I suppose this should be titled The Golden Age 3, as this is the third work I have produced using this title and worked around the same theme, but I dislike titles with numerical suffixes, though I have no objection to using titles more than once if the title fits the work.
I was initially inspired by a fleeting glimpse of dusty quarry buildings framed between graceful trees and looking into a Claudian haze; it was a ready-made post-modern take on classical landscape. All I needed to do was to re-construct it.
As ever, the landscape in its entirety, is fictional, similar in feel to the original experience yet also very different. The accompanying facets will give some idea of how some changes were made. The changes all happen on the canvas but sometimes it is necessary to make interim thumbnail sketches to try out new possibilities. For some paintings I also photograph the work and work on the paper prints. What I definitely know is though that no matter how much or little preparation work I do, I will only know for sure when the paint comes alive (or dies) on the canvas.
The Golden Age is faintly nostalgic, but it is a nostalgia for something which is always ongoing. Think of the song line ‘You don’t know what you’ve lost till its gone’ and you should see what I mean. It is an homage, a memorial for all that stuff which is in dis-repair, or is neglected or ruined or has a time-worn patina. Things which cannot be be reversed once they have been cleaned up. It is a world of tactile things, pre-corporate, pre-digital, pre-standardised.
Hey, Martin, Congratulations on your spread in Poets and Artists. It looked great, though I have to admit I couldn’t read it as I couldn’t get it to expand on my screen. It’s time for the grand American tour! (You have a place to stay in LA).
Thanks for that Scott. I’m really pleased that Grady’s excellent piece has gone to publication (after being delayed). Sorry you couldn’t read it. To tell the truth I haven’t yet (though I have read the draft copy). I got carried away looking at all the other things. There is some very clever painting, impressive, technically fine yet a fair bit of it did begin to feel just too OTT and Baroque. The slickness of it does make me feel that in every new piece that I do, I am learning to paint all over again and the triumphs and failures of this is seen in each painting. Isn’t this how it should be? Some years ago in England there was an exhibition called The Hard Won Image which focussed on British art. This ‘hard won image’ thing had been seen as a good and necessary thing but this was in the land which seemed to give birth to ‘the hard won image’. It is seen as a British thing, English even. It doesn’t exist in Europe and from what I have seen, in the US either (yet). Some commentators have more recently bemoaned the failings and follies of the English. Showing the struggles in the work being seen as an attempt to compensate for or excuse failure or even being a sort of protestant inverted snobbery. Many comments come from continental Europe but a sizeable proportion come from the English themselves. Ironically this in iself is a modern English phenomenon; embarrasment and self-depravation after years of confident Empire building. Guilt and constant apology is the new foundation of modern Britain. I’m almost on the verge of apologising for getting side-tracked too much!
I am wishing to spend a long time in the USA in the near future. Time or money or family prevent this. Sometimes it is all three things together. I have never been to the USA. For years I have actually had dreams of landing in the US and really excitedly, believing it, then I wake up…
Thanks for the offer to stay. It gives me the incentive to make the dream a reality.
There was, in American art academia, this belief that pieces of art should show the ‘process’, an idea that is akin to your British ‘hard won image’. What might be slightly different is that the steps of the process should all be evident, proof of the struggle. I guess I disagree with that, and find it leads to a bit of an artsy-fartsy effect. This idea always reminds me of seeing a tightrope walker as a kid when my parents took me to the Ringling Brothers circus in Sarasota. The woman was walking along, high up, when she suddenly slipped, and the crowd gasped, and then she regained her balance and continued on her way. Dad explained that she had done this on purpose to excite the crowd. Showing the process, the struggle, seems a little showy to me at times, especially when it is intentionally done that way and not left behind for reasons of speed or ‘finish’.
