Friday, 25 July 2014

A m e r i c a s c a p e s: 'Lake Shore Ltd (& Jon's Barn)'

Trawling through my archive, I came across this painting, bringing back memories of my journey to the USA in 1997, after I was awarded a Boise Travel Scholarship from the Slade School of Art. I was staggered by the invention and vitality in this piece- maybe it's time to tell the tale....
During my stay in the US I made a series of train journeys around the country, with extended stays in Chicago, San Diego, New Orleans, New England and New York City, followed by 2 month's intense painting in a barn in upstate New York belonging to sculptor Jon Isherwood, a great friend from Canterbury College of Art.  I completed 22 paintings in the barn including three very large canvases, 'Chesapeake Bay', 'California' and 'Nantucket'.  The  'A m e r i c a s c a p e s'  series continued on my return to the UK including this painting which shows the first leg of the journey from New York to Chicago.
It was painted on a Formica kitchen cupboard panel retrieved from a skip - I wanted to replicate a similar surface to the bright-white Formica covered boards that I used for the smaller paintings in the barn. An impossible skiddy surface with the constant tension of whether the paint will fall off.  It's kind of dazzling how this paint messes with time, reality and space. A not very well-disguised homage to Matisse's 'The Red Studio' that I saw in New York - propped up against the barn is one of my paintings- a painting within a painting. But what makes this painting exciting is that the subject of my painting within the painting, Chesapeake Bay, is also in the painting- you can see the shape on the Atlantic coast below New York. Love the relationship between map and image - how the line of the flat shape of New York state continues into the line that defines the 3-dimensionality of the barn. Also the relationship between the paint-filled hole in the Formica and the dot of Chicago above.
Have I ever painted a more confident line than the drawing of the Great Lakes?
A couple of artist friends bought this piece, Michelle Avison & Alex le Fevre - I look forward to seeing it again when I'm next  in London.
Next post will be about the painting of the second leg of the journey, Chicago to San Francisco on the 'California Zephyr'. Below is 'Lake Shore Ltd' with 'Nantucket', which is also propped up against the barn in the painting!

Lake Shore Ltd & 'Nantucket' at Quay Arts


  1. Love a lot in this painting--and not least, because I've ridden the Lakeshore Ltd many times over the years, from Buffalo to NYC. Like how the free-flowing lakes are a counterpoint to the cartographer's lines. Delicious colours.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Teddy. The lines of the lakes, maybe because of the image of the barn alongside, appear vertical not flat and idea that resurfaced recently in 'City of Glass 20 - (Cage)'. You have zoomed in on my interests- the dialogue and tensions between the straight and the curved, the natural and the man-made- all found , of course in the shapes of the States.