COG11 CopyCity of Glass 11 - (StillmanStillman)     80x120cms
City of Glass 11 - (StillmanStillman) was selected for the 2013 Ludlow Open
MON 3 JUNE 2013
Today, with this piece and the excitement and strength of the resolution, I was reminded 'what painting is, what it can be, the possibilities in painting...', words I use whenever I teach. When I put those canvases together, there was electricity- one of the best moments of my career. I knew. As artists, we should never be passive with the world we see: we have to do something with it. We should be ambitious for our piece and strive for something new, something we have never done before of seen before: the trick is to recognize that 'different' thing, however you get there, whether by chance, design or hard slog. This is the excitement we crave.
Earlier, as the two canvases were not working together, I separated them - during the day the gap became wider and wider....The canvas with the red figure had no New York context: the grid of the streets was imposed time and time again, blatantly and subtly, horizontal, vertical, avenue , cross-street, none right but each contributing and enriching the paint, colour and surface.
 The final painting is more about the idea and the center-line more powerful, with this criss-crossing of the figures and glorious ambiguities and tension created by who is in front of who. The figures are fighting for space - like rutting stags - but it is not a space 'out there': it is a painting space, an ambiguous space, so difficult to find with the human-figure...the painting now has the clarity of last friday, but with much more. The New York context is there, with the calmed-down horizontal green band of Central Park and Columbus Circle. I'll be starting a new painting tomorrow with the same idea of the two Stillmans but on a single large canvas so there is no option of switching the canvases. I'll have to find my elusive, ambiguous space within the canvas...figures jammed up against the Manhattan shape perhaps...
COG11 6 Copy
City of Glass 11 and City of Glass 6 in 'The New York Trilogy exhibition at Plough Arts
Many thanks to Janie M McDonald, my fellow artist during Open Studios at the Shire Hall. For a couple of days she had been questioning my brown figure - i was being too literal, one of the Stillmans at Grand Central in the novel has a brown overcoat. Janie reminded me of the blood-reds I had used in our last two stints together at the Shire Hall and suggested reversing the canvases as I had done in my last painting. Sometimes you miss the obvious: when I made the switch...
Like 'City of Glass 10 - StillmanStillman', this painting explores the idea of author/detective Quinn's dilemma about which Stillman to follow at Grand Central Station: one goes left, one goes right. The viewer becomes Quinn, flitting from figure to figure, forced to choose...My only niggle about City of Glass 10 was the absense of location and its disconnection to the other paintings in the series. I thought that instead of forcing location onto City of Glass 10, if I did another painting that had two figures and location, the link would be made. On reflection , the painting was possibly resolved on Friday (see below). Midtown Manhattan (where Grand Central is located) is hinted at, with the Hudson indicated by the two parallel lines behind the blue figure and the thick band of grey behind the brown figure.
Today, I tried to make the location more explicit and introduced the lime-green horizontal to indicate the bottom of Central Park, with the canvas-divide as 5th Ave. I also introduced a grid which confused the painting even more. Lots of Problems with the right figure: either too graphic or too subtle or too heavy or too brown! The figure disappeared at one point which confirmed to me that it had to be there. I agreed with Janie's comment today, that the left painting works on its own. Splitting the canvases is an option but may make the idea weaker. Perhaps a small gap might work. While it works in the left canvas, the green band doesn't help the diptych - I'll try a new colour on Monday and extend it into the right-side or even take it out. The band weakens the power of the divide. Need some clean brushes first!
* from 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster