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Here is a just finished portrait. This much colour is unusual for me and I am now working on a more sombre anatomical dissection piece! More of that later.

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Contrasts is the title of this post and there are contrasts indeed in the work I am engaged in at the moment! I am busy with different aspects of five separate projects and I am feeling very positive about how things are going with all of them. A huge amount of my time recently has been taken up with completing the second body of work for the  Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula exhibition in New York, but it is all now complete and arrangements for the show are in full swing. Just click on the  website for more details.

I am looking forward very much of course to the NY show, and also to hopefully raising some money to fund further work on the Obstetric Fistula project. I have two other exhibitions however to work towards this year and the image here  is a ‘teaser’ for one that will be launched in September in Cardiff. It will be a show in collaboration with a very gifted fine art photographer, Luis Fernando Noriega, who lives and works in Antigua, Guatemala. My oil paintings and drawings of the Mayan inhabitants of the city that I made during and after my visit there late last year, will respond to and reflect on Luis’s powerfully emotive photographs of the crumbling architecture.  https://www.facebook.com/LuisFernandoNoriegaPhotography

Entitled CONTRASTS: two interpretations of Antigua, Guatemala, the intention behind the exhibition is to present both Luis’s local view and that of a visitor to Antigua, which together, simultaneously explore several forms of parallel interrelation: that between art and photography, that between the human inhabitants of the Antigua and its historical, cultural and architectural heritage, and, perhaps most importantly, that which defines  the cultural disparity between Mayan tradition and contemporary society.  In addition to the conventional exhibition launch event we are planning to organise an evening talk where the audience can engage with the issues that the show will raise, but more details on that nearer the time.

 

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It has been a difficult few months. Illness and surgery have taken their toll and colours have darkened around me. Things are moving on however both in health and in practice and portraiture has been a significant part of the latter recently (see previous post). This self portrait has been through many incarnations over the months, dependent on – and at the same time being precipitative of – my state of mind. This latest version suffers in itself for the constant reworking and hides much beneath the thickness on the paint… pentimento – ghosts of myself lie uneasy underneath what I think is a finished state but, reflecting life – and death, I may yet rework the painting until it is finished only through its destruction.

 

Here is a small oil piece (approx.15x10cm) that I have been working on as part of the Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula project. It will form part of an exhibition in Cardiff in August this year…more details to come.

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I have been working steadily since beginning my three-month visit as a visiting researcher at Glasgow University. I am now a little over half way through my time here and I have been reading so much about life lived by William Hunter and his peers in London in the 1700’s that I feel as if I almost live there myself! So much so that it is a jolt to the system to step out at the end of the day from the library or from my borrowed office into the 21st Century milieu of Glasgow’s West End.

I have also been drawing however, from the anatomical specimens in the anatomy museum and also from the original Rymsdyk drawings themselves in the University Library Special Collections department. My aim with the latter is not to make slavish copies, but rather to use my own form of mark making and technique to respond to the work I have before me. The images below are drawings that are still ‘in process’. The adherence to the original is still a major factor in them but I feel that this is bound to change as work progresses. In the first piece I am using a ballpoint pen – an instrument that I believe was not invented until the late 19th century – and I wondered as I worked on this drawing (after Table Vi of The Gravid Uterus) what Rymsdyk himself would have had to say about it. Seems he was never too backward at coming forward with his opinions, as evidenced in the little disguised rant that accompanies his and his son’s beautiful drawings in his Museum Brittanicum, Being an Exhibition of a great Variety of Antiquities and Natural Curiosities belonging to the Noble and Magnificent cabinet, the British Museum, illustrated with Curious Prints, published in 1778.

My eventual aim is to use these drawings as a basis for an exhibition which will focus on the study of anatomy and way is it conceived and exploited.

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This is the latest one of my drawings in the Glasgow University Anatomy Museum. It is from a plaster cast William Hunter made of a dissection of a pregnant woman at around the sixth month of pregnancy. My aim was to get a more ‘lifelike’ feel about the drawing  – to find the innocence and the warmth of the ‘real’ foetus under the painted plaster.

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The daffodils are in bloom and the doors of The Broadway Drawing School are now painted daffodil yellow in empathic enthusiasm. The sun is still cold on my back (the short but chill month of my birth still shadows me, even as March marches in) but my suffering soul that at the end of last year almost froze in the icy grip of disappointment, now feels warmer and more recognisable as my own than for a while.  Drawings that I had some affiliation to – a guiding hand in – and which covered studio walls in an institution where I once believed I had a future have now come to represent, in my memory, the beginnings of an alternative future; a future that even though poorer, is yet richer way beyond the confines of a bank balance. And I continue to guide…. My hand and my eye follow the creative gesture and the gaze of others who share and believe in the same things that I do….and I feel a debt of gratitude.

I was thinking about yellow; about essences; about portraiture; about this drawing of my son; and I found these words:

“It is a mark of contemporary life that personal identities have become fractured, complex, and splintered, and that they are in a state of constant re-definition. Similarly, contemporary art has also become more heterogeneous and discrete as ‘major themes’ in art are less evident. As a result, two of the most basic questions, ‘Who are we?’ and ‘What is art?’ share the same concern: they both struggle with the challenges of subjectivity”

Steven Holmes, Curator, Subject: Contemporary Portraiture May 14–Aug.14, 2006, Llyman Allyn Art Museum

They resonate…..

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