Monday, 30 June 2014

'City of Glass 24 - (Peter)'

'City of Glass 24 - (Peter)'   50x40cms

During the process, the face of Stillman* became the cartoon face of 'fictional' detective Max Work (below), which became the face of Stillman's broken son Peter.....painting now on the wall in new show at Modern Artists Gallery, Reading

work in progress- as 'Max Work'
*from 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

'City of Glass 22 - (Cleave)' thoughts....

This is a strange piece...I have been looking again at the paintings in isolation and have concluded that while working as a pair, they both work individually ... they were made that way.  I only put the paintings together when a friend took this photo and then I began to see them as a pair with a 'cleave' within each painting and also between them which I think adds an exciting additional dimension. As a pair the power of the face is diminished, both because of its smaller proportion within the whole but also because of the power of the divide between the two paintings.

The painting(s) have divided opinion and provoked thought, in particular the painting with the face. I had a great discussion with staff and students from Canterbury Christchurch University, exchanging ideas, analysis and possibilities for the piece. Even during our drawing session in Charlestown and in the pub after, the conversation continued so I guess the piece has had an impact which is no bad thing. 

There have been comments about whether the face works at all, whether it belongs, whether it is too strong, too graphic, too out of kilter with the rest of the series. Also how disturbing the face and the stare are. This is intentional: this is the face of Stillman, the man who locked up his 2 yr old son in a dark room for 9 years in a deranged experiment to discover the language of God.
So, to conclude, I think I can and shall, show the paintings individually or as a pair. This duality is delicious: after all in the novel, in his thesis* Stillman discusses the dual meaning of 'cleave', to both break apart and put together.

I have long been an admirer of Richard Diebenkorn and Mondrian and the 'City of Glass' series owes a debt to their work (not too much I hope!). Mondrian is hot news at the moment with two current shows. I have just read a  review of the Mondrian and His Studios at Tate Liverpool, where Waldemar Januszczak talks about the connections between Mondrian's abstraction and his membership of the cult of Theosophy, where universal order is explained 'as a balance between horizontal lines, representing the female force, and vertical lines representing the male force, enclosed in a circle'.

Fascinating stuff. There is also a 'Mondrian and Colour' exhibition on at Turner Contemporary in Margate which I'll have to check out when I'm down in Canterbury in a couple of weeks.

Open Studios has now finished and I'm back in the garage, now even smaller with the arrival of the new work. There are another couple of new paintings in the series, including a red study of Peter Stillman (the son), that I can't yet post having dropped my camera.  It's been a great 3 weeks at the Shire Hall Gallery in Bodmin - big thanks to Wendy and the team for letting me and Janie M McDonald take over the space and to all the visitors who came.

* P:43, 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster.

Win a workshop for your art group with Ashley

We have teamed up with online materials specialist Great Art and are offering all art groups and art societies a fantastic opportunity to win a free workshop with Ashley for up to 15 participants, anywhere in the country. The closing date to enter is 30th June and more information can be found here.

Ashley running courses at the new Warehouse Arts Centre, Bodmin, 

We are delighted to be supporting the newly opened WAC in Bodmin, Cornwall where Ashley will be running two workshops in July.

Saturday 12th July, 'Colour & Coast ' workshop
10am- 4.30pm Cost £30

This workshop is very much connected to Ashley's own art practice, his love of colour and inspiration from the coastal landscape.

Using the 'Coast' as our theme, students will learn the principles of colour-mixing and how to use colour creatively and imaginatively.  Ashley will be hands on demonstrating and sharing many of his tips and techniques about colour, mark-making and composition and the day will end with an informal discussion about the work made.

This workshop is suitable for all abilities 16 years and older and you are welcome to use either acrylic or oil paints.
Limited to 12 places only.

Wed 30th July, Learn to Paint in Oils 

Family Half Day Workshop 

10am-12.30pm & 1.30pm - 4pm

Come along with your children 9 yrs plus (or on your own) for a fun and informative 2 1/2 hour workshop where you will learn about colour and the basics of how to paint in oils.
  • Ashley will be hands on with lots of demonstrations
  • Have a go at making a simple oil painting on canvas

Cost: 1 adult & 1 child £30, 
1 adult & 2 children £40 or £20 adults, £15 children 9 - 16 yrs
Price includes all materials . Limited to 10 places only per session. 

Booking is essential for both workshops.
To guarantee your place email
or or call 01208 77656

For more information about Ashley's art practice see
and for the Warehouse Arts Centre see

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

' City of Glass 22 - (Cleave)'


The piece seems more powerful as a pair, as a diptych: a cleave both within each painting and between the paintings.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

'City of Glass 23 - (Cleave/Stare)' 120x100cms

In the twenty third painting in the 'City of Glass'* series, the face of Stillman emerges..Below is an earlier version which I wasn't happy with- it felt like a cartoon, a drawing rather than a painting and was in front of the divide. I like the new Beckmann-esque Stillman, trapped behind the 'cleaved' shape of Manhattan, like the bars of a cage. He stares, he is menacing, obsessed - this is the man who locked up his son, in the dark for thirteen years, in a deranged experiment to find the language of God. Dense reds and greens add to feeling of claustrophobia. I have enjoyed wrestling with the figurative and abstract languages and have used the angles and triangles of Manhattan, the clothing and the face to bring coherence. The last act today was the introduction of the one circle/button of the overcoat, which, in it's perfection, softens the power of the face.  


earlier version
*from 'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster