Self-portrait with badges Oil on cardboard 59x42cm 2

First, a note on prices...

Lots of work is available. Having now exhibited for >25 years, mostly in the West Country and London, I feel I've reached a stage of being more interested in the ideas within paintings, their breath and therefore the communication they promote than in febrile ambition.  So I like to keep prices as low as possible - commensurate with intrinsic worth and the expectations of galleries - to help promote this. 

As someone better than me once said, "Why should I worry if people make money out of me after I'm dead?". That may or may not happen but for the here and now I must seek  to recoup some material costs - I do use a lot of paint (my only extravagance).

Having said that, one well-known collector told me when I apologised about the price of a painting, "Richard, if we don't paint, this is our contribution to the Art we love."  These feel like wise words.

Prices for new and recent larger scale work range between £250-800 but I always try to look after collectors.  A 'good home', where a painting is well displayed and appreciated, deserves recognition.  And there are always 'deserving cases' - both pictures and people! A few works are expensively framed but most I do myself or are unframed, so this rarely adds to the cost.

In this spirit, some older or experimental work is available at stupid prices, see the archive galleries; if you see anything that teases you please ask; there is never any obligation to buy.  

I prefer not to call myself an 'artist' because I believe this to be an accolade awarded by others, and as a mere painter of images perhaps I should apologise for the amount of words here.  However, as a writer too (12 books and >100 articles not to mention  a 100,000 word thesis), I'm intrigued by images and ideas carried by words too (hence the importance of titles) so I console myself with the thought that those interested can read on.  For everyone else let me just finish with 3 precepts...

A Personal Statement

  1. Art is the highest level to which the human spirit aspires,
  2. It stands the best chance of explaining the deep mysteries of life, which…
  3. .… it is our purpose and joy to explore and understand.

In short, paintings respond to Nature: concerning: Art (Subjectivity), Science (Objectivity) and the mysterious eternal triangle: Man-Woman-Nature.  'Visual Poetry' perhaps sums it up best but the older I get the more I see parallels with opera.

 

More words and a History:

The Visual…

Painting is older than civilisation.  It is international.  When you pick up a brush with pigment on it and lay it on a surface, it is something our prehistoric ancestors did - no different.  Artists reconstruct the world to a different shape and visualise ideas thus creating a dialogue between Object and Subject.  One of my heroes is Chaim Soutine, and Christopher Neve writing many years ago described his work as "Pigment and idea stirred up together."  This is true and making an Object demands intimate knowledge of Subject.

Conceived in the natural world - among rocks and living things - the paintings grow in the margins: where Civilisation meets Nature, where Nature meets Man, and where Man meets Woman. This is where grew my interest in the sexual energy of landscape and its coexistence with, and sometimes equivalence to, the human form. Resulting paintings are 'Figurescapes' or 'Forbidden landscapes' (see the page "Looking at the Paintings").

Personal background

My background is Irish on my mother's side and German / Dutch on my father's.  What a jumbled nation we gloriously are!  I myself was born in Exeter and brought up in North Wales amongst the limestone hills, which remain my favourite landscape.  After prep school there I was sent to a godawful boarding school in Southport, Lancashire which I hated and where I was told I couldn't draw.  My opinion of myself as little more than an idiot was reinforced here.

So my training in art was strange. My older brother, John Martin - a Real Artist - guided me (and still does to some extent).  He took me to exhibitions and explained theory and history.  The die was cast .  Then I had my stroke of luck and went to work for my boyhood hero, Peter Scott - the famous naturalist, wildlife painter and founder of the World Wildlife Fund - at Slimbridge.  Many years in wildlife conservation followed, specialising in breeding rare and endangered species.  Low wages complemented with writing and illustrating books with line drawings (yes, exactly what I was told I couldn't do): 12 in all and >100 articles, mostly under my assumed family name Martin – but that's another (long) story.  The other artist to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude is Henry Israel - who taught me life drawing and the importance of "objects interrupting light".

So, while technically self-taught, it was not through choice but simply because I never had a teacher and couldn't afford the money or time to attend art school; to be truthful never really wanted to.  As the great self-taught guitarist Segovia said, "I was a good pupil and had great teachers (meaning the masters)."  In my case, my scientific training gave me the ability to know where to go, how to find stuff out, and how to sort wheat from chaff (and there's a lot of that out there).  More than anything, I wanted to cling onto honest rawness, call it 'naive' if you like, neither pretty nor polite.  Sickert said, "When good taste comes into the Drawing room, art goes out of the window" or words to that effect.  You can't work with animals and smell sweetly all the time.

After working with Peter Scott and meeting great wildlife artists like Philip Rickman and Keith Shackleton, my work in ethology (animal behaviour) was led by luminaries like Niko Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz and Gerald Durrell. The intimate bond between animal and environment with its myriad of inter-connections informed my love of landscape.  Maturing emotional responses fuelled an intense passion for Fine Art which came to overtake 'mere' illustration.  It was the wellspring of my life.

