Sunday, 17 January 2016

A Larger Arena

'Landscape-Meditation,' Chinese watercolour and gouache on rice paper, 35 x 34 cm
For this post I am going to add a selection of paintings. Colour brightens my day during these dark winter months and heralds the approach of Spring. 
'Somewhere Else,' acrylic on canvas, 70 x 50 cm
Painting on canvas will have to wait for a few weeks as I am off to Cyprus on Tuesday. On my return I will be working on some much larger canvases because I feel that my ideas about colour and brushstrokes need a larger arena. In Cyprus I will work on paper.
'Landscape-Meditation,' gouache on paper
I have recently sent out several applications for exhibitions and residencies. My favourite residency place in China is closing down and I am now applying elsewhere in China. The thought of working back there and exploring Chinese calligraphy is really exciting.
'Landscape-Meditation,' gouache and pen on paper
As well as national and international exhibition applications, I have just signed up for the SOUTH EAST OPEN STUDIOS, which will take place across Kent, UK, in June.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Translating Art and Life

'Imagine,' acrylic on canvas, 24 x 19 cm

When I started writing today it was a shock to realise I haven't written anything for over a month! Probably because so much was happening with exhibition applications, doing shifts in a gallery my local art group set up, and continuing to paint. Consequently I have not painted as much, or as large, as I wanted but I have made a lot of small works on paper and canvas.

'Imagine,' (2) acrylic on canvas, 24 x 19 cm
We opened our pop-up gallery on November 19th and there are 14 members of our group showing. It has been a wonderful experience and the range of work is very wide, mine probably being some of the more abstract work. 
''Untitled,' gouache on watercolour paper
I'm posting a selection of newbies. I'm exploring different papers - some quite cheap, some 'proper' thick watercolour paper, and with different materials - ink, gouaches, child's paints. But what is standing out for me is that I really love the expressive lines the Chinese brushes facilitate and that way of working and allowing the paint-world to emerge is very natural for me. It calls to me and suggests all kinds of exciting possibilities. So I am now thinking how I can take this expressiveness and spontaneity into the oil paintings and acrylics.

'Landscape-Poem,' Chinese ink on rice paper, 35 x 85 cm
This month will be a busy one!

'Landscape-Poem,' gouache and pen on paper
And finally, a photo of our gallery in Tunbridge Wells, Kent (UK)
My husband in front of our gallery, 'In the Frame,' in Tunbridge Wells (Royal Victoria Place)
A final note - I sent two copies of THE JACKDAW (art magazine)to the China Artists Association in Beijing last month. I have a full page in it for my report on the 6th Beijing International Art Biennale (page 26). I have been told that my report will now be published on wechat (the Chinese platform for social media), on the Beijing Biennale's pages, and I am assuming it will be translated.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

And a Few More!

'Chinese-Journey,' acrylic on board
Here are a few more paintings!
'China-Poem,' ink on rice paper, 35 x 61 cm
'Memory,' (2) acrylic on canvas, 29 x 19 cm

An Evolving Language

'Memory,' acrylic on canvas, 10 x 12 ins
I'm posting some new works, made in the last 3 weeks. I'm alternating between works on canvas and ink paintings, and have attempted working with colour on the rice paper. This has been an entirely new challenge as rice paper has a great absorbency and any kind of colour you lay on it tends to sink in and lose its intensity. As an artist who loves colour, this has pushed me to have to make instant and definite compositional decisions. 
'The Land of My Eternal Memories,' acrylic on board, 40 x 30 cm
Any elements you learn through one medium always seep into work you are doing in another medium, and I have found that very positive visual changes are appearing.
'China-Poem,' Chinese ink on rice paper, 35 x 33 cm
The trouble with laying colour on rice paper is that it tends to flood through to whatever is underneath the paper. Then it sticks! I laid some of the rice paper on plastic and some on newspaper. It took an hour to prise the 4 paintings off the newspaper and plastic, though the plastic was easier to remove the rice paper from. My Chinese watercolours were not strong enough (except for the black and dark blues) so I had to add some gouache. But the colour is never very strong and you can not layer it very much - first marks have to stand.
'China-Poem,' gouache and Chinese watercolour on rice paper, 35 x 65 cm
I like working this way because brushstrokes and their life-force and suggestiveness really interest me, and I relish the emerging image and its leads on to an imaginary world.
'China-Poem,' (2) Chinese watercolour and gouache on rice paper, 35 x 33 cm
I see these works as leading on to many new discoveries in my pursuit of this evolving language, and my need to bring to life my internal world.

