An open Letter from Jeremy Annear to Josie Eastwood

Published 6 April 2020

Dear Josie

Thank you for your email asking me to write about myself my painting process, the relationship with my studio, my interests, and what I listen to musically when working.

For me this felt a daunting subject, …just too big to begin to unravel!… but then as I lay awake in the early hours of dawn, my mind active with thoughts and memories as it often is at this time of day, I have decided at least to have a go at putting something down in words. Currently I am marooned in my secret studio where I have been mainly working on paper, a first floor apartment with large windows that thanks to this glorious weather can be fully opened to the quiet street below. I have the time, while socially isolating, and its a good time to perhaps reflect a bit! Words and language are for me akin to sound and music flooding me with narrative memories streams of consciousness that often seem to end up in a deep complex reverie, evoking place or a smell or taste!

Music and sound and my love of it is almost too big a subject to tackle because its impact on me can’t be explained or deciphered and just leads to a mental ramble. I have been immersed in music my whole life. Being fortunately born into a musical family that had music woven into its DNA. My wonderful mother really was the prime influencer and I guess from earliest she breathed music into me. She herself played the piano and had a lovely alto voice. She had a great repertoire of verse and song mostly very English traditional song and gospel hall hymns (which ranged from high haunting Anglican to Moody and Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos) she loved poetry and madrigals and Elizabethan lute. My father played the piano and the violin, my three sisters played the piano Cello and Violin and my brother played the guitar. I wanted to play everything and really played nothing although I did formally learn the clarinet and played badly in the school orchestra. I had piano lessons but hated my teacher and ended up becoming an improviser. So my childhood days were spent singing with a family of singers, learning to harmonise without music, singing hymns robustly, playing instruments together, listening to chamber music on the ‘gramophone’. Wherever we went as a family we sang together, often whilst all in the family Bedford van on holiday or on outing to the moor and often at the end of a day we would sing. We loved ‘The Lords Prayer’ usually with several extended amens as the harmonies crunched, or ‘Abide with me’ also with ever increasing harmonic elaborations, our mother encouraging us enthusiastically in repeat after repeated verse!

These days I still love to sing and play and even occasionally write and compose my own music and soundscapes. My taste in music is broad and eclectic. I love a good tune wherever I hear it. I am not that interested in the lyrics, but rather love the narrative conveyed in the mood. Music opens doors into a life of memories and imaginings, it stimulates the sensory, sight sound smell, colour and mood. My playlists are never definitive but branch off into ever more complex trees of sound.

The first record I bought was Acker Bilks Stranger on a Shore in 1963. By then my family had just bought a record player (electronic) to replace the gramophone (as in wind up!). It was so exciting listening for the first time to electronic sound!

So what about the Studio?

The studio is a refuge, a place of calm quiet, it is akin to a holding place, where the amniotic fluid nourishes and feeds my creativity. My process of painting is a form of contemplation or perhaps prayer so the studio is also a sanctuary a source of enlightenment. I make no claims here that my output itself is enlightened simply that for me it releases me into a place where I feel enlightened and in a good place.

I do listen to a lot of music in the studio especially before and around the times of deep creative engagement with my work. Here I find that when deeply engrossed in the physical process of painting the sound is inside me and the studio is audibly silent. I am privileged to enjoy what I think is a kind of synesthesia where I feel a vibration that expands into a rich textured harmony as say colour and shape play on the canvas surface and effect a sonic vibration through me.

I think I was born for music streaming apps! Spotify allows me to go anywhere and be anything, it might be in the passionate depths of Fado like Misia -Garras dos sentidos album I have very recently been introduced to and have been loving or it could be some late afternoon Jazz with Stan Getz, It Never Entered my Mind. Often in the morning arriving with my strong americano I might listen to a Beethoven String quartet perhaps no 13 op:130. Or even Gnossienne: No 1 by Erik Satie, sometimes I am in the mood for a good arousing medley of hymns sung by a great cathedral choir or perhaps some indulgent sentimental Country. I rarely listen intelligently to lyrics but I love the abstract poetry of Leonard Cohen. Sometimes I am in the mood for a bit of Jacques Brel and Ne Me Quitte Pas and other French romantic songsters!. I love sacred Choral Music especially Orthodox liturgical and sing in my Russian Orthodox Church Choir, Bortniasky Cherubic Hymn. I could go on and I am sure that I will now be thinking all day of music I could mention and of course I am remembering as I write, that from time to time I obsess over chamber music and my growing enjoyment of the atonal, and so it goes on.

These days I rarely read novels although I would love to find the time. I am fascinated with the origins of Western culture, society and thought so I do tend to be forever dipping into philosophy, theology and the early church Fathers. I am a bit of a would-be polymath only having the interest but accompanied by woefully scant knowledge.

I love iPhone photography and film and am always making little soundimage-scapes. I get very absorbed and find it creatively satisfying. Here are some examples

As for painting influences, other than from music and sound, and the other influences already mentioned, I have been deeply influenced by my visual surroundings and images. Apart from the predictable influences of ancient and primitive, I have always loved early Flemish and Italian art, religious icons, the Spanish still-life tradition, the beautiful little paintings of Corot and others of the French landscape. Early 20th C. suprematism and the explosion of 20th C. French painting and its influence on modernism. Braque Picasso Miro Klee etc Romanesque, renaissance, Modernist and Brutalist architecture, Bauhaus art and architecture, and much much more.

I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into where I come from and how my abstract language has developed. If you have enjoyed this and are interested in my work please subscribe to my instagram feed and go to my website and subscribe for updates and news.

With very best wishes

Jeremy Annear

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An open Letter from Jeremy Annear to Josie Eastwood

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Thank you so much for your support by voting for our gallery in the 2018 Muddy Stilettos competition. Thanks to you, for the second year running we have won the Best Art Gallery Award for our area!