COG16City of Glass 16 - (Private Eye)  210x100cms

FRIDAY 24 JAN 2014

 It's exciting when everything comes together, when a solution is found from within the painting and from outside. I have in front of me something that surprises, something I cannot yet fully explain or understand but which feels right and complete. I sat in my chair, looking at the painting, thinking of tinkering with the concentric circles at the top but worried that by strengthening them, making them more like the image of an eye, i would draw attention away from the intersection of the canvases. All sorts of thoughts appeared simultaneously: I thought of cross-hairs and targets and how, in the nove, there is a strong possibility that Quinn is a target, a set-up, a victim in a fiendish experiment, that ends in the apartment on E69th St. I thought of Giorgia O'Keefe's fantastic 'New York St with Moon' (below) that I found doing research for the recent 'Circle' workshop in Canterbury. And so the final act in the painting was to draw large concentric circles centered on the main axis, with brush, nail and string, representing both the eye and a target, creating focus and strangeness, and although faint, the perfection of the circle, pushes the map-shape of Manhattan, already fragmented, further into the background. And, of course, there is the visual link with Columbus Circle and the circles at the top. I am going to continue with this idea of 'building' tower-shaped paintings, a tower that is there but not there. In this piece the tower can be considered un-solid, transparent, made of Glass.....


COG16 5


 New York Street with Moon Georgia OKeefe 1925Giorgia O'Keefe

Nearly there - one more session I think. Bad day Yesterday, trying too hard after getting the rejection email from the John Moores. The colours are starting to work on the right, with some new purple-greys and more intense greens and the switch from red to pink. Love the reverse 'Z' towards the top. The top panel felt separate - now it's connected by the extension of the central vertical of Park Ave, ending with the concentric circles, which suggest the eye and repeat the motif of Columbus Circle. Maybe the eye is too subtle - it was more powerful and graphic earlier, more of an image of the all-seeing eye....I'll redraw tomorrow and make a decision on it's strength within the painting.

The novel is Quinn's story, the writer of detective fiction who becomes a detective. At the beginning of the story, Quinn muses on the triple meanings of the term 'Private Eye: 'I' for investigator, 'I' for the self , and 'eye' for the 'physical eye of the writer, who looks out from himself into the world and demands that the world reveals itself to him'. The intersection of the main axis is the location of the Stillman apartment on Park Ave and E69th St, where Quinn's life/role as a private eye begins and ends....

In a homage to Quinn, the painting is now called 'Private Eye'


COG16 4 Copy


COG16 2 Copy


Early days for the new City of Glass painting - '1 brick=1 block'- but now going through the gears with longer sessions in the studio. Still trying to establish the scale of Manhattan and position of Central Park. The only certainty is the central axis of 69th St and Park Ave, the location of the Stillman apartment, withe the vertical divide leading the eye to Grand Central Station. As it is, the painting is too fragmented, everything needs to be simplified, including the colour-scheme. The grid pattern of the streets will be extended over the entire canvas forming the bricks of the tower-shape.

Music has been been driving the painting: Neil Young's 'After the Goldrush' and 'Sleeps with Angels' with the epic, rambling 'Change Your Mind' and 'Closer' by Joy Division. 'You can't replace the fear and thrill of the chase...'  Sums up painting really


'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

COG17 CopyCOG 17 - (Adam & Eve) 200x60cms


Once the picture was up, I couldn't stop seeing the tower shape as a male figure and the Manhattan shape as female so I've changed the title, connecting of course to references to the Garden of Eden in the novel* I love the play between the object and image..the tower is both solid and contains the image, it is behind the image, it looks down on the image, it is the image. The colours are luscious but the tower/figure adds a sinister oppressive note to the painting. 


COG17 2 Copy


There is a kind of madness in doing these large scale pieces - it's impossible to work on the floor anymore and the studio is getting smaller and smaller with every piece I make. But the scale is necessary and right because the intention is for the viewer to be in the painting, looking down from an enormous tower on Manhattan below or to be on the street, becoming Quinn, following Stillman.

 COG17 1 Copy


Love these words from Rothko, talking about scale: 'I paint very large pictures. I realise that histiorically the function of large pictures is painting something grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however - I think it applies to other painters I know - is precisely because I want to be intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command'  

The soundtrack to this painting was all 1970's: Pink Floyd's 'Animals', (thank-you, Andy Garner), Tom Waits's 'The Heart of Saturday Night' and 'Hejira', my favorite Joni Mitchell album.


