With the Easter break over, it is the last week of my exhibition at the Landscape Gallery ( still available to view on my website www.alanhopwood.com ) and this has been a period of thinking rather than working. Seeing work together in a show, helps you to understand a collective direction, and it was rather apparent that my work has been moving towards a more abstract language. Driven, I think by an interest in the aesthetics of peeling paint and decay, a desire to be more creative and possibly the fact that I haven’t been out in the landscape much over winter.
As a person who has mobility problems, the chances to explore and experience the wonders of this country are a little limited, but when I do get out, the impact upon my state of mind is so positive that it is an effort I am willing to make. And so it would seem for my work, painting in my studio, isolated from external influences, I work away, indulging myself in new techniques and gestures, all the time moving further away from the thing that inspires me, the subject that informs my work and allows me to communicate with an audience through some shared life experiences and recognition.
So today I am planning; trips away and days outside, watching the light change, seeing the colours of spring and refreshing both myself and my artwork. I hope to make work that is more about a specific place and day, and how I experienced that as a human being, this may be a beautiful landmark or a backstreet of a city estate, for I still love the diversity of this country and find the same aesthetic pleasure from over-layered graffiti or stripped paint as I do from rolling hills and stormy skies, but with the experience of each place, and the personal effort and resulting pleasure I may feel, I will once again have that specific experience to share.
In my previous blogs, I have talked about what drives me to make art, and this comes in many layers. I have already mentioned a love of our diverse country, and of my daily shifting mind set, so now I would like to mention something that is set deep inside me as a person, forged from my upbringing and work experiences; things that have become more significant as a disabled person and artist.
When I left school I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship as a metal worker. A very physical and highly skilled job, building prototype cars. Over the years, I have moved on, going to university to study art etc but the idea of physical work has always stayed with me. I have restored several classic cars, an old boat and a few houses over the years, doing all of the work alongside my wife, working hard and gaining the satisfaction that these projects bring. Now with my disability having a greater impact as the years pass, I find many of these things beyond me (although I still try from time to time, suffering the next day! ).
I mention this past, “working class” attitude or work ethic because I believe it remains with me even in my painting. The physicality if much of my work, sanding or scraping away layers of paint are as fundamental as adding colour with a brush. Electric sanders and metal scrapers are part of my artist’s toolkit, and the idea that work should include some effort has stayed with me. This obviously is in some conflict with my disability, but the fact is that I am able, as a disabled artist, I am able to work in a physical medium, exploring ideas of social diversity in both location and employment, and drawing upon my own social migration and physical changes I am able to comment and challenge in my art and my habits.
Now having discussed these aspects, I have the bit I always find hardest. Choosing an image that somehow communicates visually what I have been talking about.
“Stanage Edge” is a study on paper, I am not sure I would call it a finished work, but it will certainly be used to inform one. It has the specifics of place (Derbyshire), the effort and jubilation experienced; and I hope it also shows the physicality of surface, having been sanded back extensively. It isn’t a large work, which shows my own limitations, but I intend to make some response to it in my studio, working on board so I can add and remove layers as I did in this study.
Again, please join in with your comments and share your images and experiences, they help to direct future blogs and stop me from thinking I am talking to myself……