COG3 CopyCity of Glass 3 - (Window)    150x120cms


15 MAY 2012

The Tower is revealed, dwarfing Manhattan. After City of Glass 1 and 2 , with Manhattan placed on the extreme right and extreme left of the canvases respectively, in this painting Manhattan is deliberately centered, balancing on the bottom edge. The left side of the Tower was slashed deliberately to break the symmetry. In the studio shot below, taken after the first session, you can see how the drips misbehaved on their way down. I like the way Manhattan appears caged in and almost human-like, Baconesque. This could be an idea for another painting - in my work, the paintings feed each other, ideas often disappearing are-emerging in another piece. The ziggurat-shape in this piece comes from the mythology of the Tower of Babel and the Paramount building in New York. Central Park becomes a 'window' and the building appears ablaze...


COG3 1 Copybeginnings...



COG3 2 CopyThe Paramount Building, New York

COG4 Copy
City of Glass 4 - (Hope Falls, hope falls...)     100x70cms


TUES 15 MAY 2012

The latest painting in the series is now complete, a very different take on Paul Auster's strange tale 'City of Glass' from 'The New York Trilogy'. The idea for the painting came from a biblical quote in the text about the enormous scale of the Tower of Babel, where 'a man would have to walk for three days to escape its shadow'.  With the new Babel in New York, taking the southern tip of Manhattan as a starting point and walking for three days northwards, where would you finally escape the shadow of the Tower?

I calculated a distance of two hundred miles if you walked continuously for three days so I was looking for places two hundred miles north of New York with names that somehow connected to the novel. I was thrilled to find two stand-out candidates, Truthville and Hope Falls. Truthville, because of the novel's manipulations of truth and Hope Falls, because of the play on words: it's both a place name and a description of the despair and disintegration of Quinn as his assignment fails....I plumped for Hope Falls (blue spot in the painting) but Truthville will be my next piece. 

I liked the idea of positioning Manhattan centrally on the bottom edge and making something very small, very powerful. The idea was to have the shadow of the Tower over the landscape ending at Hope Falls and this dark shadow was painted several times but never looked right. A consequence of repainting this shadow and scrubbing/removing it, was a rich residue of intense red that suggested a bleeding wound. I showed the painting to a group of artists from one of our courses and the consensus was because of the beauty and mystery of the deep red stain, there was no need to impose the tower. They were right of course but I'll make sure the Tower is visible in the next painting 'Truthville' When they are side by side the Tower will be implied in this painting.


COG4 1 Copydetail - Lake Champlain

COG5 CopyCity of Glass 5 - (Truthville, N.Y.)    100x70cms


MON 21 MAY 2012

Maybe...movement around the periphery and a still center. The top of the painting/sky was too strong so now it's lost its prominence and the top of the Tower and the dot of Truthville are now the point of focus. The drawing has been strengthened there and the Hudson River, the state-borders and Lake Champlain all lead the eye. Even though the Tower is cut into the paint, it appears further forward than the state-shapes, so their strong colours now work and are held by the drawing. Then the Tower disappears behind the yellow-orange so the painting now has space and depth. There is an oddness about this painting that I really like - it's done.


COG5 1 Copy



COG5 5 Copy


Too tired to work last night but might as well have - solutions to the painting whizzing around my head. Getting there: I think the Tower is too graphic, i'll disguise it a bit. The ocean has real power and overwhelming the southern tip of Manhattan. There is an apocalyptic feel to the painting. The spot of Truthville balances now on top of the tower- the point where you escape its shadow after three days walking. Love how scale is undermined: a Tower that big, a wave that big...Need to sort out the top of the painting next: it stops you seeing the top of the Tower. Do i lose it or integrate it with colour into the rest of the painting or do I make it a threatening sky? It's too horizontal - I have to sort it out with a small block of angled colour which should create a big diagonal.
Linked by the pinks, the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut on the right-side have formed another mysterious tower-shape. Back to the studio to mix another grey for the sky using another blue. Lets see  what a difference Sennelier paints make to my colour - time to open the box as we get towards the end of the painting. If grey doesn't work, I'll try a quieter pink. That yellow-orange corner still niggles ...might work better if I change the top.
COG5 3 Copy

 An OK day. I shrunk everything to move Truthville (orange dot) down a couple of inches, with the benefit of more space around the edges. The dot is now parallel with the blue dot in Hope Falls but not yet as powerful. I have discovered zinc-white which makes colours slightly more transparent. The right-side has been simplified and the horizontals more subtle, now the angles are more prominent. Unsure about it though: the paint seems a bit samey, the colours too obvious, too known, too luscious. Time for some serious looking and testing. The best thing is the curve at the bottom, following the curve of Long Island, doing a job for the painting and holding up Manhattan. The painting is starting to de-flatten and the space more interesting. The Tower is going in tonight to disturb the space even more and I'm going to take out the yellow-orange corner. Its one colour too many.


COG5 4 Copy



COG5 2 Copy


'Truthville' on right alongside 'Hope Falls/hope falls....', in the studio after the first session. I'm going to try and make them work as a pair/diptych. Had a pink/grey palette in my head so mixed up a few colours before starting. First thoughts: simplify! The right-side needs ripping-up- too many colours, too many horizontals , too distracting. Truthville (the orange dot near the Vermont border) is firther north than Hope Falls (blue dot on left painting) so I'm going to shrink everthing in the new painting by 10% so that the dots are on the same eye-level. The two different scales will add and interesting element of discord to the piece. Could be a late night in the studio.

COG 45 Copy
City of Glass 5 - (Truthville, N.Y.)  100x70cms                                              City of Glass 4 - (Hope Falls, hope falls......)  100x70cms


While I enjoy looking at these two paintings individually, I think something is gained, a strange visual experiences, by showing them side by side as a pair. 

COG6 Copy
City of Glass 6 - (Pages 106-112)    150x120cms


City of Glass 6 was shortlisted for the 2014 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and exhibited in the National Open Art national touring exhibition 2015/16.


SUN 10 JUNE 2012

This painting explores the first idea I had for the City of Glass series. Just as Quinn, the writer of detective-fiction who becomes a detective, transcribes the movements of his quarry Stillman onto a New York street map, I too have become a detective, extracting clues from the text and transcribing Quinn's walk from his home on W107th St to his clients apartment on E69th St, described on pages 106-112 in the novel* In turn the viewer becomes a detective, following my clues with their eyes.

Paradoxically, the facts and the truth of the detailed translation of the walk held back the painting: it was only when I allowed the line of the route to be brolken up and disguised that the painting came alive again. Like the letters the spell The Tower of Babel, invisibly written in the streets in the novel, my line is there but not there. 


COG6 2 Copy


Below is the painting at an earlier stage, where my gut feeling was that Manhattan was too 'cut-out' and the blue too cold and literal. In the finished piece, the yellow is 'something' and floods/flows through the island and the yellow splashes imply shipping and define scale. Within the order of the the grid-pattern, the painting now pulsates with the energy and chaos of the city. 


COG6 4 Copy



COG6 3 Copy


COG6 5 Copy
Faye and Ollie with City of Glass 6


* 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster