Notes on Five Monotypes showing at The Market Lane Garage with Julian, Peter and Harold.
I love the way you can distinguish trees at night, especially in winter, with their branches silhouetted against a starlit sky; earlier, the branches smudgy blue as the sun goes down and the cold sky, full of colour, spreads out across the West like an glassy transparent quilt. And when I leave the lights on in the studio to illuminate the way from the house, the paintings I am working on inside are lit up like windows in an advent calendar. (Paintings within paintings and the use of the window frame are both subject matters and compositional devices of interest to me. Matisseís Red Studio or his French-Window at Collioure, the cropping of Bonnardís inside/outside paintings where the boundaries of the garden are indistinguishable from the cacophony of colours inside the room. Rothkoís sublime paintings from the mid 50ís, like blinds pulled down across a window frame. Friedrichís views of ships masked off by shutters. David Jones, Kit Wright, Hopper, Marsden Hartley, Ben and Winifred Nicholson: their use of the frame within a frame as a step into a picture. The way film directors like Hitchcock, Powell and Pressburger, and David Lynch used the window as a way of intensifying a sense of voyeurism. And disconnection. The window frame of the stage at the opera/theatre and the screen in the cinema too).
On Motorway Trees
There was a book I adored in a frightened way when we were young called The Little House, by the American childrenís illustrator Virginia Lee Burton. It was about a pink little family built cottage, on its own on a hill, next to a stream and orchard that gradually got swallowed up by an expanding city. I remember the dread I felt increasing from page to page, at first a line of telegraph poles, the store being changed to a gas station, tenement blocks replacing a cherry tree lined street of houses, and so on. Several generations later a great grandchild noticed the house in the city swamped between two skyscrapers and removed it to a another little hill by putting the house onto a flat bed truck and driving it out into the prairie. If only life was that simple. I remember feeling at the time that it was only going to happen again. To paraphrase William Burrows, who had similar concerns way back in the 60ís as to how quickly we were destroying the planet, he said that as the World dies, as we destroy the natural environment, our imagination dies with it. But here, despite the macadam and concrete, thereís a paradise the other side of the wall away from the acrid smell of gasoline as Elizabeth Bishop puts it.
The monotype Trees in a Clearing, is I think a response to the headiness and underlying unease I feel of moving into beautiful landscape quite close to a big town which abruptly stops, (for the moment at least) a few hills away. Headiness because I find living amongst owls and stars and bats and all sorts of other animals and plants intoxicating. Unease because I fear this place, like so many enchanted areas up and down the Country, is under threat. I see the townís glow sometimes, like the remnants of an intense aurora borealis, over the band of trees behind the paddock. The presence of this glow at night, and the weekend cruising past of souped up cars with bass booming rhythm and neon lights under the chassis, conjures up in me the edginess I felt as a child being read Lee Burtonís book and the more intellectualised response that Burrows had to the replacement of forest and landscape by fast food chains, motels and tarmac. But in a strange way, the presence of threat in this existence, makes what we have here as a family in this oasis more intense than it would otherwise be, and I have found it is a good platform for me to make work from. In this monotype, the little trees in pots in front of their massive neighbours is a bit like the feeling I get when passing nurseries on the edge of towns, in the hinterland, as part of ribbon development, areas which donít have a sure foothold in the landscape and are under threat to be bulldozed aside of a new farm shop, a kitchen store, a pet-shop chain.
Circus, Glynde Gap is perhaps more straightforward; except I have often wondered where the father is in the picture. Coming out of the Circus at night, walking down to the sea under the stars with a train pulling into the stop. (Although I did have a friend come over the other day who gave me a pretty full on Freudian interpretation of it all which got me thinkingÖ.)
For more information please visit his website