#127. Patrick Jones writes about his own recent paintings

Chaos Theory (Turquoise), 2019, 98x205cm

Lockdown has allowed a period of concentrated activity. There is no end result, like exhibiting. It’s just to see where the language of Abstract Painting takes me. I give myself a lot of leeway, as I’m working in an extremely concentrated fashion. I drive up the same lane, past Walter Raleigh’s house every day. I drive slowly and take everything in, looking at the colour, light and shade /a la Cezanne. Then I get to my farm studio and close the door. I stretch up a canvas quite beautifully. I have been a carpenter in NY. Then I stretch a heavy weight canvas over the frame, which has an inch and a half edge. The 5ft by 7ft canvasses are the ones featured here, and I make each one afresh, beautifully stretched anew each time. Then I really try not to plan too much. Improvisation is the key, but inevitably I make a few notes. I then have the weight of paint on the surface. I’m aware of staining technique from Louis and Frankenthaler. I enjoy that, but realise its limitations. Changes or additions can be great or awful, according to choices made. However I’m free to paint out what I don’t like, in a varied way. I’m always varying the surface which I find crucial to a visually exciting picture.

There is a huge amount of History to Abstract Painting, and I’m happy to quote, or use references. This has been my life’s work and there is not much I don’t know about the business. The problem is, which language to use, or combine, in interesting new ways, to make a result which is genuinely surprising to me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a totality/a whole /complete /resolved etc. At the moment I’m tempted by Gorky/Miro/Surrealism, but that tends towards drawing and literary reference. I’m interested in a physical, colour related, plastic resolution. There are limitations to the language. Humour and political reference generally don’t obtain. It’s a rather serious sort of looking and judging. The audience is crucial, as I need to know I’ve hit a nerve.

Patrick Jones, 2020.


Positivity, 2020, 120x185cm


The Engine, 2019-20, 117x188cm


Watercolour (Mirage), 2020, 108x176cm


Render, 2020, 120x220cm



Isis, 2019, 110x178cm


The Weight, 2020, 120x185cm


Wheatfield in the Wind, 2020, 98x192cm


[ Editor’s note: As with all posts on Abcrit, comments on this work are welcome.

In this time of few exhibitions, we hope this might be the first of a series of artists discussing their own abstract work on line.

Robin Greenwood, robingreenwood2@gmail.com ]


  1. Great to see these a Patrick

    Thanks for posting these beautiful paintings.

    They evoke thoughts and ideas and I’ve parked my car on the side of the road and I’m going to post my immediate thoughts Even though It’s of course impossible to see these in this way.

    You certainly achieve the goals You stated, and I wonder about things Associated with plastic resolution , like tension , and how the distribution of colour, placement and gesture , may assist that or tilt the painting towards a balance which moves away from that. I’m not sure which your inclined to do.

    In this regard I wonder about the triangular shape of turquoise (Above the green mark On the bottom edge, About 2/3 of the way across left to right) in The first painting, “Positivity”. Does it’s presence reduce the tension (Interrupt it) being created between the other turquoise shape to its right and the theme of the reds on the left Building towards the orange and moving towards that far right turquoise ? A wonderful gesture and movement across the rectangle and back into space. The tension has to do with many things, but is partly to do with the amount of those warms Twisting on the surface On the left and middle moving into space and towards the small amount of the cool turquoise which answers them . The extra turquoise reduces the difference in quantitative difference and gives the eye a second destination which counters the idea of the larger movement.

    I wonder if the white mark in a similar location on “Isis” Is having a similar effect?

    Perhaps the tension was felt and had to go in seeking The resolution the lyricism demanded. I wonder which is more surprising to you?

    As I said it’s impossible to know and looking at these paintings via reproduction and commenting is fraught but those images excite thoughts and ideas and I thank you for that.


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  2. Thank you for that Peter.One of the most interesting comments Ive had for a long time.Your reading across the surface of the Painting is fascinating.A great deal of what Ive been doing recently is totally instinctive.I used to write myself elaborate notebooks with discussion in them,but Im too busy building stretchers and preparing myself mentally for the battle ahead.I do think of it as a battle,which says a lot.Its me or them.I think your comments about tension are really good ,as its something I always try to get my students to enjoy /control.I live a very normal life ,go to the studio when the builders arrive and stay there until Im completely exhausted ,about 5 to six hours of standing,with the occasional cup of tea.Recently Loveland published an interview done over a days visit.Somebody who knows me well said I sounded like I had failed.That is because I operate from a position of never being satisfied.Im easing up on that now and response really helps.Ill read your comment again but is exactly what I wanted ,somebody he knows what they are looking at ,and for.Thank you Patrick


  3. Paul Smith wrote to me on Twitter asking me to define spacial plasticity.I had to refer him to Hans Hofmanns use of the term.I have a 3/dimensional model,that looks a bit like a Gabo sculpture,in my mind.It might even be perspex,but its a boomerang like reversible structure which shows what Abstract Painters are trying to achieve.Altho tone,black white and grey are the most successful arbiters,the real ly exciting tool ,as Hofmann knew ,is colour and texture.This resolves the tension between Colour and depth,the real aim of Abstraction..


