COG 39 Prophecy Copy
City of  Glass 39 - (Prophecy)  60x30cms


It's taken a while but we have a new title.......



A few new touches that seem that seem to make the painting stronger. The orange line lifts the eye to the top of the painting: there was a nagging suspicion that the tower had to be higher - no need for that now. The orange line slightly squeezes the space between the top of the painting and the head and draws attention away from the head which I think works. I've also tidied up the top of the tower making it sharper, stronger and the paint around the bottom left of the overcoat which was getting a bit murky. Touch of orange in the brown too. Fiddled a bit with the hand that looks like a club in image below! The title still not definite..I may know more when I've finished the second one..


I took out a heavy brushmark from the bottom left of the coat and refined the shape of the tower by carving out the 'ziggurat' steps at the top. Much stronger now...there are traces, residues, marks of interest within the tower, not sure there is any need for the island....might have to change the title, perhaps 'Obsession' Thinking about putting thin horizontal band on the top edge to squeeze the space with the top of the head and also lift the tower. Or put in a spire/radio tower cutting thru the collar..we'll see...

'City of Glass 39 - (Prophecy)' 60x30cms


I couldn't wait..the reveal...odd, exciting....just dealing with it at the moment... might take out the heavy outline, lose the figure a little or lose the blue or the figure entirely then re-draw the figure inside the tower...

COG 39 The Reveal2


Stronger drawing- love the curve of the back- and better browns that are starting to do something with the blues. Denise and I are missing the grey. I've run out of quick-dry medium so shall have to wait longer before the tower is removed. I have a same size canvas- lets do another one. This is quite a small piece- 60x30cms- perhaps i need to do one life-size...the purity of the early version (1) is still my favourite..


The 'City of Glass' series*, is dominated by three elements:the Tower of Babel, the island-shape of Manhattan and the figure of Stillman. Several of the paintings include two of the three elements, the idea behind this piece is to include all three.

I started off with a straightforward representation of the familiar motif of Stillman. I was thinking about the sequence of 'Weeping Woman' paintings in the Edvard Munch exhibition at Tate Modern a couple of years ago, with the bowed head almost crushed by the low ceiling. Its' literalness was disrupted by smudge and disguise and a pour of blue and then by the introduction of the tower, made from wooden strips. A beautiful grey.

Then the figure of Stillman was re-introduced (2) - apologies for the brown, it's just Pollyfilla, building up the bulk of Stillman as I work out the composition. The painting tries to replicate the claustrophobia of the Munch paintings, the figure trapped by the four sides of the canvas. The plan, reviving a past process, is to remove the tower at some future point, to leave behind it's negative shape, seemingly carved out of the back of Stillman. Then we can work on the island-shape of Manhattan within that outline. Time to work.

COG 39


City of Glass 39


Weeping Woman Edvard Munch
'Weeping Woman'     Edvard Munch

*inspired by 'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster

Three large harbour paintings from the 90's - 'a place can be defined by its' shape...'


'Barcelona' 180x140cms


Aircraft over Aberdeen
'Aircraft over Aberdeen'    180x120cms


San Diego
'San Diego'     180x100cms


I really liked San Diego spending a week there on my travels. The orientation is switched so that south is at the top of the painting, a subversion of 'map-truth'. The angled line is the Mexican border. It is a painting of curves with the man-made elements around the harbour picked out in tuned-up colours and straight lines and angles. In the detail below I love the interplay and repeated motif of the cranes and the harbour-arms, aerial-view and image in harmony.


san diego detail



'City of Glass 37 - (PLOT.Noun/Plot.verb)' was shortlisted and exhibited in the 2016 Lacey Contemporary Art Prize.


37CAT9 Copy



I've spoken many times about 'breaking (the perfection of) the square' - well, it's not a square now....

This is very exciting; the power and tension of the black-lines of 8th Ave and 14th St, holding the shape that wants to spin round...I've pushed the shape of Manhattan right into the corner - more plotting. Because of the orientation of the canvas, the original drips now become a subversive, subtle pattern of angled lines beneath the transparent paint. I think it might be done.

Mysterious doorway.

'Hello Mondrian..' would make a good title, though he wasn't fond of green! (or curves)


DSC 0004web


This goes back to something I was looking at during Open Studios last year when this painting and 'City of Glass 33 - (Buried)' were in very early stages.


 DSC 0093web


 DSC 0096web


 DSC 0097web


I have used the idea of the controlling vertical in a shaped canvas before in 'Porthleven 13', (below), the only circular canvas that has worked and that I've kept.


