Jan 12

PICTURES OR PAINTINGS

Review of recent exhibition of some nature painting with Eilean Eland's sculpture with some thoughts on the differences between paintings and 'pictures'.

       

  Eland Blue woman               Meyer Sweetpeas in a blue jug                


Having just taken down my exhibition with ceramicist Eilean Eland at RHS Rosemoor, I fell to reflecting on its success (or lack of it) and the responses of some sturdy folk who visited having braved the often pretty awful weather, and have once again come to the conclusion that most people look at pictures, not at paintings.  Let me explain, and I'm not speaking here of watercolours, they are a quite different kettle of fish! 

In galleries, paintings are usually scanned cursorily, and not examined or studied.  But let's distinguish between pictures and paintings: a picture is always a picture, but often not a painting. In other words, the 'artist' is primarily concerned with a pictorial effect: something perhaps intended to please the casual eye, or maybe summon up a memory or some other pleasant feeling. 

'Real' painters may be concerned with this too but something much deeper is going on.  Those who enjoy real painting (verb) and real paintings (noun) will peer deeply into its heart to see the construction, the harmonies, the composition and the sheer physicality of the actual paint itself (the texture and 'brushwork'.  Herein, I submit, lies real joy and satisfaction.

I stood beside people and showed them the way the work was created: some see it immediately, some get it, many do not or they are simply not interested.  Their interest starts and ends with pictures - the superficial surface effect - there is nothing wrong with this even though I regret it, if only because it means my paintings do not sell very well!

You might be drawn to a picture by its superficial character, a bit like one might find a pop song catchy at first even if it soon becomes irritating.  An awful lot of pictures are like that: you stop seeing them - they become wallpaper.  That won't happen with a real painting because its depths are infinite and each viewer brings to it their own unique perspective. 
 
In the arts, let's briefly compare painting, which has prehistoric origins, with more modern media.  To read a book requires investment of time, as does listening to a piece of music, so why is a painting just glanced at?  It  always strikes me as odd because a painting, unlike the other two examples, is independent of time - you can stand mesmerised by it for ages, no pressure.  So why is it that most visitors look at a painting for about 5 seconds?  One study showed that in major galleries, viewers glance at a painting for less than two seconds, read wall text for 10 seconds, glance back at the painting to verify something, then move on to the next.

I'll leave you with a couple of examples from paintings at Rosemoor to show the detail and texture which cursory viewing misses and leave you decide your own response. Thanks so much for reading this.


Detail of 'Daffodils in a blue glass', Oil on cardboard 76 x 53.5cm

Detail of  'Barn in a landscape with dancing figures', Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm

Dec 4

New RHS exhibition

Hallo,

Just to let you know that Eilean Eland and myself have a new exhibition at RHS Rosemoor in the Exhibition Room opening this weekend, running through till January.

 

 

So if you are in or near North Devon please do come. It would be great to see you, I'll be there off and on, and if you'd like to meet up send me a note and I'll make sure I'm there.

Additionally, the Winter Sculpture exhibition is also on and in the evenings there is the beautiful Glow event (see https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/rosemoor/whats-on/rosemoor-glow). 

Hope you can make it
All good wishes for the Christmas season.

Richard

Sep 7

Joy Street Exhibition

Joy Street exhibition

The two paintings sold so far in Barnstaple exhibition (20 Joy Street): 'Ferns with tubes of oil paint', and 'Rooke Mill #1'.

 

 

Mar 15

Winter shorelines of the north

The winter shore is a magical place partly because there are no trippers, in fact, there are few if any people at all. This opens up space for the birds, especially winter visitors fleeing here from fiercer conditions farther north.

'Opened up' it certainly is. There are wide expanses of shore, earth, sea and sky raked by wind, rain and a slanting sun. Dusk is even better. When I was much younger, I would go down regularly in the winter - a three mile walk from my home in Prestatyn - when home from school or later after work. Even though I now live in soft Devon, a big part of me remains resolutely Northern.

These walks came back to me this winter in North Devon, I don’t know why apart from loving northerly places, and I wanted to crystallize the remembrance of those lonely beautifully melancholic walks with a poem, Winter shorelines - it contains this stanza:

The winter beach was my escape from home.
Life-frayed decades have passed since there I’d roam.
Myself, birds and a lonely cold refrain
Would release my ‘little idiot brain’.
Where I could wander and be truly me;
Then came a Sibelius symphony.

 

 

 

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was dying just as I was beginning to live; he has spoken directly to me ever since. A critic, Olin Downes, in 1913 said about his Fourth symphony, my favourite, "Sibelius speaks of grey skies and silent expanses of lakes and forests, of bristling crags and winds and supernatural sounds in a wild land." And "[It] is the solitude of a man alone with nature, bitter against fate, cursing the heavens."

Much later, in the year of my birth, he said Sibelius had "...gone too far and remotely into the fastnesses of his own spirit, following a path from which there would be no returning; that had lost touch with his fellow man."

The doyen of Sibelius's critics, David Hall, said of his "... grand, solitary ... mood. That mood, and its sombre but intense beauty, are still heavy upon us as we try vainly to communicate in words the quality of Sibelius' Fourth." It is an "evocation of the stark and the superstitious."

Hall is right. My poem does not try to do that but is just a personal connection.

Nov 26

Long awaited painting.

My resistance finally broke down and I tackled a study done after a break of 18 months. This the second attempt; it's rough round the edges but it's been a struggle feeling a way back into managing thick paint. The actual sunflowers had long since expired, so I needed recourse to memory, pre-knowledge and imagination. Below the main image is a detail.

 

This is a detail: