White Haired Man Dipping Finger in Water


170522 White Haired Man Dipping Finger in Water (2017) oil on canvas 110 x 100cm

There were a lot of thick outlines in 170520 Flowers in Cup, so with this painting I tried to define edges by tonal difference instead. Altogether, I find it an odd picture, especially how the top part doesn’t look like it comes from the same painting as the bottom part, in colour, paint handling, depth, etc.

Also unexpected was the way that a bright synthetic yellow glow seems to shine through the upper two-thirds of the picture, giving the whole thing a shrill citrus-y luminosity. With so much green and red, I didn’t expect the yellows to dominate in this way. Maybe it’s due to yellow being the colour common to the jacket, flesh, and trees, and maybe also because there are no blues or violets to balance the yellows.

I thought about going back in to “improve” parts of this, but I’ve decided to leave it as it is for now. I can’t place how I feel about it, so I’m keeping it as a record of my development.


170522 White Haired Man Dipping Finger in Water [detail] (2017) oil on canvas


Flowers in Cup + spare paint paintings


170520a Flowers in Cup (2017) oil on canvas 125 x 100cm

This is the largest colour painting I’ve made so far. I mixed the colours from a collage of photographs I made, and the forms and tonal relationships come from a sketch. The most interesting part for me was the green linear structure behind the flowers – the way it corrals the composition and suggests to me some kind of movement or (at the bottom) an additional spacial structure.

I wore the colour-blindness glasses the whole time I was mixing and painting this. Apart from changing the balance of hues, they also reduce light levels, like sunglasses. When I took them off I was surprised by how bright the painting is.

This painting required mixing more colours than I’ve done previously, and in larger amounts. As usual, I made small paintings with the mixed paint that was left over. I hope that what I learn from making these will feed into future paintings.


170515a Sunflower (2017) oil on canvas 35 x 30cm


170515b Impasto Sunflower (2017) oil on canvas 25 x 25cm


170515c Footprints on Moon Beach (2017) oil on canvas 35 x 40cm


170520b Faceless (2017) oil on canvas 30 x 35cm


170520c Abstract (2017) oil on canvas 25 x 30cm

Impressed by Spoon


170514a Impressed by Spoon (2017) oil on canvas 180 x 100cm

I started this painting before I got the glasses for my colour blindness. The entire time I was painting it my focus was composition. Every element was put in (or removed) in order to create a composition that I found interesting, but still balanced. Somehow, despite all that, I’m not at all convinced that the result is balanced. However, in trying to achieve that, I’ve arrived at a kind of twisting ambiguous space that I find more interesting than my usual backgrounds (although the effect of it comes across better in person than on screen – the painting is almost 2 meters tall).

Here are a couple of closer detail photos. I don’t know what I think of this painting. I can’t easily place the feeling it gives me. The figure has a kind of ugly/stupid cartoonishness that reminds me a little of the CGI characters in Jordan Wolfson’s Riverboat Song video (2017),  or Matt Furie’s Pepe the Frog, but the space in the painting is something else. I like that there’s something odd and unfamiliar to me about it. That seems promising.


170514a Impressed by Spoon [detail] (2017) oil on canvas


170514a Impressed by Spoon [detail] (2017) oil on canvas



Exhibition reviews: Collishaw, Tomaselli, Andersson, Ikeda, Picasso, Mortimer

As usual, these are just subjective thoughts, subject to change, etc. Not all of these exhibitions were my cup of tea, but I’ve tried to keep the whinging under control – and there were highlights for sure.

Mat Collishaw, GASCONADES (KillingIt), 2017, Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern

Mat Collishaw GASCONADES (Killingit) (2017) oil on canvas, concrete, jesmonite 36.7 x 31.7 x 5cm

Mat Collishaw The Centrifugal Soul at Blain / Southern
7 April – 27 May 2017

This exhibition is dominated by two luminous electronic sculptures, both requiring darkness. There are also twelve small paintings, literally put into the shade and picked out by dim spot lights. This doesn’t do them any favours and the gallery’s promo images show the paintings photographed in better brighter conditions. I’m familiar with Collishaw’s 90s photo work, but don’t know him as a painter. I don’t know if he painted these or if they’re the work of hired hands. Either way, they feel made-to-order, as if all the decisions about their appearance and content were finalised before the first mark was made. One thing I love about painting is how every brushstroke has the potential for invention, constantly evolving and redirecting the outcome. The result can be a physical trace of this mental adventure (like Klee’s “line going for a walk”), but there’s no opportunity for that in these rigidly planned and executed pictures. They make me think of David Salle’s writing on intentionality. The research that went into Collishaw’s concept for the show seems pretty interesting, but the paintings are left with nothing to do formally except illustrate one idea about art and biology, using the same juxtaposition (plumage/graffiti) twelve times over. This is painting pressed into the service of Post-Conceptualism (LeWitt’s idea-is-the-machine-that-makes-the-art) and Post-Minimalist seriality. That’s not what I’m looking for at the moment.


