Sunday, 31 May 2015

'City of Glass 31- (A Study in Violet)'....interesting developments....

Monday 1 June

I have no doubts now- it is one piece, there is a massive design and subversions of reality, space and scale, rhythms of verticals and angles controlled by the horizontals. This morning, I made a few subtle changes to the figure, strengthening the drawing of the figure making a sharper angle of the flare of the coat on the left-side. Then I started to enjoy the painting. I had a great chat with Janie M McDonald  about the painting and it's connections to New York and the novel* The left side is elegant, sophisticated, the language of painting and abstraction, as Janie commented, 'a reflection of New York's glossy capitalist veneer' The right side is gritty, dark, menacing- the street. Just like the New York, the raw and the refined side by side.

This is going to be my entry for the John Moores Painting Prize.

Cleave: to separate, to join together..

A recurring theme throughout the series, the possibilities (and complications) of working with 2 canvases..

I need to redraw the head, arm and especially the hand tomorrow, but some exciting things happening's full of movement. The anti-clockwise movement of centre yellow stripe, flicking upwards though the coat is counteracted by the clockwise movement of the black lines of the figure, linking to the violet-black curves in the top left corner via the black triangle on the bottom edge. Stillman returns - with the figure, the relationship with the title and Sherlock Holmes is more explicit...location and narrative fused together...the angled line along the East River becomes the angle of shadow on Stillman's coat....scale subverted....menacing...'Noir', an almost title..

A difficult choice- both paintings work alone but are they stronger together, a fusion of the figurative and the abstract?

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

Friday, 29 May 2015

'City of Glass 31- (A Study in Violet)'

'City of Glass 31 - (A Study in Violet)'    180x100cms

A reference/homage to 'A Study in Scarlet', the first Sherlock Holmes story - after all,  'City of Glass'* is a detective novel. The painting was originally worked as two canvases side by side, and planned as a much larger version of 'Celestial' with a less sweet blue/black sky. I had great problems dealing with the scale, lots of bitty areas, confusion.  After separation,  the colour-scheme was pared down,  the composition strengthened with the introduction of the violet/black stripe, an extended Central Park.  There are obvious connections with 'City of Glass 29- (The Space Between' and intriguing ambiguities. Is the violet stripe a sinister tower? A violet void - the entrance to the alley where 'detective' Quinn obsessively watches the entrance to the Stillman apartment? Love the play with the violet-black curves of Riverside Drive and the horizontal of 42nd St - in my eyes, the painting is exquisitely balanced. Perhaps because of the scale, the paint is less all-over heavy, with staining and transparent layerings bringing  areas of light to the piece.  

The main idea for my (unsuccessful) applications to the Pollack Krasner Foundation, Triangle Arts Association & the Tate St.Ives Residency, was to make a suite of paintings, each containing one of the letters that spell T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L. Maybe this is the first painting in that series within a series....(L).  Might need some funding though - these are substantial canvases! The concept still excites me, it is a piece I have to make, somehow, sometime. Because the 15 paintings will be arranged/hung with the greatest visual coherence, the letters will inevitably be all jumbled up, forcing the viewer, like Quinn, to discover the letters that spell T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L.
I am working in The Shire Hall Gallery at the Bodmin Visitors Centre for Open Studios, once again sharing a fantastic space with Janie M McDonald.  We are also both exhibiting a large selection of our work. Come see - we are there until 12 June.

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

Thursday, 21 May 2015

May 2015 Painting Holiday in Cornwall - Photos & Update

Rock and the Camel Estuary
We were very much looking forward to meeting our May painting holiday group as we had a number of artists returning from previous years (Sigi from Canada and Elizabeth and Antonia from last year's holiday) along with welcoming our new artists who had  all signed up to the  'Freedom in Painting' experience.

A fantastic week followed that inspired the group to produce some amazing results by the end of the holiday. Here is an insight into what we got up to...

Elizabeth sketching at Rock

Day 1 - The North Coast. Rock and the Camel Estuary looked breath taking. The sun shone on us all day and the changing colours of the sea and altering shapes of the sandbanks were quite magical. Ashley brought the group together to begin the day sketching before everyone was encouraged to find their own special place to draw or paint from.  He then chatted and discussed the sketches and studies individually with everyone throughout the morning. Our artists were just warming up!

Rocky beach at Porth Quinn

Hazel sketching at Port Quinn
After breaking for a delicious lunch at the Longcross Hotel, we headed five minutes up the road to Port Quinn our  location for the afternoon. This place is a wonderful contrast to the calm sea of the Camel Estuary and the group enjoyed the diversity of the landscape. Once again Ashley began the afternoon with a drawing challenge on the small rocky beach before taking the group up onto the cliff tops, for some spectacular views to work from.

Polperro Harbour

Antonia painting at Polperro
Day 2 - The South Coast. Polperro our morning location was just waking up when we arrived, so an ideal time to visit this traditional Cornish fishing village and harbour. Ashley began the morning with  a series of sketching exercises from different viewpoints and he then encouraged the group to start looking/thinking about ideas 
for paintings, whilst making their studies. A hearty lunch followed at the Blue Peter Inn and we were then refreshed and ready to move on.

Kate painting at Polruan
Polruan was our final south coast destination and it didn't disappoint. The 360 degree panoramic  views were stunning as always and here Ashley introduced some linear exercises before our artists were encouraged to draw or paint from their own personal viewpoint. For those who wanted, there was more amazing landscape to see and paint/sketch from along the way down to the ancient ruins of the Blockhouse and harbour. The difficult task of processing and editing all the work from the past two days would begin in earnest tomorrow!

