Monday, 28 December 2009

Last Exhibition of 2009

This was one of the most exciting shows I've taken part in. The gallery was the 3, Bedfordbury Gallery in Covent Garden, and was one of the most perfect galleries I've seen, from the perspective of lighting, space, and location. My 3 paintings were at the top of the stairs, on the first floor, a great way for your work to be encountered, and the lighting came from both ceiling lights and a window, and was very favourable to my colours. I liked the layout of the gallery, which was over 3 floors, and when I arrived in the evening for the Private View (10th December), the spire of nearby St. Martins' church was magically illuminated by the street lamps. The narrow streets around the gallery were overflowing with small shops and Pubs, and the atmosphere was quintessential London. Being near to Covent Garden, the streets were a stream of shoppers, and the exhibition was well received.

I showed 2 landscapes and a 'Women in the Turkish Baths' canvas.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Missing Nicosia

On yet another deeply dreary, wet, and dark winter's day, I'm missing the vibrancy, sparkle and sunshine of Nicosia. At this moment I'd love to be reclining on this rooftop, listening to intermittent church bells from four Greek Orthodox churches tucked between golden slabs of concrete, and closing my eyes to follow the eerie but melodic prayers from the large mosque in the Turkish side. The blue mountains change colour like a kaleidoscope as the sun moves across the sky, while shadows flicker across the city like the uncertain brush of a painter. If I imagine really hard, I'm there, drinking my coffee on that roof and simply enjoying the fragrant, colour-infused atmosphere. A glance across the city takes in thousands of unknown lives, shielded behind curtains, shouting on the narrow streets, or watering plants on rooftops and watching me.

(Painting: 'Fiona Leaving Nicosia,' Oil on canvas)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Location Sketches, Nicosia

I have always loved drawing Nicosia from rooftops, and when I lived there I spent many exciting hours seeking out rooftops which would give me a panoramic view of this beautiful city, with its minarets, assorted church spires, and tiled rooves. Many flats there have flat rooves, and I wandered the streets seeking out buildings that might have the potential for a great view. I often entered unfamiliar buildings, climbed the narrow stairs to the top, and checked out the view. Then I would sit on the roof, amongst washing and pots of plants, and make my drawings or watercolours. All around I could hear the traffic, and voices below on the streets, and I loved being a silent observer. I always liked to find new viewpoints, and this quest was not without hazards. The closer you ventured towards the Green Line dividing the city, the more suspicious you might look if you were seen drawing from a rooftop. One time I asked to draw from the Delphi Hotel, which was not particularly near the Green Line, and the Manager was waiting to see my drawing as soon I came down from the roof. I never knew exactly what he thought I could see and draw from there, but he was extremely relieved when he saw the vagueness of my drawing, saying 'It's modern art, isn't it?'

I never ceased to be enthralled by the endless shades of gold and yellow walls, red tiled rooftops, the ever-changing blue of the distant Kyrenia mountains, and the swaying palms and Cypress trees. It's a theme that still inspires me, though now I can sit in the 6th floor cafe, in the Shacola Tower, and draw or paint from there . Now no one cares what I'm painting, except perhaps tourists.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Living on the Green Line, Nicosia

At the time I lived in Nicosia, from 1984 to 1998, the memories of the Turkish Invasion of 1974 were still fresh in people's minds. We were always aware of scuffles and tensions along the Green Line, the line that divided the Turkish-Cypriot northern third of the island from the Greek Cypriot southern two-thirds. I lived not far from the Green Line that ran through Nicosia, and I was inspired to write a novel about life in an unstable country from an artist's perspective. Here is an excerpt from my novel:

'At four in the morning we heard a man chanting a Turkish prayer from one of the mosques in the other side of Nicosia. The hauntingly beautiful melody sent a delicious shudder through my warm, naked body as I lay next to Tom. Drowsily, I thought about the Green Line, and the many people hidden from us beyond it. Hearing the same prayers, breathing the same fragrant night air.

