During the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, Geoff Archer’s subject matter was the urban landscape, inspired by a first visit to the U.S.A in the 1970s and a familiarity with American Photorealism. Straightforward townscapes soon developed into more complex close-ups of transparent and reflective surfaces, combining the reflections on the surface of a window, for example, with the view through the glass.
By the late '90s, however, the subject matter had changed dramatically, though the style remained realistic. Following some years of drawing the rocky outcrops of the Peak District National Park, close to his home in Macclesfield, the first paintings of rocks were produced. As with the urban landscape there was a tendency to close in, with the exclusion of both earth and sky and a concentration instead on pattern, colour, tone and texture, thus creating a deliberately more abstract effect.
Where earlier work was simply oil on canvas, for the new paintings a new technique was developed, involving an initial undercoat in acrylic paint and then a second coat, using a mixture of P.V.A. glue and oil paint. The point about mixing water-based glues and oil paint is that they don’t mix. Instead, they separate out as they dry, producing a pattern of blobs, swirls and streaks. Though ultimately unpredictable, by varying the dilution of glue and paint and by the use of a range of strokes or dabs in the application of first the glue and then the paint, considerable control can be achieved over the final result.
The aim of this method is to create an appropriately patterned surface on which to work, rather akin to the Surrealists’ use of ‘decalcomania’ – the pressing together, then peeling apart, of two painted surfaces to provide inspiration for imaginative development – though where Max Ernst might envisage a fantastic landscape peopled by monstrous creatures, here the aim is simply to suggest the textures of the original rock.
Once this second undercoat has dried, oil paint is used to produce the finished result. At this stage, various techniques are employed, from impasto to thin glazes – though mainly the latter to allow the textured undercoat to show through.
In addition to oils, ‘watercolours’ were also produced, again using a somewhat unconventional approach. The equivalent in this case to the use of oil paint and glue to provide a suitably textured surface on which to work was the use of cellulose thinners and laser prints to produce vague, ghostly monoprinted impressions which were then carefully defined and developed in watercolour. Such techniques provide – quickly and conveniently – appropriate textural effects, though merely as a means to an end.
2010 saw a return to a wider range of subjects. A visit to the ‘Boneyard’ in Las Vegas (or the Neon Museum as it is now known) – a repository of old discarded casino and motel signs – inspired a series of new paintings, and these have been followed by paintings of derelict ghost town buildings, abandoned automobiles and other aspects of the disappearing American landscape (see Americana). A trip along the full length of Route 66 in 2007 led to a number of paintings, while Old Car City in White, GA has been a recent revelation, providing inspiration for numerous works.
The Old Car City paintings, like earlier works, are based on photographs taken by the artist. Since photography's invention in the early years of the nineteenth century, photographs have been used by artists in many ways to aid their depictions of the real world. For Geoff, "photographs are used by me merely to provide enough information to enable me to create the type of image I want to produce."
Whilst alterations to the photographic source material has always been part of his approach, more recent works have begun to explore the possibilities of combining images. So, for example, in 'Buicks', his painting from 2019, the car on the left is from one photo whilst the one on the right and the trees behind are taken from a second image.
Buxton Museum & Art Gallery (‘88) - with Pat Havis
Blackfriars Arts Centre, Boston (‘00)
Buxton Museum & Art Gallery (‘00 - ‘01)
National Stone Centre, Wirksworth (‘01)
Stockport Art Gallery (‘03)
Silk Museum, Macclesfield (‘03)
Wendy Levy Gallery, Manchester (‘04) - with Simon Parkin
Buxton Museum & Art Gallery (‘07)
Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek (‘12)
g fine art, Macclesfield (‘12) - with Pat Havis
Nicholson Museum and Art Gallery, Leek (’17)
The Old Sunday School, Macclesfield (’18)
Buxton Museum & Art Gallery (’20) (remained closed throughout due to the pandemic)
Buxton Museum & Art Gallery (’22)
Manchester Academy of Fine Arts (‘80 - ‘02) (prizewinner ‘86)
Lancashire Artists, Preston (’81, ‘82)
Stockport Open (‘81, ‘01, ‘13)
Silver Palette, Derby (‘82)
Derbyshire Open, Buxton (‘82 - ‘09) ( prizewinner ‘02)
Tolly Cobbold Eastern Arts Exhibition, Cambridge, Ipswich, London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Leeds (’83 - ‘84)
Leicestershire Exhibition, Loughborough (‘84 - ‘90)
Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition (‘88)
Macclesfield Open (’13 - ’17 / ’20*/ 21*) (prizewinner ’15)
Art Fair Cheshire, Macclesfield (’16, ’19 & '22)
Stockport Guild Exhibition (’18)
Three Counties Open Art Exhibition, Burslem (’20*, '21* & '22) (prizewinner ’21)
* online exhibition
Colchester & District General Hospital (‘84) - with Michael Craig-Martin & John Loker
‘The Artist’ (August 2001)
Leicestershire Education Authority
N E Essex Area Health Authority
East Cheshire NHS Trust
The Bankers Trust
Geoff Archer was born in Manchester in 1945 and now lives in Cheshire. After two years studying architecture at Manchester Regional College of Art he switched to an Art Foundation course (or Pre-Dip as it was then known) before completing a B.A. course in Fine Art at Nottingham Art School. This was followed by an Art Teacher's Certificate course at Reading University which led to a teaching career lasting thirty years. Throughout this time he exhibited his paintings in both group and solo exhibitions. In 2013 he co-founded the Macclesfield Open Art Exhibition with Pat Havis.
In the mid 1990s he completed a course in Art History at Manchester University, gaining an M.A. with distinction. The subject of his dissertation was the figurative sculpture of British First World War memorials which ultimately led to the publication of his first book, 'The Glorious Dead', in November 2009. His second book, 'Public Sculpture in Britain: A History', was published in May 2013 and a third book, on local war memorials, was self-published in 2016. Painting, however, remains his primary interest.
Detail of the second undercoat of the 2010 painting 'Hidden Canyon 2' Detail of the finished painting
'Buicks' (2019) Source photo
As Geoff says, "the paintings I produce are the paintings I want to see, painted for the pleasure of doing them and for the pleasure of having done them."