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Marquee moon

Collection: Gray's School of Art Collection
Object Type: Painting: Abstract
Artist/Maker: Robertson, Ian
Date: 1979
Media/Materials: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 180.2 x 180 cm
Classification: Abstract; Composition


Abstract composition.

‘Marquee Moon’ was completed early in 1979 during my Diploma year at Gray’s but it is associated in my memory with a range of experiences and experiments, in various media and working practices over the previous six to eight months. In May 1978, I and a group of fellow students took part in an art school painting trip led by Frances Walker staying in the Hostel at Achmelvich on the West Coast of Scotland. We were treated to a Mediterranean-like heatwave for most of our stay and we all took advantage of this to work mainly outdoors amongst the ancient landscape and mountains of Assynt. I spent a lot of time on pencil, ink and wash studies of the rhythmic patterns of the natural geological forms I could see throughout the land, forms which could be as much discerned on a microscopic scale in the depths of a rock pool as in the huge stratifications of the rocks and mountains. I then spent the summer at Hospitalfield House in Arbroath with other students from the four Scottish Art Schools. Much of the time I spent out with the in-house studios was spent exploring the spectacular cliffs and coastline of this area and drawing the contrasts of organic and geometric form in the House’s expansive garden. Back at Gray’s, on my Diploma Course we still had various set classes for Life Drawing/Painting, Composition, Still Life etc but I had a personal corner with all my collected objects, scribbled notes, postcard reproductions, photos and sketches. In Still Life especially I worked by having objects and images collected around me and put them into the compositions freely rather than have an arrangement set up in front of me. I began to take this kind of approach with some of the landscape and coastline ideas, a few of which had been used in a screen-printing class which had given me some interesting shapes and textures. I tried using torn paper shapes shuffling and rearranging them to find some element of balance and suggest those ideas of self-similarity I’d sensed in the source material. My tutor, Ian Howard had talked to me about paintings having a ‘history’ discerned by peering through the marks to the surface beneath and this chimed with my idea of considering a landscape and seeing forms within forms. In my still life works I had tried using a border to suggest ideas of reflection/shadow, inside outside but for this large scale painting I felt it could be used to suggest activity around and beyond the viewer, to give the feeling of being immersed in the painting. Eventually it seemed easier just to start the painting and let it resolve itself in the making. The title is taken from the Zen-like lyrics to the Television song Marquee Moon by Tom Verlaine. I still can’t decide whether they influenced me prior to drawing those landscapes in Assynt and Arbroath or whether they just floated up into my consciousness later in the process – or at what point I found myself looking and ‘seeing something else’ I remember How the darkness doubled I recall Lightning struck itself I was listening Listening to the rain I was hearing Hearing something else
Object Number: ABDRG157