  4. Nice set of paintings, Patrick; in my opinion, your best work.
    Before I wade in with any comments, I have a question: what is the reason or significance in your mind with the strongly structured outside edges that go around most of the works.


  5. Patrick – Am I just being an ignorant sculptor, and not looking hard enough, but all the works illustrated , with exception of ‘Watercolour Mirage’ seem to consist of some sort of ‘centred’ construction ?
    Admttedly, the hard line of the photograph on the printed page emphasises this.
    However, my point in raising it is that it seemingly returns painting to the idea of an ‘image; (as seen through an imaginary window),which is in marked contrast to the general \philosophy’ we have been used to, of the ‘edge’ of the painting being simply where it stops in space rather than an aim ?


  6. I’ve been lucky enough to be in front of many of Patrick’s works and can recall their impact and the experience they offer me. So whilst I can begin to imagine what these works might look like in reality, I do look forward to seeing them for myself. On screen, I am drawn to ” Watercolour” ” Render” and “The Weight”. The others are perhaps more difficult to unravel on a small screen, although I know from others like them, they will be full of subtlety and powerful emotion. “Watercolour” is so atmospheric and ephemeral. Delicate and fluid. Dancing and playing with light, not descriptively, but by experiences. Patrick has a masterful range of expression and a language that remains spontaneous with every piece. Contrast “Watercolour” to “Render” , where the colour pops around the work but never overpowers the more subtle nuances in the centre. I always get the feeling with these larger canvases that we are drawn into enormous imagined spaces where we can experience our own thoughts of what it is to exist. Patrick seems to me, to offer us a room ( not least because of the containing edges) to escape to, not empty like the Rothko’s I also so admire, but furnished with past memories and future possibilities.


  7. Thank you Tim and Robin,both artists I have tremendous respect for.I don’t feel the border has any symbolic purpose,It actually came from Moonpull,which is going to the Deal show. in 2019.I know I have discussed my involvement with Stellas big work in the Hayward,in the 70 ,where the depth of the stretcher is a module size ,related to the elements within.In Matts interview on Loveland, I tried to describe how I felt when the eye of the observer gets to the edge,of course picture window is a possibility, taking Matisses example,inso many balcony/window Paintings.Most of them are very good.However ,with my 8 year old ,I enjoy children television ,and am hooked on The Night Garden ,with Derek Jacobi.It ends with a small boy asleep in a boat going out to sea.That senses how I think of most of the centres ,as fantasy worlds,the richer the better.Because I paint stretched ,in a relatively small space,they are not as loose as Louis,have a do or die drama ,to catch them when they are wet.In “The Weight,I was aware I could totally integrate the border into the centre,but didn’t.Its a choice ,and entirely related to much that s been discussed on Abcrit.org.I feel sorry for the German Painter who feels Painting is Dead.


  8. What interests me about your comments, Patrick, is that you seem to be accepting, and concerned with, the IDEA of a centre versus an ‘edge’, (which I would have thought to be the opposite of Louis’s concerns ?).
    Interested also, because it would seem to be the antithesis of what sculptors are aiming for at the moment..


  9. Dear Tim,Its been a while since Ive seen a show of yours,but always enjoyed your work.I am always going on about the pressure the individual work exercises during its progress.When I open my studio door ,I try to register the exact sensation the works are giving me,by the inch,across the surface.Please note in “Wheatfield” the looser elements around the edge ,NOT forming a border.I honestly do not see Illusion in any of these works,and would get rid of it ,if I did.What I do see,which Peter alluded to in the first comment,is an inch by inch evaluation of the elements at play.I have a smaller Painting ,which simply would not take ANYTHING around the edge,much as I tried to put elements there to cause contrast.I spent half a day Painting the elements in and then completely painting them out.This IS Abstract Painting ,and as such ,is a large beautifully stretched rectangle ,covered with something.Depth,allusion,contrast,duality,tonality,colour sequence ,all have a part to play.

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  10. “…a large beautifully stretched rectangle, covered with something. Depth, allusion, contrast, duality, tonality, colour, sequence, all have a part to play”.

    Yes, a definition that it would be hard to disagree with.
    I was curious about the ‘edge’ business, I suppose, BECAUSE it contrasted so much with sculpture concerns.

    i am afraId the only ‘show’ I have had to offer recently consists of the photos Robin posted in November 2018. Of course I have gone on from there subsequently.
    The attempt there, as now, was to eliminate “edge” as much as possible; an interesting contrast of aims I trust you agree worth debate.


  11. I too like some of the paintings here. I feel the two that work for me particularly are ‘Chaos Theory ‘ (Turquoise) and ‘Watercolour ‘. I don’t have a problem with the centrality in ‘Chaos Theory’, the green elements in the edges are enough to link in with the richness of the central area thereby connecting the whole vision.
    I like the floating disparate quality of ‘Watercolour’, it is airy and watery and filled with a sense of space which is perhaps a little figurative but that adds to the atmosphere. I do have to disregard seeing things that distract in the central area but apart from that I feel it has a very specific appeal.
    The edges in ‘Render’, ‘The Weight’ and ‘Positivity’ come across a little like colour swatches which I find take something away from the fluidity of the central area. The colour in these three seems especially rich and luminous, the dark areas in ‘Render’ exaggerate the colour and give the painting greater weight and depth to my mind.
    ‘Isis’ and ‘The Engine’ look quite eccentric and have some speedy marks which give a different feel and rhythm across the centre.
    I am enjoying the palette of ‘Wheatfield in the Wind’ but have a little trouble with the spots under the horizontal linear forms, I feel I am fixating on them so it’s probably unfair to comment from looking on screen.
    An interesting and varied group of paintings Patrick, thank you.


  12. Dear Tim I would be very happy to hear about the difference between sculpture and edge constraints and Painting and edge.My experience comes from Fanellis Bar in SoHo where Donald Judd was quite dismissive of my acceptance of the rectangle to paint on.It is my one given.


  13. Patrick – If what you HEAR an artist SAY is not matched by what he DOES, then I would not worry too much about what you hear in Fanelli’s Bar !

    I am attempting, in my recent work, first and foremost to eliminate the IDEA of sculpture as an ‘IMAGE’; looking like something known and recognisable, recalling previous norms, or parodying other made objects in the physical world, or borrowing from their ‘look’ in order to justify plastic decisions.
    I am attempting now to build structures in which any visual boundary is ELIMINATED in order to allow physical parts the freedom to simulate FORCES; tension. compression, stresses (junctions and connections), spatial occupation and integration, movement, direction, and so on, WITHOUT being restrained by any aesthetic vision of a WHOLE (boundary) dictating LIMITATIONS as to where those parts come from, go to, or visually perform other than to achieve the above mentioned objectives.
    A first glance gives the impression of a physical ‘mess’. It is only upon VISUALLY ENTERING the movements and sequences, regardless of their overall spatial occupation, that one will begin to perceive the plastic and aesthetic meaning and purpose of their journeys.
    Hopefully this will create a distinctive overall expression which is UNIQUELY ‘sculptural’ and NOT identifiable with that of other physical object forms, or previous abstract sculpture norms.

    I suggest that this is the distinction to be made with painting,in answer to your question concerning ‘EDGE’.

    The ILLUSION of painting REQUIRES the limitation of the flat plane on which it is created, and the LIMITATION of its spatial extension,(the opposite of what have posited above); being the ‘frame’ or physical surround of the painting the- ‘EDGE’.that you describe.
    The ILLUSION of ‘sculpture, as a plastic being in space, contains its physical LIMITATIONS by means of the definition of its own nature.
    In abstract sculpture, ‘image’, recognition, mitigated against this, and its ‘edges’ required re- thinking.


    1. PS – I’m afraid that last sentence was not very clear.
      By “In Abstract Sculpture” i was referring to existing abstract sculpture, as we know it to date, which invariably has been conceived along the lines I have outlined.


  14. two categories here, for me .. the “come in, flow, feeling into your larger being” paintings, and the “stop right there! look at, only!” paintings ..

    and in the way sensitive people can see joan mitchell paintings for the first time and say, oh, alcoholic energy, a murky bit or two here and there ..

    and what would i know, looking at these on an iphone 6s ..

    good luck, hope they can be seen properly soon..



  15. So my only thought is ,when and where am I going to be able to show these 8 paintings in the flesh,not just online?Ive been tested in hospital for the virus ,which Im pleased to say I don’t have.However ,as always,its just easier for UK artists to pop a picture on Instagram.It saves having to hang it up,light it properly,have a clean and fresh room to show the work in,label and light .Then put up with the vagaries of the audience perception,the whole 9 yards of showing art to an audience,questions about the works genesis and meaning ,and those cruel dead eyes ,which would not know a good painting to a hole in the ground ,which are everywhere.Just easier not to bother…


  16. Really great to know the work’s flowing, Patrick, and that you’re still testing yourself. Of course there’s only so much one can glean from photographs of paintings, but I’d say the pink stroke at bottom left of ‘Chaos Theory’, in terms of what it does for the whole image, is a little touch of genius. Your work is full of these sorts of surprises, and discovering them gives great pleasure.