Porthleven 13 30cms diameter
'Porthleven 13'


DSC 0005web
detail- City of Glass 37


City of Glass 37
in progress


 37cat8 Copy


Early days but I already have a title- the relationship with words is so important in this series wirh its' source in text*

Love the multiple meanings of the word 'Plot':

plot as in narrative, plot as in conspire, plot as in plan or map....

In the novel, Quinn plots Stillman's walks onto a street-map of New York

In turn, in City of Glass 6 and 35, I have 'plotted' Quinn's walk described on pages 106-112...

In the act of painting, I have 'plotted' the grid of New York, already several times in this piece, to establish the angle, scale and position of Manhattan within the canvas , looking for the strongest composition.

My 'plot 'is for the Manhattan shape, once established, to be painted entirely with layers of transparent colours, giving the appearance of coloured-glass.....


*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

City of Glass 36 The Force of Chance 120x100cms
'City of Glass 36 - (The Force of Chance)'   120x100cms


Time to look at this again now the paint is dry. It's not enough but it's exciting. The title came to me in my sleep, or lack of. There is deliberation and control in the selection of colours, the liquidity/consistency of the paint, the placement and concentration of the drips, (to establish the avenues of Manhattan), but how the drips run, how they behave, is down to chance.

The exploration and manipulation of chance is at the core of Paul Auster's story 'City of Glass'* which inspired the series.

This is a beautiful painting, but a drip is a drip and I see connections in the language to the work of Jackson Pollack, Ian Davenport, Bridget Riley. If I choose to take the painting further, it will inevitably go backwards before going forwards, but this decision, this risk, is what painting is about: it there are any questions, any doubts one must take the plunge into the unknown.

*from 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

Village Green new
'City of Glass 34 - Village Green)'    70x70cms


City of Glass 34 - (Village Green) was 'Selected Not Hung' in the 2016 RWA Open.


4.30 p.m.

More clarity by extending pink border/frame to top corner. Is this it?

2 p,m.

I think I'm there. I am enjoying the reworked shapes and the warmer colours that were introduced- the earlier version below felt too crude, the palette cold, cold, cold. There is an in-and-outness about the grid that I like- sometimes linear and forward, other times 'shape' and locked, with colour creating the space. The rectangle of Washington Square is now strong, tucked amongst the pinks in the bottom right corner. The green is based a Michael Harding paint, Bright Green Lake- beware! The top section is indulgence - I enjoyed making this mark. The gestural paint and blue slash continues the movement of the fast pink marks on the right around the canvas, helping isolate the painting within a painting, the large shape of the grid.

Denise wasn't sure about the painting, thinking it too complicated, and suggested taking out the line of 8th Ave, below 23rdSt. It's made a great difference, opening up the painting and revealing the green semi-circle more. The different thing about this painting? Not a single drip.

Quinn's walk from the novel is there*: initially a strong dotted line, I've gone for subtle. There is a trace if you know where to look (see description below)

'Village Green' is quintessentially English: do New Yorkers use the phrase?


COG35 Village GreenSunday
In progress - 'City of Glass 35 - (Village Green)' 70x70cms


This much worked canvas has had many lives but never gained priority or favour. A sparse, abstract demonstration painting from the Portheven workshop tentatively became a painting about Porthleven itself before becoming an enjoyment of colour, shape and paint, with that first exercise providing the palette.

To be honest I didn't know what to do with it but seeing it on the wall after a break of a few weeks, with fresh eyes, I immediately hooked onto the pink triangle, my entry into the latest City of Glass painting. It is the 'Chelsea Triangle', formed by 24th St, and 11th and 12th Aves which I seem to have highlighted in many of the paintings in the series. My first thought was to balance the triangle with the green rectangle of Washington Square in the bottom right corner, hence the title. I'll have to fix the shape and make it a powerful green to take attention away from the pink triangle, still, in my eyes, the dominant element in the painting.

I like how the quadrilateral sits within the square, with faster marks and movement around. Organic shapes undermine the severity of the grid and the less-disciplined streets below 14thSt gives scope for angles, zigzags, real and fictitious, giving more movement.

Washington Square features in the novel, part of Quinn's meticulously described walk on pages 106-112. ...down 5th Ave to the Flatiron Building, west along 23rdSt, left down 7th Ave to Sheridan Square, then along Waverley place to Washington Square.

Quinn's walk will be plotted on the painting- it has to be there, it just a question of how strong or subtle it has to be in terms of the painting.

Here we go.

*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster