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Deluge

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A few years ago, I made a few smallish paintings that involved paint and corrugated cardboard and collage. I did them at a time when I was not very prolific, and I was trying to forge my way into new territory in the studio. I started using acrylic paint instead of oils at that time, and I recall I painted with a brush in one hand and a spray bottle in the other, so I could create and erase imagery using those tools and also so I could let the acrylic paint drip as an additional mode of applying paint. You can see a few obvious drips in the painting pictured. I would add paint, add collage, add cardboard, and I would peel it back in layers exposing ideas from half an hour ago, from a day ago, from last week. The process of making these paintings was all about adding and subtracting imagery, and adding and subtracting material. The process seemed very natural to me, aligned with the way my mind thought about images.

Four of those paintings in partiular continued to resonate with me for one reason or another. One of them, I gave away to an old friend. Two are in storage here at 27th Street, and the one in the photo, Deluge, hangs in my office at work. Curiously, this is a painting I like to have close at hand.

Deluge is maybe 18 inches wide. The chunks of cardboard on it extend past the edges so it isn’t quite rectangular. Parts of the cardboard have been ripped back, exposing bits of collage and also the corrugated innards of the cardboard. Deluge is a tough, rough and ready painting. It’s awkward and it’s ugly and it doesn’t seem to pass the tests some people have for fine art. I’ve been told these paintings aren’t so appropriate for a gallery because of the materials I used. I guess the perceived problem is that cardboard isn’t archival or isn’t permanent or might yellow or become brittle, or maybe these paintings are just too raw.

One day, a colleague at work noticed Deluge hanging in my office. She seemed disturbed by the painting and asked me if it was done by a child. Oh how I wish I could paint with the freedom and joy of a child! I said, no this painting is genuine adult art. She looked at me incredulously, then she took another look at it and shook just shook her head. Well, at least the painting got noticed and didn’t blend in with motivational posters with words like TEAMWORK written across the bottom, which occupy most of the offices in the building.

I like Deluge because it is full of the unexpected. I like that there is simply nothing graceful about it. It uses materials and colour relationships and forms that don’t look like art, whatever art is supposed to look like. The collage elements add moments of surprise and recognition. I look at this painting all the time, and even though I made it, it still seems to have something to offer me over and over, and I kind of appreciate that it is difficult for me to put my finger on just why that is. I like that this painting still makes me smile.

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