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I Think I Get It

These past few weeks I’ve been prompted by my painting tutor to really think about my work and what it’s about. I began this semester with so many ideas and concepts in mind and I almost felt that I was losing myself and my work within them. But I think I get it now. After dipping my toes into Greenberg, Fried and Deleuze’s theories about phenomenology and painting I’ve possibly been able to understand my own work a bit clearer than before.

In my previous blog post I listed my basic process when it came to painting but didn’t really delve into it; this week I’ve been thinking about it in more depth and have been recording some audio studio notes of myself talking about my process and my work. Through doing this I discovered the following few things.

All week I’ve been trying to find cause for my paintings, a starting point but none of it felt honest. One moment I’d captured an abstract image of a landscape the next I captured elements and then I was looking at maps and thought, maybe I could be capturing walks or memories of walks.

Below is a scan of a page from my sketchbook. I briefly looked into the idea of mapping out important locations and journeys and found the shapes to be very similar to the instinctive lines and shapes I had been adding to my most recent painting. Also pictured below. But the more I thought about this it just felt forced and still didn’t seem honest. The painting isn’t about a walk I’d been on or a landscape I’ve visited. So what is it about?

To be brutally honest I think what I’m about to write next still needs some editing and finalising but I’m hoping it gives some insight into my current thought process. I paint, my paintings are just that. Paint on a canvas, a painting. They are honest and aren’t trying to be something they are not. I begin with a vigour of gesture, a burst of excitement and limitless possibilities. Chaos. I then seem to continue with these almost harsh marks and begin pushing back, blocking out completely and highlighting specific aspects of the chaos. I become selective. And then comes the line. The trace, not a trace of a landscape or a walk but a trace of the body in movement. This trace then creates shapes and enables me to decisively block out parts of my painting that aren’t working for me. A well thought out, decisive and controlled action.

In terms of my painting feeling somewhat linked to the landscape, I’m not going to argue that. The landscape is universal, anything we experience in life is within a landscape. It’s stimulating and grounding at the same time. So, I don’t see it as unusual that I and others can see landscape within my paintings. It’s recognisable to us all and something that connects us all. But are my paintings about landscape? That I’m still unsure of.

Whilst my paintings can often, even to me, appear chaotic at certain stages of my process, they are inevitably quite the opposite. Even the gestural background was planned in some senses. As mentioned above, the landscape that we all inhabit is both grounding and stimulating to me, now let’s link that to my paintings. I find my paintings to have exactly the same effect. The process of painting grounds me, it reminds me of what I feel and know to be my spark in life. Paint. It stimulates me and pushes me to create. I couldn’t imagine not painting, what a sad life that would be.

Now all of this still feels like I’m pushing too much but I’d like to think that that’s just a bit of imposter syndrome. But that is what my work means to me at the moment and as I progress more as a painter this will most likely change. Maybe I’ll end up depicting something people can recognize, but at the moment that doesn’t excite me and stimulate me in the same way as my current process does.

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