NOTES ON PAINTING
“Phil Green practises a form of distillation, it’s pure painting. Although they may start life as sketches based loosely on landscape, his images eventually mutate into completely abstract works as the layers of paint progress. At first glance they might resemble maps, or perhaps views from the air. They’re an interesting mix of flat, colour field and old-fashioned gestural abstraction reminiscent of Cornish painter Peter Lanyon. All the action takes place at the edges, the residual bits left behind under the layers. If there is a mystery in these paintings, it’s one we bring as we attempt to interpret the train of thought.”
Started a new work last night. Happy with first stage or layering. Attempting to create and interesting earthwork or archaeological substrate as my initial marker or foundation. Find myself resorting to a similar palette as usual. Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Purple, Bright Yellow and Green. Hard surface with Idenden as random skin with which to manipulate. Listening to music as I work. Love that feeling of getting lost in the process. Always aware of the share of conscious and sub conscious. The expectation of the beautiful accident is always present but too much mess is not satisfying and, it veers more towards controlled exploration. In the realm of the senses…. explore…colour, texture, pattern and the evocation of something hidden below and on the surface. I look at the Lanyon piece on the wall and realise only too well that his palette is more restricted and sensitive…blues, creams, whites all associated to his own sense of place which was the Cornish coast. For many years my landscape was York with all its associations of historical overlaps and layers which occasionally present themselves as stark contrasts and reveal to us our place in the city’s history. But my natural landscape is that of North Wales and of the White Peak and Dark Peak of Derbyshire. These landscapes inform how I look and think about the land. It is as much a part of my soul as my emotional memory and in some ways easier to understand. I realise that starting a painting is a journey and on this occasion I actually tore the word from a newspaper and placed it on the surface as a starting point…..talking a line for a walk….Klee ..know that so well.
Paint is the skin of our culture. Before we can present that skin, we must plot in the flesh and bone of the work so that we better understand the realisation of the surface or result. Philosophically I feel stronger and more confident if I know what’s below my feet or in this case my hands. My wooden surface is my core, the Idenden is my rock strata, and the layers of paint and oils is the changing movement of the land. After all, landscape is a state of mind not at any level a depiction of what we are looking at. That’s why I have felt a great affinity with painters such as Pollock, Tapies, Hoyland and Lanyon…it’s their obsession with layering and time related process which by necessity takes us on that journey. Back at the surface and I need to work to the next level. Now I have a very interesting layer, but it is too busy and full to leave alone. It needs to be reined in with softer and less vibrant activity. Possible use of palette knife, with earth or sand mixed in paint and then scraped back to reveal the accidental ancient which lies beneath.
The overlay of harmony is needed…imagine a Gillian Ayres painting that Mark Rothko has finished with his soul style. But we must remember that as we cover up that which is already there, we will encounter overlaps and omissions and with relation to architectonic design we will operate a post-modernist awareness of the motifs and icons we choose to work with. We can never truly lose that which we hide. Feelings, ideas and experiences simply enter a memory bank some of which feels incredibly personal but at the end of the day we all make our marks in time and are fully paid up members of the shared experience of existence and by making works we awake the song lines of life which permeate all we see, touch, smell, and hear.
30,000 feet up over northern Italy. Soft white cloud breaking over faceted mountains. The Easy Jet starboard wing diagonally cuts the frame and locates the abstracted view. Remembering ideas of the bird wing cutting the Welsh landscape of Llyn. Associations with wings from earlier works. Blues.reds and greens. Angel’s wing. Wing of a prayer. Of Love of angels. Buried wings and birds. The feather inside the land. Bones and skeletons…The remains of the living. Drawing of Haria. Hidden lines suggesting connections…Nazca lines…Ley lines. Alexander Thom and the distorted circle…ancient sites act as acupuncture of the earth…portals to the world within. A maze or labyrinth of feathers. A painting..layer one…hard land scratched and heavily textured. Above this layer a skin of feathers trapped in glass. Large scale…a real wing laid over a painting. Photoshopped wings inside a landform. Banking to port. 30mins from landing in Thessalonica. 20 degrees and a light wind. Listening to Slightly All The Time as we begin our descent. The ribbed rocked patterns of land harmoniously formed by Wyatt’s drum patterns. Jazz is landscape. Painting is landscape. Landscape is a state of mind. Look beneath the surface. Get inside things. Jagged rocks softening out to field patterns as the cloud thins and the Grecian sun welcomes us. The hint of a road, a track, all colouration now. Green Hills, red earth and turquoise sea the small oil painting, Seven Wells, is the right template for this type of work as it transcends a fixed view and introduces several viewpoints in the same frame.
There is no syntax in painting. Anything can happen on the canvas and you can’t foresee it.
Painting is a fresh language because we don’t use it for anything else. It has no other uses. It isn’t mass persuasion, it’s a cultured activity.
In art there are no advances only alterations of meaning and fluctuations of intensity and quality.
How we were in childhood is how we are today. Mystery and confusion.
The surface of our culture is paint.
Resolutely one must realise that a painting is an object and not a mirror. The only way to break the surface is through figuration.
Ideas of creation reach a peak the moment before work commences and then ideas and form may change because the paint and the surface adopt a character for aggressive and bold argument.
Landscape: an interest in the distant past and its manifestations on and within the earth (land).
Encapsulation of emotion in the natural and observed.
The work is ancestral. Secret, but not obscure, irrational or unsophisticated. The effect of the work is both to reveal the character of the subject, which is a place and to work magic. Universality of implications.
Marks testify to a permanence of ideas. Not individual, not original, but human, due to simplicity.
