Latest Work Blog

Echoes of the Valley

Exhibition 3rd/4th June 11am – 5pm Northlight Artspace Gallery Hangingroyd Lane Hebden Bridge HX7 7BZ
Opening Evening Friday 2nd June 7-9pm

In my latest project, I’m reflecting on past work. Although many of my paintings are part of a series, they remain one-offs and the ideas undeveloped. So now I’m using elements from past work and re-imagining them in new contexts – although the sense of place remains my local area of the Upper Calder Valley.

I have tried to include a sense of reverberation, the passing of time and life moving on by using repetition and ‘visual echoes’ . For the first time I’m experimenting with watercolour and gouache – something of a learning curve. I think it has helped to get more light into the paintings and the translucency of watercolour seem appropriate to the ephemeral nature of the subject.

All the paintings are 40cm x 30cm and painted on Fabriano hot-press watercolour paper in watercolour and gouache with some diffused acrylic

Down in the Valley (reprise)

A return to Van Gogh’s ‘Sower’. 
Like the hook of a pop song, I can’t get this figure out of my head. 
It’s something about the shape, the sense of movement, the action of scattering seeds and the way the form of the figure lends itself to a pictorial composition.
And then there’s the sense of ‘cultivation’, growth and regrowth that feels positive and inspiring, feeding into the bigger context of our present day lives. 
And so, the sower is juxtaposed against a hard-edged industrial backdrop, its straight lines and angles contrasting with the curves of the figure.
And then there are the trees that somehow complete an intangible circle

Sons and Mothers

A group of mothers with small babies meeting in a café
There was joy and laughter between the mothers and at the same time an unflinching focus on their babies.
As one of those dads who did a lot of early years childcare, I can maybe get some way to understanding this bond….or maybe just appreciating it.
I struggled to decide on a setting for this painting and eventually arrived at Crossley Mill nursery in Hebden Bridge (I was even a trustee there many years ago) – always a positive, optimistic kind of place.  I just used the outline of the mill (with cherry blossom and water).
The maths symbols appeared almost by accident but seemed to help ‘complete the equation’.

The Family

Walking in the woods with Minnie the dog I glanced to my right and saw three roe deer in the field behind the trees.  You quite often catch the white tail of a deer in these parts but rarely three together.  In the past I’ve painted this field with the Hebden Bridge – it’s houses terracing up the valley sides. Across the Valley
I’m not sure where my train of thought went – something about families and the idea of these deer living in the wild but at the same time so close to human intervention and control.
Years ago, when I lived in Bradford, I made three large, almost life-size drypoint prints which depicted three people who lived on my street.  All had a caring responsibility – all were vulnerable and seemed to live on the edge. One was a boy who was looking after his younger brother, carrying him on his shoulders.  I’d like to think he’s now grown up and carrying his own child. Bradford Carers

The Reader

This might (sub-consciously) refer to my father.  He didn’t work in a mill but left school at 14 and left home from the North East at 15 to work in service.  We had few books in the house but we did have a set of encyclopaedias and he would take us to the library every week.  Acquiring knowledge was important to him.  This echoes the tradition of adult education and self-improvement  in working class communities, particularly for those who didn’t make it to a grammar school.

The Way Home

I’ve taken the simple image of an old painting ‘Walking Home’ a step further. This painting also echoes my ‘Spaces in Between’ theme of digital prints and townscape paintings. Hebden Bridge and the surrounding area (this path is just outside Heptonstall) is full of narrow ways that seem to cut through the fabric of the place – the landscape, the human intervention, the history.
I’ve tried to get a sense of a link to the past, how things are all interconnected…..and a way ahead.


Two of my ‘Hebden Homages’ joined forces in this painting: the homage to Hopper (Back to the Diner) and the homage to Renoir (April shower).

It always feels weird coming out of a cinema into daylight.  And it always seems to be raining when I come out of the Hebden Bridge Picture House.

Platform 2

This painting echoes my Homage to Klimt, ‘Shelter’.  I picked up on the decorative cast ironwork in Hebden  bridge Station – the ‘wheels’ (or are they flowers?) seemed to echo the decorative aspects of Klimt’s ‘Kiss’. I think I may have revealed my sentimental side. Of course the image of goodbyes and separation can suggest current issues and situations.

Race against Time

Our house, give or take a few details.  A few years ago Hebden Bridge arts Festival did a great project where we had ‘blue plaques’ (stickers) telling us of the people living in the house 100years ago. Ours was ‘Dry Dick’ Redman – presumably a teetotaller.  I imagined him to be a bit puritanical and scary – so the kids would run past his house.
The hillside and trees is our view from the other side of the house. So why can you see this?  Well, the great thing about painting is that you can transcend realism and break the rules.

The New Day

On a regular dog walking route, the silhouetted shape of Windsor Road / Windsor View seen through the trees from the river has always intrigued me. It formed the setting for my Hebden homage ‘The Kind Old Sun’ and referenced the sombre atmosphere of Paul Nash First World War paintings. 
In this painting I’ve tried to inject a more positive tone, with singers rejoicing a new day.

The Last Shift

Perhaps the most direct ‘update’ of my Hebden Homage paintings – the original small painting referenced Conrad Felixmuller’s painting of the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden ‘Moon over Bombed out Town with Rummelplatz’ – a fantastic painting that showed both devastation and hope. This image references the end of the manufacturing textile industry in Hebden Bridge with Richard Pickle’s company ‘Shorties’ hanging on at Melbourne Works for as long as possible – ironically making school uniforms for private school children.  Melbourne Works housed the original Northlight Art Studios which I joined in 1999.  The planning notice for flat conversion went up in 2005 so in 2006 we decided to move and relocated to our current premises on Valley Road.  We needn’t have rushed ….the work has only recently started to convert the mill to flats – some 16 years later!
I found some diagrams of different weave s used in fabric manufacture – the pattern here is fustian – much produced in Hebden Bridge.

The Scheme of Things

The Scheme of Things

This is the most complicated of the ‘Echoes in the Valley’ collection.  I’ve introduced several layers of imagery which can add up to a host of different interpretations.

The painting started out from walking near Old Chamber and crows taking off from the gate post ahead of me.  The pylons are part of that landscape.  I had previously ‘filled’ a crow with an Islamic geometric pattern in my ‘Beyond the Bridge’ drawing ‘The Poetry’ set at Lumb Bank.  

I never like to state definite meanings but a way in may be to think of the human impact on our planet……

The Workers

A reworking of my Hebden Homage painting ‘Man at Work’ that was based on Van Gogh’s drawings of peasant workers in the fields. Indeed, he drew and painted women workers, engaged in hard physical labour. I suppose a bit of Soviet Social Realism has crept in here.