GREETINGS FROM WATERWORLD by Russell Lumb
The landscape around my home in the Vale of Pickering, which yesterday sparkled with a million pools and rivulets, gleams dully this morning as ice, frost and thin mist reduce colour and contrast to produce another exceptional scene. Safe and warm in my first floor den, it is easy to forget those less fortunate in nearby Pickering and Malton struggling to keep the flood out of their homes. I hope that my turn never comes.
There was an analogous situation last evening at Redbrick Mill. It has been noted by several past bloggers that life drawing requires and creates a state of isolation from one’s surroundings. Once immersed in the repetitive drama of sitter and materials, external events are blocked and all effort is channelled toward making the drawing or painting. This can normally be taken for granted at Redbrick, where the players are habituated to an unwritten script; random chatter until the sitter’s gown hits the floor and then, give or take several minutes while the resident engineer arranges the high technology lighting rig to Roger’s satisfaction, hushed introspection. The low frequency blowing of the industrial fan convector and the rhythmic creaking of the goods hoist are essential parts of the Life Room soundscape, together with the scratching, scraping and brushing of media onto assorted grounds. Time passes beyond the bubble of concentration, until the Kettle Monitor, who used to be the Lighting Engineer, pricks the fragile enclosure with the announcement of the break. The sequence is then repeated after tea and biscuits.
But last evening, this comfortable familiarity was undermined for me; not by any sudden, violent occurrence or rowdy behaviour, as the required funeral parlour demeanour was maintained at all times, but by the general failure to settle. Late arrivals, the return of the “emergency plumber”, mysterious telephone conversations and laptop sessions. All, no doubt, innocent and unintentional intrusions, but, like the floodwater seeping under the door, enough to break the mood. Mild annoyance at the disturbance is quickly displaced by guilt and concern for those whose evening is not going smoothly, but it still adds up to dissatisfaction. I was, despite the foregoing, reasonably satisfied with progress up to the break, but then, Tom’s confirmation that he was not “in the bubble” broke my own momentum, and I frittered away the second session making small, careful marks on a previously carefree painting. The moral of this story is that awareness of, and concern for one’s neighbours’ problems is a commendable attribute, but will not nurture good art which is essentially self- centred. Nor will it assuage your neighbours’ distress to be told that the flood is very beautiful.
Looking at the gallery of work, I do not see evidence to support my theory but I am struck by the sudden surge in the preponderance of draughtsmen; only Sue, Roger S. and Tom have really used colour whilst my own painting is essentially monochrome. I thought Guy’s pose to be unusually good because the attitude of the head conferred some emotion on the face, recorded either as imperious distain ( Sue, Andrew and Sandra ) or spiritual longing ( Patrick, Hilary and me). This is odd, because Hilary started in the “disdain” camp, with a Roman head fit for a gold coin, but ended with her Guy showing remorse for his unspeakable deeds. The real Guy ended showing considerable discomfort (Tony ) but gave us all something worth working for.
I particularly like Hadyn’s chunky, grounded, back view, which proves that facial accuracy is not the only route to likeness. I have to agree with Tom that his painting is not one of his best, but all things are relative and the rest of us would be very happy to achieve this standard on an off night. Meanwhile, Tony, in yet another incarnation, as artist, quietly produces his trademark record of two hours on 29 11 2012, like an island surrounded by floodwater.
Paintings and drawings by Andrew, Barry, Catherine, Cathy, David, Hadyn, Hilary, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Russell.