Today I assembled this composite of paintings made between February 2016 to present. It’s for my blog header, but it also gave me a chance to reflect on what I’ve been working on (although this is only a small fraction of the paintings I’ve made during that time). I’m not sure how beneficial it is to view paintings clustered in this way, but I feel it could reveal things that sequential viewing might not. It reminds me of Tumblr, and of genre paintings of art collections (below).
What strikes me about the composite of my own recent paintings is how abstraction has given way almost completely to a cartoonish figuration, often in cramped airless compositions rendered in high-contrast garishly coloured chiaroscuro. It almost looks more like the development of an illustrator, rather than an artist (though that’s a difficult distinction). The subject matter is varied, with no particular theme, but a preponderance of lumpen forms and protuberances, like crudely carved wood or modelled clay.
Everything so far has been, to a more or less extent, an experiment or technical exercise. I’ve almost never made changes or overpainted, because I haven’t been seeking to arrive at a finished “good” painting. I complete each experiment quickly. I’ve learnt a lot by working this way. My aim has been to practice so much that I become as comfortable working with a paintbrush as I am with a pencil, and that’s slowly starting to happen. But the paintings made during this learning process don’t represent much more to me than their role in that development.
Today I tried making a painting in which I overpainted anything I wasn’t happy with, and kept going until it felt right to stop. I arrived at this image (below). I’m not sure if I stopped for any good reason, or just because this reminds me of a type of paint handling that I positively associate with Kippenberger, Oehlen and Schutz. In any case, it makes a nice change to make an image with some space in it, instead of giving in to the compulsion to fill every part of the canvas with some kind of technique practice.
I’m truly looking forward to making paintings focused on how they look and what they do, and not simply what I can learn from making them.