From the Guest House you could see the flags that marked the Green Line. It was only since I moved there that I had become truly aware of its presence. The long street ended abruptly, cut by blue and white striped barricades and an unyielding check-point. I lingered nearby, squinted to try to see the derelict yellow villas and walls of broken windows trapped in the buffer zone beyond the check-point. I glanced in disbelief at the young soldiers standing there with their guns tucked casually under their arms............ Is this real? It looks like a scene from a film! Surely these angry young men were partying at some nightclub last night?

Sometimes, when I wandered along the section of old Nicosia that lined the partition, I looked at houses on the other side and imagined figures moving behind the curtains. Were they also looking at me, wondering about life on this side of the wall?

Deserted houses merged seamlessly and silently into the partition. Then it continued its determined path behind and between crumbling buildings, and meandered along the top of ancient, stone walls, mutating into barbed wire and sandbags. Its uncompromising form glared at me, taunting: 'On my other side, not very far away from where you stand, you could see...'"

Now the Greek Cypriot side of Cyprus is in the EU, and attitudes have changed along with the interest in MTV, and the internet. I often wonder what changes another 10 years will bring. In my opinion artists have a lot more freedom than they did when I lived there. I used to paint on the streets and get chided by Tom's friends!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Why bother Painting?

I read several art blogs recently that pondered the question of why anyone would want to bother painting? Why, when it doesn't help the world in any visible way? What real meaning does it add? I think that it's hard sometimes for people to understand what an artist's work is 'about', as art is not a universal language, except in certain traditional forms. It's even harder to understand why, in a materialistic world, anyone would be driven to follow a vision or ideas with no sure financial gain.

On a personal level, painting helped me to survive after the sudden death of my partner. It gave me a focus, underlined the ongoing potential of life and creative ideas, and opened up new meanings. It reiterated the eternal artistic questions as to why THIS light, this colour, and this mark might be valuable in the life of the mind, and the world of feeling. These continuing struggles are very real to most artists, and preoccupy them daily. I commented on a recent blog post by an artist called Albert Sughi, on Absolutearts, who described the inner conflicts that are the companions to most artists in their studios. This is my comment:

I find that as an artist you can never know in advance how a painting might work out, and this uncertainty is part of the creativity and wonder of it all! For me, ideas emerge through the act of painting, and some of my worst paintings have suddenly triggered off a new way of working and wider ideas. It's like casting out a net over and over. The great thing about a painting is that it's never really ruined - you can keep going back to it, or change it into something else. It was encouraging to read your article, and to know that other artists have these concerns. As to why we bother to paint at all - a question I read in a previous article - I believe that meaning evolves and is not a static quality, and painting puts you in touch with evolving meanings.

I would like to add that I believe that for artists, and many people, Art enhances their view of the world, or at the very least adds a spark of brightness.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Paintings of the Turkish Baths, Nicosia.

Here are a few further examples of my series of 'Women in the Turkish Baths.' The lilac one is called 'Fiona in Blue Jeans in the Turkish Baths.' It is a mixture of oil and acrylic on canvas, 95cm by 54cm.

The next one is called 'Blue Baths.' (66cm by 46cm.)

Friday, 18 September 2009

First time of exhibiting the 'Baths' works in London.

In December I will be showing a couple of my 'Women in the Turkish Baths' paintings at a gallery in Covent Garden - more as soon as I have the exact details. I'm currently finishing a largish oil, my latest in the series, and hope to show two paintings. It will be the first time I've shown any of these works in London, as mostly I have shown landscapes, (most recently at the Llewellyn Alexander gallery, in June.)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Women in the Turkish Baths

One of the highlights of living in Nicosia between 1984 and 1998 was discovering the ancient Turkish Baths in old Nicosia. No one was able to tell me exactly how old this building was, but it must have been at least 400 years old. Inside was a decorative but shabby changing area, and then you walked, wrapped in your towel, along a corridor, dodging a naked light bulb, and entered the heated chambers. There was the main chamber, with a raised hexagonal plinth which you could lie on for massages, and several arched doorways into smaller chambers. These contained small concrete basins. As you sat there in the steam you could hear water dripping from a rusting tap.
What I also loved was that the ceiling of each chamber was domed, and decorated with tiny pieces of glass. Shafts of light came down through the glass and painted the figures with rainbow colours. From the outside the building was a conglomerate of four small domes and one larger, central dome.
Womens' days were Wednesdays and Fridays, but it was always funny how men would open the door to the rest area and say they hadn't seen the signs!

I used to go into the rest area and the heated chambers with my watercolours or pencils, and paint or draw the women as they undressed, reclined in the heat, or dried their hair and chatted. None of the women ever protested against my presence as I drew them, and here I was able to find the most natural and unselfconscious poses. It occupied me for 5 years, and I made many watercolours and drawings. I have used some of these as the basis for my compositions, though now I work also from memory. I close my eyes and I feel I am there, squinting in the steam, trying to make marks on damp paper onto which water drips at intervals, and all the time sweat trickles down my back and runs into my eyes. I hope this sense of the physicality of being in the Baths entered my paintings. It was a place I loved to be, as it felt cut off from the outside world, and I want my paintings to convey the atmosphere created by groups of women relaxing and chatting about their lives.

Monday, 6 July 2009

My June Exhibitions

June was a very busy month! I took part in a group show at the Brick Lane Gallery from June 17th to June 22nd, and also in the 'Not the Royal Academy,' at the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery. The 'biggie' was my solo show here in Tunbridge Wells, from June 12th to June 25th. It was my first solo show in several years and I was quite nervous. 18 paintings were on show and I received a very favourable response. Below are some photos from my solo show, with me in front of some of them.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Letter in the Daily Mail newspaper

This is the text of the letter I had published in the DAILY MAIL newspaper on Thursday, June 11th 2009, as the main letter on the letters page, along with a photo of myself and this painting:
'As the Royal Academy opens its annual Summer Show this week, thousands of artists across the country will still be nursing frustration at not being accepted. Like myself, they will probably be wondering why.
It was my 8th attempt. I entered an oil painting I felt quite optimistic about. I've been to many previous Summer Shows and have a fairly good idea about what gets in. My small painting, called 'Waiting,' was a metaphor for the way most people in life are waiting for things to happen. I am a practising artist, I've had many exhibitions, (and have work in 3 shows this month, including a solo show), but like many artists, I always hope for the day my work will hang proudly in the Royal Academy Summer Show. (The closest I've got so far is carrying a rejected painting in a bag around the exhibition.) While most artists realise that submitting work is like entering a lottery, we submit work year after year with a 'Maybe this time' attitude. We are lured by the promotional material that suggests there is a chance for us too.
Year after year, I see work by the same established artists, or artists I know of, artists whose style is known on 'the Circuit.' I wonder how many newcomers actually have a chance of a second glance as their work passes before the glazed eyes of the Selection Committee? Space dictates its own restrictions, but when a whole room is given over to a famous artist to curate or show his/her work, our chances dwindle even further. It's certainly not an even playing field, and each year I see many worthy and impressive paintings go on to hang in the excellent 'Not the Royal Academy,' at the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery. Many times, as I wonder why a particular painting was rejected by the Royal Academy, I find this alternative show contains the more exciting work.
In my opinion, the Royal Academy Summer Show is an exclusive club. The Show seems to be funded off the backs of hopefuls, who pay their £25 per painting submission fee, and at the end don't even get a free ticket to see the exhibition. There seems to be no control or checking of the selection process, so the final decision once again comes down to the arbitrary likes and dislikes of a few artists. I would like to see a few members of the Public on the Selection Committee, to break with the traditional loop . Let's have some new thinking on the selection process!'

