Subconscious reference

So far, I’m stumbling into a lot of unintended outcomes and unconscious processes. I’ve already written about “unintentional figuration“, and now I’m experiencing “subconscious referencing”. This is when I paint an image that I think is from my imagination, but later I remember source images that I must have been drawing from subconsciously. It happened recently with my painting of the lady with colour-wheels on her breasts, and now also with this painting (below).


160809b Sun Block (2016) oil on canvas 11 x 42cm

I like this painting in lots of ways, but today I realised that it draws quite directly from a Guston painting, Talking, which I know well. I still like my painting, but these experiences have drawn my attention to an issue with working “from imagination”: it’s very easy for the imagination to lift from remembered images without consciously bringing them to mind. In future I’d like to find a way of working that comes more from my own experiences and ideas, rather than compositing imagery from my memories of other artists’ work.

On the other hand (pun intended), if there have to be images lurking in my subconscious then they may as well be great ones like this.


Philip Guston Talking (1979) oil on canvas 173 x 198.8cm


8 thoughts on “Subconscious reference

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  2. “I’d like to find a way of working that comes from my own experiences and ideas, rather than from my memories of other artists’ work.” – Liam you will be familiar with thinkers who say that everything created is a memory of some sort. It can sometimes be a bit sobering when we discover that our fond creation relates directly back. Not because of any guilt associated with this, more that we aren’t nearly as conscious of our inspirational sources as we’d like to be.

    Kick arse would be to take the image or memory and make something outstanding from it. I can’t quite remember the exact quote which goes something like, it doesn’t matter where you take an idea from, but it matters where you take it to.

    Whatever your creative resources are, you are considering them, not simply employing them That puts you in the gold medal round mate.

    On a lighter note, I’m involved interminably in rounds of heavy duty arguments about “Chemsex” and had forgotten that you have directed the best parts of it hehe. There are more forums coming up here where the wringing of hands will find an outlet in castigating that work More of that elsewhere, other than to say that today I read with great approval an interview with you made some years ago on all this. You don’t want to revisit it, I’m sure but I’m happy to say though that you were on the money.

    You’d better come to Australia – and do an Australian series of works, confounding your reputation!

    Liam, tell me to fuck off if this is veering over a line. I suffer from absence of judgment and sensitivity sometimes/often. But I’m not precious and don’t suffer much from a kick up the arse. In my new existence, I tend, by way of explanation, to err on the side of say it and do it. But oh you might not believe how much I want to be on point, not to to tread on toes gratuitously and to add to a conversation.

    Too many words. If only I could just daubdaubdaub



    • Hi Phil, you are not in any way veering over any line. Your contribution to this blog is wonderful, and really helps me to connect what I’m doing now to what I’ve worked on in the past.

      In what way are you engaged in “interminable rounds of heavy duty arguments about Chemsex”? Privately, or at public discussions about the film? I know David Stuart and others have worked very hard to get the film seen around the world, with screenings and discussion events.


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