The Way to Eleusis 2

way to eleusis Jan2016

It is a wet and windy day and I am staring at my ongoing painting, “The Way to Eleusis,” in the fading January light. My mood is as bad as the weather yet my original inspiration came from a warm April day sat on the original road, amongst the flowers and wildlife with the Acropolis in the distance. Not all experiences easily transfer to art!

My artist’s struggle may be as difficult as the psychological challenges of the original mysteries at Eleusis. My problem is deceptively simple, how to interpret in paint the feeling of being there? How to capture the magic of the moment, of my sense of oneness with place? I have the usual pencil sketches, colour study and photos done there, but they are not the feeling in my head.

I posted something of my problem at the end of last year and I think it is important to talk about my struggle as an artist which in purist terms is to make new visual meaning. That philosophical challenge involves a constant reinvention of how I see and interpret the world. I can always paint in the style of my last painting, create another recognisable landscape, rely on my skills to do what I know I can achieve, but to what meaningful end?

Many people who are not artists think that good art comes from inherited talent and that success arises from the professional deployment of learned skills. Well some of it does, but the greatest successes by far come from artists challenging themselves to do that which is just beyond their reach or vision. My present battle is not with skills or technique but with the limitations of my own vision and way of working. How to interpret anew and not revert to my comfort zone when faced with a 1×2 metre work which stubbornly refuses all my knowhow to manifest my feelings of being there, on ‘the way’.

I have learnt a lot lately from the work of Joan Mitchell and Peter Lanyon, having seen the recent show of his amazing ‘flight’ paintings at the Courtauld. Although there is a host of mark making, colour combinations and compositional ideas that can be gleaned from their work, what really struck me is their sheer determination and struggle through time to manifest new visual meaning. I am not them and have to find my own way, pun intended!

So work on the Way to Eleusis will continue along with my other stuck work until hopefully I will scale yet another foothill of the never ending mountain, get at least a momentary sense of success before setting off once more for the unattainable summit!

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The Way to Eleusis

In April, on a sunny day, I sat amongst the spring flowers on the ancient processional way from Athens to Eleusis looking towards the great acropolis surrounded by bees, butterflies, swooping swallows and the memorials to long dead Athenians. I stayed for several hours absorbing the atmosphere almost alone as the hordes of tourists swarmed over the more famous sites nearby – a magical peaceful place in a teeming city.

P1000090

It has taken me many months to begin to get a way of approaching that wonderful experience. The problem is how to interpret in paint the feeling of being there? I did not want to paint a pretty picture of the scene like my ‘on the spot’ sketches but rather explore how to catch a sense of place in a more abstract way. I recently re-discovered the abstract expressionist work of Joan Mitchell and, inspired by her approach, a couple of months ago I started this 1×2 metre triptych. It is an ongoing struggle, part of my odyssey towards abstraction whilst trying to keep a sense of the original focus of inspiration. At present it has got a bit stiff but it is at least moving forward and that is all an artist can ask for!

If you want to see this painting and some of my other work, my artist wife Viv and I have an ‘Open Studios’ at our home on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of December from 11am to 4pm  at 7 Hythe Road (just off Grand Avenue), in Worthing BN11 5DA.

 

 

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Worthing Art Trail

Sun horse1 v2Paul and Viv’s studio /gallery (2 Stanford Square, BN11 3EZ, just off Warwick Street) is open in the Worthing Art Trail from this Thursday. It will be open from 11am to 5pm Thursdays to Sundays during the trail from 11th to the 28th June.

Come and see our latest work – here are two of the horse paintings I have been working on. I have always loved drawing horses. They are in my blood as my grandfather was a blacksmith. I recently began a series of drawings of horses within squares and linked them with the story of Apollo and his sun chariot. The paintings developed from this idea and a juxtaposition of four horses forms the basis of my ongoing ‘horses of the sun’ painting which is posing many artistic problems for me!

sun horse2 v2

Well, in spite of the double glazing firm coming mob handed to replace most of our house windows in the last few days – eek! we are ready for our Private View tonight and the new show is hung and ready for the trail – Phew! My home studio now has large windows and a door to the garden so looking forward to unwrapping my easels and materials, and painting again.

 

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Ice Age Environmental Art

The prehistoric rock shelter of Cap Blanc is truly magical with its 10 metre wide frieze of up to life sized horses carved into the rock-face over 15000 years ago. I was inspired to make a piece of work from my experience of seeing such wonderful art.

reflectionsrealitycrop

Reflections on Reality (oil Painting)

The rock shelter or ‘abri’ of Cap Blanc is little known outside of the Vezere Valley in the Dordogne and I only found out about it from asking if there were any other things to see whilst booking a visit to the painted cave of Font-de Gaume. A short drive out of Lez Eyzes, you turn off the main road, along a water meadow, across a stream full of yellow irises and up through an oak forest and tip off the road to park at a jaunty angle. A narrow path leads down the hill through dank, moss covered small oaks and it is silent apart from nature and the sheer fecundity of life all around.

cap blanc sketchcrop

Part of the horse frieze

The art is protected by a large stone building and the light level is very low and at first it is hard to see the carvings. Then as your eyes adjust and the guide moves the light source, the scale and complexity of the huge composition is revealed. The relief carvings, made with flint tools, are up to 50 centimetres deep and the scale of the work would be a huge undertaking even with modern tools. Like many of the artworks of this period it gives the lie to perspective being a renaissance invention. Bass relief is fully explored to give a sense of three dimensions with overlapping and scale used to create depth of field.