Carol's studies in the studio

Day 3- 4  The Village Hall at St Breward , high on Bodmin Moor was our studio for the next two days. The first morning was devoted to group exercises exploring colour and composition with the artists editing and abstracting from their own drawings. After a break for lunch at The Old Inn pub (conveniently located next door) the artists began working on their paintings. Everyone was asked to work on two pieces simultaneously developing their studies and ideas further.

Ashley 'in action' demonstrating techniques 
Over the two days Ashley discussed the work of some of his favourite artists and demonstrated many of his painting tips and techniques, including numerous ways of mark- making and applying paint  . Under his guidance everyone was encouraged and inspired to move out of their comfort zone and   take their painting somewhere new. The finale as always was an indepth group critique which the artists found both enjoyable and invaluable, a wonderful shared experience.

Ashley working with Hazel

In the studio

After the intensity of working over the past few days our artists certainly earned their celebratory dinner on Friday evening and enjoyed a quick pint at The Globe Inn before settling down to a superb three course meal at Asquiths Restaurant in Lostwithiel.

Thanks once again Sally and Graham for looking after us so well.

Antonia Glynne Jones painting
Diane Bedser's painting

Philippa Hutton's painting

Elizabeth Aspinall's painting
Kate Watkins painting

We had a terrific week with you all and the dedication you gave to your paintings really shone through. Thanks for joining us and we really hope you felt the benefit of Ashley's guidance and tuition . We would also like to thank all of our contributors that help to make our painting holidays a success.

We do hope to see you again soon!

Philippa Langton's painting

If you would like to join us on our 21st - 26th September painting holiday in Cornwall 2015, there are still places available. For lots more information see the website here. If you would like to make an enquiry or booking contact Denise or call 01208 77656.

Hazel Crawford's painting
Carol Hayslip's painting

Sigi Johnson's painting

Photos and write up by Denise Hanson

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Artists Statement Ashley Hanson

In all my work, I am intrigued by the impact of image on the flat, map-like, painter’s space, and the dialogue and tension between the different realities of information and imagination - between what inspires and drives the paintings and the uncertainties and excitement of the painting process.  As an artist I crave/need surprise, not sameness: it is what you ‘do’ with the source material that matters, a piece must be its own thing, have its’ own life.  Journeys, places, books, music, all generate ideas, providing catalyst and context, and colour always excites, but until it is resolved, a painting is a live thing, full of possibilities.

In his forward to ‘Il Mistero de Cattedrell’, Anselm Keifer wrote: ‘If there is too much order, it is dead; if there is too much chaos, it doesn’t cohere. I’m continually negotiating between these two extremes.’ Freedom and control is the contradiction of painting: finding the balance is the essence of my work.  

For nearly four years I have been working on the ‘City of Glass series, inspired by ‘The New York Trilogy’, a novel by Paul Auster. It is thrilling to be working from another artform, combining images sourced from narrative and text with memories of my own experience of New York. As a painter I can relate to Auster’s striking imagery and complex layerings of identity and truth and his acknowledgement and explorations of chance.  

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

'Porthleven 20'

'Porthleven 20'    80x80cms

One of the great benefits of teaching is that it presents the opportunity to restate principles and beliefs about painting. Without a doubt, this helped with this painting, which I worked on during the recent workshop at the Lifeboat Art Studio in Porthleven.  

As in all my paintings, there were many wrong turnings during the process.  There is usually a point where a painting looks like something you have made before: this piece was exposed when hung alongside 'Porthleven 19' and I was also forced to look again by the clarity and quality of the work of the other artists in the group. 

In comparison, this painting was bitty/fragmented, inconclusive & static. The colour was not working, the deep pink was too sweet and distracting, cancelling out the blue, the painting tediously divided into three equal sections, with the group of four piers almost dead centre. Day 3- Day 4 was definitely backwards. It was a mistake to square off the bottom right corner of the harbour, losing the beautiful 's'-shape though we did see the introduction of the dynamic parallel lines of the slipway on the bottom edge.  Above all I had failed to come to terms with the square, whose perfection has to be broken.

'Simplify-  always look for a bigger shape within the canvas, a stronger composition.....'


Now all the elements within are larger. The new thing is the procession of lines and the curves creating movement towards the top right corner/the open sea. Drawing holds this piece together. I have been drawing more, especially now I'm drawing not teaching in the Thursday life class.

The painting has been on the wall for a week- no changes are needed. It looks different which is how it should be. It could not have been made without being in this place (Porthleven) with these artists at this particular point in time. The drawing and exercises we did together,  the discussions we had both in the studio and the Ship Inn, the group dynamic and the intensity of working, all contributed. See here for blog post on the April  'Freedom in Painting' Porthleven course and exhibition.

day 4

day 3


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

'2 Figures' - Canterbury Workshop, 25 - 26 June 2015

Our next 'Freedom in Painting ' workshop will be held once again at the Augustine Art Centre at Canterbury Christchurch University. On this workshop, using the life-model, the challenge for all participants is to explore the idea of '2 Figures' in a painting, with it's possibilities of narrative.....

We will spend the first morning drawing extensively from our first model building on our observational skills before starting on our painting and as usual Ashley will have a few surprises for you! On Day Two, we will introduce our second model  into the composition.

To book and guarantee your place: email or call 01208 77656

Comments from our last workshop

As always, stimulating, challenging, exhausting! I look forward to more.
Teddy Kempster

Ashley's very approachable, gentle and sensitive while being a clear and dynamic tutor and workshop leader. Thoroughly enjoyed my journey! Big Thank-you and to Denise for exceptional admin skills.
Selina Firth

Very supportive approach and good teaching style. I feel more confident.
Katrina Jean Dallamore