.
My other project is called ‘Edge of the Shadows’ but early days yet, so again more on that later.
Reading this morning about Liverpool and the City of Culture events for next year. Many people from there all said the same thing, that they felt they had Liverpool running through them like a stick of rock. I have always felt the same despite being born and brought up over the water in Birkenhead, woollyback territory. It’s still very evident even today, and it is now 37 years since I left there to study in Bristol. Just outside my studio door is the original railway sign for Birkenhead North, I’m a fervent supporter of Liverpool Football Club and I always still check every week to see how Tranmere Rovers got on – they were my boyhood club, every other Friday night I went down to Prenton Park to see them play. In fact I was born almost opposite the ground.
More recently I remember staying at Roger McGoughs house and the phone started ringing at 4 in the morning and no one could be bothered to get up to answer it. Every half hour it would ring until Roger reluctantly got up a few hours later. It was Granada Television and they were trying to contact him to say that John Lennon had been shot in New York. These moments in your life haunt you.
The Merseyside character is a strong one that stays with you all through your life and I’m pleased that my son Finn has inherited the football tradition in our family and he’s now a more knowledgeable fan of the Reds than I am . I have only two elderley relatives left on Merseyside now so it will be a strange feeling to eventually have the connections go in years to come.
Just started a new series of works which are, from the start, looking strong. Sometimes the route into a new series can be tentative, unsure – feeling the way until something kicks in. This time I have hit the ground running but it will depend on finding the right models for the remaining paintings.
I did a gallery talk last week for a gathering of lawyers – don’t know what the collective noun is for such a group – a ‘sueme ‘ perhaps ? Seemed to go well . I have now started on some new paintings and they are suddenly coming along at a hell of a pace. It often happens like that – you can be sitting in the studio thinking that you never get an idea ever again and then the floodgates open and the works just seem to ooze out……
New York art fair is starting soon and then it’s the unknown territory of Abu Dhabi – no figurative work , and certainly nothing either sexual or religious . Well, there goes the whole history of Western Art ……
Almost hot on the terrace today, can’t believe this is late October. For some reason there are several robins around – I have noticed that the birds go very quiet when the hunters and their dogs come down the track. It’s as if they know. As soon as they are gone they start up again. I like the idea of the house being a refuge for the birds in hunting season.
Ah Bliss. I’m at the Umbrian house, sitting on the loggia with a prosecco in my hand looking over the fields. Perfect autumn weather – still, woodsmokey and it’s not the weekend yet so the hunters haven’t come down to go into the woods. It’s difficult to relate how quiet it is here. A heavy leaf fell onto the terrace this afternoon and we both turned around to see what the noise was.
I will go down to the studio soon and give the workmen a bottle or two of Moretti (my favourite beer ) – it looks like it could be pretty dusty down there. The studio is taking shape, two rooms and a bathroom with views down the valley. There is also a stone sink on the large terrace where I can get water. It’s quite small but should be big enough to to produce fairly sizable works if I want to.
Tonight we will visit Picolo mondo – our local restaurant in the hills above us. This was a great discovery. One of the drawbacks about buying a place in a land locked region was, I thought, the lack of fish restaurants, which I love. So, it was a surprise to say the least to find a fresh fish restaurant only 5 mins away by car. Our other local is Val Verde which is an entire estate and does a killer pizza. They have a delivery of Buffalo Mozzarella every day from south of Naples, where it comes from. I’m always surprised at the devotion to food and detail that the Italians have without making a song and dance about it. It seems to be just part of their character. Today I bought a a new oven from our main town which is 15 mins away. This was about 11.30 am . They delivered it, to our rural location, at about 4.30 pm and then the guy installed it, checked everything was working as it should be – including a spirit level to check it was level and then took the old one away. It was a pleasure to watch – no problemo.
I received a letter the other day from someone asking me why there was so much water in my work – I think they were referring to the subject matter rather than the technique ! I now live near the sea in Brighton – have done for 20 years – and in Umbria, Italy, our house is surrounded by an arc of water in the shape of a river. Very Zen. But I also think it has something to do with being born and brought up in a ship building port and an event that happened when I was young.
I was in my grandfathers house in Wallasey on Merseyside and I was five or six and playing in the garden . They had an open well in the garden and he must have been watering the plants as the cover was off. As you might guess I stepped right into it and as the top of my very blonde head came back up to the surface, my mother grabbed me by my hair and I’m here today but now with far less blonde hair . I remember reading that a similar thing happened to Bill Viola – hence a fixation with water in his video work.
I wonder if there are many artists who have fallen down wells.
Spent most of today ripping up paintings. I’m clearing the secondary studio room which is crammed full of paintings, plan chests , files , photos, books and other assorted reference bits and pieces. To be honest it’s a mess. So, with the help of Sophie who is an art student and promising painter here in Brighton, we have been attacking the paintings which I feel need to go. It’s a cathartic experience, definitely a cleansing one – sometimes I know I make a few wrong choices but once gone they are soon forgotten. We should be finished by Christmas !
Sophie is going to help me sorting out the web site and general administration – it’s a good time to make a spring or is that an autumnal clean.
The second private view of White Noise and it was a crowded gallery last night. I have spent a lot of time talking about these new paintings over the past week – very apt when the subject is noise. I will try and get some photos in this diary section very soon.
My first private view of ‘White Noise’ was yesterday morning at Waterhouse and Dodd – part of the Frieze/Cork Street breakfast. The weather was perfect so we had quite a number of visitors and collectors. I also had a large selection of new work at Zurich International art fair which had just opened.
