Saturday, 16 December 2017

Hidden Voices




Apart from enjoying the snow, I have been preparing for the collaborative exhibition with Eleanor Flaherty www.eleanorflaherty.co.uk called 'Hidden Voices' due to open at Oriel Lliw at the Pontardawe Arts Centre from 12th Jan. We are both very pleased to have this opportunity to showcase the riches of the landscape of this part of the Brecon Beacons National Park.


Gathering Storm Eleanor Flaherty


The show has been self funded and aims to create a space where you can be enveloped by the experience of being in and under this landscape. It will include a sound scape, poetry, photography, drawing and painting and will be complimented by a self published magazine which will be available to purchase.

To that end we recently had the chance to go underground in part of the extensive cave system below the Upper Swansea Valley where I was able to make a large scale drawing using the mud from the cave floor and charcoal, which I have brought back to the studio to complete. Eleanor took some breathtaking photographs.

The Judge

Eleanor at the shrine


Making art is such a fraught business - the anxiety is always there for me at least about whether it makes a connection with its audience. I am so pleased that the two paintings I submitted for the Swansea Open have been sold to the same person - but even more important to me was that they made that connection.

Both Eleanor and me hope that this upcoming exhibition will do the same.


Paul.



Monday, 27 November 2017

Ok !

Sometimes life seems to be circuitous. Doors seem to open into places that were hinted at many years ago. It is as if I heard a whisper of these future events - a gut feeling if you like.

It is still a surprise though - almost like waking up from a long sleep.

I have been offered a place on the Masters in Fine Art and Contemporary Dialogues at the University of Wales Trinity St David's Swansea Campus. The strangest thing is the building incorporates my old Secondary School, the place where my art journey began.

I was given a tour by Ryan Moule the lead tutor. We walked through our old 6th form common room, the Gymnasium (where I sat many of my o'levels and still have nightmares of failing some miserably) and even passed my old art room - where I used to escape to avoid 'sport'. I remember our teacher Mr Deveraux would round up the boys who were put on detention and they would have to sit in the art room while us sixth formers drew them.

If all goes well I start in Sept 2018 doing the course part-time over 3 years.

Another turn of events was the opportunity to enter some artwork into the Swansea Open Competition in the newly renovated Glynn Vivian Art Gallery glynnviviangallery.org. The competition has not been running for some years due to the building work. I entered the two most recent paintings shown on previous blogs, 'Fathers' and 'Hillsong'. To my great surprise both were accepted. The show will run from 2nd Dec - 6th Jan. I am especially pleased because the selection committee included Owen Shears poet and playwright - both works included poems.

These two seemingly disparate events are actually linked - I first felt I really wanted to an artist when at the age of 17 one of my life studies of a boy in detention was shown in a schools exhibition at the Glynn Vivian and it was featured in an article in the South Wales Evening Post. Mr Deveraux however, kept my ego in check by pointing out the boy's feet were far too small !


It has taken me 30 years to come back to working as an artist on a more regular basis - and I'm a bit humbled and very excited at the prospect of doing the Masters.

Paul.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Master ?

Making a series of work based around the voices manifest in the hills - voices both audible - that of the creatures that inhabit the uplands - and inaudible - those that invade my mind and heart whilst being there - has focused my thinking around the word connection.

Limited studio space limits the size of work made, and I feel the need to expand - not just the scale but the limits of the materials I use exploring the concept of connection - can we truly connect with life and its mysterious force outside of ourselves - and what is the nature of that connection ? With this in mind I have decided to explore the possibility of pursuing a Masters Degree.

Today I took some images of current work and a piece from my degree show back in 1983 in order to reflect on whether I have travelled very far on my artistic journey, and to show Ryan Moule Pathway Leader MA Fine Art at UWTSD to see what he feels.

We will see.

Big Fish 1983


Universe 2017

Sink

Siphon



Post Industrial Lanscape2017



Paul

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Working on ' it'


When is a painting finished ?


I returned to the hills to walk the dog and take some reference photographs to try and capture the essence of the hills that I love along with many others who live and work within this landscape.




It is a visceral thing - walking the living ground seeing the weather and wilderness.

'It' is difficult to capture in life and in words.

I read a passage in the diaries of Virginia Woolf which expresses this much better than I could :

"I enjoy almost everything. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is this not a discovery in life ? Something one can lay hands on and say 'This is it' ? My depression is a harassed feeling - I'm looking: but that's not it. What is it ? And shall I die before I find it ? Then (as I was walking through Russell Square last night) I see the mountains in the sky: the great clouds; and the moon which is risen over Persia, I have a great and astonishing sense of something there, which is 'it'. It is not exactly beauty that I mean. It is that the thing in itself is enough: satisfactory; achieved. A sense of my own strangeness, walking on the earth is there too: of the infinite oddity of the human position; trotting along Russell Square with the moon up there and those mountain clouds. Who am I, what am I, and so on: these questions are always floating about in me: and then I bump against some exact fact - a letter, a person, and come to them again with a great sense of freshness. And so it goes on. But on this showing, which is true, I think, I do fairly frequently come upon this 'it' ; and then I feel quite at rest."

This is a great description of the 'it' that motivates me to write, draw , paint and scribble.



 
So I return to the painting again and again trying to capture it !

Paul.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The need for rememberance

2/10/17


I went into the hills again to remind myself of the colours of autumn.
The yellows, oranges, golds.
The smell of wood smoke drifting in the air, and decaying leaves - of pine and mustiness
Of the river - its smell, light and sound.
Water has an indescribable smell - I cannot describe it - I'm not even sure if it is a pleasurable scent except perhaps to the thirsty.

I hear the sound of dry leaves clattering.

I collect all these in my minds eye and bring them back to the little room I call my studio.
I try to translate them into marks and colours.




I also collect conkers (a glut this year) in order to pot them up and  produce saplings in the spring - ready to be returned to the valley.



All these things dim the horror and bring the good things to remembrance.






Paul.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Telling a story

I have been drawing in the hills - returning to a favourite perch. Today I took my flask of coffee and the dog, my head still in its own fog - my reactions in slow motion.




I apologise to the minibus driver who must have thought I was ignorant - not ignorant just slow of brain.

I have been trying to capture the mood of the hills which strangely mirror my internal life.






A large queen bumble bee climbs into my drawing tin - she is dark with the drawing in of the year
I am such a foolish man
I want to cry - repent - be washed

Sheep bleat
A recorded voice drifts up from Dan - yr - Ogof

Ravens meet overhead
Waters meet underground

Underground is where I wish to be
To hide my bones

But today the sun lifts the hills into a reverie




Paul

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Storytelling




I had a great day yesterday along with fellow artists, spinners and weavers, musicians and story tellers at Craig y Nos Country Park in the Story Telling Festival. I was going to read some of my prose in poets corner, but bottled out. Instead I wrote this about the day :

Sunshine and shadows on a page
I hear of the Canadian shores of Vancouver Island
Spiders being hand fed bluebottles
Spinning and fiddling echoing in the park.

Dogs
Dog's dinners
Dog's biscuits
Flowering shirts
Leaves leaving trees.

Cold
Colder
Cold
Until the sun shines and the ale flows.

The stories and musicians and the physicians of Myddfai
Magicians and tumblers juggle and giggle
Words and strings, beats and flutings
Telling how the Welsh love legends
Stories with unhappy endings
Yearnings and unfulfilled longings.

The light fades and the tent lights twinkle
Heart warmed by 'Chameleon' coffee and connected conversations
I blend into the night
Unseen.










Paul



Saturday, 19 August 2017

Poem on plaster

There is something about the work of Graham Sutherland that has seeped into my bones. I encountered his work when a young man in Swansea. There was an exhibition of work by various artists at the Glynn Vivian gallery depicting the world of coal extraction from South Wales, which included some drawings by Sutherland.

I was captivated by the almost sculptural feel of his work using pastel and resist techniques. He lived and worked in Pembrokeshire for a number of years and was inspired by the landscape and the natural forms of trees, rocks and the effects of light and shadow - carving out paintings and drawings into three dimensions. It is the visceral and tactile that I love in his work.

In June this year I walked in the hills at the head of the Swansea Valley, with friend and fellow artist Eleanor Greenwood. Penwyllt is a strange place - post industrial, a landscape shaped by quarrying. There is a pavement of millstone grit which has been split and formed by ice and rain over millennia. There are huge blocks of stone like monoliths scattered about the landscape.