  17. Thank you ,Matt,Thats very encouraging.Ive just been rejected ,at the first stage,from the John Moores Painting exhibition .This is with what I consider to be a fairly classic new work.For once in my life,I know this recent work ,made during Lockdown, is alright.I just don’t know where Im ever going to be able to show it ,because of social distancing ,or indeed because of current politically correct social concerns ,reflected in Curatorial correctness .Robin and I witnessed this at Tate Modern ,in an installation of Helen Frankenthalers work,which was appallingly badly displayed.Fortuneatly we went straight to a terrific show of Basil Beatties Colour work at Hales Gallery ,made in the 80s!Some great shots of Poons in the film called “The Price of Everything”reported by my Abstract Art Class on Zoom.Best to you and John at Instant Loveland ,Patrick Jones


  18. Patrick – I like the look of ‘Raleigh’ a lot. It does not depend on the usual impasto, but only on subtle nuances of varieties of paint handling (if I am correct). It will, I suppose, inevitably be seen as a sort of through the window \view’; but so what ?
    Am I right in surmising that painting (like this one) is now looking back to Monet (having absorbed all that followed) ?


    1. Dear Tim,Im having some difficulty responding to Abcrit.However ,my earlier response was as follows.Im particularly honoured by your response because your shows have always fascinated me.I have had a particularly productive Lockdown session.My main input has come from the East Devon landscape ,where I grew up.Raleigh refers to Hayes Barton,Sir Walter Raleighs home ,which I pass every day on the way to the studio,on purpose.My main artistic reference was Cezannes Portraits ,seen with Ken Carpenter ,by chance ,at the National Gallery,which was figurative.It had a sort of honesty Id love to achieve.Ive just had my best Painting rejected by the John Moores,which means we have a problem ,as white, male ,Abstract artists ,of perception.I recently posted Robins new Paintings should follow his sculptures into the Tate Britain collection.You and I should be close behind,Very Best Patrick


  19. Thank you ,Tim,Im honoured by your comment from such an interesting artist.I m only looking at my local landscape of East Devon,where I grew up,every day.I teach Abstract Painting to a local group every week now on Zoom.The last fantastic show of Paintings I clearly remember were Cezannes Portraits at the National Gallery ,where I met Duncan Macmillan by chance.We were both going from room to room in complete shock and awe ,how great the work was.Of course they were figurative ,but there was a palpable honesty about the work ,which communicated so directly.Thats what Im after.The bigger problem,which I have fought my whole life ,is acceptance .I was fortunate to be chosen from an early age for recognition,which stopped when I moved to New York for 10 years to teach.Since then ,Robin Greenwood has been the only person to continually choose my work for inclusion in shows.Something Im sure he occasionally regrets! However its clear we ,you and I ,and Robin have a problem with the way our work is perceived,so it never gets shown ,by the Tate ,for instance.Being a mature ,white male doesn’t help,but there isn’t a lot I can do to change that! With Respect Patrick


  20. Patrick – Compliments apart – I am interested in what seems to be the case, that painters, like sculptors, are having to undergo a reappraisal of the existing tenets of ‘modernist’ practice in their own work.
    There seems to have been a kind of ‘ceiling’ reached in mid to end of XXth century work, which led to a stagnation of ideas concerned with enlarging upon and expanding ‘modernist’ achievement.(both in painting’s and sculpture’s originality).
    I, of course, largely reject the claim that ‘post modernism’ supplied the answer. It, possibly, helped alert one to the fact; that is all.
    The interesting question, therefore, becomes once again how much ‘abstract’ intent (and practice) in work, is possibly insufficient to fully renew substantially original and deeply felt art.


  21. Thank you Tim,This is part of a discussion I have been having with Robin for the past couple of years.Is Modernism deficient ,or unsuitable for our practise? Temperamentally my answer is NO emphatically,there is nothing wrong with Mondrian or Pollock,Both of which have examples in MOMA,in rooms next door to each other.I not only bought the book,but it changed my life.What I have been aware of is a deficiency in the artefacts following that lineage,to elicit a similar excitement and deep satisfaction.I first became aware of this when Derek Southall took me to South Carolina in the early 70s to meet Olitski.A charming man,but I couldn’t respond to his paintings the way I did to Morris Louis,s art.And yet Greenberg,of who I saw a lot over the last 20 years of his life,continually made huge claims ,for Olitski and Noland ,both of which I found lacking.The only reason I use landscape as a stimulus now is because its all around me ,and I have very few Museums ,in which to view ancient masterpieces.However I have never doubted that I want to paint Abstractly,even if I have a much broader ,or flexible definition of that Practise.All that is clear is that I need something to look at to stimulate visual ideas,like I need food to continue living.