Fred Tomaselli Saturday, January 17, 2015 (2016) acrylic and ink on paper 126.4 x 125.7cm

Fred Tomaselli Paper at White Cube, Mason’s Yard
17 March – 13 May 2017

Until now, I’d only seen Tomaselli’s paintings in reproduction. In the flesh, the construction of these works on paper is homespun and low-tech. They feel like a souped up psychedelic school-project, cut-and-pasted the old fashioned way with carefully hand-painted text and patterns. Up close the acrylic and gouache colours are flat, mat and opaque, but from a distance they swirl and vibrate. His paint is applied with the steady-handed precision of an air-fix enthusiast, and I wondered if some of the more repetitious patterning could have been executed by assistants. It looks like a process that might have the therapeutic meditative effect of meticulous doodling or hobby crafts. Some of the additions to newspaper images are reminiscent of the Chapmans’ Injury to Insult works, though I don’t know whether there’s influence going either way. I’m not very interested in Tomaselli’s handling of the drug theme, but it seems to be a good catalyst for making the work. The political commentary of the newspaper paintings requires more attention than I gave them, but again, my impression is that the thematic content serves the image making process more than the other way around.


Mamma Andersson Saturday (2017) oil on canvas 195 x 284cm

Mamma Andersson at Stephen Friedman
28 April – 27 May 2017

I’m not all that interested in recent paintings that appear to be traced from photographic sources, i.e. Tuymans, Dumas, Sasnal, Doig, Bas, and their followers. Many of Mamma Andersson’s paintings fit into this category. On top of that, her restrained earthy palettes often strike my colour-blind eyes as dirty and/or dull, so I didn’t go into this with high expectations. The exhibition text speaks of “strong narrative” and “emotive scenes”, but I found it difficult to engage with the work in that way, perhaps because much of the drawing looked to me like it had been traced from source images with a somewhat perfunctory line. I’m not always averse to fictive worlds rendered this way. In the work of Henry Darger, I enjoy the tension between his inelegantly traced figures and the roles they’re made to play in his highly personal and vividly rendered imaginings. I just haven’t yet found a way into Andersson’s world, and as a consequence many of the images here feel lifeless and second-hand, especially the stock-type hare and deer. On the positive, I enjoy the colour, high-contrast, and variety of technique in a painting like Saturday (above). Some of the paint is applied so drily I’m not sure if it was scrubbed on with a brush or if it’s oil stick. The dense black area on the right has the surface of forcefully applied wax-crayon, and the large yellow negative space of the back wall is “coloured in” with a relatively small brush, making a feature of the discrepancy between hastily covered open areas and denser more carefully filled-in edges. Cumulatively, these mark making choices create the varied patina of the image. I still can’t work out how the patterned curtain was painted, made as it is from exposed marks that are brusque and unfussy, not obviously masked, and yet perfectly formed, dragging into each other only when it suits the form. The larger paintings also seem to bring out Andersson’s interest in composition, with Saturday riffing on Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1.


James McNeill Whistler Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 (1871) oil on canvas 144.3 × 162.4cm

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Ryoji Ikeda π, e, Ø [installation view] (2017)

Ryoki Ikeda π, e, Ø at Almine Rech
6 April – 20 May 2017

From a distance, Ikeda’s pigment prints look like minimalist monochromes. Close up, the surface is covered in tiny perfectly defined numbers and barcode-like data. Stepping in for a close look results in a slightly disorientating optical strain, which I guess could be taken as some kind of microtechnological sublime. The exhibition instructs that these “must be taken as wonders” and describes them in terms of “restrained elegance”, “staggering detail”, and “numinous beauty”. Unfortunately, I don’t share their appetite for stark tech-fetishist precision manufacturing, nor the ascetic purging of human content. There is also an immersive room of sound and video works, but I’m guessing it’s all better suited to an audience with a more positive feeling toward technology than mine.


