Reflecting on MA1

I started this journey an innocent, seeking guidance on how to be a better painter.  I had no experience of academia and no particular expectations regarding outcome.

So what has happened?

I have been led into a world of wonder.  Woken from a deep sleep, after a lifetime of just getting by, to find exciting, challenging, thought provoking ideas wherever I look, whenever I listen.  Learnings are piling in, like grains in a jar, each one jostling, making way for the next, and yet my jar is never full.  I am guided by intuition and the benefit of age, to follow clues, to dig deeper, to trust the process.

Immersion has taken it’s toll.  My head and shoulders feel detached from my body, travelling too fast for my legs to keep up.  Cobwebs billow in the draughts, noticed but patient.  Shopping is undone.

All of this of no consequence compared to the discoveries, the ‘got it’ moments, as my truth is slowly revealed to me.  As Michelangelo said ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’  I am just beginning to ‘carve’.

Alison Watt

It is interesting how chains are linked and connections made.  Jack Knox, a Scottish painter and teacher died this week.  He trained and taught at the Glasgow School of Art.  He openly ‘borrowed’ from other artists.  His work is not what attracted me.  What did were the names of his former students, Jenny Saville, whose stunning and challenging work I saw at the Ashmolean in Oxford, and Alison Watt, who I hadn’t heard of.

john knox

Detail from Seafood Stall (1980s) by John Knox. Photograph: Gerber Fine Art & Compass Gallery

Watt’s work is sumptuous, sensual and unforgettable, suggesting the life form by its absence.  Watching her at work as the seventh Associate Artist at the National Gallery is illuminating.  She works painfully slowly on her huge canvases, up to 10 x 14 feet, a brush stroke at a time, up and down her ladder.


Sabine  –

She talks softly and eloquently about her work and her inspiration, referencing the white knotted cravat in the portrait by Jacques-Louis David of Jacobus Blauw, for Pulse and Echo.

Alison Watt, Echo

Pulse –

Watt says that ‘painting is a way of being’ and it is her way of ‘creating order our of chaos’.

I have spent the morning reflecting upon the emotional effect  her work has had on me.  Unexpectedly moved to tears, I watched Watt outline the folds then painstakingly build the gradation. a brush stroke at a time, just like I define petals.