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Walk in the Park (in progress 18.01.12)

2010-2012  Acrylic 190 x 360 cm

A Walk in the Park

The idea behind this painting began in August 2009, when I took a class of students to the Hofgarten in Düsseldorf to start their course work for the International Baccalaureate in the Visual Arts. We called it a walk in the park, a common saying, which like a piece of cake, signifies something light and easy, which of course it was not. We used the park environment for a number of exercises in drawing to develop heightened awareness through all the senses, such as the “walking drawing”, which was made while in motion. I wrote an article about the lessons for the IS Magazine and also featured a description of it in my lecture at the ECIS Conference in Hamburg later that year.

My first painting of the Hofgarten “The Silence of the Trees” came after this and subsequent visits and was given its title from a remark made by my student Yukari, while she was listening to the sounds, or rather the “silence”, made by the trees. That particular location in the Hofgarten, with its dazzling canopy of leaves and branches, was designed by Maximilian Weyhe, early in the 19th century. A feeling for history and passing time can be sensed in the maturity of some of the trees, silent witnesses to the past.

The painting “A Walk in the Park” was started in September 2010. The image covers a perspective of almost 120 degrees, divided onto four canvases, each 190 x 90 cm. The wide view tests the limits of the human eye and brain to take in everything at once, seeing the whole picture as it were, a sort of peripheral perspective. It is something I acquired from drawing and from teaching drawing, especially the perspective and foreshortening studies in Florence. I realised how important this vision has been in the development of my own work, especially in my perception of pattern, light and movement. It requires an intense moment of complete attention, of letting go and giving in to the sense impressions to engage with the world. The experience is so powerful, so full of clarity and light, that descriptions in words seem to trivialise it and I just have to express it in paint. It is the most important thing I have to say.

The narrow format of the canvases was influenced by works I had seen by Taikan Yokoyama at the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. He used a format taken from the traditional screen painting panels, which when joined together could create very wide panoramas of landscapes or seascapes, sometimes covering an entire room.

While providing a practical solution for painting, storage and transport, separate canvases also presented an alternative method of working and approaching the subject. By painting each canvas separately, I could consider each as an individual work, especially in terms of colour and mood. While the main design of trees trunks and major branches had been established at the beginning by drawing contours on all the canvases, I was now free to improvise with each individual canvas during the actual painting without worrying too much about matching one to the next. The differences between the sections would, I hoped, document the process of painting over the many weeks required for such a large work, and at the same time it would create a sense of time passing – a true walk in the park.