both painted July through August/ September. 2011, at this time I was looking at
Guston and Fiona Rea, also Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland, and I had just
discovered the work of current American (post) abstract painter and art critic,
Peter Plegens. I’d also discovered a book called Art Forms in Nature which
re-presented the colour plates of Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), which instantly
became a point of reference especially for my drawing.
They both follow the theme of the amalgamation of plant life and technology,
and ideas of the virtual. Also the other aspect of the work
is the fact of there being paintings- i.e. pigment on a surface, which is
perhaps stressed to a greater extent in these 2 pieces.
You can’t hide from your Bud is
derived from a detail of a drawing, based on a sort of old
fashioned TV Ariel which is assembled from different chunks of things, (technological, fungal.)
Following on from In Dust We Trust this is again a composition of odd clunky objects assembled
around the edges and bottom of the image. This time they appear to lock together
as if morphed together but growing out and dividing like a branch. The idea of a
branch made of excess technology was a starting point for the drawing, again
visualising the amalgamation and transformation of the tech into the vegetative.
Also I’m increasingly thinking that my child-hood toys are an influence on the appearance of my work.
The bottom centre square, ring like piece is derived from
an idea of the encased coils of wire within a dynamo. The solid objects seem
less fussy and more natural where as the regular shape with a regular hole
through the middle seems so odd that it must be man made. Perhaps the seeing
through to the other side has connotations of screens. This ring like object
appears in other work, including Wing Mirror
Initially the painting was hard to balance; the unusual composition and odd shapes made it problematic.
The viewer was peering through this branch of machinery, but peering through to what?
It lacked an obvious focal point. …Bud quickly reached a stalemate and after lying around for a while,
I decided to attack it with some spontaneous marks, I flicked blue paint at it and this
fantastic flower head like streak appeared. I adjusted it to give it more depth and a more
sculpted quality but the bursting up movement remains, this seems to make the piece.
It supplies the necessary focal point, but it retains the force and spontaneity of
the initial mark. It is as if the entire object/image is pushing up to the top left,
it seemed obvious to keep this area light with the whites and yellows, as a flower would seek the light.
The yellow strip running under the main bulk of the solid “branch” partly apes the orange of Wing Mirror,
as well as being a nod to Peter Saville and his strain of graphic industrialism,
and perhaps acting as horizon line. The idea of solid blocks of colour
forming the background is present in In Dust We Trust, and continues in Crispy Abortion and
other works, I want the images to emerge from and contrast with solid (or liquid) blocks
of pure paint. Guston references Barnett Newman's zip paintings as backgrounds for
his politicised imagery, the resulting images both represent what they depict as well as what
they are, i.e. pigment on a surface. (Crispy Abortion begins to reference Clyfford Still) In
this case the yellow underline takes on a glowing appearance, as well as balancing the composition.
After the central blue splash signified the up and left motion, the rest of the composition quickly
fell into place. The tangle of wires and stems or branches, were added coming out of the solid piece,
top left, (which resembles the back of an old TV or monitor.) The drips along the bottom
morphed into roots whilst remaining drips, and the meeting of the colours, to the right of centre,
The Far left of the composition is where the division between the solid object and the wispy background begins to completely break down, the negative space and flow of composition begins to define itself autonomously as the blue-grey, and yellow-green and white meet in a mangle of forms, verging on becoming Kandinsky like in appearance, and giving the sense that the object (the branch of tech) is rising into the light to disintegrate almost like a religious ascension. Crikey.
Looking now at You Can’t Hide From Your Bud, I see a lot of Sutherland in it. The piece
also exists in the context of the music I was immersed in at the time, -assembling mix-tapes partly
in the style of early 00’s mix’s by Luke Slater and Richie Hawtin in which minimal pieces of techno music
are broken down into there component parts and reassembled.
You Can’t Hide From Your Bud is the title of a House track by producer DJ Sneak.
I appropriated it to describe the blue spontaneous "Bud” in the piece, also implying the narrative
of the bud seeking me out, it almost aggressively asserts itself rising from the greying, solidly, mechanical
forms, the blue bud was the key to making this piece work, but it was not preconceived, which
is not to say it was predestined either, rather that the piece would never have worked with out it,
remaining un-finished, failed. I would have moved on to another piece which no doubt would
require some similar key to its resolution, which may or may not have been found, and so on until I
found a way of making it work, so long as I continued I would find the solution, or the “bud”, ergo
you can’t hide from your bud, as it will find you, what are the other options? Of course
a bud is only a beginning.
In some ways Wing Mirror is a transitional work or perhaps more accurately the first beginnings of
galvanising my ideas with-in a satisfactory image.
Again the fusing of the technological with the biological rendered in paint. More than previous works
it morphs regular blocky, almost superficially cubist, shapes with stem, branch like growths. The result is
the over all appearance becoming like coral, and stalagmites but some dynamism
remains present with-in the composition.
The general shape of the main “object” is vaguely plant like. It follows the template of
vegetation; a stem/trunk like base, splaying out into branches at the top but also the template is defied in
an apparently unnatural way as branches fuse back together again and regular rectangular shapes
appear at the top.
As with …Bud and In Dust... there is a weightlessness to the objects, partly due to
this unnatural quality of apparently heavy objects at the top of the composition and also the appearance
of a tilted perspective on the lower right assemblage. It is also as a result of the objects with in the
space being treated in a compositional manner, there is a balance to them as with the coloured
blocks in a Mondrian, or Peter Plagens, whose’ work I am interested in. Also there is a symmetrical
quality to the composition, the weight of the object existing in both the bottom right and top left of a
roughly square area. In a certain sense I want the painting to contain the airlessness quality of a
purely abstract work. (I was also looking at Arshile Gorky.)
Again there is the problem of fusing the background with the object, or the object emerging
out of the paint. This is tied to the issue of representation with-in painting, on one hand I
don’t want anything in the painting to exist as an object, on the other hand I do. The object here follows
a surreal tradition, although rather than combining disparate objects or images like say Magritte,
it is combining two themes. The background however follows an abstract tradition of formal composition. There is an interaction as the ochre starts to take on the appearance of foliage in places, and splashes
and drips become tangles of roots.
There is always an idea when I paint, probably taken from Francis Bacon, that I want to try and
wrong foot my self throw something odd or un-planed into the mix. In part it is a technique to
force a justification for the final image as well as innovate something unexpected and original. Perhaps
also the contrast and contradiction that is thrown up is more interesting and attractive than something
David Sylvester a reviewer and writer, who had a relatively close dialogue with Bacon, is written about
in the catalogue to the recent Picasso exhibition at Tate Britain, in reference to a 1965 review.
“He identified in Picasso a tendency to isolate one aspect or another in each painting, causing them
to lack the internal contradictions that he saw as essential to a great work of art.”
James Beechy- Picasso and Modern British art.
I share his view on contradictions; I always want some source of friction in a piece. This piece
started with a composition of other objects which are now beneath the greys and oranges. Some
of them show through, the beak like white object at the top right, and the bright orange concentric
squares top left. So in a way the “bud”, the spontaneous marks, of this piece lies buried behind
the tangled form and sludge grey.
The wing mirror title reefers to the top centre branch, also there is an idea to reference
Richard Hamilton’s Hommage à Chrysler Corp. (1957) that includes images of cars, this oil and
collage work has large areas of blank, white colour which the objects/images fade in and out of
as if they are emerging from it.
The mirror suggests a screen, also combined with the looping over and intertwining of
the branches a suggestion of introspection, in contrast to the growth spurt like explosion of You
Can’t Hide from Your Bud.