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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Being an Artist in Florence (part 2)

The Marini experience

Being a 21st century artist in Firenze is a strange experience. Though fascinated by the work of such trail blazing and great artists as Michelangelo, Donatello, Ghirlandaio, Ghiberti, Cimabue, Giotto et al., which was cutting edge in its day, and not a little intimidated by that great art, I felt strangely at a distance from it. I am aware of its part in the making of me as an artist and was intellectually engaged with it, but emotionally it was for the first time remote. I was suddenly faced with how much I have changed since I last went there 20 years ago both as a person and an artist.

I was conflicted. How could I not be amazed at the vitality of the newly cleaned Masaccio’s in the Brancacci chapel? I loved them, yes, but they were images of their time and I am struggling to produce images which say something about being alive, here and now. The realism of the renaissance was my training yet for artists now the iconoclasm of Modernist art and philosophy let alone Post-Modernism create a tension from ultra-realistic to abstraction and beyond that artists have to negotiate. That at least has been part of my art struggle over the past few years and Firenze brought this tension into sharp focus.

After a few days I was beginning to struggle with myself and the print process. Although I was producing good images / prints I was feeling very dissatisfied with them. They felt like old art. Some of my Beethoven images were old but the print process was somehow not jolting me into working or seeing differently as I had hoped. I felt stuck and frustrated.

Inspiration and a way forward came in the form of the 20th century Italian artist Marino Marini. Tucked away on a small road off the huge piazza Santa Maria Novella is a small bar and opposite a large converted chapel which is the Marini Museum in Florence. Though the building is old it has been totally redesigned inside in a clean modernist style with a variety of huge open spaces for the larger work, mezzanine floors and small galleries, all intersecting at different levels and joined by flying staircases which give interesting views on the work. It is a lovely space to be in and then there is the work! Oh Wow!

Fir Marini draw2

(drawing of Archangel)

The last work to really stun me when I saw it was the pre-historic cave painting in the Dordogne in the caves of Rouffignac and Font-de-Gaume (more of that another time). The sight of the Marini’s had a similar effect, a totally emotional connection, lump in throat, slightly breathless, lightheaded and a direct oneness with the art and overwhelming sense of joy and belonging. I did five drawings on my first visit over several hours. The process of drawing helps me see. It is a process of inquiry, a dialogue between the thing observed and my understanding of it which develops through time and drawing. The Marini’s had both strong form and powerful emotional depths. I love the horses and riders which began for him as a subject during the 2nd World War in Italy when people would ride out into the fields to listen for the Allied bombers, hence horse and riders looking into the sky and often in the same direction.

Fir Marini draw3

After my first set of drawings I was inspired to make art from them and the first print came about as a juxtaposition of two drawings of Marino’s sculptures. I photocopied the drawings from my sketchbook and played with a composition which when chosen I drew in ink marker on the back of the transparent plate. I then inked the plate with bold colours and spray glued the backs of the photocopied drawings. I put Arches paper in the press, placed the inked plate on the press bed, carefully positioned my cut out drawings glue upwards/face down on the plate and ran the whole thing through the press. Hey presto a print. Because of the thickness of the paper cut out drawings, the ink did not fill in the edges evenly so I used a mixture of cotton buds, toothpicks and coloured crayons to make good.

Fir Marini print1

(Ist Marini print)

As Ron says, with this method of printing you get a gift, and mine was an interesting ghost of ink remaining on the plate. Where the ink had not pushed onto the grove made by the edges of the chine colle I was left with an ink drawn outline of my drawings. I used this as the basis of my next print which with a little work on the plate turned out more interesting than the original.

Fir Marini print2

(2nd Marini print)

Although I was pleased in some ways at the results of these two prints I felt that they had a tightness and stiffness to them, a lack of interesting marks and exploration that was in the original drawings. I felt that the print process was somehow not working for me and the way I naturally work best – I was at war with myself. The drawings were fluid and searching but I was trying too hard to make the prints work and be a finished thing in spite of Ron’s best efforts to the contrary. I got very frustrated and a bit angry with myself so went off to the Marini museum again, fortified with coffee and cake, and communed for several hours with his sculptures and prints. Three hours drawing is good for the soul and great for getting grounded.

Fir Marini draw1

The next day was our last full course day and I did not want to spend it going around my mental printmaking loop. Ron realised my frustrations with how I was approaching the print process and said why don’t you just draw on the paper directly then work up your plate and print over it. I felt liberated, did three drawings with the same composition in quick succession, inked up a plate and printed. It felt much more like painting and at that moment felt right for me.

Fir Marini print3

The colours were a bit crude but there was an interesting ghost left on the plate so I worked on that and printed it with much more interesting results.

Fir Marini print4

The second ghost beckoned. I worked on the plate with black ink using rollers and a very spiky brush and printed that over my last drawing.

Fir Marini print5

I was really happy with this freer way of working which has opened up interesting possibilities both in thinking about work but also in ways of working. We finished the course with a gentle crit where I told a more garbled version of my 2 week journey – too close to it!