London feels like one big art exhibition at the moment – Zoo was also down the road at the back of the R.A., and the papers are full of the Freize art fair. The main ‘White Noise’ opening will be on tuesday evening (16th).
Edinburgh Printmakers are publishing a book next month to celebrate their 40th anniversary. A few years ago I made several editions of prints with them and I really enjoyed the collaborative process. Again, it is no doubt, part of this feeling of getting out of the studio and into another work place – where real people are !
Like most artists of my vintage, I learnt printmaking – stone litho, silk-screen, etching etc whilst at art college. I then didn’t do any for quite a number of years once I left. So in the late seventies I expressed an interest to the gallery I was then with, to take it up again and make an edition of silk screen prints.
They set me up with an independent printmaker in London and I had an unexpected greeting when I turned up at his studio in Fulham. Laden with drawings, notes , and finished artwork I knocked at this door in a dingy back street. He eventually opened it looking very red eyed and not really in the mood to see me – and I had travelled down from Oxford.
I sat down next to the silk screen printing bed and he started to tell me that he was sorry but he just couldn’t face touching the thing. Apparently he had just found out that his wife was having an affair and they had been using the studio and in particular the printing ‘bed’ for their amorous adventures. The situation seemed very surreal – silk screen beds have air suckers in them to hold down the paper when printing – there’s always a distinctive noise when used – I had visions of his spreadeagled, naked wife being held down by the suckers, and then there was the issue of that noise ….. – it was difficult to suppress the giggles.
So that was the end of my efforts to rekindle printmaking , that is until years later Edinburgh Printmakers invited me up there.
Watched the South Bank Show last night which was about the Merseybeat poets. It was great or should I say ‘dead good’ to see old footage of them performing at the Everyman and O’Connors in Liverpool. I was a mere 15 year old schoolboy when I first went with my friends to these and other gigs – often there were only about 20 of us in the audience on a wet Mersey night. They must have had a big effect on helping me find a visual language, and I can see that in my early works such as Leo and Mona and Refugee from England. They really are paintings that came from that background.
Many years later, it was a great thrill for me to have Roger McGough visit me in my London studio and more so to hit it off and become friends. I then went on to do several books with Rog – mostly covers but a couple of fully illustrated ones as well. Adrian Henri was also very generous towards my work and even wrote a review of it once for the Liverpool Echo or Daily Post , can’t remember which. He used to go on about how we were both from Birkenhead – I suppose with the spotlight being always on Liverpool then the Birkenhead thing was a touchstone , but there wasn’t a mention of that last night, only Rhyl .
I should point out, in case this sounds like I only have famous friend that I don’t – it’s just one of those months when they are all in the news !
In a few weeks time there will be a memomorial service for Anita Roddick in central London. I guess it will be more of a celebration ‘-no black clothes, no mourning !’
I first met Anita way back in 1987, at the suggestion of Peter Gabriel ‘as I lived along the coast’ according to him. She was looking for ideas and ‘creative input’ as she was planning to set up a small film company and at that time she was not surrounded by too many ideas people. Her words, not mine.
The strange thing was that Peter forgot to tell her that I was an artist and only made short films as an extension. an off shoot to the paintings. Around that time in 1987 I was between galleries and so finances in the Dean household were a bit slim. Anita was due to come around on a Sunday morning and I remember us going over bank statements prior to her arrival, to see if we could last out another month or two.
So the doorbell rang and a small tornado breezed past me saying’ I have just flown in from South America and……. who did these paintings ?’ I followed, what looked like from the back, a mass of hair on tiny legs, up and down stairs, in and out of the studio, all the time hearing ‘ these are fantastic, did you really do them …… are they for sale ?’
Well, I was hardly going to say no . An hour later, sitting at the kitchen table after she had gone, I was holding a cheque for quite a few thousand in my hand wondering what had just happened or was it a strange dream?.
I went on to do posters and banners for the Body shop (Amnesty International, Global Warming amongst others) and Anita kept buying my work, mentioning me on Desert Island Discs (what a buzz), speaking at museum exhibitions of mine, but most of all becoming good friends with both her and Gordon. I never did tell her that story.
Anita was one of those people on this planet who shone brighter than others. But like those who had gone before her and burnt out before their time, she left one hell of a trail behind her.
Attended the private view of Art London last night engulfed by an endless supply of champagne – however, not too many artists around to appreciate the luxury . This is one of those rare times when you can escape the studio and actually meet some of the collectors who have bought your work. Most artists I know suffer at times from the cabin fever mentality of studio life. It’s a bit like being a sociable monk so when a few private views come along it feels good to take advantage of the hospitality.
This diary is a new venture and I would appreciate any feedback as to its contents. Any ideas or suggestions are more than welcome, I have no idea if it will be of interest to no one or many. I will try and keep an up to date account of all exhibitions and other related issues depending on my travels of course – it’s a busy period coming up.
The first show will be next week at Art London in a marquee in Chelsea, London. I will be exhibiting with Waterhouse and Dodd and I believe they are planning to show a few of the new ‘White Noise’ paintings. Also it will be the first outing of the ‘White Noise’ catalogue which I’m told is looking pretty good .
I’ve also heard this week that the planning permissions have now gone through for the new renovation of the studio at the house (Palombaro) in Umbria. I will keep you posted on this and try and get some photos next time we visit.