Even as a child, I suspected that Man corrupted Nature: wrestling Her to his own ends - be it farm, garden, dog, horse etc.  As I matured I noticed he did this to the human body too: imposing his will - moulding, adapting, shaping.  So, as a lonely child and later an intellectually remote adult (never a member of a club or in a social group of like-minded souls), I was at peace with nature in the raw – wilderness.  And mystical wonderful women came to represent the secrets of nature because they too were forbidden.

Nature, the countryside, represented a safe retreat and remains so.  But in a sense, fine art and wild nature are conflicting passions. Conflicting because one is about survival of the natural world, and the other is about one's own personal integrity and sanity; I found that worry about one endangered the other!

After moving to Padstow in Cornwall in the early 1970s and marrying my invaluable Mij - long-suffering as I said here by this portrait of her - I continued to work on breeding threatened species.  We became consumed by the romantic idea of re-establishing Britain's rarest crow and the National emblem of Cornwall - my arrival in Cornwall happened to coincide with the demise of the last remaining Cornish Chough in England, let alone Cornwall.  Later, to put the work onto a proper scientific footing I undertook a 5 year PhD, researching the ecology of the species in West Wales and relating  the findings back to its old haunts on  the Cornish cliffs with funding from Paradise Park in Hayle and the support of Prince Charles in his capacity as Duke of Cornwall.  After gaining my doctorate at Glasgow University I became so disillusioned with the politics in modern science that I qualified as a teacher only to find the politics equally numbing.  There are two fundamental kinds of human beings: rational pessimists and romantic optimists.  A wise old friend told me I was unemployable.

Perhaps a footnote will help to explain.  Soon after my Chough research was completed and written up - after 25 years or so, the Chough returned to Cornwall.  Funnily enough to  exactly the part I'd identified as best suited.  All this time, Paradise Park at Hayle core-funded my research and strove to breed Choughs for return to the wild, yet the RSPB, who refused to support our work and has never acknowledged it, now claims all the credit!  My thesis which must run to about 150,000 words has never received so much as a 'thank you' from them.  Why?  Because Paradise Park is a 'zoo'  (even though the birds we breed are intended for release into the wild) and because I am not seen as a 'proper' scientist due to my odd career: I put practical empirical experience before the academic.  This is why I now paint full time.

I gravitated back to the West Country, now in Devon I live and work and occasionally teach drawing and painting in a quiet valley in the rural north, not far from Exmoor.   It's great being old and able to do your own thing.

Current work - Shaping Figure & Landscape and the problem of Nakedness

Whatever ambition or arrogance drives humans we are as much a natural creation as anything else.  It is at our peril we pretend otherwise. The world is now shaped by man and we shape ourselves or allow ourselves to be shaped.  I try to look at the visual phenomenon of a human being just as I would a tree or rock – as "an object interrupting light".  Coming hot on the heels of that, I am intrigued by psychological responses and the way we try to alter natural phenomena and impose our will upon it.

I'm sure you will have noticed that the human body is seldom nude; usually it is covered or constrained by layers of clothing: pinned, underpinned, modified and enhanced.  Underclothes (lingerie) were after all once called 'foundation' garments!  A sea of hypocrisy surrounds the 'Classic Nude' – once a response to male desire or disguised pornography - and I want to confront this head-on.  Just like a landscape or garden, some humans we find more interesting and attractive than others.  Now how and why should that be?

So still besotted by the natural world and the way we fit into it and our impact upon it, my Figurescapes are responses to Nature, as Jackson Pollock once said, "One is landscape".  So, the human figure, like a rock, is elemental: a jumble of contrasts, contours, tensions, boundaries, patterns, colours, balances and harmonies.  As a heterosexual male, I can make no excuse but to concentrate on the female form.  She becomes Landscape, Her metaphysical position astride the world. Pictorially, a union happens when it works on infinite levels.  'Infinite' because each viewer carries his or her own personal baggage of psychological responses, yet intellectually I feel my job is to challenge, upset and question; emotionally, to inspire, engage and ultimately, uplift through the medium of oil paint and marks.

Sadly, the computer destroys 'gesture'.  Surface quality and texture are vital to a painting and no quality of digital reproduction can compensate.  So images here are mere introductions. though I have tried through the application of high resolution details to compensate for this.  After all is said and done, successful paintings are stepping stones towards an understanding.  Fine Art breathes or dies.  Like music, it does not rely on superficial or vicarious similarity to something else, paintings are best understood intuitively.

 

Finally, if an image intrigues you, please enquire.  There is of course absolutely no obligation to buy and all thoughtful comments are valued.  Whether my pictures speak to you, even as digitised reproductions, I hope you feel they warrant a little contemplation.

Thanks for coming this far at least, that was quite a feat!