October 02, 2016

Relax the Physical

A seated woman, legs crossed, is presented to the viewer.  She is naked and glowing with colour.

The work is done in pen and ink and utilises a polychromatic palette against a midnight blue background.  Despite the languorous pose the many colours vie with other to cause excitement.  The picture at first glance appears only physical, even the head is missing.  We look and see a torso and limbs.

The image symbolises my thought process.  It's well-known at this stage that I draw from the subconscious and fend off any conscious thought as I go.  This is because at moments of complete relaxation the subconscious flowers.  Active logic is eschewed for visceral force.  I draw from the heart and not the head.

Artists throughout history have always been see as the other.  They do things which thinking people seldom attempt - the allow the imagination, the subconscious, to take control and having done so  communicated more immediately with the world.  The pulsing colours and relaxed limbs say more about an inner stream of consciousness than any reasoned essay or textbook ever will.  In drawing the physical my subconscious has highlighted its beautiful irrelevance to the metaphysical mind wanderings that orbit within.  

In exhibitions I am always struck by how people respond to my work.  Their first response is always how they feel about the work.  This drawing underlines that experience with the physical contrasting subconscious colourful excitement.

Further details regarding the artwork are given here.

June 01, 2014

Grace Notes, God-beams and Alpenglow


A grace note is one which, although added by the composer, does not need to be played.  When done so, it is entirely in the musician's gift.  To the listener it is a pleasant surprise and allows the virtuoso to stamp their identity on the rhythm.  It is unlooked for, and all the more pleasing for that - especially in the hands of a maestro.   The experience is uplifting.

God-beams are spotted from afar when light breaks through clouds in clear rays high lighting distant fields or foam capped waves.  Usually they happen on cloudy days when the sun breaks through fleetingly, often between sudden deluges of rain.  To see one, from afar, draws the eye heavenwards.

In the mountainous country of Switzerland the Alps tower over Europe and catch the last glints of the sun as it wends Westwards.  The topmost ridges and peaks are illuminated and glow luminescent, exciting the gaze upwards - Alpenglow.

Each of these happy occasions takes us out of ourselves, removes us from the daily grind and enhances our awareness of the greater universe and our place in it.  Suddenly we are drawn to contemplate the spiritual.  That's what this geezer is doing.

May 24, 2014


One of the oldest symbols of love is the heart.  For some reason the ancients felt that this was where the emotion came from.  Nowadays we know that all human emotion is generated in the brain but we still talk of giving someone our heart.  Or, when someone is speaking earnestly, that they are speaking from the heart - that what they are saying is heartfelt.  You don't have to be a New Age mystic to understand that expression or, indeed, what it expresses.

Inside all of us, according to psychology, is the male and the female part.  Externally we seek to balance that with someone else's personality.  In this drawing of a heart I put together these ideas and the connections that bind us.  We talk of someone as being heartless and others of being all heart.  The words go on.  Who would want to be cruel-hearted?  Finally, who would not want to be of good heart?

Science may have the brain but experience has the heart.

March 03, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Athens

Greece has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late. I visited a few years ago and recently came across a stash of images from the time. They certainly contrast with pictures of rioting, tear gas and anxiety.

The olympics had just been held and Athenians had a certain bounce in their step - the unfolding crisis there would have been as remote as the shenanigans of the gods on Parnassus. Much was shiny and new admidst the ancient temples and medieval churches. However some traditions were zealously guarded.

Particularly striking was the elaborate ritual carried out by the soldiers in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Hand-picked Greek men are chosen to goose step and stand at this sacred spot and are, of course, of much interest to tourists and pride to locals.

There is much rifle lifting, saluting and stomping. One tourist thought it would be amusing to make fun of a soldier and stood beside him a caricature of the Greek manhood beside him - ramrod straight, pursed lips, steely eyes and elaborate costume.

Too late, our foreign friend realised his mistake when the soldier brought down the butt of the gun with a mighty bang on his trainers clad foot. The tourist, shocked, limped off into the city.

June 05, 2011

Mr Mountjoy

Whilst wandering around Dublin I spotted this gentleman wrestling with his map. The city can be frustrating for visitors as streets often have no name signs, or they are at one end only. I stopped to help him find his way. Up close he revealed himself to be in his nineties and Anglo-Irish from Belfast.
This intrepid character explained that, long ago, he used to bring his father to Dublin to enjoy the atmosphere. As he explained his face lit up with a two hundred Watt smile. His purpose was to find Mountjoy Street and I expressed concern that it might be a little colourful to the uninitiated. Laughingly he identified that his surname was the same as that of the street. It was an article of faith for him, each time he visited the capital, to drink at the Mountjoy Pub on the street.
He explained too that on his last outing, he was welcomed whole-heartedly by the denizens of that watering hole who insisted on buying him pints all afternoon once they learned of his sharing his name with that of the boozer. Having ensured that he was going to be well looked after I pointed him in the right direction and wished him good luck.
Leaving in opposite directions we were both content on a lovely summer's day.

