COG24 CopyCity of Glass 24 - (Peter)     50x40cms


MON 30 JUNE 2014

During the process, the face of Stillman became the cartoon face of hard-boiled 'fictional' detective Max Work (below), which in turn became the face of Stillman's broken son Peter...painting now on the wall at modern Artists Gallery, Reading.


COG 241 Copy

COG 2526City of Glass 26 - (avenues)   100x70cms                                                                   City of Glass 25 - (streets)     100x70cms


A simple premise - a deconstruction of Manhattan, one painting showing all the horizontals/streets, another the verticals/avenues. Information fragmented/subverted, allowing the lines to be themselves. I spent a lot of time considering the shape within the shape, the composition, which fixed the scale of the lines and spaces between. i inevitably see the female figure (Virginia Stillman?) in the shape of Manhattan - explicit in this shared composition.


An exciting shift: for the first time the sides of the canvas, where I have marked out and numbered the grid, are integral to the painting, extending the idea of 'sculptural' paintings that have emerged this year in the 'City of Glass' * series.


DSC 0221900 Copy



DSC 0114



* from 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

COG27 Version 1COG 27 - VERSION 2  160X60cms


VERSION 1 was shortlisted for the 2015 National Open Art Competition and VERSION 2 shortlisted for the 2015 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.



''What is not possible is not to choose'   Jean-Paul Sartre

All the artists on the 'Freedom in Painting' courses will recognise this quote, often nailed, Luther-like, to the studio door. However, with this piece, with the two versions, two solutions, I have decided not to choose, because i believe they both work in their own different way. I find it exciting that with one screw, and the removal or addition of the , 'roof'', I can make the severest of editing, and make a very different painting. We have had the 'roof'' on for a couple of days, now it's time to take it off and enjoy the 'interior' of the apartment.


City of Glass 27 The Stillman Apartment VERSION 2 200X60CMS CopyCOG 27 - VERSION 1  200X60cms


I have however, been decisive with the title: after toying with 'The Space Between', it is now simply called 'The Stillman Apartment'

'The Space Between' is the theme for the forthcoming Canterbury workshop and the words and concept have been constantly in my thoughts in this piece. I was in St.Ives, Porthleven and Falmouth yesterday, enjoying the moment but painting in my head, ideas, colours, words, compositions. Smaller canvases next - I wish to make something as powerful as the blue in 'The Stillman Apartment'...the detail below gives a clue to the direction I'll be taking.


COG 27 Detail 2 Copy


This painting happened because I was in the studio day after day - it is the only way to work, to focus. I had a fascinating talk with curator Charlotte Davis yesterday. She organised and participated in a 24hr drawing workshop. It is a bizarre concept but poses many questions: is it possible to focus for 24hrs? Because of the intensity will new things emerge? I'm thinking of taking part in the next one, working on a painting for 24hrs...catch a train home!


27 NOV 2014

It has taken a while but the latest 'City of Glass' * painting has emerged with satisfying ambiguities. there are even two titles, two ways in , even two possible solutions (I removed the ziggurat top section but its worth another look now the painting has moved on). The blue block is of course Central Park, the 'space between' West Side and East Side, but continuing the themes of the series and my interest in the play between the plan-view of New York, the grid of the streets and frontal view. i have also made Central Park an entrance, a gateway to the space beyond. During the process I had the figure of Stillman walking through the opening but the idea never worked. Colour replaced image, much more intriguing, the last of my Williamsburg paint - Sevre Blue and Courbet Green- boosting the intensity of the block at the southern end of Central Park. I am still coming to terms with this piece - it inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration but the blue is something else, something sensuous, seductive and indefinable.

The dividing line between the canvases is 69th St, highlighting the location of the Stillman apartment but the painting can also be read as an interior, inside the apartment. referencing Matisse's 'French Window at Collioure', the blue block is an opening, a view to outside, but the denseness and emptiness of the negative space dominate. The blue is both inside and outside. 8,7,6,5th avenues below Central Park become a balcony. I love the uncertainty of the definition between vertical and horizontal planes.


COG 27 Detail 4 Copy Copy

In the alternative ending,(VERSION 1), you lose the idea of being inside the apartment but the ziggurat-topped tower is the apartment building on 69th St and links to the Tower of Babel in the story. With the severity of its' shape, the increase in greys and the abrupt ending of blues at 110th St, the tower-shape is oppressive, resonating with the darkness in the novel and with the atmosphere inside the apartment when Quinn meets Peter and where of course the story ends. This version is more about image and claustrophobia, VERSION 2 more about colour and the senses.

