Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Textures of Golden Gorse

I've just received my copy of the environmental and ethical lifestyle magazine Resurgence and Ecologist, which this month (Issue 285 July-Aug) features one of my paintings.

Here's the painting, which accompanies the article by Susan Clark, "Textures of Golden Gorse".

Gorse by the Shore with Distant Houses, Morar (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

Susan talks about the qualities of gorse as cheerful and uplifting plants, and one which has homeopathic qualities of optimism and the conviction that good things lie ahead.  

I was pleased to read her thoughts in the article, as I do find when you're out in the landscape with the gorse blooming, with its warm, coconut smell heavy in the air and its burst of rich velvety yellow, that it does indeed have a very uplifting quality.  This is exactly what I try to put into the painting.

There's also a fabulous recipe for Golden Gorse Petal Scented Ice Cream - sounds amazing!

There's a version of this painting currently with Duncan R Miller Fine Arts in London - you can see it HERE.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Making Colour

The exhibition 'Making Colour' opens today at the National Gallery in London.

It's a show that I've been looking forward to for ages, as it sounds really fascinating.  It's all about the chemical, alchemical, biological and scientific business of physically making colour, and of seeing colour, and of the way that artists use the optical and psychological qualities of colours.

See two fascinating short films HERE about how to make pigment and colour from the raw materials.

Now I just need to try and find the time to get down to London to see it!

For more information about the exhibition, click HERE.

New Paintings for Aldeburgh

Just delivered a big consignment of paintings for Thompson's Gallery in Aldeburgh today, which always gives me a great sense of relief.  They are off in a van down to Suffolk, to be photographed for the catalogues and publicity for my August show with Scottish artist Stephanie Rew.  

As Stephanie is a very precise, figurative artist, I took the opportunity to explore some more expressively semi-abstract work in order to form a complete contrast in the exhibition.  I based the work around the Aldeburgh area, and the coast up at Walberswick.

The show has been two years in the making, and each painting is the result of a mass of on-the-spot observation and photography, textural studies and mixed media explorations of my theme.  

This picture, for example, started as a huge monoprint, with additional embellishment in pastel and watercolour.  It shows a view towards the mouth of the River Blyth at Walberswick, which, because of the muddy banks,  has wooden landing stages built out into the river for the boats to tie up at.

Landing Stages, Walberswick (Mixed Media, 28 x 40)

Here's the same scene, but in a different medium - oil.  It's a very expressive and textural painting, informed by the monoprint.  In it, I allowed paint thinned by turps to forms patterns on the surface, and incorporated tissue paper into the surface for texture.

Landing Stages, Walberswick (Oil and Mixed Media, 22 x 40)

I spend long hours on the shore at Aldeburgh and Walberswick, taking photos of the waves.  I get quite obsessed about finding the 'perfect' wave, and looking very carefully at the North Sea colours as the water curls over, catching the light and the reflections of the pebbles, and watching how the waves act as they break on the beach.  

 The Beach at Aldeburgh Looking Towards Thorpeness - (c) Stephen Nunney

There is a very low tidal range at Aldeburgh.  The beach, covered in pebbles, stretches out long into the distance on either side, the horizon has the occasional tanker or yacht, and the sky is huge.  The gulls are crying overhead, and this is the beach where a production of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes was staged, so all that is in my mind as well.

Each painting may look abstract, but it is a record of a precise observed moment.

Dark Wave, the Sea at Aldeburgh (Oil on linen, 32 x 32)

The next one is a particular favourite.  I love the zingy punch of pink and orange colour at the bottom right.

Pale Horizon, the Sea at Aldeburgh (Oil on linen, 32 x 32)

A large painting like this gives the chance to explore the characteristically long, flat landscape of Suffolk coast.

 Bright Day, North Sea (Oil on linen, 32 x 48)

I wanted to something more gentle in this painting.  When I'm in Aldeburgh to do the initial work for the show, I get up at dawn to take photos of the early morning, when the colours change and there is a very special light over the sea.  Again, at sunset, there is a lovely glow to the sky which reflects onto the waves.

Sunset Clouds over the Sea, Aldeburgh (Oil on linen, 16 x 40)

It's not all seascapes, though.  To balance the show, there will be plenty of my landscapes, from the Peak District and Lake District, up to the Scottish West Coast and Skye too.

It looks like it's going to be a really exciting show, and I'm really looking forward to it.  It's been two years in the making, so it will great to see it finally hung on the walls.

