October Exhibitions

I've got a busy few weeks ahead : 
First up is a 2 month stint as guest artist at ArtSpring Gallery in Tonbridge from 2nd October- end November. I'm showing 7 pieces and its a lovely gallery if you're in the area and fancy dropping in.
'Meet the Artist' is on Thursday 5th Oct from 5.30-8pm. 

http://www.artspringgallery.co.uk/wp/our-artists/

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Next, I'm exhibiting 4 pieces as part of PURE contemporary art fair, which from 7th-15th October 11am-6pm, at The PowerMills Hotel, Battle, near Hastings. I'll be there at the opening night on Saturday 7th October from 6.30pm. It's meant to be a great fair and well worth a visit. I'm really excited to have been selected.

http://www.pureartsgroup.co.uk/events.html

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Third, I'll be at Sevenoaks School as part of the annual Kent Painters Group show, on Friday 27th October from 6.30-9pm for the opening night drinks party. The show is open on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October from 10am-4pm, and I'm exhibiting another four pieces here. 


https://kentpaintersgroup.co.uk/artists/

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Pictures at an Exhibition

Thursday 18th May saw the opening of my latest exhibition as part of 6328 Studio, in Stoke Newington N16. 

From a long-held position of hating showing or talking about my paintings, due to excruciating awkwardness and embarrassment about the quality of my work, over the last 2 years I've come to love the whole process of exhibiting, especially as part of a group. I find the shared endeavour and camaraderie emotionally energising, and appreciate the practical advantages of working together - the sharing of ideas and financial outlay, the division of labour and the ability to reach a wider audience. It gains a certain momentum and life of its own and carries a refreshing air of unpredictability. On a personal level, I have far more confidence in my work - not because it's necessarily improved, but more that if I like enough about a piece or body of work, I worry less what other people may think. Criticism no longer cuts so deep.

There is of course a huge amount of compromise involved, which I have, on occasion found incredibly hard, but on balance, it's an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Towards the end of last year we agreed on 'INSIDE OUT' as the theme of the exhibition and since then I've been working, on and off, on pieces to exhibit, in response to my developing interpretation of the theme:

Alongside my work I included an outline creative biography, with the aim of orienting my work to my thought processes and guiding influences:

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I exhibited the following 9 paintings, with 5 sales and several commission enquiries.

Torrent
Brussels Green
Alpine Night
Snow
2 Highfield
Mole Valley
Let it all Unravel
North London
Journey

3 weeks prior to the exhibition I finally moved out of London and am now surrounded by trees, fields and fabulous hills. I've found it an exhausting few months albeit for good reasons, but after a week or two off to recover, I know I'll be eager to start afresh. I already have some initial ideas for the commissions bubbling along in the background, along with the urge to experiment with some new materials and media, and I'm curious to see what I make of these long-awaited glorious views at every turn.

I might be 'resting' but I'm exploring new exhibition options and starting to make new local networks. I'm excited to find out what lies ahead.

Birthday Dog

I took a break from the exhibition prep the last few weeks, to draw a portrait of Roxy, the sweetest little cockerpoo belonging to a very dear friend of mine and her daughter. I handed the finished drawing over yesterday, as a birthday surprise, and luckily they love it. Always a bit nerve wracking delivering a piece of work, especially something so personal. 

I enjoyed the change in focus and materials, and found it a good exercise in drawing discipline. I used to do a lot of child and animal portraits but have moved away from them over the last few years. It was a little daunting diving into such a detailed study but I'm happy with the way it turned out.

Autumn, Winter and finally Spring

Its been a positive 6 months or so, I've produced 8 pieces of work of varying sizes, which have been well received, and unusually, even I am relatively pleased with the direction I'm taking and the skills I'm learning.

A lot of the works started out as something quite different  - with some of the canvases being 10 years old, barely started but going nowhere. The elements that originally attracted me to the various subjects were still interesting, and the feel of them flows through the finished work in ways I wasn't expecting. Its been interesting revisiting abandoned work. So much in my life has changed since they were started and I have approached the work in a totally different way, with emphases almost opposite to the original intentions.

I've also had 2 commissions, and am now frantically preparing for my upcoming exhibition as part of the 6328 Studio artists' collective, which opens on 18th May. I'm planning to exhibit 10 of my latest works, which range in size from 25x30cm to 140x70cm, so I need to get my skates on - there are two to finish and two that aren't even an idea in my head yet.

