I’ve been making paintings for a lot of years now and sometimes the whole damned thing remains a mystery to me. I guess that’s what keeps me doing it. I’ve never been a painter who exhibits a bunch of variations on a motif or anything like that. I can’t help but make things more difficult for myself.
When I have an exhibition of new works, I stop and reflect. How did I get to this place creatively? How did I make these things? I don’t mean technically – I understand that. I mean, of all the possible images, how did I get to this one?
Then comes an even more difficult question. How do I find new ground, break through nagging limitations? Sometimes the questions are the most basic. What is painting to me? Why am I driven to making images?
There have been times when I’ve worked on certain paintings for a very long time, years in fact. And there have been other paintings I’ve abandoned after years of consideration. Add paint. Scrape off paint. Obliterate an image or part of an image. Mask part of a painting. Develop tactics to force myself to push my painterly ideas off the edge, to a place I don’t quite understand. Easy to say I suppose. Francis Bacon once said, “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”
I asked myself would happen if I started messing with non-rectangular shapes? I began by working on some shaped encaustic pieces which I exhibited at Yumart last year.
Breaking out of the rectangle forces a certain kind of early commitment in the process of making a painting. Whatever else happens in the painting, it is defined in part by the shape. With the new pieces I’ve been messing around with, I’ve been trying to change up my strategy of labouring over a painting for a long time, allowing the image to emerge after many sessions in the studio. I’m looking for a starker expression. I’ve been throwing some old habits out the window.
I’m working with shapes cut out of masonite which float out from the wall. I’m also working on each piece individually instead of in groups. What I mean by that is that I have a history of working on a group of paintings at once. I might have 6 or 8 going in the studio. At different times, I’d add one in or take one out of the mix, and usually I’d allow ideas going on in one painting to inform what’s going on in another. There is a lot less of that going on in the new works
My next exhibition is in October. That gives me around 3 months of working time. There have been some shapes I’ve come up with but for one reason or another, I can’t manage, that sit in the scrap heap. I have a number of new pieces I’ve been living with, another drying in the studio, and I have some others still knocking about in my imagination. One thing is certain and that is that these works are unlike anything I’ve done before.