Friday, 14 October 2016

New painting 'Porthleven 28'

'Porthleven 28'  50x70cms


A new photo with the Nikon - close to the truth.

This painting works both ways-perhaps as a portrait-landscape it defines Porthleven more with the harbour curving to the right, the distinctive flick outwards of the front pier...the rose fork, now more prominent, defining the gap between the pairs of a landscape, its more of a cubist space, with viewpoints intermingled, less defined...


A feeling the painting was slipping to the bottom-right corner- a few extra lines of movement lift the eye ...always looking for a stronger piece, tried something towards the end of the day- I might be will have to wait


I've described the end of a painting as a sequence of green lights, where each painting decision/action seems to be the right one and I think we are there or nearly there with this piece. 

A late night session after a couple of pints in the Ship turned this painting around.

I think the large angled yellow shape in the 'foreground'- a hint of image-  is a thing of beauty, its crisp edge and purity setting off the complexities of the paint and drawing behind.

The shape came from an earlier pink diamond, (below), which in itself came from a diamond-shaped patch of light on the studio floor.  It's sunny again- unreal. 

It's fantastic to able to look at the painting from 20ft away, with the soundtrack of the sea.

It's an art trying to get a good photo of a painting with an iphone!

Monday, 26 September 2016

'City of Glass 41 - (T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L.)'


Babel rises….built brick by brick.  A new Babel in New York. In the spirit of the novel, each brick/canvas contains one of the letters that spell THETOWEROFBABEL, hidden in the real or imagined grid of New York, ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ once again intermingled.  As I have mentioned before, what is exciting about this piece is the flexibility offered by the rearrangement of the bricks. Perhaps the new Babel will look more like the arrangement below, from this years Open Studios....

This painted tower was always intended as the centerpiece of the series, the finale, the idea was always lurking in the background. However, after a break of a few months there are new ideas and memories of half-explored ideas, unresolved. The ‘City of Glass’ series goes on….


For greater clarity, I have given this piece different number 41, with each individual brick/canvas/letter numbered in sequence 42-56


A very short session in the studio- one thought, one tool, one colour, one action, one line....the Tower is complete.  Looking forward to a day off with the family.

The extension of the line works for me, fading out towards the edge....I have really enjoyed making this piece- not least because it has forced me to work in the landscape format and on smaller canvases (25x30cms), where changes can be made very rapidly. While enjoying looking at the Tower, the downside is that each individual brick/letter/canvas is undervalued and hard to see. I think some of the paintings are as good as anything I have done, especially the later canvases so I am going to give each a City of Glass number to recognize their quality. It might take away a bit of the fun of working out the letters but perhaps they are obvious anyway....

City of Glass 56 - (T)


Reflection: I'm seeing the painting in a different light- it's the New York canyon thing,...fiery sun... it's aerial view and image and a letter and the final brick..Now for the final arrangement...  

A long session in the studio, the Tower is one mark away from completion. The horizontal needs to extend further across the painting, almost to the right edge. It was there but the falling paint took it away.  A necessary subtle, subtle line to counteract all those verticals, a cut or the edge of a blade...

Small painting, big mess...

MARCH 31 p.m.

A looser, more flamboyant painting, I usually have Manhattan on the vertical, but this time I've using the natural 60 degree angle. It's undeniable - I must have been thinking about the terrific Mali Morris painting on Paul Behnke's recent post in Structure and Imagery. Thanks to you both!

Having a look again: leaving the gap between the 2 angled lines of the grid is critical, keeping it open, an entrance to the painting. It's done. 

City of Glass 55 - (A)


When you look into the nothing what do you see?

I am just enjoying this painting as sensation, colour, peace, that beautiful central divide when i went back in with the colour. In terms of context, the painting is based on a 'real' district of New York, but there is the ambiguity to enjoy of what is water, what is land....

City of Glass 54 - (E)


I was seeing these colours in my sleep - in the studio at 5 this morning. Magenta+ Emerald Green + a bit of Hookers Green + White has made 'Lush Lilac' and an orangey Indian Yellow/Cadmium yellow mix. The single line de-flattens the space and offers an escape... two bricks/letters to go...

Went to Charlestown today, to escape from my cave. The Tower was still in my thoughts-  I was looking at mortar between the bricks of the harbour walls!. Love the reduction and the colour and the purity and the emptiness in this latest painting.


City of Glass 53 - (O)

Q: When is a square not a square?   A: When it is a double-square

The excitement builds getting towards the completion of the Tower, hopefully by the end of the week.

'The building of the Tower became the obsessive , overriding passion of mankind, more important finally than life itself. Bricks became more precious than people. Women labourers did not even stop to give birth to their children; they secured the newborn in their aprons and went right on working' (P: 44, 'The New York Trilogy)     Quite!


City of Glass 52 - (O)

Denise suggested the colour- scheme for the new 'brick' - pink and pale grey. Might tidy up the bottom and have the circle truly balanced on the line. The circle feels as if it might roll off to the right but maybe that brings a tension to the piece. Imperfect circles are best - Trevor Bell is the master. 


City of Glass 51 - (W)

'Brick 10' has been a battle - I've just spent five hours in the studio trying stuff out, looking for a stronger, purer painting. I was bugged by being able to see the stretcher behind the paint on the left in (2) and needed to know whether the point of the triangle should touch the bottom of the canvas. I think (2) and the final painting work in different ways but I believe I've made a better painting. (2) is more decorative, busier, but the painting above has a strength in the drawing and the more intriguing space. I particularly like how the purple triangle sits on the line and its relationship with the pale-yellow corner.  The softer edges too against the severity of the scored lines. It's an uncompromising piece. 

The scored line was technically difficult- drawn by hand in one go with no room for error and because of the thickness of the paint, there is was a build up of excess paint around the sides which had to removed afterwards with a knife.  A pure freeing mark- if it went wrong I would have to remake a flat surface again, losing the unique combination of colours and marks underneath. 

Underneath? Where exactly is the line? The not knowing makes the painting interesting. 

The composition and the key elements have remained from the first session (1) The angled paint is critical as it mirrors the angled streets of the district. The purple triangle is a specific detail that cuts the horizontal of the street and of course the 'W' is one of the letters in THETOWEROFBABEL. Within these parameters I've made a painting.

I hope my daughter Faye likes it- she was upset when I started to make changes.  I like how the painting is, I think I can leave it. Like the building of the original Tower of Babel, this piece has become all obsessive - five 'bricks' to go. I have the locations for the remaining letters- lets see what happens. 



Possibly a new 'brick', maybe make the scratched angled line more precise. Found a new colour, Faye said it was one of those colours you can't name but she has come up with Kinda Cornish as it is a real sea-colour. Triangles (and letters) everywhere in this part of New York. 



 I couldn't wait- I took off the blue paint with a knife allowing the underneath greens to come through. A vertical mark instead of a block of colour. I still need to straighten the edge. I've also taken out the scratched triangle at the bottom to allow the deep,deep violet to flood through the right side. A little bit of crisp drawing at the top of the column brings clarity and a suggestion of architecture....

City of Glass 50 - (T)

A good session- I've been  looking forward to introducing a dark 'brick' into the tower to shake things up. Might put a dark blue glaze over the column on the right to push it back into the painting at the same time simplifying the composition. Got to wait a few days 'til it's dry. I also want to straighten the edge- it was straight but the paint slid off!

MARCH 21-22

I like all three versions but particularly the whimsical feel of the final painting - the spinning wheel of the strange contraption held by the dark line. Just. Denise and Peggy (from Modern Artists Gallery) see a face...Although upright, it is also a 'real' location in New York...

Version 1 is very graphic but I felt the letter was too centered and too obvious. I do like the mysterious dark space though. Version 2 was nearly a contender- very sculptural, very still, pure and austere, but with too much downward movement.

City of Glass 49 - (R)

Version 2

Version 1


City of Glass 48 - (E)

The version below was too static, the letter too blatant. The purple line, above, weighted at the bottom, the tiny-angled purple line, and some vertical brushstrokes have transformed this painting - it's much more complex and intriguing. 


'Another brick (letter) in the wall....'

City of Glass 47 - (E)

'Another brick (letter) in the wall....'

City of Glass 46 - (L)

In the recent City of Glass paintings, the Tower of Babel, the central image from the novel*, has been neglected....In this piece, each small painting, 25x35cms,  becomes a brick in the Tower. In the spirit of the novel, each 'brick' will contain one of the fifteen letters that spell THETOWEROFBABEL, some obvious, some more obscure. 

Further exploring the blurrings of 'fact' and 'fiction' in the novel and in the series, some of the 'bricks' are based on the street-grid of Manhattan, others are pure invention - they could be part of the grid. It is for the viewer to become detective to make these discoveries....

Manhattan is dismantled, fragmented, rearranged. There is a discipline: if one of the paintings/bricks happens to sell, I am obliged to replace it, find another way to paint the missing letter. 

In this way the piece is renewed, kept fresh. I am looking forward to arranging the finished 'bricks'. Because of the infinite number of combinations, the piece need never appear the same twice. The 'new' Babel in New York may not be necessarily ziggurat-shaped....

