Looking back

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paintings from Feb 2016 – January 2017

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).

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David Teniers the Younger The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm In His Picture Gallery In Brussels (1651) oil on canvas 123 x 163cm

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.

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170122a Alien Antenna (2017) oil on canvas

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One thought on “Looking back

  1. Love your gallery. You’ve doodled like a rattlesnake, if I can mix my metaphors. Assuredness is a mad thing. Ingenues simply assert it without compunction or trauma. You seem to be working towards it, even a little laboriously, and maybe you are a little worried that this blessed state won’t appear? But there’s a lot of territory between these two points. I nearly said ‘over to you’. That would have been no help, so rewind that. For it’s clear that there are some aspects of painting that you haven’t even started practising yet. And it’s not a race. I hope you can feel no less rewarded NOW, as you teach yourself and wrestle with the craft side of painting compared to a future time when you are well advanced and might be termed a ‘real painter’.

    Fuck that is patronising. But I’ll leave it there.

    Like

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