As I'm planning to to frame the smallest 4 in float frames, I've been finding out how to make them myself. I'm loathe to spend a lot of money on expensive frames at this point and I'm confident I can make and paint some pretty lovely ones! Today I bought all the kit I imagine I'll need and so I'm ready to blag my way forward. I really like the idea of being 'self-sufficient' in the end to end production, so I guess it'll be canvas-stretching next. Better actually get some half decent frames made first!, oh and finish the paintings!

The Road Back - acrylic on canvas 40x50cm

The Road Back - acrylic on canvas 40x50cm

Charity Auction

I delivered this painting yesterday. Its going to be auctioned on Friday 21st April to raise money for a local primary school.

It's based on the view from my lounge window - the layers and textures of my front garden, the boundaries, the soaring 150year old town houses opposite, but also on the landscapes of my youth, the soaring North York Moors and views from the train that ran between Settle and Carlisle. As always, the now and then merge seamlessly in my mind's eye, the sheer mass and weight of the ancient hillsides embodied in the imposing terrace beyond my garden wall.

North London - acrylic on canvas 30x30cm CHARITABLE DONATION

North London - acrylic on canvas 30x30cm CHARITABLE DONATION

Inside Out

This piece started life as a response to the title of our October 2015 exhibition "The Edge". I'd taken a photo near my sister's house in Kent, of one of my favourite views, at the point where a stand of trees borders a field. It was late in the afternoon and the sunlight, bright in the centre of field, caused deep and long shadows to stretch out from under the trees, and cast the trees in the distance into darkness. The contrast was striking and the scene lifted my heart.

The painting grew and developed and ultimately disintegrated. Another one sitting on the easel for 6 months.

Fast forward to late Spring 2016 and I had a few unexpected quiet hours to myself, on a rather negative day. The abandoned painting was annoying me, it just hadn't worked. So, in a spirit of anger as much as anything else, I turned it upside down, choose some colours that reflected my mood and painted over the entire work using layers and layers of diluted translucent paint.

It feels fluid and transient, and evokes in me a feeling of optimism and possibility, reminding me that even in the darkest times, there is always light, always hope.

I felt a huge sense of release as I worked, hence the introduction of lighter, softer colours, and ultimately the glorious, shimmery and unapologetic gold.

Inside Out - acrylic on canvas

The Fairy Wood

I’m rather excited about my latest piece as it marks a real departure in style and technique from my previous work. I guess, looking back at them, I’ve been moving in this direction all along, I just didn’t know it at the time.

The Fairy Wood - acrylic on canvas

This painting started life very differently from the end result: I used brushes, as I always do, and was busily trying to replicate the magic of a bewitching landscape I captured in West Cork, earlier in the year.

Staying with a dear friend, we’d taken the children for a walk to the ‘fairy woods’ – a magical nature reserve where, over the years, the locals have made tiny fairy houses in amongst the trees, wedged into rocky outcrops, sheltered under low hanging branches, and tiny little doors attached to the bases of the trees themselves. It was a gloriously warm cloudless afternoon, unexpected for the time of year, and the girls ran along the path, from house to house, exclaiming with delight over the details of each discovery.

The path meandered along the banks of a body of water which whilst utterly still was positively flinging the energising light, and stunning spring colours of its surroundings, back at us in a perfect reflection. I look a photo and determined to do it justice on my return home.

Months later, after starting and stopping and trying again, each time travelling further from my intention and totally losing my way, I had left the canvas sitting on the easel, taunting me with its ineptitude, and my inability to bring to life what I could see so clearly in my mind. Its a perennial problem for me, I am still struggling to reconcile this and find a way to envisage the actual end result from the beginning. Nothing ever matches the initial vision – for better or worse.

After a week in St Ives, I returned newly invigorated and inspired by some of the glorious art I’d seen there, and eager to get back to my own work. I switched from brushes to a palette knife – very rare for me – and again, worked quickly, over a couple of afternoons. I think I was so displeased with where I had got to that I had lost all emotional attachment and attempts at control and just played. I loved it! Then I did a bit more and hated it again, then a bit more still and it seemed to come back round. Its so on-off its exhausting. But 2 weeks on and I’m still happy with it, and not a little surprised at how well it turned out.

I do wish that I found the process of creation easier, less stressful, less emotionally turbulent, but maybe I simply need to stop this desire to look into the future, to know exactly what I’m going to end up with – its clearly a control thing, linked to the ‘hyper vigilance’ that runs through every aspect of my life, even more so since my out of the blue, brutal reminder of my mortality.

