Saturday, 29 December 2012

Comfort - and an exhibition

This week we will be starting getting the studio ready for Ella (see the previous blogs) so that she can commence work on cataloguing the Trust's collection. 

Even now, having sold several hundred pieces of Dave's work since his death, there is still no space for laying out drawings in order to photograph or archive them properly. So one of our main priorities will be to increase shelf space by buying shelving units that will provide 30 additional storage shelves. This means Ella will be able to catalogue and move the awkward piles of work that currently sit on top of the plan chests. These will then be filed away in acid-free boxes and, where necessary, individual sheets will be separated by acid-free paper. Having another plan-chest would be useful - anyone have one that needs a good home?

We'll also be working on making the place a little more comfortable - some racking in the kitchen, a microwave cooker, desks and a desk-lamp, plus a heater by Ella's desk. 

From the 14th January there's also an interesting exhibition of Dave's 'Bestiary' paintings from the late 1990s at the See Gallery in Crawshawbooth. It's only open by request through and contains a few large canvases such as the one shown above, and a good number of smaller ones. This series, inspired by Dave's interest in medieval bestiaries, occupied Dave for over 10 years and went through a number of different phases that are represented in this fascinating exhibition. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Wi-fi, and some support...

I spent the day at Dave's studio in Haslingden yesterday while BT engineers busied themselves climbing up poles, drilling holes in the thick stone walls, and making the place wi-fi friendly. In between time I heard them having conversations about surrealism and whether Dave had ever travelled to South America. Anyway, job done and we're now broadband abled.

This is partly in preparation for taking on someone to work on a more regular basis cataloguing and recording Dave's work. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I continually go on about how slow the progress is doing this job. I've managed to catalogue less than 1500 pieces in three years, so at that rate it will take between 30 and 50 years to complete the job! But now we've taken on Ella Cole, who has cataloguing experience as well as a degree in Fine Art, to work on moving things forward. Ella will start work with us early in the New Year, once we've made the studio slightly more work-friendly (i.e warmer and cozier). 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

More on the hat

The comment attached to my last posting, by Keith Fitton, prompted me to look back at the photo archive. In the period during which I first met Dave - 1966 onward - he was rapidly developing all sorts of inspiring work on the theme of Van Gogh. By 1968 Dave was working on a series of ambitious pieces based on some of Vincent's most iconic works. Today these would be called environmental or immersive pieces but, whatever you call them, they were papier-mâché and wood re-imaginings of, for example, Van Gogh's Bedroom, or the Road to Tarascon, which is the piece shown above. 

Dave's father was a tailor and he made the suit (and hat) - it's Dave himself wearing this in the photograph. There was a blue suit too, and a hat with candles, and there are few photographs in bad condition with me wearing the blue suit and hat (burning) alongside Dave in his yellow. 

The hat iconography grew out of this period - including that hat with candles - and Dave continued to use this distinctive feature of a yellow man (Vincent), and a blue man (perhaps from the friendship with Paul Gauguin) in series after series of paintings and prints. I think this identification was partly inspired by Sidney Nolan's 'Ned Kelly' series, where Kelly was always depicted wearing his odd letter-box iron mask. If my memory serves me well there was an exhibition of Nolan's work at, of all places, Accrington's Howarth Art Gallery, where we saw the Kelly series, and it was much discussed. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Miniature Van Gogh

We recently had some visitors from Berlin; an old friend who asked if we could show his companion Dave's old studio in Haslingden. They stayed at the studio for a good few hours, and in the course of the visit we naturally looked not only at the piles of large canvases but also at various examples of Dave's work that are filed away in the many plan chests, and at the piles of small drawings, paintings and notebooks that have made their way up to the top floor. 

Among these are a small number of very tiny paintings on wood - done both in oil paint and gouache. These works are from the late 1960s and early 70s when Dave was obsessed by Van Gogh. The above example is one of the latter and measures only about 10 by 7 cms, and it's one of the many images that Dave painted with figures in rooms or in landscapes representing Vincent and others wearing distinctive large hats. In this one there's a hat on the table too; it has candles strapped to it, and Vincent describes using this method for being able to continue to paint after nightfall. When I shared a house, briefly, with Dave during this period we made a cake like this to honour Vincent's birthday.

The smallest example we found was an oil of Van Gogh's 'The Reapers' after Millet, that measured just 3.5 x 7 cms, and which my friend from Germany bought on the spot.