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

The dreaded letter from the Royal Academy finally arrived! It was, as I expected, a rejection. My little painting, 'Waiting,' had not been accepted. I must have been among thousands of artists receiving the same letter that day, sharing the same disappointment. I doubt that this open exhibition is as open as they make out, mainly because a large portion of wall space goes to the Royal Academicians, and to established or emerging artists. Year after year, I visit the Summer Show to see the same painters on the walls, and paintings by artists I either know or know of. In my opinion, it's an exclusive club, and to get in is rather like a lottery win! But artists, ever hopeful souls that they are, keep on trying, keep on paying their £25 per work entrance fee. (We don't even get a free ticket to see the exhibition.)

I'm sure I'm not the only artist to feel that it's an uneven playing field. It always will be, when there are established artists all fighting to retain their spaces, or people using their connections and networks. When I go to see the show in June, there'll be work to admire, paintings to wonder, 'How the hell did that get in?' and perhaps one or two surprises. Then next March, the process starts up all over again. I would love to know are there any other artists out there feeling as frustrated?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Striped Coffee Cups

Yesterday was a red-circled date in my diary. It was the date my gallery was returning my paintings. My short reprieve had failed. The manager, Mr P, had kindly offered to drive the 9 canvases back to me from London, and I waited anxiously for the ring on the doorbell.

I'd prepared for his arrival, still hoping in vain to be seen in a good light. I'd scrubbed the striped coffee cups in preparation for our last coffee, I'd screwed the leg back onto the wobbly, mangled old coffee table, so it wouldn't collapse when we put our steaming cups on it. I'd even cleaned the bathroom, paying particular attention to the toilet.

Still feeling rather raw about being dumped by the gallery, I consoled myself with the thought that at least Mr P. would get to see my numerous large canvases, glowing splendidly on the walls. He'd never seen them, not that it would have made any difference as they were too large for the gallery. Surely he would, for the sake of our 2 year association, and out of protocol, drink a last coffee with me? He couldn't be planning to fling the work out of the car windows as he passed along my street?

Mr P. arrived at 11.15am. I wondered why he chose not to park in one of the spaces outside the block of flats, and instead stopped his car at an angle across the drive. 'Thanks so much for delivering them back to me,' I said. He asked, 'Do you want some help inside with these?' I said 'Yes, thanks very much,' but he shoved them up against the nearest wall faster than I could say, 'Aren't you coming in?' As he pushed a form at me to sign for the delivery, I asked 'Don't you want to come in for a coffee?' Sheepishly, he shook his head. I couldn't help myself - I blurted, 'But I was really hoping to show you the large works.' He merely said he was sorry they hadn't been able to sell more of my work. I said, 'You win some, you lose some. Anyway, I've got 3 shows in June.' His eyebrows raised, a look of surprise spread across his face. I wasn't going to end on a negative note!

I waited for a formal goodbye, but he got into his car. The encounter had taken all of 5 minutes. As I carried the works to the side door, I noticed Mr P. sitting in his car, perhaps watching, perhaps working out his homeward route. I waved as he turned the car, and he was gone.
As I struggled with the canvases down the stairs into my basement flat, I felt an untidy medley of emotions. Sadness that I would never see Mr P. and his lovely gallery again. Panic that no one might ever give me another chance to be part of a 'stable' of artists at their gallery. And defiance! I unpacked the works. They looked better than they should for rejects. The positive thing, I told myself was that I had more than enough work for the 3 forthcoming shows.
Now a day later, it's all slipped into perspective. That was not the only gallery, nor are they the yardstick of quality. The art market is a complex thing, even more so in these times of financial crisis. Plus there's the artist's dilemma. Do you make work that follows your vision, hoping it fits the current trends, or do you doctor your work to fit what is wanted? I could do any number of photographic, realist paintings (I used to live from doing portraits in Cyprus), but the lure of composing with colour beckons. I'm not going to adopt an 'I'm a misunderstood artist' stance, just hope that soon I will find a gallery where my work fits.
As for June, I can't wait for the 3 shows. First is my solo show here, in a new space called 'The Big White Wall.' Then there's the 'Not the Royal Academy,' at the Llewellyn Alexander. I had work chosen for that from photos. Finally, I have work going into a group show at the Brick Lane gallery. Will anything sell?
Paintings: 'Sussex Journey,' (oil on board), 'Spring landscape,' (oil on canvas), 'Spring Stripes,' )oil on canvas.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

