My recent body of work has been an exploration of the interaction between memory and liminal or transitory places. Drawing on the idea of the ‘non-place’, these liminal spaces are often encountered while traveling from one place to another. I paint from my own extensive experiences of travel and my memories of being suspended in transitory places. I aim to warp the viewer’s understanding of the painted space by creating shaped canvases that distort the surface.
My work is on the walls. It’s a fairly simple arrangement. My only concern is if I allowed enough distance between them for people to freely move around each painting, but not too much distance that they seem less of a series.
Always a balancing act.
But other than that, I’m satisfied with them. That’s all you can really ask for anyway.
Color is a strange beast within my practice. Although I am entranced by the ways in which some artists will use color, it rarely permeates my own work to a significant degree. My colors tend to stay muted or gray, at least until the series of canvases on display for the degree show. I knew I wanted pops of color interspersed in the soft, cool tones of the majority. But it took ages to figure out where that line between too much and not enough sat. With each sketch, I felt as if I was endlessly playing with the saturation bar on photoshop. I think restricting the size of the canvases helped in that respect as well. If they had been larger, the balance of saturation would have had the extra variable of the over all square footage of the brighter spaces.
What do I want the color to accomplish?
It should balance on the wire between the real and the imagined. The oranges and blues should lend a sense of time so that the series might be read as a disjointed journey rather than simply individual moments. The windows should sometimes allude to an outside that the spectator is unable to reach from within the confines of the painted space. Although the bright areas might give hope to what lays at the end, the interiors should bear a soft sense of dreariness that cannot be shaken free.
Balance is the intended purpose of my color usage. Between real or imagined, color or monochrome, here or there, wonder or despair, and place and non-place.
In this post I’d like to compare two very different examples of how an artist paints a space in comparison to the way I have for my recent work. The two painters I chose are Linden Frederick and David Salle.
Linden Frederick’s Tenant is almost photographic in the tranquil portrayal of a building that might exist anywhere in America. In a weird way, there’s no evidence that the subject matter even exists outside of its painted form. It sits outside of time and place, and outside of seeming ‘special’ because it is so mundane a subject. As in most of Frederick’s work the subject seems to exit everywhere and nowhere in the same space of thought. That aspect of his work is reminiscent of Marc Auge’s ‘non-places’.
David Salle’s Last Light uses elements painted as if collaged together. Although the individual pieces within the work are painted realistically enough that they are recognizable as objects, his combination of different color schemes, angles of view, and somewhat disjointed collections of people/objects remove a sense of place from his work. He doesn’t simply display a different type of non-place, but rather denies a sense of place ever existed in the realm of his work.
Although Salle’s work seems more contemporary and visually interesting, I prefer Frederick’s work in relation to the ideas of non-place I’m dealing with. Instead of distorting the visual until it seems to be without place, I’d rather embrace the placelessness that it already possesses and then amplify it.
*Two other works that would fit this similar comparison are Paul Winstanley’s TV Room V and Patrick Caulfield’s After Lunch.
What is the goal with my current series of paintings? Honestly, I didn’t know myself what it might be until not so long ago. It’s one of those aspects prefer not to think on. What will people think about this? If they are only left with a single thing, what do I think most important to that end? Answers in art tend to be fairly ambiguous unless you’re dealing with some type of specific political, social, economic, or societal viewpoint the artist wants to introduce/draw attention to/persuade people of… which I try to avoid for the most part.
What/Who do I want to affect?
Well, I suppose the hope is that people first encounter the work interesting enough to engage with. Subsequently that they would relate with the subject matter and question their own liminal places after encountering a few of mine. There’s no over arching meta-narrative. I instead seek to impart the questions that I’ve been resulting with into others, not out of a pursuit of answers but to pursue better questions.
What do I hope the viewer will be left with?
The pieces I’ve painted deal more with the memory of the shape of things rather than the objects or places themselves. I think that the one of the bus portrays this the most obviously. In the same way my memories are more of the shapes of places/objects, I expect that those who remember my work will first think of the shape of the canvases.
In a weird way they’re left with the memory of the shape of the memory of the shape of something.
I went to the museum intending to see the Peter Doig paintings recently on display, but I ended up spending more time engrossed by another piece of the collection. The ‘Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon’ or ‘frequency illusion’ is when you learn some obscure piece of information (like a new word or in this case a color) and it keeps popping up afterwards. That blue-green color I was staring to explore on my canvases after coming across some of Peter Doig’s work (not the same ones now in Cardiff Museum) held my attention longer than most artworks can. I journaled my thoughts about the painting. Here’s a section of that:
Right now I sit in front of Dexter Dalwood’s 2003 painting Oscar Wilde, entranced by the swirling night sky filling two-thirds of the canvas. Reds with hints of purple and brown, yellows and golden-oranges, soft greens and dark blues; these are what draw my eye. I know I should be asking questions of the piece to learn what it’s ‘about’, but with most paintingsI’m happy to witness them as a play in color (whether they are intended for that or not). Behind me sits a Francis Bacon with a similar greenish-blue: 1953, Portrait of a Man. To my right is R. B. Kitaj’s 1973, Still (The Other Woman) once again using these familiar hues. But even while surrounded by Francis Bacon’s and Lucian Freud’s, my attention keeps returning to this Dexter Dalwood. Why is that? It feels familiar to my own work, but also as to somewhere I’ve been. It exists as both dream and memory. The lamp’s bright glow is unnerving and the street signs are impossible to read. I think it is the combination of the color’s brightness and subtlety. It feels in the midst of movement, yet somehow silent…