ARTISTS IN HAMPSTEAD PART FOUR

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Down the hill from Hampstead village is Belsize Park still regarded as part of Hampstead,  it has the same post code of NW3, and was in the Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead before both became amalgamated in 1965 to become the Borough of Camden. The area began to attract artists when nine studios were built by Thomas Buttesby in Steele’s Road, Belsize Park, between 1871 and 1879 and close by, The Mall Studios, behind Park Road, now Parkhill Road, were built about the same time. Early occupants of these and other dwellings in the neighbourhood included the WWI artist and landscape painter George Lausen (1852 – 1944), the illustrator Arthur Rackham (1867 – 1939), and also Walter Sickert before he moved down the hill to Camden. However Belsize Park’s heyday as an artistic centre was in the 1930s. The sculptor Barbara Hepworth and her husband John Skeaping moved there in 1927; Hepworth was to become one of the most renowned and innovative sculptors of the 20th century. Like the earlier artists with Hampstead connections, she became interested in the modern art movements which had begun on the continent, and was one of the first British sculptors to produce abstract works, hollowing out shapes and attaching great significance to the negative spaces thus created.

Barbara Hepworth was born in 1903 in Wakefield, Yorkshire. In 1920 she won a scholarship to Leeds School of Art where a fellow student was Henry Moore. She continued her studies at the Royal College of Art from 1921 to 1924 and after leaving she travelled  on a one-year scholarship in Italy with Skeaping who had been a fellow student and was also a sculptor. They married in Florence in May 1925 and returned to London in November 1926. In 1928 they moved into No 2 The Mall Studios and the following year their son, Paul, was born.

By 1931 Hepworth and Skeaping had drifted apart, and her meeting with Ben Nicholson that year sounded the death knell of their marriage. In 1933 she divorced Skeaping and in 1934 gave birth to triplets, two daughters and a son, with Nicholson. The mind boggles at the thought of the pair along with their triplets and her son Paul all living in a small studio – their precarious financial position inhibiting a move to somewhere larger. Hepworth and Nicholson were married in 1938 after his divorce from the painter Winifred Nicholson. In 1939 when WWII was imminent they decided to move to St Ives, Cornwell. First they lived  in a house belonging to the art critic Adrian Stokes, then in 1942 they moved into a larger house with a sheltered garden which enabled Hepworth to begin working outdoors for the first time. In 1949 they bought Trewyn Studio where Hepworth lived till her death. ‘it will be a joy to carve in such a perfect place …….. the garden sheltered by tall trees and roof tops so that I can work outdoors most of the year’, she declared on finding the studio. In 1950 her work was shown in the Venice Biennale after which she began to be recognised internationally.

In 1951 Nicholson and Hepworth were divorced and in 1953 her son Paul, who had been a professional pilot,  was killed in an air crash. In order to come to terms with this crisis in her life Hepworth journeyed to Greece and wrote while there ‘ Sculpture to me is primitive, religious, passionate and magical -always magical – always affirmative’. The following year a major retrospective of her work was held at the Whitechapel Gallery. Monolith, a large limestone sculpture dating from this time stands in the grounds of Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath.

In 1964 Hepworth was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue for which she was successfully treated but from then on she was beset by ill health exacerbated by breaking her femur in the Scilly Isles in 1967,  but despite poor mobility from then onwards  she doggedly continued working. In 1968 the Tate held a major retrospective of her work. Unfortunately the tongue cancer she had suffered due to heavy smoking had not deterred her habit and in 1975 she was smoking in bed when it caught fire and she was burned to death.  A  year later Trewyn Studio opened as the Barbara Hepworth Museum.

Barbara Hepworth may have been the most famous of the artists in Belsize Park in its heyday, but there were many others. The art critic Herbert Read who himself lived at the Mall Studios from 1934-5 described the neighbourhood as ‘a nest of gentle artists’.

The  expressionist painter, Oscar Kokoschka, had been outspoken in his opposition to the Nazi regime and many of his paintings had been destroyed by them, so in 1938 he fled to London  from his home in Austria-Hungary and moved into a studio at No 45 King Henry’s Road, NW3, near the Steele’s Road studios. Kokoschka had an intense dislike of London so throughout the war  although he and his wife kept a base in London,  during the summer months they lived in Ullapool, in Wester Ross, Scotland , which must have been the perfect antidote.  In 1946 they moved to 120 Eyre Court, Finchley Road, where a blue plaque commemorates him. In  1953  they left London and settled in Montreux,  Switzerland where Kokoschka lived until his death  in 1980 at the age of 93.

The WWI artist Richard Nevinson (1889 – 1946) who had been a contemporary of Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer and Carrington  at the Slade School took one of the Mall Studios in 1939. The Dutch painter Piet Mondrian lived in Paris from 1919 until 1939 but when war seemed imminant he left for London and moved into a room at No 60 Parkhill Road – a blue plaque on the house commemorates him. By all accounts this was a pokey little room which Mondrian disliked intensely and the view of the garden from the window, which would have been to most people its only redeeming feature, particularly erked him, hating the colour green he had banned it from his palette and used only black and white and the primary colours – he  complained of the view that it had  ‘too many trees’.  The final straw came in 1940 when  a bomb dropped nearby and he fled to New York where he lived till his death in 1944. Two days after this bomb another was dropped in the same area which happened to trap Henry Moore in Belsize Park tube station. What is one persons nightmare is another’s inspiration Unlike Mondrian, rather than being traumatized by this event Moore was inspired  and the next day he began his shelter drawings which became as well known as  his sculptures. Moore and his wife Irina lived at 11a Parkhill Road from 1929 to 1940 where a blue plaque commemorates him. In 1941 they moved around the corner to the Isokon block of flats in Lawn Road. This iconic block, built in 1933, was designed by the architect Wells Coates as an experiment in communal living for young professionals of modest means who wanted to dispense with ‘tiresome domestic troubles’. Its services included cleaning, laundry, cooked meals and  even shoe shining! If only ……….. ! It still stands and is a grade I listed building. Occupants of the Isokon included writers, architects and artists, the latter included the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and the designer and Bauhaus member Marcel Breuer, Naum Gabo, Cecil Stephenson and Alexander Calder (1898-1976) who was most famous for his mobiles.

This is the final part of my posts on artists of Hampstead. NW3 is no longer  an artists quarter. That ended in the 1950s long before I arrived, accidently, but I think fortuiosly, because  I love the area for many things including the tree-lined streets, Hampstead Heath, and not least  the plethora of coffee shops – I’m doing this post in one. It is now difficult to keep up with London’s Artists Quarters and sadly artists who are not famous are gradually being priced out of the city altogether. One area where this has happened recently is Shoreditch. Some artists have moved further east to Mile End, while others  have gone south of the river to Bermondsey from where they are gradually edging south to Peckham. Oh, and I must not forget Willesden. I may live in leafy, long gentrified NW3 but my studio, along with many others, is on an  industrial site at Willesden Junction. Who knows where the next Artists Quarter will be, Perhaps it will be Penge, the butt of many jokes, or the much maligned Croydon.

Here are four paintings of mine.  As is often the case in  my blog they have nothing to do with this post. Also I assure you they are mine, they were just done a long time ago, about twenty years before most of my paintings on this blog. I’m not sure whether I’ve progressed or regressed in my art work, all I am sure of is that it has changed.

