Wednesday, May 06, 2015


Ripped up works on paper
In a recent post called How Long Does It Take? I wrote about process...the painting process and particularly my kind of process. Interestingly a few artists, who also embrace the 'accident', the 'mistake' and understand the need for 'failure', have commented on how refreshing it is for an artist to reveal the underbelly of studio practice. By underbelly, I mean the fact that success and failure are handmaidens, with all the accompanying emotions across the distance between them. 
Sometimes a painting, that I consider a success, is completed very quickly. Yet, it's not as simple as isolating a painting in such a way. Why? Because, paintings don't exist without many preceding 'failures'...and successes too. It's part of an ongoing experiment...for me, the experiment is both about technique/medium, and how ideas might be evoked and delivered.

The photo above displays a pile of torn up works on paper. For a variety or reasons I felt they were not working out. With some I had walked away, hoping to return with 'new eyes' and Ah Ha revelations of what my next mark should be. Others were quickly ripped...yes with some frustration too! Yet, I know it's all just part of a process. Each 'failure' teaches me something, scaffolding my practice in a reality that keeps me stimulated. Boredom is definitely not something I experience when I'm in my studio.
One delightful thing about embracing failures, accidents and mistakes, as part of a normal process, is that regurgitating the same image, with only slight variations, is impossible!
So, here are three works on paper that I consider to be successful, for all sorts of reasons. You, however, may not agree...and that's absolutely ok!
Life Calling Gouache and watercolour on paper 15 x 21 cm
As I wrote above the ongoing experiment, for me, is about technique/medium and how ideas might be evoked and delivered. So success, is a result of complex jugglings and assimilations of practical application and intellectual processes, aided and abetted by my emotional responses and feedback loops. Some of these emotions are triggered by aesthetics and others by intellectual excitement that agitates not only the mind, but the spirit and soul.
I consider Life Calling [above] a successful painting. Why? Because, I think it is aesthetically quite beautiful, but I also get an intellectual kick out of the possibilities in the juxtaposition of the tree and round ball. It is not clear what their relationship is or means. I like that this ambiguity poses lots of questions. The title provides potential clues perhaps...but it does not give an answer. Regular readers know I like ambiguity and the array of questions it allows. These questions are essentially wonderings and regular readers know I like to provoke wonder, for it is a gateway to....  
Another painting Life Calling: Anyone There? might also interest you. You can see it and read about it HERE
Cosmic Cascade Gouache and watercolour on paper 21 x 30 cm
I also consider Cosmic Cascade to be a successful painting, for the same reasons that I think Life Calling is successful. Yes, there both have aesthetic and intellectual elements that excite me. And... yes, my interest in cosmology, the scientific study of the universe [maybe multiverse!] is evident, but I like to think it is not delivered in a didactic manner that shuts down wonder, spiritual investigations, emotionality and more.
This painting 'plays' with perspective, literally and metaphorically. The round balls seem to recede from the viewer into a distance, but are the balls planets or could they be atoms, or specs of dust...or even a history of thoughts?
Can We Leave? Gouache and watercolour on paper 21 x 30 cm
I nearly tore up Can We Leave? Yep, it was nearly cast into the studio graveyard where all failures go! This was before it was given a title and well before I painted the white ball or the blue lines. In fact, there's a whole layer of other paint underneath what you now see. This is one of those paintings I left, walked out on, hoping that when I returned with 'new eyes' I'd see clues for my next marks. And, in this case, I think anyway, it worked! I sprayed it with water, splashed more paint around, manipulated/painted a few areas and then I let it dry. I liked the result. I then painted the white ball and felt compelled to put the blue lines over the white.
Yes, compelled...strange way of painting? Not really. Compulsion comes from an instinct which has been honed by years of painting and thinking. In this case, it was an aesthetic instinct coupled with lots of thoughts triggered by recent articles about discoveries of potential Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars ie: maybe potential new planetary 'homes. Also, articles about plans to send humans on a one way trip to Mars. And, articles about potential existential risks we humans have 'invited' to the matrix of natural ones.
But, can humanity leave Earth? Have we created problems, such as climate change, bio-threats, nuclear threats and more, that mean human life on Earth will be cut short, before we have developed safe ways of escape? There seems to be an imperative to look after ourselves and the planet, to give us time to work out how to leave! The white lines painted over the white ball could be prison bars. But, are they bars across Earth symbolising that there is no escape? Or are they security bars symbolising another planet's protection? Yet, they maybe Earthly security bars symbolising our desire to protect our current planetary home? More broadly speaking the idea of security expresses itself across a plethora of human endeavour, physical, emotional, spiritual and more. Can we leave? poses even more questions...should we leave, how to leave, when to leave, why leave, what are we leaving, what are we leaving for, who can leave....?
  • I have a 'shop' on my website where I have listed small oil paintings and works on paper for sale. And, they can be purchased online via PayPal. The link is HERE


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