Design and interruption

This is probably one of my more playful paintings. Using part of a ceiling rose I photographed in a café, I edited the image using Photoshop. Preciseness and exactness in my art are not my strongest points so it was a challenge to work with the repeating pattern within the image.

Continuing with my ideas of crossing borders between reality and the imagination, painting and digital art, I decided also to include the idea of design as part of my investigation. After all, once upon a time that ceiling rose was designed by someone with the intention of people hopefully looking up and admiring it. The person who designed it obviously had ideas of pattern and repetition as key components of their creation.

I manipulated my photographic image into a suggestion of an eye. ‘Here’s looking at you kid’ (that famous line in the film ‘Casablanca’) went through my mind at the time. Our eye wanders over the surface of the ceiling, observing the subtle colours and shadows and acknowledging the contours that are affected by these along with the sculptural aspects.

Once I had printed my edited image onto canvas I began to introduce paint onto it. I didn’t want anything too drastic; more of a delicate balance between the painted and the digital mark. After a while, to be honest, I got a bit bored with the image – I was losing that journey of transformation I normally experience. I think this was because of trying to contain myself within the design aspect of the piece. However I was keen to keep within these boundaries so would turn the piece around occasionally to give me a different perspective. I wanted to bring in something more with the paint whilst keeping the sense of design and repetition. I liked the way I could make parts of it recede away and other parts come forward – also to simulate daylight shifting across it – much as it happens when we look at an object during day.

I have kept the colours subdued and using paint deliberately overlapped 3 of the ‘tendrils’ or ‘lashes’. This interrupts the rhythm and pattern one might expect, and within this overlap I used diagonal markings to break it up further.

I am not sure whether I have finished it – it has to sit for a bit. I like the way it is quiet, your eye is allowed to gently wander over it, in your own space, in your own time.


Playing with contradictions

When I started this piece, I had taken a whole load of photographs of various mundane and ordinary objects we come across every day.

In this particular painting, it started off with a set of house keys. We all have keys. They can open up places for you but they can equally lock you in or out. In terms of our every day possessions, they are relatively small and unobtrusive, and we really don’t think about them very much. However we are likely to get ourselves in a complete state of panic, if we think we have lost them. I like this dichotomy and contradiction.

As part of my experimental process using Photoshop, I began to play with moving the shape of the image of the keys. I had been making drawings of Flamenco dancers, which I started to emulate with the image of my keys. The reason behind this was that I have been interested in Flamenco music and dancing since various trips to Southern Spain. The origins of Flamenco whilst not totally clear, interested me, as a hybrid music and dance created as a reaction to the cultural oppression the gypsies had encountered. Even today, Flamenco is exploited and parodied the world over. However no one can take away the personal and cultural dignity that Flamenco epitomises, however much this happens. The urgent tone, rhythm and pulse of the music is set against the contradiction of both controlled, yet often frenzied dance, punctuated by very sculptural and poised movements of the body. Flamenco is a very emotive force, but it never loses control.

Transforming the keys in a sense liberated them from their original reading, and put them in a undefinable context. But that was just the start of my own hybrid and experimental process. Using oils and painting into the digital image close up allowed me to lose that context further and to discover new possibilities within the digital patterns and rhythms I could see. However for a while I was a bit lost, it wasn’t quite working. So when it gets like this, I just stop and let it sit for a bit whilst I get on with something else.

After a while I concluded that the piece was starting to look a bit samey – I had lost that dynamic sense of push and pull between the painting and the digital image. This is when I decided to introduce the bold blue painted stripe at the side, to create a deliberate and dominant contradiction.

The piece is called ‘The Dancing Moth’.


The Gremlins inside

This piece is called ‘The Coward’. It is a relatively large painting (85cm x 120cm) and originated from a photograph of an organic object which I have digitally manipulated and then combined with oil paint.

Originally I started painting it in a different format but it presented strong connotations of landscapes and other things which closed the whole piece down for me. Visually, I prefer it portrait anyway; it seems to hang better.