 

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1    ANGELS IN THE MOUNTAINS Gouache  on paper

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2 COY CARP   Gouache on paper

 

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3  WATCH OUT!   Gouache on paper

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4 FROGS IN LONG GRASS   Gouache on paper

 

 

 

ARTISTS IN HAMPSTEAD PART III

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With Part Three of Artists in Hampstead there is again a return to tragedy. The artist Mark Gertler was a friend of the Carline’s although he doesn’t feature in the painting ’47 Downshire Hill’.  Geetler was born in Spitalfields, London in 1891 to impoverished Jewish immigrant parents. In 1908 he won a scholarship to the Slade School of Art where he fell in love with Dora Carrington, or, simply, Carrington which was the name she preferred. A number of male Slade students seem to have fallen for Carrington. It did cross my mind that perhaps the reason for this was a paucity of female students at the Slade but I discovered that in fact female students outnumbered males at that time. However unfortunately for those smitten students, she had eyes only for the homosexual Lytton Strachey, a member of the Bloomsbury group. Strachey in his turn was in love with another artist Henry Lamb who is in the ’47 Downshire Hill’ picture, and who, evidently, was as handsome  and charismatic as his teacher Augustus John whom he emulated. Alas for Strachey,  Lamb was only attracted to women.

Gertler lived at several addresses in Hampstead. In the winter of 1915-16 he resided in Vale of Health from where he painted ‘Merry-Go-Round (on Hampstead Heath fair), which is his best known painting and is now in Tate Britain. He also lived for a time at both Well Mount Studios, where a plaque commemorates him, and Penn Studio, 13a Rudall Crescent. From 1933 he lived at 53 Haverstock Hill for three years in a house that was demolished a year later. Gertler became a successful painter, but was mentally unstable and in 1939 he committed suicide, so deeply affected had he been over the death of his mother and Carrington’s own suicide in 1932, instigated by the death of Lytton Stratchey from cancer  two  months earlier.

The object of Strachey’s unrequited love, Henry Lamb, was born in Australia in 1883, where his father was mathemematics professer at Adelaide University. Under parental pressure he studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London, but give it up in 1904 to become an artist, and to study painting at Academie de La Palette, Paris. However he returned to medicine at the outbreak of WWI and qualified at Guy’s Hosital in 1916. He saw active service as a medical officer and was awarded the Military Cross. After the war he painted Irish Troops in the Judean Hills Surprised by Turkish Bombardment (Imperial War Museum). In WWII he was appointed a war artist specialising in portraits of military people. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1949 and died in a nursing home in Salisbury, Wiltshire in 1960 aged 77.  His famous portrait of Lytton Strachey was painted in his studio at Vale of Health. His works of Hampstead include House at Night, Hampstead (1911) and Hampstead Heath from the Vale of Health Studio (1914).

The artist Paul Nash, brother of John Nash, who was also an artist, was born into a wealthy London family in 1889. He went to the Slade where he met both Stanley Spencer and Mark Gertler. in WWI he was enlisted with the Artists’ Rifles and served at the Western Front. In 1917 he became an official war artist producing works both innovative in style and expressing powerfully the horrors of the war. Many of these works are in the Imperial War Museum. From 1936 to 1939 he lived at no 3 Eldon Grove, NW3 and his paintings Grotto in the Snow and Hampstead Gardens under Snow both depict its garden. He died of heart failure in 1946.

John Craxton was born in 1922 in St John’s Wood into a Bohemian household whose father was a Royal Academy Music professor. Craxton studied art at the Acadamie Julian in Paris until the outbreak of WWII, upon which he returned to London. Rejected from military service due to pleurisy, he attended Goldsmith’s College of Art and became a friend of fellow student Lucian Freud, though their work was very different, Craxton being a NeoRomantic, influenced by the 19th century English Romantic painter Samual Palmer. After the war he travelled widely in Europe and took up permanent residence in Hania, Crete in 1960, after which he split his time between Crete and his house in Kidderpore Avenue, Hampstead. His many exhibitions included a retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1967. He also illustrated books for fellow Grecophile, Patrick Leigh Fermor. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1993. He died in 2009 survived by his long-term partner Richard Riley.

There were, of course, many other artists with Hampstead connections during this time. The ones I’ve written about I have done so for various reasons, some because they are just too famous to have been omitted, some  because they made valuable contributions towards the unpresidented invotations in art in the 20th century and others because they happen to be amongst my personal favourites. Originally I intended to do just one blog post on Hampstead Artists. Little did I know then how many artists had been associated with the area, so then it was going to be two, then three posts, but even three is not enough, but I promise myself, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon these posts  the fourth will definitely be the final one and then I will do the post Trees of Hampstead Heath before those trees start dropping their leaves.

Here are two  my paintings that have no titles yet and have nothing to do with this post!. So, sorry if you were expecting some images of the esteemed artists that  this post is about but there are lots to be  found on other websites and, of course, a lot more information on each of the artists than I have written about here. But if it has whet your appetite to find out more than it’s served a purpose.

 

 

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ARTISTS IN HAMPSTEAD PART II

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Continuing from Part One the seminal exhibition at the Grafton Galleries made a great impression on many of London’s leading painters and they often gathered at 47 Downshire Hill, Hampstead, the home of George and Annie Carline. Both were artists as were three of their five children, Richard, Hilda and Sidney. The painting Gathering on the Terrace at 47 Downshire Hill painted in 1925 by Richard Carline exemplifies these meetings. It includes his parents, along with his sister Hilda and the artists Stanley Spencer and Henry Lamb.

Stanley Spencer the most well-known of the group was born in Cookham, Berkshire in 1891 and spent most of his life there, describing it ‘as a village in Heaven’. His childhood was a happy one, his father, a music teacher, encouraged his eight children to sing, participate in lively debate, read bible stories and take nature walks. Such was Stanley’s love of Cookham that when he became a student at the Slade in 1908 he was nicknamed ‘Cookham’ because he insisted on travelling back there most evenings, which must have meant he was one of the earliest commuters. Among his fellow students were Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler and Paul Nash.

Stanley left the Slade in 1912 and in 1916 joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in Macedonia. Deeply affected by this experience and of his elder brother Sydney, also an artist, being killed in action in 1918, on his return to England he painted Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at Smol, Macedonia, September 1916. The painting is now in th Imperial War Museum, London.

After the war Stanley became close friends with the Carline family and moved to Hampstead in 1922. He painted The Roundabout at the Hampstead Heath fair in his friend Henry Lamb’s Vale of Health studio, which overlooked the fairground; his painting the Resurrection was also painted in this studio. His two other works of Hampstead were painted much later; Hampstead Helter Skelter Hampstead Heath in 1935 and The Vale of Health in 1940. He and Hilda Carline became close, drawn together by their mutual interests in art and religion, she was a devout Christian Scientist, and they discussed these subjects on the long walks they took together on Hampstead Heath. In 1925 they were married and lived for a while at the Vale of Health Hotel. Incidently, the hotel was demolished in 1964 and replaced by a block of flats aptly called Spencer House. They had two daughters, Shirin born in 1925 and Unity born in 1930.

In 1932 Stanley returned to live in Cookham with Hilda and their two daughters. What then ensued would be worthy of one of the best Jeremy Kyle episodes. In summary the scenario goes as follows. Happily married man is pursued by lesbian who captivates him with her charm. He divorces his wife and marries the lesbian a week later but she refuses to leave her female lover and will not consummate her marriage. He showers her with expensive gifts in an effort to get her to change her mind, but to no avail. He tries to persuade his ex-wife to live with them in a ‘ménage a trios’ but she refuses. His wife will not grant him a divorce, but persuades him to sign over the house to her, whereupon she evicts him from it and now broke he ends up living in a bedsitter. Unable to support his ex-wife and children, she has a nervous breakdown and the children are cared for by relations.

