Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Painting in Series

Shelter (Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 ins)

In a recent post on his blog devoted to Pastels, Casey Klahn talked about painting in series. Not all artists paint in series, but I'm one of those who do. You'll have seen, if you've been keeping up, that I most recently made a series of paintings concerned with people on the water-buses of Venice. In the past, I've also done a series of pictures looking across the River Tyne from Gateshead to Newcastle, and as this is one I never tire of, I still add to the series.. It's where I live and what I know best.

I like painting in series so much, that once in a while I make efforts to paint pictures which will fill in the gaps, or draw together two disparate series, rather like Edgar Rice Burroughs bringing together Tarzan with John Carter of Mars in the same novel (he never did that, but he would have done if he could have thought of a way).

It's this "adding to the series" that I'm thinking about at the moment. I'm preparing for the next Figure 8 show which will be in the McGuinness Gallery in Bishop Auckland Town Hall in August. I have one or two pictures in progress and have a couple of others which I think will make a harmonious fit, but I haven't quite decided for myself what the theme of my work will be.

When I sent the gallery my somewhat abbreviated statement, it read:

My paintings tend to be formal constructions based on the effects of sunlight and shadow. I favour the play of strong light on buildings and while the majority of my work is derived from the urban environment, even my occasional forays into landscape painting include references to the effect of man on the landscape. Figures may appear in the composition to emphasise the mood which may be mysterious and unsettling, but often their absence speaks just as loudly.

This is vague enough to cover a multitude of sins, I think, and certainly leaves room for me to include almost anything I want to. But at the moment I'm a little stuck.

As part of our exhibiting policy for this show, and because the gallery lends itself to it, we're each painting a picture 100 x 80 cms, to be hung together at the entrance to the show. And it's this that has me foxed, because nothing leaps into my imagination to fit that shape. Or at least, nothing that immediately seems to go with the other pictures I'm likely to be showing.

In addition to Shelter (above), I intend to finish and show these:

Blawearie Steps (work in progress)

Pillbox (work in progress)

And I hope to move this along sufficiently to include it in the show:

Collingwood (work in progress)

You can probably see that the "theme" in this case is more one of composition than anything else, although there is a definite sense of loneliness and it may be that I need to concentrate on that aspect to pull out the threads I need to make the final selection and to produce the problematic painting.

Thinking on those lines, suggests the possibility of including another earlier painting, from the same period as Shelter:

A Yellow Raincoat (Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 ins)

However, there's another piece to this exhibition jigsaw. We may be given the use of a gallery van, which would also allow me to show a painting (yet another not quite finished) which dovetails with Blawearie Steps:

Blawearie (work in progress)

This is quite a big painting (5 feet tall, hence the need for a van) which I've always liked but I've never found an opportunity to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.

On a point of interest, the tall composition is an impossible view. Standing on top of the rocks at Blawearie, you can't actually see the derelict farmhouse. But then, that's one of the wonders of art - the bringing together of the impossible. I began this at a time when I was particularly fascinated by Northern Renaissance painters like Heironymous Bosch.

Looking again at this picture, I think perhaps a similar approach might produce a subject for the missing picture. What do you think? Have I got a cohesive theme already, or is there something missing?


Chris Bellinger said...

wgat comes to me is Painting on the Edge...You seem to like the ends of buildings or looking from a distance to the edge, also as you are at the entrance to the show then The edge would fit in nicely there also of course if you wanted to keep your loneliness theme then the edge would fit in, anyway that is my thinking!!

harrybell said...

Thanks, Chris. Some interesting ideas there - I'll give them some consideration.

Anna said...

The big Blawearie, although it expresses a lonely place, doesn't fit with the more modular shapes of the others; it has distant landscape where the others have a close, important central structure. So a theme, I think, should include form. The sky sets the mood in all of them, so how about something like 'shapes against a brooding sky'?

Foxing to think of a subject for the lead-in picture, maybe a three-layered affair, you in dark silhouette looking at a shape against a b.s. But what do I know? The artist has the inner eye.

The sky colours in Shelter are terrific.

harrybell said...

Thanks, Anna. You're quite right, of course, and probably the only reasons I wanted to include the tall Blawearie picture are a) because the offer of a van makes it possible, and b) it has a link with the Blawearie Steps picture. But it may well be that I should leave it out. The basic problem I have with the, as yet unpainted, picture is that it isn't square, so already is out of synch with those I've decided on. Suddenly, an idea will come, however. I'll sleep on it.

kathy hare said...

Hello Harry,
I think your paintings are beautiful..

harrybell said...

Hi Kathy - thanks very much. Having visited your site and seen your work, I wonder whether I might not have benefited from an illustration degree course, rather than the fine art degree course I actually opted for.