I love the idea of the two alternative endings/versions. It happens in literature, in the novels of John Fowles, 'The French Lieutenants Woman' and 'The Magus', (John Fowles) and in film, the two versions of Apocalypse Now! - why not in painting?

City of Glass 28 The Space Between 60x50cms Copy
'City of Glass 28 - (The Space Between)'  60x50cms 


 City of Glass 28 - (The Space Between) was Shortlisted for the 2016 RWA Open


The space between left-side and right-side, between West Side and East Side. The space between the front and back of the painting, between  interior and horizon.The space between figurative and abstract, fact and fiction, between map-truth and painting truth.

I have been working on this painting for the last few days and it is directly connected to the forthcoming  Canterbury workshop 'The Space Between' and the ideas from the last painting in the series, 'The Stillman Apartment'. Once again 'the space between' is Central Park and I have been exploring ways to make it dominant, the subject of the painting.The link to the novel* is obscured: the proportions of city blocks and the park with Columbus Circle anchoring the painting on the bottom edge. But these 'facts' are ambiguous and subservient to the painting. The black-violet space is deep and seductive. I spent an hour staring into that space late last night. Ceramacist Paul Jackson saw the painting today and posed a question about the grey/green shape hanging in the violet from the horizon/69th St. The comment made me look hard again but I decided the shape must stay; it is an escape, a way out and is where the eye comes to rest.

A breakthrough piece.


COG 281 Copy


COG 282 Copyin progress 2


COG283 Copyin progress 1

* 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

The Power of the Dog 88x107cms 2016
'The Power of the Dog'    88x107cms    oil and acrylic on canvas   2016


FRI 2 DEC 2016 p.m

Breaking down some shapes/states below the border, strengthening others - purple Durango, bird-like Nuevo Leon and the new blue brushmark on the right now appear almost sculptural, sitting upright on the bottom edge. Tweaks of colour....two fast brushmarks left to right, deflattening the image and bringing movement...The eye was being pulled downwards in the earlier version, now we are going across the image, following the line of the border.

Denise's idea - a touch of puple near the top, describing the edge of New Mexico.

The drill holes/bullet holes now continue around the 'frame'. I have been considering a utilitarian grey for the 'frame' but then it might become unambiguously a frame and not part of the painting. 'The functional' holes from the screws that held the perspex now become part of the painting. Looking back on my notes, I originally intended to drill holes along the border, showing the twin border towns....The holes around the painting are physical/real/actual. symbolic and decorative, darkness and light...

This is not a political painting. it's art from another work of art, a novel, that reconnects me to a landscape I last visited eighteen years ago. There was going to be much more red, but it is what it is, a seduction by colour and paint, the collected residues of the process on the bottom ledge.

Beauty and the beast...perhaps this is the link to the message of the novel - the pus below the surface of respectability....


sunset ltd Copy

I've painted this border before - above is a detail from 'Sunset Ltd', the name of the trainline that hugs the border on its' journey from LA to New Orleans. In comparison, the new piece looks almost flamboyant.


potd4 Copy

FRI 2 DEC 2016 a.m.

Late-night session... the jigsaw states are back (above), lots of borders, edges, shapes to play with. Maybe it's become too literal and 'tasteful'? I much prefer the subtleties of the paint and colour and the openness of the borders on the US side.  Or is it good to have the contrast, highlighting the difference between man-made and natural borders?

The excitement in the painting comes on the bottom shelf where ideas and actions are collected. Stronger (accidental) compositions too. Pools of congealed red in the gutter.


detail 2 Copy


detail 1 Copy


detail 3 Copy


So is the piece about that surprise, that contrast between image and process that is revealed as you approach the painting?


I'm going to extend the drill-holes all around the painting to break up the flatness of the frame (bullets? - again too literal?). The jigsaw shapes sit too smugly - I'm missing the dynamism of the angled brushmarks in the version below. Time to relook the image.


POTD 2 Copy


The painting opening up...borders broken down...the jigsaw states of Mexico submerged- for now...residues put a temporary piece of perspex at the bottom to collect the paint...


Power of the Dog 1 Copy


The start of a new painting (series), once again working from a novel, 'The Power of the Dog' by Don Winslow, about narco wars in Mexico and the American Southwest. it's also my response to the theme of 'Borders', the title of the inaugural Newlyn Society of Artists exhibition in January at their new home at Tremenheere.


I'm working on a customised frame, with the idea that the bottom recess/shelf will capture the residues of my process and be an integral part of the painting.  Early days, mainly acylic underpainting, but I have's good to be back in the game.


There are borders between countries and borders between states but the desert either side is the same. The frame itself is a border...