In your work I can see, if I go close, how it was made, and worked over, but there is no sense of it being artificially left a certain way to expose this. When I think of a Holbein or an Ingres, there is no evidence of the ‘struggle’, but there is a certain knowledge that what they do is extremely difficult. A Rembrandt often shows the process, but again it feels natural. And a Michelangelo or a Tiepolo makes it all look effortless…
So I guess we Americans have centuries of guilt and constant apology to look forward to!
it’s interesting to see the distance you have travelled from your first ‘Golden Age’. The first painting is highly accomplished, a painstakingly observed piece which contains elements that convey that time and place.I am going to be bold and suggest that this painting offers more, I think, in that there is a spiritual element conveyed. I suggest spiritual in the sense of the nature of the relationship we have with the world. The buildings were once populated with the industry and fellowship of those who worked there. Now abandoned, it gradually reverts back to nature. It appears a static haunted place but in reality it marks just another phase in it’s existence. Nostalgia has it’s limitations I think. The quarry once exploited the earth and it’s workers. Undoubtedly it brought benefits as well but to look back with affection ignores the reality. Instead the reality here is that of the dynamic interaction of nature and man. In it’s style the neo-classical composition of a contemporary scene also provides a powerful incentive to make us reflect on this painting and the artist’s intentions. It is an incredibly stimulating and thought provoking work, brilliantly executed.
Very interesting and pertinent comments, thanks. It is true what you say about nostalgia and that each era is just that; merely a phase. One get’s sucked into introspection. I often think about stores or businesses which cease trading after many, many decades, even centuries, and the sadness which accompanies this loss. Then I think about the time those businesses didn’t exist. The small business loses out because of the big business, but there willl come a time when this status will change again. I suppose, like so many, I am attracted to ruins (of any age).
Hello Nicki, lovely to hear from you.
They are very thoughtful, the observations regarding the composition. Vertical protuberances will always be read as phallic. I’m aware of this but I don’t intentionally devise them as being symbolically phallic but they may be done sub-consciously. Its not for me to judge. I’m far more aware, even deliberate in portraying clefts and crevices, symbolic of female genitalia. I still don’t know what it means and to tell the truth, I’m aprehensive to hear what an expert psychologist would make of it all. As for the blue reflection. Very deliberately I’m thinking…here’s the azure sky reflected beautifully but a reflection is merely a reflection, what is underneath? I’m fascinated by the notion of the beautiful and of finding ‘beauty’ in ’ugliness, and vice versa.
Martin, I love your composition: the bowl shaped dark area which hold up the inverted bowl shaped area of buildings; the three pointy poplars and the three pointy buildings; the silo which may be phallic or not; and your mid-way horizon line which gives equal weight to sky and land. Then there is that tiny piece of blue water. Is it clean or polluted? I always want to know.
nice composition and balance , i can see the hours of looking for isn’t it all about seeing. i like the dying brown leaves and golden grass melting from the buildings with the living trees and hills surrounding it. A life and death struggle where nature always wins and takes everything back.plus theres a nice escape for the soul to launch from the far building top to the hole in the clouds. i am glad you left out any signs so the building become characters of question…. a native american friend was sitting with me looking at this and said wheres the wildlife……………good job
So many things you observe and comment upon tell the truth. Its a funny thing about the wildlife. It is there of course, in the flora and all that almost invisible stuff, the insects, the microscopic stuff, all those things which make up the underbelly of the ecology. Well, its implied. As for the bigger things, the birds, the rabbits, the foxes…well sometimes, to portray those things just seems too sentimental. I know they are there but Beatrix Potter (though her animals were better portrayed than most of today’s stuff) and years of Walt Disney (even he is far from the worst) have made it so that it is difficult to put animals into a landscape with the raw autonomy which they deserve. Courbet was quite good at it. I love to see animals in the wild, in the flesh. I don’t care for nature documentaries and I’m not interested in wildlife photography. It means nothing to me. Painted animals depends on how they are done and with what feeling. Good ones are by say Nicki Colbeck; there’s first hand experience and feeling there. The worst are those which humanise animals, or are directly photographic (why bother?). Its a challenge. I should rise up to it.
so many comunities and lives of people surounded old places and to that became there center . the factory,the corner store and the places where souls of places can still be felt. from the days when you didnt have to call anyone but knew where to meet
The Golden Age
This is a new work which at this time of publication is unexhibited but will be an important work in a solo show in London in September. Begun in August 2010, it was mostly painted in the depths of January, when my nostalgia for summer heat was as strong as the nostalgia suggested in the painting.