23 July 2015

The Hackney Monoprints 1985

Some artists veer towards the joyful for the source of their expression, some find that their art is an instrument to express some of the darker moments of their lives. I think I’m one of the latter - except not always.

I relocated to Hackney because my little terraced house in Turnpike Lane had become too small to house the amount of art I was producing, and this was becoming limiting, so I moved to Navarino Road, near Hackney Downs, a larger house which had a self contained flat in the semi basement which would be my studio and I bought an etching press. Apart from the fact it was next door to the railway line which carried nuclear waste through London and made the house shake at night (didn’t know this when I bought the place) it was the perfect live work set up. 

Then, very soon after I moved in the burglaries started, and my pleasure with the place was short lived. There were six altogether in just under ten months. The basement obviously was a prime target, but also the main house, and it wasn’t even attacked with any sense of sophistication, they just kicked the door in. So door bolts were fitted, and window locks, and bars to the basement and finally my insurance company insisted I had an alarm system which meant I had to shut all windows, bolt all doors and set up the alarms just to go out to buy a bottle of milk. The final straw was on a sunday morning. I was having a lay in when I heard a noise, and looking out of the window saw two fellows, who, having taped up the kitchen window were trying to smash it. An icy band encircled my skull and with great calmness I got my camera, leant out of the upstairs window and took photos of them. They were so busy with the window they didn’t notice. I finished the film, put the camera down and screamed ‘Piss off you f***ing bastards!’ They ran. I dressed, took the reel of film to the police station and reported the incident. They never caught the villains. I don't think they ever looked at the film.

The Hackney Monoprints  was a body of work done whilst waiting for my house to be sold, and I think they are self explanatory really, don’t need to cover them in words, they speak for themselves.

     Paperworks relating to this period of time

After these incidents my choice was to move back to a safer area of London, to a smaller house with no studio, or to leave London altogether, and with the sale of a London property have enough money to buy somewhere with good studio space. I chose the latter and moved to a small village at the base of the Cotswolds called Old Sodbury where I bought a cottage with a Baptist chapel in the garden. A big room with big windows, a big 5 foot sink was put  in the vestry, there was room to do big work.

14 July 2015

Paperworks, Graffiti Gallery, 1982 - 84

When a second solo exhibition was scheduled at Graffiti Gallery (which by this time had relocated to James St W1) it was assumed that it would once again be a silkscreen print focussed show of colourful edition based works.

I think it may have been a reaction to the intense period of work connected with the Israel Observed show that made me want to explore other media, just for a while, and my interest turned to hand made paper and the printmaking technique which sat most comfortably with it which was etching.

During this period of time I was living in a very small terraced house in Turnpike lane in north London, with a kitchen which was minute, but somehow I managed to pulp the paper in my soup blender, have the kitchen sink as a vat, ‘lay’ the paper on boards on the draining board and take them into the garden to stand on using my weight as the paper press. It was an experimental period and I knew there was plenty of time to concentrate on the Graffiti show, so spent my time learning etching and developing the paperworks.

It was during that time a vague childhood memory started following me around, gradually becoming more substantial. I was 4 or 5 years old living with my parents in a post war prefab in Enfield. The prefabs were white boxes, and each one had an open covered porch which was supported by a timber frame. They were lovely warm places to live in, beautifully designed. I had been put to bed in my safe snug world and had fallen asleep, but was woken by shouts in the street and a glow penetrating the cotton curtains. I got out of bed, pulled the curtains and watched the prefab opposite burning down. It was my first view of violence, the ferocity of the flames, the sounds of the destruction. I wasn’t frightened. I was fascinated. Eventually I went back to sleep. Morning came, my mother  woke me up and the curtains were already open. When I looked out there was a blackened heap of debris where the prefab should have been, the only thing standing was the charred timber frame of the porch which for some reason hadn’t fallen down. It was not a dream. The world had changed and I didn’t feel safe anymore.

I ran out of time. Having become so involved with the paperworks, there was no way that I could get together a silkscreen based exhibition ready to open on January 8th 1984, however I had a substantial paperworks exhibition which didn’t include any editioned work and not only was not colourful, it was primarily black. Nancy Patterson who was presenting the exhibition at her gallery, as well as being concerned about the turn of events was brave, and the exhibition went ahead regardless. And did very well. Thank goodness.

13 July 2015

Israel Observed 1981

In 1979 I was invited to participate in a project whereby 10 British artists would spend time in Israel, first in Jerusalem, then touring the country and thereafter spread individually around the land, mostly in kibbutzim. The instigator and organizer of the project was Henene Marks who called the enterprise ‘Israel Observed’. The participating artists were myself, Derrick Greaves,Phillip Hicks, Donald Hamilton Fraser, Philip Sutton, Anthony Eyton, Adrian Berg, David Smith, Lawrence Preece and Brian Yale. The only female artist among the hard core of British painting at that time, I quite wondered what I was doing there.

The experience was privileged in that Helene had created the opportunities for us to access places and situations which would otherwise have been denied us, she opened doors. The kibbutz specified for my stay was Kibbutz Hasolelim, which was not a desert location which was my preference, but a rather lush part of the country not far from Nazareth, so at my request, after a few days I was offered a place in Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev desert, a gritty outpost just south of Be’er Sheva which suited me well after the star treatment we had been receiving. They hadn’t been primed to receive a special guest and I was happily left to my own devices to do things like visiting the market in Be’er Sheva , draw in the desert and get arrested for pointing my camera in the wrong place in Eilat. Fortunately my 'visiting artist' status sorted that one out.

It was on the journey south to Eilat that I saw the monuments in the desert. They were made of old tanks and artillery which at some point had come to grief in one of the wars. They weren’t in a Negev sculpture park (there is one now and from photos I think it may contain appropriate work). These works had a strong 70’s art feel to them and had very little to do with the desert or the tanks or the poor people who were in the tanks. They were just wrongly conceived, abstract art in the desert, and I kept coming across them. Maybe it was an individual with a hobby. There was no inscription on the one I inspected. Are they still there? I don’t know.

The exhibition ‘Israel Observed’ opened first in Jerusalem at The Israel Museum December 1980, followed by The Mall Galleries in London and finally the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in1981.

8 July 2015

Patrick Moore or Less 1978

 In 1978 I had my first solo exhibition at Graffiti Gallery which at that time was located in Gt Marlborough St London W1. It was my first substantial exhibition which took a year to complete. By this time I had had one woman shows at Heals (there was a time when they had an art gallery), and at galleries in Southampton and Brighton, but these exhibitions showed work which already existed.

The mid 70s was the time of the NASA Viking Landings 1 and 2 (they actually landed in 1976) and they were sending back photos of the red planet, a rocky barren landscape holding a myriad of mysteries. As a child I loved science fiction, and this was science fiction becoming science fact before my eyes. It was a case of discoveries pointing out just how much we didn’t know. It was the enigma, the hidden history, the puzzle which expands as more is revealed, in a world we could barely touch that held me. I was fascinated by all that was being revealed and our efforts to discover more.

My exhibition ‘Patrick Moore or Less’ (couldn’t resist the title) was a show of paintings and prints. I have no record of the paintings and these few images of some of the prints are poor quality due to the condition of the aged slides. 

The preview was memorable since all the food was blue likewise the wine. Quiche looks very odd when its ultramarine as does bread, but    blue cheese straws still taste of cheese if you close your eyes.There is no food that is naturally blue, even blueberries are actually purple. People played the game at the preview and tried the scary food, it was a success. I subsequently heard however, that one fellow who drank too much wine was sick on the tube…..and it was blue.

7 July 2015

Early Work 1975 - 78

The term finished at Camden Institute and I had to make choices. It seemed to me that I would fare better living off my work in Italy than in London, but at the same time was reluctant to burn my boats by giving up my bedsit in Kentish Town which cost me all of £5 a week. I paid a years rent on the bedsit and set off to Italy finally settling in Verona. 
It was a checkered time, both frighteningly hard (setting of to Milan with a portfolio of prints to try and make some money having only enough lira for a single fare, and no idea how I would get back should I fail) and exhilarating (returning from that same trip with my pockets stuffed full of money and subsequently being invited to show in two exhibitions). I ended up living a stroboscopic life between the London bedsit and the flat in Verona, a lifestyle halted when offered a teaching post in screenprinting at the Camden Institute which I took and so settled in London.

Though screenprinting had become my obsession, I didn’t abandon painting which referenced the the ideas which were developed into prints. During this time a more obvious allusion to landscape developed (it was there all the time really in an abstruse fashion) which combined with the cryptic geometry of previous work.