This piece is for Geoff Rigden, who sadly passed away recently. Geoff taught me at Canterbury and set me on the road to becoming a painter, He often came to my Open Studios in London, and was very generous and perceptive in his comments about my work, opening my eyes to the possibilities in painting. Although, you don't normally associate 'image' with Geoff's painting, I hope that each individual panel contains something of the serious playfulness of his work. 

The 'bricks' below may change, though I hope by not too much. 

City of Glass 45 - (H)

City of Glass 44 - (F)

City of Glass 43 - (B)

City of Glass 42 - (B)

*'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster

Monday, 19 September 2016

Upcoming Workshop in Kent: 'Still - Life' 21-22 October

This 2-day workshop at Creek Creative will tackle the enduring subject of the Still-Life but as always there will be twists and challenges along the way. 

I have found in my still-life work that I seem to be able to tell what objects are important to me by what tends to stay in the painting as it develops'  Richard Diebenkorn

In my own practice, 'Still-Life' is rare -  I was probably traumatised by having to paint my first ever still-life on my art college interview!  In the early nineties though I painted collections/arrangements of pebbles,stones and shells, fused with landscape. Appropriately, with the workshop in Faversham, these paintings from the early nineties, are about nearby Whitstable, a favourite place where I lived during my time at Canterbury College of Art. 

'Tankerton'  40x50cms

'Tankerton' depicts standing on 'The Street', the strange shingle strip that is revealed at low-tide, looking back towards a pink-beach and green slopes of Tankerton.  

'Whitstable'    120x60cms    oil on wood

Looking towards the Isle of Sheppey, carved out of the paint, my favourite objects grouped in the foreground. 

detail - 'Whitstable'

'Black-Beach'   80x80cms   oil on wood

I feel 'Black-Beach' is the most successful of the series, taking the ideas further and more spatially interesting, escaping the 'tabletop'. This painting won second prize in the Observer Hunting Art Prizes in 1993. I think there is a compliment about the painting here:

Brian Sewell writes in the Observer Magazine 10 Feb 1991:

Of Ashley Hanson’s ‘Black Beach’, winner of the second prize, one of the grander judges complained that the idiom eluded him and that in it he could see nothing better than the tarred surface of a London street – to which the response of the real grandee of the occasion, ‘It is a compliment to the painting that it leaves you critically disarmed’

'Pebble/Shell/Stone'  20x60cms  oil on wood

I remember sculptor John Gibbons liking these....

'Beach'  180x60cms  oil on paper

The 1st year painting that kept me in art-college, when i finally let go of photographic imagery. I think I have this rolled up somewhere- maybe... it's oil on paper!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

New painting - 'Crane'

'Crane'  40x30cms  oil on canvas
My 'demonstration' painting from the Polruan course. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they are a beginning....I had to wait a few days for the paint to settle down - to avoid it sliding off- before I could have a proper look on the wall..

It's done: love the paint, colour and the space. There is both a flat-space and a hierarchy of receding space. The pink shape establishes 'foreground'. The small purple marks at the top of the canvas, and the layers of paint tucked behind each other, together (accidentally) establish 'distance'. It says Polruan to me.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Freedom in Painting in Polruan, Sept 16 Course - Report

Gill Corden

We have just held our second Freedom in Painting course in Polruan, Cornwall - congratulations to the artists for responding to the challenges that were set and producing such a striking collection of paintings.


Polruan - Drawing the Chapel on St.Saviours Hill

The course started with drawing- in Polruan from multi viewpoints, moving through the landscape, and in Fowey, a short ferry-ride across the river. 

The artists were asked to follow a discipline in their drawings to provoke ideas about composition and design and of course possibilities for their painting. 


In the studio the artists explored colour-mixing, colour-theory and the process of abstraction, with reference to many of the painters of the St.Ives School, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Alfred Wallis etc. Over the next few days,the paintings emerged, the artists sourcing ideas from the analytical and the emotional response to the landscape, the drawings, the studies and the exercises transformed with imagination and invention. 

The painting-course was a great success - the landscape was inspirational, the artists worked extremely hard and bonded well, often continuing in the evening with a pint and a meal after work.  Now we have some new members in the Freedom in Painting Group


Gill Corden

Kathleen Alberter

Kathleen Alberter

John Robson

Cathy Hilser

Cathy Hilser

Christina Scawin

Christina Scawin

Georgie Hadley

Georgie Hadley

Julie Morrish 

Ashley Hanson


'Horizons in painting are getting broader'   John Robson

'Ashley gave us so much - energy, knowledge and passion for art'    Christina Scawin

'Enjoyed all - good demos - good everything!'   Julie Morrish