Friday, February 17, 2012

The Diary

This painting is part of my solo show Rococo and is large 152x122cm oil painting.
This painting defies any specific story, apart from its title the Diary, and I am not a diary person, so there is no personal story behind this composition.  This painting just evolved as part of the process of working on this collection of paintings, Rococo, now showing as my new solo exhibition at the Doorway Gallery, Dublin (   This painting is made up of the elements that I have previously researched on for other paintings in this collection and past work.  Therefore, the initial inspiration behind this painting would have been a generic theme of a reclining female form.
However, I do have more thoughts on this composition, as ever since my daughter ( who was doing her English literature degree course at the time) challenged me by pointedly enlightening me on the dangers of  ‘scopophilia’ and subject matter, and which I had always known as ‘key-hole’ paintings, which describes the phrase so much better in painting terms.  Basically in the visual sense of the word it is the rather ‘creepy’ past time of a peeping tom, voyeuristically spying on an unaware person at their business (usually a woman).  Degas’ beautiful pastels of women at their toilette is one example in the painting world, that immediately comes to mind. And even though I love these works beyond words, the thought that the source behind them, would have any bearing on what I was setting out to achieve,  horrified and appalled me, no, no, no not at all what I am about. 
But it got me thinking, as to why my paintings where not like this.  And I think it’s because, my female forms are just that; they are not portraits in the descriptive sense of the word, they are more like symbols of women, and they could be you or anyone, with a bit of an imaginative leap.  They are also always engaged in existential activities like reading, thinking, writing and dreaming, and are just one of the component parts in my painted world, equal with that of say a vase of flowers or teapot. The way I use paint and my strong colour, is again not so much descriptive as tactile and sensory and therefore not illustrative or descriptive in a narrative sense.
working drawing for final painting The Diary
Therefore I see my paintings as ‘tactile’ paintings.  As Rothko writes in his ‘Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art”
‘that the goal of art is to express reality through plastic means not through description” He means by the word plastic the physical properties of the paint medium itself.
The Diary is therefore a painting about balance and fulfillment, self-contentment, and harmony, where in that one moment in time everything is right and pure. It describes a state, rather than a place.  The painted cat and bird are engaged in the painted world creating a dialogue within the space, which helps to introduce the elements of companionship, interaction and movement.  The cat also introduces the sense of touch that helps to enhance the tactile nature of my painting language. 
The landscape outside, set centrally, gives the composition a strong shape and form in which to balance the objects within my 2 dimensional space, and also describes the outside world that links and yet contrasts with the interior, thus creating a ‘threshold painting’. This helps me recreate a sense of expansiveness to counteract any sense of claustrophobia that an enclosed room painted or otherwise might suggest.
The shoes and diary symbolize action within the painting, either happening or just happened, which helps create a sense of movement, without having to paint descriptive movement.  I feel that descriptive or illusory painting is a very different type of painting, and one which I have almost entirely dis-engaged myself from.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dod Procter Inspiration

Dod Procter Sleeping Girl National Gallery of Ireland
  Dod Procter (1892-1972) was a Newlyn painter living and working in Cornwall, and her Sleeping Girl, is in the collection at the National Gallery of Ireland.  It has been a love affair with me, ever since I first set eyes on this painting, and every so often I go and pay my respects to this understated masterpiece . To me, it is such a magnificant painting, with it’s strength of composition, dexterity and skill:  juxtaposed with the serenity of the sleeping girl and the quietness of the tonal painting-it is just breath-taking!
girl with kitten 71x71cm oil on canvas
garden shade 71x71cm oil on canvas
This painting has been very inspirational for me, and I have assimilated and incorporated it into a number of my compositions and drawings as can be seen here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Spotlight-Rococo Show

magenta rhododendrum 92x76cm oil on canvas

It’s interesting to look back and identify the original source to an idea or inspiration.  But reflecting on my choice for the ‘Rococo’ theme in this year’s solo show; I can source this idea back to more than 30 years ago, when I was just starting my degree course in painting back in 1979.  It was in my second year at Sheffield, first year in the painting department.   Along the department’s corridor was hanging past pupils work.  One particular painting intrigued me; it was a large full length canvas of a woman in a long intricate patterned dress, in dry brushwork in pastel colours very like a Klimt on reflection.  It was the beautiful quality of the almost pointillist dry brush marks that reminded me of the same tactile qualities of pastel crayon on paper.  The canvas was left bare which was buff coloured linen.  I was at this time using a lot of pastel crayon myself with my studio work and life drawing, so this painting encouraged me try and paint like I was drawing.  If only I had the knowledge then that I have now, to realise that drawing and painting are completely different processes, and one doesnt necessarily lead to the other. Small steps!! 
                                                                                                                                                             self portrait 30x20cm pastels 1979

So 30 years on, I now find I have this opportunity to explore these pastel colours again with ‘rococo’. 
  I am obviously always drawn to strong, impactful colours, so any subdued or subtle colours will always be countered in my work by its strong opposing counterpart, to be eventually  dominated by my direct compositional devices and upfront perspectives, so maybe the paintings in Rococo is the nearest I’ll get to a delicate palette.  But it’s these little twists and turns that I explore within my personal painting style, that keep the process fresh and continually exciting for me, and give each new exhibition a slightly different feel-factor.