Cities, 'the stuff that surrounds us'.
Taken from notes written while in Tokyo, April 2002.
Its architecture, ordered clean lines, formal buildings that cut into the skyline.
blocks of squares, rectangles, steel, concrete.
The endless variants of tone and colour combinations of buildings, posters and lights, that either bombards or subtly fill our view.
Sitting on a train I watch this city unfold and pass by,
a continuous feast of colour and form, Visual poetry.
I don't speak or read the language here, so the words, signs and advertisements take on a different meaning and have no influence on what I see.
In themselves they become shapes and marks on a canvas.
I find there is a beauty to this feast of visual harmony and chaos.
Talking about the Circle paintings...
The circle paintings started while i was in Cyprus.
I was reading an article about pollen in an old copy of National Geographic.
while looking at the B&W images of microscopic particles, a thought hit me.
This very basic, yet fundamental shape; the circle, is repeated through-out Nature and the Universe. From micro to macro, pollen to planets.
Whether it's recognized as a disc,plate, hole, orb or ripples on a pond, they are all connected by this shape.
The first set of paintings I made were specifically about the circle.
4 paintings, the same size circle drawn out on 4 same size canvases, yet all painted differently.
The idea was simple in that they were the same but yet so different in character. The painted circle could end up being seen as a plate, hole or a three dimensional sphere etc.
The Hammersmith circle series paintings,(10 canvases the same size) was a natural progression.
In these paintings the circles are the same size, and the radius was based upon the length of my arm.
These canvases were rectangle unlike the squarish ones of the Cyprus paintings, there was more space around the circle which created a relationship between the circle and its surrounding space.
By adding another element to this surrounding space(i.e. a vertical line), this created a new dynamic and tension which I wanted and found exciting.
By taking things back to such basics through the use of this beautiful shape I felt as though i was relearning visual language and began to truly understand the language of abstraction.
Jan 07, Painting .. Early hours of the morning,
I want/would like to try and put a few words together about the nature of painting as i understand it.
The power, the fullness of creating an image made of colours, of forms, of surfaces, of rhythm’s, of depth’s, of illusions, of harmonies and discords.
The act of creating is kind of like being a jazz musician or a witch doctor or a shaman or a god or all these things at the same time.
It’s creating a recipe, made of strong and gentle feelings guiding us ("kinda like Yoda, I guess")
It’s getting in touch and using the 7th sense that lives in you.
It is extremely difficult to explain and make it clear to understand just with words, as its everything that is expressed without words.
It’s the stuff in between each word that makes a sentence.
It’s a No play.
To begin with, there’s the emptiness/ the possibilities in/ on the chosen canvas size and the boundary that this gives you to work within.
The first mark is like the first breath of its life.
Like with a child you grow with it, you try to guide, nurture and help to bring out its essence as it develops through the seamless stages of its growth to maturity.And like a child it has its own character that will test your ability to be a good parent to bring out its qualities with honesty and purity.
“mmmmmmmm”?, something like this.
Have to re-read this in the blue, greyness of the new morning to see if it makes sense.
The Nature of my Work.
As a painter I find myself unconsciously, almost primitively, affected by my environment.
There is no specific motif in my work; it is the energy/ atmosphere and the visual makeup in any one place.
This, combined with my working process and a continual quest to learn and understand the visual language, is what drives it.
For a number of years now my work has been based on the visual language of abstraction, I would say that in some ways I am a visual composer, composing in colour, creating form, structure, harmonies, discords, tensions, a sense of rhythm, power and beauty, creating visual imagery that tries to incorporate and balance these elements.
I am also interested in that fine line that separates the literal from the abstract.
The visual suggestion or recognition of an object, being suggestive only by a shape, a colour, a form, a space....
I am continuously trying to find this point of balance in my work; this idea can be seen more clearly in my last series of paintings, ”within the city”.
Creativity is an ongoing, changing, evolving entity, and the creative process should also be similar to this.
Mike England, Dec’2002
Three Months in Hammersmith, "Formal Abstractions" Circle Series.
The circle is repeated on many levels throughout nature, centrifugal force creates this shape continuously, a droplet of water, ripples on a pond, microscopic pollen to the planets in the cosmos etc.
The same explosive energy is repeated in the lever construction of the human body that favours curved motion.
The arm pivots around the shoulder joint, the subtler rotation is provided by the elbow, the wrist and fingers.
This direct reference to the body dictates the scale of the circles I use, which in turn affects the size of the canvas.
The feeling of human scale is important to my paintings. I see each painting as an individual creation that is part of continuity, a series in the development of the primordial circle.
