Every Painting Teaches Me Something


Bridge Over The Cam/ The Air On Our Face

I am reading The Goetheanum Cupola Motifs Of Rudolf Steiner: Paintings by Gerard Wagner translated and edited by Peter Stebbings. It was one of those wonderful finds whilst browsing the stacks at Cambridge University Library  There is an incredible chapter at the end of the book titled A Path Of Practice In Painting. In this chapter Gerard explains the years of experiments and practice undertaken with colour “to train one’s color feeling.” The process he explains is familiar to any artist who paints because they must: that mystical, transcendental feeling of ethereal flow.

“At the moment of appearing on the surface of the picture, they (colours) are actually at the end of their path.”


Apron Strings

C1A3D1F0-085F-41E3-A5CA-CE935E90C1F5Apron strings…such an emotive phrase that I wanted to share a little bit about what it means to me.

When my son was young we were given a book called “The Children’s Year” by Stephanie Cooper, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marye Rowling.  On the copyright page there is a quote from Rudolf Steiner where he talks about the importance of art and beauty, in the pictures of life that the child is exposed to. This view of childhood and family is idyllic and nostalgic.

In contrast to this, I am drawn to the images of childhood produced by Joan Eardley. There is one with the title Pat and Anne Samson, which I am totally fascinated by. You can sense the future women in these two children; there is such a strong sense of kinship…all that vitality and the thwarting.

And as I put on my artists’ apron to paint, all of my feelings are left in a tangle.

Postscript. After writing this I set about some research and it was not hard to find a story about Pat and Anne, the children in the Eardley painting. I love that Joan fed them treacle and cheese sandwiches.

Hydrangea Flower


I have been trying hard to keep my indoor hydrangea thriving. It is a very thirsty plant which apparently symbolises abundance, honest emotions and the development of a deeper understanding between two people. The desire to capture all that in paint is strong.

Absolutely loved the Gertrude Jekyll quote in the church garden at Caldecote…it was worth the muddy boots to wander out over the fields there.

“The first purpose of a garden is to be a place of quiet beauty such as will give delight to the eye and refreshment to the mind.”

Life has become very busy, art needs time…what am I to do?


Bright Yellows, Soft Oranges And Reds (dig up the carrots and plant flowers instead)

I am enjoying two books which seek to extol the power of art. The first is Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson. In it she tells us how she moved from being totally disinterested in the visual arts to becoming an ardent lover. For the artist, it is chock full of sentence after quotable sentence, which shocks in recognition. She talks about true artists, in preference to great artists. The difference being in the act of connection.

“We have to recognise that the language of art, is not our mother-tongue.” A useful analogy which sees art as a conversation between the artist and the active partaker, between the art object and the surroundings, between the participant observer and their own self. Once the  novice stage has been passed  in the learning of the language there is, with sufficient time, insight, rapture, transformation and joy.

The second book Seeing Slowly: Looking at Modern Art by Michael Findlay also foregrounds connection as the way into art. Here we are guided into noticing how a work of art makes us feel, what it makes us think. It is so refreshing to move on from the “But is it art” debate and instead turn the question onto the person encountering the art object. I love the suggestion to imagine that this work has been made for you. Art, of course, is only a key – the real gateway is attention.

”Why is it art?”Gerald asked, shocked, resentful. “It conveys a complete truth,” said Birkin.  “It contains the whole truth of that state, whatever you feel about it.”

DH Lawrence, Women in Love

And I am returned for a moment to my seventeen year old self, who knew about the potential of art, but did not yet know how to keep that potential alive.

Heads-Up Art 2018


Balm, 2017, Oil on Canvas 

The day in December when I choose my must-see art exhibitions for the coming year fills me with so much expectation and hope. Here are my picks for 2018…

  •  Tomma Abts at The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, 20 June – 9 September 2018. Abstract oils, what’s not to like! She often uses non- words for titles, which turns the viewer back to the painting for reference.
  •  Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition inspired by her writings at the Fitzwilliam Museum, 2 October – 9 December 2018.  This exhibition, on tour from Tate St Ives, promises works by over 70 artists including Carol Bove and Tamara Henderson.
  • Actions. The image of the world can be different at Kettle’s Yard, 10 February – 6 May 2018. This will be their opening exhibition after a lengthy redevelopment and with Helen Frankenthaler on the list of artists it will surely not disappoint.
  • Art Capital: Art for the Elizabeth Line at Whitechapel Gallery, 13 March  – 6 May 2018. This exhibition will show unseen material from all the artists contributing to the Crossrail Art Programme. Watch Chantal Joffe talk about her piece here (look out for the oozy paint on her table!)
  • The Court Of Redonda – Stephen Chambers at Heong Gallery, 24 February – 20 May 2018. 100 Portrait paintings of inhabitants of a mythical kingdom where creativity, diversity and tolerance reign.
  • Sixty Minute Spectrum by David Batchelor at the Hayward Gallery, now until March 2018. This colour clock is an attempt to rescue urban colour from advertising and the artist says he can accurately tell the time with the piece, give or take five minutes. Starting and ending each hour with red, if you get to know the colour sequence it should be more than hue o’ clock!
  • Minjung Kim at White Cube, Mason’s Yard, 26 January – 10 March 2018. The artist describes her work as ‘a visualisation of Zen and Tao’, see some of her work here.