Wednesday, 22 May 2013

On being vulnerable
This post was going to be about Realism. 
But now its about all kinds of theory that I'm going to go ahead and pretend I understand.

Two of Jeff Koons' Sacred Hearts, reproductions of 'banal' objects, of which I'm fond of
 exactly for the ideas that it mock
From Still life 2010
25 x 35 cm, Acrylic on Canvas
The closest thing I have made to a Sacred Heart

I watched a lecture about Post-modernism, I had hoped it would simply be about contemporary painting, (which was sort-of the title) but it proved pretty interesting none-the-less.
I seem to have managed to narcissistically psycho-analyse it all to make sense (instead of learning valuable things from the lecture)
My paintings are all meaningful, sentimental, and symbolic, even though I don't use that as a selling point. For all intents and purposes it is Still life, and as such you can read into it whatever you wish. But it is never without meaning. I really love conceptual art, but I have felt guilty for a while about my work not being terribly thought provoking, and therefore might fall into the 'pointless' category to many contemporaries. 
But when viewed from a post-Post modernism perspective it almost makes sense. 
Post modernism was very much a monumental exercise in sarcasm, pointing out the flaws of modernism. It was critical, cynical and very ironically mocked the supposed sincerity of modernism. I think. 
In the late '90's and early 'naughties', I was into the 'alternative', punk and hardcore music, and later that became metal. We were part of the local 'scene', going to shows every weekend, dressing the part, thinking the part. And while we were Christians, we were angry Christians. Which makes for confused Christians. And like the lecturer also said (he was into punk) at a stage, after a couple of years, you tire of being angry. And that's where we are now. We want to bypass the sarcasm, and once again cultivate human virtues that we care about, love, hope, faith, beauty, sincerity. But "it's hard to be sincere without coming across naive and sentimental" to quote him.

Jeff Koons - Balloon dog
I absolutely love these balloon animals, I would paint one any day, and while people
would possibly think it was an homage to Koons, it would more likely be out of pure childishness.

And that is where I found myself. I think the guilty feelings of being angry lead to a sudden about-turn, and I now find myself overly sentimental. I recently finished two tiny paintings, still lifes with buttons, seen from above. And I finished it and thought it's quite realistic, the colours are very desaturated, and I like the layout. But does this painting matter? Will people understand, or do I have to add a complex title explaining why it's important, why its emotional. Because I'm afraid people will think it has no meaning and therefore is just a painting of some buttons. Which it is! But in this case, these buttons come from a jar my mom always had by her needle-work things, I would often upturn the jar and sort through the different buttons, try to find similar ones, or sort them by colour or number or button holes. The buttons we either left overs from finished garments, or recycled from thrown-away garments. Some were from my dad's navy uniform, some from school uniforms, some from clothes my mom made us when we were little, and some were so old that we didn't know. In my mind, because there's such a strong connection to my mom, and because she has a large family in which there has recently been a lot of sickness and death, the buttons somehow came to symbolise those lost relatives, and lost time. Which suddenly turns into quite a vast concept, and one quite personal to me. But does that matter? Or is it just a still life with buttons and a complex paragraph for a title? 

The point I wanted to make was this: I'm not afraid of being overly sentimental, even if people do see naivete as a bad thing. I'm willing to make myself vulnerable, and I promise to be sincere, I'm just not always sure that it will be believed, or understood. But I think that's okay. Because it comes from a good place, I don't have to apologise for it, it is what it is, whether people see it as real, ironic, or just still life.

As reward for reading all that, a picture my brother snapped of the Absolut Art Gallery front, featuring 5 of my paintings. Which I'm particularly proud of, more so than I probably should be!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Coloured dirt on a flat surface

I've been a huge far of Chuck Close for years and years, and when I finally got his DVD a couple of years back, it just re-enforced my opinion of him and his work. Last night I watched an interview where Robert Storr and Chuck Close have a chat, and I was so inspired by it, I felt such a sudden fondness for what we do, that I decided to just go ahead and paraphrase the bits that got to me. Hope you feel similarly excited about the dance we do: 

"It’s not just what I’m doing, but the choices that make it a different experience for the viewer. Painters are orchestrators of experience, that’s what we’re doing. There’s a kind of ritual dance that takes place in the studio, we’re performing artists, only no one watches us perform. But we’re dancing in front of the rectangle, we’re making these gestures at times when it’s like conducting music. And then the painting is the frozen evidence that that ritual dance, that performance took place. And it goes out into the world, and it stands in for the artist and that performance. But when a viewer gets involved with that, he can almost dance along with it, you can understand the nature of that performance. 
And that’s why, when I go to museums or galleries and look at peoples work, there’s a vicarious experience when you realise that this was made. This is not a photograph that comes up in one moment, it was made by hand. Painting is the most transcendent of all mediums, I think, because it denies its physical reality. It is coloured dirt on a flat surface, it makes space where there is no space, it reminds you of life experiences you’ve had, it transports you somewhere else. 
Coloured dirt on a flat surface, it can make you cry. It’s kind of amazing.

So you see, what I’m trying to do, is not just make Roy Lichtenstein’s nose" (he was pointing to his portrait of Lichtenstein as he said this), but give you something of a more lurid experience at the same time. 
I really do believe that what we do is a kind of magic. I feel like I’m dropping crumbs along the trail, Hansel and Gretel style, if people want to pick them up, they can take the journey that I’ve taken in making the work.
You’re just watching, you have a record of the decisions, and this incredible construction that in front of your very eyes, is an apparition. It’s built out of thin air, and that physicality, and the denial of physicality, and that looking back and forth is really an incredible high for me."

Heres the link to the video, if you'd like to see more:

Friday, 10 May 2013

'A change is not as good as a holiday'
To misquote a friend's facebook update

Variation: Red Green Blue, 2013
Acrylic on Canvas
50 x 90 cm
The first painting started and finished in the studio.. others have been worked on or touched up, but this one is completely new. Also it was a blood sacrifice... of sorts. I offered up a painting I realised I wasn't crazy about, as I had run out of fresh canvasses.

So you might think it proves that the separate studio system has done me a world of good, but change is never simply change, and in this case it came along with stress, severe broke-ness, some more stress, and also the killer of creativity: pressure. As soon as I find myself thinking 'this one has to be great' I know there's gonna be trouble!
The crux with this one is how it relates to two circles I painted in '10, seen below, and the fact that I borrowed a friend's childhood marbles to paint, so it feels like it adds another dimension, it becomes more real somehow, at the risk of sounding pretentious.

So I'm pretty happy with that.

Anyway, so last weekend we popped in to Absolut Art, to see how my work looked on the wall, and it was brilliant, good feedback, great placement and there were samosas on sale next door, fun was had by all!
And we picked up two tiny canvasses I had gotten made, for an upcoming group exhibition. Which is what I'm working on now, in frustration, as I'm not used to working small anymore. 'Brush strokes be damned, just get it to look like something!' My panicky brain tries to shout over the mixed sounds of anticipation and fear.

This change was hectic enough that I need a holiday, or just another radical change, and as we all know, change is inevitable, so that should clear all of it up nicely.

2010 - 20 x 20 cm - Just posting this 'cause I find the changes in style interesting!

Also, if you'd be so kind as to try to 'follow' or subscribe to this, I've had severe trouble with a lack of subscribe button, and might have fixed it, time or comments will tell if it's fixed, or just messed about with!