Saturday, 31 March 2012

Painting 9: Light My Sky

Oil on canvas, 100x80cm, 2008

As I was painting this, it felt like everything I was doing was creating the possibility for something to exist within the painting.  Not so much a background, more the conditions for something to be held or contained by the painting.  It wasn't until I added the rainbow that the composition came together and seemed to give me resolution of a sort.  It was another move towards abstraction giving birth to form.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Looking forward

Some people have asked me if I’m worried that I’ll miss my paintings or one day regret not being able to show them again as part of another exhibition.

It's true that my paintings mean a great deal to me.  As with all belongings, they have stored memories and sentiments of where I was in my life when I painted them and what my values were at the time.  Part of the fear of letting go of possessions is that they are somehow part of our identity; that it’s our things that make us who we are and define us to some extent.

I think we are encouraged to believe this but my experience is that we are constantly changing and by holding on to old stuff we are tempted to stay stuck in old ways of being too.  I feel my creative side can take flight as my paintings move on to pastures new!

I’ve been thinking about how other professions let go of work and in fact where they consider their work to exist.  For example, when retiring, does a teacher consider her work to exist within the many boxes or files of lesson plans or is it a living thing that exists within all her ex-students?

Does my work exist in the paintings I make or in the experience of the people who look at them?  If it’s the latter, how sad for them to be stored away, inert.  People who own my paintings say they often see something new and respond differently to them as time goes on.  I think in this way, they do have a life of sorts.

All of these feelings put together, tell me that I don’t need to hold on to my paintings and enables me to let go of how much they go for and where they go to.  The whole thing is about movement and energy and freedom to grow.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Painting 8: Sing Little Bird

Oil on canvas, 100x80cm, 2008

I think this painting found its title because it feels so free-spirited and to me the bright colours and freedom of the mark-making speak of a flighty energy.  It was a big part of my transition into making more figurative work and you can almost see the structures and forms starting to come through the abstraction.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Exhibition and auction dates

It is two weeks since I started this project and I'm really pleased to say that today I finalised the exhibition details.   

Originally my plan was to blog for a month whilst planning from scratch an exhibition of all my remaining paintings, after which I would auction them each on eBay with a starting price of one penny.  As the project has developed over the past fortnight I've preferred the idea of holding my exhibition and auctions within the month so that they finish in the final weekend of this blog.
Empty spaces
While exploring the logistics of making a disused shop into an exhibition space, I've done lots of research through the commercial letting agents in Brighton, none of whom have been very helpful.

I've discovered a wonderful movement of artists, curators and creative bods who are developing the Empty Shops Network.  It’s exciting to see the energy behind the drive to make use of all the vacant premises around the city, answering a need for artists to find space to show and perform, while serving the community and bringing the beautiful world of art to everyone!

Due to my self-imposed deadline of pulling this project off within a month, I’ve chosen to leave that adventure for another time.  I'll make the most of visiting the events organised by Waste of Space during the Brighton Fringe in May.

The exhibition
So, I’ve been exploring alternative venues.  Yesterday, I was offered an ideal space in the Friese-Greene Gallery at Brighton Media Centre.  I had an exhibition there some years ago and I’m really pleased to be showing there again for this project.

Lots of you have been asking when the auction and exhibition kick off, and I’ve just finalised these dates:
Thursday 5th April  My penny art auctions will begin on eBay at 6.30pm.
Thursday 12th April  Exhibition opening night from 6-9pm at Friese-Greene Gallery, Brighton Media Centre, 15-17 Middle St, Brighton BN1 1AL, including a set from DoYou Feel What I Feel, Deer? and a licensed bar. 

Friday 13th April Exhibition open from 10am-5pm.

Saturday 14th April  Exhibition open from 10am-5pm.

Sunday 15th April  Exhibition open from midday till 8pm, with the eBay auctions ending from 6.30pm-7.45pm.

The auctions
Each painting will have its own individual auction on eBay, and I’ll stagger the start times of each auction five minutes apart.  I’ll post links to the auctions on this blog, Facebook and Twitter when they go live on the 5th. 

