Monday, 14 April 2014

'City of Glass 20 - (Cage)'

'City of Glass 20 - (Cage)'    90x60cms

Stillman enters the cage formed by the grid of the streets where he walks - 'bounded 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 2 years of my life working on the series.......

A couple of crucial tweaks on Tuesday morning- a subtle vertical score down Stillman's back his back and blob of blue paint on Stillman's left shoulder to lock him more into the painting with the colour echoed in a the small square touching Central Park in the top panel. I have always been wary of my photo-realist roots, especially when painting the figure - the fallacy of the frozen moment. The introduction of figure of Stillman has presented me with problems, not least how not to make him giant when placed alongside the street grid of Manhattan.  The answer has been to put him in an ambiguous space, a painting space that doesn't exist.  He is standing on 72nd Street!  His 'illusionist' interpretation and position in the painting are subverted by the physicality of the paint and the strong horizontal and subtle vertical 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 cage. 

* from 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

Friday, 21 March 2014

'City of Glass 19 - (Park Avenue)' 200x60cms

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 solid or 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...

In spite of the colour, the tower- the new Babel- is oppressive, which is what I want. It has the feel of the 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 didn't yet know 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 also 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.  

My daughter Faye said it was her favourite painting in the series. She immediately zoomed in on the saturated colours flanking Park Avenue, confirming the choice of title. (Park Ave is also, of course, significant to the novel*). Denise was missing a particular blue that had been mainly painted out and she 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 for the painting was 'Five Leaves Left' by Nick Drake. Beautiful.

* 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Photos - Riverside Gallery Spring Exhibition PV

A few photos from the opening night of the Spring Exhibition at the Riverside Gallery, Barnes, London Friday 7th March.
The exhibition is show casing the work of artists Ashley Hanson, Sara Bor and Liz Hough and runs until Saturday 27th March.

It was a busy night, the gallery looked great and the work was very well received. 
A Big thank-you to Ron and Ruta  for hosting an excellent PV. Thanks to Rob Amey for the great photos!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Special Limited Offer - Painting Holidays in Cornwall


Freedom in Painting in the Cornish Coastal Landscape with Ashley Hanson

12 -17 May & 22 - 27 September 2014

Our Painting Holidays in Cornwall include:

  • FROM ONLY £365 (Including offer )

Spring is here and we have a limited offer for you!
Book by 24th April to receive a £30 discount - there is no better time to book! 
Be inspired by the spectacular Cornish coast and the generous and thought provoking teaching of Ashley Hanson

'I didn’t know what to expect—but I have been delighted that it lived up to its title ‘Freedom in Painting’ - suggesting that the painting comes first, it dictates the subject matter. Its been very useful for ideas for future work. Ashley’s a very passionate, selfless teacher. He tries to get into the mindset of each student and find out what they want to achieve. He really gives of himself. Excellent.'
Kate Newington, London

To book or find out more contact:   or call 01208 77656
See also  for lots more details

Saturday, 1 March 2014

'City of Glass 18 - (Mystery)' 80x40cms oil on canvas

Dense, intense, colour. The parallel vertical 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 colour-scheme and the starting point in this painting and my Columbus Circle.
'Mystery' refers to both the experience of the viewer : what am I looking at? and of course to the novel* that inspired the series, the mysteries within and all detective stories.
detail:  Columbus Circle - 14th St

 *  'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

Monday, 24 February 2014

Exhibition - Riverside Gallery, London 7 - 29 March 2014

Ashley will be joining Sara Bor and Liz Hough for a Spring exhibition of their work at the Riverside Gallery, Barnes, London . Come and meet the artists at the Private View, Friday 7th March, 6-8pm.

Gloss Gallery, Exeter

Ashley is also currently exhibiting a selection of different works at the Gloss Gallery, Exeter, Devon, including the  Diptych below, from his 'City of Glass' series.
'City of Glass 5 - (Truthville, N.Y.)                                     'City of Glass 4 - (Hope Falls, hope falls....)

Saturday, 15 February 2014

'Arizona - (after Don deLillo's 'Underworld)' 168x132cms

One of my  'A m e r i c a s c a p e s'  series and one of the strongest paintings of my career,  Now the children have grown up a bit, might risk putting it on the stairs....
In 1997, I was awarded a Boise Travel Scholarship from the Slade School of Art and made a series of train journeys around the US before painting for 2 months in a barn (belonging to sculptor Jon Isherwood) in upstate New York.  On my travels, I took a detour to the Grand Canyon where I had an incredible, sublime moment: alone on the edge of a promontory, in a jaw-dropping landscape, buzzards flying overhead, total silence.....
As an artist, how do you deal with that grandeur, that overwhelming visual, physical experience?  Like the 'City of Glass' series where I had problems dealing with the scale and familiarity of New York, I found my way in through a novel, this time with Don deLillo's 'Underworld'. 
There is a passage where the main character Nick Shay, visits an artist friend of his from New York who is making an artwork at an air base in the Arizona desert. It's not an active base, it's where the US airforce keep their decommissioned B52 bombers, rows upon rows of them, neatly parked. The artist and her team of assistants are systematically stripping the silver paint from the aircraft and then repainting them in wild, vivid colours. Of course, it's a piece that can only be seen from the air, and as a birthday treat Nick and his wife see the artwork from a hot air balloon, a fantastic passage on p:83, where through Nick's eyes you are seeing a painting, the like of which you can never have imagined.  
I was mesmerised by the scale and ambition and beauty of the (fictitious) artwork- in an interview, the artist talks about the desert being the frame - and it resonated with my experience at the Grand Canyon.  
''This is a landscape painting in which we use the landscape itself. the desert is central to his piece. It's the surround. It's the framing device. It's the four-part horizon.'' 
Artist Klara Sax, p:70, 'Underworld'
In the painting there is so much space and heat, the white, blank canvas of Mexico the hottest part. In the top right corner is the image of the B52's, and in the spirit of the novel, although ordered in rows, each is different, individualised, 'decommissioned' from their military identity.  There are fifty aircraft, one for each state, and if you tilt your head you can see the deliberate link to the American flag. Scratched into the paint, is a very subtle trainline, ending at the powerful dot of Flagstaff where you catch the bus to the canyon.....
Detail- B52 bombers


'Arizona' & 'D.C.(Diamond City)' at the Michael West Gallery