Aubert Park 2 larger watercolours
XXIII TWO TWELVE
From the same photo session as Two Eleven, using the same set and costume though Sumie is now on the other side of the reception desk. I struggled a bit when it came to deciding a title for this painting - a sequel to the previous. The number Two Twelve, whilst perhaps not the most imaginative of choices, does denote something finite which is a fundamental aspect behind the image.
Watercolour: 620 x 400 mm. 2015
XXII TWO ELEVEN
Sadly hotels no longer display room keys, and messages, in pigeon holes behind the reception desk - for me an arrangement emblematic of alloted space and possibility. With little or no chance of finding such a location I therefore built this set. Sumie acts as receptionist, Caspar and Ms Vaida Zeringyte are the guests. The blue silk jacket was tailored for my mother by Yeong Seng; trained in Shanghai he had a shop on the Penang Road in the 1950's.
Watercolour: 620 x 400 mm. 2014 – 2015
XXI PENANG TURF CLUB
December 1955. The envelope on the folder lying on top of the filing cabinet is addressed to the Secretary, Penang Turf Club, postmarked 20.12.55. This was my grandfather's last Christmas in Penang. His firm of accountants - Evatt & Co. - acted as Treasurers for the Penang Turf Club. The seed for the painting was sown when I came across these Penang Turf Club / Evatt & Co. envelopes whilst collecting covers for the Cinderellas.
The model is Tamaki Yano, the wife of my wife's nephew. As with previous paintings with Far Eastern interiors the set was assembled and built here in Highbury.
Watercolour: 700 x 450 mm. 2013
XX BEAUTY COMING DOWN
Over the course of last summer, and with help from Japanese family and friends, I collected the props and costume items for this picture - my sister-in-law's kimono, the late Edo period make-up box and bronze hand mirror, the katsura wig and kanzashi hair ornaments. With the loan of the tatami flooring mats, and the use of a high viewpoint, the problem of lack of resources to build a period set in our living room was circumvented.
Pages of critical analysis have been written on the distinctive viewpoint Yasujiro Ozu used to compose his film shots. I rather like Ozu's own explanation - given to the Asahi Shimbun: early in his career he was shooting a bar scene that required a complicated lighting arrangement with cables trailing all over the floor, in shot. He discovered that by lowering the camera and tilting it upwards, not only did he not have to keep tidying up the wires between takes, but that the resulting aspect well suited what he wanted to show.
A picture about the un-anointed. Model: Akiko Ban, an artist.
Watercolour: 700 x 465 mm. 2012
XIX WITHOUT & WITHIN
From the same shoot, same model (Julia Laurent) as the previous painting Two Fives Are Three - where the viewpoint is closer in to the subject; however here the viewer is a step or two back, at a slight remove, now beyond the cover of the blue umbrella.
Watercolour: 585 x 400 mm. 2011
XVIII TWO FIVES ARE THREE
As with the title: not an image I can sum up conclusively. It's a picture about quietness, rain, the gift of listening, immunity - both in the passive and active senses; beauty as always...
Perhaps there is something of Singer from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in there too.
Julia Laurent is the model.
Watercolour: 600 x 370 mm. 2010 – 2011
XVII CHULIA STREET
A sister picture to Macalister Road; Penang continues to exert a pull - here temporarily reconstructed in our living room in London. A main starting point for the painting was finding the shutters - these are so evocative of Far Eastern interiors, along with that colour green: cool, damp stained.
Sivagami Nadarajan now working in London is from Johore.
Watercolour: 600 x 325 mm. 2010
Private Collection UK.
XVI VESSEL or THE MALAY FISHERMAN'S WIFE
Can't finally decide on a title for this painting. Have always been drawn to images of ships: dry docked, in the roads, embarkations, landlocked, aground.
My thanks to the Malay, Haliza Hashim-Doyle who posed for the foreground figure here in London. My great thanks too to Manfred Schweda (cf. Contact page for links) for letting me use his photograph of this freighter stranded at Cap Blanc, Mauritania - where the Sahara meets the Atlantic.
Painted during a very difficult time for me, can say more of this later. Meanwhile, deo optimo maximo, it looks like the boat would still float.
Watercolour: 600 x 335 mm. 2009 – 2010
XV MACALISTER ROAD
Macalister Road, a long long street begining in downtown George Town, thence passing both old and new Maternity Hospitals (the old where my mother was born, the new where I was), and out towards the Penang Turf Club and the fine turn of the century mansions at its western end.
These lights / light shades are very evocative of my growing up in Malaya, as with the ceiling fans that would dim a half an hour before ceasing as the estate's generator in the factory closed down for the night.
Cropping the left margin is the dark face of our Coromandel screen, this its third appearance in the 20 paintings I've done since taking up the brush again 9 years ago.
The model Li Yuen Yuen is from Shenyang.
Watercolour: 600 x 325 mm. 2009
Private Collection, London.
XIV HOMETOWN GODS
One of the paintings of Andrew Wyeth I particularly love is 'The Kuerners'. A wide empty picture showing husband and wife placed quite at odds with each other.
Depicting couples is an interesting theme, especially to try and go beyond what constituted the union - the things that brought things together to start with, but instead to see how the figures orbit their shared space thereafter.
This couple, though celestial also possess earthly attributes, albeit on a far grander scale, exaggerated somewhat as with the depictions of Manga characters.
This image is from a photo I took on a recent visit to Penang of the wonderful bronze Quan Yin at the Kek Lok See Temple, standing over 30m high, still at that time en plein air.
Watercolour: 600 x 360 mm. 2008
The image in the frame is probably a production still - it doesn't appear as such in the scene towards the end of the film L'Eclisse by Michelangelo Antonioni. It will turn out to be the last meeting between the main characters, Monica Vitti and Alain Delon.
