Frigid English Beauty

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Nocturne in Gold and Blue

 

The mornings are getting lighter. Those of you who follow me on twitter will be getting my daily images of the mornings here in Sussex. Gradually we are moving away from darkness, and this morning for the first time we moved into rising sun. I should explain that all the photo’s are taken around 0700 – 0730 every morning. At first images have been nocturnes, reminiscent of Whistler’s Battersea Bridge painting, then through the pinks of the rising sun

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into this morning’s delight of sunrise. We still have frosts. This annoys because last year, my first winter in Sussex, we had just two frosts. This year almost every morning has given us white grass. I needn’t have pulled up my rhubarb, which I thought would not flourish because it needs 40 nights of frost! This morning was especially a delightful chilly symphony of blue, white and gold.

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The frosts remind me of the end of summer, where there were equally unexpected cold snaps catching our garden flowers still in full bloom and given some delightful images of frosted roses. The French say English women are beautiful but cold, maybe because they don’t all go in for two hour lunchtime trysts (funch to American apparently) as French women are reputed to do. If true of course, then these images of frozen roses are a great representation of England.

The end of summer

The end of summer

Of course our rose garden is a delight in the summer and its scents fill the part of the garden where we have a small patio area to sit and catch the warmth of the setting sun in the autumn. The roses linger on long into the autumn, their beauty not fading away until cut down by frost and the gardener, and the patio is a scented place for contemplation at the end of the day

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The roses will soon be budding again, their colours will be once more glowing, their heads facing upwards to the lengthening hours of sunlight. Something to look forward to in the months ahead. Meanwhile these amusing images remind of time passing, and of the predjudices of the French…

The images are available in the shop at patrickgoff.com

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It’s all a Performance

the latest in the Geranium series of drawings - a collage of photographic giclee image and oil pastels

the latest in the Geranium series of drawings – a collage of photographic giclee image and oil pastels

The British NHS is a bit like flypaper. Once it wraps itself around you there is no escape. Don’t get me wrong – the Health Service saved my life as a child with an early application of antibiotics, despite my apparently being as death’s door. It helped me beat type 2 diabetes (although OH’s diet control was most important there) and now it is (hopefully) helping me beat cancer, so I am very grateful not to be at the mercy of any insurance company profit margin.

Varnishing with a matt varnish before taking to the framers for framing.

Varnishing with a matt varnish before taking to the framers for framing.

Currently I am in a spell of wait and see, with a minor operation scheduled for the beginning of May to see if the cancer really has gone (fingers crossed). But that doesn’t mean they are letting go. Oh no! Now I am attending a weekly support session. I initially went under protest but to my surprise the sessions are putting me back in touch with a self that has for years been held down by running businesses. Much if what I learned, in philosophical terms, as an art student had become overlaid with the thinking and philosophies needed to run successful businesses – design practice and then the on-line journal that is Hotel Designs.

A2 sized giclee print. Greenfly almost like cancer on the lupins

A2 sized giclee print. Greenfly almost like cancer on the lupins

I never lost creativity, but it expressed itself in functional ways – the design of carpets, light fittings, interiors generally, and through photography and writing. I make no claim to being a photographer, just being a happy snapper really, but I do have an artist’s eye. What the support sessions are doing is bringing my awareness as an artist back to the top of my mind, connecting again with my soul. It is helped by having a studio for the last year and my working routine now gives me three or four hours a day minimum working there, and painting again has rekindled the passion for art.

Drawings and paintings, photographs being cropped and manipulated into strong images have led to the extension of this blog into a website in itself, http://patrickgoff.com . Here I will continue to write about whatever strikes me as important to my creativity (except Hotels which will continue to be on www.hoteldesigns.net) but it will primarily be about my making art.

one of my photograsphs  rendered as a giclee print for sale in the shop

one of my photograsphs rendered as a giclee print for sale in the shop

The site will eventually subsume the blog, but will have much more about my painting etc.. A section headed ‘Art’ will show past artworks. There is a contact page, and my new email link is there too. This bog has its own section where the archive is repeated. For the moment the blog and the new website will run side by side. The website is more or less complete, although it is still a work in progress, and I will be adding more to it as time permits.

Another of my favourite images available as a giclee print limited edition through the shop at patrickgoff.com lupins have been a painterly obsession for years, form the basis of the Morley mural and anumber of paintings now in private collection (see the 'art' section of patrickgoff.com)

Another of my favourite images available as a giclee print limited edition through the shop at patrickgoff.com lupins have been a painterly obsession for years, form the basis of the Morley mural and anumber of paintings now in private collection (see the ‘art’ section of patrickgoff.com)

Art is a language and all language is about communication. It takes a transmitter and a receiver, and all art need s an audience as without an audience it is like a proverbial tree falling in a forest… so the website is my new stage on which my performances in the studio can be critically measured.

My current work will feature in the shop/gallery, where you can buy if the urge takes you. For the last week I have been tuning and writing, trying to produce an entertaining and attractive website for you. I hope you like it, and your feedback is very welcome. So go, look and critique. The images here are some of the things you will see – and most of which I will be exhibiting in a one-man show in April – and that’s another blog, of course…

A Reaffirmation of Life

One of the first, this called 'Spring in Verdun'. Oil on paper with additional vinyl graphics. Framed they are coming out at 42 x 44 inches

One of the first, this called ‘Spring in Verdun’. Oil on paper with additional vinyl graphics. Framed they are coming out at 42 x 44 inches

My last blog was on November 7th. Time passes and you may be wondering why the previous rhythm of postings has been disrupted. In that post I commented that the “development of ideas never quite seems to go in straight lines”. Then I was grappling with ideas and techniques. You may remember an earlier blog in which I described overcoming type 2 diabetes. Well in November I discovered that life also never seems to go in straight lines, and my ‘grappling’ was to be with one of mankind’s dominant killers, cancer. In November I was diagnosed with a cancer, and embarked shortly after on a course of treatment.

Geranium drawing, again oil on paper, 42 x 44 inches

Geranium drawing, again oil on paper, 42 x 44 inches

Shocked? Of course I was. Shaken – by the treatment initially and then by the threat the disease represents. Stirred, not initially but once over the shock stirred to a reaffirmation of the importance of creativity in the fight. I am lucky – the treatment has been (relatively) benign, and after 8 weeks I am left with an optimistic prognosis. I will know in May after a small exploratory operation whether the treatment has be totally successful – which is it in over 80% of the cases of my particular brand of cancer.

Geranium  drawing, oil on paper, A1.   Beginning to think I am doing all these drawings as a displacement activity as I cannot get into the painting - but it will arrive in time

Geranium drawing, oil on paper, A1
Beginning to think I am doing all these drawings as a displacement activity as I cannot get into the painting – but it will arrive in time

For some weeks the side effects of the treatment made it impossible to go in the studio, but opportunity knocked, and gave me a short term goal to spur me on to working again. Now I am busy not just producing work, but also organising the venue (our local arts centre) for a one man show in April, my first major show since my one-man show in Morley Gallery in London in 1995, and work in the Barbican Open in 1996. It is good to show to get an over view of the work completed over time. It is a year now since my love bought me a studio as a Christmas present, and a year of work has produced an interesting collection of works on paper and canvas.

Geranium drawing, again oil on paper, 42 x 44 inches

Geranium drawing, again oil on paper, 42 x 44 inches

Having work framed up to present formally to an audience can be intimidating (as well as expensive) but is an essential part of the creative process. After all unseen work is like the proverbial falling tree in the forest – if no one sees it does it happen? The purpose of art as a visual language is to communicate, and communication is not just shouting into the wind, it is about being heard.

Varnishing with a matt varnish before taking to the framers for framing.

Varnishing with a matt varnish before taking to the framers for framing.

The other advantage of exhibiting is that one gets the opportunity to select and present representative work that makes for a self-critical appraisal process, and can make for effective self-analysis and spur development onward. As the work comes back from the framer I get more excited, and hope that you will share this too, and come to the show. If you can’t make it don’t worry, I am creating a website where the work will be available to seen and if liked, purchased.

This one tries to capture the colour of the garden in summer and is of course called 'Summer Garden'. Whilst the cross and the square were developed to allow colour to move against itself, it also actually reflects the gardens paths (loosely anyway)

This one tries to capture the colour of the garden in summer and is of course called ‘Summer Garden’. Whilst the cross and the square were developed to allow colour to move against itself, it also actually reflects the gardens paths (loosely anyway)

I bless the NHS, our much maligned National Health Service. As a child it brought me back from deaths door. In the 1950’s I was an early recipient of antibiotics, which (despite the family being called to the bedside to say goodbye) brought me back from the brink. Now I have had gentle sympathetic and empathetic world leading treatment from consultants and especially nursing staff at my local hospital. My art is about life. It is an affirmation and a reflection of joy in life.

One of the Geranium series. Oil on paper, 42 x 44 inches

One of the Geranium series. Oil on paper, 42 x 44 inches

I hope, in showing the work, it will share some of my renewed joy in life with you and bring you joy and pleasure.

