Painting as homemade bomb


161228b Bomb (2016) oil on canvas 34.5 x 37cm

Working from a photograph again, finding that a useful exercise lately, although I’ve never much liked paintings that are complete renderings of photographs. Feels like too much of a mechanical copying process. A bit like putting a photo through a filter app. Of course there is a whole world of painting dealing with the relationship to photography, but this year I’ve been more interested in what painting can do if you let in a bit of non-photo-derived drawing, etc.


Working from photograph on 161228b Bomb (2016)

Anyway, I painted an IED because I was thinking about how a painting can be like a homemade bomb: basic materials that can be bought by anyone, combined in such a way to make something powerful that can reach a lot of people, violently in the case of a bomb, but positively (hopefully) in the case of a painting. It’s a small wanky insensitive idea, but at least it’s some kind of idea, which makes a nice change from the “exercises” I’ve been doing for most of this year.

I’m still painting wet-on-wet, quickly, and trying to match the brush size to the size of the object or plane that I’m painting, for example: each rock and stone is one brush stroke, with a black shadow added. I’m also enjoying the sculptural effect of impasto, although it does create difficulties in how to light the painting when photographing it. (See how the black areas reflect light differently in the picture above and the close-up detail picture below.)


(detail) 161228b Bomb (2016) oil on canvas

For the technique, I was thinking of Dana Schutz in paintings where her paint handling is reminiscent of early 80s Albert Oehlen and Martin Kippenberger. The Oehlen painting I was specifically thinking of is Four Travel Bags (below).


Albert Oehlen Four Travel Bags (1981) latex on canvas 66.5 x 90cm

Four Travel Bags is such a dynamic gestural painting compared to my more hesitant fiddly rendering of the IED. My painting has come out a little more like Kippenberger’s Bitte Nicht Nach Hause Schicken which was also copied from a photograph using rudimentary technique (both below).

My paint handling in 161228b Bomb also reminds me of the way Liu Xiaodong used to paint from photographs, which to me always felt too close to the source image, again like I was looking through a “paint” filter at a photograph, which made the painting seem redundant and uninventive (although this is not a big criticism, since I’ve never given his painting much thought beyond that).


Liu Xiaodong The House Where I Grew Up (2010) oil on canvas 150 x 400cm

I actually quite like this Xiaodong painting (above), and I used to enjoy similar paint handling by Karen Kilimnik, like this one (below), although actually I usually find her brushstrokes more varied and interesting than Xiaodong’s. For my own work going forward, I don’t want to make a habit of copying entire photographs corner-to-corner, but only using them (if at all) as one part of the process of making a painting.


Karen Kilimnik Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Home – The Dining Hall (2014) water soluble oil colour on canvas 41.3 x 51.4cm


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