Friday, 5 February 2016

In progress- 'City of Glass 37- (PLOT.noun/PLOTverb)



'City of Glass 37 - (PLOT.noun/PLOT.verb)'   100x100cms


Early days but I already have a title- the relationship with words is so important in this series witrh its source in text*

Love the multiple meanings of the word 'Plot':

  • plot as in narrative
  • plot as in conspire
  • plot as in plan or map....

In the novel, Quinn plots Stillman's walks onto a street-map of New York

In turn, in City of Glass 6 and 35, I have 'plotted' Quinn's walk described on pages 106-112...

In the act of painting, I have 'plotted' the grid of New York, already several times in this piece, to establish the angle, scale and position of Manhattan within the canvas , looking for the strongest composition. 

My 'plot 'is for the Manhattan shape, once established, to be painted entirely with layers of transparent colours, giving the appearance of coloured-glass.....


*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster


Monday, 25 January 2016

In Progress: 'City of Glass 36 - (The Force of Chance)'

In progress - 'City of Glass 36 - (The Force of Chance)'  120x100cms

Time to look at this again now the paint is dry. It's not enough but it's exciting. The title came to me in my sleep, or lack of. There is deliberation and control in the selection of colours, the liquidity/consistency of the paint, the placement and concentration of the drips, (to establish the avenues of Manhattan), but how the drips run, how they behave, is down to chance.

The exploration and manipulation of chance is at the core of Paul Auster's story 'City of Glass'* which inspired the series.

This is a beautiful painting, but a drip is a drip and I see connections in the language to the work of Jackson Pollack, Ian Davenport, Bridget Riley. If I choose to take the painting further, it will inevitably go backwards before going forwards, but this decision, this risk, is what painting is about: it there are any questions, any doubts one must take the plunge into the unknown.

*from 'The New York Trilogy'

Sunday, 24 January 2016

'City of Glass 35 - (Village Green)'

'City of Glass 34 - Village Green)'   70x70cms

4.30 p.m.

More clarity by extending pink border/frame to top corner. Is this it?

2 p,m.

I think I'm there. I am enjoying the reworked shapes and the warmer colours that were introduced- the earlier version below felt too crude, the palette cold, cold, cold. There is an in-and-outness about the grid that I like- sometimes linear and forward, other times 'shape' and locked, with colour creating the space. The rectangle of Washington Square is now strong, tucked amongst the pinks in the bottom right corner. The green is based a Michael Harding paint, Bright Green Lake- beware! The top section is indulgence - I enjoyed making this mark. The gestural paint and blue slash continues the movement of the fast pink marks on the right around the canvas, helping isolate the painting within a painting, the large shape of the grid. 

Denise wasn't sure about the painting, thinking it too complicated, and suggested taking out the line of 8th Ave, below 23rdSt. It's made a great difference, opening up the painting and revealing the green semi-circle more. The different thing about this painting? Not a single drip.

Quinn's walk from the novel is there*: initially a strong dotted line, I've gone for subtle. There is a trace if you know where to look (see description below)

'Village Green' is quintessentially English: do New Yorkers use the phrase?

In progress - 'City of Glass 35 - (Village Green)'  70x70cms


This much worked canvas has had many lives but never gained priority or favour. A sparse, abstract demonstration painting from the Portheven workshop tentatively became a painting about Porthleven itself before becoming an enjoyment of colour, shape and paint, with that first exercise providing the palette. 

To be honest I didn't know what to do with it but seeing it on the wall after a break of a few weeks, with fresh eyes, I immediately  hooked onto the pink triangle, my entry into the latest City of Glass painting. It is the 'Chelsea Triangle', formed by 24th St, and 11th and 12th Aves which I seem to have highlighted in many of the paintings in the series. My first thought was to balance the triangle with the green rectangle of Washington Square in the bottom right corner, hence the title. I'll have to fix the shape and make it a powerful green to take attention away from the pink triangle, still, in my eyes, the dominant element in the painting. 

I like how the quadrilateral sits within the square, with faster marks and movement around. Organic shapes undermine the severity of the grid and the less-disciplined streets below 14thSt gives scope for angles, zigzags, real and fictitious, giving more movement.

Washington Square features in the novel, part of Quinn's meticulously described walk on pages 106-112. ...down 5th Ave to the Flatiron Building, west along 23rdSt, left down 7th Ave to Sheridan Square, then along Waverley place to Washington Square. 

Quinn's walk will be plotted on the painting- it has to be there, it just a question of how strong or subtle it has to be in terms of the painting. 

Here we go. 

*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster



Friday, 15 January 2016

City of Glass 34 - (Watch that man...)

