Thursday, 27 November 2014

City of Glass 27- (The Stillman Apartment/ the Space Between)

'City of Glass 27'  160x80cms  VERSION 1

It has taken a while but the latest 'City of Glass'* painting has emerged with satisfying ambiguities.  There are even two titles, two ways in, even two possible solutions. (I removed the ziggurat shaped top section but it's worth another look now the painting has moved on).
The blue block is of course Central Park, 'the space between' West Side and East Side, but continuing the themes of the series and my interest in the play between the plan view of New York, the grid of the streets and frontal view, I have also made Central Park an entrance, a gateway to a space beyond.
During the process I had the figure of Stillman walking through the opening but the idea never worked. Colour replaced image, much more intriguing, the last of my Williamsburg paint -'Sevre Blue' and 'Courbet Green' - boosting the intensity of the block at the southern end of the Park.
The dividing line between the canvases is 69th St, highlighting the location of the Stillman apartment but the painting can also read as an interior, inside the apartment.  Referencing Matisse's 'French Window at Coulliere', the blue block is an opening, a view to outside, but the denseness and emptiness of the negative space dominate. The blue is both inside and outside. 8,7,6,5th Avenues below Central Park become a balcony. I love the uncertainty of the definition between vertical and horizontal planes.

I am still coming to terms with this piece - it inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration but the blue is something else, something sensuous, seductive and undefinable.


In the alternative ending (VERSION 2), you lose the idea of being physically inside the apartment but the ziggurat- topped tower- shape is the apartment building on 69th St and links to the Tower of Babel in the story. With the severity of its' shape, the increase in greys and the abrupt ending of the blues at 110St, the tower-shape is oppressive resonating with the darkness in the novel and with the atmosphere inside the apartment when Quinn meets Peter and where of course the story ends. This version is more about image and object and claustrophobia, the other more about colour and the senses.

I love the idea of the two alternative endings/versions. It happens in literature, 'The French Lieutenants' Woman (and The Magus?), and in film, the two versions of Apocalypse Now!, why not in painting?
I may change the name of the first version to 'The Blue Space'


'What is not possible is not to choose'    Jean-Paul Sartre. 

All the artists who have been on my 'Freedom in Painting' courses will recognise this quote, often nailed, Luther-like to the studio door.  However, with this piece, with the two versions, two solutions, I have decided not to choose because I believe they both work in their own, different way.   I find it exciting, that with one screw, I can make the severest of editing, and make a very different painting.
We have had the 'roof' on for a couple of days, now it's time to take it off and enjoy the interior of the apartment.  

I have, however, been decisive with the title, it is now simply called The Stillman Apartment.

'The space between...' is the theme I set for the forthcoming Canterbury workshop and the words and concept have been constantly in my thoughts in this piece. The idea will drive the next paintings in the series. I was in St.Ives, Porthleven and Falmouth on a perfect day yesterday, enjoying the moment but painting in my head, ideas, colours, words, compositions. Smaller canvases next- I wish to make something as powerful as the blue in 'The Stillman Apartment'...the detail above gives a clue to the direction I will be taking..

This painting happened because I was in the studio day after day- it is the only way to work, to focus. I had a fascinating talk with curator Charlotte Davis at Falmouth Art Gallery yesterday. She organised and participated in a 24 drawing session. It is a bizarre concept but poses many questions; is it possible to focus for 24 hrs?  Because of the intensity of the session will the work go somewhere new?  I'm going to take part in the next one, work on a painting for 24hrs...catch a train home! 

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

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Paul Auster speaks......

Denise recently sent a catalogue of the 'City of Glass' series to Paul Auster's agent in New York, to introduce him to the series and as a way of saying thank-you for the inspiration. Yesterday I was thrilled to receive the following response:

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Incredibly moved by your magnificent paintings. They are strong and
beautiful -- and haunting. To think that my book could have inspired such
vivid colors. I am very happy. 

All best thoughts to you, 

Paul Auster

My paint-spattered copy of The New York Trilogy

A post about the latest painting in the series, working title 'City of Glass 27- (Shadow)' will follow shortly.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Freedom in Painting in Porthleven with Ashley Hanson

Sun 19 - Sat 25 April & Sun 4 - Sat 10 October 2015
 5 Day Course & Saturday Exhibition Day, Cost £350
This course is a unique opportunity to work in a small group with acclaimed colourist and landscape artist Ashley Hanson in the Lifeboat Art Studio in Porthleven, Cornwall, dramatically positioned on the edge of the harbour facing the open sea. Ashley has recently been elected a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists.

Porthleven 17 - Ashley Hanson

Ashley has a very special connection with Porthleven; the paintings of Peter Lanyon (in particular 'Porthleven' made in 1951) have had a major influence on his work and this unspoilt fishing town, with it's double harbour and iconic clock tower was the inspiration for Ashley's first series of paintings about Cornwall.

