Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Landscape, a Project, a Workshop and an two Art Fairs.

I have had a long Mediterranean summer visiting my family and now I am back in London ready for the next busy months. I haven't been painting much while I was away but I still managed a couple of oil sketches that I am turning into larger works.
What I found out about landscape painting is that it is indeed possible for me to get engaged with it as long as I have a deep and meaningful connection to what I am painting.

This was painted from an oil sketch, a drawing and a black and white photo of a stretch of coast close to my birthplace.

A Place of Untold Secrets, 102x87 cm, oil on linen


I also have been very busy with, yes you guessed, Print Solo ! The website is almost ready to go online and soon it will start accepting applications from potential sellers. If you don't know about Print Solo yet ( how is that possible?) here's a video that explains what it is. I am entirely to blame for the idea and its execution.


Because of my involvement with Print Solo I have stopped teaching regularly but I will be doing a weekend Masterclass at the Art Academy in London on the 10th and 11th of October. I will try to cram as much information as possible in those two days, talking about palette, composition, tonal range, paint application You can find all the info here. If you wish to attend please book well in advance.
A recent commission: G., oil on panel, 40x50cm


And finally my very nice gallerist Kathryn Bell from Fine Art Consultancy will be showing one of my works at the 20/21 British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art in London next week. It's always a very good fair with the best galleries that deal in British art. Please get in touch if you want a free invitation to print out. And next week the ubiquitous Kathryn will also show my work at the Affordable Art Fair in New York.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Summer is always a long pause away from the studio as I spend some weeks in Italy and Spain so here's a brief recap of what happened in the past months and what's next while I enjoy a lot of family time.

If you follow this blog you should know about my new adventure, Print Solo
I hope that you have already visited the website, and that you will check it out again upon reading that starting from last week we have a great new addition: Print Solo Summer Gallery, a page with some prints for sale !

 All the prints in the gallery are an online exclusive: not only they are not for sale anywhere else on the internet, but some of the artists don't even have them on their website yet. And the good news is that they are very affordable and made by international printmakers who, on top of their artistic sensibility,  have great craftmanship and impressive CVs.

Golden Walk, a monoprint by Alicia Rothman on Print Solo Summer Gallery

Last week I have been interviewed by Lisa Takahashi (I really like her Cyclists prints) on the Jackson's Art Talk blog about Print Solo and my own work.

Of course the work on Print Solo has been at the expense of painting hours, but I feel like a strong push is needed right now and if the project works I will then be able to work more in the studio next year. Besides, creativity can be expressed in many ways.  I also had to travel a little more often during the winter so I worked when I had time without looking too much ahead. The resulting works are some still life that are about disorder and sedimentation in the studio.

Sopra 51x67 cm

Sotto 51x67 cm
I showed this one at Heatherley's School of Fine Art in an exhibition on Still Life and it will soon be shipped to a new collecctor in the Far East. 

Babel 102x76 cm

The next show will be the 20/21 British Art Fair at Royal College of Art in September. 

In May I had a painting selected for the Royal Society of Portrait Painting which is always a great show to be in. I recently completed a couple of commissions that I enjoyed very much, working from life with two beautiful girls and their musical instruments.

Not too much to report: I had a monotype almost selected ( the exact definition is shortlisted but not hanged) for the Royal Academy, best luck next year I hope. In June I paid a visit to my friend Maureen Nathan who is so brilliant with linocuts that it made want to have a go, it's addictive !

Head of Woman, linocut, 10x5 cm
Satyr III, monotype, 20x15 cm

I have quit teaching regularly in Lots Road but I have been doing some substitutions standing in for Alex Fowler and James Bland. I also have been asked to take on a Weekend Masterclass at The Art Academy in autumn and I am looking forward to it. Details will appear soon on the Art Academy website , but dates are confirmed and it will be on the 10th and 11th of October.

 Have a good summer everyone !

Monday, 1 June 2015

Introducing Print Solo

Dear Friends and Readers,

  I am finally ready to talk about a new project on which I have been working for the last few months.
The idea came to me as I was looking for a platform to sell my prints online. I felt that large online art-sales websites were not right for me and also that they carelessly bundled up original prints and reproductions.  There is a big difference between them: reproductions, limited editions and giclee prints are basically signed photocopies of an existing artwork such as a painting or a drawing, while to make an original print the artist has to work directly on a matrix made of metal, wood, stone, linoleum etc.

  I wished there could be a website that focussed on the fine art of printmaking and that was reserved to established artists. And so I decided to take the plunge and make it !

  Print Solo is a website for all of those who concentrate their practice on printmaking, for those who, like me, have lately discovered the printing press and use it as a secondary medium, and for those who like to buy art and are keen to support artists, and for those who are open to appreciate and learn something about artworks that they had perhaps overlooked. Oh yes, and for those with a difficult-to-match sofa colour. I think this covers pretty much everyone.

     Printmaking is not just about being able to reproduce an artwork more than once but it is a fully independent medium that allows artists to do things that are impossible in other mediums: take the incredibly fine lines of an etching, or the softness of mark of a lithograph, the grain of a woodcut. Artists like Durer, Rembrandt, Morandi and Matisse have enhanced the quality of printmaking and took it to a sublime level. There is so much exceptional contemporary printmaking that is not often seen in galleries and deserves a space of its own where it can be shown and explained to the general public.

   On Print Solo printmakers will sell prints and artists' books independently; collectors will have a
chance to make contact with artists, see and buy prints from all over the world. There will be a blog with articles and interviews and a wiki section to learn more about printmaking techniques.

   It's not easy to become a startupper when you are a 47 years old artist but I have found a small team who's helping me doing things exactly as I had envisioned them. I hope that from these lines you can infer the passion and enthusiasm I have for the project and that you will support me in this adventure.
There is a group of prestigious printmakers who have lent images of their prints to illustrate the website. They set the bar so high that I now wonder if I'll be good enough to sell on my own website !
My ambition for Print Solo is that it might become a hub for the best in international printmaking and most importantly a direct line of support for artists. I'm also particularly keen to develop the artists' books department: they are beautiful works of art, delightfully tactile.
The whole project shares the same ethos as this blog: promoting knowledge, art and artists.

In the spirit of  hand-made,  the texture for the logo has been devised and made by yours truly.

  Print Solo is online now with a  page designed to compile a mailing list and to receive feedback from artists, collectors and art lovers. It is important that you visit, click through and let me know what you think by answering to the short questionnaire and leaving your email. I am planning to have a fully functional website built in the next months so that it can be launched after the summer.

Print Solo also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account to keep in touch with its community.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Tested for you: Periscope (iOS app)

   On this rather idle Bank Holiday weekend I have been introduced to a new app that is quickly becoming popular. The app is called Periscope and it is own by Twitter; at the moment it only works on iPhones and iPads and you have to have a Twitter account to be able to use it.

What you can do with it is broadcast videos directly from your device, you can do that publicly or to a selected audience of people who follow you, imagine skype meets social networking.
Video and audio are of good quality and as you record you can see how many users are watching you and who they are. You can share your video through Twitter and, if you wait a little after you've finished recording, the video will upload to the app and your followers you will be able to watch it for the following 24 hours.

As a viewer you can sign up for notifications that will alert you when one of your contacts is broadcasting and while you view them live you can send a text. Broadcasters can read your messages on their screen and answer you on video. You can tap the screen for "like"s, they appear as little floaty coloured heats ( meh).

I have been browsing the app in these past days and I must say that it's full of people just sitting on a sofa and asking viewers for questions. Silly stuff. Very silly. And of course the app is bound to be misused, after all there's a good percentage of porn in the web, but one can easily stay clear of that.  I have watched reporters walking around the Expo in Milan, a potter being interviewed, images from a concert etc., interesting stuff. 

Current state of affairs of self portrait, still on the easel

I think this could be a great tool for artists. I have tried to broadcast myself painting a self portrait yesterday and this morning, and it went quite well aside from the noisy building works nextdoor.

I set up my phone with one of those little bendy tripod on an easel between me and the canvas so it showed a close up of the surface. On the first broadcast I specified I could not take questions at the start but then later on I did look at the screen and had a few exchanges, though it was a bit distracting.

