JOE SIMPSON - PAINTINGS8. Apr - 2. May 14 / ended ArtMoorHouse
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My artistic practice is a process of working on projects that produce a series of connected paintings on one theme. I like the idea that each project takes me as an artist on a journey, and there will be an element of surprise in the outcome. This exhibition represents selected works from the past few years of my career, from three separate projects: ‘Musician Portraits’, ‘Across America’ and ‘London’.
‘Musician Portraits’ was a project I undertook in 2010 – 11, where I approached notable and interesting musicians to be a subject or a painting. There are 22 portraits in the full series, which have been exhibited all over the country, including a solo exhibition at The Royal Albert Hall in June 2012.
My portrait of Maxi Jazz from this series was shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2011 and exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery. I tried to root each painting in a tradition of painted portraiture - each piece has a quiet, still and almost introspective feel to them. I tried to capture the way that each person held themselves when I met them, usually I didn't give the musicians a great deal of direction, or plan how I wanted the piece to turn out. These paintings have a physicality to them that you don't get with a photograph, the paint has a specific weight and application - you can see layers and brush-marks in the hair and skin tones -.
‘Across America’ is a project based on a month I spent traveling across the States, documenting the journey by making drawings, paintings and taking photographs along the way. (Traveling) On the famous train line, the Chicago Zephyr, I traveled from New York across country to San Francisco. When I returned home, I developed my studies into larger oil paintings, with a particular emphasis on the suburban, sleepy towns.
The most recent paintings in the exhibition are from ‘London’. After working on many paintings focusing on the American landscape, I was keen to turn my attention to the city I live in. I decided to return to the narrative, cinematic paintings that I had worked on in the early stages of my career. These paintings show realistic images that utilise the conventions of cinematography to present 'staged', fictitious scenes where time has been stopped and extended. These frozen moments are deliberately ambiguous, inviting the viewer to inject their own emotions, motivations and narrative context into the scene, thereby avoiding limiting interpretation. I decided to focus this series on more romantic and optimistic subjects, set with an iconic London backdrop.
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