Grappling with technique

The trouble is development of ideas never quite seems to go in straight lines. Perhaps it is ideas moving in parallel, but the grid I was working with last week went into stasis this week and I was swept away by the waves again. From the colour plays that are sub-Riley perhaps, to the expressive this week, as I return to the expressing of winter waves that I focussed on in ‘Capturing the colour and Movement of the Sea.’ I think it is a bit of unfinished work I need to get out of my system, or maybe just some complex displacement activity whilst the ‘Geranium’ series  grows in my subconscious.

Breaking Wave Acrylic and oil pastel on paper 18 inches x 24inches

Breaking Wave
Acrylic and oil pastel on paper
18 inches x 24 inches

Picasso said that what set artists apart was their ability to be child-like. Not childish, as some are, but in effect to retain an innocence of looking.The trouble is the more one thinks about one’s art the more difficult it is to retain that innocence of seeing. Bashing back into more expressive wave drawing gives me the chance to continue to play with technique, trying to mix oil and water colours.

Breaking Wave 2 Acrylic and oil pastel on paper 18 x 24 inches

Breaking Wave 2
Acrylic and oil pastel on paper
18 x 24 inches

My grid paintings allow the controlled expressive brushwork to manipulate space, and through the drawings I have been trying different, freer, techniques, layering paint and scratching through to reveal colour through layers. Working from images the grid also plays its part in allowing me to scale up a drawing to a larger format, where the autographic mark can be expressed whilst still building towards an image. In the wave drawings the image emerges from the activity, the mark making allowing an image to emerge whilst expressing the violence of the waves breaking on shingle.

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Wave Drawing #8 Oil pastel and acrylic on paper 36 inches square

I want to mix photography in with the mark making and in the last Geranium drawing that started to work, so the next wave drawings will try a similar trick. I am also going to try printing the images out on tracing paper to see if that will help move things forward too. Grappling with technique is part of finding the language appropriate to express the ideas. Oddly enough it is whilst grappling with technique that I miss the art college atmosphere, where other experience and knowledge of techniques can help bounce ideas around beneficially.

Detail of large Wave Drawing

Detail of large Wave Drawing

Experience comes into play though and evolving my own language is exciting enough, and the results are beginning to work for me (feedback welcome though).

Art is a Language

In the Renaissance art was read by most people. The visual language artists employed was comprehensible to most. Literacy was limited and usually the written word served those who ruled – primarily the Church and the armed warriors of the aristocracy who protected and fed off the wealth the Church stole from the people. Imagery put artists in a position where their work communicated with more people directly than the written word prior to the 17th century.

Whilst some artists were used to propagate the word of the church to the illiterate peoples, others became more subversive and were persecuted by both the Church and the powerful to which knowledge was a threat. Look at how much effort went into keeping an English language bible from the hands of common folk to see how spreading knowledge could be subversive. Look at the persecution of those whose art was not acceptable to the church, such as Caravaggio.

Square Dance 1968

Square Dance
Acrylic on Canvas 6 x 8 feet 1968 Student piece retain by BAA

A composer friend of mine said how lucky I was to be a visual artist as so much of music had become corrupted in the service of today’s powerful through advertising jingles etc.. This comment came from someone whose own understanding of visual language enabled him to be blind to the way that commerce exploits the visual arts as much as the musical arts.

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Fuschia Acrylic on Canvas 5 feet by 3 feet six inches 1978 now in a Private Collection

Today much visual language is also debased not just by its corruption in the hands of commerce but also by those artists who are derivative and whose command of visual language is impoverished. This results in work that is lacking in skill of any kind, and where the ideas within the work are derivative.

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Tea for Two Acrylic on Canvas 4 feet 6 inches square 1998

It is true that today it is harder than ever to avoid reworking ideas expressed before. In the same way that a new play or poem re-uses language so art re-uses the visual work of others, extending knowledge through pushing ideas further than they have been pushed before. Thus Hockney continues to develop an understanding of the visual world through the use of cameras and drawing that enriches our understanding of the world around us. The language he uses is that same but his interpretation pushes it further in broadening our understanding of the world around us.

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Pencil sketch amended

I’m no Hockney and don’t seek to compare myself with the  greats, but I do share their passion for the language of art. In my own way I too am struggling to express my own understanding of the visual world through the language of art. That this comes from within, from the soul perhaps, can be seen in the way the underlying ideas remain after 50 years of work.

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Oil pastel and collaged imagery 12 inches square

The grid is a traditional part of visual language, a device used in the renaissance to enable accurate recording, a device used for enlarging drawings onto canvas, a part of the grammar of art practice that I try to pull to the surface so that structure, rather than being hidden underneath paint is revealed as a part of the painting.