COG17 4 Copy


COG17 8 Copy


*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

COG 18 CopyCity of Glass 18 - Mystery  60x30cms


SAT 1 MARCH 2014

Dense, intense, colour. The paralell lines, echoes and extensions of the grid pattern of the streets, 'de-flatten' and twist the island shape of Manhattan and suggest a structure, a building...
This painting began as a 'teaching' painting on last years porthleven course. Some fabulous blues and exciting marks but I never believed in it - why should I? - there was no time for contemplation and thought and the language was not my own. What I did keep was the blue-dot on red which became the palette and starting point in this painting and my Columbus Circle.
COG 18 1 Copydetail - Columbus Circle
'Mystery' refers both to the experience of the viewer - what am I looking at?- and to the mystery within the novel that inspired the series*
COG 18 4 Copybeginnings..
*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

COG 19
City of Glass 19 - (Park Ave)  210x60cms


City of Glass 19 - (Park Avenue) was 'Shortlisted not Hung' in the 2015 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Nearly!



It's been a good week - I have a new painting and City of Glass 6 & 13 have been shortlisted for the Royal academy Summer Exhibition - fingers crossed.

The third tower-shaped painting in the City of glass series. The shift in this piece is that the verticals of the avenues extend beyond Manhattan to the edges of the canvas: the grid of the streets connecting to the grid of the building. I am enjoying the verticality and the subtle rhythms of angles and triangles around the painting but most of all I am enjoying the colour, the new blues and greys and reds. There are intriguing shifts in perception : what am I looking at? The view from the air, the view on the ground, an incredible giant tower, bigger than Manhattan. Is it one image or two? Is the tower transparent , made of glass? Is the image of the island-shape of Manhattan seen through the tower, or is it in front of the tower, or part of the tower, or outlandishly, painted on the tower like a giant mural? I think it is a new kind of space, slightly disorientating...


COG 19 1 Copydetail - East River bridges

In spite of the colour, the tower - the new Babel - is oppressive, which is what I want. It has the feel of the sinister tower of the Salvation Army training camp in Camberwell, maybe it is because there are no windows. 

For a long while there was no title, which always worries me: it's an indication that I'm unsure what the painting is about. Because of the emphasis on the verticals, towards the end the favourite was 'The Vertical City'. This changed when I put in Washington Square with a fantastic pink made from Fanchon Red by Williamsburg Paint - at one point this small rectangle was the strongest thing in the painting, not just the colour but all the lines firing in. But even this couldn't compete with the long red stripe against the blue, a colour heaven that grips the eyes.


cOG 19 2 Copydetail- Washington Square

My daughter Faye said it was her favorite painting in the series. She immediately zoomed in on the saturated colours flanking Park Avenue, re-affirming the choice of title. (Park Avenueis, of course, significant to the novel*). Denise was missing a particular blue that had been mainly painted out and wanted it back. I went back in the studio and added some more blues, especially to the bottom canvas, and it's made a big difference. Thank-you girls! Ollie likes the vertical lines carved into the paint. 

The soundtrack to this painting was 'Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake. Beautiful.


*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster


COG 20 CopyCity of Glass 20 - (Cage)    90x60cms



Stillman enters the cage formed by the grid of the streets where he walks - 'bounded. and on the  on the north by 110th Street, on the south by 72nd Street, on the west by Riverside Park, and on the east by Amsterdam Avenue.'*

The cage also refers to Stillman's obsessions, the cage in his head. Perhaps my obsessions too, over two years of my life working on the series.

A couple more tweaks on Tuesday morning - a subtle vertical score down Stillman's back and a blob of blue paint on his left shoulder to lock him more into the painting, with the colour echoed, with a touch of green, in the small square touching Central Park in the top panel. The dot of the Hotel Harmony on Broadway provides a visual link between the two. Formal painting truth - what works in the painting - and context in harmony. 


COG 20 1 Copy


I am very aware of my photo-realist roots, especially when painting the figure - the fallacy of the frozen moment. The introduction of the figure of Stillman has shaken up the series and presented intriguing problems, not least how not to make him giant when placed alongside the street grid of Manhattan. To counter this, I've tried to place him in an ambiguous space, a 'painting space', one that doesn't exist out there, one that asks questions - where is he? He is standing on the tightrope of 72nd St. His 'illusionist' interpretation and position in the painting make you think you know what you are looking at but this is subverted, undermined, by the physicality of the paint and by the strong horizontal of the canvas divide and the subtle verticals that cut through his body. In this piece, the grid is also ambiguous - it's vertical, lifted from the background, an almost-delicate lattice you can put your hand through....the bars of Stillman's cave. At one point in the painting the grid covered him - he was in the cage - but the idea was rejected. It would only work if Stillman faced outwards, staring at the viewer.


COG 20 2 Copyin progress


*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster