Remembering the desert at close to midnight
Print, from a painting: oil, ink and paint on canvas, 148 x 122 cm, 2017
The prints are varied in size.
The original painting is oil on canvas, it concluded a seven year series whereby I had allowed myself to paint whatever and however I wanted behind closed doors. Much of my work takes place outside, in public and has a site specific element and external reason. The studio based paintings were to develop my painting practice in it's own right, reclaiming it. Events, experiences, people and places I encountered during this time inevitably motivated some of the work.
This landscape was influenced by some time spent Ourrzazate in Morocco in 2013 and I painted the memory throughout 2017. The piece went through many phases, with the ground shifting and changing through green meadows to seas - somehow representing the variety of places we can star gaze from. Eventually I scraped away the paint from the earth element and made the canvas smooth to start anew the following day. On return I found the mood of the painting now encompassed that of the memory and felt great relief, with a touch of ecstasy, when I realised that the painting was complete.
I hope that viewers of this work can connect to the place and emotion on their own terms. We all live under the same sky, suffer joys, losses, breathe the same air and I found this place and the creation of this painting synonymous with many other landscapes, times and places. I let it hang in the studio for some months after creating it, people would come to sit and talk with me about their lives and the painting made a comfortable background for all of them. Something about the working through having reached a resolution supported this, with marks from the process remaining prominent and unhidden being essential to the resulting calm. I hope it will bring out a sense of acceptance, contemplation and peace to viewers, though equally valid would be to explore the use of material, with three dimensional smears of paint appearing to be in the background and scratches that go right through to the base layer appearing to be in the foreground.
Traditional painting styles have been drawn from - as have contemporary methods. The linen was prepared with rabbit skin glue and painted with hand mixed oils, along with gold and silver leaf, spray paints, varnish, inks and action painting; the mixing and application of paint was at times very playful, videoed and shared on social media.
The painting is available as hand finished prints, in a limited edition of 50.
Slight change of format: I jumped to the end of my 'painting seven years' and logged the last work on Saatchi art (www.saatchiart.com/lasimmons). I'm thinking to include paintings available as prints on that platform, which rules out particularly three dimensional pieces, though I have been hand finishing some works on thick etching paper to allow for varied surface texture.
More Alike I, II, III, mixed media on canvas, 3 60x60cm paintings (and installation art), 2013
The quote "We are more alike than unlike" (Maya Angelou), was used as a title for this painting trio made in spring 2013, Bermondsey, London. The works have a multitude of coloured layers beneath sealed and then hacked into surfaces of black, red and white.
In the above photograph they form part of The Birthday Projects, 2013, London event, which shared preparatory work for 'Red Line', installation made the following week.
Prior to the surfaces being damaged, this was quite a polished, conceptual piece of work that sat smugly in tact for a couple of weeks. After the hacking / action painting I found it more interesting and authentic.
More Alike II, acrylic paint, gauche, poster paints, spray paints, varnish on canvas 60x60cm, 2013
Transmute, acrylic on canvas, both 50 x 50cm, 2013
My plan for the next family of paintings included deep layers with damaged top surfaces. Transmute was not part of the plan, but came from working toward it. Whilst making the base I really enjoyed the paint and brush strokes and given the hard week it was, let myself do just that. Looking at the resulting painting made me laugh and know it was complete.
Blood Paintings I, II, 30x30 (2012) and below III 50x60 cm (2013), mixed media on canvas. Bermondsey, London.
boundaries / borders, tracking / mapping, land / body terrain
Fauve Sky, mixed media on rag paper, 58x78cm, 2012
Bleeding space shapes with a blue stain beneath and flecks of colour on the surface. There was news of massacres taking place in Syria, lots of political talk, but little being done to support the civilians.
Materials include spray paint, dust, gold leaf, foils, acrylic paint, glitter gels, varnish and glass paint; layered up, scratched and scraped away, and reapplied.
It's been quite a process sharing the first phase of my painting seven years images and musings!
This year I haven't really felt like doing this. Incase I never feel like it, rather than letting it drift, below is a selection to give you a sense of the works that followed and overall project in PDF form.
This painting seven years experience is titled Polaris. It started with Nippon (thinking about Japan) and concluded with Midnight (remembering the desert at close to midnight). These paintings both convey a landscape with the night sky, and are from memory / imagination. I might continue blogging years 2-7 here, as and when it suits me, which is in keeping with the nature of the whole project.
They will be archived in printed materials as-well (or instead of..) email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to receive information about this, or if you have questions and comments.
I have concluded that it was a good idea to give myself permission to paint whatever I want, when I want, for no reason, for three years. Extending to seven is questionable - but there was a review of three, in Swimming and Other Things making it a considered choice to continue.
My next phase of studio based painting begins with several pieces that have already formed in my mind, so less responsive and more deliberate, whilst maintaining space for experimentation with colour and materials.
Snorkel Ibiza, mixed media on canvas, 120x13cm, 2012
This painting started in a South London based cooperative living room. It was made in conjunction with two others that I threw away, though retrospectively would like to have kept. Those were also on canvas, and covered in the shiny purple dust from installations. This painting at one point had big pink and green splodges of paint slowly growing along the middle of the canvas. One night the main pink splodge had taken the shape of a sun. Somebody’s drunk midnight finger painting (not mine).
Before the painting was complete I rented a studio in V22 Bermondsey, London, where I developed the piece to include many layers, with scratches going right through the canvas. Standing back I realised how it reminded me of snorkelling in Ibiza. I’d recently been there to make installation art with ‘Bloop’ street art festival and whilst there went swimming. The fish were brightly coloured and bold! Ibizan fish.
In this second phase of the three year painting project (having moved out of the Deptford studio) I chose to move on from the first year format of 75x55cm rag paper. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that before embarking on the paper based paintings I had been making drawings for some years, using only black pen on paper and card. That exercise was to focus on the content of the work without material, process and colour competing for my attention. The adjacent primary artworks were then often large-scale, working within social contexts and necessitating project management skills.
Snorkel Ibiza detail, mixed media on canvas, 2012
Painting Frenzy, April 2012, Sanayeh House, Beirut, Lebanon
This painting installation was influenced by my work with children in a rehabilitation pre-school - Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation (GKCF) - in Mar Elias Refugee Camp, Beirut. Having left my studio in Deptford London, I stayed in Sanayeh House, Beirut, which was shared accommodation mainly with Syrian people at the time. To continue to make my own 'studio based' paintings, I used my bedroom as a private space to make work. Whilst based here I also made a graphite storyboard, and three paintings on board. Some of my housemates and their friends were remarkable artists.
'Yesterday I had a ‘Painting frenzy’, which followed a trip on the school bus around different refugee camps as the children got dropped home. It is telling that in my process notes I only stated that I went to these camps and it was a valuable thing to do. Expected more of a reaction than that. But later when nine fairly substantial paintings seemed to make themselves it was clear that there had been an impact.’ Lee Simmons art diary, April 2012.
'Painting Frenzy', Acrylic paint on paper, 60x30cm, Beirut 2012