  22. Whatever you want to call it, modernism or not, what’s more important is the depth and extent of the content. Olitski and Noland, like a number of painters of abstraction, are deficient and boring most of the time, and they got worse and worse. There are many others like it.

    There is a new essay on Instantloveland by John Bunker which seems to suggest that Geoff Rigden’s works operate “with absolute sureness against the scintillating vagaries of everyday visual perception; much like the Courtauld’s two Cezannes: ‘Still Life With Plaster Cupid’ and ‘The Card Players’”. “Scintillating vagaries”, my arse. I liked Geoff Rigden, and I occasionally liked his work – for a few moments – but this is where the thinking goes wrong for me – Cezanne is entirely in a different league from any modernist (you surely know this, Patrick) and I’d rather fail miserably in attempting to make painting or sculpture of a complexity of purpose that understands that scale of ambition, rather than settle for simplicity bordering on banality, the way of most modernism.


  23. Patrick and Robin – “…Cezanne is entirely in a different league from any modernist …I’ld rather fail miserably in attempting to make painting or sculpture of a complexity of purpose that understands that scale of ambition, rather than settle for simplicity bordering on banality…”

    Cezanne’s “scale of ambition” surely centred round his desire to refabricate the old masters in terms of ‘Nature\. i.e. his vision of it.(Redo Poussin after Nature etc.)
    Is one of our problems, the fact,that we do not have the ‘old masters’ to redo ? Can we really redo Noland or Olitski from what Patrick says above: “…I need something to look at (Nature?) to stimulate visual ideas, like I need food to continue living…” ?

    I never saw great abstraction as being devoid of an origin in sources of looking and seeing and absorbing the big wide world that we inhabit and experience;. On the contrary that would indeed be a formula for dead art. I also do not think that complexity or simplicity (of facture) is to do with Cezanne’s “complexity of PURPOSE…” Mondrian is the arch example of that.

    So – we are left with the puzzle of why the great MODERN masters led us down the path, with THEIR example, to arrive at he impasse we now perceive. Was it a GARDEN path ?
    I suppose a lot more “miserably failed” art is going to have to be made in order to find out.what Cezanne’s “entirely different league” consisted of ?


    1. Maybe our lot is NOT to find out whether something very different from Cezanne can be as good. Maybe we just have to do our best new thing…, but please, let’s not make it all “simple”. Make it difficult for those coming after!


  24. Robin – You certainly do not have to worry about that.
    Nothing really good was ever ‘simple’ at first. Simplicity only come with real understanding.
    Thus spake Zarathrustra !


  25. Patrick – Much of the comment (including my own) in recent Abcrit debates has been concerned with the subject of achieving a ‘pure’ abstract art, completely devoid of reference, recall, associative imagery and so on.
    Is this yet another significant divide between the present concerns of sculpture, and those of painting ? It would, for example, be pointless for a sculptor to attempt to make a work based on “…the only reason I use landscape now, is that it is all around me…” It would inevitably turn out be some sort of illustrative visual journalism – in sculptural disguise.

    Is the conclusion to be drawn that painting cannot really be an abstract art form, whereas – possibly – sculpture can ? Is that a bi-product of its (painting’s) nature as ‘illusion’ ?

    One obvious point is that ‘subject’, in painting, can visually feed directly into the work and yet remain, essentially, seen only as paint handling and the organisation of ‘marks’. In sculpture, ‘subject’ (much, much more limited than for painting), immediately takes on a ‘realism’ of facture’, however much disguised by distortion or other visual mannerisms.
    Or, on the other hand, is sculpture too doomed to fail in its attempt to become ‘music’ ?


  26. Robin – If we DON’T trey to find out whether it is possible to make something as good as Cezanne, what THEN ?
    Art never came out of a vacuum.
    Any new original art has always been part OLD art – moved on.

    Much more taxing of the mind is HOW to move on now, is it not ?


  27. One of the reasons that abstract painting might be at something of a dead end is its denial of all the little figurative elements it either deliberately uses or else can’t avoid as a collateral in creating virtual space.

    Those little „doorway“ diagonals in John Hoyland‘s 60s work; aerial perspective redefined as the spatiality of colour; even the spatially-ordering use of convex vs. concave shapes – all of these, and a host of others, are borrowed from our experience of things in the world. And all of them drag a figurative interpretation along with them.

