Tuesday, September 30, 2008

important windows at night

In transit, 1999, 96 x 60 inches
Acrylic, spray paint, varnish and metallic powder on board

(the diamond shapes are shiny silver and show up best as you move past the painting - I didn't use a professional photographer in those days)

This is quite a striking painting at 8 feet tall! It was bought from my degree show by "Art in Hospitals", an organization that loans art to healthcare facilities in Scotland. It is still on show in the Glasgow and Edinburgh area. Good to know that many people are seeing it on a daily basis. Art in hospitals does help, even when you'd rather not be there...most of us have experienced that! There is a LOT of fabulous and very contemporary art in Scottish hospitals (which by the way are "free" to all because healthcare is seen as a basic human necessity...let's not get started on that!)

Anyway, I mentioned in the PLANE posting that I went on to see "the airport terminal window". This happened in 1998 and is one of two pivotal experiences that showed me it was possible to represent several very different circumstances in a single image.

In this painting the diamond shapes are obviously reflections of lights inside the terminal as they recede into the distance (we know it is a public place - few houses have that configuration and quantity of lights). There is also a vertical stripe of darkness, as if there is a shadowed area or wall reflected in the window. There are drips and runs... rain on the outside of the glass. Then there are rounded light shapes that seem to be beyond all of this - they represent the world of the airport outside. So several circumstances are indicated by the images layered on top of each other. Because we understand it as a window, we are familiar with what it is representing.

This translated into framing mechanisms and barriers in night scenes after my MFA (Riverside Walk featured in an earlier post, for example). Then when I came to the USA, the idea that
layers of separate origin and inference could be meaningfully compressed into a single image started to offer possibilities within "abstract" work, opening up investigation of visual conventions themselves.

We are familiar with images that operate via ONE visual convention - optical reality is a visual convention, for example, its how we see things as we walk around. A map, a diagram, an architectural plan, are all separate (though related) visual conventions - ie we understand on what basis information is represented, what that coded information is telling us. The airport window combined several visual codes, accessible because we are familiar with its realism. Other combinations are possible.

This is not a new idea - David Salle, James Rosequist, Robert Rauschenberg, Sigmar Polke - spring immediately to mind as mixing visual conventions. Currently it is actually the basis (in various subtle ways) of contemporary artists' work such as Sarah Morris, Rebecca Morris, Mary Temple, even Olafur Eliasson, where the old abstract ideas are played on but used very differently. (Some of these have featured on my other blog). We all find our own pathways to similar destinations...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

moving on

Sardine can repeat on pink, 2007
36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas

Nothing concrete in the background of this painting, no realist associations as with the windows and wing of Plane. But the same principles of line and separation apply. I have moved on to the more abstract (as in thought, not as "traditional" modernist abstraction) use of shape. The fact that the shape is derived from a manufactured object ready to be thrown away and achieved by deskilled processes of printing and stenciling introduces aspects of mechanized production. Anonymous replication... but messed up with drips and mistakes that bring it to life. I was thinking about Warhol's portraits of Marilyn while doing this, the colors and the grainy mess of black... With all that reference material, who needs to refer to physical or "lived" situations? Cultural situations have become much more interesting. They are more fluid, less restricted on all sorts of levels. They open themselves up to new outcomes more easily.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

plane - forward looking painting

Plane 1998 (destroyed)

In amongst all this other work, strange but telling paintings appeared. This was small and rough, with sand in the paint (if in doubt do something - anything!). The circles are paper cut-outs stuck on with glue. It is the manifestation of ideas I would understand later.

It annoyed me but it seemed to work, I saw its roughness but couldn't throw it away. I had it in the studio space when a NY art critic and author came round doing tutorials. I was very frustrated and not able to make sense of all the other larger canvases I was mixing up different kinds of imagery on. She picked Plane out as "speaking to her" and told me basically that when I understood what I was trying to do, I'd find the way to do it. Within a few months I saw the airport terminal window and how its reflections compressed different layers into a meaningful image. It was 2004 before I'd finished with experiments with realist imagery and moved into my current work.

Could say this painting was a milestone.
Guess what? I burned it in my wood stove on the Isle of Mull in 2002 before coming to America. (Winters are cold and wet on the West coast of Scotland). It lives on in my current work. After all, it links to traditional creation of illusion, but also and obviously references a very contemporary experience of life. Once I finally learned to import shapes in more "industrial" ways, recognizable realism could be exchanged for direct connections. And therefore "cleaner" outcomes. (Less cluttered by preconceptions and assumptions.)

Karin Davie, showing at the Aldrich just now is described as "a leading artist in the current wave of painting practices that are transforming the legacy of high modernism in order to capture the dynamics of contemporary culture."
Way to go.