When embarking on painting again after a prolonged absence often the hardest thing is simply picking up a paint brush, and having just moved into my first dedicated studio for a number of years the feeling of intimidation was only compounded. My mind was taken immediately to Phillip Guston’s profoundly accurate quote, ‘studio ghosts’, and the daunting nature of being present in the studio;
‘When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you – your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics… and one by one if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting you walk out!’
(Extracts from the blue studio notebook 2017)
Continuing from whence i left off.
Having revised and refreshed my mind as to the leads & concepts i was following previously, I picked up on the Pollock style ‘pour’ technique – more than anything as a way back into the practice of painting full stop. The spontaneous and free style offering a suitable way to loosen the painting muscles after a prolonged period of under use.
Stained rice paper with a burnt sienna wash. I waited for the wash to dry before proceeding with a poured, thread approach (as i was toying with in previous experiments). The immediate observations are that the more circular shaped marks and lines are not so successful. Shorter, softer, disjointed marks applied in a straighter fashion from left to right across the page work in a far more successful manor. When referred back to Pollock’s ‘Untitled 1951’ it becomes evident Pollock must have made similar observations – The rich black and Sienna threads are draped from left to right with only small rises and falls vertically along the paper.
When embarking on painting again after a prolonged absence picking up a brush again is often the hardest thing. In this case, it is the first time in a number of years that i actually have a space that i can truly label a studio. An area in which to throw paint around, experiment distraction free, without any inhibiting exterior factors. This combined, make my first visit potentially all the more daunting.
Aware of the need to just ‘make’, without any preconceptions or hopes as to the outcome was the most important thing. I have regularly stated in the past, painting, so often leads the way. Trust your instincts and intuition. With this in mind, I began the next pieces very much in a familiar manor, in a highly improvised way, working on large scale through a a range of tools and mediums (whatever was at hand) – a way of exercising the painting muscles and easing them into life once more.
The process quickly led to becoming concerned with the factors i was toying with previously – combing a Pollock’s later ‘pour technique’ with an eastern calligraphic aesthetic. I began by staining some Fabriano drawing paper i cut off a big role i had, staining once again with a Burnt Sienna wash applied through a cloth followed by a rich black stain, mixing and applying with my hands in parts, in an effort to accentuate areas and blend others, an attempt in some to simply get ‘something down’ and obliterate the perfect white of the support. I then applied black marks through the poured Turkey Baster approach, pulling the piece together by merging areas of stain and wash with the rich velvet texture of the black threads.
On a separate sheet of rice paper i began staining the paper with a slightly pigmented wash before ripping areas of the saturated paper away and overlaying it atop the sheet of Fabriano. Resulting in veils of transparencies floating across areas of richly pigmented paper, shifting between a soft and sharp focus as they drift.
Returning to the studio I extended the process I began previously by applying heavier washes of pigment to the underlying Fabriano this time. I then introduced other colours to the piece by once again staining rice paper but with other pigmented washes, before dropping and draping the segments over the piece, this time often allowing areas to stand proud of the layers beneath creating a greater depth and variety of tone, The black threads of the pour technique snaking across the piece through a variety of bleeds, saturation and perfect threads.
The pieces are certainly recognisable within the canon of landscape, their earthly colours, depth, and the excavation of layers anchor them in the discipline.
Where do they fit in the greater scheme of thought?… Definitely still identifiable with the processes of improvisation and the deeply spontaneous.
My mind keeps returning to the same question;
What is the line beneath which I feel (creatively) compromised?…