Archive for May, 2008

Doppelgangers – (new work)


Around 10 years ago I did a painting for The New Art Gallery, Walsall about the death of my grandparents called Memorial Painting. It was a large 8 foot diptych featuring on one side their empty rooms and on the other panel 26 objects from that room. As I stood in that room there was a sense of absence, reflection and emptiness and the objects brought back and provoked many memories for me. The objects seemed to reflect and reinforce their identity and sudenly these everyday, banal items, which in truth, were about ready for the bin had suddenly become incredibly significant and precious. The act of painting the objects seemed to elevate their importance from the merely banal, something so worthless seemed suddenly valuable. The objects viewed in isolation set against a white background and then painted seems to make us re-evaluate their significance and sense the human sentiment which is retained within these objects. I see these objects as being directly related to portraiture because even though there are no people depicted in the Memorial Painting, it is still very much a portrait of two people.

I wanted to develop this theme a little further. I’ve been collecting interesting objects from junk shops etc… which seem to have some poetic beauty within them, touched by some profound sentiment or relationship and damaged in some way asif it has lived a life and is almost organic but unfortunately just about ready for the bin. Then through whatever chanel they end up in my hands and take on a new life as a piece of art. I’ve used 3-D objects before in my portraiture, for example car doors and car wings which I have painted on and I like the play between 2-D and 3-D. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and I wanted to develop it further and suddenly the idea came to me to use the actual object alongside the painting creating a diptych which is another reoccuring theme in my work, so it all seemed to fit beautifully. Very broardly my work is about objective reality, making paintings which are as real looking and convincing as I can possibly get them. So, I made an exact scale drawing of the object ,(The first is an old Pre WW1 Beatrix potter book and the secong is a 45 single by Elvis inscribed with “To my Darling Ron, Happy Valentines Day”). I did the drawing on the left and continued to do a 2-D still life painting of the object and then to the right of the painting is mounted the actual origional 3-D object. The painting is almost like a clone, or in this case, I refer to them as “Doppelgangers”. The 2 seem to feed off eachother, at first glance they seem strangely identical, juxtaposed together, but then your eyes seem to work out that one is flat and the other is 3-D. In some ways there is also a link with the old trickery of Trompe l’ oil, but that was never a concious thing, just a bi- product when I looked at the finished thing. It is always about the object and it’s relationship with the people who once owned it and responding to its imbued poetry and sentiment.

(Just click on the image to enlarge)

May 26th, 2008

A Recent article by Terry Grimley in The Birmingham Post -“American Honour for Walsall Artist”

Please click on the link to read:

Here is another interview from a magazine called “Varsity” which is produced by Cambridge university and I think was very nicely written.

May 26th, 2008

Smithsonian Institution purchase 2 of my paintings


The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC have puchased 2 of my paintings for their permanent collection. It is reputed to be the biggest museum in the world and this is my first acquisition into a major American collection so I’m delighted to have some of my work represented there.

The 2 paintings are both portraits of very eminent American figures; Cormac McCarthy and Murray Gellman.

I first met them in 2004 when my gallery invited me over to Santa Fe, New Mexico to do a portrait based project exploring “The people of New Mexico” where I drove around the state looking for interesting faces. Cormac and Murray were based at a “think tank/ research unit ” situated in the middle of the New Mexican desert where they develop their own projects and hold philosophical discussions around tables.

I would like to thank The Andreeva Gallery in Santa Fe and especially Pam for her relentless enthusiasm and professionalism in placing the works into the Smithsonian’s collection over the past few months and also special  thanks to Francisco for his generosity  and kind gesture.
Cormac McCarthy is widely considered to be one of the greatist living American writers. In 1992 he wrote “All the Pretty Horses” which was later made into a film starring Matt Damon. In 2005 he wrote “No Country for Old Men” which more recently was made into a film directed by the Coen brothers starring Tommy Lee Jones and won 4 Academy Awards at this years Oscars including “Best Film”. In 2007 he won The Pulitzer Prize for literature. He is notoriously reclusive and very rarely gives interviews so I was incredibly lucky to get him to sit for me in Santa Fe, I think something just clicked between us and we seemed to get on.

Murray Gell-Mann is a world renowned Physicist who has made discoveries and developments in “Quantum Physics” and in 1969 he won the Nobel Prize for physics. I loved his “eccentric scientist” look and the fact that he wore a Native American Indian bootlace tie.

May 5th, 2008

The Guardian / Sunday Observer – April 27th 2008 (Parliamentary Collection)


Phil Hale’s recent portrait of Tony Blair prompted the following article on the Parliamentary Collection in The House of Commons.  I’ve admired Phil’s work for many years now since he first exhibited in The BP Portrait Awards (around 2001 if my memory serves me), and I think he was an excellent choice to paint Blair, looks really good too from the photographs I’ve seen  but I haven’t seen it in the flesh yet.

Anyway, here is an extract from the article which a friend pointed out to me last week refering to my portrait of Tony Benn.

Peter Conrad – Sunday 27th April 2008 -The Observer/(Sunday Guardian)

“The best parliamentary portraits have a candour that does credit to the artist and – perhaps even more – to the subject. Tony Benn chose to present himself to Andrew Tift as a private man in a messy, madly eccentric domestic setting with a transistor radio propped on a cardboard carton that does duty as a side table and a tacky plaster statuette of Marx on the mantelpiece. His shoelaces don’t match, and a button on his floppy cardigan is chipped. Only tyrants bother about posing as heroes; democracy, to its credit, is inured to human imperfection”.

May 5th, 2008


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