Friday, December 09, 2005
Cleaning my brain
" I'm painting... I'm painting again !
I'm cleaning... cleaning my brain ! "
Talking Heads: Artists Only
These are the words that bounce around my brain today as I work on my first painting for 20 years. Damn, it feels good to be pushing this material around... a whole new timescale in image creation. Another object in the world. Another item to be stored. It's the physicality of the object that interests me, on various levels. Hence working on a reasonable scale, one determined by practical issues (any bigger and it wont fit in the car), whilst maximising those limits - 12mm MDF with a 2" batton on the back edges to lift it out from the wall. A solid object. To be further solidified with a steel frame.
I've been resisting the desire to paint for years as it just didn't seem relevant somehow. Over the course of hanging countless shows, I kept noticing myself being drawn to qualities in various paintings. I've always envied the apparent simplicity of the painter's lot: surface, material, tool to move material across surface. That's it. Well, technically at any rate. Of course this doesn't mean that it's a simple matter once the materials are in place, but all the problems to be addressed are within those terms of reference. No need to re-invent the wheel every day.
So why paint ? You've got to be careful not to be seduced purely for reasons of craft. Sure, those qualities are important, but they're not the be all and end all. Having worked (and continuing to work) on computer, I can achieve incredible levels of visual sophistication with Photoshop, but the end product, no matter how professionally printed, is still a single uniform surface. It's like formica. You engage with the image on one level: it presents itself as an image whilst seeming to remove all trace of its manufacture.
With paint, there's the solid fact of its immediate material presence. Layers built up laboriously. The gradual formation of surface over time. Zen concentration. The interaction of areas of light and dark pushing up against each other. Fluid and active. The push and pull of negative and positive space. The dance the eye does over this surface to make sense of it, pull it together. The interaction of retinal and physical pleasure of image and surface. How the latter heightens the impact of the former. A visceral connection. Gut response.
I've always been drawn to images that teeter on the cusp between abstraction and figuration. Initially it seems all surface, then there is the delay, until the brain makes sense of seemingly disparate elements, which then lock into place. Choice of music today pulsed with the physicality of sound: "Kajo" by Mika Vainio - all humming, buzzing, crackling and droning. The purity of electricity. "0" by Kontakte Der Junglinge - tectonic plates of sound colliding and scraping. Seismic low end eruptions. "Insulation" by Oren Ambarchi - charred lumps of processed guitar floating through ghostly orbits.