About My Painting
About My Painting
Miles Richmond, Exhibition Catalogue for ‘Miles Richmond y Ronda, Convento de Santo Domingo, Ronda, Andalucia’, Grafisur, Ronda, 2006
When I am asked about my painting and I reply that I paint nature, there is often puzzlement or disbelief. If I replied that my painting was abstract like music, it would be accepted without comment. It was not uncommon, here in Ronda, when I told people I was an artist, to be asked: ‘Do you make pictures by hand or with a machine?’ If my work is not abstract and represents nature, it should have some resemblance to the images made by a machine. This is a natural presumption since we live in a machine age. So when my pictures don’t look like machine-made pictures, I am relegated to the ranks of the incompetent, obtuse or infantile, who don’t or can’t live in the real modern mechanical world. And at my age there can be relief in this.
But here is my work in the real world and I must try to claim a place in it.
When I look at nature, I am engaged in a complicated process of responses. They start as visual, then become tactile, memory and thought are drawn in so that I start comparing nature I see today with nature yesterday or last year, or ten years ago when I was here. And then there are other people’s view’s of nature which I compare with my view, their views and observations crowd into my head while my eyes go on looking at nature. Looking at nature is not simple, since it is crowded with all our thoughts and memories, hopes and fears. Yet we believe nature is something open and simple, a place to go to escape our thoughts and fears. Where has this nature gone which is not sullied by all my thoughts and fears? I must find it if I am to escape from romanticism which has plagued the western world, particularly the English, for two hundred years, the idea that nature expresses our hopes and fears, that that is what it is for as far as we are artists. I look at nature to escape from all that; I must escape since romanticism itself was an escape, an escape from the stark fact that nature is essentially other, and has no concern with our hopes or fears or how we can use it.
My painting is an attempt to encounter nature without thought, hope or fear. What am I if I strip away all my thoughts, hopes and fears? Good question. Nothing very much, maybe nothing at all. If I can reach this point of being no-thing-at-all then nature too will join me as no-thing-at-all. Then I can look at nature on a level playing field which is where we all were before we started thinking and putting nature in its place, the place where we wanted it to be: outside us, something to be used and exploited, even exploited to make art.
We have been exploiting nature too long. It may soon not be a place fit to live in, and I don’t want to join, if I can help it, the ranks of artists who make life more comfortable for the already comfortable; that is romanticism. I want to look at nature as naked as nature is, and find out what we have in common. I find we share a field of forces, a vast electro-magnetic field of forces, a quantum chaos of unimaginable power. And in that chaos how can I exist, let alone find a place? But the tree seems to exist and perhaps will place a marker in this wandering chaos. This is how I approach nature, looking for clues where I am. Without nature I would be totally lost, but I don’t know whether I am finding nature or nature is finding me.
If I approach experience in this way, knowing no more about nature than I do about myself, I begin to see nature clothed in grandeur and with a transparent and self-evident significance. I no longer see this in nature, I share this with nature. This new eye no longer has a point of view as in classical perspective, its perceptions may be difficult to reconcile with familiar expectations. Subject and object, part and whole take on shifting and changing relations, disturbing at first to a fixed point of view. But I believe my work offers promise for the recovery of the Imaginative Eye, whose obscuring by the rationalist horizon of scientific progress, has allowed man and art to degenerate until the artist today is often merely the entertainer for the entertained, and the power of art to change the lives of people, no more than an empty and expensive dream.
For many years painting as a form of representation has been considered outmoded. I believe it is still a useful tool to take on the journey to the conjunction where we are literally equal with nature, a place Cezanne told us long ago we should be. This year of his centenary is a good moment to see where we are. Some may still hover above or below the earth.
It is also a good moment to salute David Bomberg, a great teacher and friend for ten years. He left Ronda fifty years ago and is still a constant companion.
The light that illuminates the mind at the same time as it reveals our subject has always been the quest. It is only the degeneration of humanism into the idea that man’s idea of himself matters that leads me astray. I must forget myself; my thoughts get in the way of seeing. After all these years painting still too often seems like creeping upstairs trying not to wake a restless sleeper. I have to watch every step. It would be so much easier if no-one were in the house!