Artist Sara Bor Painting in Porthleven
Working in the studio

"Image, structure, movement, all the ingredients are here to make paintings. This workshop is an opportunity for artists to explore and respond to its richness, rawness and complexity. It's a special place for me, - so far there are 19 paintings in the series and each time I visit there are ideas for more".

During the workshop Ashley will inspire and encourage participating artists to produce their own personal interpretation of Porthleven, adding to its rich tradition.

PV of Exhibition
The course will start with an introduction and an opportunity to meet the other artists on the Sunday afternoon, followed by four and a half intense working days in the studio and around the harbour. From Friday afternoon the group will transform the studio into an exhibition space, leading up to a Private View in the evening with the exhibition continuing through to Saturday, giving artists the opportunity to show and sell their work.


Course Information

 In order to get to know the subject and provide information and ideas for paintings the first morning will be spent drawing and making studies around the harbour, with opportunities for further drawing exercises during the week.

Ashley mentoring artist Jan Bunyan
On the course there will be a mixture of group exercises, demonstrations and discussion to help artists engage with their painting and take it somewhere new. Colour, mark-making, space and composition are all areas that will be explored during the week and by working in a small group there will be plenty of opportunity for one to one tuition with Ashley. He will also be working on his own Porthleven painting and using this as a teaching tool for demonstrating techniques and ideas. The group loved this last year and found it a great way to build on their existing knowledge and pick up tips.

There will be a group critique of all the work on Saturday morning prior to the exhibition opening.
Ashley's 'Porthleven 19'
Jane Crane's Painting & Study
The course is designed for painters who wish to enhance their creativity and look towards abstraction and beyond the representational. Ashley looks forward to sharing his wide knowledge and passion for colour, landscape and oil/acrylic painting with the group.
Sara Bor's Painting
Joy Viegas' Painting

Chris Salmon's Painting

Helen Herbert's Painting
Jane Crane's Painting

 Your Tutor - Ashley Hanson 

Ashley has over 30 year experience as a professional artist and this combined with his teaching as a Visiting Lecturer at Canterbury Christchurch University and the National Academy of Art, Bergen, Norway, ensures the tuition you will receive throughout the course will be at the highest level. In addition he has run many popular and successful workshops of his own around the UK.
Ashley's paintings have been shown nationally and internationally. His work has been selected for the Discerning Eye (2012 & 2014), the National Open Art Competition (2012), the Ludlow Open (2012 & 2013) and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (2011). He was also joint prize winner of the 'Canvas & Cream Art Prize' in London in 2012. Ashley is a former recipient of a Boise Travel Scholarship from the Slade School of Art and a prizewinner in the Hunting Art Prizes.


Above Beach Cottages have a good selection of cottages and can also arrange a Sunday to Sunday let on certain properties. Porthleven Holiday Cottages offer a 10% discount if you advise them you are booking this course. They also have some excellent bed and breakfast en-suite rooms in The Artist Loft and once again a 10 % discount is available to participants on the course . See also for alternative B&B's and accommodation available.

To Book

Email or call 01208 77656. As we can only take up to a maximum of 8 artists on each course, bookings will be taken on a first come first service basis. Early booking is recommended to secure your place. A £70 deposit is required at the time of booking and full payment made 8 weeks prior to the start of the course.
View a write up on our Porthleven 2013 and Porthleven 2014 course here.
For a further insight into Ashley's art see
Ashley with Artist Petra Rohr-Rouendaal
Our Freedom in Painting holidays and courses continues to inspire and challenge artists of all levels of ability with many participants finding they continue to benefit from the tuition and experience long after the course.

Quoted from February 2013 edition of 'The Artist' magazine by editor Dr Sally Bulgin
"Ashley's concern as an artist and teacher, is to unleash the emotional response to the subject matter that enables the painter to take risks, discover a 'personal colour palette that excites', and to provide the fresh vision of Britain's natural beauty that places him within the long tradition set by the masters of the landscape genre"


Ashley is a very fine and energetic tutor- plenty of ideas. He sees things in our work that even we don't see! I have been much encouraged and inspired.
Joy Viegas - October 2014
Ashley always gives so much that one automatically works towards ones goals and stretching ones expectations. A half hour discussion about a pink spot is fundamental and portrays the integrity of the course.
Jane McClement - October 2014
Enjoyed the company and Porthleven, which I came to adore. Ashley was the perfect host, artist and tutor!
Alison Garner - October 2013
The course lived up to my expectations and more. Since returning my work has moved on, Wonderful environment - wise criticism - excellent company.
Helen Herbert - October 2013