Friday, July 18, 2008

My painting XXXI

18th July 2008

I begin to sense that my picture as it now creeps towards its eastward edge will, like a protracted game of patience, finally 'come out'. It seems to be heading for an equilibrium, a state not unlike a perpetuum mobile in music, where hidden symmetries might allow it to end without an end; capable of extension in all directions as I had hoped... an excerpt, for better or worse, of its own eternity.

If this is so it would represent for me a minor victory in that, after almost fifty years of failed attempts, I shall have transposed into a world of colour and paint what I have only been able to achieve in terms of virtually monochrome drawing.

The abstract adventure of which this is a part started within weeks of my leaving art school in the early sixties. I rented the dingy upstairs room in a humdrum terrace house in Shenley Road (Site 2 in 20 Sites n Years) where the kindly landlady, as well as giving me tea and biscuits twice a day (all for £1.50 a week), allowed me to leave the windows uncurtained.

Shenley Road in 1973 and 2007.

The first work I started there was a drawing using those dialectical materials charcoal and an eraser, that had served me for endless hours of life studies. I wish I could remember how long I spent grinding away on what seemed to me then a large piece of good paper... certainly for more than a month. The paper seemed to know better what to do than I did. Two constraints were established: firstly that erasure is as much drawing as drawing is, and secondly that rubbing out, wiping down, redrawing gives three basic tones to work with (plus the tone of the paper itself). These elements, much transformed, also rule and inform the present painting.

Language drawing, charcoal, 1964. h50cm x w75cm.

Luckily (though it did not seem so at the time) the drawing remained, like everything else on show, unsold in my first exhibition in 1965. It hangs here in the bedroom still, the first thing I see every morning and the last thing I see each night. I miss it when it leaves the house to become part of a touring show.

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