Have a plan, perhaps, a loose outline or desire, but to acknowledge and then release it, remain aware if I need to but allow myself to enjoy the journey, to follow the path whatever its direction, to trust in the process and see where I end up.

Its exactly this wisdom that an acupuncture practitioner specialising in fertility issues shared with me, many years ago: “Water falls on the mountains and flows downhill to the sea. This much is certain and indisputable. But on that journey we never know which of many possible channels it will flow down, where it will be diverted around a rock, or fallen branches, or a host of other obstacles – both above and below the surface. The river cannot control the direction or speed of its flow, it just flows, from its start, to its end.”

Its stayed with me and seems to pop into my head again unbidden, just when I need it. Its a great source of comfort in my life, I’ve only just realised that I can apply exactly the same principle to my work.

Here’s to an era of increased open mindedness about and acceptance of my working process.

Super fast sketch

Its been a hectic few months what with freelance work, Christmas, and various family commitments of one sort or another and I realised this week I’d not so much as picked up a pencil for far too long.

Time was short but I was determined to draw SOMEthing that day. I have a subject to get working on for a joint exhibition in October, but I’m no further on than words on paper right now, I can’t visualise anything yet, I’ve realised that I rarely start work with a sketch, almost always with a list. I don’t like it, it doesn’t feel very creative.

However, that’s how it goes with me, and the ideas are beginning to form – even though it looks, and feels, like the dreariest of shopping lists right now. Anyway, that being the case – 5 more words on a list wasn’t going to scratch the drawing itch, so I ditched the ‘must do’ of the looming subject, and just drew.  

Charcoal on paper

Charcoal, paper, 5 minutes and an imaginary girl. She has my daughter’s chin.

Self Portrait

This is one of the oddest things I’ve painted. Again, its had about 3 or 4 incarnations so maybe its not destined to look like this for very long.

I’ve always struggled with self portraits – I look so gloomy and sullen, or a grinning idiot, I find it hard to distill my own essence onto the canvas, and also, maybe to come to terms with how I actually look, rather than my impression of myself.

Especially now, not feeling 100% happy with how my face and body have changed over the past couple of years.

I started 2012 looking young for my age, even with a very young baby and the tiredness that brings. Within 6 months I was totally bald and half-destroyed from life saving treatment for acute leukaemia. It was tough – mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting – and now, 2 and a half years later, my experience is etched on my face and body – there are scars from the central lines, grey hairs, and copious amounts of wrinkles, born of worry and abject fear, grief and anger.

So, I am very different, on the inside and the outside, much is lost, never to return, but much too has been found, and indeed gained. In the end, it has simply been part of life, and life shows up on our physical being as much as our spiritual one.

So why did I finish the painting now? Is it something as profound as being proud of what I have survived, and how I carry that achievement in my physical appearance, even at the same time as bemoaning my loos of physical youth? A feeling that I do not need to fear others’ reactions to me, or my work, as what harm can it do? A desire to put stuff out there and see what it looks like when it is no longer hidden?

Or maybe just simply I was ‘tidying up’. I’ve been doing that too – looking at what’s around me, what would be left. I hope its not a premonition, just  along overdue spring clean.

And as for the painting itself, do I like it? Not necessarily. There are definitely elements I am pleased with – a few certain brush strokes and colour overlays for example – which leaves me far better disposed to the piece overall. But no, I don’t think its great, but I appreciate its attitude.

Revisiting the past

So, another painting I finished just before returning to work for the first time in 4 years, is this one.

Acrylic on canvas

It had lain, unfinished in my studio for over 4 years – actually in several studios – moving from Amsterdam, 2 in London, and finally here, home. I’d started this as part of a series of flower paintings and had fallen dramatically out of love with it half way through. Too fed up to finish it but loathe to dispose of a canvas, it bugged me every time I caught sight of it. I turned it to the wall. Then, for some reason, at the end of October I returned to it. I worked non-stop for about 3 hours, very focused and with a sense of urgency and almost flung the colour onto the canvas.

And from something I hated, its become a current favourite. I am not sure whether I think its that “good” but I was so energised by the process, by the lack of fear and the real sense of enjoyment that the end result almost doesn’t matter. Although I do actually like it – I love the strength of colour, the undulating folds and curves, and the energy of the strokes. It is exuberant, and it reminds me that I am exuberant too.

St Ives Roofs

We visited in September, for the 3rd time, and cliche or not, I have fallen in love with the place. Art, of all standards and interpretations, is never far away, and I found that incredibly inspiring and uplifting. I took a fair few photos and thought a lot about landscapes and beauty whilst I was there.

I did this little painted sketch on my return, again a departure from any previous styles of work – much freer and less concerned about the end result. My main focus was on the jumbled mass of roofs when seen from above, and the preponderance of orangey yellow lichen that contrasts so exuberantly against the grey slates.

St Ives Roofs - acrylic on canvas

Exploring Landscapes - first thoughts

I’ve started, and for once finished!, more paintings in the past couple of weeks than in the whole of the previous year. Following years in the creative doldrums for various reasons – more on this to follow another day – I have finally begun to follow my own advice, and the creative example set by my daughter. At her age, it is so simple. She wants to draw or paint something, so she does. And when she is finished she stops, and shares her work. She does not worry about how it will turn out, whether the idea in her mind’s eye can be successfully translated onto the page, and she does not judge the end result. She feels the desire to create, and she does it. I was self-censoring to the point of paralysis. Over thinking, feeling inadequate, being disappointed by my shortcomings before I had even begun, so much so that I stopped beginning, let alone finishing, sharing, reflecting, and growing as an artist.

What’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t turn out how you expect. Its not as good as you wanted. People don’t like it. You ‘waste’ some materials. Disappointing perhaps, maybe embarrassing, but really, is any of that so bad?

So here’s what I have been working on:

I am exploring the emotional and intellectual responses to and interactions with the landscapes we experience. We all have our own perceptions of beauty in landscape. The ones that stir my soul are giant rolling hillsides, a sense of air, or space, bleakness and wild uncompromising terrain, but always lush, green vegetation. The arid desert-scapes leave me cold, and thirsty.

I have spent years not painting landscapes, avoiding them, sulkily, because I have lived in cities. I’ve used it as an excuse ‘its claustrophobic and ugly. Its depressing and suffocating. I don’t want to look at that. There is no joy and beauty in these grey streets, choked with cars and litter and noisy messy people’.

But I am no longer allowing myself the luxury of excuses, as I said. So I looked again. At the elements that make a landscape sing for me, and at my immediate environment, and about where these two meet, and veer apart. And about my, and your, part in that process, how my interpretation and depiction of landscape can create another world, changed again by your reaction, by your emotions.The lines are blurring.

Untitled 1 - acrylic on canvas

Untitled 2 - acrylic on canvas

Block of Flats - acrylic on canvas

I’ve been working from my own photographs of more conventionally beautiful, and less immediately inspiring views, that nonetheless I feel had the same components – the ingredients if you like, of a beautiful landscape.

I overpainted old canvases and really like the added texture and depth that resulted.

I’ve historically painted figuratively and precisely and I really struggled with a feeling of freedom when I worked, everything was locked down and controlled, even when the outcome became more abstract (a flower series from several years ago which I will post at some point…). The flower series was bright and bold, but as part of my exploration I am looking at colour, and how removing or replacing expected colours, affects our interpretation of and connection to what we see.

The small pieces are currently untitled, I know the source material and don’t want any reference to that to influence the works themselves.

An Introduction

I am an artist, a mother and a cancer survivor. In no particular order of importance.

It is two and a half years since I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of leukaemia, when my child was 9 months old. The road back has been far longer and harder than I ever expected. The treatment was brutal, but so far, beautifully effective,  and recovery has been tortuously slow and beset by hiccups and unexpected (by my family and me anyway) side-effects.

Every aspect of my being has been effected by my illness, by being a mother, by losing mine, all in a tumultuous few years.

Older, tireder, battered and bruised, with many more wrinkles and grey hairs, less spring in my step and a constant, usually controllable, fear. But its good. My daughter is 3. I am alive, and my desire to create, to make, to inhabit my world and play an active part, has begun to return. Its so slow, but its there.

And so its time to look outside of myself, my family and friends, and return to the wider world – of producing work, earning money, engaging, and daring to believe I have a future.

A Beginning

This is me grasping the nettle.

I have realised I have a lot to say – about art and creating, about illness and fear, and death and hope and love, and how all of these are so tightly interwoven in my life. I feel ready to share my thoughts, and my work.

The first painting in my new series of work - exploring the emotional and visual interpretation of landscapes