Set up for recording

Demos, reports from exhibition, studio visits, question sessions... there's a lot that could be done. I think an android version is in the pipeline in the meantime my nickname on Periscope is "ilayuk", I hope to see you there !

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


        In these past weeks I had to travel often and I wasn't able to spend much time in the studio. Perhaps my concentration is not very good but I find it hard to start any serious work when I know I won't have a couple of uninterrupted weeks ahead.  Since I was spending a few days in the countryside in Italy over Easter I thought I'd try at least to cut myself off for some time and sit in the garden to paint. 

All images are iPhone photos of small paintings on paper 23x31cm
   I was confronted with similar problems as when I was in Civita Castellana for a residency two years ago.  Painting the landscape is intriguing but alien for me. I was always drawn to portrait and still life, to interiors, and my favourite artists are not pure landscapists, however a trait of my character is curiosity, sustained by a certain tenacity; I basically just want to understand things on my own by trial and error.
  It is well known in my family - and I'm quite proud of it- that I never had any talent whatsoever for drawing, but I liked it so much that I just had to learn on sheer will. And now I feel the same tingling for landscape: I view it as something I must have a go at if I want to deepen my comprehension of painting.

    The first hurdle I had to face when I was in Civita was that my palette was completely insufficient to paint that luscious area. Maybe I could have managed a desert with all my tubes of thick earths but certainly not the intensity of a blue sky or the saturation of green leaves. I should have had cadmiums of course and some titanium. That thing that any palette might do is not true. In these past days I corrected that and added cobalt turquoise, cad. lemon and sap green while barely touching ochre. Maybe too much but eventually I'll get there. 

    Some notes to self after Civita's meltdown: in an Italian summer outdoor shadows are cool. Full stop. Not warm as I have painted them indoors for the past ten years. 
 Wear a hat. 
 Learn to open and close your easel because you are a total nerd and it is in fact possible to do it with two hands only. 
 When you stand in the sun colours will look more saturated and if you don't keep it in mind when you take the painting inside you'll have a bad surprise. 
 If you worry too much about colour you forget all the tonal relationships and all will be lost. 
 Find a strategy: sky first ? But then it's wet and how does one paint dry branches on top ? Sky first then branches then keep more sky mixture on the side to paint in between branches ? 
 As mother-in-law says, there's nothing more definitive than what you thought was temporary. Mix colour accurately because most times there's no going back. 
 Change description to "Mixed Media: oil and insects on canvas".

    So here are some small paintings from the past days. One thing is immediately clear to me: if I venture ourside it has to be home. Tuscany ( Chianti, Maremma), maybe Rome. 
It makes no sense at all for me to travel somewhere and record my experience there and although I love living in London I don't have that gut connection that might compel me to go down by the river and set up there.  I worked on paper ( which I never do) in order to feel no pressure at all about "producing" anything and so that I could snap myself out of any habit.  

This surface doesn't help but I thought that I shouldn't give myself any unfair advantage since the aim was just to find further, bigger problems. What to paint ? Why ? Is it about space, or light ? What part plays form then ? What is my landscape painting about ? What is the pictorial space like in my work, shallow, deep, intimate, wide ?

I'll be back in London tomorrow, which means there will be no more field work until the summer at least, but I can now have a go at turning these sketches into larger studio paintings and see if there's anything there. It will be a very long process.

Friday, 27 March 2015

AAF in Milan

    Last week I had an interesting experience as I accompanied my London gallerist, Kathryn Bell from Fine Art Consultancy, to Milan for the Affordable Art Fair. Kathryn is a veteran of AAF but it was her first time in Milan and she thought she might do with someone who spoke the language.
Aside from the late arrival of the paintings, for which we had only about three hours to set up the whole stand, everything went well and we had good sales and a lot of compliments for the work we displayed.

I was lucky enough to sell this painting, a "behind the scenes" image from my studio, painted at night under artificial light. It was enjoyable to talk to visitors and a little difficult to fend off the artists who thought it fit to come submitting their work at the busiest time of the day.