Update (5th April): You can find the eBay auctions here:

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Painting 7: Beat Glorious Heart

Oil on canvas, 100x80cm, 2008

I really pushed myself with this painting to be as free as I could be and express very directly where the paint was taking me without thinking about it or judging it prematurely.  I had to be brave at the time to follow through with that but it was extremely rewarding in that it opened up the way for me to be more playful and perhaps more honest in my painting process.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Music to my eyes

Listening to music is a huge part of my artistic process and musicians have got me out of many creative tight spots.  It really helps me to connect to the part of me that is unbound by my normal preoccupations so that I can respond to the moment freely and imaginatively.

I think there are so many comparable elements of song-writing and painting.  I was listening to Joanna Newsom loads while painting The New Sublime. I found her lyrics poetic in that they create their own world within each song, similar to the way I attempt to use space and light to transport the viewer of my paintings.  I also feel really inspired that someone so young is staying so true to her own voice, despite having such a different style.  She managed to reach a massive audience by being herself and writing from her heart.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have had a big influence on me creatively.  In particular, the album 'No more shall we part'.  I remember listening to it for the first time - I couldn't do anything until the whole album was over!  I think spirituality is mentioned in each song somewhere, but in a universal way that explores the light and dark elements of how we live with ourselves day to day.

Sometimes the inspiration is general, so the music tunes into a feeling or a phase I'm in.  And sometimes there's a specific song (or a few lines from a song) that underpins the whole painting.  This has happened a couple of times with paintings that I'm yet to show you.  For example, there are 4 lines in 'There Are Eyes Above' by Josephine Foster that I created a whole painting out of!

I find that going to gigs can really help if I need some creative energy.  Maybe its because the experience is live so you are caught in the present moment and feeling first hand what the artist is trying to convey.  I've spoken a lot about the place I try to reach when painting and there are some musicians that are really good at drawing out my emotions, such as Silver Apples, Arvo Part, Jean-Claude Vannier and The Mars Volta.

I mentioned in the launch of my blog that my exhibition would be hosting a gig by 'Do you feel what I feel Deer?'.  This Brighton-based band have written beautiful songs based on some of my more recent deer paintings and its so interesting to see, or hear, the process reversed.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Painting 6: Shine Baby Shine

Oil on canvas, 100x80cm, 2008

I consider the next four paintings to form a body of work although they aren't technically a series.  They are much smaller than the paintings you've seen so far (half the size!) and they are beginning to hint at more tangible subjects.

I painted them after moving into Studio 106 and wanted to bring a lightness and freedom to my process in this new context.  It was a big challenge to move on from my weightier canvases and the philosophy underpinning them.  I feel very affectionate towards them!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Responding to change

The main reason why I’m doing this exhibition and auction project is to clear the way for my painting practice to make a transition into a new phase.  I’ve had lots of changes in my life in the last couple of years (and more to come in the summer with the arrival of my new baby!).  I feel like to resume painting I want to just bring to the canvas who I am at that time, without feeling the presence of paintings I’ve made in the recent past.

I've put a lot of thought into how to let go of my paintings.  I’m aware that all artists have work stored that hasn’t sold and I’ve considered holding an art fair specifically for this purpose.  It was a simple idea where the artist would pay a subsidised amount for a space and keep all the income from sales.

My Penny Art Auction is the way forward for me at this time in my life but I’ve naturally been interested in how other artists have moved on from past work to help them develop creatively.  A crucial part of being a practicing artist is responding to change and freeing up the way for new inspiration.

Sometimes it’s possible to re-prime canvas and make it into a totally new painting and I think this is fairly common practice.  At times, I’ve re-used old canvases by keeping some of the colours and marks but changing the overall composition or subject matter.  This can work really well if you’re an abstract painter and some sections have worked better than others.

A number of artists I’ve spoken to periodically destroy old paintings for the sake of being able to leave them behind, actually and metaphorically.  I have to say I have been tempted by this in moments of frustration.  There’s an important distinction to be made between a painting that you’ve been labouring over but that hasn’t become anything and a painting that you would consider successful but that simply hasn’t been bought.  And if you’re making work in a non-commercial sense, it’s not always easy to match your work to a market.

Among the innovative ideas I’ve come across, the artist Ron Ford has created a body of new work from old.  He had a surplus of 20 works on paper which he shredded and then created beautiful collages from.  This is an example of where the material and the process also speak of the subject matter and I think the finished works are particularly strong due to their origins. 

It’s vitally important to make the art as truly as you can at the time.  It can feel like you don’t want to let go and move on because you have attachments to it but in my experience, it can be the work that is holding you in a certain place.  It can feel extremely difficult to make that shift, but I’m reminded of the phrase ‘if you love something, let it go’ and that is a thread that is running through this process for me at the moment.

I’d love to hear from any artists reading this who have their own process of letting go of past work.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Painting 5: In Moments

Oil on canvas, 200x160cm, 2007

This was the first painting I made after moving into Studio 106 where I made all of the other paintings that will be part of this auction.

It was a huge shift going from painting in our small living room with plastic sheeting pinned to the wall to sharing a space with 20 really talented people with my unfinished work on permanent display!  I felt massively supported by them personally and creatively.

I wanted this painting to stand alone after finishing The New Sublime series, and it took me five months to complete.  

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Reflections and revelations

This week has been great!

I have so loved reconnecting to my paintings and remembering when and where I was when I painted them.  To me they are stories and songs and snapshots of times I've had.

The other really great thing has been discovering how much I can achieve when I really love what I’m doing.  It’s been truly enlightening to find that at the end of a day of being with my lovely daughter and nurturing my baby bump, I still have energy and enthusiasm for developing my blog and pushing this vision I have of giving my paintings a home where they will be seen and related to.

I’ve been chasing letting agents and writing press releases among all my other normal commitments and I'm so thankful to be able to feel my way through this process, continually bringing myself back to the origins of my idea when I start to feel any resistance.

I was mulling over my relationship with the art world tonight and trying to be really honest with myself.  As much as I believe in the integrity of my paintings, it’s not possible to exist in a bubble.  I need a constant shifting dialogue with what is happening in art on a wider scale, instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.  I can’t hide from that anymore because this project throws everything open!  

As a relative newcomer to social networking,  it’s been eye-opening to find how much insight it’s given me into how other artists are shaping their worlds and negotiating their paths.  I feel like I’m falling in love with art all over again and being reminded of its capacity to show us meaning and beauty.

A week ago, I felt game but daunted by the challenge I’d set myself.  I had no tangible plan as to how I would make it happen, I was simply trusting that the idea felt right and that the way would be revealed.  I’m so glad I did!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Painting 4: Behold

Oil on canvas, 200x140cm, 2006
The fourth painting of the series entitled The New Sublime

This is what I wrote to accompany the exhibition of the series at the Freise-Greene House Gallery in 2007:

“The New Sublime: Be Found, Believe, Be Held, Behold.

My paintings come from a deep exploration of the aesthetic experience.

In 1790, Kant defined the aesthetic experience as a combination of reactions to the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘sublime’.  The experience of looking at a painting has the potential to reveal the temporal nature of our being.  It affords the transcendence of the subject from its own boundaries of self-consciousness, liberating it from ideological or subjective intervention.  It supersedes the intellect and the imagination and gives us an indescribable sense of the moment in itself from within the context of the eternal.

‘The New Sublime’ is a meditation on the transitional scope of the contemporary conditions attached to being.  It is an effort to observe and illuminate the sensitive notions of temporality caused by the simultaneous elevation and devastation exhibited in the present climate of what it means to live this moment with this culture and this politic.”

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The big 'why?'

This feels like the time to give you some background about how I’ve come to have this body of work and how I got to the place where I feel able to let it go.

Ever since childhood, I’ve wanted to be a painter and I’ve dedicated myself to that with my education and with the choices I’ve made to keep a studio space going.  In 2008 I gave up paid employment to paint full time and throw myself into trying to make it work as a viable career. 

