Sunday, July 12, 2020


[Fig.1] Sentinel Watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2020

This post 'exhibits' some of my recent watercolur paintings. These watercolours are a departure from my normal oil paintings. I like having departures because experimenting with different paint mediums creates a space for thought and innovation.

The paintings in this small online exhibition all respond, in one way or another, to living through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Watercolour Medium
The medium of watercolour provides a softness that is important at a time when people are anxious, in mourning, or even angry and frustrated. I use copious amounts of water, and I cannot help but think that there is something soothing about paintings created with water. Although I obviously also use paint and a brush, the water is essentially the creator - I am the vehicle.

Sentinel [Fig.1] is a landscape where a tree - a tree-of-life - stands like a sentinel on a distant horizon. I was thinking about how life copes with threats and risks. Here, the horizon is both literal and metaphoric - what horizons do we cross when catastrophe knocks at our front doors? 

Maybe one horizon is the increasing use of surveillance and monitoring technology. What limits are crossed when, for example, the pandemic gives rise to an accelerating use of airborne drones? What kinds of creeping normalisation pave way for future impediments to privacy and freedom? 

In Content Tagging: A Spoof  [Fig.2], human [Fig.3] and Shadows [Fig.4] I visually spoof the way machine learning and AI need to be repeatedly exposed to images of objects, expressions and activities, in order to learn to identify them. Words are used to tag. But, I wonder, for an AI, does the tag become the object too? In Content Tagging: A Spoof I have also referenced the story of a person, in lockdown in Malta, who used a drone to walk their dog. My earlier painting Walking the Dog, In the Drone Age was also inspired by Malta story, a story that speaks to how strangeness can morph into normalcy.

[Fig.2] Content Tagging: A Spoof Watercolur on paper 30 x 42 cm 2020

[Fig.3] human watercolour on paper 24 x 32 cm 2020

[Fig.4] Shadows Watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2020

The three paintings below speak to the effects of isolation during COVID-19. In Watching [Fig.5] two figures are separated by distance, but also by what looks like bars on a window. Lockdown, quarantine and social distancing are mechanisms of isolation, that are monitored in various ways, including the use of drones. That lockdown, quarantine and social distancing are necessary during a pandemic is not disputed. What I query is the way new modes of surveillance, used by security and police forces, collide with those also employed by military forces. In Watching, the drone monitors the figures, as the figures watch each other. Do the figures notice the drone though?

Watching [Fig.5] on paper 30 x 42 cm 2020

In People [Fig.6] a line of figures, are socially distanced, except for two figures on the far left. They maybe a couple? The ambiguous atmosphere of the painting reflects the sense of limbo and uncertainty that permeate societies as they grapple with COVID-19. The sense of limbo and uncertainty also permeates Apart and Together [Fig.7]. I was thinking about how all of us are experiencing the pandemic - that all of us are in this thing together. That our individual behaviour and how we adhere to safeguards, can affect other people, is of paramount importance. Staying apart actually helps to keep us together - alive. 

Do stay safe!

 People [Fig.6] on paper 24 x 32 cm 2020

Apart and Together [Fig.7] on paper 30 x 42 cm 2020

No comments: