Saturday, August 23, 2008

Philosophical reflections on windows

While traveling, you are in between destinations, miles from a familiar environment.

At night, lights show up human activity or presence, without other distracting landscape information. You may be in a train carriage or in a car splashing along on the freeway and over behind those distant lighted windows someone is working late, or might be drinking hot chocolate in front of the TV.

Lights supply a surprising amount of information. Factory or office lights have certain flavors, cooler colors. Lights from people’s homes are warm, protected. Even driving through an unfamiliar city at night we can tell quite accurately what kind of neighborhoods we pass through. (Not much hot chocolate being drunk in these images!)

Separation of personal and public space seems clear, and also the idea of different simultaneous experiences. These are not new concepts, but including them in the images I was creating drove me to experiment with a variety of approaches. It wasn’t the beautiful scene I wanted to depict, but the experience of passing and the different “realities” compressed within the image.

top image : Night Trains : Estate, 2000, oil on board, 8 x 4 inches
lower image : Rest Stop, 2000, slide image

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Evolution of work

Sketches from a train describe the shapes of lighted windows at night. 1998.

Spray paint through a stencil shows office windows as might be seen from a bus - the stencil is mis-registered to get a sense of movement. Passenger II, 2000.

Though referencing modernist abstraction, this cut-away shape still suggests location and landscape. Black square, 2005.

Surface and depth get entangled with dress patterns - revealing and concealing. Sleeve, 2006

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moving into photographs

Leaving Luton Airport, 2002

Using found shapes - as recorded by the film emulsion. A short step to letting go of "reality-derived" imagery, and creating found shapes in painting by using mechanical means ... only took me 4 years to figure it out!


want to see how big I can make these images...

Riverside walk, 2001
oil on board, 16 x 16 inches

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Express, 2001, oil on board, 10.5 x 14 inches

Here is the example I promised showing me learning about constructing space using lights in a dark void. The lights separate from the background (which changes to indicate sky or slightly closer land) and larger lights/discs are read as closer. The distant, smaller discs are not so bright. In this painting I have also made use of several other connections or inferences, playing around with them.

The title implies that the scene is viewed from a fast train. There's a flattening, like its all happening on the other side of a window, and the flat discs can be seen occasionally if the window is wet and you stick your nose up against the glass... otherwise its obviously referencing photography, or film, where unfocused lights look this way. There's also a sense of movement in the slight slippage and repetition of some of the lights, and the fact that they are sort of running in together (also a feature seen in film). Aside from that, there are some areas that could be reflections inside the train carriage (ie the top red area).

This work and others of the time did not arise out of wanting to capture specific scenes (oh, it looks just like Chicago - people always say that, it is a way of connecting), but are more about the wonder of my experiences on trains at night, and the philosophical questions they raised for me. More about that later...

Josef Sudek

Influences ... In 1998 I had seen an exhibiton of Joseph Sudek's photographs from his small studio in Prague. In this series - The Window of my Studio - his windows often have rain or condensation on them, distorting and affecting the view, emphasizing the separation between internal and external (worlds). They are richly mysterious, very soulful and melancholy. I don't find them that fascinating any more but there is a relevant connection with my current work.

An article on Sudek says he was "devoted to introspection and explorations of his soul. He believed that symbolic form equates with inner emotions, a philosophy shared by many painters of his era". (Elenore Welles,

What I continue to find more interesting than the subject matter is the understanding that the image represents more than the scene itself. Exploring the relationship between form and meaning is the link between the diverse areas my work has passed through. If I paint this, what will it mean? If I photograph something this way, what is it saying? If I combine this kind of imagery with this kind of idea, what will stand out as important?

I don't believe in absolute and quantifiable links between a shape and, say a feeling - that is a philosophy long de-bunked in art theory. My understanding is that form and meaning have a flexible, changeable relationship, one that is difficult to pin down because it depends on culture, era, information and attitudes. Images DO suggest connections to many other things, and the connections rely on levels of awareness obtained through the viewer's life in terms of education, exposure and experience.

This is where it gets interesting because many viewers will have a similar level of awareness to the artist, and those connections can become things to play around with. It is all entirely fascinating!

The link to artscenecal is

and these 3 tiny images were culled from the online collection of Sudek’s work at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Night corridor

Night corridor, 1998, photograph

During the day this university corridor is a busy place. At night, light spill turns mundane into magical even while highlighting its overwhelming emptiness.

Interestingly, the light sources - sources of energy – are elsewhere, separated from the viewer by doors and doorways, and the wonderful glowing light on the left is coming from a men’s restroom. The idea of identifying different kinds of space (a kind of spatial polarity?) and the understanding that beauty can be found in the ordinary continues through my contemporary work.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Night scene

This is a painting from 8 years ago, incorporating flatness, stenciling and abstraction into the night scenes. Before I could understand how to move forward (and let go of realism completely) I explored the creation of space and inferred meaning of shapes through night scenes. I'll post an example if I can find a digital version - I didn't have a good digital camera back then... ! Hard to believe now.

Window, 2000, oil on board, 18 x 18 inches

what's with the light?

This light work seems like a departure from the paintings - or does it? I love the night, and my paintings of 8 - 9 years ago explored night scenes. Lots of skylines and the glow of cities, silhouettes of things that appeared absent in the darkness.

Shadows have been attracting me for a while and they spring from the same fascination as my paintings, the same ideas run through everything.

Silhouettes, stenciling and shadows...shapes that block or allow access - to something : light, paint, x-rays, whatever. Ultimately, making 3D information available as a flat shape or series of shapes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pay-per-view art, 2008
Coin-operated installation in a theater lobby

It was fascinating to watch people figure this out. Kids were the most curious and adventurous, putting coins in without prompting. Adults tended to walk straight past but found the concept funny and thought provoking when they saw it working.

I loved fixing up the coin meter - it is from a different world. Its shape, the solid, fortress-like quality of its heavy manufacture screams laundromat and parking meter. Inside it is old fashionedly mechanical, but very efficient and functional. It actually rejects all but 25 cent pieces, as they said it would... Totally ingenious. Interesting to set up the time intervals that could be bought. I wanted people to see it in action which meant a short time (30 seconds!) but that was a bit ambitious as it ate up the money for not enough perceived return.

In terms of value, I tried amortizing a theoretical cost of the artwork over x years, with estimated exposure time in hours.... too many unknowns. It will end up being what the market will bear. Actually putting money in to see the artwork really highlights the idea of nothing being free...its insatiable! Relentless! Interestingly, all visitors benefit from the purchases and payments supporting the gallery system, unlike most other commercial transactions. Lots of thoughts about value.