Pablo Picasso Marie-Thérèse au béret, rouge et au col de fourrure [Marie-Thérèse with beret, red and fur collar] (1937) oil on canvas

Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors at Gagosian, Gosvenor Hill
28 April – 25 August

Gagosian’s space is transformed with curtained partition walls, and feels more like a small museum. The extra wall space is necessary to present the amount and range of work in this exhibition, curated by Picasso biographer Sir John Richardson. The three promotional images on gagosian.com don’t even hint at the scope of this show. I don’t know enough about the gallery system to understand the implications of Gagosian putting on a show like this, but it’s certainly different to what I’ve seen there before. Works on paper are plentiful, showing Picasso’s famously effervescent creativity, but I like the large paintings best. These are fascinating in themselves and in relation to Picasso’s contemporaries (primarily Matisse), not to mention how they continue to feed into the work of living artists including David Hockney, George Condo, Ansel Krut and Dana Schutz. This is a free show of great work and well worth stopping by. It also contrasts with the other painting shows I’ve seen today, each in their own way mechanically assisted and/or preconceived. This is a reminder of how chaotic and spontaneous painting can be when it’s done without a safety net.


Justin Mortimer Fugue (2016) oil and acrylic on canvas 214 x 153cm

Justin Mortimer It Is Here at Parafin
30 March – 20 May

Mortimer’s paintings are high-contrast, highly coloured, and jaggedly composed, combining detailed representation with areas of painterly abstraction, and using varied techniques of paint application. These are all things I usually respond to. However, he also does one of my pet peeves: his representational passages are always lifted directly from photographic sources, leaning heavily on the kind of flash-bulb black-drop-shadow imagery that’s so dependable for creating punchy photographic depth and drama. It’s a photorealist trope kickstarted by Richter almost 50 years ago, later reworked by Tuymans, Sasnal, and Kippenberger (occasionally), with recent practitioners including Mortimer, Adrian Ghenie, Alexander Tinei, Marcin Maciejowski, et al. The world it evokes is vaguely disturbing and unmistakably modern, until you notice how popular it is as a technique, and then it starts to look kind of hacky (like vaseline on the lens to evoke a romantic atmosphere). In fairness, Mortimer uses it to better effect than any other current painter I can think of (along with Borremans, sometimes), his colours have become synthetically toxic (a bit like Neo Rauch around 2003, which I like) and he’s increasingly mixing things up so that the flash photo sources sometimes account for only a small part of each canvas. I just wish he’d let it go altogether sometimes, to see what else happens. He’s talented enough that all sorts of things must be possible. In the doorway of the exhibition there’s one small photo collage, presumably an example of the kind he makes in order to work his paintings from. It’s an honest presentation of his process, but highlights how formulated it has become. It’s like he started a series ten years ago and never stopped. But this is my hang up about a particular aesthetic, and if he likes it then why not?

Enchroma glasses: Part 2


170510a Flowers Plein Air with Glasses (2017) oil on canvas 35 x 35cm

These are the first two paintings made wearing the glasses to help with my colour blindness. The lenses filter out light, so it’s like wearing sunglasses. For that reason, I had to paint outside in direct sunlight.

I don’t know if what I see through the glasses is any closer to normal colour vision, but they do make me experience and treat colour differently. Reds and greens have become much more exciting. For example, looking at the Flowers picture above, when I take off the glasses the clarity of the greens begin to fade, and although I can still see the greenness, my eye begins to group the greens with the background colours, causing much of the composition to become more undifferentiated.

This is something I’m noticing about the glasses. They give reds, greens, violets, and reddish-browns greater clarity and vibrancy, making them more attractive to the eye, which changes the way they function compositionally.

If this changed perception is closer to normal colour vision then I think these glasses could be very helpful to me in making pictures that can be enjoyed by people with and without colour vision deficiency. However, that still depends on me developing my feel for colour generally, and I have a long way to go with that, with or without the glasses.


170510b Heading West Plein Air with Glasses (2017) oil on canvas 35 x 30cm

Nice quote from Chris Martin


Chris Martin Untitled (2014) acrylic, oil and glitter on canvas 223.5 x 195.6cm

“… that seems to be the discipline: to learn to do what one wants to do. And that’s a hard thing to do.” Chris Martin

That sentiment echoes Peter Saul, Lisa Yuskavage and others I’ve quoted on this blog. The quote comes at 3:40 in this video of a noisy ebullient Q&A with Chris Martin (shot and posted by James Kalm – thank you James!).