The people involved were fellow inhabitant of Cookham, Patricia Preece whose lover was Dorothy Hepworth. Stanley and Hilda were divorced in 1937 and a week later he married Preece, who feigned being an artist but turned out to be a con-artist, as she signed the paintings of the talented Dorothy Hepworth as her own. While Preece was bleeding him dry financially Stanley continued to visit Hilda and wrote her many letters. After his eviction by Preece from his Cookham home Stanley moved to a single room in a house in Adelaide Road, Hampstead for a while, and he never recovered financially.

In WWII Stanley became a war artist and was commissioned to do works of shipbuilding on the river Clyde, requiring him to spend a lot of time in Scotland, which I would think were welcome interludes from his chaotic personal life. In 1945 he returned to Cookham where he became regarded as a rather eccentric character as he pushed the old pram in which he carried his canvas and easel around the village. Many of his paintings, along with  the pram and many of his artist’s materials, can now be seen at the Stanley Spencer Museum in Cookham. He was knighted in 1959 and true to form the opportunistic Preece, who had never lived with Stanley or permitted consummation of their marriage, began calling herself Lady Spencer. He died later that year of cancer in a hospital in Taplow.

Hilda Carline was an accomplished artist whose considerable talent has been eclipsed by Stanley Spencer’s. Born in 1889 she revealed her artistic talent at an early age. In 1913 she attended Percyval Tudor-Hart’s Academie de Peinture in Hampstead. During WWI she served in the women’s Land Army and worked on a farm in Suffolk. After the war she studied at the Slade School where she won several prizes. She went on to exhibit at the New English Art Club and the Royal Academy. While married to Stanley Spencer she did little art work consumed as she was with domestic duties. After their divorce she returned to Hampstead with her daughters and lived in the Carline family home at 17 Pond Steet.

By 1940 Hilda’s mental and physical health had weakened. Following her nervous breakdown in 1942 she spent nine months in Banstead Mental Hospital, during which time Stanley visited her frequently. In 1947 she was diagnosed with breast cancer from which she never recovered and died in 1950 at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. She is buried in Cookham Parish Cemetery. Stanley Spencer continued to be inspired by her after her death and wrote long love letters to her.

Since Hilda’s death the overshadowing of her work by Stanley Spencer’s has been redressed to some extent. In 1999 a retrospective of her work toured the UK and included an exhibition at Kenwood House, Hampstead. Most of her paintings are now on show in the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Lancashire, and a fine self portrait painted in 1923 is in the Tate Gallery although, unfortunatly, on my recent visits to the Tate it has not been on show.

Now to a happier story of two artists who apparently had a happy marriage and supported one another in their respective careers as artists. Richard Carline, the artist of the painting, was born in 1896 in Oxford. At the age of seventeen he attended the Academie de Peinture in Paris. Like many other young artists at the time he became a WWI war artist and in WWII he supervised the camouflage of factories and airfields. In 1944, along with his wife Nancy he helped found the Hampstead Artists’ Council, which is still in existence.

Richard’s wife Nancy was born in 1909 into the family who owned the Peckham department  store Jones & Higgins which operated till 1980. She studied first painting at the Slade and then returned to study and stage design. She met Richard in 1934 but they did not marry till 1950. Her painting Supper on the Terrace (at 17 Pond Street) is one of a number she made of that house, where the Carline’s had moved to from Downshire Hill in 1936. In the painting are her future mother-in-law Annie Carline and Hilda Carline who lived there for a time with her daughters, after her divorce from Stanley Spencer. Richard and Nancy lived in this house until Richard’s death in 1980, after which Nancy moved to Oxford. In 1985 their was a retrospective of her work at the Camden Arts Centre in Hampstead and in 1997 the National Theatre put on a show of work by Richard and Nancy Carline and friends. She died in 2004 at the age of 94.

Here is just one of my paintings as my work has been disrupted through having to move out of my old studio and into a new one which took a while to find but persistence won in the end. However the move has left me with several unfinished paintings but no finished new ones to put in this post, so instead below is one I did some years ago but every so often alter. It is acrylic on canvas and titled ‘Tree of Life’

 

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ARTISTS IN HAMPSTEAD PART ONE

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I know, I said my next post would be The Flora and Fauna of Hampstead Heath,but it became bleedin’ obvious for anyone as unknowledgeable as me in dendrology (my new word of the day!) the easiest way to identify trees is by their leaves. So the Flora and Fauna post is deferred till spring/summer. Meanwhile I`ve written about  some of the many artists who have been associated with Hampstead.

It seems networking was alive and well long before the word was invented, with artists meeting in pubs and one another’s studios and houses. The Old Bull and Bush pub, opposite Golders Hill Park, is indeed old, dating from 1721. William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough quaffed ale together there. Reynolds, perhaps when he`d had enough of these two, would meet up with George Romney at the nearby Spaniards Inn. The two were friends , despite Romney never being invited to join the Royal Academy, of which Reynolds was a founder and first president.

This has nothing to do with the subject of this post, as I doubt any of these artists had a pooch in tow when they met up for drinks,  but the title of my blog is sufficient excuse to mention it, The Spaniards Inn, these days is dog friendly, as are most of Hampstead’s pubs, but merely dispensing doggy treats is so five years ago, so in addition, The Spaniards has a dog washing service – how cool is that?

Though during his life time fame and fortune eluded him, Hampstead’s most famous artist John Constable had no time for such frivolity as pub crawling as after his wife’s death he was left to care for their seven children. Born into a wealthy family in East Bergholt, Suffolk in 1776, his father was the owner of Flatford Mill. Happiest when sketching the nearby Essex and Suffolk countryside, after leaving school Constable worked as a portrait painter, but continued to paint the countryside around his beloved East Bergholt, spending his summers there and winters in London, where Hampstead Heath, offering expansive vistas of the constantly changing weather, became his subject of choice. His early paintings of the heath include ‘The Edge of the Heath by Moonlight (1810) and Hampstead Stormy Sky (1814).

In 1809 Constable  had become romantically linked with Maria Bicknell the granddaughter of the rector of East Bergholt. Her family regarded his as socially inferior and threatened disinheritance if they married, so they were prevented from doing so till 1816 when after the death of his parents Constable inherited a share of the family business. Once married the Constable’s began spending time in Hampstead. In 1819 they rented Albion Cottage, opposite the Whitestone Pond and in 1821 they lived for a year at 2 Lower Terrace, Hampstead. Their next  move was to Stamford Lodge on Heath Street.

In 1821 Constable had become an associate of the Royal Academy and showed his painting, The Hay Wain, at the Academy’s  exhibition. It so impressed the French painter, Theodore Gericault, who brought it to the attention of the Parisian dealer, John Arrowsmith, who bought it and exhibited it at the Paris Salon of 1824, where it won a gold medal. Constrained Romantic landscapes were popular in England at this time so Constable’s paintings from nature, capturing the changing skies and effects of light on the landscape, were revolutionary, so in his lifetime he sold only twenty paintings here, but many more in France, where he had a major influence on the burgeoning Barbizon School and the French Impressionists who succeeded them.

