From primordial soup to primitive forms


170121a Blue Forms (2017) oil on canvas 41 x 30cm

Last year I often made random marks and hoped they’d eventually develop into spaces and forms, like a world where things could happen. These marks were the earliest stage of that evolution, so I called them primordial soup. Today’s paintings reminded me of those, because these were made in a similar way, except that now there are definitely forms (life forms? primitive objects?) taking shape in illusionistic spaces.

When I painted these I gave almost no thought to the forms. I concentrated only on the basic principles of representing form and light in space, mostly from what I remember of Rudolf Arnheim’s Art and Visual Perception. I start with the background and work forward. I don’t have much of a sense of how the picture will look until I finish it. I thought this coloured one (below) was a total write-off when I was about half-way through, but I finished it anyway, and when I put the foreground objects in, the whole thing made a lot more sense.


170121b Forest Forms (2017) oil on canvas 32.5 x 41cm

On reflection, this painting reminds me of Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963). I grew up on both.


Walt Disney Alice in Wonderland (1951) animated film


Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things (1963) illustrated book

The yellow forms on the ground in my painting also remind me of Schutz’s painting, Hand (2004).


Dana Schutz Hand (2004) oil on canvas 152.4 x 228.6cm


2 thoughts on “From primordial soup to primitive forms

  1. I am more than content with your post Liam because you’ve let me in to a process you’ve consciously employed to achieve a specific outcome. To paint form and light in space.

    I get muddled when you compare your works with those by artists who you think might have influenced you. But it is important that you muse on these things.


    • I do think a lot about other art, like a matrix, and tend to see artworks in that context. I just enjoy looking at things that way. But as I become more confident with paint, I think my own process and content will assert itself more, which might mean less referencing. Not sure.


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