This very simple yet complex form, and the decision to use the same size circle and canvases, allowed me quite specifically to work with visual language (composition, colour, surface and suggestive perspective......).
The object of my work is to create a feeling of balance between harmony and tension.
Ideally, each painting should be seen in an individual space.
Mike England, 1997
AFTER LEAVING ART SCHOOL(FEELS LIKE A HUNDRED YEARS AGO NOW).
I HAVE BASICALLY LIVED A HAND TO MOUTH EXISTENCE AND HAVE LIVED AND BUILT MY LIFE AROUND PAINTING.
I LIVE LIKE AN ETERNAL STUDENT.
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD CANNOT BUY TIME, AND SO FAR, HOOK OR BY CROOK AND LUCK, I HAVE SPENT MY LIFE DOING WHAT I LOVE, AND THEREFORE I CONSIDER MYSELF EXTREMELY RICH.
I MAY LEAD AN UNORTHODOX LIFE IN THE EYES OF NORMALITY, BUT THAT WAS A COMPROMISE I'M GLAD I DECIDED TO TAKE MANY, MANY YEARS AGO... WELL I DIDN'T DECIDE, IT JUST FELT OVERWHELMINGLY RIGHT... SO I GUESS IT WASN'T A CHOICE.
A brief description of what I've been doing with my life...
After leaving St Martins I went to New York for two weeks and ended up staying for a year(1992-93).
I worked as a freelance photo assistant, which was great as it took me to places I may not have seen otherwise.
Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon(on the back of a mule), The Catskill mountains, South Carolina.... and many other locations, Especially all over and around Manhattan and NYC.
When i wasn't being a photo assistant, i would spend my time Painting, life drawing(at the Arts league on 56th street) and taking photographs. Manhattan was still a little rough around the edges(pre-Giuliani), especially the lower east side.
The Migration to Brooklyn hadn't started.... It was still cheap and rough. New York was a fantastic experience...
Since leaving Art school I have always tried to do as much life Drawing as possible. I think it's very important to keep Drawing. It teaches hand and eye coordination and it's an important discipline. It teaches you to really see what you're looking at. I think it's important as it helps towards understanding visual language.
I have been fortunate enough to have travelled a bit, to have spent time in some beautiful, Interesting and inspiring places.
I always carry a sketchbook with me(out of habit) as you never know when the moment takes you.
Ideas end up being used in my Paintings at some point, consciously or unconsciously. I lived in Cyprus(96-97) for a year, in a goat shed, with the sea infront and mountains behind.
It was pretty isolated in the sense that there wasn't much going on, except for the sun coming up and going down and the sound of waves lapping the beach or crashing on rocks. It was in Cyprus with this slow pace of life and stress-less environment that my Paintings moved away from Figurative to Abstract.
I've had solo shows in Tokyo, London, Spain and joint exhibitions in Switzerland, Cyprus, London and New York. I've participated in Art festivals in Oxford, Italy and France.
I lived and Painted in India for 3 months (1999).
I lived and Painted in the mountains in a remote part of Spain for 3 months(2001).One of my favourite studios was in Shoreditch(1999-2004).
Where I lived and worked above a 24hr mini cab office(which at times, was very colourful and lively).
Looking back, it was a great time to be living and painting in that area.
Hoxton square was still run down, the white cube wasn't built and Banksy wasn't a household name. People met at the 'Bricklayers Arms'(pub)... where word got around about an opening, gig or party. 'The Barley Mo'(pub) still had lock-ins, the 'Griffin' and the 'Red lion' were still old men pubs.
What I do remember was that there was a real sense of something happening, a creative community with loads of Art Private views, parties and happenings. There were a lot of like minded, skint, ex Art student types and people doing their own thing(Painting, Sculpting, Music, Poetry, making clothes, furniture).. Expressing themselves in their own way.
Being in this area, at this time, you somehow knew you were part of something that was unique and in transition, and that it wouldn't last, but while it did it was great fun. looking back, I feel lucky and privileged to have been witness to it. In 2004 I left London in an old van, wheel arches almost touching the wheels, loaded down with paintings, books, mattress etc and drove to Andalucia, Spain to live and to fix up an old Spanish house to use as a studio.
I became a Dad to a beautiful girl in 2005, since then I moved back to the UK and have had a number of studios, living and painting in west London. Since 2013 I moved to Oxford to be near my daughter as she grows. I live on a boat and have built a painting studio(on stilts) on the land in-front where the boat is moored(as its prone to flood in the winter).
Still living like an eternal student...The usual stuff...It's either feast of famine.
Over the years my Paintings have been bought and collected by a variety of People, both privately and commercially. I am surprised how lucky and rich in experience i have been.
it has been an interesting journey so far.
The Art of Painting.
The Art of Painting is a very difficult thing to explain just with words, as it is a visual language and not a language of words.
But I shall try to explain: From my own perspective and with my limited ability with words, From the experience I have gained from giving my life to it. Since I was 16 I have painted and studied painting, and with an acute sense of ‘trying to understand’ the nature of painting, to push it as far as possible with my own painting and to discover meaning. I am now 50).
My life is lived around it, everything I do, feel or think, is related to painting. I shall attempt to explain my understanding of it in simple terms, so all can understand.
Firstly I would like to say There is no right or wrong way to paint, just honesty and authenticity, and added to this is motivation... (your reason why you feel the need to paint…) Motive is another subject, that requires a lot of other things to think about...But, I shall just stick to the nature of Painting.
These questions only YOU can answer…
When looking at a painting?.
There is first and foremost a relationship that is made between the painting and the viewer.
This relationship can be powerful or weak, depending on your reaction when first meeting the painting.
If the painting engages you and you find it interesting, you are more likely to spend time looking at it, and doing some research about it... or you may find yourself just glancing at it, registering it but not looking and absorbing it.
so this feeling teaches you about what YOU like and don't like (or don't understand)...
Then you must ask yourself why do i feel this?, and then keep asking why .. so as to get to the bottom of your motivation
There are only relationships and no relationships....
Each relationship has its own presence/power(its own voice, so to speak)There are also relationships between Colour, Form, Ambient and Composition, created by the application of paint and marks, and decisions made during the making of a painting For example... A relationship between colours is just one ingredient that goes into the mix when making decisions, while painting.
Colour relationships are made by colours next to each other, one colour surrounding another, one colour inside another etc... there are no bad colours just bad relationships between colour.. So deciding what you like/want comes from understanding your motivation.
Making Decisions is life.
It is what we do all the time... making choices..
and the choices we make has an effect on how we perceive the world around us. To me, I find painting to be a visual expression of Life.
I find it is about ‘letting go’ .... of fears, pre-conceived ideas, so that decisions are free and are guided by the experience of instincts, heart, logic... so when i am painting, the act of painting is as free as possible... as we are part of nature any expression of it is nature.
Painting allows a freedom of expression that I am interested in. A painting should have both logic and spirit, both loudness and quietness, it should have meaning as well as being attractive... a balance between order and chaos.. the duality that seems to exist in all things... yin yang
How I paint. A basic explanation...(as much as possible)
1] choice of canvas size.
2] composition: how I divide the canvas up.
3] Decisions: re’ Colour, Colour relationships, Tones, Luminosity, forms, surface texture, etc
4] Application: How the paint is applied, applied fast or slow, with intention, accidental, brushed on, washed on, size of brush, scumbled, thrown, dripped splattered, brushed, scraped, is the paint wet on wet, or wet on dry, varnishes, glazes... so on and so forth… (the only limitation is imagination).It is not just about putting on paint, it it also about taking off paint and when to leave the painting alone.
The next stage is to Start.
After an initial idea about the feeling I want the canvas to have, one idea leads to another... quite quickly, and before i know it i am immersed in the process of creating, composing an image that builds and starts to suggest to you what it needs. You(one) are confronted by your own fixed ideas, limitations and attachments...The process of painting really is an experience... both involved(inside) and detached(outside), both mental and emotional at the same time. Anyhow, it is something along these lines, as far as the use of words can explain”
Thoughts about Painting.
Similar idea’s and inspirations behind my paintings have been present in my work for quite a few years.
I try to arrange a painting to find a balance with the elements involved in making paintings. Composition…. Relationship’s between Colours, the way paint is applied to the overall feeling that radiates from a painting…
A feeling of Beauty and Harmony are ingredients that I try to include while I paint. If you look at my paintings not as pictures telling a story but as visual music, you may begin to understand and relate to them.
We are surrounded by abstraction, nature is abstract.
Abstraction is a language…the same as sound is a language. And as with different sounds they can be arranged to create different ambiences.
songs are usually literal….they usually tell a story.
where as Jazz or Classical, Trance, Chill, Ambient, drum and bass, house music create a mood, a feeling, an emotional experience.
There are lots of parallels between painting and music. ..e.g. composition, harmony, discord, colours(notes), loud, quiet, provocative, calming,…. I like the idea that my paintings are visual music
The idea’s and inspiration behind my painting has been present in my work for quite a few years.
(first written, 11/7/15. Readjusted 2/1/2018.)
"The Gaps in-between Words are just as important as the Words themselves, as it's the gaps(spaces) that allow the words to have meaning.."