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)
The City & The City by China Miéville was suggested to me on the basis of my work a few weeks ago. Although I’ve not had the time to get more than a chapter or two into the book, the premise intrigues me. Playing with the idea from theoretical physics that more than one object can occupy the same physical space, the two cities of this book and their inhabitants occupy the same space physical space as each other.
My work in part entails the idea of multiple experiences occupying a single memory, similar to the cities occupying the same physical space. But within the book the inhabitants of each city are required to never the presence of one another. Should my work do the same? It is aloud to acknowledge that the singular moments are incomplete or that they are an amalgamation of pieces?
And why am I always left with more questions than answers?
Finished the book, and would highly recommend to to anyone who, like myself, enjoys Orwellian literature and the like. No additional revelations in relation to my work since only the mise-en-scène had any helpful insights. There was however the curious question about what exists between the two places, but to say more might spoil something for any potential readers, so I shall say no more on the subject.
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.
In most aspects of life, I consider myself to be a realist. That is especially true of my color choices while painting because I usually paint from reference or en plein air. This current series of work, being in part from memory and imagination leaves the colors in my control more than usual. It also happens that the few colors that do correspond in memory are varying shades of gray and beige. But grays and beiges don’t evoke memory as much as less muted tones might. So the trick is balancing the two together…somehow…
In searching for the palette I’d use for some of my transitional images Peter Doig’s work was suggested to me by a few colleagues. Taking a closer look at his work I found a few of his paintings containing this strange bluey-green hue. The color itself is between alien and familiar, and between bright and muted. It was a perfect starting point for mixing my palette.
Memory always seems intertwined with dream in painting. I just want to briefly touch on a few paintings currently influencing my thought process in similar ways.
Daybreak Paco Pomet-
The colors in this one remind me of Giorgio de Chirico’s timeless and placeless skies, but with a more realist than surrealist attitude.
The Edge of Reality Eric Roux-Fontaine-
This one is defiantly on the more dream-like side of the spectrum. It’s delicate in use of color while maintaining a sense of timelessness and placelessness.
Migration, Mapping a Galaxy, and Memory Palace Joshua Flint-
I’m never sure where I stand with Flint’s work. It’s narrative but also wonderfully ambiguous as to each image’s origin. The statement on his website reflects some of the things I’ve been trying to achieve:
“The paintings fluctuate between the familiar and the unknown while simultaneously including the past and present…That ambiguity, between the seen and unseen, between the real and the imaginary, is where my paintings live.”- excerpt from the artist statement on Flint’s website
Oregon Ladder (study), Someday Again, and Library by the Sea Jeremy Miranda-
Similar to Flint, Jeremy Miranda’s work occupies very liminal spaces, between places of dream and memory.