'City of Glass 34 - (Watch that man...)   120x100cms

THURS 21 JAN

I have redrawn the left-side of face again & also added a very subtle line of the chin. There is a definite twist to the face now, less flat. I am enjoying the composition - how the West Side follows the angle of the face and how the bulge of Chelsea is echoed by the left ear. Two more City of Glass paintings on the go now, one I started a while ago, the other with the working title 'Village Green'. Watch this space.

SAT 16 JAN

A few subtle changes to the Bowie outline- it now seems more varied, more interesting and truer to the image. I also added a couple of small piers on the West Side to disrupt the verticals. Listening to Young Americans. The intersection of 5th Ave and 14th St is very powerful, an unintended piece of symbolism. This painting is right on the edge.

FRI 15 JAN

A tribute to David Bowie, a hero...the iconic outline of Aladdin Sane becomes the framing rivers of Manhattan. The outline is not quite right, it's a little crude,a little obvious. I may re-draw tomorrow.Or not.

Choosing the title for the piece was very difficult but critical- some were obvious, others more subtle: 'Hero', 'Starman', '285 Lafayette St',  '(1913-1938-197?)', 'Millions weep a fountain..'. 

I've gone for 'Watch that man...' with it's dual reference: we were all watching Bowie, wondering what he would do next.

The novel 'City of Glass'* is all about watching that man...

'Watch That Man' is, of course, the opening track of Aladdin Sane..

Emotion, image, place, ambiguity..no-one was more ambiguous than David Bowie. 'Ambiguous' comes a close second as a title...






285 Lafayette St








* from 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster





Saturday, 9 January 2016

'RED' Workshop, Canterbury Dec 2015


Red is passion, courage, revolution, luck, blood, sin, fire…..

It is scarlet, cadmium, crimson, pink, burgundy, red earth…..

Red gets noticed….


A very challenging and enjoyable two-day workshop at Canterbury Christchurch University.  Red means something different for each of us-  I'll let the paintings speak for themselves....


Estelle Jourd


Antonia Glynne-Jones

Philippa Langton


Heather Rachel Johnston


Nicola Waters


Robin Thompson


Aiden Flood


David Carnegie


Jo Rollnick


Mitzi Delnevo

Catriona Campbell

Jo Dunlop

Heather Rachel Johnston


Jo Rollnick


In the Studio

Colour studies


In the studio


There was another artist, Kathleen Alberter but unfortunately we don't have an image of her striking painting. Watch this space.


Here are a few comments from the artists about the Workshop:

'Really thought-provoking'     David Carnegie

'Well prepared. Very positive and helpful guidance'    Robin Thompson

'The individual comments on my work were really useful and insightful...Ashley's passion for art was unflagging and fed through to everyone'     Aiden Flood



Sunday, 6 December 2015

'Sunset Ltd' & 'Crescent'


'Sunset Ltd'   120x120cms


The third and fourth paintings in the Amtrak series, showing the journeys from Los Angeles to New Orleans and then back to New York.  

As well as referencing my travels, 'Sunset Ltd' was also driven by the challenge of making a circle work in the centre of a square. Before this piece I had had a rare commission where part of the brief was to place a sun in the centre of the painting.  I struggled with this and moved the sun slightly towards the bottom edge, breaking the perfection. 

in a way,I felt I had avoided the challenge so I made an identical 120cms square canvas and screwed down in the centre a circular piece of wood that had been hanging around in the studio for years. The idea didn't come until a few weeks later when i read 'Sunset Ltd' by James Lee Burke where New Orleans and the train-line feature. 

The expressive brushwork of the oceans spins around the still centre, flamboyant shapes continue the movement across Canada. Desert colours, the Great Lakes like palm trees. Within the plateau of the circle is the image of a sun setting behind a mesa, which also reads as the Texas Panhandle....map-truth and painting truth, plan-view and frontal view,  once again intertwine.




'Crescent' below shows the last leg of my journey from New Orleans to New York. It is a strange piece, sweet colours, the pale-blue hints of sky and I see the image of a horse.







Saturday, 21 November 2015

'Self-Portrait'

'Self-Portrait'  70x45cms   oil on wood

My daughter Faye is working on a self-portrait in the style of Matisse for her art homework and it made me think of this painting, a rare self portrait. An antidote perhaps to all those recent red paintings. Strange, I cannot remember when or where it was made but possibly early nineties, Camberwell or Nunhead. I would have been looking at Auerbach and I was definitely looking at the Bellini's 'Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan'  in the National Gallery.





The painting reminds me of the advantage of painting on wood - I must have been broke- where you load on the paint without picking up an impression of the stretcher bars. Though wood does weigh ten times as much!

I'm enjoying the richness of the brushwork and mark-making, the paint itself, and it's a pretty good likeness with the blue background representing the sea and it's importance in my life and my art.