Sienna around, 2014, 31x49cm, acrylic on plywood
I have been working for some time on a large painting on paper, getting my head around the scale of it. This is my third attempt and the most difficult one so far because I really stripped away any acquired method and preconception to allow something fresh to emerge (hard and slow work). Besides that I continue to work on a couple of smaller paintings on wood, using much the same approach and materials I have developed over the last few years.
Untitled, 2015, 28x32cm, acrylic and paper on plywood with plywood lintel
Can you describe your working routine?
I don't have one unfortunately! I have a full-time job four days a week so I aim for 30 to 40 hours painting time over about 6 sessions per month. Not a lot. Slow learning curve.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio is quite small and while I do have some natural light it is rather ”atmospheric" and I need to switch the ceiling halogen lights on to be able to see sufficiently. I have two desks and several trestles and I switch rather haphazardly between them and a couple of shelves to paint, put my tools and materials, cups of coffee etc. on. It's quite an easy space to heat which is a first as studios go - no more blue fingers in winter!
The first of larger painting of three, in progress –
the finished work looks quite different, see below
A close friend asked me not long ago "what do you want from your work"? Key question, right? This was my answer and it still holds true right now, being recent, though as we all know these assessments change as we keep evolving:
In the studio I want the painting to develop freely and become something unanticipated. I want it to be more than me so I have to follow rather than lead. This only works when I am feeling strong and self-confident - then I am more daring and cope better with the necessary ambiguity and planlessness of the process and I am able to make the more difficult choices and be persistent. The painting is best when it has an anxious energy and uncertainty and when its complexity isn't down to the amount of its components but how they behave (their shape, materiality and colour) towards another and within the outer confines. They need to look concise and simple and at the same time indefinable and shifty... I think I am describing the state of being alive, that anxiety of questioning everything constantly and being suspicious of simplistic concept, ideas and certainties. I seem to be trying to emulate that with my work, although it's not something I have ever consciously aimed for - I have just realised by looking at my method and approach and the outcomes I judge to be successful, that ultimately it is this "life-anxiety" what I seem to be after in my paintings. There is also something to do with suffering and grace but I haven't yet been able to get my head around that...
The first larger painting of three,
finished and not bad but in my view not wholly successful
Untitled 2014, 145x165cm, conté and acrylic on paper
The second larger painting when it was close to completion -
the black paper at the bottom is still only tacked on as a trial
Untitled 2014, 1.45x1.65cm, conté and acrylic on paper
Beginning the third larger work on paper at the end of 2014 –
it’s very different now and still far from finished
Untitled 2015 (unfinished), approx. 150x170cm acrylic on oiled paper
The word "resolve" is quite multifaceted - it has a few different meanings which could be interesting to apply to the creative process. I assume that in this question it is meant to imply the achievement of a solution. And I am not aiming for a solution in my paintings so this struggle is not mine.
smaller paintings and drawings
(in front: paint sketch III 2014, A4, acrylic on paper)
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
I love paper and wood for their complexity, texture and flexibility. I never enjoyed painting on canvas especially not if it is stretched over a frame - I hate the springiness of it. I have long worked with pressed pigments, linseed oil, varnishes and I use acrylics as my main medium. I have tried my hands at oils and turned out a rather lovely, luminous little painting but I didn't fall in love with the technique which at the time I found a bit too precious and restricting. I always liked the immediacy and plainness of acrylic as well as their easy adaptability so that's why I stuck with them. Though this may change of course - things shouldn't get to comfortable so if that threatens I may need to switch to a different medium.
a detail of dove grey curve
(dove grey curve 2014, 33x36cm, acrylic and varnish on plywood)
I hope I don't know. I shall be very happy as long as I'm able to keep painting and continue to meet the unexpected in my work.
There have been great artists who were able to put their experience, thoughts and feeling into words eloquently and often beautifully. Kandinsky was one and I happened to talk to another artist about his book today which is very good. A quote then, and a sort of appeal:
“… lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and … stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to “walk about” into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?”
untitled, 2014, 30x38cm, acrylic on plywood