Night Tide

Night Tide and Constellation are being shown by the Adam Gallery at the London Art Fair this week.

They belong to a group of large new works on paper that take the series of drawings I have made in recent years under an open sky on the east coast to a new level and scale. It conjures up a particular space where land and water meet, where the shifting light radiates across the salt marshes and where the tides move back and forth through the delicate maze of creeks and channels. It is also about the passage of time, a record not only of my own presence within this aqueous field but also of the incidental life that flows over it, from the migrating birds to the scattered flora that lines the ancient tracks and colours the scattered margins of distant islands.

These images, like others before them, was made on a single day, and the prevailing conditions are mirrored in the drawing, in the way it succumbs to a sea breeze, an enveloping mist, or a sudden downpour. Pigment dissolves, runs and dries in unforeseen ways (and with unexpected results) as the paper’s surface becomes rain spattered, mud flecked, or softened by the rising waters. And each time the resulting image belongs as much to the elements as to the artist who began it.

London Art Fair 18 - 22 January 2012

Genius Loci

When I think of some of the work by artists and writers I most admire I find, more often than not, that it is linked in my mind to a certain place and time, or else drawn from a particular territory they have somehow come to make their own.

Thus, in no particular order, I find myself returning to:

Richard Diebenkorn in Ocean Park,

Antoni Tapies in Barcelona,

Frank Auerbach on Primrose Hill,

Anselm Kiefer in Barjac,

Monet in the 1920s in Giverny,

Matisse in Paris in 1917,

Cy Twombly in Rome in 1961,

Giorgio Morandi in Bologna,

Clifford Possum in the Central Australian desert,

Francesco Clemente on Mount Abu,

Zoran Music in Dalmatia,

Sean Scully in Mexico,

Vija Celmins by the sea,  and

Richard Long in the desert.

As well as:

W.G.Sebald in East Anglia,

Roger Deakin in Suffolk,

Ryszard Kapuscinski in Africa,

Bruce Chatwin in Australia,

John Berger in Lisbon,

Octavio Paz in Mexico & India, and

Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul.


The painting is a process of making and unmaking, of finding something (a memory impression) and loosing it, of erasure and repetition. Each time, with the last painting and with the next, one returns to reveal (to re-present) what has been submerged or forgotten. The urge to create something is coupled with a counter-veiling urge - to negate, obliterate, and start over.
In search of what?
What comes into focus one minute dissolves in the next. The target continually shifts because at the heart of the image is a search for, a recapitulation of, the uncertain ground of the self. The process contains a tension between open-ended exploration (impulsive and playful) and the need for resolution ( that is, to rationalize the process, to withdraw from disorder into what is once more familiar and recognizable), so bringing it to completion.  Of course, this ending, this recovery, is always provisional, always open to new beginnings, and to other possible representations. Just as in this picture, where beneath the surface is another, now lost.  Yet something vestigial remains (the ghost of a memory or a dream) in the process of erasure, suggesting a possible return to the image by another route.

Painting is a continuum of moments, one in which it is not the subject matter which counts but the trace of a presence, and the process by which it is represented.  The purpose is not to render the visible, but to render visible, as Paul Klee said. It is a search for what cannot be found (or which remains continually elusive). It is as though the real painting remains elsewhere – the dilemma being that to find it would not only terminate this painting but the need to paint itself.