What Is Paintable?

Through The Trees

My primary interest in painting for the last 40 years has been how to depict and respond to a range of landscapes. Before I can begin to think about painting a place, there has to be a specific reason to do so, and the place must have a particular resonance with me. My recent work can be divided up into three groups: paintings of Tuscany and Umbria, paintings of Andalucía and paintings of the Thames Estuary around the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marsh, not too far from my home. Read more

Frames of reference

The Empty Streets

A friend kept phoning us in the mornings of late April and early May. She was, rather against her will, still gallantly fulfilling her duties at an office in Oxford Street. She disliked being there and feared the possible consequences in mid-pandemic. But the reason she kept phoning was to tell of her exuberance in the early mornings at being able to walk the length of Regent Street alone and in the middle of the street. She described the complete peace and quiet in the utterly empty street free of people, free of traffic. Read more

Frames of reference

For Kai

photo: Alastair Grant

Kai arrived at The Rowley Gallery over 30 years ago, I can’t be sure of the exact date, but her name back then was Kathy. And to all who knew her in pre-Rowley days she always remained Kathy. But there was already another Cathy at The Rowley Gallery so she abbreviated her name to Ka. That was her Chinese name. But pronounced Kai, so that was how she spelt it thereafter. To avoid confusion. Read more

Frames of reference

Pantalica

Sitting here on lockdown, having earlier walked our prescribed exercise route, carefully plotted through burgeoning local parks and side roads, the trees and hedges heavy with blossom and alive with birdsong, more-so it seems than ever this year. Strange contrast with the quiet tragedy unfolding around us, the closed doors and closed curtains and the quiet ambulances in the streets. I’m itchy to be away from here but there’s nowhere to go. So I’m looking back through old photos and I find myself in Sicily, two years ago when we were free to go wherever we pleased. We were staying in Syracuse, on the island of Ortigia, and each day we went off in a different direction. On this day we headed inland, due west to the ancient prehistoric site of Pantalica. Read more

Frames of reference

Painting Wytham

The experience of landscape and how to interpret it has been a major preoccupation for many years. In the 1960s as a student I made large abstract canvases which were in fact about space. It was the time of the first moon landing. Since then I have travelled a bit. To Canada, to India, to Spain, and here to the Lake District and Cornwall. I have made paintings and drawings in all these places. The vast scale of the Rocky Mountains, the heat of Spain, the colour and smell of India, the cold of the Lakes in December, all have presented me with the strange problems of how to get something out of these very different environments. But I always return to my home turf. One I have lived in for almost all my life. This year I began what I had hoped to be a project painting in the same location for most of the year. To this end I overhauled my gear and began work in the chill of early February high over Oxford looking down from Wytham Woods, a stretch of woodland covering a hill to the west of Oxford, owned by the university and the site of 70 years of ecological research. Read more

Frames of reference

A Walk In The Nebbio

We’d picked up a little brochure of local walks from Tourist Information in St-Florent, and this one was just up the road from the spectacular black and white church of San Michele de Murato. It was listed as Balade dans le Nebbiu (stroll in the fog). The Nebbio is the region of Corsica inland from St-Florent, a hinterland enclosed by an amphitheatre of hills, that takes its name from the heavy mists that descend in winter. Today was not sunny, but thankfully we were not enveloped in clouds. Read more

Frames of reference

San Michele De Murato

Stuck inside my quarantine cell on a sunny April evening, sheltering from the coronavirus epidemic outside on the streets, sunlight and birdsong streaming through the open window, remembering how freedom of movement was once taken for granted, and how quickly we’ve adapted to our new limited horizons. I tell myself it won’t go on forever and escape into daydreams and memories of last year in Corsica. This was our first view of the church of San Michele just outside the village of Murato. Read more

Frames of reference

A Jaunt To See Jenner

Yesterday, in need of exercise on a bright Spring day, I walked down to the Italian Gardens at the north side of Kensington Gardens. I made sure that I was socially distancing all the way. Though this was relatively easy. Not many people about. Read more

Frames of reference

Chasing Shadows

We’d been told to stay indoors and not go out, except for exercise and if so to stay two metres apart, breathe fresh air, think separate thoughts and cast our own shadows. Stay safe, take care and not go viral. It was the sunniest Sunday I’d seen in ages, the car parks of Epping Forest were overflowing, all of us fleeing the city to escape the epidemic. That’s how it felt, as if there was protection here. Read more

Frames of reference

Among The Trees

In the incongruous setting of London’s Southbank, among all its heavy-duty architecture and its everyday hustle and bustle, there is a safe arbour in the concrete jungle, a quiet sanctuary of beauty and harmony where we can remember the trees. The Hayward Gallery’s surprising exhibition Among The Trees reminds us of the many ways in which we have forgotten our close arboreal connections. Read more

Frames of reference