    I think that because of this denial, there has grown up an arbitrary set of „acceptable“ tropes which then count as abstract – geometry, parallel planes, atmospheric space, hard edges, all-overness, extreme simplification, flatness etc.
    But these tropes are intensely limiting and maybe already exhausted. In this sense, abstract painting has become academic.

    And the way out, for me, would be to accept that the spatiality of even the most abstract painting works largely by reason of its figurative borrowings.
    These borrowings might be easier to overlook in some of the tropes currently designated as abstract but as soon as any kind of spatial complexity is required, denial is no longer an option.


    1. I agree with some of this Richard (and probably don’t understand what you mean by other parts) but there does seem to be something interesting going on with space when you have a complex painting that does not seem to clearly reference a ‘subject’ outside of itself.
      Of course you can say ‘that shape looks like X’ (tree, vase, face, etc) but if the painting works strongly enough non-figuratively that might not bother me: maybe I don’t see X much at all when I look at the work. If seeing X as subject matter outside of itself starts to dominate I’ll probably have to change that part as it won’t work as an abstract painting (and rarely as a figurative or partly figurative one).
      Having said that, I seem to have come to see what I would call abstract qualities n a figurative work . Take Alan Davie’s best work from the 50’s. Is this abstract or not? The answer will partly depend on the individual work but in many ways I don’t care. But abstract painting still seems to be something I’m happy to describe myself doing: I have very little interest in painting work that refers clearly to something outside of itself.


  28. Thank you ,Tim.I do think Sculpture and Painting are probably in different places,but don’t want to go there,to show my ignorance.I will say my entire endeavour has been to try out as many of the languages as possible ,available to Abstract Painting ,to find what works for me .Not entirely divisible into decades,but Heavy and Light in the 70s,tonality/surface in the 80s,Collage/eccentric shape in the late 80s in NY,Geometry in the 90s,Lyricism/Expression in the 20s ,etc.etc.Attempts to use different languages,even occasional seascape/landscape reference.Which brings me to my point ,and where I diverge from Robin.my range of influence is extremely broad.When I taught at Wimbledon ,I got to know Prunella Clough/Bernard Cohen/Ken Kiff,all fascinating artists.I was also interested in Christopher Wood for example,John Marin and Milton Avery ,as much as Gottlieb,a wealth of riches available to Painters as influence.These have remained my favourites,despite Matisse,Picasso,Monet ,Cezanne.I certainly feel connected to David Bomberg,which most English Painters don’t seem to appreciate.My point is the endless efforts to answer the big question you and Robin are asking,has taken me on the Long Island Railroad to East Hampton,to visit Pollocks empty house.Also with my parents to Bolton Landing.No stone left unturned,but I am quite happy in my muddle now ,as I have to Paint my way out of the paper bag.Not much time left! Best Patrick


  29. Patrick – Obviously, your long search for a language has landed up where it ought to be; – what you feel the most strongly about, and where your eyes and mind tell you is what you want to look at,see and do.

    Interesting for me that you should mention Bomberg. Some forty years or more ago I bought a little war time painting of a ‘Bomb Shelter’ (whatever that is), which was entirely ‘abstract’ in its look and composition.. Unfortunately, I lent it to my daughter and it was stolen and never recovered.

    Richard – “,,,all of these and a host of others, are borrowed from our experience of things in the world…”
    “…in this sense abstract painting has become academic…”
    I quite agree.

    It is very interesting to me that you use the word ‘spatiality’ to define what happens (the moment it is required in a painting and without which constitutes a'”denial” of a “figurative interpretation”), because that DOES seem to be the opposite of what happens in sculpture in which the more ‘spatiality’ there is the LESS figuratively suggestive it becomes, and is desirable for exactly that reason if it is to be abstract’. I hope I am interpreting your use of the word ‘spatiality’ correctly?

    John – You seem to be reiterating the endlessly argued point about how ‘abstract’ painting actually becomes, in facture, when one deliberately disregards its subject matter.
    Historically, I suppose this came about when painting ‘changed’ from depicting obscure religious, symbolic or allegorical subjects to common or garden ones that everyone could immediately grasp.


  30. John – I’m happy to think of myself as an abstract painter too. But I’m increasingly reluctant to reject any kind of figuration as a means of making space, particularly as I can see figurative elements in any nominally abstract painting that isn’t entirely flat.

    Agreed, if a cartoon-face pops up unintentionally in a painting, then that is probably going to ruin it, because it will almost certainly destroy its wholeness as a visual experience and simultaneously trigger an expectation of narrative without ever contributing much in the way of space.