In 1827 the Constable’s took up permanent residence in Hampstead at 40 Well Walk, where a blue plaque commemorates him. However the following year Maria died of tuberculosis, leaving Constable bereft and with seven children to bring up. In 1829 at the age of fifty-two he was, belatedly, elected to the Royal Academy. He died in 1837 and is buried in St John in Hampstead graveyard. A few of the many of Constable’s paintings of Hampstead Heath are Hampstead Heath with Harrow in the Distance (1820), The Grove or Admiral’s House, Hampstead (1821), Hampstead Heath with Bathers (1821), Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead Heath (1828), Sir Richard Steele’s Cottage, Hampstead (1832) and Hampstead Heath with a Rainbow (1836).

George Romney lived for two years in Hampstead, though not choosing it as a subject. Romney was born in 1734 in Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire, and at the age of 11 was apprenticed to his cabinet maker father. His artistic talent revealed itself early and in 1755 he became apprenticed to a local artist Christopher Steele. In 1756 Romney married and began working as a portrait and landscape painter. In 1762 he left his wife Mary and their son to seek his fortune in London. He supported them financially but they never joined him there.

Despite not being a member of the Royal Academy by 1772 Romney had become successful. After two years in Italy studying the work of the Renaissance artists, he moved to 32 Cavendish Square where he lived for twenty years. In 1782 he was introduced to Emma Hamilton who became his muse and he painted over fifty portraits of her. In 1797, Romney moved to a weather-boarded building in Holly Bush Hill, Hampstead, where a blue plaque commemorates him. Two years later his health failing, and after an absence of forty years he returned to his long-suffering wife in Kendal. She nursed him until his death in 1802.

The small weather-boarded Wyldes Farm (a.k.a. Tooleys Farm and Collin’s Farm)  at New End, Hampstead had been a working farm since the 1600s, and has a long association with artists as well as literary and political figures. The artist John Linnell lived there in 1826 – a blue plaque commemorates him. Linnell was born in Bloomsbury, London in 1792. Encouraged to draw and paint by his carver and gilder father, he became a student at the Royal Academy in 1805 where he gained medals in drawing, modelling and sculpture. Among Linnell’s  visitors to Wyldes were William Blake, Samuel Palmer and William Collins. The latter, who was the father of the writer Wilkie Collins, lived in Hampstead from 1826 for two years. Both Collins and Linnell were rivals of Constable and during their lifetimes more  successful. Another visitor was the artist and astrologer John Varley who had collaborated on a book with William Blake, titled Visionary Heads. Perhaps Linnell was too busy entertaining his friends to paint Whyldes when he lived there, but three years after leaving he painted A View of Hampstead Heath, Collins Farm (a.k.a. Wyldes Farm). Incidently, in 1848, when he was only 19, the PreRaphaelite painter John Everett Millais did a painting of the farm.

Another PreRaphaelite Ford Maddox Brown came to live briefly in Hampstead at 33 Hampstead High Street in 1852. He valued the dignity of labour, exemplified in his painting Work begun then. It depicts navvies at work on Hampstead’s sewers in The Mount, Heath Street. Another work, An English Autumn Afternoon, Hampstead Scenery, was painted in 1853, perhaps as a break from the challenge of Work, which like its title has a lot of work in it and was not completed till 1865.

Old Wyldes Farm appears again in Shooter’s Hill Farm, Hampstead (1866) by Edmund John Niemann (1813-1878). Born in Islington Niemann exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1844 to 1872.  Like Constable he liked to paint outdoors capturing natural colours and realism.

Artist and nature lover Walter Field spent most of his life in Hampstead. He was born at Windmill Hill, Hampstead in 1837 and was especially appreciative of the beauty of the heath.  A drinking fountain, near Sandy Heath, was erected in his memory by his sister Emily. Both Walter and Emily were founder members of the Hampstead Heath Protection Society. His paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy and he did at least one painting of Hampstead Heath. He died at the Priors, East Heath Road in 1901 and is buried in Hampstead Cemetery.

On Hampstead Hill (1881) is considered John Atkinson Grimshaw’s finest painting, it depicts Heath Street bathed  in moonlight. Born in Leeds, in 1861, against his parents’ wishes Grimshaw left his job as a railway clerk to become a painter. Though he had no formal training he became successful, moved to London in 1879 and rented  a studio in Chelsea. He died in 1893 of tuberculosis.

Before the mid- 20th century few women artists’ works were shown in galleries. Why this is so is a subject for a future post, but, at last, I come to a woman in this post. Helen Allingham was born into a middle class family in Swadlincote Derbyshire in 1848, the eldest of seven children. In 1862 her doctor father and three year old sister died of diphtheria during an epidemic, leaving the family impoverished. They moved to Birmingham where Helen studied at the city’s Design School and then the National Art Training School in London (now the Royal Collage of Art) and soon succeeded as a painter and illustrator of both children’s and adult’s books. In 1874 she married William Allingham, an Irish poet, twenty-four years her senior.  In 1881 they moved from Chelsea to Sandhills a village in Surrey where Helen painted the picturesque farmhouses and cottages for which she became famous. She was the first woman to be accepted into the Royal Watercolour Society.

The Allinghams moved to Hampstead in 1888. William died soon after, leaving Helen with three children. She lived her last years in Eldon House, Lyndhurst Road, Hampstead and died in 1926. A plaque commemorates her in Hampstead’s Rosslyn Hill Chapel. Her paintings of Hampstead include Crab Apple Tree, Hampstead Heath; Stanfield House, Hampstead and Old Wyldes at North End – yes that farm again!

In 1910 the new and revolutionary works in a seminal exhibition of the eminent French painters of the time, including Picasso, at the Grafton Galleries made a great impression on London’s leading painters,  and many of them gravitated to Hampstead. However, if you’ve made it thus far on my post you won’t need me to tell you it’s very long, and as I’ve come to this time of such revolutionary changes in the art world,  you’ll be relieved that I’ve decided this is an appropriate point to end this post. I had no idea when I began, just how many artists have been associated with Hampstead. So albeit this post is long many have been omitted. I have decided to do a  second and, perhaps, a third post and these will include artists of the 20th century. However, whether these posts will beat the Flora and Fauna post to my blog remains to be seen.

Here are my latest paintings inspired by Hampstead Heath. Sorry if you were anticipating pictures by the artists I’ve written about, but images of their works may be found on many websites, whereas mine can only be found on this blog!

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1 Sandy Heath in the Snow                                                     2 Branch of Tree on Hampstead Heath

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3   Tree Trunk at Sunset 1                                                       4 Tree Trunk at Sunset  II

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5  Entwined Trees at Sunrise

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAMPSTEAD HEATH

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‘Stop putting a goddamn dollar sign on everything on this fucking planet’.   Bill Hicks

I’ve been visiting Hampstead Heath almost daily since I started dog walking four years ago, but only recently has it become inspiration for my art work, when this year’s glorious summer imbued parts of the heath with the sublime beauty of fairyland. Now that summer is fast becoming a distant memory, how long I will continue with these subjects before being lured back to my default subject of mountains, with forays into abstraction, remains to be seen. However as autumn kicks in I am still being seduced by its beauty and I remember the snow-covered heath last winter being quite stunning, but that was when I was still looking skywards and so giving the heath a mountainous backdrop. Unless you’ve read my post titled Clouds the Poor Man’s Mountains you will on reading this probably pass me off as either bonkers, or having partaken of the funny fungi which can sometimes be spotted on the heath (pun intended). The heath’s Parliament Hill (322ft) may be one of the highest points in London, but it’s hardly a mountain.

