This is the first time I’ve had paintings on public display. Thanks again Russell Harris and Eric Le Rouge for including my paintings in Instinct #3 at VILLAGE, Berlin. The exhibition is open until 30th April 2017. More information here.
Below, my paintings in this exhibition:
Here are my notes (to myself) on the experience:
I like the scale of my largest painting here (170227 Pinocchio in Love, 117.5 x 100cm). I want to go larger still. Heights and widths of between 150cm – 400cm seem to be a good size for the kind of picture I like, without it feeling like a mural. That size range includes most of my favourite paintings by Bacon, Guston, Katz, Condo, Kippenberger, Oehlen, Rauch, Schutz, de Balincourt, etc. I don’t currently have the space to make paintings larger than 100cm x 180cm, so I need to work on that.
Stretchers and frames.
We chose not to spend money on stretching and framing my paintings, partly because (unless they’re sold) they’ll need to be transported back to the UK at the end of the exhibition. The organisers did a great job fixing the unstretched canvases to boards, with the canvas edges showing, but now I’m curious to see how the paintings would look if they were stretched, and maybe in tray frames with a black or wood finish. Expense and practicality are obstacles, but I think it might be important in the way it creates a contrast between the clean parameters of the picture and the messy action within.
I hung some of the paintings clustered together. I enjoyed hanging three of them together to form the shape of two eyes and a smiling mouth. However, now I’d like to see how the paintings would look hung in a row with more space around them.
These paintings were made between 17th – 28th of February 2017. Looking at them now, I see they all contain large objects that are cut off by the edges of the pictures. This was a habit I didn’t question at the time. I’d be more aware of that now, making more of a conscious choice about what I’m trying to achieve with the composition.
Pattern and depth.
I was pleasantly surprised by the impression of depth in 170227 Pinocchio in Love, but I also noticed that, in these paintings, I’d mostly chosen to render objects using illusionistic devices to create depth and three-dimensionality (perspectival drawing, drop shadows, shadow to create form, composition in space, etc.) and very rarely combined that with a flatter style of representation which would have allowed for passages of surface pattern (as in, for example, Matisse, or more recently, Ryan Mosley and Ella Kruglyanskaya, among others). In future I’ll try to keep both possibilities in mind, and think about the ways they can be combined in one picture.
References / influences.
In a conversation about my paintings, Paul McCarthy was mentioned. Around 2000 – 2008 I was very interested in McCarthy’s work. I still enjoy it now, although I don’t think about it often in regard to my painting. On reflection, his influence can clearly be found in these pinocchio paintings, most directly from work like the Tomato Heads (below).
Philip Guston was also mentioned, which surprised me because I don’t see much of his influence in these paintings, although I’m very happy for it to be there.
Somebody else mentioned Frans Hals in relation to my brush work in 170227 Pinocchio in Love. This is a connection that never would have occurred to me, but I can see it in a painting like Malle Babbe (below). I’m pretty sure I picked up that kind of technique from looking at Neo Rauch paintings. Perhaps Rauch got it from Hals. Next time I’m at the National Gallery I’ll have a close look at the Hals they have there.
Some people said they’d like to see my paintings in colour. Even when I told them I was colour blind, they urged me to paint in colour (with the usual suggestion that my colour blindness could be a “good thing”). I think there are two reasons that these black and white paintings seem to ask for colour: They show recognisable things that we know are coloured (skies, plants, flowers); and they’re made of many shades of grey, like a colour picture that has been made black and white. I love colour so much, probably I’ll try it again, maybe soon. In any case, what I learn from making black and white paintings can be applied to colour painting, so it works out either way.
In conversation with other artists, it’s interesting to find the discrepancies in our shared knowledge of art, particularly of living artists. There were names mentioned to me that I didn’t recognise, and some that I mentioned to others that were unfamiliar to them, including: Peter Saul, Carroll Dunham, The Chicago Imagists, Albert Oehlen, Charline von Heyl, Jutta Koether, Dana Schutz, and David Joselit’s “networked painting” essay. For better or worse, there don’t seem to be any particular theories, styles, or movements that are relevant and known to everyone, so the “discourse” is very loose and the work diverse.
When the paintings were up, I thought about content, and all the things I censor myself from painting, and wonder, “What am I afraid of?”, and “What else would I paint anyway?”. I’m curious to find out.