Blog

I’m using this blog to share work in progress and ideas.  They are not fully formed and many of these will develop into other work.  The two examples below are works on paper, which I’ve been developing over the last few months, whenever I can steal a moment.  They are part of wider work that cover boards…

IMG 4013


Studies, ink on paper 2018 - ‘Suspicious of others'


Ochretide statements  set II 2016 17 1

Studies, ink on paper 2018 - emerging into another year

Attachemnts and aversions - ink on paper 2018

Ochretide statements  set II 2016 17 2

A strange request

I was recently asked to write what I believed in.  As I thought about it I realised it was much easier to say what I don’t believe in.  I found the things that I believed in slipped past me like a flowing river.  They are always moving, sometimes its higher but overall its going in the same direction, the eddies and whirlpools, like life’s events are a function of the movement.  From a safe distance it feels rather monotonous and unchanging, close by it’s as if they will swallow you. 

Life and the people around me shape my beliefs and I can only believe in people I know.  I don’t believe in heroes or leaders; these are for children.

I believe life changes but stays the same.  As you move through it the characteristics stay the same and are driven by human concerns.  I believe this because of the consistent cruelties and compassions displayed.by people through time. 

I believe that paradoxes frame the world and therefore there wont be a bounded consistent truth that encapsulate everything.  This means that the context of the event we are trying to understand is as important as the locus itself.

We are social animals, so people are important to us as we understand, and make sense of, what is going on through others reactions whether good or bad.  I believe evil is banal and the only monsters are those that we create.

I believe that visual expression touches something unique, as does music, mathematics, dance, poetry etc. each in their own way and that there isn’t a hierarchy except from individuals’ perspectives.

I believe ‘it’ will end. “It” being the frames that are relevant to us, and this will be on a personal, social and global level.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics would suggest this is inevitable; I just don’t know when. 

I believe there isn’t progress except in limited contexts.  We build on ideas but fundamentally as humans we are the same.  The ideas of Buddha, Lao-tzu, Socrates and others are as relevant today as they were two and half thousand years ago and were probably not original then. 

Like them I believe that disappointment is at the root of our unhappiness and desire is the cause of the disappointment.  Rather ashamedly, I believe I will always be disappointed.

I believe the world is an illusion and only if I had the strength of character I would truly realise this and then be able to let go.

I believe the basis of hope is that people have the potential to do good.  I believe in my children and others children. I believe the sun will come up tomorrow and beauty in the moment.

Fatherhood

It’s been some time since I’ve posted.  Having a new addition to the family (Dylan arrived in November 2014,) has distracted me from publishing on the website but I’ve been snatching time to paint. 

I’ve been working on series of work on paper, reflecting on how we (humanity) consider the world and try and make sense of it. This painting isn’t finished (I am looking to gild it) but it is almost complete and as it has a loose connection with the mixed emotions of becoming a parent, I thought I would share it.

Illuminated manuscripts and the idea of the production of a piece of work being an act of homage or devotion in itself, has inspired me to reevaluate and explore this form of expression.

By compiling a series of work into a book means it can provide a personal opportunity for reflection.  That’s why I was attracted to the idea of producing a self contained book; a personal and portable art gallery.  

The working title is “Child and Mummy,” Watercolour, ink and gouache on paper (38x28cm) 2016


It all changes and still says the same

Whatever the type of art being produced the drivers seem to be same: the need to be different and trying to square this with wanting to be recognised; and, to be part of something and yet still wanting to dictate your path as an individual.  I suppose it’s just being greedy, wanting it all and I suspect if you have it then you will realise “all that shines isn’t gold.”   

IMG 0101

Sketch book “Comfort” 2014, Coloured pencil on paper (19 x 19cm)

What I am beginning to appreciate more and more, is that for all the “change" around art that is talked about and the associated energy that goes into positioning it (with which I have many problems,) that really good art hasn’t changed.  Fundamentally time exposes value and the fact that there isn’t objective truth; whether this about how art is created or appreciated.  

What there are, and probably always will be, are people wanting to express and as part of this to create something that touches others on an essential human level.  The justifications that individual people (and society) use are always dynamic and flawed to some extent.  I think the important thing, as an artist is to try and ignore these distractions and challenge the norms; the risk is to fit in and repeat oneself or others.

Why be a painter in the digital age?

I have just spent days making gesso panels, which have required researching recipes, buying ingredients (whiting (chalk) and titanium white pigment) and deciding on the best binder and supports.  I liked the affect created in the Bologna show paintings (please see earlier blog and work in progress). These were on board and used acrylic gesso and I wanted to compare these to more traditional methods. 

Anyway, long mindless hours have been spent researching, sourcing, mixing, applying, sanding and polishing.  This has got me thinking about the impact of changing technology and its relevance to painting. On a more mundane level I started to wonder if setting technical challenges is a way of distracting or inspiring myself?  It also made me wonder if it is worth doing at all, in light of recent digital and technological developments. After all I could just spend my time creating visual expressions on my computer and distributing them via the web?

