Thursday 29 January 2015

Two Blues, 2015 (Mixed media on canvas, 76cmx51cm)

Limitations are everywhere, in life, art and nature itself. Like boundaries, limitations set the stage for the general drama of activity on a limited stage. This ceaseless drama is as observable as it is liveable and permeates everything we do and experience. It conducts the seer and the seen, the thinker and the thought, the goal and the struggle and the self and the not-self. Even in seemingly empty space the notion of this elemental activity makes itself felt. There is a balance in this activity. When we rush around to accomplish goals the world around us seems to stand still and the same world also seems to blindly push forward when we aim to be still. The tension is there as we are there. We are the activity.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Black Mass, 2014 (Mixed media on canvas, 54cmx78cm)

It's rather a ridiculous notion that painting could carry any meaning that isn't simply the individual reaction of the viewer on encountering the work itself. It's just a flat surface, sometimes with texture, sometimes not, sometimes with things glued to it, sometimes not, the variations are limitless. We have an instinctive response to a work but often this changes with time as we learn about other works from the past and present. We like something today we shall dislike tomorrow and vice versa, we learn to appreciate was once was unintelligible to us perhaps from a conscious effort to learn about such works. Why? Why would we like to learn to appreciate what is at the outset unattractive to us? There are as many reasons for this as there are people, but we could simply put it down to good old curiosity. Any paintings presented to us always has certain things in common, particularly the fact that the artist wants to show us something he has made, and preferably engender some sort of emotional response in the viewer, for a multitude of reasons. Beyond this is little else. Thus the mind of the viewer is what matters and the contents of the painted surface is only of secondary importance. 

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Danzig, 2014 (Mixed media on canvas, 76cmx120cm)

On Nothing

Nothing is impossible to paint, or to phrase it differently; It's impossible to paint 'Nothing'. When someone applies paint on a surface, there will be marks. Marks come from decisions. If you grab that brush, or other tool for applying paint, and put paint on the surface you've already taken decisions. A decision is something, as is indeed the physical evidence of said decision. One of the fundamental strengths of the format of panting is its predictable formula. Not unlike a theatre stage where actors appear in front of an audience, paint appear on the canvas to 'perform' in front of the viewer. This rather rigid, basic set-up informs the many different styles, subject matters and innumerable other variations we find in painting. Hurrying to add narrative or metaphor onto the surface is traditionally the most travelled path, but contents doesn't always need to be imparted to the work in this way. The painted surface has an inborn resilience, due to its traditional format, that suffices in itself. 'Nothing' needs not to be feared as a painting always contains more than enough of 'Something' by simply being a painting.

Thursday 25 December 2014

White Form (Mixed media on canvas, 25cmx20cm 2014)

The link between intent and the paint itself is one I find perpetually intriguing. We want to show something and in the case of painting the staging is to a high degree predetermined. There is a person, a surface and paints that should leave some sort of sign on said surface in accordance to the actions of the person working. When finished, we have a point of congealed presence that can be read, contemplated and probed for intellectual and/or emotional content as we see fit. Like a furnished room we get a feeling for upon entering it, we enter a painting and see where the 'things have been put' and indeed what the 'things' themselves are. Is it a tidy or messy room? Spacious? Cramped? Traditionally decorated? Or is it a empty waiting room for some unknown appointment? Does the room fill us with a comfortable feeling of homeliness or is it a harsh stop gap in some urban dystopia or indeed anything in between? A painting is always viewed in some context, none more important than the context of the paintings the viewer has previously experienced. A different context is the body of work the artist in question has produced. Each work is a pin on their map of places visited as it were and following their thusly plotted course hopefully weaves an intelligible pattern that can be read just like the individual work may be read. This small piece of mine was a work between works, just a levity and an angle on form and flat colour applied to a differently finished background.

