I’ve been a painter for a long time, but I never get used to exhibiting my work. Making paintings is a very private thing for me. I don’t normally bring people into my little basement studio, and I feel very uncomfortable showing people unfinished paintings. Then somehow or another I decide this group of paintings is complete and I haul them out for an exhibition. As much as I enjoy seeing the work up on some clean walls, and showing the new pictures to people, it always feels weird.
This last exhibition is unlike any others I’ve had. This year I made 6 small, shaped encaustic paintings, and then decided it was a completed set and it was time to do some drawing. I bought myself a set of pencils and an eraser and a block or really nice hot-pressed paper and started making pencil drawings in our garden.
In recent years any drawing I’ve done has been on paintings. This wasn’t always so. For several years, I went out drawing weekly with a group of painters. I usually did charcoal drawings on these outings. Some of the others did watercolour paintings.
Usually my exhibitions are fairly cohesive because they consist of a group of works I’ve worked on together, works which inform one another in all kinds of ways. My recent exhibition at yumart was different. It included the encaustics I mentioned as well as 4 of the new drawings. I continued to draw, by the way, right up to the start of my exhibiton, switching from pencil to charcoal and from garden to forest, somewhere along the way.
Yumart is in a larger space than it was at the previous location where I last exhibited. I thought this would be a good opportunity to put the new work in context by including a few older paintings, works I’ve never exhibited before but which continue to resonate with me in some way. These works were from 1984, 1994, 2001, and 2011 – spanning a lot of time, a lot of painting, and a lot of ideas.
After an exhibition, I typically avoid painting for two or three months. I look at my work and wonder, how did I create these things? How do I start again? Is it even possible to make more paintings? Even after all these years, painting is still very mysterious to me. There have even been some occasions when I’ve decided to stop painting. It turns out this isn’t so easy. Like a fiend with his dope and a drunkard his wine (as Merle Travis would say) eventually I’ve found myself back in the studio – just for a little taste – which has usually resulted in a whole new cycle of work.
This time around, I’m getting right to it. It seems I have a head full of paintings, and a direction in mind which will be a departure from the approach, themes and motifs I’ve been exploring for some time. This should be fun.