Enchroma glasses: Part 1


These are notes on my first day with Enchroma glasses, designed to balance my colour vision and counteract my colour vision deficiency (mild protan). I paid for these and I’m not getting payment from Enchroma for ads or anything, so this is an honest appraisal.

There are many different aspects to this, regarding not only the sense data from our eyes but also the neurological processing that follows. I might get onto that another time. For now, here are notes on pictures I looked at with the glasses on, in sunlight. I looked at hundreds of images, all familiar to me. These are some that jumped out, for various reasons.

I’m including two versions of each image: first seen through Photoshop’s filter to simulate my type of colour blindness; and second with normal colour settings. The filter isn’t an accurate simulation of my colour blindness, but it might help to illustrate the difference between how I’ve seen the paintings in the past and how I see them now with the glasses.


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] Dana Schutz Mulch (2004) oil on canvas 55.9 x 71.1cm

Schutz’s Mulch is a pretty extreme distortion of natural colour and physiognomy, even to people with normal colour vision, but for me the form is much more legible with the boosted reds drawing attention to the severed limb and bloodied mouth.


Dana Schutz Mulch (2004) oil on canvas 55.9 x 71.1cm


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] Dana Schutz Shaving (2010) oil on canvas 182.9 x 213.4cm

Shaving wasn’t one of my favourite paintings by Schutz, and I only recently noticed the redness of the ground and the beach (the Photoshop filter neutralises reds and greens very aggressively, whereas I’m able to see reds and greens, just duller than normal colour vision). With the glasses on today, the red parts of the painting sung out more clearly and the balance between the colours in the picture became far more enjoyable. This changed the effect of the composition, and the relationship between the environment and the figure.


Dana Schutz Shaving (2010) oil on canvas 182.9 x 213.4cm


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] Dana Schutz Men’s Retreat (2005) oil on canvas 243.8 x 304.8cm

I know this painting well, but seeing Men’s Retreat with the glasses was a real transformation. In particular, the vividness of the red ground in the bottom left corner totally changed the sense of space and contrast with the greenery above. The glasses give me a much clearer impression of the red/green contrast of the picture’s palette. I don’t usually find the word “beautiful” to be helpful, but in this case that’s what came to mind when I saw the painting this way.


Dana Schutz Men’s Retreat (2005) oil on canvas 243.8 x 304.8cm


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] Lisa Yuskavage Northview (2000) oil on linen 195.6 x 157.5cm

Yuskavage’s Northview is another image I’ve seen many times before without particularly enjoying the colour, but with the glasses it absolutely popped for me. The increased redness on the body was the most obvious difference, but the colour relations of the whole picture was what really surprised me. The colours added up to a much more enjoyable whole. The single red flower in the bottom left corner is a good example of the kind of small patch of red that I sometimes don’t notice until I look at it directly, but with the glasses the redness of it drew my eye right away.


Lisa Yuskavage Northview (2000) oil on linen 195.6 x 157.5cm


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] Tracey Moffatt Something More #1 (1989) cibachrome print 100 × 130cm

This Tracey Moffatt photograph was everywhere when I was studying art in the 90s. This Photoshop simulation doesn’t capture my colour blindness – I can easily see that the ground and the dress in the real image are bright red. However, it was the blue sky contrasting with the golden corn that I remembered most clearly from this image, whereas today with the glasses on it was the ground that jumped out at me as the most wildly expressionistic colour in the picture, glowing impossibly red like burning embers.


Tracey Moffatt Something More #1 (1989) cibachrome print 100 x 130cm


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] Tilo Baumgartel The Dependent Independent (2009) oil on canvas 210 x 300cm

Often I overlook small areas of colour, especially red. Previously, when I looked at Baumgartel’s The Dependent Independent, I hadn’t spotted the strip of red by the shop door. With the glasses, I notice it immediately, and consequently it plays a much more important role in the composition as I perceive it.

BaumgartelDependent Independent

Tilo Baumgartel The Dependent Independent (2009) oil on canvas 210 x 300cm


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] Mark Bradford Measuring the Moment (2009) billboard paper, acrylic gel medium, carbon paper, nylon string, and additional mixed media on canvas 122 x 152cm

Mark Bradford’s Measuring the Moment is another example of small patches of red that caught my eye immediately with the glasses on. I’d hardly noticed them in the past.