A distinct human order which is discernible at once among the infinitely more complex orders of nature.
Art is taken to be like any other human or animal activity, a process of destroying in order to create.
A magical paradox of the perfectly explicit and the finally secret.
Not a depiction of landscape but rather a personal interpretation and reaction to a place.
Painting is about discovery.
Certain places have a feel about them; one remembers them forever; the folk memory having been awakened for a moment.
The canvas is not a place for representation but for observation or contemplation within vision itself.
I work like an archaeologist, finding objects and juxtapositions in my work which inform me not only about myself but also elements of our primitive past and our unconscious.
There is very little natural landscape. Man, the human condition, is readily apparent but not often realised. No landscape is innocent.
A concern with what is under that which we can see.
My paintings are landscape.
Stretch a canvas. Llyn Peninsula. True home of King Arthur. Cloud, Garn, field, ancient mark and a fence in the foreground. Inset box for detail with archaeological references. Lay it on thick with broad strokes of cloud and mist. The Nantoes Grail has returned and is hidden in the landscape surrounding Garnfadryn.
Memories of Anne Grebby, thinking burial in paint. Ideas of the dig, Sutton Hoo in mind. Colour abstract background with thick texture with an inset window of great detail in black & white. Masking tape, photograph on a flat base. A moment caught in a window of time. Uncovered, found, revealed.
Anglo Saxon images of birds, snakes, dragons and boars. A series of eight paintings under the title of “First Light”. Grebbyesque in style. Gold beneath earth
Tools, machinery, unknown elements buried in the landscape. Jim Dine and Mona Hatoum. Over laid, scratched, damaged, parts glistening.
Kilhope mine and memories of bone and earth connections. A bridge of bone linking past and present. Deep earth beneath dry brushed bone and wood. Structural, almost Geigeresque in complexity.
Walk through time and the land. A familiar journey but now an exploration. Don’t take for granted what’s in front of you. The landscape is not a fixed image, a watercolour in a gold frame. The land is volatile, changeable and unpredictable.
Be in the land and let the land be in you. Total immersion. Innocence.
October. A still grey sky without a breeze. Down the lane with a rusty red dog.
Uprooted pines lie down, their roots still in the stream. A sheep’s skeleton, four moss green walls, three red kites, Iron Age hillfort covered in red bracken. Up close for detail but horizons for scale. We look at the land with a million lenses. The fixed gaze is a trick. Our eyes are cycloramic, we collect images and store them in our mind.
Landskipping or landscaping. Walk and make a line, make history, make the future. Follow Old Ways but create new pathways. The Old Straight Track. Connections, links. On the surface and below it.
A drawing, a poem, a photograph, a memory. Place a stone in a magical place.
Square format, 60 cm x 60 cm. Mixed media on board built up in layers. Idenden applied with a knife. The suggestion of a horizon line. A yellow ochre wash applied to the wet sub surface. When the surface is almost dry to touch then scratched into with rough tools. A build-up of colours and textures using brushes, sponges and rags. Scratches made with nails and blades. Hints of representation but not fully achieved. Splash washes and glazes over the work. Let the liquid find its way. Large brushes as rain clouds over the top. More rubbing, erasing and scratching.
Heather or gorse. Paintings of mountains under cloud and rain. Rough, coarse vegetation found above the tree line. Yellow ochre and purple. Isolated, independent, resolute and deep rooted. Small pieces of colour give life to large swathes of colour bands in the work. Detail small. Horizon large. Emblematic.
Crumble. Layers of hard and soft. Hints and glimpses of softness viewed through hard shell. Multi coloured but unified. A hidden centre or core.
Holst – The Planets Suite. Individual pockets of sound held together symphonically. Loud noise of brass and tympani leading into an interlude of floating clarinets.
- Control – Reckless
- Representation – Abstract
- Visible – Invisible
- Happy – Unhappy
- Close Up – Distant
- Static – Moving
- Effortles – Laboured
- Spontaneous – Planned
- Conflict – Resolution
Surrounded by the sense of a place
WHAT DOES IT MEAN
To capture a moment in time and space through the medium of paint
WHO IS IT FOR?
Me and everyone
WHY DOES IT MATTER
It matters because I have to paint. Through painting I am a time traveller connecting with all artists.
Looking at landscape is never a fixed view. Land transforms and changes. It’s a volatile participant. Be inside the land and let the land inside you. Listen to its stories and myths. Total immersion. Walk it, write it, paint it, dream it. Investigate the process. React to a space or place. Use paint as time. Layering the work is both physical and metaphysical linked to memory. An organic process of exploration and discovery.
At a crossroads in my work and thinking about how to progress or move forward. I have a fixation with the horizon line, and it tends to sometimes dominate my work So, it’s obvious. Lose the horizon. Look down into the land, become surrounded by it, not an observer. Immersion go into the landscape of your imagination and become an archaeologist the new “White” series of paintings are totally abstract, no hint of a sky or a mountain. Start looking at Tapies, Whishaw, Hoyland & Ayres. The perspectives should be floating in mid-air. Build the surfaces, washes glazes… hidden depths. Work on the floor. Lift it to the wall. Make a bold start then destroy it, knock it back but retain elements of the process, reveal its history as evidence of process.
Move away from the format of the square and work on a long landscape. Use big gestures. Huge brushes, sprays, spatters. Destroy and then retrieve. Limit the palette. Earth colours, Not so much red or green. Look at grey, black, white and ochre. Use gloss paints, acrylic, oils and aerosols. Be brave. Experiment.
Phil Green, May 2020
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