Friday, 7 September 2012

Playing to type

Perhaps it is the deepening economic gloom permeating the island upon which I live, where forecasts for that elusive economic fiction of 'growth' tell of the end of an era, perhaps it is the escalation of a system based on fear filling the airwaves and news feeds, or perhaps it is something closer to home, more personal, an emptiness caused by immutable distance, yet whatever the cause, while it proves difficult uncertain, it is undoubtedly affecting something of a dark influence on my paintings presently.

(work in progress)
Mixed media on panel, 12x12"
Every time I lift a hand to work, colours seem somehow wrong, ill-fitting, and so instead I resort to graphite, charcoal, black oil pastel and, occasionally, even black paint. When a colour makes it past this subconscious barrier, it more often than not ends up subsumed within the darkness, chained, barred and covered in black.

While this degree of darkness pulls me increasingly towards the monochromatic, another dark influence makes itself felt, a powerless anger, stoked quietly, internally, that rages against the darknesses both ex- and internal. It flashes out when I work, carving into the working surfaces of each piece, at times frantic slashes that tear up the surface, ripping and shredding, at other times more measured cuts, gouging hard and deep and with a dark certainty.

Earlier this year, words such as "emotional", "intense" and "difficult" were used to describe my work. I was not particularly thrilled by this, feeling that this tied my work to a particular cultural expectation – that of the depressed and unstable artist. I would far rather that my paintings had been allowed to speak for themselves, because to my mind there is in them a transcendent beauty that speaks nothing about emotional intensity or darkness. To bind them in this manner did them a disservice and set a barrier between them and the viewer, allowing them to be neatly fitted into a particular artistic stereotype, without any need to genuinely engage with the work. Not only this, it also seemed potentially off-putting to patrons, few of whom one might expect would want difficult emotions expressed upon their walls.

It is therefore really quite ironic that the work I am presently engaged with is almost a textbook example of "emotional", "intense" and "difficult". I can only imagine how those that previously described my work in those terms might coil back in fear at my current paintings!

Working in this manner was not a conscious plan on my part. As I have touched on more than once, in my pieces I attempt to pin down moments in time, sets of feelings and ideas, using a technique similar to the Surrealist's automatic writing, their "dictation of thought without control of reason". It is therefore unsurprising that in these challenging times, I am making challenging work.

While I know better than to try to force a change upon myself, I dearly hope these challenging times are short, for I would very much like to rediscover colour.

No comments:

Post a Comment