Drawn on a bus ticket ….

OCA painting and printmaking tutor James Willis on his new exhibition and experience of India….

Varanasi

My trip to India was made several years ago. During a hectic tour of Agra, Jaipur and Delhi I managed to sketch all the time and even make a few watercolour studies in a sketchbook. By the end of this short trip I had easily filled the book and had resorted to drawing on the back of bus tickets and receipts – anything I could get my hands on! Such was the impact of the experience and the intense inspiration I found there.
Last year, following the commission of a view of Varanasi, the opportunity to make an exhibition at the Nehru Centre in London came up. This great honour provided me with the motivation to explore the inspiration of my earlier trip to India and relive some of the excitement of that visit.

Agra evening street

The twenty-seven new paintings are derived from three sources, my set of location sketches which range from small pencil studies of figures and buildings to larger watercolour descriptions of views and places; photographs and, perhaps most surprisingly for me, memory. Together these sources gave me what I needed to create these paintings and as I worked during a very intense period over the summer I found myself relying more and more on the impressions I had in my memory and sketches of that stimulating trip. The photographs were only really useful in helping depict specific details or colours alongside some of the figures.
Colour and texture in the painted surface has played an important role in these works and I was very surprised at how my confidence in using both developed as I worked. I have tried to use both to convey the impression and atmosphere I experienced whilst in India and engage the viewer in that experience. Comments from a few who have already seen some of the work seem to indicate a delight in the colour and painterliness of these canvases and have responded to the atmosphere they represent.

Floating Palace Jaipur

I think this comes from the feeling and memory of my experience I worked hard to convey which is at the end of a long process of sketching and drawing, colour studies and preparatory work; all important stages to go through before starting a major painting.

Paintings from this exhibition can be viewed at:
People, Places, Perspectives
New Paintings of India
The Nehru Centre
8 South Audley Street
London
W1K 1HF
5th -8th April 2011
Open 10am – 5pm
and on my website www.jameswillisart.co.uk

4 Comments

  1. roberta 28 March 2011 at 9:44 pm

    These are splended paintings, James. I love the contrasting reflections in the first and third. I also enjoyed seeing how cleverly you’ve selected just enough colour and detail in the second one to evoke the brilliant crowded scene.
    Thanks for your post.

    Reply
  2. Jose 29 March 2011 at 10:31 am

    As a photographer I found it very interesting what James said about the fact that he relied on impressions he had in his memory to produce the paintings. It made me realise how different the process of creating a painting is from that of taking a photograph.

    It seems that the myth of realism and truth easily gets in the way of producing evocative images. We photographers can’t help trying to capture ‘what is there’ instead of what we feel, our impressions. Perhaps it’s time we learned from painters and endevoured to convey our feelings and impressions, and did that unapologetically.

    Reply
    1. CliveW 29 March 2011 at 10:37 am

      In a way that relates to the tableaux discussion and with Photoshop we now have that facility without having to stage manage reality.

      Reply
  3. Peter Haveland 29 March 2011 at 6:18 pm

    “We photographers can’t help trying to capture ‘what is there’” … I fear that is the curse those of us brought up in either the Modernist and/or documentary traditions have to bear. I have been trying to combat it for years!!!!!
    Guys like Richard Billingham who trained as Fine Artists (he went to college to study paintings) have much less of a problem.

    Reply

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