Many people think that the serious art of the period was found only in caves yet this was monumental environmental art for all to see, not hidden away in a cave. All people moving through the little valley would have seen the frieze shining out against the greys of the weathered rock, as would the herds of horses grazing there.

This idea inspired me to make my black and white painting (at the top of this post) ‘Reflections on Reality’  (180cms wide and 120cms high) where I have juxtaposed the carved horses on the rock face with a rollicking line of ponies from the walls of Lascaux a few miles away. I just love that the local herds of horses would have seen this great mural which celebrates their existence.

horsesculptcrop(small)

I spent the morning of my 61st birthday sat on the ground a few meters from the pre-historic rock shelter of Cap Blanc learning to carve limestone with flint tools – so no pressure then! With a hammer (round flint), a pick (round one side with a sharp point), a burin (sharp sliver held with a piece of leather) and a smoother, I carved this Rouffignac style head in 3 hours – Magic! I later made a solar plate print from a rubbing of my horses head. I have such respect for the artists who made the great frieze.

To see this painting and our other Ice Age inspired art visit our Art Gallery at

2 Stanford Square (just off Warwick Street),

Worthing, BN11 3EZ.

Open 11am – 3pm Thursday to Saturday

Jan15th to February14th.

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Responding to Ice Age Art

 In October 2011 Viv and I visited the pre-historic caves near Les Eyzies in the Dordogne and were totally amazed at the humanity and sophistication of work up to 37,000 years old. This set off a new series of work for me about my experience of seeing and interacting with these ancient images and my empathy as an artist with those who saw then as I do now! We have been back many times since researching this phenomenal art. The Pre-historic art hit me with a force which took me utterly by surprise.  It is not only amazing visually but often has great sophistication, integrity and skill.

fallinghorsecrop

The best known of the caves Lascaux and the Lascaux 2 experience (a reproduction of much of the now closed original cave) is surprisingly good and gives a real sense of being in a cave. My first painting from here is the ‘Falling Horse’ from an image right at the end of the tour. I have linked the horse with the strange, abstract shield shapes found nearby.

cowovermooncrop

‘The Cow Jumped over the Moon’ emerged from one of my favourite images in Lascaux and it reminds me of the nursery rhyme. These paintings are not copies but about the feeling I get being surrounded by such intense imagery from 18.000 years ago.

I am writing in much more detail about my prehistoric adventures so keep an eye on our website.

To see these paintings and our other Ice Age inspired art visit our Art Gallery at

2 Stanford Square (just off Warwick Street),

Worthing, BN11 3EZ.

Open 11am – 3pm Thursday to Saturday

Jan15th to February14th.

 

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Our New Studio / Art Gallery

I cannot believe that our new Studio / Art Gallery in Stanford Square (just off Warwick Street in Worthing) has been open now for 4 weeks! It seems like only yesterday that we had the six hour long, alcohol fuelled opening party. Wonderful, with artists, colleagues, friends and neighbours old and new and people who have visited our open studios, some of whom since we started in Brighton in the 80’s.

mysticpool1detail We are now gradually becoming known and I am also beginning to get used to going to work again after several years adrift from Brighton University and the Creativity Centre. It was a bit of a shock at first though.

We are gradually managing to set up an area of the downstairs space as a working studio where I have done some drawing and intend to get the large easel in action for painting and Viv has been working on a new woodcut.

We are open until Saturday 13th December this week but will probably open for a couple of days towards the end of next week too.

We will re-open in the new-year with a new exhibition of our work arising from experiences visiting the pre-historic sites and caves such as Rouffignac, Font-de-Gaume and Lascaux in the Dordogne in France.

In the meantime

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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On Opening Our Own Studio / Art Gallery

 Paul again with new fascia

Years of dreaming, months of planning, finding the right place and then all of a sudden four weeks ago Viv and I signed a lease for our very own studio / art gallery at 2 Stanford Square, just off Warwick Street in the centre of Worthing. Since then it has been a flurry of builders, decorators and electricians let alone organising all the insurance, security, services etc.

But we are now in there and hanging our work YES!

P in shop2

For 30 years we have shown in our studios, being founding members of the Fiveway’s Group in Brighton and continuing that tradition for the last ten years in Worthing. Having retired from Higher Education and moved house this year, this is the first time that we have had the chance to open our own Studio / Art Gallery.

Note the Studio part. This is not just a shop. When the gallery is open we will be working there on our current projects and drawing, painting, printmaking…..

Do come and see us. We will be open from 19th November 10-5 Wednesdays to Saturdays up until Christmas. If you would like to come to the private view, please sign up on our website for an invite at www.martinstudios.co.uk

Tired but happy – Paul

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