the peripatetic painting

I wrote a few weeks ago of Christ Writes in the Dust and its travels with the Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art. Back then a selection of works from the collection were on show at the University of Central Lancashire, and now a slightly pared down version is in London at the Westminster Hall. Artloggers Jacqui Hicks and Phil Cooper, who met for the first time last month in Swansea at the talk Jacqui had arranged for me to give at an ArtServe event, got together again to see the Westminster Hall exhibition.

The Westminster Hall, 2012

Jacqui sent the above photograph for me to add to my growing file of Christ Writes in the Dust in many different locations. She knows the exhibition very well indeed, as last year she was a guide to it at an earlier venue, and so was well-placed yesterday to give Phil an insightful account of the works on show.

National Library of Wales, 2011

I still find it a novel notion that paintings have a life so independent from their makers. When I think about my own, they are not so much corporeal, as images projected in my head. That they travel around and are seen by people, most of who I’ll never know or meet, is something quite hard to grasp. A few years ago I recall watching gallery visitors at an exhibition curated by Meryl Doney at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham. A man and a woman were  standing in front of my painting Green George, and he was speaking with lively enthusiasm about the work, explaining to her what the artist had been attempting in it, and the technical tricks he’d used to pull off the effects. She gazed up at him adoringly, basking in the light of his knowledge. What he had to say sounded most interesting and plausible. Even I was impressed. I like to think that kind of thing will perhaps go on after I’ve gone. But it can’t unless paintings are accessioned into public collections, and even after that they can languish in the stacks, unseen and forgotten for decades. That’s why I have such an affection and admiration for the Methodist Collection. It’s a living thing. It isn’t stored away and languishing. It gets added to, and it travels. I find that such an admirable thing.

12 thoughts on “the peripatetic painting

  1. Well the person who commented on the artlog being only about your work is only half right, yes it starts with your work but evolves into works from, for, by and about many others, linking us all backwards and forwards across the globe into a glorious network of virtual friends, some of whom we do eventually get to meet in the flesh and find that , yes, we are in fact real friends. So I say a huge thank you for your art, your blog and you. xx

  2. Yes, it is strange and magical. After the wonderful (I’ve missed so many good shows, but I did see that one) Fra Angelico show at the Met, Makoto Fujimura began talking about how we should all aspire to make work worthy of being enjoyed in 500 years, and what sort of work that might mean… I like that idea–like so many of his, simple yet profound.

    • The long view, yes. Makoto is right. That’s what fuels the sometimes agonising effort to birth a piece of work that goes the distance. You recall that marathon effort I wrote about, Marly, to get this painting finished? Working through the night to the point where my ears thundered with blood and my eyes watered, and I felt sure something in me was going to spontaneously break with the physical effort? That’s what fuels the effort, the hope that the work will long outlast the maker.

  3. oh, i want to be there!
    i think that’s what makes a thing truly real–it takes on its own life and is seen and interpreted (its personality and history thus added to) by other people in different places and times. it’s amazing that a dream from your own mind is now just as real as the building they’re standing in to see it! congratulations 🙂
    i really love this painting–its story, its colors, angles, layers…

    • And your work, too, is going out into the world, through the images posted on your blog site, to catch at the imaginations of those who see and are excited by them. It can only be a matter of time, I’m quite sure, Zoe, before your paintings and maquettes make the leap from virtual space and into galleries and people’s homes, and then you will be wondering about where they have gone and what journeys they have made.

  4. The other day I was washing some cups after tea and I was just thinking about that, about the relationships formed with objects, by the maker and then by whoever gets them afterwards. We brought the cups from where we used to live in Japan, in a small village in an area famous for its pottery. And so we have these cups now that feel so intimately ours, through being used by us for all this time, and yet they are so far away from the the place and the person that made them.

    And I love that your paintings are getting seen by lots of different people. (It looks like they are being displayed really nicely too!) I really can’t stand it when you find out that a museum has a piece of art that you are dying to see, except they’ve decided to hide it away in a vault somewhere where no one can ever enjoy it.

    Once, at a framer’s shop in Paris, getting one of the prints I’d made framed at the last minute before a show, I had the opportunity to hear from the framer the way “the artist” had “intended” the print to be framed. Though, that’s not as good as your story. Sorry for these rambling comments… your post made me think of so many things!

    • Hello Jodi. Well, I guess that’s what I hope to quarry from some of the better posts here… reflection.

      An occasional commentor whose own site I greatly enjoy, wrote to me a while ago, mentioning in passing that his blog is unlike mine inasmuch that it’s about the wider world, whereas the Artlog is almost exclusively about my own work. Put that way I found myself rather taken aback, because I don’t think of the Artlog in that way, though of course I could see his point. Since then I’ve tried, even when a post is about my own practice, to throw the doors open to wider ideas. The Artlog, while it continues, will always principally be about the creative processes as I produce work, but I hope too it can be more than that, not least because of the rich dialogues and exchanges in the comments boxes.

      Your Japanese cups are a good example, Jodi, of the objects that surround us being suffused with histories. How many of us know the names of the people who make our plates and cups, or the village where they came from? Not a great many, I bet. Here at Ty Isaf we have a plain white factory-made service for dinner parties, but in daily use are the many earthenware cups and plates made by our friend Pip Koppel, and it changes the experience of the day completely when her work is under the hand, or giving up the morning’s steaming redbush tea. It is most definitely life-enhancing, and I would urge anyone to get to know an everyday-sort-of-a-potter… nothing too fancy or rarefied… and then commission him or her to make some good tableware of character. It could be just a few pieces, but those would become invested with so much that elevates the everyday and ordinary into something profound.

      • I loved that plate you posted the other day, sculpted by your friend and painted by yourself!

        Also, I wouldn’t have ever categorized your blog as being only about your work. But if it were I wouldn’t see a problem with that. I was in the the goMa in Glasgow a while back and there was this quote by a man who’d made this lovely wooden room where one can look out onto the main gallery through a little peep hole. Sorry for that not-so-great description, but the quote was about how all of the wild varieties of different peoples’ personalities is akin to a sort of biodiversity, and is completely necessary to make life manageable. And I’m sorry that’s all come out rather inarticulately, but I think that’s one part of why people read blogs, and even blogs that are about only one person. And probably the wider world is always there creeping in.

  5. Pingback: The life of a painting | Via Negativa

  6. Totally agree Clive, I was able to walk into the Central Hall at Westminster yesterday and, for free, see a collection of wonderful artworks, some of which have left a vivid impression on me. I was lucky to be able to see this collection with Jacqui who has such a wealth of knowledge and background information on the various works. Seeing Christ Writes in the Dust in the flesh was terrific, the colours and tones, the details in the figures and the background and the paintwork generally were a totally different experience seen up close and on a larger scale; the life of the painting in my mind has evolved now into something else, and I suppose I feel I have a much deeper ‘bond’ with it. Well done to the organisers who ensure this collection is so accessible.

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