I delivered my painting, 'Waiting,' to the Royal Academy on April 7th. I didn't think I could manage to do it, being in the throes of a vicious form of Gastric Flu. What made it even worse was that the queue to the Academy was the longest I've ever seen! Normally when you go through the Burlington Arcade to get to the back of the Academy, you turn right and the entrance is only a few steps along, and usually you wait no longer than 15 minutes to step inside. On this day - the one day I didn't want to be stuck in a queue far from a toilet - I stepped out of the Arcade onto a pavement so congested that I couldn't see the cars on the road, or even where the queue ended. I had to walk right down a fat line of people holding canvases of all shapes and sizes, to where the queue fizzled out onto the next street. As pedestrians jostled to find a way between painters and huge canvases, someone came along and told us we were blocking the pavement and were a safety hazzard.
I waited at least an hour. I spent it listening to painters discussing the abnormal length of the queue, whilst trying to ignore my heaving intestines. There was a man who had travelled all the way up from a Museum in Plymouth to deliver a large, bubblewrapped canvas. He chatted away amicably with another artist who was selling paintings in a London gallery. This interesting fact prompted me to turn and try to view his unwrapped large painting, to see if it was any good. But it was wedged in the queue in such a way that I only had a glimpse of yellow and black.
I tried to work out how many artists were in front of me. If there were 80, and each took 5 minutes to drop off his or her work, how many hours would it take me to get there? In the meantime, as I neared the entrance point - which was much further along than one we previously used - I noticed a huge red canvas with a woman playing a guitar painted across it. It was quite impressive, but the voices behind me echoed my own sentiments, namely that large paintings don't stand a chance when space is so limited. Unless of course, you have a name!
Finally, I followed the now single line down a very narrow alleway, with brick walls that were black and smelled of soot. At the end was a doorway and we were allowed in 3 at a time. There were 3 tables and I hurriedly unwrapped my small canvas and a young woman disappeared with it.
My hopes are not high but it's one of those things you feel you have to take a chance on. It's my 8th or 9th attempt, and inevitably my fingers will be shaking as I tear open the envelope at the end of May. The only thing I can say this time with certainty is that my painting was good and deserved to get in - but that's not always enough!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

This is a small oil painting I have just finished and which I am entering for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It is called 'Waiting.' The idea came from a visit to the cafe at Burrswood one Saturday when I went there to paint. I usually paint in watercolour for 3 or 4 hours then go to have a coffee. On this particular day I noticed a group of teapots huddled on a trolley in the kitchen behind the counter. I felt that they were like a group of women in conversation, and liked the way that the spouts seemed to add to the sense of animation.
I took a photo and this painting was developed from it. Since then I have taken more photos as the grouping keeps changing as teapots are taken out to waiting customers. I will paint some of these other groupings into much larger oil paintings. (This one is only 30cm by 40cm.)
As for the Royal Academy Summer Show, I'm realistic enough to know that it's a lottery! (All of these open exhibitions are a lottery, but this one more than most as usually around 12,000 works are entered, and I believe that wall space for newcomers is at a minimum!)I have submitted work 8 times so far, but perhaps this will be a luckier year?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Bad Day

