Martin is a pal of my husband’s from the cricket club, but he is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art, and his paintings are vibrant, vigorous and exciting. It is always a delight to get to see his work, and today’s opening was no exception. Martin is using oil colours on paper at the moment, and his pure pigments, textures and abstract designs are fascinating. Scattered around the gallery were also a selection of his recent sketchbooks, and for all the wonder of the major pieces, I found these the most inspiring. They show an artist’s process, the act of creativity itself, caught as if in aspic. They contain the genus of the bigger paintings, as well as scribbled thoughts, poignant quotes and articles cut from newspapers and magazines.
I came away aching.
I want to do that, my heart said.
It’s been so long since I used my paints, since I dared to draw.
Lately, I have been remembering the two years of my art ‘A’ level course, when I started discovering other artists, the revelation of abstract art, the earthquake of Modernist artists, architects and designers like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, Matisse and Rothko. I felt so excited, so fascinated by their ideas and the pared-down beauty they created. I was never able to liberate myself from the tyranny of the figurative, though, as they had, nor from my own self-abusive perfectionism. I couldn’t, and still can’t, make a mess, try things out, paint outside the lines.
The truth is that I want to create abstract art. I want to make paintings that please me as much as Martin’s do. I want to have his exuberance, his extravagant variety and colour, his sense of fun.
I keep thinking of Jamie Ridler’s exhortation to not judge the art you are called upon to make. To just do it.
So I have decided to try and find out if I can recover that sense of adventure I had went I was 18 and reading about Modern Art for the first time. I want to know if I can finally overcome the Nigel voice in my head that says I can’t get messy or paint outside the lines. I want to find out, one tiny baby step at a time, if I can be the artist who lives inside me, safe in the knowledge that that artist will feed the writer, and vice versa.
Inspired by Martin’s creative process, EXPLORATION is my word for March. I’m going to explore my creativity and have some fun. I’ll let you know how it goes.
(If you are in Norwich, do visit Mandell’s Gallery in Elm Hill to enjoy Martin Battye’s wonderful work, open Mon – Sat, 10am to 5pm.)