My studio is my sanctuary. lt is my own private place. lt is the space where one's resolve is challenged and where that perpetual itch is confronted; the itch to escape into one's self and to face anew the daily search and discovery and the need to reinvent.
I look out from my studio window to the top of the Avon Gorge and on down the river to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Bounded on all sides are trees and woods and the vast open space of the Downs. lt is very quiet. There are few distractions and no traffic noise. Sometimes a heron will visit us and ducks fly over from the nearby zoo and settle on the pond. There are foxes and badgers and the occasional deer who come and eat the roses.
A peregrine falcon nests in the wood. Yet here in this peaceful backwater we are but a few minutes form the hustle and bustle of Bristol. There are many books in this room. Books on the Art of Tuscany; the Etruscans and the Byzantines and early Medieval Art. The Alhambra too and the Celts. There is a book about St. Catherine's Monastery and another on Petra. More up to date tomes feature Samuel Palmer, John Hoyland and Gillian Ayres. ln a corner is a new computer and a thirty five year old Yamaha C D player. I am listening to Rachmaninov's Vespers. Perhaps Edith Piaf will follow or Ennio Morricone. I don't listen to jazz. The pace is all wrong. I am more into Schubert's Masses or Sir John Tavener.
The walls on either side of the working area are covered with photographs, post-cards, prints and posters. They reflect a lifetime of travel, places visited, family and friends and memories of times past. Somewhere on those walls are written four words. YlN. YAN. HARMONY. UNPREDICTABLE.
One or other or indeed all of those words can be a reminder for one's focus as a painting falters in it's progress toward some sort of fulfilment. I pay heed to UNPREDICTABLE the most simply because one avoids falling back on formula, or the comfort of previous solutions or the pressure of repetition and brand recognition. HARMONY is a sensible objective. As to YIN YAN for some reason I always think of Picasso and Bonnard. Two fine painters who were poles apart. Picasso was UNPREDICTABLE. Bonnard enshrined HARMONY. But there is more to YIN YANthan that. I like it for the essence of contradiction; of negative and one's objective - positive!
The art world is insecure and fallible. There are few answers, only questions, yet one's commitment is undaunted by fashion, hyperbole, bombast and ignorance. A painter paints. It is what he does. He is not detered or deflected or derailed by vacuous opinion. The most important place is the studio. The next challenge. The next painting.
Derek Balmer, July 2016
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