Saturday 29 November 2014

White on Greens, (Acrylic on wood board, 34cmx46cm Sept 2013)

Some things are just not meant to be. Like in the case between me and greens, for instance. Once my favourite colour of all, now my association with it is securely cemented in the past. I happened to create this little piece in between other works and it just stayed there, in my mind and showed me a new direction to take. Hastily thrown together, more because I wanted to work on wood than for any other reason. Wood is durable, flexible and this particular piece held an alluringly reddish glow. Red wants green to stay civil, so I looked for a balancing counter measure, so green it was. Since this piece came about, I have had several opportunities to converse with green, conversations that has uniformly failed. Of all the colours, green is the one with the strongest associational baggage, ie Nature, Grass, Leaves and all that. Thus it's a struggle to overpower this its legacy of reflecting the natural world around us. I nevertheless view this piece fondly as a point of departure. A departure into the future. Beside its colour one other aspect of this work remains important to me, namely the role of distinction and resolution of parts in a work. By rejecting detail and centralized objects a whole new vista of colour and proportionality emerged. Most of my works that followed this unassuming little painting has kept dealing with the very same issues it raised; the presence of specific colours and how proportion gives a narrative to an otherwise inactive surface.

Monday 10 November 2014

Yellow, Black and White Painting (Mixed media on canvas 40cmx40cm) Oct, 2014

The act of painting, to add paint to the surface according to an idea or notion becomes more interesting to me the more I see of other artist's work. Always highly critical of what I encounter "out there", I find that this critical eye follows me into my own studio once it's my turn to paint.
Beside the individual stance a work takes, which I wrote about in an earlier post, the individual motivation driving the artist is of consuming interest to me. I never let the impossibility of verbalizing what essentially is a visual practice stop me from asking myself questions such as;

1. Why did they paint that?
2. What feeling/stance/message/presence did they aim for?
3. What did they want to achieve, generally and specifically?
4. Who did they paint it for?
5. Where did they see their painting in the future?
6. What does the artist feel their work consists of?
7. How much is created for visual effect?
8. How much is formal investigation?
9. If they feel they 'investigate' anything, then what is this 'something'?
10. And if they are of investigative nature, why indeed are they investigating?
11. Why is this person painting at all?
12. Is the artist trying to show something and if this case what and also if so, why?
13. To which of the dizzying array of  historical traditions do the artist link their work, and why?
14. Where do they want their painting to lead them?
15. How has previous success or failure informed their painting in the present?
16. Are they available for comment, are they comfortable talking about their work?
17. Are they up for critical discussion on the merit of their work, their chosen process and indeed constructive criticism?
18. What have they included on the surface, what have they omitted and why?
19. What material are they using and why?
20. Is their work planned or improvised?
21. What is 'planning' or 'improvisation' for the artist in question?
22. To how high degree does the individual artist opt for the recurring response pertaining to 'intuition', 'inspiration' or 'feeling'?
23. Do they find themselves in a dark room where they frantically wave canvas, brushes and cloths around them in a continuous attempt to find the light switch?
24. Or do they calmly deposit another piece to neatly fit into a larger mosaic to illuminate their idea on the particular topic of their choice?
25. How much of their work is about Themself/The World/The Material?
26. Or indeed, is it all of the above combined into one, unassailable melting pot of idea/memory/material?
27. To which percentage does each individual artist think their work can be talked about, described or discussed?
28. Does the artist work closely together with other artists or mainly solitarily?
29. Has the artist's practice/style/general outlook gone through significant development?
30. What type of criticism does the artist most often encounter regarding their painting?

As much as I enjoy the visual impression any painting gives me, I feel knowing something about the artist behind it helps me in my appreciation of said work. The artist uses his individual character to inform his work. If I see a work without knowing anything of its creator I will unfailingly fill in the 'blanks' with previously acquired knowledge or simply my own intuition. What I then see and how I interpret this work will be still be informed, just not from anything its creator has offered apart from the work itself, and in my opinion this is a less satisfying state of affairs.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Three, Four (Mixed media on canvas 80cmx100cm) July, 2014

The stance a work takes interests me. We're faced with a bewildering array of choice when we have the blank canvas before us and the process of settling on the stance is perhaps the one I pay the most significance. A work can show something, tell us something, perform for us as would a street juggler or try to seduce our sensibilities through the use of various lyrical stratagems. It can aim at reminding us of something, make us aware of the niceties with human perception through an arrangement of visual stimuli or indeed shock, frighten or make us smile, all depending on what the intention of the artist is at the time of the execution of the work. Quite like in everyday life where we take a stance amongst our fellow humans, every work on show everywhere has a stance assigned to it. The promise of unlimited possibilities in communicating ideas or impulse, although a seductive one, carries certain problems with it. What can be shared with others by the adding of paint to a flat surface? How true, or to use a less absolute term, how clearly can a stance be shown? This is what I find gives a work its backbone, its resistance or indeed its strength.