The show opens with a preview on Saturday 9th August, from 11am-4pm.  I'm going to be there, so if you can come along, please do!  All welcome.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Cy Twombly at the Tate Modern

Cy Twombly has donated works of art worth £50 million to the Tate, it has been announced.  Yes - that's £50 million (according to an estimate made by the Tate itself). Cy Twombly was a famous American artist who died in 2011 at the age of 83, and who was part of the art scene which included Robert Rauschenberg (read more HERE) and Jasper Johns.

Twombly's donated pieces include Untitled (Bacchus), which consists of three large canvasses with large red loops, and five bronze sculptures.  Here's some photos of the work in situ at the Tate - I saw them when I was there to see the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition recently.

Here you can see part of Untitled (Bacchus), painted with a brush on the end of a stick, and meant to give you a disconcerting feeling of having drunk too much - maybe.

You can also see four of the bronze sculptures, cast from found objects, including the lid of an olive barrel.

Actually I really like the cast found objects, having done several years of casting classes.  I found them really satisfying as sculptures.  

They go beyond mere replication, as they have beautiful carefully-considered patinas which transform them from objects of ignorable everyday simplicity into something beautiful and worthy of consideration and reflection.  Which kind of sums up Twombly's art - taking the overly simple and ignored from everday modern life, and transforming and elevating it into a considered, treasured  object.  And one with a price tag of £50 million, apparently.

I have to say, I wasn't crash hot keen on the big red squiggles, but I do like his Three Studies from the Temeraire  in the National Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.

Cy Twombly, Three Studies from the Temeraire, 1998-99. Art Gallery of NSW

There's something very calming and timeless about these huge paintings, with its procession of childish, scratchy ships that move across from left to right - and also something a little jarring (at least to me) because the canvasses aren't matching in size - so there's a certain uneasiness as well.  But that's kind of good.

It's strange because it's certainly just the sport of painting that would normally irritate me, but their size and calmness instead is very commanding, and somehow heroic.  Tiny, brave, scratchy ships sailing out against a big blankness on a vast journey.  They look all cobbled together, but they're setting off anyhow.  Let's do this thing.  Hurrah for them!  

They're a whole lot more satisfying that the Tate red squiggles.

From the Ashes...

Always a big event in the art calendar, the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show opens tonight. That's three weeks after the building was engulfed in a huge fire, on the very day of the hand-in for the student's work.


More than 500 graduating students will have their work showcased in the show, and there will be a special display of large-scale digital prints of work by all 102 fine art students at the nearby McLellan Galleries.  These will be compiled into a book which will be sold to raise money. 

The preview tonight is ticket only :-( but opens to the public on Saturday.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Paintings On Show at Hampstead

I've got a whole collection of brand new paintings going on show at the Affordable Art Fair at Hampstead this week.  Very exciting!

Here's the art fair today, with the paintings starting to be hung and the gallery stands put together in the tent, which is situated on leafy Hampstead Heath.

Open from the 12-15 June, all the art is under £4000.  I'm exhibiting with Duncan R Miller Fine Arts.

Here's a taster of the new work - I'm trying out a few new sizes and formats, so let me know what you think.

Bay with Cow Parsley, Morar (Oil on linen, 20 x 30)

Early Morning, Caswell Bay (Oil on linen, 20 x 30)

Flowers on the Clifftop, Portnaboe (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Harebells on the Causeway Coast (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

For more information about the fair, go HERE.

Friday, 6 June 2014

An Independent Scotland, or Mushy Peas...?

I point you, without comment, to the the HM Treasury page - yes, the Treasury - designed as part of their process of  'Informing the debate about Scotland's constitutional future'.


'Is there anything wrong with this page?' it asks at the bottom...

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Art and War - Dazzle Ships and Camouflage in World War One

There's a really interesting article HERE about the dazzle ships of World War One.  

These were bright cubist-style patterns painted onto the sides of ships as a form of camouflage to confuse the enemy.  Now they look like enormously audacious and startling pieces of conceptual art.

Frederick J. Waugh, SS West Mahomet (ship and model) (c1919)

There's going to be one berthed at Liverpool Docks.

Liverpool Biennial, the UK Biennial of contemporary art, and Tate Liverpool will jointly commission Carlos Cruz-Diez to work with the idea of ‘dazzle’ camouflage, using a historic ship. The “Edmund Gardner” is situated in a dry dock adjacent to Liverpool’s Albert Dock, and will be a new public monument for the city.

These dazzle ships even became the actual subject of other artworks, such as this by Scottish Colourist J D Fergusson.