IMG 1060

Gesso panel

It’s perhaps ironic that in other lives I have advised on the impact of the digital revolution, evangelising for the need to change and embrace a new world; to realise the requisite opportunities.  In spite of this I am going back to recipes and techniques that are hundreds of years old and intending to paint images with brushes. I’m not doing this to imitate or venerate the past. I’m not being reactionary, after all I am sitting here publishing a blog in the hope of reaching more of you and perhaps engaging in some wider undefined artistic endeavour.

There is something about the materials (I accept I’m prejudiced) and their application, which I don’t think can be replicated or improved through digital means.  This is not rejecting the impact, importance or opportunities but is in fact making a distinction between different mediums and their vital contribution to the creative act. This is against a very different concern around how the artefact is disseminated and commoditised.

The web has brought home to me the number of us who are worrying away at art, twenty years ago it just wasn’t that visible. Exposure is more readily available but I am finding that just the shear amount out there is swamping.  Then the business side of the artistic endeavour is moving from galleries to art fairs, power seems to be shifting.  Collectors are looking for ways to discriminate and artists to get the “stamp of approval” which will fast track them to some form of commercial or critical “success”. 

In spite of the changes in the art world, I would argue that the fundamental characteristics have remained then same; access to some kind of patronage and the challenge of expressing something that is poignant to the artist and yet resonates with the wider zeitgeist and is in demand by collectors. As an individual the challenges feel contradictory, expressing something and taking risks versus gaining some sort of popular appeal.  Even if you believe you could produce art in some formulaic response to achieve success (and take luck out of the equation) would you want to do this?

None the less, this dilemma is something that I grapple with on a nearly daily basis.  I have come to the conclusion that production of the artefact and the possible inherent expressive qualities that the productive process facilities is as important as the artefact itself - after that gaining recognition is a separate concern. So I will leave the computer and pull out a pencil and start working up ideas on paper before attempting to put a mark on my beautiful gesso panels and worry about acclaim later.


Paintings for the Bologna show

I have been painting like mad to finish four small paintings for a Show in Bologna.  These are the four that I have chosen.  They are all 20x20cm and are oil on board.

They are votive offerings to the capricious gods who affect the orbits of our lives.  They are specific to the marks they leave on us, glimpses of the trails left by our actions. There are words buried in them, they don’t matter, they are spells.  I have the working titles underneath each.

Bologna SWMJ-0001

"Impure by birth" - painting above

Bologna SWMJ-0002

"Building the Pope’s tiara"

Bologna SWMJ-0004

“The oncoming of night"

Bologna SWMJ-0005

“Prayer and punishment"

Starting the year

Since taking the plunge last year and really beginning to contribute most of my energy into my art I have had a number of exhibitions including group shows in New York and Vienna.  2014 continues at a hectic pace with offers for a solo exhibition in Manhattan and a show in Bologna in March.  Even though I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s amazing how much of my time and energy is taken with managing promotion and organisation, compared to dedicated purely to painting.  I’m not complaining though, it's a nice problem to have.

I am starting an illuminated book, below is an study I worked on in 2012 as part of a series that will mix text and illumination.

A0268

 “ Voice of god," Ink and watercolour of paper  (21x30cm) 2012

Why would you engage in art

I went to an interesting talk last night given by Julia Alvarez from the Bearspace Gallery about collecting art.  It strikes me that there are a number of different perspectives for creating and collecting art. The presentations and conversations with collectors and artists afterwards made me reflect on these.

The first thing it made me want to do was to remind me what “art” is.  I went to the dictionary (OED), which says it’s the expression or application of creative skill and imagination typically in visual form.  This is didn’t match the range of things brought up in the conversations or presentations. If anything it reflected the act that the artists go through.  Collectors present said it was about an emotional connection and gut reaction, with a secondary rational reflection, testing their response around concerns such as if they could afford it. or where it would fit.

So my working list of reasons why art is engaging is as follows: creativity and challenging the anodyne; a luxury commodity; celebrity; aesthetics; ideas surrounding the work based on the rational side of the brain; technical or craft concerns; community (being with like minded people), and; expression. Obviously it is unlikely to be only one of these that engages people.

Thoughts after a dinner

The reason for why I produce art is something I shuffle around in my head.  I can’t come up with a definitive or dogmatic view.  For me it swings between discovery and invention. 

I know it’s not about communication but expression. I don’t really have a message for viewers, I am very happy for them take their own satisfaction in whatever way they want or need, whether that’s meaning or aesthetic appreciation.

 

IMG_0795

I am presently working on a painting inspired by a recent trip to Australia.  Its not finished yet, and though inspired by a place, its not about the place but continues as part of the series I’ve been working on.  The working title is “Man and Boy.”

Sketch book  2
Sketch book
© Simon Jones 2018