    Like you, I am not interested in representation / illustration. But when a vase or a tree suddenly makes visual, spatial sense of a whole painting then I see no reason to be anything but grateful.

    On the whole, I’d say Alan Davie’s 50s work is hugely figurative – weird objects tangled on a surface or floating in atmospheric space. I can’t see where there’s a line to be drawn between something that looks tree-ish and something that looks washed-up-on-the-beach-ish.
    At the same time, I wouldn’t see them as illustrative or representational.

    Tim – I have never done any sculpture but maybe spatiality in sculpture has a similar role to surface-pattern in painting?

    That would make spatiality in sculpture the organization / patterning of material reality that generates the illusion of (in painting) virtual space and in sculpture… what? Susanne Langer would say virtual movement, but that doesn’t get talked about much here.

    Whatever it is with which sculpture transcends its material self, I imagine that its three dimensional thereness made forcefully apparent through its spatiality is as important to it as a painting’s two dimensional surface made forcefully apparent through surface-pattern.

    Space is virtual in painting but real in sculpture, so yes, that would mean that spatiality in sculpture fetches the viewer back from any transcendent, projected, possibly figurative virtuality, whereas spatiality in painting IS the transcendent, projected, possibly figurative virtuality and needs the two-dimensional surface-pattern to fetch the viewer out again.


  31. Richard, I think we share some ideas on this subject but you will go for a subject if it appeals to you, whereas I wouldn’t, or I can’t see me doing that. I think my interest in pushing complexity is where we differ and where I feel there is a big overlap with the best figurative and abstract paintings: I see a shared visual meaning and quality even though one is delivered via a more explicit figurative structure.
    I think you are open to both more or less complex work.


  32. Good to have comments from such interesting Painters,altho I find myself completely at odds with the sentiments expressed,which happened at Robing Brancaster ,as well.I don’t agree that Abstract Painting is bankrupt,except in the motives and circumstances of its making.The reason I may come across as indulgent in my reminiscing ,is to show that there is no barrier around what we do,no purity guaranteeing profundity.We can go where we like,move in and out.The only problem is the personal toll this takes ,working in a barren landscape .I don’t think complexity will help.A little support would be nice from institutions like the Tate,Academy etc.But that aint happening either.I was given a small Ray Parker gouache,by an extremely drunken artist,at ten in the morning ,in Manhattan in the 70s which I still get a huge amount from.Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.Best Patrick


  33. Some thoughts from me concerning living with art history
    I certainly do think I work in a vacuum (as much as possible) . As I think do the other sculptors I show my work with .
    It has been said that there is a commonality of overall purpose In reality it being unique to oneself and the works evolving and development , piece to piece, is what counts . For me.
    ‘Making’ ‘imaginatively’ ,and with an individual purpose intent upon discovery and no repetition.
    No guarantees of ‘meaning’ in the greater sense.
    Not really knowing what you are doing , keeping it going, trusting your own eye and mind.
    This situation , shared I am sure by others , offers the great challenge to looking with some insight at the work of others , trying , from such a fragile position to make comment without destroying through prejudice or haste. And that’s a beautiful place to be .


    1. Tony – I certainly do not think that I could quarrel with any of that.

      By “vacuum”, I meant vacuum of knowledge; for I certainly do not believe that any of us evolved out of the proverbial ether; we were formed by a huge collection of artistic experiences, quite apart from life itself, obviously.
      And, of course, the work of others is the challenge..


  34. Very much enjoyed that Tony,coming from a very nice place indeed.However ,as an indication of what we are up against,how about this on twitter…The director of the National Gallery stated he was pleased to be opening the museum ,so that people could look at the real physical object,not a computer screen[Apollo magazine].Only to have a howl from the alternative elite,”Are we going back to that again,just standing and staring?’I might be over-reacting ,but I see the action of looking as a great challenge,with a whole variety of possible responses ,taking time ,memory,intuition,intelligence ,feeling etc.Im afraid we are going to have to fight for something so basic,as our right to be left alone,to make up our own mind.A basic freedom we have taken for granted.


  35. Astonishing as it may seem, Patrick, your citation of the National Gallery’s Director’s comments is merely a symptom of the new age.
    Long, long ago I heard a talk by Charles Eames on Los Angeles. He said that if you walked on the pavement (sidewalk) there, the police would arrest you because you should have been in your car. In the future, he said, feet would become redundant and you would simply have one gas foot and one brake foot.
    I recently read that in South Korea, all the youngsters are living ‘online’. They live in Virtual flats, which they furnish with Virtual fittings, bought with Virtual money, from Virtual shops, to which they then invite Virtual friends !
    Maybe we should demolish the National Gallery, build a giant screen on the site (with car park of course), permanently screening “The Old Master Show’, complete with prancing and gesticulating ‘Presenter’, making sure all the time that the camera is trained on him / her rather than the subject.?
    The problem with “being left alone, to make up our own minds”, is that ‘SOCIETY’ doesn’t want you to.
    Witness Hong Kong.