This new found enthusiasm for the heath has prompted me to find out more about it and it seemed logical to begin with its history, albeit a very brief one, but  I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that there’s a lot of information available both online and in books about this area, unique for its vastness and unspoilt wildness so near the centre of a  capital city. Hampstead Heath today consists of 800 acres of meadow, woodland and park, divided into three main areas. The largest is East Heath, next in size is West Heath and triangular-shaped Sandy Heath sandwiched between the two, is the smallest. The main ponds, of which there are sixteen, are on East heath. Three of these are bathing ponds and last summer’s temperatures were often high enough for me, along with countless others, to enjoy swimming in them. Quite an achievement for someone who complains of feeling cold  once the temperature drops below 20 degrees.

If you’ve made it this far reading my post, you’re probably wondering by now what the late Bill Hicks has to do with Hampstead Heath.  Well, it’s  not just an excuse for quoting one of my favourite comedians, or using an expletive in my blog, but because the history of Hampstead Heath is one of goodies versus baddies and the latter, as is usually the case, were putting a ‘god damn dollar sign’ on it, by either wanting to purchase it for themselves, to enjoy without being visited by ‘peasants’ or sell it to speculators to build houses on, or dig up, or turn into a fairground or other entertainment venue , all with little regard for preserving its natural beauty, free for everyone to enjoy.

As was the case with Britain as a whole the area was once covered with forest being part of the Great Forest of Middlesex. Excavations on Sandy Heath in the 1970s uncovered evidence of a Mesolithic site dating from 8000BC and a Neolithic one dating from 5000BC, the latter having come to these shores from France. So immigrants have been coming to Britain for 7000 years, and still, it seems, some people can’t get used to it! These ancient peoples made clearings, grew crops and kept cattle on the heath, but in the Iron Age (800-43BC) crop cultivation ceased and the heath was used only as a grazing ground for livestock.

By the  Middle Ages Hampstead had become a village on the London-St Albans Road and the heath was the village common belonging to the Lord of the Manor. The common is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as being held by the monastery of St Peter’s at Westminster Abbey, which by then was known as the Manor of Hampstead. The Lords of the manor did not live in Hampstead so it was managed by a steward and commoners were able to become copyholders of pieces of land, permitting them to graze their animals, gather wood and dig turf in return for agricultural services.

On the dissolution of the monasteries in 1550, Edward VI gave the Manor to his gentleman of the bed chamber Sir Thomas Wroth. In 1620 it was sold to Sir Baptist Hickes, a wealthy textile merchant whose descendants, through his son-in-law, became the Earls of Gainsborough. There were a number of springs on Hampstead Heath some of which still exist, and in 1692 the Hampstead Water Company was established to supply London with water. This was done by damming some of the springs to make reservoirs, which eventually became the ponds of East Heath. In 1707 the third Earl of Gainsborough, Baptist Noel, sold the heath to Sir William Langhorne an East India company merchant, from whom it descended to his cousin, Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson 3rd baronet of Eastbourne. By this time ‘taking the waters’ had become a fashionable activity in England and the medicinal properties of the heath springs resulted in it becoming a popular spa, and so saw an unprecedented number of visitors. You can have an experience of this today at the Chalybeate fountain, just south-east of Kenwood, where during the hot summer the dogs I walk and myself, along with many other humans and canines, partook of the refreshing, slightly metallic tasting water.

By now the ‘dollar signs’ had begun lighting up and though the heath remained common land plots of it began to be sold off. In the 1860s Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson the 8th baronet, sold a quarter of an acre of  gravel and sand from Sandy heath to the Midland Railway Company to make their line to St Pancras. In places they dug 25 feet deep, hence Sandy Heath to this day is very undulating and unlike other parts of the heath. I often go there, when I’m walking a dog who has an aversion to others of her species, a major drawback for a dog, who lives a few minutes from the heath so it’s her obvious stomping ground. So although East Heath has dogs by the dozen, literally, as some of the professional dog walkers walk this number,  Sandy Heath is little visited so she can chase squirrels to her hearts content. It’s also one of my favourite parts of the heath – maybe I suffer from the human equivalent of the dog’s affliction! It is mostly wooded with a variety of mature trees, many with huge knarled trunks and is atmospheric in a spooky sort of way, especially on dull wet days.

The opening of Hampstead Heath railway station in 1860 resulted in even greater numbers of day-tripping visitors. Indeed it was the only experience of the countryside available to many poor Londoners. Visitor numbers escalated further when in 1865 a large chunk of heath stretching from South End Green to Spaniards Road became an enormous  fairground on bank holidays, when as many as 50,000 visited. A fair still comes on bank holidays but is now much diminished in size to a corner of the heath at South End Green, and must be  very sedate and civilised  compared to the earlier one with tales of all night revellers in the area. These were probably people screaming and writhing in agony after receiving an electric shock from a ‘galvanic battery’,  which along with more conventional ones, was one of the fair’s attractions! All this shenanigans incensed those who had come to love the heath for the less pestiferous and damaging attractions of walks and quiet contemplation.  So enter the goodies, who in 1866 established London’s first conservation body, the Open Spaces Society. Founder members were Lord Eversley, Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and john Stewart Mill. A number  of court cases ensued only ending with Sir Thomas’s death in 1869. Then the  Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) purchased the original 220 acres of the heath and in 1871 the Hampstead Heath act was passed declaring the heath should be left in its natural state. Parliament Hill was purchased in 1888 for the public for £300,000 and added to the heath.

In 1889 the London City Council (LCC) was formed and took over the heath. Many who wanted to preserve the heath as it was feared the LCC may turn it into a park, so enter more goodies, who in 1897 formed the Hampstead Heath Protection Society, with the objective of keeping the heath in its wild and natural state. Golders Hill Park, which adjoins  West Heath at its northern end, was added in 1898 and Kenwood House and grounds in 1928, resulting in the 800 acres of meadows, woodland and parks which comprise the heath today. In 1972 the LLC was replaced by the Greater London Council (GLC). This renewed concern that the heath would be turned into parkland, resulted in the formation of a new action group which exists to this day as the Heath and Hampstead Society. The GLC was abolished in 1986 and the heath came under the jurisdiction of the Corporation of London, who as far as I can see are making a good job of maintaining it.

Below is a selection of my paintings inspired by the flora of Hampstead Heath. However, a word of warning. If you are anticipating  seeing recognisable landscapes or trees, my work will disappoint. For I do not set up my easel on site and paint a scene, for my paintings are always done in the studio. It is more that the heath’s beauty gives me the feelings of exhilaration and connection to nature that always inspires me to paint. So far the subjects have been mostly  trees and flowers. Also, though it was sunlight filtering through sylvan glades and flower-sprinkled meadows which I loved it was the markings and patterns of the barks of the trunks of the most aged trees that were the trigger for some of this  art. After all this is where the dogs, when not tearing around the  meadows with their pals,  gravitate to, to spend an inordinate amount of time sniffing around a tree base before deciding to squat or cock a leg, giving me plenty of time for close scrutiny of the intricate details of the bark. I am planning for my next post to be The Flora and Fauna of Hampstead Heath, so, who knows, by then  I may have progressed to sun-filled meadows,  though by the time I get round to completing  it the heath may well be snow covered.