I gave myself a year to get somewhere with it, which didn’t happen as I’d imagined and I take responsibility for that.  I’ve always approached each painting with the utmost integrity and commitment but one payoff for this is that I’ve neglected marketing them.  There was always a feeling that ‘my next painting’ would say more and better represent the body of work I wanted to exhibit and promote.  So I went from one canvas to the next with just a few tentative web searches and mailshots to galleries in between.

What I’ve come to realise is that the key is to value yourself and your work and know that your paintings have a place in the world and deserve to be seen. Marketing skills can be learnt but self-promotion is a really tricky one and lots of really talented people struggle with it. 

I’ve recently been applying myself to a process of giving away the majority of my belongings and this has really forced me to be honest about where my security lies.  Although it’s been a tough road, I’ve found that none of my possessions give me much in terms of security and love.  Sounds obvious now but those things have to be nurtured within.

My idea for Penny Art Auction has come out of this and when going through all my paintings applying the same questions that I had to my belongings: ‘is this giving something to me or is it taking away?’, it was a simple shift to imagine a creative life where I can face each new canvas without thinking about each one that had come before.

I’ve already spoken to other artists about this and I’ll be doing a future post about how they relate to paintings that haven’t sold and whether/how they move them on.  I’d love to know what you think too.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Painting 3: Be Held

Oil on canvas, 200x140cm, 2007
The third painting of the series entitled The New Sublime

'Be Found' and 'Believe', the first two paintings in this series, had the energy of something arriving and perhaps breaking through.  I think 'Be Held' felt like a sort of welcome to whatever that was.  It feels softer, brighter and there is a circular dynamic to the painting that seems to want to contain or (as the title suggests) hold the emerging form.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The truth in the moment

I am fascinated by the way that being in a gallery and looking at paintings, sometimes of simply a red square, can so move me.  Reaching this place or inspiring it in others has underpinned my motivation as a painter.  

My MA was in Cultural & Critical Theory and my dissertation was entitled ‘Is the aesthetic experience revelatory of an exclusive modality of truth?’.  I chose this MA rather than another painting course because I wanted to know whether what I was experiencing could be deconstructed using philosophy or if there was an element of truth in that moment that was only accessible through experiencing the painting itself.

My studies took me on a journey through enlightenment aesthetics and beyond, with Kant providing the backbone of theory on the subject.  I should mention that his critiques of the beautiful and the sublime weren’t limited to art-related experiences but could equally be true of a sunset or a thunderstorm, a natural disaster or a piece of music.

I came across wonderful theories of how the aesthetic experience leads us to transcend our boundaries of self-consciousness (which are always cognised by us in the past tense) by floating in the true present moment. 

I fell totally in love with the language that had been pushed to its limits to pin down something ineffable.  My studies drew me closer to my own understanding of how I could describe the process of what happens to us in that moment of encounter with the artwork.  But it has been connecting to the memory of that freedom when applying paint to canvas that has formed my pilgrimage towards my own revelation of the truth of being.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Painting 2: Believe

Oil on canvas, 200x140cm, 2006
The second painting of the series entitled The New Sublime

I was massively inspired by Cy Twombly and I think with this painting, I was braving a much more personal interaction with the language I had begun to develop.  The forms had a weight to them and their light and darkness seemed to be more fixed than with Be Found, as though they were modelling things that were going on internally for me at that time.

By focusing on the experience of 'the encounter' with the art work, I started to imagine how it would feel to be in a room with four paintings of this size.  As with Be Found, it was as though this one also represented a transition and opened up the way for the next.

I was drawing from my work with Kant’s theory of the beautiful and the sublime in The Critique of Judgement.  This body of enlightenment theory underpinned my MA dissertation and I will return to those ideas tomorrow.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The planning begins

The next painting will be going up on the blog tomorrow so for today I thought I'd flesh out some of my aims for this project and answer some of the questions that have been coming up.

Thank you so much for all the words of support and encouragement I have received. It's been really overwhelming how many people get this and believe in my idea of letting go in this way.  There have also been mentions of terror and shock, but I'm assured these reactions were short-lived, so all good so far...