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Oil pastel, giclee print collaged 12 inches square

As yet I struggle to get to the painting, but I feel the drawing process is starting to open up my understanding, and this week’s drawings, reworking some of what has gone before, surely seem to make a step forward. I hope you think so too.

Constable clouds and Stella stripes

Do we see influences in our work in a rear view mirror? Or is it simply that having been through art school the philosophy of art we develop embraces us and colours all our thinking? Are art schools a bit Jesuitical – that ‘give me the boy and I’ll give you the man’ sort of development of our minds, where art becomes like a religion?

Clouds seen from Seaford station as I waited for the London train

Clouds seen from Seaford station as I waited for the London train

That we live in search of beauty as artists I often doubt when I look at the ugliness that some artists develop in their work. As a boy I remember reading a story about a man who finds a coin in the gutter one day and spends the next ten years looking for another. The n one day he looks up and sees the clouds and is almost struck dumb by the beauty he has been missing.

Trying to get the colour to pulsate. pencil page from the sketchbook, about six inches square (170mm if you want metric) Albers? Stella?

Trying to get the colour to pulsate. pencil page from the sketchbook, about six inches square (170mm if you want metric) Albers? Stella?

I have been quite ill recently, unable to get in the studio, forced to rest. Work has been difficult but I had my look at the sky moment the other day when struggling to make an appointment in London. Waiting for the train I became mesmerised by the changing skyscape as the wind off the Channel drove clouds across the sky, a blue sky with the moon still shining down. I came home later tired but the sky was still dramatic, still beautiful and I felt re-energised.

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the colour is based around a bed of geraniums with grass and daisies below them

Psychologically I seem to be getting over my setback and am beginning to pick up the threads in the studio. I’ve picked up the drawings and continued to explore the colour for the next painting. I’ve already stretched the canvas, but it’s been sitting on the easel for over a month now – which may be no bad thing as I tend to try to go too fast.

36 inches square ( about a metre). Scale allows full flow for gestural mark making. Format evolving from earlier drawings. Oil pastel

36 inches square ( about a metre). Scale allows full flow for gestural mark making. Format evolving from earlier drawings. Oil pastel

So the drawings continues to develop as I work at the same time with the photographs that combine with colour notes in the sketch book to form the base from which the ideas are developing.

Afternoon light as I got off the train - still gifts me a lift living in Seaford, beside the seaside, beside the sea

Afternoon light as I got off the train – still gifts me a lift living in Seaford, beside the seaside, beside the sea

It is almost a year now since my love gave me the studio for Christmas. It has transformed my life and will continue to change it as I get back into painting. The large drawing here is the seventh in a series. The process is changing the format and the process is also changing how I am thinking about what happens when I start the next painting, although at a metre square some of these drawings almost have the stature of paintings themselves.

I fell reenergised. All I need now is the complete all clear from the medics….

The Art of Remembrance

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, wants the poppy installation around the Tower of London to remain. Currently, as I write on the 6th November, it has had over 4 million visitors. My images were  taken a week or so back, and the whole work will not be finished until, symbolically the 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month – the time the armistice was declared to end the First World War.

Moat of blood

Moat of blood

Three of my relations died in France, and one of my partners. Grandad, I was told, suffered the after effects from a gas attack until his death in the 1960’s. OH and I have bought one of the ceramic poppies in memory primarily of her Australian antecedent. Emigrating from Laughton in Sussex to Australia in pre-war years he returned with an Australian gun battery in 1916 to be buried in France.

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This amazing piece of memorial art fills the moat with hand-made ceramic poppies. As the Tower was used as an initial training centre for WW1 recruits from the City of London this location is appropriate. Given the rȏle of the moat as the defensive work of William the Conquerors great castle it is entirely appropriate too that the red of the poppies symbolically fills it with blood.

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There will be a poppy representing each man killed from British and colonial forces – a total of 888,246. Each evening the Yeoman Warders of the Tower, the Beefeaters, play the Last Post and read names of some of the dead from what is now the Commonwealth, a ceremony that is listened to in silence and sometimes with tears.

Ceramic poppies

Ceramic poppies

This ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ is an intensely emotive art installation. The symbolism and effect magnified by its location it seems to me to represent not just the victims of WW1 but all those who died in the Tower since construction in 1089, and the many who have died since WW1. In the years since WW2 apparently  there has only been one year when a British Soldier has not been killed in action somewhere on the globe – 1968.

This memorial is moving and unforgettable. It has to be seen to be believed. Walk all around the Tower. Go see it.