We return to our deeply inspirational trip to Japan now for our latest series of work. Using material Lorna gathered from an evening in Gion corner in Kyoto, two new paintings are emerging simultaneously.
Again, the first step has been to apply bold washes of watercolour. Strong colour and plenty of textured, gestural marks offers emerging forms and exciting opportunities. Into these we begin to work in turn, finding the balance between strong drawing, abstract forms and the excitement of the automatic line. Within that we strive to find an image that can be read two ways; resolution comes with a twist most often and that is what really excites us.
These are a few details of the two paintings in progress and we will publish the completed works very soon…
This piece began with a study of the Three Graces; the interplay of arms drew us to the image. Once the initial phase was completed, Stephen explored the intriguing abstract quality of the third figure on the right hand side. At this point, we started to consider its strengths from different angles.
The power of the two arms reaching from top to bottom were important for us to preserve. They have weight and serve to emphasise a sense of motion. We enjoy the ambiguity too, as the hands read in a variety of ways.
We continued to work into the marks, finding contrast with fine lines and dark swathes of ink. Stephen worked into the remaining female figures’s hair with a fantastic cascade of texture, echoing the gravity of the upright composition.
It became evident that a male form was emerging at the top of the painting and it was at that point, that we realised the emerging image was of Perseus and Andromeda. The refining of his head brought balance to Andromeda and encourages the viewer to trace the action from top to bottom.
This is the completed work
This painting evolved from an initial drawing inspired by Rubens. We passed it back and forth several times, flooding it with French Ultramarine watercolour, working into forms with ink and pencil and swivelling the paper, scrutinising and reinterpreting the image.
Here is the original Rubens.
There is no one way of collaboration for us except one way which is together. If one of us starts first, the other may start undoing and vice -versa before rebuilding or leaving in a different way. There is no rule about who starts first, in the case of ‘Bridge’ we started together before S moved forward and L entered afterwards, via another door and we both left together again. Sometimes it’s the other way round. The only regular feature is our unity in working together.
As we enter collaboration we leave somethings behind, there is no room for ego, conservatism or caution. There is only one coat hanger for political considerations of gender, the main one of equality. There are sympathetic considerations toward our individual styles and strengths, but just a glance through a door before sowing the seed for the surprise from our work that stimulates us to the next.
Bridge is about this ongoing story as well as the Metropolis in its marks.
Details and process
We both love staring back at Art History from our digital era. Its tempting to queue up with Artists over the centuries who have been eager to reinterpret … even link with that tradition In a way we find ourselves doing just that with a small sketch of a Rubens drawing started and finished via alteration led by chance into something beyond its origins as we sat in the conservatory working together in fading light. Whilst I’m writing this I know with certainty that an Artist somewhere is looking backwards whilst pushing forwards at the same time, there is a neat symmetry balancing on that line.
I counted two hundred million miles the other day.
A multiplication of orbits, rotations and years since we started a conversation, marked by being in the same place, with the same face.
Two hundred million marks with pen on paper is only one word of explanation, but us making marks together makes the conversation.
Stephen Kirin, December 2017.
The energy in this piece has been intoxicating for us. The richness of forms and colour has inspired an intense response to the legend of this sea dragon.
We had prepared a very complex surface of watercolour, charcoal and ink in this case and unusually for us, decided very early on that we would paint Ryōjin, as a follow on to the tale of Tamatori. I began to work into the dragon’s head and neck which in turn, gave Stephen the opportunity to unleash his powerful marks in ink around the body of the creature. We alternated several times, as is our norm, to adjust and respond to each other’s marks.
Again we have aimed to build complexity into the completed work; seeking the ambiguous, the surreal perhaps whilst maintaining the importance of the narrative. We want to be gripped, surprised and always inspired. We are both a little braver as a result of working this way too.
Ryojin will be showing at Ashdown Gallery in June 2018, as part of our ‘solo’ exhibition.
This piece is the largest work on paper that we have worked on to date. It’s 120x100cm; a thrilling scale, full of potential for gripping mark making and contrasts of bold gestures and detailed intricacy.
We have been totally immersed in responding emerging images in this piece and feel that the resulting painting is highly complex and can be read in a variety of ways.
The subject matter appeared half way through the process, as we identified the Japanese legend of Princess Tamatori and the Ryōjin (sea dragon) in the marks.
The narrative developed in response to the tale of the princess’s heroic recovery of a treasured pearl stolen by the dragon king, Ryōjin during a storm on its way to Japan in the inlet of Fusazaki. She vowed to help recover the stolen pearl that belonged to her family and after many failed attempts she was finally successful when the dragon and grotesque creatures guarding it were lulled to sleep by music. Upon reclaiming the treasure, she came under attack by the awakening sea creatures. She cut open her breast to place the pearl inside for safekeeping and escaped in the water clouded by her own blood. She died from the resulting wound but is revered for her selfless act of sacrifice for her husband Fuhito and their son.
A woodblock depicting the legend of Tamatori by Utagawa Kuniyoshi
This painting forms part of a series of work inspired by our recent trip to Japan and our deep interest in classical mythology. These will be exhibited in June 2018 at Ashdown Gallery.