Reaching a conclusion, and reading a poem in public

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I’ve posted before about the commission that I’ve been working on this year. A piece involving three canvases that together are close to four metres wide. This week finally saw the installation of the work in their new home, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholingistics in Nijmegen.

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You never quite know how artworks are going to look in a new location so it is always just a bit of an edgy moment when you pull them out of the packaging and lean them up against the wall and step back to look. On this occasion the result has proved to be undoubtedly a move in the positive direction. The work itself of course hasn’t changed, but the location it has received is on a beautifully spacious white wall that is positively flooded with light. I could have asked for little more, the three panels do look, even if I say so myself, beautiful.

The paintings were given an official  presentation moment on Wednesday afternoon, along with the also recently purchased work by Alex Dima. It was a chance to thank those involved, but also a moment to say something about the ideas and intentions behind the paintings. I am always a bit wary to say too much in such circumstances, I don’t want to give the idea that there is just one route to go. However I am also keen, if I can, to offer the viewer a way into interpreting the work. On this occasion I chose for a short poem, it touches on a number of ideas and reference points that have been important whilst creating the work, but does so in a way that hopefully opens doors to interpretation rather than closing them.

I do not pretend to be a writer or a poet, but I have to admit to being quite satisfied with the resulting three verses, it was certainly well received at the opening!

 

Flight and escape, contemporary themes

Uncertain destinations, safety behind barriers

I look to the landscape

The backdrop of our lives

A rush of wings

Movement passing

 

A narrow aperture opening

Reduced geometric architecture

Refined beauty in our man made line

Engaging the serene beauty beyond

Crisp, hard edges marking space

Illusions in the décor

 

Nature meets the line

Clear blue sky and searing heat

A solitary cloud drifts

A rush of wings move the air

Lost in the colour

Swift movement passing by

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3 panels commission completed….

Since early May this year I have been working on a large scale artwork for a research institute in the Dutch town of Nijmegen.  I have never had the chance to work on such a large scale piece of work knowing that the location for it has already been decided. The finished work is close to four metres in width (over twelve feet if you prefer!).

The three panels are based directly on earlier completed paintings although the new versions gave the opportunity to refinement and further development in some areas.

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Most of my paintings are essentially quite small. So the chance to work on such an expansive scale has been technically interesting although more so in the area of actually seeing how ideas that worked well on a more intimate scale would scale up.  The the paintings show a stretch of bleak landscape that reaches across the panels in combination with bending geometry of the coloured walls. The graphic sharpness of the geometry has been increased from the smaller versions, heightening the tension of the edges of the walls where they meet the sky and where the birds appear to disappear ‘behind the sky.

The ‘ordering’ in the landscape isn’t quite what it would’at first seem. Is it actually a landscape that we are looking at? Or is it a sort of ‘décor’, scenery or film set?  Is this the tranquil scene that it at first might appear to be? Where are the birds flying too?

I’ve been documenting the process of development over the last months in a series of photographs.  I’ve been doing this mostly for myself, but the short film does give an interesting insight into how these paintings come together in a series of steps.

So what was it a again that cultural life gives us?

On my way backwards and forwards to my work I pass through the Dutch town of Nijmegen. On this journey I don’t normally see much of the town, it is simply the place where I normally change trains, each time having just five to ten minutes to make my way from one platform to the other.

A couple of weeks ago a piano was positioned in an open space on one of the platforms where there is a high roof above. An invitation was placed next to the piano inviting anyone who wants to, to take a seat and play for the passers-by. It is an approach to public performance that I have seen elsewhere, but here in Nijmegen it has certainly been an instant hit. Even when I pass through the station at 6.50am there is almost always someone playing, and in the afternoon it is often a lot more than just the piano, just now it was piano, double bass, guitar and accordion all playing together.  And it was also plenty more just passer-by that they were entertaining, they had a whole audience.

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What is it that culture gives us is a question I often enough have to field from pupils at school. A quick look across the platform in Nijmegen certainly gives one answer, joy, pleasure and a tangible lift in emotion, that is certainly what I experience as I move by. There’s not even an open guitar case on the floor for loose change to be thrown into, this is about sharing and coming together, be that the players themselves or the ever changing audience.

Others have certainly also been noticing the performances in Nijmegen as this film shows: