MOMENTUM by Russell Lumb
Most activities benefit from a little forward motion; success breeds success whilst inertia kicks its heels until something kicks its arse. Perhaps we are only issued with a set quantity of momentum, and mine is currently deployed entirely in preparation for the next Redbrick show, with Sandra and Patrick, in April ( more of that later ). My life painting is now reduced to the monthly Saturday session, which is sufficient to maintain continuity, but unlikely to encourage significant forward motion. At least, the six hour session allows its own internal learning curve, and I am reminded, by the end, of what might be achieved next time. Unfortunately, this curve will be re-traced in March, with the same conclusion.
Away to my left, however, works a man whose current momentum is a joy to behold; some months ago, Tom announced that he had commenced a long term project, to make his life study an integral part of his painting, rather than a distinct “training” exercise. And we have been privileged to witness the disciplined application of his stage painting plan which now has tangible momentum, delivering rich outcome in the first, completed works. The making of these paintings follows a sequence of pre-determined steps, employing a fixed core of materials and techniques, but they are not “formula” paintings because they have at their heart a unique life session, and the discipline of the sequence allows all effort to go into the physical act of applying paint to canvas. The momentum of the whole project, the growing body of work, now carries Tom forward, youthful vigour and enthusiasm regained. This will be quite some show when it eventually comes together for public exhibition.
What can we learn from this? Almost everything that is important in making art, is the answer. Without actually being told how to do anything, anyone with eyes and half a brain can see the essential ingredients of profitable practice; native ability will take you so far, but hard work developing manual skills, forethought, patience, perseverance and humility are all required to create the momentum which will set you free. The scale of commitment required has been demonstrated over many weeks, and we must all accept that there are no short-cuts to success, although it is equally true that not everyone is able or willing to invest so much effort. Which brings me to the group’s output on Saturday.
New model Becky provided a welcome break from the familiarity of our regular sitters, guaranteeing that I would spend the day chasing a likeness. Becky sat very still and returned precisely to her position after each break; an aura of tranquility filled the studio, much more conducive to inertia than momentum. Sure enough, the gallery shows a predominantly muted, contented palette, with only Jane using bright colour, although much reduced from its early stages. It would have been interesting to see more of the colour retained in the head, perhaps? Janet’s surreal, chocolate brown Becky is also set against a colourful backdrop but seemingly immune to its influence.
Dick didn't really know if he was coming or going, having just stepped off a plane from Australia, but Uluru had left its mark in the red dirt background to a a very convincing gaze. Cathy introduced momentum with her two Frink-like figures, dancing across the paper, and Ivan’s very selective draftsmanship was well-suited to Becky’s stillness. My favourite , however, from another artist showing gathering momentum, is Gerry’s Gauguinesque Tahitian Becky; lovely composition, subtle colour and a real sense of mystery.
Paintings and drawings by Cathy, Dick, Gerry, Ivan (+detail), Jane, Janet, Jean, Tom (+detail), Tony (+detail) and selected artist Russell.