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

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

'City of Glass 17- (Adam and Eve)' 200 x 60cms

Once the picture was up, I couldn't stop seeing the tower shape as a male figure and the Manhattan shape as female so have changed the title from 'Tower' to 'Adam and Eve', which connects and references to ideas in the novel*.  Love the play between object and image, the tower is both solid and transparent, it contains the image, it is behind the image, it looks down on the image. The colours are luscious but the tower/figure adds a sinister oppressive note to the piece. 

There is a kind of madness in doing these large scale pieces- it's impossible to work on the floor anymore and the studio is getting smaller and smaller with each piece I make.  But the scale is necessary and right because the intention is for the viewer to be in the painting, looking down from an enormous tower onto Manhattan below or to be on the street, becoming Quinn, following Stillman.  

Love these words from Rothko, talking about scale: 'I paint very large pictures. I realise that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however - I think it applies to other painters I know - is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command.' 

However, I think that whatever scale you work on, whatever the motives, familiarity can make things more cosy. I shall work again on smaller pieces because it will be hard and claustrophobic but as artists we like a challenge.....

The soundtrack to this painting was all 1970's: Animals by Pink Floyd (thank-you, Andy Garner), The Heart of Saturday Night (Tom Waits), and Hejira, my favourite Joni Mitchell album.


Looks good on a blue wall..

* 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster