Artist's Blog

Home > Artist Blog > Robert D Davies > New Year update.

1st January 2015 – Ah, it’s just a number. I don’t hold a massive amount of importance on new years, except that the months and seasons definitely do seem to affect us. January – a time of purification, or replenishing(?), or something like that. Or, for me, a time when I get little cuts at the end of my thumbs, under the nail, making simple tasks a bit more difficult. One thing’s for sure and that is the light is amazing – especially walking through woods.

Well, I’ve been trying out a lot of things. A lot of details. I wish I could keep it simple. Observational paintings in woods – that would be straightforward, but I always seem to like to complicate things. Well, it is a time for experimentation, and there are a lot of things that make up this world.

I’ve had a book lying around the studio for 3 months – myths and stories of The Indians/Native Americans. It’s interesting to me how irreverent and bizarre they seem and yet, apparently, they were not things to be laughed at or talked about much, but rather secretly told to only a few (until books like these were published, I guess).

I think some indians referred to the whites (those settlers or missionaries occupying the lands between roughly 1700’s to 1900’s) as ‘cripples’ – most of them just not being fit enough or familiar with how to live in the outdoors. As I take another dollop of hoummous from a plastic tub (supermarket bought) I wonder how I would hunt hoummous in the ‘wilds’ (creep up on it very quietly). I always think about these things – perhaps to balance out a preoccupation with being beguilled by the light on trees in January and trying to reconcile my relationship to that when at the same time I am the creator of plastic rubbish, and still totally reliant on supermarkets. Probably should stop worrying about such things (?).

When I moved into the studio in September I found an old newspaper cutting about Alan Davie, amongst my old things, and stuck it on the wall. It was from about 1996, and I read it again and realised that some of the things he was saying resonated with me. I didn’t realise that he had died only 5 months prior to that, last April. Also, a quote by Black Elk that I’ve had for a while suddenly strikes me as important and ties in with phenomena I have experienced – shapes that appeared in my landscapes about 20 years ago reminscent of disks, albeit not necessarily ‘UFO’s’. Maybe ‘projections’ is a better way to refer to it, but ultimately, I don’t know. I guess it’s all down to perception and whatever you want to call reality.

I was part of a group exhibition in Manchester last month which was great to be involved in. The space was previously an open-plan office and to me seemed luxuriously spacious. Included in it were two of my very large watercolour paintings and one medium-large canvas. I can see both mediums developing alongside each other for now as they both, in their own way, lend themselves to slightly different aspects of the work/ideas. The scale of the watercolours on paper seems to be a fairly unique thing that I’ve stumbled upon (albeit partly via a friends’ suggestion some years ago) and is obviously interesting in the sense that watercolour on paper has quite a strong sense of the traditional, usually being no bigger than about A2 and also associated with quaint touristic galleries (which is ok).

One of the things I’ve started recently has been the most obvious thing I could do – paint what I see from the window. Ahaa! Fooled you – it is so obvious that it is unique! Hmm, well maybe. Not that uniqueness matters too much. I think that the wastelands of the railway tracks, seemingly random objects – pipes, concrete blocks etc – tufts of grass, areas of rock etc, have a desolate feel to them (rather like images of contemporary indian reservations I’ve been looking at recently!) and will be interesting painted in watercolour on a large scale. I observe the indian res. as being a hostile place though I can walk away/turn away from that. Similarly, I look out the window at the rail workers in freezing cold wind while I paint in warm studio.

Other aspects to the work include the on-going experimentation with unexpected film clips painted sequence-like on canvas, and the inclusion of incongruous mixing of paint/medium (as well as incongruous mixtures of imagery). The image shown is of a detail from my most recent large watercolour – with gloss paint appearing – hovering artificially/ mystically (??) – within the watercolour. It’s painted fairly loosely, though ironically I spent a long time over it in the end – conscious of the balances between forms and the overlaps etc. Simplicity seems difficult for me, though in a strange way I aspire to it.

Here’s a detail section from one of my recent paintings.


New Year update.