Artist of the Month for the charity Outside In.

Posted by Ruth McIlroy on

Working with a range of materials Ivan Grieve develops surfaces through sensory expressions that evolve into landscapes or portraits.These become dynamic and intimate works that emerge from gestural mark making and experimentation with pigments and grounds.Ivan’s continues to practice his observational skills with still life work at his studio.

I believe that art and a passion to find expression are in my blood.A genesis that was then vitalised by growing up in Sixties Camden, the Roundhouse, sledges on Primrose Hill, Delancey St. and kites on Hampstead Heath.Happenings, “grown-ups” becoming visionary and inventive, were all around this buzzing part of London.I was lucky enough to have had some very inspirational art teachers in my younger days who set me off on a journey of no regret.

I really immersed myself with making art, ten or fifteen years ago-there was a lot going on in my life and indeed in the world, as now. It was a port in a storm, so to speak,during some particularly difficult times personally and globally.I drew day and night for months on end.I plucked up the courage to show what I had been drawing to a gallery. I subsequently had the opportunity to curate and stage my first solo exhibition.This was in 2010, a “happening” in a way, that took the form of charcoal drawing each day for a week, on the newspaper covered walls, in front of the gallery’s visitors.

Now, I divide my time between being out in the landscape and back at my small studio. I value the importance of being out walking and sketching along the rivers and hills in South Devon throughout the year. A rendezvous with each of the Seasons as they come and go. I am sometimes wrapped up or conversely with a parasol.There are brief encounters with the passing, inquisitive walkers. The river like time continues to flow and is both a physical and metaphysical element in my work, flowing as she does from the moor to the sea.

The studio is where I hold a variety of materials some natural, some unusual with which to express further my dialogue with the landscape.The shelves are lined with pots and boxes of things, some labelled some not.

It is also back at the studio where I have been exploring the the essence of being myself.Making sketches in different ways or with materials that perhaps define me;tea, spirulina and a plethora of lotions and prescribed potions.I feel that to make a sketch of someone using materials and tools that perhaps outline the soul of who that person has become.

In the field and in the studio I try to keep the freedom to make marks and loose gestural responses to a subject, it is integral to my work.

 “Energetic, atmospheric and emotional” are words that have been used by others to describe my work.I work on a range of scales but nothing truly enormous any more.I build up layers of texture or use a variety of marks and lines to convey my feelings.Tonal qualities and colour with flowing marks set with soft forms depicting a documentation of Nature and humanity in an expressive way.

I work every day either outside, or in my studio.I rise early and go to bed early, especially as Spring emerges.The start of the day is reflective and quiet, reviewing progress on works that I am creating or projects that I maybe collaborating on with others.

Then it time for a quick look at the elements, in the South West, it is often essential to don a Sou’wester.! It is not just in April that we get the showers and it does make for greater comfort to dress according to the weather when sketching en plein air.

Documenting views following the River Dart or stopping to note an enticing aspect along a walk is always initiated with mark making. On occasion I may make a small and transient “intervention” at a site. As I set to return to the studio, in to my bag will go mud, sap, feathers, twigs used as tools etc.

In the studio, I then review field sketches and gather materials to work with. I have been working into small sketches with soft pastels and the “key” of dried found pigment adds a richness of texture and tone.

Inspiration is from the landscape and seeing places through the changing seasons. I have a deep seated urge to find rhythms and patterns to make sense of chaos.Winter landscapes have a more pronounced and visible order to latch onto, Summer has greater sensual depth.

In people and in self portraits I search for an understanding of how the subject thinks they are perceived and how they maybe perceived by others, along the lines of a Johari window.People change through the seasons and with the flow of time too.

My daughter in a way is a role model for me, she is such a muse, though not quite eight years old, her absolute joy in experimenting with her creativity and materials, constantly surprises me. Such a no hole’s barred approach is a great example and one which I hope is symbiotic too.

At the other end of this continuum I do admire the “ferocious creativity” of Anselm Kiefer, the drive and exploration in his works are boundless. The landscapes and materials are particularly of huge interest.

Atmosphere with a place or person is something that I search for. Trees and tree lines in the landscape and to some extent the equivalent in a person too.

Emotions for me are always spread across the surface of what I make, layered across the surface of a work.An emotional documentation of changes to peoples and place.

Drawing and making self portraits has become a bit of an obsession, a personal struggle documented on paper or canvas. I used to focus on these from November to the Spring as some sort of visual personal pilgrimage or penance. I have been looking at other artists work,self portraits are often within the mix. I really hope to develop a portraiture aspect of my work as `I feel it will sit nicely with the landscape style that I have developed.

I recently produced a number of “ touch self portraits”.Feeling my face and trying not to look at the paper, I drew what features I explored with my hand using charcoal on paper.It produced interesting movement across a facial landscape, reminiscent of Muybridge I guess?

On occasion I have been asked “What is your all-time favourite work of art (by another artist)?”

This is a difficult question and I shall have to say Anselm Kiefer’s “ Freya’s Garden” 2013, masterful , dreamy and mysterious but maybe at 330 x 470 x 10 cm a bit too big for my home in which to enjoy it.Kiefer remains as relevant today as ever with seismic shifts taking place around us.

But for many reasons I think I might choose “Behind Camden Town Station, Autumn Evening, 1963, by Frank Auerbach. It is very evocative of time and place for me and somewhere I have journeyed from many a time.

If I were to choose a recent work of my own? A small mixed media drawing “Winter at Sharpham Marsh” 2021, which I used in fact as a card for Christmas.This was the starting point for sketching with found materials and developing the marks and tones back at the studio.The card was really popular and some people even asked for some to be made for them too.

As for the future? I really hope to continue to make and create as I watch the seasons and changing faces of those around me.To develop my practice and make new connections in the art world.To collaborate with other artists who may have similar or complimentary views that we may express together.

bohemian expressive landscapes natural pigments river seasons selfportrait studio

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