After the initial stomach lurching moment of going live on Wednesday and feeling the enormity of what I’m doing, I have focused on embracing the unknown and throwing myself into the practical side of things.  There is a lot to be thankful for and excited about whatever the outcome.

I've been asked about the auctions themselves, so I want to clarify a few things regarding my plans.  My aim is to rent a vacant shop or commercial property in central Brighton within a month to host the 10 day exhibition for the duration of the eBay auctions.  This means I won't be sending out links to the auctions until the exhibition is ready to open.  I will keep you updated here as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

My first major project is to find the space for the exhibition.  After some initial research, I have been told that some landlords are keen to support the art scene here as it brings so many visitors to the city.  It's also usually better to have a space filled if only for a short time rather than leaving it empty, so I am hopeful!

A few people have picked up on the theme of stepping outside the art mainstream and I will be coming back to this in future blogs.  Ideas around what the art world is and whether/how I can be a part of it have been a constant presence in my career and I'll be interested to discover where this project sits within that.

Tomorrow: painting number 2, Believe.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Painting 1: Be Found

Oil on canvas, 200x140cm, 2006
The first painting of the series entitled The New Sublime

This was the first painting that I made on this scale since finishing my Fine Art degree in 2001.  On a study trip to Paris I was moved to tears by a huge Rothko and couldn’t drag myself away from it but had no idea why.  I thought, wow, painting has the power to strike something in us that can make us feel alive in a profound way.  For me it was a total awareness of being present in the moment, like a rush.

Something in this really connected with me, which led me to do my MA to understand more about this experience from the philosophical angle.  After going some way to grasp what I understood by the ‘aesthetic experience’ in my dissertation, I found that my painting process was becoming more devoted to reaching this place than being ‘about’ anything.

I wanted to paint canvases that you could drown in!  Loads of colour, space and movement that all speak to each other.  Be Found was a big leap for me and after 6 months of painting it in my living room and being with it night and day, I felt it was finished and that it had opened out the way for me to follow it with another painting of this size.

Be Found was shortlisted for the Brighton Festival Fringe Visual Arts Prize in 2006 and I exhibited the full series the following year at the Friese-Greene House Gallery.  In 2009, when they were being shown at Xuma, an interior designer offered me a very good price to purchase Be Found for one of her clients.  At the time, I was reluctant to separate the series, so I declined.

I feel now that it is more important that the painting is seen and enjoyed by someone, rather than waiting in storage with the others for a time that may or may not come.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Launch day!

This is day one of my project to organise an exhibition from scratch within a month to show all of my paintings in central Brighton while simultaneously auctioning them on eBay with a starting price of 1p!

I feel like holding on to my paintings may be hindering me from developing artistically and I want to set them (and me) free!  My aim is to put them all out there and for them to find their own value, guided only by what someone who has connected with them feels they are worth.

I’ve always tried to stay true to my painting process, which means like a lot of artists, I’ve naturally avoided the commercial route.  So I have 16 paintings dating from 2006 to 2010 (when I had my daughter) which will each be auctioned as part of this event.

Starting this process today has reminded me how much each of my paintings has meant to me during the times I have spent making them.  It was never about making money or designing something to complement a space.  I had a very passionate goal to 'move' the viewer for a moment in time.

My daily blog will introduce you to my paintings one by one on alternate days and share any insights I have around this process on the days in between.  There are lots of technical challenges, such as sourcing a space, making it good, publicising it, manning it, security, insurance … plenty to be going on with!

The exhibition will also host a gig by a band that were named after one of my paintings: Do you Feel What I Feel Deer?  They’ve written songs inspired by each of my deer paintings and it promises to be a beautiful event.

I’ve already had reactions ranging from overwhelming support to horror that I’m prepared to let my paintings go in this way and so I look forward to your comments too – all are welcome!

Here is a picture of The New Sublime, a series of four 2m high oil paintings, which will be my first four auctions on eBay.  I’ll introduce you to the first one tomorrow so don't forget to save me in your favourites!

Follow @lmwhittaker