It was on one of these blocks that I came across a dead ram some weeks later on a lone walk with my dog. I am always conscious of our fragility and brevity - mainly because of many years working as a nurse and seeing the results of disease and accidents upon our bodies. I am also keenly aware of our search for meaning to make sense of this strange existence - being a product of the natural world but somehow separated from it.

With all that in mind I did a sketch and wrote a scrabbled poem.




This week I translated the sketch into a painting on a casting of plaster that had failed and broken when lifting it from the rudimentary mould. The shapes the broken casting suggested were the shapes made by the hills, and it reminded me of the sketch. So here is the work - it is not pretty but speaks of deep and anchoring things.





Hope this makes some sense,

Paul


Saturday, 29 July 2017

Plodding along

Dear Monty,




I hope the wedding day went well - in fact I'm sure that everyone ensured that it did. The weather held too - your hope of dry weather won out over the scientific predictions!

I have begun to realise that plodding through the ups and downs of life holding on to hope is what really sustains. And what is more I see that the downs are just as important as the ups.

I have been out in the garden watching the insect visitors and appreciating the activity and beauty of butterflies, dragonflies, bees and hover flies, they are the ups, the downs are the thrips and aphids but these are in turn food for others and on the whole a balance is maintained.




I am currently documenting the butterflies that visit the garden in fresco again ready for this year's show at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.



I plod along and am occasionally stopped in my tracks by the mystery and beauty of all that is not of us.


Paul


Saturday, 22 July 2017

The anatomy of a painting

I have just completed a new painting using plaster and paper on board.



I thought it might be interesting to log its journey to becoming what it has finally become.

The origin of it - the genesis if you like, began a few weeks ago on a walk from Hawes in the Dales to Hardraw Force.

To understand where an idea for my paintings comes from I must explain that it involves the whole experience of being in a specific physical place but also what is going on in my mind at that time.
I see life and life experiences as being part of a journey, a story if you like so one experience is not divorced from another, indeed past experiences inform the present.


Moor Rig in glorious isolation

I had been enthralled by the wildness of our lodgings for the 2 weeks, the cottage was very remote and it felt like a bulwark against the elements, a safe haven. The wildlife in the immediate area was abundant, especially the bird life. I had also been reading a books about garden making, and the painter Graham Sutherland and 'H is for Hawk' by Helen Macdonald.

Bookshop find in Hawes - Graham Sutherland

The captivating but challenging read of H is for Hawk


So I had images, sounds, and words. I have been grappling with mortality in the midst of the abundance of life. I felt the passage of time and a visceral sense of being flesh blood and bone. I saw a Hen Harrier hunt through the tall grasses, and later found the legs and feathers of a dismembered grouse chick.
You feel small in wild places.

The waterfall Hardraw Force was awe inspiring. The steep sided gorge forms a bowl or cup shape receiving the narrow fall of water from above. You feel enclosed and vulnerable - on the edge of life.

I thought of grief, of loss and of the speed of the human life span in contrast to the slow processes of geology. I realise that humans need other humans to feel comforted and secure. But sadly there is so much that separates.

I thought of Christ and his separation from God in order to break down the barriers we build between us and the spirit.

I made a sketch there at the waterfall - I was not looking for an exact copy of what was before me, I wanted to capture the sense of enclosure. I did take photographs as a reference point in reality.






I wrote a lot in my diary about the experiences of the place and the books I had been reading.

Bringing that all together - on a fine and warm day in my garden I finally put pencil to the paper I had glued on to thin board. This is a fraught and vulnerable time as it could go wrong, but there is also anticipation and excitement. From the base sketch, roughing out the composition and feeling the cup shaped space of the waterfall in heavy line, I added the wet liquid plaster with a brush, building up the walls of the gorge.




Once dry - pigments including watercolour, charcoal, ink, oil pastel were added in layers. I roughly framed the result, then left it for a day or so - so that I could see it properly.




I decided that there was more plaster needed, and a darkening of pigments and the background.

A title emerged from the whole experience - take the cup.





So there it is.

Paul.