Paul in Florence

So my challenge is to be more experimental and painterly in my next prints and stop trying to do finished work. More serious play!

 

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On Being an Artist in Florence (part 1)

Ah Firenze! My first sketch was from our hotel balcony, which over-looked what was the Medici sculpture garden where Michelangelo studied, so no pressure then for a visiting artist! Just beyond was the church of San Marco where the monk’s cells were decorated by the painter Fra Angelico in the 1440’s and over to the right, out of the drawing, was the Duomo and Giotto’s bell tower. It was warm, the Prosecco cold and dry, and hundreds of swifts sliced through the air screaming as they went, their wings flashing gold in the rays of the setting sun. Heaven!

Fir balcony view

 

During the last two weeks of May my wife Viv and I had a wonderful art experience in Firenze on a printmaking course run by the American master printmaker Ron Pokrasso pokrasso@shaening.com . We had been on a monoprint course which he ran in Guildford several years ago and enjoyed it so much that we could not pass up the chance to study with him again and revisit one of my favourite cities and the home of Renaissance art. The course took place in Santa Reparata International School of Art right opposite our hotel, near San Marco and thankfully just outside of the over-touristed centre of the city. There were good working spaces, 4 etching presses, good computer access, very friendly and helpful staff and a friendly group of fellow students mostly from the USA.

Because we were working from the day after we arrived, and it takes time to do locally inspired work, I took a series of images to work from, including photos of my Beethoven sculptures and scanned prints of my latest drawings of him to use as chine colle.

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For my first print I used a photo of one of my sculpted portraits of Beethoven and a rather stylised drawing of him juxtaposed with part of his handwritten music all chine colle’d onto  Arches 88 paper. I used this paper as it has little size in it and therefore is one of the best when using Akua inks which dry through absorption. The great benefit of using Akua is that it is versatile, non-toxic and does not dry in the air so stays workable on the plate for days and one can abandon inked rollers, brushes and plates for long periods of time and don’t have to clear up each day.

FirLVB2

To position paper and plates on the etching press Ron uses a printed grid under a transparent film which is helpful if you want to keep working on the plate to add to the image you are creating. I drew out the position of my chine colle pieces on the back of my transparent plastic plate, positioned my paper and the plate in the press, positioned my spray glued images sticky side up on the plate using the guide drawing and ran it through the press. Voilà, images stuck to paper. I then worked on the plate with coloured inks applying them with rollers and pieces of stiff card and using my guide drawing on the back to help align colours and marks in relation to the images. Then repositioned the plate on the press and ran it through to add the colours to the chine colle’d images. Thus my first print was born.

The other Beethoven prints were similarly made using my images of Beethoven chine colle’d onto the paper followed by ink transferred from a worked plate.

FirLVB1

Although we worked hard, we played hard too! Our regular short lunch break in the street corner bar was fun, struggling with our poor Italian with the friendly barista’s, drinking a refreshing lager with a fresh toasted panini  containing a choice of cured ham, salami, omelette, salad or roasted aubergine – wonderful.

A couple of days into our stay there was a huge electric storm. We watched from our balcony as lightening flashed horizontally across the city from San Marco to the Duomo and clouds and torrential rain obliterated the surrounding hills. I did a quick sketch and the next day made this print, drawing directly on my plate in ink with small print rollers, using a stencil from paper to get the cypress tree shapes and cotton buds to lift out the ink to create the lightening. The print caught the atmosphere but I made the classic mistake of not reversing the image on the plate, so it printed with the church on the right instead of the left. Oh the joys of printmaking!

Firstorm

One of the main reasons to go on the course was to learn about making and printing solar plates. It is great being able to use the UV of the sun to bite the plate instead of acid, though in northern climes and on grey days a UV lamp box works too. In the photo below, Viv has a transparency of her drawing clamped over the photo sensitive plate. The suns UV hardens the exposed plate (times variable for type of plate and intensity of UV) and where the plate is covered by the lines of the drawing it stays soft and is washed away with water creating the groves to hold ink. You dry the plate then take it out into the sun again to harden for about 5 minutes which is what I am doing in the photo. You then have an etched plate to ink up and print! This is a simplified version of the process but it works. If you use sunlight as we did remember to use lots of sunblock to protect your skin too. Standing on the pavement with plates facing the sun looking like members of a sun worshiping cult did draw strange looks from passers-by and Viv naughtily began chanting OM!

Fir Viv Paul2

pic of us thanks to Bob at bobhuffphoto.com

These images are solar plate prints of the drawings of Michelangelo sculptures I had just done. He has always been one of my art heroes and I learned so much from doing these drawings.

Fir Mich print

In spite of success making prints and enjoying being in Florence I felt strangely discomfited being surrounded by so much old art, however great. I felt oddly stuck art wise and fighting the print process or that it was somehow not fitting how I work – result increasing frustration!

And then I visited the Marino Marini museum and got inspired – see next blog.

 

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