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1 TREES AT SUNSET, HAMPSTEAD HEATH  30 x 30 cm

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2  TREE AT SUNRISE, HAMPSTEAD HEATH   24 x 30 cm
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3 OLD TREE ON SANDY HEATH   80 x 100 cm

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4   SANDY HEATH, HAMPSTEAD HEATH  50 x 40 cm

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5  HAMPSTEAD HEATH IN SUMMER    30 x 40 cm     
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6  CHRISTMAS CHRYSANTHEMUM   40 x 50 cm

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7 CHRYSANTHEMUM  60 x 80 cm

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8  ENTANGLED CHRYSANTHEMUM   75 x 100 cm

WHY I PAINT WHAT I PAINT

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‘A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on canvas what is in front of him but one who tries to create something which is in itself a living thing’ William Dobell

A frequently asked question for most artists is ‘What am I aiming to express in my work?’ Presumably artists create art because they have something to say that they choose to say through art rather than another medium.

For the visual arts the creative possibilities have changed and increased exponentially during the 20th century. This initial change, heralded by the invention of photography, was accelerated by Duchamp when he submitted to the Society of Independent Artists in 1917, the urinal titled Fountain. One outcome of this unprecedented change was the ‘painting is dead’ debate, that I feel now is a tired one, and in any case, not one I would wish to give credence to, as an integral component of my art, both 2 and 3D, is colour, particularly bright colours, and it seems to me the best way to produce an art work consisting of colours is through the use of paint.

For me, and I suspect many other cotemporary artists, a more pertinant and relevant question would be, is representational art dead? Much of the contemporary art I enjoy looking at has varying degrees of abstraction and some is completely abstract, and this preference is reflected in the work I produce.

Representational art reproduces something in the external world that we perceive visually, and abstract art which does not reference the external world that we perceive visually, but is also in it’s turn perceived visually. An artist who is not reproducing something he sees is making something up which consists of visual images which are something other than the visual images seen in the external world, so is doing something the camera cannot do. Often my reaction to contemporary representational art, though by no means all of it, is that although it no doubt shows skill I’d just as well see a photograph of the object. But, hey, if artists want to produce it, and there are people who appreciate it, why should I say they should stop? There are more than enough judgemental and dictatorial people around, even in the art world, where I would have thought, more than most activities, participants should be allowed freedom to create, unhampered by rules and restrictions.

Another debate, whih I find more conducive to investigation, is whether decorative art, often described as art for art’s sake, is valid. The reason people seem to think it is not is because rather than having a message, and so taking a stance, more often than not a political one, it consists merely of decoration and pattern. As I have been accused of doing this type of work myself, and the works of some of my favourite contemporary artists falls into this category, it is one I will defend. One such artist is Beatriz Milhazes, who, whether in her bold and vibrant images of juxtaposed floral and geometric shapes, wants to do something more than produce works which are beautiful I do not know, and I do not care as I love looking at them anyway. I suppose if they convey anything more to me than being lovely to look at, it is to be uplifted by something which expresses an exuberant appreciation of the beauty of flowers, especially their colour. However, I know some people who appreciate art, and the artists who produce it, want something more from a work than just a gut reaction of either ‘yuk or wow, amazing,beautiful’, or somewhere in between.

I have heard people who want art to take a stance, say true appreciation of art is not whether you like the work or not, but whether it is challenging. Well, I’m quite prepared to be challenged by a work, but I do require that it is also pleaasing to the eye – something which I enjoy looking at -and I think some contemporary art, especially conceptual art, is not, although it might have a valid message. My reaction to this art is often, ‘Why not convey the message through writing?’ The reason, I supppose, is that unlike words, art is a universal language.

I do not see why in an art work, the two, something being beautiful to look at and having a message, have to be mutually exclusive. Yet some who require the latter seem to think they are. However two artists, who are among my favourites, do achieve the two in their work. One of them, Chris Ofili, produces work which sometimes has a political, and sometimes a spiritual message, conveyed in brightly coloured paint, glitter and sequins – he even manages to beautify elephant dung! The other, Alberto di Fabio, paints large convases often of fragile and delicate looking repetitive images, using sumptuous colours, that resemble textile designs. The inspiration for these works comes from the artist’s interest in science, and the images depict biological, cellular and quantum physics diagrams. However, so aesthetically pleasing are the works of these two artists that they can be appreciated without the knowledge that the trigger for them is political, spiritual or scientific.

Regarding my own work and what, if any, the message is, firstly, I am not interested in politics. I agree with Arthur C Clarke who wrote, ‘I also believe – and hope – that politics and economics will cease to be important in the future……………. they are concerned with power and wealth, neither of which should be of primary, still less the exclusive, concern of adult human beings’. And also Einstein who said, ‘We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive’. Pertinent to the beliefs of these two great men is the stirring many are now aware of, of the birth of a new more enlightened age, which daily seems to be gathering momentum, instigated in part, by the democratisation of the internet, enabling those with alternative and minority views to voice them to a wider public than was previously possible. One result of this are the demonstrations that are occuring worldwide, largely in reaction to the hypocracy of bankers and politicians, and bosses of large corporations and others in power, who are the perpetrators of much which is wrong with the world. New Agers say this unrest heralds the beginning of the Aquarian age, where love, unity and integrity will become paramount. I would like to think that in a modest way, in my work I express elements of how I think that world will be. I regard my work as being spiritual rather than political and recently science, particularly quantum theory, has been an inspiration to me, because I see a connection with my spiritual beliefs, which I wrote about in my post on Quantum Physics and Nonduality. So how does this impact upon my work?

My interest in Quantum Physics and Nonduality has encouraged me when I am walking surrounded by nature to appreciate not only its appearance, but to be aware of something less tangible, and this I understand as the energy I feel emanating from it. Energy is also important to me because I am aware of my own fluctuating energy levels, and how they effect both my body and mind. The energy I feel eminating from nature I find most palpable and uplifting in remote mountain regions, but I have also experienced it in woodlands and forests, and in vast open spaces particularly in the sparcely populated area of Northumberland between Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish border. I have also felt it early morning on Hampstead Heath because at this time of day remoteness seems not to be a prerequisite. Quantum theorists are coming round to thinking that the basic structure of the universe is energy, which they explain through string theory, although a spiritual person would perhaps define it as’consciousness’. Whether this energy is the energy of nature, or God, or the Divine Intelligence, or the energy packed into the ‘strings’ of string theory, it comes to the fore, with all it’s strength and power, in natural surroundings. It is this energy I wish to convey in my work, whatever the degree of abstraction. I attempt to do this by using bright colours, and getting a feeling of movement, which may be by depicting oscillations, vibrations or explosions, in my work. And while acknowledging that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I also aim to produce work which is attractive to look at. Here are some of my paintings which represent a cross section of my work and in various ways are attempts to express how I perceive the world.

1 HUMMINGBIRDS  60 x 80 cm SOLD

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                                                                                                    2 MIDNIGHT GARDEN  100 X 60 cm  SOLD

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                                                                                                            3  WAVES  100 x 80 cm
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4 TRIANGLE  60 x 80 cm SOLD

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5 MOUNTAIN RANGE  80 X 60 cm

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AVERSION TO BEIGE – SOME THOUGHTS ON FASHION

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I’ve been interested in clothes for almost as long as I’ve been interested in art. My sketch books from primary school are full of fashion designs, but the fact I disliked sewing put a damper on any ambitions I had for a career in fashion design so, instead, I opted to study fine art, but my interest in fashion has stayed with me. To misquote Damien Hurst who once said ‘All children draw and paint, thank God some of us never give up’, which, of course, I agree with, I say ‘All children love dressing up, thank God, some of us never give up’. People who love dressing up do so whatever the occasion, paying as much attention to what they wear for a trip to Sainsbury’s as they would for a wedding. I like clothes to be colourful, hence my aversion to beige, which is a colour I regard as a copout to having to make a choice, whether it’s for clothes, interior decor, cars, or whatever.

