I started the year with no big project on the horizon for the first time in a while. Liberating and scary. I would just have to make up my own. Also, after only managing 1 painting last year I was determined to do more.
This year I was fortunate to be able to exhibit paintings in a few group shows. A big thank you to Helen Thomas and Sean Williams for including my work in the ‘This Must Be The Place’ and ‘From The Quiet Earth’ exhibitions in Wakefield and Sheffield. It meant a lot to show work along side painters I admire.
In addition to exhibitions, a new adventure for me (thanks to Horbury Civic Society), was becoming guest curator of the Redbox Gallery.
2022 was very much about looking backward and forwards, finding common themes and links between work, and helping them to progress. It was also very much the year of the tree. I’ve depicted thousands of them over the past 4 years without realising it. When I’ve been out painting landscapes, both rural and urban, trees have never been the main focus, but without them, each painting would be poorer. Looking back over more than 100 paintings, there’s at least one tree in every one. I thought it was about time I gave them the attention they deserved.
Here are 12 images, one for each month (nearly) that try to show some form of narrative. Oh, and a great big shark! Why would you NOT want to make a great big shark?
On 1st January I walked along Woolley Edge and found this tree, at pretty much the highest point in the district. It’s on its own, in the middle of an agricultural field. This was the start of the Solitary Tree project.
The Solitary Tree project continued throughout February and March. Some I found whilst out driving, some when I was out walking and others I located through Google Earth. Quite a few were suggested to me by people responding to posts online. I liked trying to sketch them as sculptural forms. My tree identification skills are pretty poor, especially when they are without leaves, but after a while, I could name quite a few. Without the leaves, you could see interesting similarities and differences. You also got a sense of how they both grow and decay.
More information can be found here Solitary Trees
At the start of the year I received an email from The Hepworth Wakefield, asking if they could include some of my Hepworth Garden paintings from 2020 in an exhibition in the cafe. The work would be shown alongside original work by fellow Wakefield artists Helen Thomas and Helen Riddle. It was an unexpected offer and I was delighted but also unsure. These paintings are very personal, painted during lockdown and for my own enjoyment, rather than as part of some grand plan.
The gallery framed them beautifully and it was a genuine thrill to see them on the walls there.
Speaking of grand plans – I participated in Open Studios at The Art House, for the first time, in May. It gave me an opportunity to place new work alongside documentation of projects from the past 4 years, to see if they would have conversations with each other. It was also a good opportunity for me to talk about my practice in an informal setting. That started the ball rolling for another series of projects for 2023.
I’m including a second image for May as I was also very grateful to be asked by Wakefield Council to be a part of the Greener Westgate project. This was part of the Westgate Heritage Action Zone project which I had previously been involved in, documenting the buildings. Westgate Panorama
With artists Helen Thomas and Amy Lilley I ran a number of creative sessions at The Art House, Wakefield, looking at the green space, both formal and accidental, within the Action Zone area. This led me to do something I’d been meaning to do at the start of the year but never got around to – painting big. Recent paintings have all been small, no wider than 40 cm. I now had the opportunity to paint big, using my arms rather than just my wrists. This Lime Tree is painted on 1.4m x 1m paper.
Music Boxes – Long Division
Wakefield music festival, Long Division, put a call out for proposals for creative commissions that would utilise old CD cases they had. I realised you could take 2 CD cases apart, make them into a cube (with a door) and turn them into lanterns. I proposed to make a series of these, decorate the inside with explorations of graphic musical scores inspired by the works of Cornelius Cardrew, John Cage and others, and suspend them from a tree in the city center for the duration of the festival. I’m a big fan of the festival and think they do great work so I was really pleased I was successful. (It was also good to make a piece that highlighted one of the many wonderful trees in the city center.)
Tadcaster – In silk
Tadcaster has become a special place for me since working on a lantern parade there back in 2017.
There are some amazing people in the town but a special mention has to go to Kirsty Poskett and David Gluck, who do great work at Tadcaster Barn.
They asked me to deliver a silk painting project (similar to both the Wood Street and Westgate projects in Wakefield), working with people from the town to document the wonderful buildings they have there.
So began a very special summer (during the heatwave!). 56 individual buildings were painted, by people of all ages, alongside 3 large composite paintings.
I wanted to paint plein air and revisit the Boundary No Boundary – 3 panel – format. I also wanted to explore places within the Wakefield District where you can see from one side to the other. One such place is on Went Hill.
Even though it was August, I was very cold. I took with me slightly bigger boards by mistake so it was a very different experience.
I did uncover some interesting overlaps with previous work. More information can be found here View from Went Hill
I was enjoying painting again. This is one of three small paintings I did looking over the Empty Square near Ousefleet, East Yorkshire
More can be found here Isle Of Axholme and the Empty Square
The painting continued with this, slightly larger painting of a roundabout near West Bretton. It was partly inspired by a previous painting of mine, of Newton Bar roundabout from 2020, that featured in the From The Quiet earth exhibition in Sheffield. I like the idea of roundabouts as mini habitats. This large roundabout, near Bretton Hall (where I studied painting between 1983 and 1986), is home to some long-established trees.
It was the first painting I’d done on canvas for many, many years. It was also the first time I’d taken more than one day on a painting for equally as long.
I’d gotten into the habit of a self-imposed rule of always finishing a painting on the same day I started it. This started as a necessity for Boundary No Boundary and continued ever since.
This one took two and a half days. It was nice to not feel the pressure of having to finish in one go but I also missed the spontaneity that the quick paintings bring.
Throughout 2022 I continued to deliver a number of community projects with Edgelands Arts and other organisations. I am very fond of this shark I made with Spectrum People at Airedale Library. It is to go on display there as part of a campaign warning people of the dangers of loan sharks.
I was successful in my application to Wakefield Council for a research and development project, Landmarks. More information can be found here Landmarks
This will enable me to revisit previous lines of inquiry alongside new explorations and find different ways of creatively making sense of our understanding of landscape, and what those places mean to us. I’m beginning to realise that the more answers I find, the more questions are generated.
Here is a collection of photographs of 25 pit wheels I found in the Wakefield District over 2 days in December.