Mark Bradford Measuring the Moment (2009) billboard paper, acrylic gel medium, carbon paper, nylon string, and additional mixed media on canvas 122 x 152cm


[simulated protan colour vision deficiency] I Nyoman Masriadi Hisap (Suck) (2010) acrylic on canvas 200 x 150cm

The colour of black skin has been for me, until now, pretty much a mystery brown. I’d seen Masriadi’s Hisap (Suck) before today, but with the glasses I noticed how red the man is compared to other black faces in the same book (in paintings by Nina Chanel Abney and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye).


I Nyoman Masriadi Hisap (Suck) (2010) acrylic on canvas 200 x 150cm

I’ve spoken a lot about red in this post, but there was also a  photograph of a work by Heimo Zobernig in which the green absolutely captivated me. Unfortunately I can’t find the image online to post here.

My sense of what green actually is seems to be more complicated than red. The bright green of grass is not a problem, but I can easily get very confused with cooler “cyan” greens. The complimentary relationship between red and green might be part of this – it wouldn’t be surprising if a deficiency in one impacted the other.

There’s much more to be explored with these glasses but, as a first day experiment, I’m interested in what they do. They don’t allow me to see “new colours”, but they change the balance of colours to give reds more prominence and, as a result, to distinguish greens more easily from browns. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. More to come…

New material: Paper


170424h (2017) oil on canvas 11 x 9cm

I made these when I started painting in colour again after the Berlin exhibition. I didn’t bother posting them at the time because I thought they were so uninteresting, but they’ve grown on me while they’ve been hanging about drying.


170424i (2017) oil on canvas 13 x 11cm

I tried making a painting with similar blobby spots of colour over tonal gradations (below). As is often the case when I plan a picture, the looseness got lost and was replaced by a static illustrational effect. Lately I’m in the habit of mixing a set of colours to make a “tight” painting like this, in order to free me up to use the left-over colours in more casual “experiments”.


170506a Deer Eating Watermelon (2017) oil on canvas 25 x 30cm

Deer Eating Watermelon (above) was painted on my last piece of canvas and the new stuff hasn’t been delivered. I used the remaining paint on pieces of ordinary photocopy paper. It’s really interesting how differently the paint goes on to such a smooth white surface, and dries almost on contact, allowing other colours to be laid on top almost immediately without blending. I wonder if there are ways of priming canvas to behave in the same way, in order to have parts of the painting on that kind of surface and other parts on the type of canvas surface I’m already used to.


170506b Deer Watermelon (2017) oil on paper 21 x 30cm


170506c Deer Dog (2017) oil on paper 21 x 30cm


170506d Flowers (2017) oil on paper 21 x 30cm


170506e Dripping Keg (2017) oil on paper 21 x 30cm

I like when the colour relations cease to represent any particular objects or even light conditions, like the yellow and green in the background of this picture. Also, the orange and pink in 170505 Foot Transplant.

Stop worrying about the corners: John Currin

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John Currin Untitled (1989) gouache on paper 28.3 × 24.1cm

This gouache was on instagram today, with a quote from John Currin. The thoughts about  parody, satire and not knowing what’s being satirised, are familiar to me. Likewise, his changing understanding of composition (looking at “the right parts of the canvas”), and the idea that one painting can train you in how to make the next one

“This is around ‘88 or ‘89, and was one of my first figural things. It was right at the beginning of my transition from macho abstraction to… I didn’t know where I was going. On one level, it is a kind of parody or satire—though it’s not satire because it’s not really knowing well enough what I think I am satirizing. But it is meant as a slapstick parody of figurative painting—specifically of the kind of images high school girls would make. So this is basically a hornless unicorn, I guess—but actually this trained me to look at the right parts of the canvas for the first time, stop worrying about the corners, all that kind of stuff—just change my persona.” —John Currin.


John Currin Untitled (1990)

Just do it


170505 Foot Transplant (2017) oil on canvas 25 x 30cm

I got distracted by other things today, mostly making photo collages to use as colour palettes, and then abandoning them. I almost went to bed without painting at all, but I think it’s better to paint something every day, even if it’s not much. I painted this foot with the very last paint left from 170504e Trumpeter, and mixed new colours to complete the rest of the picture. I like it okay.