The question ‘Is fashion an art form?’ is often asked, I’m not sure and I really don’t care. However from the point of view of my own art work there is a symbiosis between my art and fashion. I might see a garment or fabric in a fashion magazine and it inspires a painting, or visa versa. Yet one is regarded as being worthy of long intellectual explanations, while the other is regarded as facile, frivolous and narcissistic. But to me, dressing up is a wonderful form of self-expression. It is fun, joyful and life-affirming.

My favorite of the long established designers are Zandra Rhodes and Vivianne Westwood. Of the younger and new ones on the scene I like the wackiness of Louise Grey and Meadham Kirchhof.  I enjoy reading fashion blogs and my current favourites are Suzy Bubble and Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced style blog. The latter focuses on septuagarians, nonagarians, and even a centenarian, who love dressing up, exemplified by Iris Apfel and the late Anna Piaggi. I also loved the way Isabella Blow dressed, who although younger than the people featured on Ari Seth’s blog, is sadly no longer with us. I love the way fashion has become democratised, for instance, now in Vogue, an Oxfam top can appear with a Prada skirt on the same model, without a trace of irony.

I admire Camilla Batmanghelidjh first and foremost for the amazing work she does with some of the most disadvantaged children in London, but I have to admit I’m a little bit more interested in her than I otherwise would be because I love the way she dresses. I have read that when young she had wanted to be an artist and she compares dressing up to creating a painting. If Camilla, who does more work in a day than I, and probably most other people do in a week, can find time and energy to dress up on a morning then there’s no excuse for the rest of us. But I do accept that some women, and even more men, are just not interested in clothes.

I enjoy the few minutes of sitting up in bed on a morning deciding what to wear. This is, of course, after meditating – I do get my priorities right! I must put in a caviat here, the one time I do not dress up, but wear the clothes I like the least, but have somehow sneaked into my wardrobe, with perhaps, even, some beige garmentss among them, is when I’m walking dogs, as I don’t want my clothes coverered with the muddy paw marks of one of my over-exuberant charges – one of the many wonderful things about dogs is they do not judge people by their appearance! I thought I’d better add this, just in case someone who has read this post meets me when I’m dog walking and thinks I look like a tramp!

Here are some of my paintings which I can envisage as fabric designs or motives on a garment.

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QUANTUM PHYSICS & NONDUALITY

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Wisdom is knowing I am nothing

Love is knowing I am everything

and between the two my life moves

Nisargadatta Maharaj

I was brought up nominally a Christian, but since my teens have been drawn to spirituality generally and the religions of the east in particular, especially Bhuddism and Hinduism. Underscoring these belief systems is the  concept of Oneness and this resonates with me. This concept, referred to as Nonduality in the west, purports that everything including God, is essentially one. It is also the basis in the esorteric teachings of the Judeo-Christian traditions, namely, Sufism, the Kabbala and Christian Mysticism, but it was Nisargadatta Mararaj, quoted above, who was a major influence in bringing the teachings of Nonduality to a wider public in the modern Western world.

I can’t remember exactly when quantum theory entered my radar, but it was long after spirituality. At school I had an aversion to science. Being perched an a high uncomfortable stool, a lit Bunsen burner in front of me, which made no impact on the bitter cold of winter in the prefabricated science building may have had something to do with this. Beyond realising that the purpose of the Bunsen burners was probably not to raise the temperature I now have no idea what they were for and doubt I did then. I also doubt  Einstien was ever mentioned in these lessons, or any of the eminent quantum physicists who proceeded him, many of whom would now make the short list of my wish list of most desired dinner guests. So for years I was happy to perpetuate the notion that arty types were not expected to be interested in science. Reading C P Snow’s The Two Cultures far from dispelling this, which it is meant to do, reinforced it, perhaps because I was prejudiced against Snow because he was a scientist. However when I became aware of quantum theory it seemed to turn on its head the logic of classical science, and  so my tiny mind was blown. After reading an atom can appear in two places at once, both the  position and velocity of an atom cannot be known at the same time, only one or the other, and a particle here can effect onother on the other side of the universe  instantaneusly and that atoms can travel faster than light and light doesn’t travel that fast made me eager to know more. Predictably, given the title of this blog, one of the first books I read was  How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel. Much of what I read in this and subsequent books was beyond my comprehension and still is, but I gleaned enough to be hooked. The books were filled with one mind boggling theory after another, such as all matter of the human race can fit onto a sugar cube, because atoms are mostly empty space and almost all the universe is missing because visible matter accounts for only about two per cent of its mass. The other stuff is called dark matter and there seems to be around six times as much as visible matter. The rest is something which is called dark energy and nobody knows what dark energy is. Or how about, events in the future  can effect what happened in the past, indeed quantum theory does not account for a past, present or a future. Einstien himself said time was an illusion, and Bertrand Russell stated, ‘Both in thought and feeling though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom’.   This appeals to me as an unpunctual person though I don’t think friends I keep waiting would be convinced. Perhaps the weirdest theory of all is the many universes theory proposed by Hugh Everett who by all accounts was a bit of a weirdo himself.

To me the theory  that all matter consists of the same building blocks concurs with the spiritual concept of nonduality, because I deduced that these building blocks undergoing a transformation in our perception to appear as the universe in all its variety, as something that nothing less than a divine intelligence could actualise. To reference Einstein yet again, ‘There are only two ways to live your life, one is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle’.

Both quantum theory and nonduality have influenced how I percieve the external world, and so informed my art work. As all matter is essentially one, I sometimes resist putting labels on what I see, and so stop making associations when I look at an object. How colours, shapes, textures and patterns are expressed and relate to one another and their overall impact when they are placed together in one art work, has always been more important to me than creating narrative art, so this way of looking was an easy shift for me to make. I like overlapping, interweaving, juxtapositioning and using disparate styles and techniques in one piece. Indeed, a criticism of my work since art school days is that it lacks a consistant language as it combines various styles in one work. Rather than surmount this tendency I have made it a challenge to achieve a cohesion of the various styles in one work, thus creating synchronicity, while preserving an element of discord and tension. This way of looking has sometimes resulted in works which disregard boundaries between objects, or disregard their physical characteristics altogether and imbue them all with the same characteristics, so clouds may take on the characteristics of density and solidity. Or sometimes I give them their individual characteristics, thus depicting them representationally, but positioning them in incongruous places to one another, or perhaps weave them in and out of one another. This may result in a river flowing through the sky, clouds bouncing along the pavement, a tree growing from a cloud, or a mountain lying on its side. Sometimes I paint abstract works with only a tenuous link to the world of appearance. In these I am attempting to create visually words used to describe the quantum world, such as  waves, enfolding, pulsating, entangled, scattering, oscillating etc, because the quantum world cannot and will never be seen even under the most powerful microscope.

Here are some of my paintings inspired by quantum physics and nonduality.

