Painter on the Road, Summer
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About the work
Painter on the Road, Summer
These prints show what looks like a country road. In fact it is about a ten minute walk from my childhood home on the estate where we lived. The estate was on the edge of Coventry and this road took you very swiftly from the built environment to the countryside. My dad would bring us on walks along this road, which led to a small village called Berkswell. There was small village pub and a church and graveyard which looked as romantic as any of those I saw in Pre Raphaelite paintings or read about in English novels and poetry. You could say that the walk along this road as it bordered fields and trees and the village it led to was the opposite of the daily life on the estate. I think it came to symbolise for my dad an escape from the mundane into a place where thinking could be allowed to happen. At least the possibility of thought.
In 2015 I exhibited five paintings at the Wilkinson Gallery in London called Study for The Painter on the Road. The images were based on photographs I had made over a thirty year period of walking along this road, sometimes on my own and sometimes in company. I have made drawings of the fields and trees along this road and of the village since I was a child. The title of the series comes from Van Gogh’s The Painter on the Road to Tarascon or On the Way to Work (I can never settle on what this painting is called). The painting itself was destroyed during the war, off course. As I was making the paintings I had pinned on the studio wall postcards of all Bacon’s paintings on this theme and the Van Gogh itself but what came to dominate was a reproduction of a drawing by Van Gogh of the Road to Tarsacon with a solitary walking figure (see below).
How I came to associate my own story with that of Van Gogh and Bacon is more difficult to articulate but I think it had something to do with my adolescent ambitions to be an artist and to leave home and go to art college and be England’s greatest painter. Both Van Gogh and Bacon came to represent for me the seriousness and weight I wanted from art and artists. It’s all ridiculous of course and to quote The Smiths, “I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible”. I called the paintings Study for … to imply that this series wasn’t over, that my thinking about this as a motif (motive) was far from resolved and still, itself, on the road. These prints are part of that walking and that working. Shortly after I had made and exhibited the paintings in 2015 I caught myself looking at the photographs I had taken over a number of years and found it difficult to determine if I was looking at the way out or the way back.