Chaotic Still Life, oil on linen, 46x72 cm

   What struck me the most in the fair was the lack of perceptual paintings. Actually I think my work might have been one of the few that implied looking at reality among the about ninety exhibiting galleries.  The quality of the paintings and sculptures on show was at times frankly embarrassing and I wonder if many galleries underestimated visitors and tried to shift the worst of what they had under the pretence that is cheap. This in turn discourages many good artists who might be in fact happy to sell their work for under 6000€ but don't take part because of the lack of quality.
My gallery preferred to show good works of established and popular artists even if this meant getting very close to the upper price limit, and the decision paid off. 

   Anyway someone looking for "realist", for lack of a better word, painting would have been very disappointed, and it was frustrating to see what people carried out ( the spirit of the fair is that you walk away with the artwork you have bought). As the days went by I realised that the most popular works were what I call "joke" works, paintings that play on humour such as large cityscapes with an ostrich running around, little compositions playing on the name of famous artists ( Duchamp Shampoo, Klimt Eastwood...seriously) or large head of celebrities traced and painted on newspaper collage.

   Were these buyers the same people who queue up for the umpteenth Caravaggio show, who travel around Italy for arty gourmet trips, educated professionals who are keen for their children to appreciate art and play music, and hail from the cradle of visual art civilisation? I was baffled.

    A remark by James Bland shed some light on this and made me think: irony is a way of distancing yourself from something. If I say I like a certain painting, then my taste can be scrutinised and I can be judged upon it. If I buy art without really engaging but I declare it amuses me I am safe and can retain my cool. If I make art and then give it an ironic, sarcastic title then it doesn't matter if the piece is any good, I was only joking.
A walk around the high brow world of contemporary art at Frieze fair is not too different from the AAF, just a little more expensive and sophisticated: many playful or satiric artworks that have no intrinsic value and do not require a real commitment, just a financial investment.

  Irony is not a 20th century element in art. I always thought that we perhaps disregard it but that all of Zeus naughty affairs were conceived with and for amusement, that nymphs and satyrs having fun in the woods were not viewed seriously, however they were painted seriously. Once the humour has worn off, what will collectors of modern farcical pieces be left with ?

As for me, I declare shamelessly that I take full responsibility for the paintings I make ( now travelling to Hong Kong for the upcoming AAF).

G.K. oil on panel 24x18 cm


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Olha Pryymak - Ukraine Diaries

     In this cold and gray Sunday I crossed London to go see Ukraine Diaries, an exhibition of paintings by Olha Pryymak at Krilova Stelfox Gallery just off Brick Lane.

I was very touched by Olha's work; eight groups of small square paintings record days in which events in her native Ukraine cast their shadow on her quiet family life in London.
As an expat I fully understand the deep link with the native country, a link that is particularly strong nowadays when information travels fast, when there is always a camera around to record images and sounds, when strangers can give you an account of facts as they are happening.

Olha selects instants of some particular days: when her brother graduated, when the protests started, when the plane crashed, when her son walked the dog. 

He practices on the clarinet, maybe she is looking at news on the phone while she listens. He plays innocently with his toy soldiers while elsewhere troops are killing dozens of people in the snow. Where are we, here or there ?

The paintings are installed in asymmetrical clusters, some times they are coupled up, one in direct response to the other one. The show is hanged in chronological order of days and surprisingly proceeds  counterclockwise. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition we do everything the opposite way, says Olha.
All the paintings are on small wood boxes, their square format recalls images on a screen, they are images of images, all equal: interiors, landscapes, portraits, London, Kiev, the phone screen, a newspaper. They all contribute to convey the bewilderment and horror at a protest that unexpectedly turned into riots, then violence and ultimately a full fledged war.

The paint flows fast because recording fleeting visions, flickering videos, a casual appearance of the Ukrainian flag colours in an urban decor, is urgent. They need to be fixed before they drift away again  in the flux. Synapsis are firing, connections are made, some obvious, some only known to the artist.

We can almost hear the droning of the news, the clarinet being played, the pinging of new tweets, the sound of a shooting. Politicians are staring at us in gray ink from the front page, they don't do anyting while explosions obscure the painted space.

Olha Pryymak's Ukraine Diaries is at Krilova Stelfox Gallery, 23 Heinage St, London E1 until the 25th of February.