  36. Thank you ,Tim.So my argument with Robin is based on the assumption that we do a VISUAL Art,which discerning people will look at.That has long been in contention as a meaningful activity.If I had described my work as Post-Colonial ,I would be much more bankable,being an ageing,white, male,ABSTRACT artist is the kiss of death.So we have at least two problems ,one being the audience being extremely variable in their education,sensitivity and ability to engage,everybody being different.Then the pressure Society brings,even well meaning ,like Black lives Matter,for an agenda,for perception.Then the unpleasant ,racist,fascist political spectrum ,thats its difficult if not dangerous to ignore.Remembering Oswald Mosely and the Blackshirts marched thro the East end,with Establishment blessing .One Jewish counter marcher reporting ,”the police beat the demonstrators ,with a great deal more enthusiasm ,than the marchers.My students say I must not bring politics into class,but this is getting harder and harder,with Johnson and Trump,let alone more positive agendas ,like climate change etc.My sort of Modernism was always based on making a better society,more informed,intelligent,free to debate etc.Utopian if you will,but You can see why I consider describing Abstract Art as bankrupt is futile.


  37. Patrick, Robin, Richard et al – To return to the subject of abstract painting / sculpture differences.
    Patrick and Richard both say that they are prepared to accept ‘figurative’ imagery in their ‘abstract’ painting, .if the necessity of the INTENTION warrants it.
    We are also very familiar with the often experienced sensation of ‘recognisable’ elements in the abstract painting of the past; a mark, a colour shape or area BECOMES something.
    This has been dubbed abstracTION rather than ABSTRACT (in past commentary on Abcrit), in a critical sense.

    If we then turn to abstract sculpture (as now being conceived by some), two major factors emerge :
    The first is that a vast majority of ‘abstract’ sculptures in the past have actually been ‘abstraction’ ( and still are).
    The second factor has been the preponderance of ‘given’ preconceived form in the material parts that go to make up a sculptural whole, (with the exception of clay / plaster, virtually everything); which then dominate the actual choice of form in the piece. As is obvious, this is particularly the case with ‘constructed’ sculpture.
    All this has led to the accusation (mine) that abstract sculpture has been ‘borrowing’ identity, instead of formulating its own.

    So, if we compare the two situations, as stated above, we arrive at the (possible) absurdity of, let us say for example, parts of an abstract steel sculpture by Robin, looking like a mouse, a face, a telephone, or whatever.
    In other words, sculpture, unlike (it would seem), painting, CANNOT afford to allow ANY form of recognition to enter its perception by the viewer, if it is to avoid becoming abstraction rather than being abstract. It also has to avoid the intense danger of dominance by the given forms of material, a problem that hardly ever appears in painting.
    My argument has been, and remains, that for sculpture to RETRIEVE its own identity, these are essential conditions.

    The prospective paths of painting and sculpture do, then, give the impression of taking
    very divergent paths into the immediate future ?


  38. Nor mine, Robin – but that is precisely the point I was making. For SCULPTURE it spells disaster.

    But what if ‘Untitled 2019 147 x 111 cm’, oil on canvas, recalls autumn leaves on the footpath ?
    It obviously does not matter a scrap.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Ill try and keep it brief as had enough time on here.I was losing the plot slightly,talking about society at large.Fate has intervened ,as it often does,with a wonderfull show of David Smith ,at Hauser and Wurth.They are his Sprays ,made by spraying over metal shapes,leaving silhouettes.Even now they are pregnant with possibilities.I understand the reservations about his Sculpture being 2 dimensional.But that throws the baby out with the bathwater.He was one of the main reasons I became an artist in the first place ,finding his auto biography in Cheltenham art school library in 68,visiting Bolton Landing with my parents in 86.He came from a working class background and had a masculinity ,that was at odds with Hockney,Gormley and Freud from the RA,I could identify with.Unfortuneatly my thoughts about Caro ,who helped me personally ,are the opposite .I like the earlier open linear pieces enormously.Not so keen on the bell bouys,lumpy later sculpture.I have similar problems with Alan Gouk,despite his extraordinary scholarship about Patrick Heron.I find some of the Paintings too heavy /hence my real affection for Frankenthalers light touch.Each to his own ,but my excitement about Smith is as an artist .I do not intend any criticism of individual practise ,but obviously coming at some of this from a very different direction ,as a Painter.


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