MY ART CAREER PART 3 (a) – ST MARTINS – FINDING MY VOCABULARY ‘I’

My time at St Martins, from 1978 to 81 can roughly be divided into three periods, one for each year spent there, more or less, or though there are of course some overlaps.

Going to St Martins was a major error on my part. I was so flattered at being accepted that I totally overlooked the fact that I was a firmly representational painter entering an establishment at the forefront of non-representational and conceptual art. Both Slade and the Royal Academy School had both showed strong interest in me and either would have been perfect fits but I thought that St martins was where the glory was and as an 18 year old wannabee William Turner, boy, did I crave glory.

I realised the gravity of my mistake within the first week there, when the irritation with me from nearly all the tutors  was palpable as I resolutely stuck to my representational guns. There were two notable exceptions though – Jennifer Durrant and Henry Mundy who both took pity on me. Jenny wasn’t any happier with my painting than her colleagues but at least her approach was gentle persuasion rather than bullying. Henry – despite his international stature –  was simply a mench who instead of trying to mould  me in his own image gave me practical and accessible tips as to how develop the skills I already had.

The images here illustrate that development and are in part at least a testament to Henry Mundy’s kindness and astute understanding of who, and what I actually was. In his opinion at least, I was a “gifted colourist”, and it was this ability in particular which he helped me to hone. Henry’s influence is graphically illustrated in two images posted here – the two views out of my studio window of the local Soho roof tops. The first is all monochrome and gloomy – before Henry had ever set foot in my space and it well reflects the same gloominess of my mood. The second one was more or less the same but in browns. However, the tiny daub of emerald green in the window was the result of the very first piece of advice he ever gave me and, from then onward I was liberated, as the rest of the “gallery” posted here clearly shows.

The heavy impasto though is all mine.

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