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Traditional painting is a handmade process built over time and has a physical presence. It is an accumulation of gestures, colours, and textures. The painted mark is at once a thing in itself and the thing that it describes. In this way, a viewer is always conscious of the painting’s making. The speed of the mark, fast or slow, and the time it takes to make a work become part of its meaning. Looking over a long time is like an attempt to merge with something outside of oneself. The dense accumulation of visual information, which is the product of this kind of looking, is different from how the lens and the eye usually see the world.
Painting is subjective. There is a kind of alchemy that happens when the visual information moves from the eye or mind to the brush. It’s an intuitive process. Achieving a likeness isn’t interesting in itself; it’s more of an entry point. A good portrait, for example, tells you what the person was like or how the artist viewed them. What the artist thinks or feels, consciously or unconsciously, is embedded in the work. Painting both represents the world and creates its own world. A viewer can, figuratively, enter a painting and occupy that space. A painting speaks about something lasting outside of the flux of daily life. As people, this is what we connect with.
When you paint, you’re in competition with painters of the past. You say to them: ‘It was easier for you. There was less competition from other art forms,’ you confront art history attempting to do something almost impossible: to interrupt its voracious flow with your own subjective sense of the world hoping to obtain a result that will feel active and not subservient to the past. This process can be humbling, since the paintings of artists you most admire continually rise up in the midst of your own work.
Painting and photography have so much in common but one essential difference is that the camera usually needs something physical to photograph, whereas a painting can be a representation of something that isn’t there yet, involving every sort of responsibility for choice and decision. And in the case of ‘figurative’ art, the original link is still in it to see. Also, in painting, there is the actual weight of paint rather than the appearance of weight and without mechanical intervention there is more obvious authorship, which is good or bad, depending on how you see things.
Our perception has many subjective filters – the mind, the body, the memory – and because of painting’s huge range of possibilities from representation to pure abstraction, it has the ability to invent and find surprising new forms for non-visible phenomena. The coloured vectors that often traverse the space in my paintings, for example in Breakers (2012), are an unconscious outpouring that takes the form of a spatialized cosmic doodle.
For symbolic, aesthetic, practical or economic reasons, the truth is that Painting has always been humanity’s favorite and most used artistic medium, along with music, the one with the greatest influence on society. Painting is difficult, yet pure and wonderful!