This haunting image has been with me since student days (the film Zabriskie Point too as noted below), and it occurs in Pierre Leprohon's book on Antonioni which I have dated June 1976 on the fly leaf.
The roccoco frame, requiring some restoration, normally left empty, hangs in the corner of our bedroom. In summer months it catches the evening sun.
Antonioni has died very recently, the last Monday of July. I discover a little later that it is the same day I started drawing this picture.
Watercolour: 590 x 400 mm. 2007
Private collection. London.
XII APRES-MIDI INDOCHINE
I wanted to turn around the functional aspect of the screen, a barrier that affords privacy from public gaze, by placing the viewpoint also behind the screen.
For the photo session the model patiently went through two hours or so putting on and taking off for the camera to catch that moment of a movement.
The Coromandel screen has come down through the family, originally from Shanghai via Hong Kong, Penang and now London.
Watercolour: 600 x 390 mm. 2007
XI NIGHT FLOWERING
A picture informed by seeing an image in a large photo book about India. A miniaturist is seen painting the profile of a woman who in turn is brush in hand applying her make up.
Watercolour: 600 x 400 mm. 2006
X 23 BROOK STREET
One of the starting points for this picture was to use as a setting a Georgian interior such as found at the Handel House Museum, No. 25 Brook Street. This is where Handel lived from 1723 until his death in 1759, now restored to its original simplicity and elegance. Next door, No. 23 built at the same time around 1720 has been similarly restored and forms part of the Museum, the upper part having been the home of another musician, Jimi Hendrix for the last 2 years of his life.
Because of the Hendrix connection I did have in mind to title the picture 'Little Wing' however on reflection Hendrix's lyrics are rather more other worldly than what is occasioned here. I don't think I could have convincingly included all the butterflies and zebras. The real person is Bonnie Meredith.
Watercolour: 600 x 400 mm. 2006
IX WHEREVER GOD SHINES HIS LIGHT
The Quan Yin belonged to my Grandmother who had got it in Penang I believe. Krishna / Radha I found in a gift shop on the Holloway Road. The colours are partly flourescent, really joyful. God is there in all sorts of ways.
Watercolour: 600 x 405 mm. 2005
Collection of C & M Taylor London.
Another image from the same shoot as 1415 Local, cf. below. Tomomi Kimura was the model. At some point I want to do a photo-essay for the 'Making the Pictures' section documenting the putting together of these scenes. In the film the woman is subtitled as saying to the man 'Actually we are all in the same boat'. The subtitle here in Japanese tries to convey that.
Watercolour: 600 x 360 mm. 2005
VII 1415 LOCAL
These telephones, the corded ones were the starting point for this image, how despite whatever the distance a line physically connects the callers. Mobile phones always seem somehow unreal to me. At the same time I saw Wong Kar Wai's "In the Mood for Love" and was so bowled over by the ambiance of the film, the cinematography, costumes, sets, music.
Watercolour: 600 x 377 mm. 2005
VI WINTER - CAN YOU HEAR THE MUSIC
A chance picture taken in the same room Zabriskie Point was photographed. Also the room where I paint, sitting at the same table. A winter's day Sumie and Caspar watching the snow come down.
Watercolour: 600 x 422 mm. 2004 - 2005
Private collection, Zurich.
V ZABRISKIE POINT
I have wanted to do something along these lines ever since seeing Antonioni's film again, 25 years on from watching it as a student in the mid 1970's.
Copyright permisson on original material was not forthcoming from Warner Brothers so I decided to re-create this scene, the big dusty mauve Buick driving across Death Valley on the way to Phoenix , Sue Fox standing in for Daria Halprin.
The image is from a particular movie but for me it also re-visits a particular time, at twenty where everything lies before you. And now into middle age, I wanted the picture to speak too of such aspects as remaining undimmed and undiminished.
Watercolour: 585 x 390 mm. 2003 - 2004
Her indoors. Location: the 18th Century Music Room reassembled in the V & A Museum. It occurs to me now that this and the 3 previous paintings below, by virtue of their settings go to make up a 'Museum Quartet'. A pair of pairs also linked by their oppositions, male and female, stone and flesh, anguish and calm.
Now however it's time to leave the museum and make for Death Valley to revisit a scene from a movie made in 1970.
Watercolour: 570 x 400 mm. 2002
III 7 O'CLOCK NEWS / SILENT NIGHT
While painting 'Giant' I listened to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel amongst other stuff from the '60s and this song of the title got me interested to read about the Vietnam war. I wanted to do a picture along the same lines of the newsreader telling of a world of horror in counterpoint with the peace and love of the Christmas carol. A friend, Jane Kersel agreed to pose as the newsreader, the location was the cast court at the V & A Museum using the bas relief battle scene from a papal tomb as the backdrop. The more literal newsreader type photos were good but this chance shot seemed in the end to show less but say much more.
Watercolour: 600 x 410 mm. 2001
Private Collection, London.
Figures from the Pergamon altar, the belly of Apollo to the fore, part of Selene (Moon goddess) in background. Although quite a monochromatic picture there are lots of blues in there, french ultramarine, cobalt and my favourite colour pthalo blue in the coolest parts.
Watercolour: 565 x 380 mm. 2001
The Laocoon group or rather a cast from the original, you can just see a join line on the right of the father's torso. I took the photographs and did initial drawing back in 1997 but only got around to paint in summer 2000. Further to the title, the photos came out with a distinctive cast, an eerie green due to using the wrong film for the ambient light, I was tempted to keep with that but in the end wanted a more down to earth shade to prevail.
Watercolour: 565 x 380 mm. 2000