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1 QUANTUM WAVES 23 X 30 cm  SOLD

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2 THE UNFOLDING AND ENFOLDING UNIVERSE 40 X 30 cm

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3 EXPLOSION 45 x 40 cm

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4 ENERGY  40 x 30 cm

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CLOUDS THE POOR MAN’S MOUNTAINS
The English climate is a bugbear to me. I like hot climates, yet paradoxically, I find clouds interesting. So as the default state of the sky over England is cloudy, I spend alot of my time, if not with my head in the clouds, at least, looking up at them. A possible reason for this is that the neighbourhood of Sunderland where I spent my childhood, and where I lived again during 2012, is comprised of long flat street of mostly single-storey terraced houses. Built between 1860  and 1910, these are unique to the city so are referred to as Sunderland Cottages. In London gentrification of such unique dwellings would have kicked in by now, and although this would be an overstatement of what has happened, not withstanding, many of the red brick facades are now painted in pastel shades and bedecked with hanging baskets and window boxes, with tubs of shrubs and flowers occupying the tiny spaces between the bay windows and railings.  These embellishments have endowed the streets with a quirky attractiveness, but back in my childhood this aesthetic appeal was non-existant, so it is little wonder that the clouds, an overt feature of this cityscape of such low monotonous buildings, should have grabbed my attention.

I remember at an early age sitting dangerously close to the open fire in winter gazing at mountain landscapes reminiscent of a John Martin painting and using the poker to manoeuvre the flaming coals into ever more dramatic scenes, and also of sitting at the kitchen table moulding the mashed potato of my dinner into a miniature Matterhorn, then scooping gravy into a spoon and letting it run down the mountain in rivulets. However even more than these pyromaniac and culinary flights of fancy it was gazing up at clouds that transported me to wild mountain ranges.

Mountains have always been my favourite landscape, and this was the case before I ever set eyes on a real one. I remember when I was five or six journeying in the car with ny parents to a camping holiday in the Lake District and risking decapitation from oncoming traffic as I hung my head out of the window in eagerness to see my first mountain as we took the scenic route of narrow winding roads to our destination. Every hill we passed I would ask,’Is that a mountain? A more pertinent memory would have been actually seeing my first mountain rather than this persistent questioning, but, alas, awesome as I’m sure this experience must have been it is now buried in some inaccessible part of my brain. Nor do I remember how I was aware of the existance of mountains before I saw a real one. Perhaps I’d seen pictures of them in a book, or on our tiny monochrome television that I don’t ever remember watching, as I’ve had a life long aversion to ‘the box’, or perhaps my Mother, who like me was fond of clouds, told me they resembled mountains.

Surprisingly, given my lifelong fondness for clouds, I confess that I did not know a cumulonimbus from a cirrocomulus cloud, but after hearing a talk by Gavin Pretor Pinney and reading his book, The Cloudspotters Guide, I now realise that the clouds in my paintings are invariably stylised cumulus clouds, but now my knowledge has increased other types of clouds will be appearing. Artists who found inspiration in clouds are too numorous to mention, and many photographers, also, have been inspired by clouds, none more so than the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), who regarded clouds as nature’s abstract art. Indeed, photographs of clouds are the nearest unmanipulated photography comes to abstract painting.

So mountains and clouds have long been inspiration for me. Clouds I find interesting in themselves, but in the absence of real ones they are also my surrogate mountains, so I was amused recently when one of my studio mates described clouds as ‘poor man’s mountains’. Here are some of my paintings. and a sculpture, which contain either real mountains, some surrogate ones or both.

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1 SNOW STORM BREWING  60  x  60 cm

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2 BRIDGES OVER THE RIVER WEAR, SUNDERLAND  50 X 60 cm

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3 ROCK EMBRACED BY CLOUDS 25 x 30 cm

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5 ISLANDS EMBRACED BY CLOUDS 60 x 60 cm

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5 ROCKS AND CLOUDS AT SUNSET  25  x 30  cm

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6 STORMY CLOUDS AND ROCK  25 x  30 cm

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7 TREASURE ISLAND  (sculpture)

CLOUDS – THE POOR MAN’S MOUNTAINS

MY TWELVE YEAR BREAK FROM PAINTING

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I’ve loved doing art ever since I’ve been old enough to hold a paintbrush. Two other activities which I’ve loved for almost as long are travelling and hiking in the countryside. All three have been an integral part of my life and an essential part of who I am for as long as I can remember. So when in 1989 I began working as a freelance travel writer for Lonely Planet, and a walking guide writer for Countryside Books I thought I’d landed my dream job, after all it hit two buttons on my list of top three favourite things. Little did I realise that this work, which I did till 2001, would be so demanding of my time and energy that it would leave me unable to pursue my first love, art. However, I’ve no regrets, freelance writing was a wonderful experience, well, most of the time, for it encompassed the ecstacy of being on top of a mountain on a Greek island with what seemed like half the island-speckled Aegean sparkling in the sun far below. At times like this I had to pinch myself to remind me that not only was the experience real, but I was actually getting paid for it, but there was also the too real agony of all the nights I spent hunched over a computer till dawn to meet a deadline.

When I did start painting again it was almost as if I was beginning for the first time. I experimented with different styles, until 2005 when I spent three weeks travelling in Arctic Norway. It was only after this trip that my art work found an element of consistancy, coherence and meaning again. I had spent three months working on a farm in Norway when I was a student and had always wanted to return. Mountains have always been my favourite landscape, so Norway is my Nirvana. But it is not just the country’s never ending mountains it’s also the quality of the light that inspires me.

A characteristic of the phenomena of the light in Norway, and in other Arctic and Antarctic countries, is it reveals details of colour and texture of distant objects, if not as clearly as near ones certainly with a greater clarity than in most countries. This makes it difficult for the eye to judge how far away objects are and causes distant objects to appear nearer than they really are. – an optical illusion called Fata Morgana. Ever since art school days I have tended in my paintings to depict distant objects as detailed as near ones. I can’t remember if this occured before my first trip to Norway, or it was a result of the inspiration of its light.  As this was something I did in my work I tended to pay minimal regard to the conventions of perspective and chiaroscura prevalent in Western art. After leaving college I lived in Iraq for two years and this propensity was reinforced when I saw both traditional and contemporary Islamic art in galleries in Baghdad and Kuwait city, for even when this art does contain elements of representation these two conventions are not necessarily accurate or significant. After Iraq I travelled in India where the art also has similar characteristics.

So after the three weeks travelling in Arctic Norway in 2005, brimming with inspiration, I began painting mountain landscapes. Mountains have continued to be the main theme of my work, gradually becoming more abstracted as the colours became brighter and the mountains more fantastical in shape and true to form with scant regard for perspective or light and shade. Only in the last year, probably because of my temporary move to Sunderland, which I wrote about in my previous post, have I painted landscapes and, even, in a new departure for me, cityscapes, other than mountains, and also some completely abstract works based on the subatomic world. I lived in a flat area of Sunderland next to the sea, that comprised of long straight treeless streets of mostly one-storey houses, so being deprived of stimulus at ground level I looked upwards to the sky and did something which I have always had a tendency to do anyhow, imagine that the clouds are mountains. So, inevitably, clouds began to appear in my paintings, and like the mountains became gradually more fantastical.

My current exhibition at Everyman Cinema, Belsize Park shows a cross section of work from 2005 to the present day. Here are some pictures from the exhibition.

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1 LOFOTEN ISLANDS   40  x 50 cm
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2 ISLAND AT SUNRISE    60 X 60 cm

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3 WATERFALL   45 x 40  cm

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4  PINNACLES    50 x 40  cm

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5 DEEP IN THE MOUNTAINS   100 x  80  cm   SOLD