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.
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.
This post is to attempt to explain my currant plan as we move toward the degree show. The show itself has left me spinning in mental circles: how would someone react to ____, what effect would ______ have on their understanding of my concept, if I do ____ instead of ____ would it improve or be a massive screw-up?
Well step 1 is to experiment a bit further with color and the sense of time/place achieved by the image itself. I am satisfied with the shape of the canvas, but I need to refine the process a touch. Given the time, I’m not opposed to playing with the shape a bit more. That would probably be in the form of stretching the width a bit more, giving the top view more of a semi-ovular than semi-circular shape.
Step 2 is where and how to display the work. While last in the Tate Britain I spend some time considering the circular room on the lower level. It was intimate and engulfing (or might have been if it were less crowded). I was disappointed that Laura’s workshops on displaying art have been pushed back, but if she thinks this is doable then I want to try. If not I’ll play with similar alternatives.
How much information is necessary? Always an important question for an artist to consider. What information must I give in order to convey the important ideas without loosing its ambiguity?
The idea specifically in question is the fact that some of the images I’ve been painting are based on multiple experiences. It’s been suggested that in painting these that the image itself should show these multilayered places through motif and multiplicity in line. But the idea is that multiple experiences occupy a single memory. Purposely portraying them as multiples betrays that a bit. While mentally playing this out, the roadblock is in a singular moment overshadowing the whole. Is this aspect worth the risk? Or can I suggest the idea in a much more subtle way?
Color may be the answer to most of my questions. Subtle shifts (which will have to be tested and played with a lot before changing the canvas) will hopefully gently suggest different times and places. It seems a good way to balance idea and information. Keeping the image as a whole singular moment, but shifting colors within that singular moment to suggest otherwise. (And Keeping in mind Giorgio de Chirico’s and Peter Doig’s color usage)
There’s been some debate over the shapes my paintings have taken in the last few months.* Essentially it always comes down to “Is it necessary?” Curving a plane is obviously a significant choice made by the artist (aka me). And there are a multitude of ideas and choices that have lead me down this particular, peculiar track.
Canvas specifically has a beautiful tension to it once stretched around a curve. This tension exists in every well made canvas, but it is less apparent to the eye. Because it doesn’t want to stretch perfectly evenly on such a shape, it lends a unique warp to the existing visuals rather than needing to create some form of distortion less organically. Using a very simple and conventional 1pt perspective on the surface easily portrays something off putting about the space while still retaining a bit of ambiguity.
Paintings and pictures of landscapes, cityscapes and other places (more specifically those on the realist end of the spectrum) have a tendency to act like a window the spectator peers through into this other place. (This idea draws upon some of the research I did for my dissertation.) The perfect right angles of a canvas and the widow-like nature usually works. But this is something different. I want them more reminiscent of a thought or a flashback. Similar to sight (and Rob Pepperall’s work, and the work I did last year) thoughts memories, visions, and dreams never have square edges. The curved canvas lends a liminal aspect to the piece. It is a piece in transition: between object and painting, between dream and memory, between time and space, between place and non-place. It’s all these things and none of them (it’s Schrodinger’s canvas).
In making and painting them, I’ve found that they are strangely both inclusionary and exclusionary in the same moment. The perspective invites the spectator in to the space created while the canvas itself curves away from them. Both familiar and other, they play with the eye and our desire to see a full picture. They question the way in which we inhabit a space by subverting the expected. I don’t believe any of this would come across the same way where they painted on some other surface.
I am by far not the first to paint on something unrectangular. The tondo has been in use since before Michelangelo.
Edward Clark experimented with shaped canvas from the 30’s through the 60’s. He stated “..all great artists can only do what they esteem to be right. No matter how it appears at first, it will always be beautiful.”
I could give a full list of others who’ve painted on irregular canvases, as well as those like Rauschenberg and Anselm Kiefer who bridge the gap between sculpture and painting. I merely do something similar to achieve my own means.
*It’s only a few compared to the multitude who like it, but as of yet it I still believe that their opinion matters. Not that I actually take their advice often, but it is still worth my consideration.