Assemblage Update: Common Wood

Assemblages form the visual art element of the Undersong Project. Background information on assemblages can be read HERE.

During the children’s Summer holidays there are, inevitably, many conflicting demands on time. It’s hard to find either the practical or mental space necessary for art-making. I’m nonetheless trying to complete a number of assemblage artworks by carving out perhaps an half hour of focused ‘creative’ time per day.

Rather than wait until each assemblage is fully finished I thought it might be revealing to share the process of construction and the creative decisions being made as I go…


This post focuses on the Common Wood assemblage.

This composite photo shows the early stages of the ‘Common Wood’ assemblage when the three canvases of the centre panel were joined together. They are now three separate panels. I’ve also included sketchbook photo-references that form part of the inspiration behind any assemblage.

Context: Common Wood is the name of the lane which led to a cottage called Fairways where I was born. The lane also led to the Common Wood a steep-sided deciduous woodland of sycamore, beech ash and oak. The assemblage explores fleeting memories – the sights, sounds, shadows and stories of that wood as I remember it. The weaving muddy paths, the sudden limestone outcrops – water stained and mossy in places, the constrictions of enveloping ivy, birdcall, sharp showers, twilight…

It’s typical of my working process to get to a point in a piece of work where some or all of the elements become too complicated, too overloaded and over worked – as can be seen in the over-layering of painted motifs in these images.

As currently envisaged the ‘Common Wood’ assemblage (60″ x 27″) will be constructed out of the following individual elements:

  • (x1) painted back panel constructed of three planks, each 60″ x 9″ x ¼” ply. The back panel will be framed along the top and sides with 1¾” x ½” PAR softwood, and along the bottom edge 3½” x ¾” PAR softwood (this wider section providing a stage or shelf for future free-standing elements of the assemblage). The top and bottom planks are painted in gloss Dark Grey (RAL 7016) and the centre plank Fleet Grey. The panel is overpainted with numerous 4″ circles of Ivory White denoting stars or moons and echoing the assemblages ‘wood at night’ theme.
  • (x3) 16″ x 16″ x 1½” stretched canvas frames painted with emulsion/gloss and torn news print
  • (x1) 12″ x 8″ glass-fronted display case painted with matt black blackboard paint. The back of the box is painted with a high gloss ‘roses & castles’ design. The display case (currently) holds two glass bottles.
  • (x6) 17″ x 1¾” wood strip text-based paintings
There’s a constant ebb-&-flow process of adding and removing detail, editing out and collaging in forms until I’m happy that all the elements ‘talk’ to each other. This can involve wholesale destruction and rebuilding of a work, or simply overpainting an over-complex section…

In the coming days the focus will be to complete the back panel and begin work on the (x6) text-based panels.

If you have any questions about the work, please feel free to contact me, and I’ll try my best to answer any questions as we go.

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  • We're just about ready to restart the Long Trip down the Water Road.
  • Recommendations of websites & books always welcome...
  • Current reading: 'Magpie Words' Richard Caddel, 'Woods etc.' Alice Oswald & '100 Prized Poems'
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