April 12, 2011

A Private View

Florence or, as the Italians would say, Firenze has always held a special place in my imagination. Anyone who has read Vasari's Lives of the Artists knows how central this medieval seat of learning and culture is to the history of art. A roll call of the masters who practised there from the 13th to the 17th centuries is very impressive indeed. Giants such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Giotto, Bernini and Botticelli will forever grace this city with their presence. Monuments such as the Baptistery and the Cathedral, not to mention the Cappella dei Principi, pepper the urban landscape and attract millions of tourists from all over the world.

In 2009 I spent some time in December visiting the city and seeing the main sights. I travelled two weeks before Christmas and even though Tuscany was cold, there was no rain and the sun sparkled from time to time. What was fantastic was that I was one of only a small number of tourists enjoying the atmosphere. I visited the main gallery, the Uffizi (above), one bright morning and wandered through the rooms entirely on my own under the laconic gaze of the attendants. Each happily nodding to my acknowledgments. It must be rare indeed for a visitor to have ten minutes alone with Botticelli's Birth of Spring and the Primavera. At the Duomo museum there is Michelangelo's third and final Pieta. Whilst examining this moving depiction, where the artist - a deeply religious man - depicts himself cradling the dead Christ, I was joined on my solitary watch by an elderly English couple. We all agreed that it was very surprising indeed to have one of the world's key masterpieces all to ourselves without having to push through throngs of tourists goggling and guides berating us with whole extracts from Wikipedia! The life size sculpture would have struck it's Renaissance audience by it's spirituality and demonstration of Christ's sacrifice. A 21st century viewer is struck more by the modernism of the Florentine's holding the body himself and by the fact that having decided that the work was not up to his lofty standards he took a chisel to it and sought to destroy it before abandoning the marble. An assistant later tried to complete it. The original passages of Michelangelo's carving stand out in the torso and composition highlighting that even in a failed vision the artist could not be equaled.

Having seen a number of the sculptor's works (such as the famous David, (above) I decided to visit Casa Buonarotti. Here are found a number of his earliest works including the Madonna of the Stairs carved when he was 16 as well as a great unfinished torso. Whilst admiring his work I said hello to one of the room attendants. This guard was a woman of certain years who managed to make her utilitarian uniform appear as a work of haute couture. As her solitary charge she admonished me for arriving in Winter when half the museum was shut and missing it. I agreed it might not have been good from that perspective but that I got to see so many things in comfort and could spend ten minutes in front of each of the master's drawings as a result without being pushed aside by the inexorable swell of tourists hailing from Beijing to Boston. The lady snorted, then let out an exasperated sigh and told me to wait where I was. She then darted off, perilously high heels clicking on the marble, and locked the entrance. Returning to me she ordered me to follow her and then gave me a complete tour of the house through the closed sections and behind the scenes. Amazing and another proof that travelling on your own and taking the time to talk with complete strangers pays off.

Following my once in a lifetime tour I dusted off my guidebook in a swish restaurant on Piazza della Republica and identified all the sculptures by the artist around the city and visited each one (below is his Genius of Victory from the Palazzo Vecchio). There is no place like Firenze!

January 19, 2010

The Fall

There's nothing worse than the end of a party. Especially as the morning light stretches across the empty cans, abandoned coats and over-flowing ash trays of the night before. Coupled with a hangover, an empty wallet and memories of excess is the sense that the good times are over.

That's the vibe that hangs over the City of Dublin, the Province of Leinster and the Island of Ireland. For the best (and worst) part of two decades the country partied like there was no tomorrow. Money was thrown into the ether, burnt in piles and generally wasted. The hangover has settled deep and dark over the populace and the pain is just beginning. And people ask, what have we got to show for it? Apart from negative equity, increasing unemployment and rising taxes what have we got left?

I was wondering that as I sauntered along the boardwalk of the Liffey and considered the Irish experience. How at the height of the Boom the country worshipped money for it's own sake and what was left?

And it dawned on me, there are a few things and the Boardwalk was one of them. It's the best place to view the city and the bridges that join those age old enemies - the Northside and the Southside. The bridges are monument to a small germ of beauty that bloomed.

Furthest West is the James Joyce Bridge (2003) that joins the city to the House which is the setting to Joyce's melancholy story of place, The Dead. It forms two beautiful arcs of white steel forming semi-haloes over the riverflow. A blessing on the city by Santiago Calatrava.

Downriver is the Millennium Bridge (1999) which forms a graceful curve over the water, connecting the Henry Street district with Temple Bar. One pleasure is to jump up and down in the centre of the bridge and watch the startled faces of pedestrians negotiating the rippling deck.

Connecting to the sparkling offices of the IFSC is the Sean O'Casey Bridge (2005). This low bridge forms an ungainly sprawl across the water like a relaxed spider. It's beauty is in contrast to the older bridges that frame it.

The final structure in the set is the newest - the Samuel Beckett Bridge (2009). It joined it's fellows at the apogee of the Boom as the financial world collapsed. Another work by Calatrava it's a final benediction on the river. The bridge (pictured) is a post modern vision of an Irish harp and perhaps the finest of the paths across Anna Livia.

The good times are over but we still have connections and on a sunny morning in January the view still reflects the better days.