“When you turn 60, you…start to spit out all that you inhaled” (Hans Brockhage).
A passion for architecture and the built environment influenced my early, post-student work. After leaving Glasgow School of Art, I was awarded a John Kinross Scholarship by the Royal Scottish Academy, to make a series of paintings from religious and vernacular architecture in Tuscany. This acted as a catalyst and generated many ideas that were explored at length, and in greater depth through successive residences in Cairo, Rajasthan, Andalusia, and Kerala.
During these residencies, I became fascinated by surfaces, details, colours, and materials which indicate a ‘sense of place’ without directly referring to identifiable structures or one single perspective. I began to use found materials, pigments and tools that belong uniquely to a specific area, using increasingly abstracted and process-based methodologies. Making became more physical, encompassing and balancing both destructive and creative processes – something that continues to underpin my work to the present day. I wrestle with materials, using a series of actions and reactions that enable improvisation and changes of direction. If I’m able to imagine an end-point, I don’t begin the work.
There’s an ambiguity present in many ‘finished’ works as a result of balancing opposing forces such as order and chaos, or creation and destruction. The layering and uncovering of materials are also contiguous with the layering and uncovering of meanings and references. As meanings resolve, they also seem to continually slip away.
The relationship between illusion and object within a relatively shallow space has always fascinated me, throughout my working life. Norbert Lynton wrote…all Rogers’ images have something architectural about them, standing up before our eyes, whether large or small and announcing themselves as flat objects before we feel the sensations of movement and space worked into them”. (Catalogue, Syzygy Exhibition 1999)
I moved to Venice and back Italy in 2020. Since then, I’ve been working on rapid, experimental, domestic sized paintings on paper, incorporating Venetian references such as window grills, damask motifs, evening light on the lagoon and crumbling wall surfaces. Moving to a new studio in April 2023 helped enormously in the re-establishment of my practice, and during last summer, I produced 120 paintings, a series of monoprints, and a series of 40 finished and exhibited portraits (see ‘Venice’ and ‘Projects’).
“Grandissimi doni si veggono piovere dagli influssi celesti ne’ corpi umani, molte volte naturalmente…”
Giorgio Vasari: vita Da Vinci, Pittore.
In my childhood last century few people had original works of art in their homes unless they were Dukes or art teachers. The places where you could buy it were also accessible only by birth. First night vernissages at Cork Street galleries full of people who had known each other since the Courtauld; and latterly in its decadence an apparently never-ending ad agency office party full of arts bureaucracy apparatchiks.
By the Millennium in London there were at least as many new galleries as restaurants selling offal. Sheffield, birthplace of both Alan and I, had a “pavilion” at the Venice Biennale and “openings” smelling of fresh paint, student anxiety and Bombay Saphire were packed with those whose career was apparently attending or organising these events. Being able to access and own it directly seems one of the merciful democratisations of this new age.
Although for a while this was my world it was never Alan’s. A career in corporate or arts establishment art with its backslapping mediocrity would never have suited him. As a mutual friend, also an artist, noted Alan is an artist to the tips of his toes and in everything he does; and he moves always to his own music.
The World was Alan’s world. An avid collector himself of scholarships, awards, and bursaries, he had residencies boxing the compass and by the luck of a first meeting when we were nought but lads in a pub in Ingbirchworth, South Yorkshire I got to see wonders as his friend.
He is a deceptively technical artist. The son of a quiet painstaking craftsman, like him a carpenter; the making and the means have as much attention as the imagination that fashions the object. The pigments are ground, the casual everyday material cut up and incorporated physically and mentally. In my collection gathered from all phases of his career you can sail the solar barge across the celestial ceiling of Seti I; lose yourself in the Islamic geometry of Ibn Talun or the Mesquita, peep over the battlements of the Marwar palace of Mehrangrah (where he was court painter) to the cubist blue of Brahmpuri Jodhpur. The work is challenging but comfortable to live with: analytical, yet abstract, always beautiful to look at and made of the place it was made in.
It was inevitable that Byron’s “Northern wanderer” would end up de jure as well as de facto an Italian and living in the most beautiful of beauties daughters. The stones, water, and ever-present history that is Venice scintillating and reflecting in contemplation the painter’s Lagoon distilled in captive evening light.
Richard Lilley, Collector. 30.01.2024
⃰ “The greatest gifts are often seen, in the course of nature, rained by celestial influences on human creatures…”
[trans Gaston du C de Vere Internet Archive/Gutenberg CC 2009]