My studio is in an old and unheated factory, This was brought home to me yesterday, when I went in to prepare canvases for next week, and found that my fingers were to cold to haul the canvas across the stretcher. I spent some time tidying up the walls – I keep my work on display as it helps me work on new pieces, and is easier than dragging works out one by one during studio visits. I also spent some time in contemplation of the above piece, and in the absence of new work thought I’d return to a previous blog theme and talk about the development process of my industrial landscapes.
The time was June 2012, and I had been in my new studio at Kelham Island Arts Collective for about three weeks. I had completed a couple of small paintings (Relics and Dislocated) and was working towards a group show (Industrial) planned for later that year. Working at home I had been frustrated by the restrictions of space. My technique may be easel based, but it involves an energetically wielded palette knife, and the limitations of small canvases restricted my movement. The approach however also starts from a base of white paint applied over the whole canvas, with colour being introduced in small quantities and worked into the wet base. It means I work fast, and for this small canvases are ideal.
My new studio allowed for larger pieces and I was keen to see whether the technique would work on a larger area. I felt it unlikely that I could keep the whole surface wet whilst building up pigment layers, which meant finding ways of seamlessly merging the wet and dry areas of the painting, a new challenge.
‘The threat of encroaching modernity’ was the first result of my exploration into larger scale works. At 134 x 85 cm, it was nearly three times the area of my previous works, and it took about 36 hours of intensive work. Inspired by Philip De Loutherberg’s Coalbrookdale by night it takes the same theme of the chaos of industrialisation, but introduces the theme of the cold colours and hard shapes of the post industrial world. Like most of my landscapes, the setting is imagined, but has elements of both London (where I spent the first 28 years of my live) and Sheffield, my adopted and much loved home since 1990. My concerns about my ability to apply my palette knife technique to larger areas were resolved with the painting, and whilst it has more detail than I would ideally like, I am still very happy with the result. It lived at home for almost a year, only coming out for exhibitions, as we loved sitting on the sofa and diving in to explore its meandering pathways. I hope that you enjoy the work as much 🙂