Perhaps because I grew up in the sixties, the era of Arne Jacobson, Ian Nairn and Habitat, I have always appreciated minimalism. Though the rooms I live in are cluttered with all sorts of pleasant detritus, when it comes to what lies within a frame less has always seemed more to me. I started with a very limited palette when I began to paint seriously (in oils) in the 1970s - burnt sienna, phthalo blue and white - and for over a year explored the wonders that those three tubes could produce. In this I was led by the persuasive influence of Lowry, Hockney (a great fan of the phthalos in his early days) and , the minimalist master, Whistler.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler made me question how much of anything a picture needs to really work. His great passion was in reducing the variety of tone as a component of a picture. (See Whistler’s Mother - Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother).This he achieved with an incredibly limited palette and the most economical rendering of his subjects.
Heavily influenced by the Japanese master Ando Hiroshige, Nocturne in Blue and Gold Old Battersea Bridge is a case in point. Its also a typical Whistler title and reflects his desire to relate his work to music. Have a listen to La Cathedral Engloutie by Debussey, one of his contemporaries, and you can see the connection.
Castle Howard in Blue
Castle Howard (detail)
I’ve recently been going back to my minimalist beginnings both in paint and print – trying to find simpler ways to render images which might lure one into a maze of complexity. As part of a series of architectural paintings I’m working on I’ve recently painted Castle Howard (Brideshead for anyone who remembers the excellent adaptation of Waugh’s book). It is an incredibly complex building – a cliff face of elaborate, symmetrical relationships. I’ve worked it up in Indian ink and then repeated washes of watercolour.
Two years ago I took a different approach to Fountains Abbey. In that case, rather than becoming entangled in the Gothic surface decoration, I focused on the charismatic silhouette and the soft light of early evening. (See the top of this blog).
My latest work is a highly reduced pair of screenprints of Galloway cattle. There is a small herd of these in the fields near Masham bridge and I’ve sketched and reduced them to simple shapes, leaving the imagination to fill in the rest.
If you would like to see any of the pictures above (not Whistler and Hiroshige, I should point out) they are currently on display at The Gallery, Masham.
Into Every Life a Little Rain Must fall, Josie Beszant
The Gallery also has a great exhibition opening Saturday 19th May called Close to Home which features some wonderful work by Josie Beszant, Janis Goodman, Helen Peyton, Rosie Scott-Massie, Angie Rogers, Colin Smithson, Elizabeth Price, Vic Sayers and Wendy Tate. For more details CLICK HERE.
To read May’s newsletter on Andy Goldsworthy CLICK HERE
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter