Some new work at last : ‘safar’ – the journey

This week I have finally got down to some work.  Well, perhaps I’m not being quite fair to myself; when I actually put everything I’ve been working on flat on the studio floor, it came to more than I thought.

 I guess that birthdays eventually start to concentrate the mind. I’m starting to feel that time’s going faster ; before I look round it’s 2pm on Friday again, and Mark Kermode’s movie review is on ( this is my ‘omigod-another-week-I’m-not-working-hard-enough-too-much-time-in-the-coffee-shop’ marker)  Still, this cosmic acceleration is quite useful as it’s helping me to prioritise what I want to say with my art. Notice that I’m not revealing my age out loud, why get myself upset…..?

Like many artists, I have amassed several enormous archives of sketches, notes and photographs I’ve made over the years, around the themes which crop up repeatedly in my work. I feel very possessive and affectionate towards these; they are divided by subject in precarious piles on a shelf near my work table ( I paint on a sloping surface not an easel, I prefer the weight of gesture this allows). Sorting out these stacks of sheets is an excellent procrastination activity but now I’m starting to panic; no lifetime would be long enough to paint about all these, so how are they ever going to see the light of day?

This fear has got me back to work this week with a vengeance – but in a new way.  Over the summer I learned a fairly enjoyable but lengthy and anxiety-inducing digital process, in a plan to develop this same stash of gorgeousness into etchings which I could then rip up for collage. Not for me….at some point you have to accept yourself as you are –I did manage to make some etchings, but I am just too impatient/flawed a character to settle down peacefully to lengthy technical processes. I decided to take a more direct route and make photocopies instead. Not only are they a perfect weight for collage, but I also get  hours of lovely fun at my local copy shop playing around on the photocopier with tone and size to produce a stack of delicious collage material. Of course in a few years time the collages might fade and people who have paid good money for them would want their money back. Again, the passage of time has its advantages as by then I might not be around for complaints. In any event, I like to think I would be firm and say, you spent more than that on dinners at Ottolenghi, mate, and they’re over with, whereas you’re had the delight of my painting hanging up for years, just amortise the cost, innit. Still, I am sealing them and painting over them in all sorts to make them into Proper Art,  so fingers crossed. Is it still art if I am using a photocopier? Is it too narrative? These are some of the questions which I am not thinking about while I am (often) playing Words with Friends.

Last week I mentioned in my opening blog that I am learning farsi. I have the strong and weird feeling that my family was somehow connected in the deep past with Persia/Iran. Maybe it was a stopping-place for a hundred years or so on the journey from biblical Israel to their various shtetls (villages) in central Europe. My work in progress is all about this journey, a sort of geographical/cultural narrative with some favourite and significant farsi words – especially ‘safar’, journey, and my name, ‘poll’, which  translates into ‘bridge’, echoing serendipitously the passage across which I am painting my way towards these ancient connections.

Now for a bold, even a foolhardy thing…..I am going to post one of the works in progress from this very new series, which I am calling ‘Safar: Journey’.  I’m sure the new paintings will gradually morph from the narrative into more abstract mode as the months go by. Enjoy!

This image includes photocopies and original drawings I have made in all sorts of places, including the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Jewish Museum in Paris;
photographs I took in Barcelona, Seville,and Venice; monoprints I painted directly on to a silkscreen, including ‘poll’ ( top left, and upside-down), which is my name in farsi; maps ; painting in acrylic and oil. The word ‘safar’ (journey) drifts diagonally into the image from the top right hand side in pale grey, and is also a mono-screenprint. The map of a little village at the top is a photocopy of a hand-drawn map, ‘Panorama of Old Zeludok’ ( my Grandfather’s birthplace in Belarus) ; it was made years ago in England by H Collier – I have no idea who he was, but I am very grateful to him. Perhaps he spent his boyhood there.

You might make out a partially obscured drawing of a little house at top left which I made in the Jewish Museum in Paris. It is a betrothal ring commissioned by Dona Gracia Nasi for her niece. The paisley shape at top left describes a blue bakelite buckle that belonged to my Mum and was always drifting around in the needlework drawer when I was a child.

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