The excitement for me as an artist lies not in exploring the unknown but in how I can effectively organise a visual arrangement that reflects the atmosphere and intensity of an environment, evoking a precise moment of the day under specific light and conditions. I hope you enjoy the work
Feature of the week 26/05/2019
Victoria Theatre and Clock
I received the news of my painting’s acceptance in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition this week whilst visiting my cousin in Scotland and, given how all my previous submissions had been unsuccessful, I reflected on the way technology has changed the way in which an individual artist gains a wider audience.
In the 80s and 90s, the publication, Artists’ Newsletter was a lifeline for non-established artists as, unlike today, there were no social media platforms available on which to share information and promote one‘s work. Communication with potential exhibitors or purchasers tended to be protracted and convoluted. It was also expensive in terms of photographing work using expensive professional equipment; processing images usually in 35mm slide format and eventually packaging and posting these, many of
which disappeared forever as they were often not returned to the artist. I would dutifully carry out this process, sending off slides of my work routinely once a month throughout those years. It is for this reason that I really appreciate the benefits of modern digital technology!
Time though, plays tricks with memory when past paintings are viewed solely on a digital basis as demonstrated when I was recently reunited with a number of East London paintings at the Nunnery/Bow Arts exhibition. I was astonished at the size of a number of works like ‘Whitsunday, Commercial Road’ and ‘Rainy Day in Salmon Lane’. As a result I have reviewed the size and scale of some of my forthcoming projects, learning from their boldness.
Another memory fault is the trick of when a work happened to be painted, which can be a long process for me, and following on, when a work was originally exhibited or sold - further complicated by the fact that I often did not sign my works back then, as issues of ego imposing itself on the integrity of the artist came into play. The foibles and foolishness of youth… I notice that many of the present emerging generation are not stricken with such doubt!
Last week, on account of my visit to Scotland, I talked about ‘The Arcade Bar’ in Edinburgh, a work I painted around 1989 that was purchased by Fife County Council. It took me a while to recall how it came to be there in the first place. In fact, I was rather perplexed when my Scottish cousin pointed out that Kirkcaldy in Fife is some 30 miles distant from the capital and queried why they would purchase a view of a an Edinburgh night spot? This left me perplexed and racking my brains for a while.
I think as I recall, sometime in the early nineties, a request appeared in Artists’ Newsletter for slide submissions of works to add to the collection held by Fife Council then housed in Kirkcaldy Art Gallery. On reading this I dutifully submitted several slides in the expectation that I would most likely hear no more. When weeks later a letter appeared on the doormat postmarked Scotland, I thought that at least Fife had had the courtesy to acknowledge my submission even if I were not successful, however it was with absolute surprise that on opening the letter I found they wanted to purchase not one, but two paintings. It turned out that Fife were not only interested in their own doorstep but were seeking to look further afield and in this case, unusually, no studio visit was made. A decision was made solely on the selection of slides sent in by the artists.
It might be curious that they purchased a painting concerned with the bright-lights of Edinburgh but even more interesting was that the second painting, the one displayed here today, depicts the bright lights of London town entitled, ‘Theatre with Clock’, the venue in question being the Victoria Palace Theatre. There is quite a difference between the two paintings, with the late night smoky atmosphere imbued in the environment of the pub and the more histrionic febrile atmosphere of twilight in Victoria over 300 miles to the south – a surprising juxtaposition perhaps.
Of course, the selection panel may have been under the misapprehension that the theatre and the clock in question were also a part of the Edinburgh night scene, as the title gives away no indication of its actual whereabouts, and perhaps I shall soon be in receipt of another letter from Fife council asking me to buy back the painting, protesting they were sold it on false pretences.
A few weeks after receiving the letter, the paintings were collected in a van and that’s the last I have ever saw of them, except for on-line views of the Government Art Collection. I just hope that they are being well cared for. From what I have heard and have personally experienced, not all councils are aware that paintings and drawings need to be stored sensitively in dry, dust free conditions.