Thursday, 5 November 2015


'Where My Dreams Go,' Chinese ink on rice paper
'Chinese Journey,' Chinese ink on rice paper

'Elemental,' Chinese ink on rice paper

'Onward and Upward,' Chinese ink on rice paper

I have had so little time to write recently, with new work being made and the exciting explorations of the Chinese ink on rice paper, so I am just going to post a few of the new ink paintings. And mention that I am in the process of applying for a painting residency in China!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

After China

The three weeks since the Beijing International Art Biennale opened and I walked around the huge halls has passed in a blur of activity. I spent quite a long time writing a report about the event, describing being an invited artist and how this has impacted on my painting, and the artwork from 96 countries. This will be published in THE JACKDAW in the November/December edition. 

'Where Thoughts Go,' ink on rice paper
'Chinese Journey,' ink on rice paper
'Where Thoughts Go,' (2) ink on rice paper

'Chinese Journey,' ink on rice paper

In between my writing I began to use the Chinese art materials I bought in Beijing. Working on rice paper has been a journey because it is quite different to watercolour paper. It absorbs liquid paint quite greedily and is quite thin, so it requires a different approach. I have been playing with combining the structural elements of my previous artwork with fluid brushstrokes - also a component I value highly. As a child I copied Chinese paintings from library books and in particular admired the economical brushstrokes that captured animals, landscapes and people. In these new works I am hoping to extend my work and how I approach oil on canvas. I have always been interested in the directness of brushstrokes and their inner life. 

So far I've painted 12 ink paintings. Each time my brush touches the paper, I learn something new about ways to force space and mood onto the paper with different kinds of lines, wet-in-wet shapes, pools of dark ink and intuitive mark-making. It has opened up a new world!

I didn't want to look at any other art until I was well into my series of ink paintings. I didn't want to taint my response to the freshness of my accumulated memories of China - I wanted them to flow out of the end of the brushes. What surprised me was that it was the landscape seen on the trip to the Great Wall of China that forced its elements into the paintings. I'd expected the city to find its way in but the landscape and its configurations have pushed new ways of rendering land forms into my work.

 I have still to sort through 1,450 photos and then I will post them on here and write more about the amazing experience of being in China.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Me outside the National Art Museum of China, 24th September
Me outside the National Art Museum of China, 24th September - for the Opening Ceremony

It is almost a week since I arrived back from China! I've been struggling with jet lag but finally feel I have adjusted, and now I'm sorting through my photos and thinking about the new work that this trip will have inspired in many ways. It still all feels as if it was a dream that I went to China.

To actually be INVITED to go there was such an honour! It was such a last minute rush to get my Chinese visa and then I left Tunbridge Wells train station on the morning of 22nd September, full of excitement and nerves (nerves for the long flights!) I was in a daze because I could not believe I was actually going. When I made my application for the Biennale last December I never thought it would result in this trip.

I flew to Charles De Gaulle airport - an incredibly large and modern airport - and had about 4 hours to wait there. I boarded the Air France aircraft at around 10.40pm (L.T) and we took off at 11.20pm. It is the longest flight I have ever done, being around 10 hours. But as dawn streaked the sky in the early morning, I found a vast tundra below, and it gradually became even wider and flatter. I followed the flight tracker with much interest, and then Beijing came onto view. I took many photos as we came in to land.

There is nothing to match the feelings of amazement that flood through you on realising you are now in a place that is very far from home and somewhere that you have never laid eyes on before! I went into the arrivals hall full of happiness and anticipation. Soon I saw at the far end there were people holding large pink BIAB signs, and one of them came forward to greet me. A group of artists had already gathered and I learned that there had been several collections of artists from the airport, and I also saw a 3 page list of artists - and it struck me that there must be around 200 invited artists, much more than I had expected. Artists wanted to take photos with me but the organisers wanted us to go out to the bus.

On the bus we were given our schedules for the next 4 days and also much needed bottles of water. My husband called me and it was strange to realise that it was only in the UK! As we wound our way through the increasingly tall and modern buildings of Beijing, I felt more relaxed. I had not really known what to expect but it was clear that we were going to be very well looked after.

Taking part in the 6th Beijing International Art Biennale was an experience that artists can only dream of. It felt as if 2 weeks were crammed into the 5 days I was there. I will write much more very soon because this event deserves a huge report!

(Above photo - a selfie during the Opening ceremony and speeches, at the National Art Museum of China)