When I worked on this piece, the following was playing on my mind – ideas of those subconscious and self destructive thoughts that sit inside us, like a dormant but nevertheless threatening flu bug ready to infest at any time. Negative aspects of our personality and emotions that we know are there and which can drag us down but we try to ignore. So they sit in our heads and on our shoulders burdensome, heavy and looming.

Conversely, alongside these ‘gremlins’ lies the flip side – the possibilities of better things, freedom, liberty, the imagining of wonderful opportunities, and the joy of the ‘now’ , of being alive and experiencing it all.

I hope the work gives a sense of tension and fluctuation, of both collapse and growth all at the same time; ideas I have been reading about in Gilles Deleuze the French philosopher’s book ‘The Fold’ where he discusses the thoughts and work of Leibniz writings about the Baroque.

‘Like the shift of the opposition of organic and inorganic matter into tonal flow and flux, the movement from an order of ethereal and private space over a teeming public world….The two words must fold into each other.’ (‘The Fold’, Gilles Deleuze, Continuum 2006, p xx)

The ebb and flow of our thoughts and emotions, of light and dark, paint and image, the form unforming and reforming itself. The creation of patterns and rhythm, change and transformation; like the lungs that we breathe with, the beat of our heart, the pulsating of life itself.

It is all here to be grappled with – ‘The Coward’ is inside all of us.


Different points of departure

I call this piece ‘The Fighter’. It seems to be literally straining to get itself off the canvas. It’s beginnings came from a photograph of mine of a fairly ordinary object we might have in our homes or use elsewhere on a regular basis. I am not going to say what it is; it’s really not that important suffice to say it aims to transcend itself in my painting (which kind of relates to the function we tend to use it for – there’s my clue). This is often typical of my work, using the trappings of everyday minutiae and spring-boarding them into very different places so that they more often than not lose their initial identity.

As I have worked on the piece, I have found myself turning the work around and around so that I deliberately lose that anchoring sense of object and ground and discover new points of departure. This is starting to become a common practice when I paint. I find it exciting that the final destination is not a fixed one, and that it could hold a multitude of possibilities depending on which way you look at it. This references my work as a whole – that idea of crossing borders, between painting and photography, between reality and the imagination. It is about departing from one place and ending up or maybe just glimpsing another. It is about a shift between, about suspension and fluctuation. It is about alternative places and maybe a release of sorts.


Blue Bayou

I have decided to redo my painting Blue Bayou. Initially I produced this as a pure painting (and by this I mean just paint), but I was not entirely satisfied with the result. So instead, I am reverting to what I normally do – combining a digitally manipulated image with paint. The reason behind this is because as I browse through files, I keep being distracted by the original digital image that the actual painting was based upon. It captures me, as did the time I first photographed the image.

I remember the occasion, seeing the plastic bag entwinned on a tree, flapping in the wind, completely caught, trapped by the tree and yet also trapping the tree – fragile and strong at the same time. I suspect unless someone climbed up high to retrieve the bag, it would have been there for quite some time, losing its colour, becoming more and more shredded daily as it was battered and bashed by the wind and branches. I happened to have my camera, and clicked away on what was a very grey, ordinary and windswept day.

Whilst I do not know yet where my final piece of work is going to go….when I think of it now, I think of the delicacy and lines of a Japanese water colour and also of films such as ‘The Scent of Green Papaya’ and ‘ In the Mood’ for Love. The first film – within the composition; grids, screens and simple Vietnamese style and form, patterns of sound and movement, courtyards and interiors, and delicate light. The second film – subtle colours and retro type cinematography of pattern within pattern, muted colours as if always at night, form within form within a backdrop of soulful music.

Shift, nuance, layers, fragmentation, suggestions and possibilities that appear and disappear before they can be fully realised. How can I portray these things within my painting? (and for that matter a painting that has already been).