Today I received notification that a painting I submitted for an Open Exhibition at the Mall Galleries was not accepted. (The painting submitted is the one in the previous entry, and is entitled 'Autumn, Late Afternoon.') It's strange but no matter how many times I submit work, and brace myself for the reply, the rejection slips always leave me feeling wobbly for a while! I spend a good hour or more thinking: 'Was my work no good?' or 'Did it just not fit their criteria, was it too colourful, not colourful enough, not figurative enough, not abstract enough....?' The list goes on and on, and each time new doubts emerge. But at the same time, I'm realistic enough to realise that one's work doesn't always fit the general tone of the exhibition, that often the personal tastes of the selection committee affect the final decision, or the sheer volume of work passing in front of their eyes makes it impossible to see or choose everything. I've learned that you should never slant your work towards what you think the committee might want - in the end you have to be yourself and follow your vision. The main thing is to keep on trying!
(With this entry are two paintings: 'Nicosia and Washing,' and 'Pool of Bluebells.)

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Painting at Burrswood, kent

Saturday was a perfect day for painting. I went to one of my favourite places, Burrswood. It's a Healing Centre and Residential place, with a church, coffee shop, pool and other amenities. The enormous grounds are truly spectacular. There are several spots I like to sit and paint in watercolour. One of these is down by the lake, where there's a wild forest and large rocks. Then there's the panoramic view from up the hill, which is also very inspiring. On Saturday I made two large watercolours. I may work them into oil, or I may work from some memories of being there, which makes for a more abstract, imaginative composition. I like to alternate between these two ways of working, and sometimes start my oil paintings from a few marks and colours thrown onto the canvas. Always I'm seeking to find a form to convey my experience of being in the land, and its spiritual forces.

Tomorrow I'm taking 2 paintings based on Burrswood to London. One is a watercolour of trees, sunlight and shadows, the other is an oil painting of an autumn scene (to be included in this entry, called 'Autumn, Late Afternoon.'). The oil is being entered for an open exhibition, the watercolour is going to a gallery.

I had some news last Friday that really cheered me up. The gallery which had asked me to collect my unsold work, asked for more. Consequently I'm taking up the watercolour.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Sunny day

It's an incredibly sunny day and I'm hoping it stays that way so I can go out painting landscape tomorrow with my watercolours. I find that this contact with nature feeds back into my work, even the more imaginary compositions, in all kinds of ways, though it's a joy to sit and paint in the land. The paintings are not always successful, but that is secondary to the experience.

I'm preparing 3 large canvases to start some new paintings next week.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Some examples of my paintings/website

As a follow up to my initial entry, I am including some examples of my work. I paint landscapes, cityscapes, and have ongoing themes based on subjects I painted in Nicosia, Cyprus. One of these is the 'Women in the Turkish Baths,' series, and I also paint images of women with various subject matter - the first image on this page is from my 'Predators,' series.

My First Entry as a Blogger!

(Edited October 2017)

(Some negative events were the original trigger for this blog and I am leaving them intact because my feelings were a true reflection at the time....)

I have just been thrown out by my London gallery. I waited many years to find one that would accept and understand my very colourful, verging on abstract work, and though initially they were very enthusiastic about the paintings, and sold one in the first week, now I have been vaguely told to go by email. Though really devastated by this, (and in the early stages of my shock I even began to see all my 100's of joyful canvases as being part of a delusional idea that I am an artist), I bounced back today by stretching canvases ready for the next 9 paintings I have in mind.

It really felled my trust in many things art, and art market related. At one point I had a very well known celebrity interested in 2 of my works. Subsequently he came to view my  works and we agreed that he could take one of my largest works (a large Baths painting) - on the understanding that my work would be included in a huge show of his Art Collection at possibly (his words), The Tate or Kensington Palace. I found out later that he only wanted my bright colourful canvas to put into his glass pyramid in his garden, where I believed it might become mouldy and be damaged by sunshine! I'm still waiting to hear about the exhibition at the Tate!

This blog will follow my changing fortunes, the highs and lows that all artists go through as they seek that ever elusive perfection in their work. It will also include some excerpts from my as yet unpublished novel, 'Living on the Edge,' about my life in Cyprus, where I was a practising artist for 14 years. I'm always positive and believe that if I push onwards with my work, at some point I will get the rhythm and opportunities I had in Cyprus.