 “Dockyard, Portsmouth” by J.D.Fergusson, 1918

Camouflage was, of course, used in a variety of different ways in the First World War, not just on ships.  

This amazing example is one that's actually part of my family history.  I was very excited to come across it in the main hall of the Imperial War Museum in London (I don't know if it's still there - I haven't managed to go recently as it's been closed for refurbishment).  

This is the actual gun fired by my Great-Uncle Frederick.  It's a 9.2" Howitzer Mark 1, called 'Mother'.  How's that for a Freudian field-day.

A huge curiosity in its day, this heavy seige howitzer was sent to France in 1914, where it was operated by 8th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery from October 1914.  My Great-Uncle arrived in France on 16th February 1915,  at the time the gun was transferred to 10th Siege Battery RGA (which he was in).  

It saw use during the battles of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 and Festubert in May 1915, where my Great-Uncle was killed, aged 18. 

 © IWM (ORD 108)
It's just the most extraordinary thing.  It plays on any number of levels, and is both repellent and attractive - this terrible bringer of death and destruction, called 'Mother', of all things, but now this passive, beautiful sculptural object, and one which was actually part of the life and death of my relative.

It reminded me of Jacob Epstein's disturbingly fierce and strange Rock Drill sculpture of 1913 (it's huge, towers over you),  with its futuristic storm-trooper astride an actual piece of mechanical drilling equipment.

Art, war and death, and a strange uneasy beauty amidst the mechanics of killing.  It's like a Rosenberg poem come to life.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Story of Amanda Vickery with Some Art

I've just caught episode 3 (the final episode) in the series The Story of Women in Art.  I blogged about episode 1 HERE.

In it, perky Prof Amanda Vickery marches purposefully around various scenic locations, leans doe-eyed against various walls in a curiously lumpy frock, and generally wastes a lot of time smouldering in front of the camera before explaining she now only has enough time left to talk about 6 artists.


Except they're not all artists.  We do have three  - historical painter and war artist Lady Butler

Lady Butler (Elizabeth Thompson), Scotland Forever!

forgotten Impressionist Berthe Morisot 

Berthe Morisot, The Cradle (1872)

and minxy is-that-a-petunia-or-a-vagina painter, Georgia O'Keeffe.  

Georgia O'Keeffe, Blue Flower, pastel 1918

But then the other half of the programme - 50% of the airtime! - is taken up with gardener Gertrude Jekyll, a Swedish woman who made her house lovely with some nice interior design (Karin Larsson), and a dress designer, Madeleine Vionnet.  I mean, what the...?

"All trailblazers!" declares Vickery, marching cheekily from Paris to America to Sweden - boy, can that woman march about.  But for crying out blinking loud woman, trailblazers they may be, but fine artists they are not.  

Daisies, cushions and frocks might all indeed be artistic expressions, and very meaningful, wonderful, life-affirming, life-changing expressions they are too.  In fact, I'd love to see a separate programme about Jekyll, Larsson and Vionnet. It would be fascinating.  I'd watch it.

But - and this is a very important but - they are not FINE art, and this programme is about FINE art - ie. sculptors and painters.  Which, by including these women, is doing a massive disservice to the actual subject matter of the programme, by elbowing out the real thrust and focus of the argument.

Good grief, it's not as if there's a shortage of subject matter.  There are loads of female fine artists out there, crying out for recognition - huge oceans of them, not waving, but drowning in a sea of historical obscurity.  But what does Vickery do?  Hold out a hand and lift them aboard the raft of scholarly acclaim?  Oh no.  It's daisies, cushions and frocks.  No cliches there, eh? 

Which brings us back to basic problem with Amanda Vickery as the presenter.  Because although she can walk down a street, and swagger through the streets of Paris in a mac with her hands in her pockets (but no handbag), and stride across the deserts of America, she doesn't know how to make a decent, scholarly, informed, focussed, pertinent programme about fine art.  And the reason we get daisies, cushions and frocks is because Vickery is a lecturer in in British social, political and cultural history, and so the subject matter is derailed into her area of interest.

So was it too much to ask an actual Art Historian to make an art history programme??   Or are there no pretty lady art historians who can walk attractively and lean up against walls seductively?

Women artists deserve better.

You can see Episode 3 HERE on BBC i-Player.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Guess Who?

I was in Crieff at the weekend, and spotted this in the sweetie shop window.

It's made out of jelly beans, in case you were wondering.  

Good grief, it must have taken forever to make...

Hang on, red hair... isn't that Harry?

A Hard Weekend in the Studio...

Manual labour!!