Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ever Widening Circles

What transpires in the studio always echos what is happening outside.  Circular investigations, conflict, discovery, resolution etc 
The western notion of problem/solution/resolution or beginning/middle/end or reading the world and history from left to right... I’m not sure that I function like that.
It sometimes feels as though I am constantly trying to figure the same things out over and over again.  Looking back at old journals, it is apparent that the same  themes and questions have been plaguing me since I was 12 years old. These questions may be the same but I am experiencing them in ever differing ways through the lens of whatever my current reality is.
Evolution is slow.  So am I.
Along the way, new perspectives colour my experience and my understanding of things.  New bits of information and learning are added to the equation.  The questions may be the same but the answers are growing.  
So perhaps I am not going forward or backwards. 
Not moving in a linear trajectory. 
I think that I move in ever widening circles.  These circles are somehow all connected.
And when death comes, my circles will be infinite.  
For Tim Olsen

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Mind Map

Here is my second stop time animation.  It is a mind map which illustrates one possible version of process.  The stills were taken on my iphone and fiddled with on imovie.  I make no pretense that I know what I am doing when it comes to film making but I kind of like the completely unprofessional looking result. This really needs to be watched on youtube as I can't seem to figure out how to enlarge it here without it losing definition.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Washing Machine Addendum

Improvisation and experimentation involves a certain level of trust in process.  A successful outcome is never guaranteed.  Experimentation starts in the mind.  The brain needs to be able to move away from what is known and familiar and travel in different directions.  I think it  is very hard to be truly experimental.  It never feels very comfortable, deviating from the known.
Doing something known or predictable inevitably becomes tedious and uninspiring.  Like rote learning, the information doesn’t stick because the process fails to capture the imagination.  We love surprises but we fear the unknown.  The brain likes its neural pathways to be well trod but the heart longs for fresh turf.
We feel in control when we have certainty but our certainty is based on the assumed predictability of previous experience.  This is flawed thinking.  Nothing ever stays the same so why should our previous experiences be repeated?
In the studio I never know what I am doing.  I do not work from sketches or plan out my compositions.    Why I ended up working this way, I do not know.  It baffles me and dements me on a daily basis.  Sometimes I wish that I could be satisfied with just depicting something rather than trying to make something out of nothing.  But if my previous experience gives me anything, it tells me that eventually something WILL happen.  Something will be revealed through all the searching and shuffling.  Something will eventually feel right or make visual sense.  Forgetting this can lead to despair.  So I am writing this to remind myself because at the moment I am utterly lost in the chaos I have created.
The point where something is happening but you don’t know what it is, is a high point in the whole venture.  It is the point where you can sense that a revelation is close at hand.  There is a delicious moment of anticipation.  The difficult and torturous stage is by now worked through and hopefully over.  It is a blessed moment that makes the difficulties of the struggle completely worthwhile.  Of course it is not possible to linger and savor the moment for very long.  It is as fleeting as any intangible thing.  But even if it is short lived, it is for this that I keep creating, searching and fumbling.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Like a Washing Machine With Angina

"Painting is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is not what you see. I don't know what a painting is; who knows what sets off even the desire to paint? It might be things, thoughts, a memory, sensations, which have nothing to do directly with painting itself. They can come from anything and anywhere."  Philip Guston

At the studio.  Sitting here typing.  Periodically I look up and glare at the the recalcitrant painting on the wall in front of me.  Today, every move that I have made on that wretched surface, feels false.  A day of application and erasure.  Even though I know that these days are usually followed by a break through and that these difficult days are an intrinsic part of the process, it is a small comfort. 
I know that  uncertainty is part of the complex workings of  the artist’s temperament.  No half measures - a complete cretin one day and a genius the next.  We are volatile, self centered, highly sensitive and highly strung.  The senses and imagination get overused and we become overstimulated like young children fired up on cake at the birthday party.   Monumental highs and crashing come downs.
The creative process is not a straight forward one.  There is no exact recipe that can be followed to produce a consistent result.  Each artist comes with unique inner workings and personal history that creates their own individual approach.  For this reason, the variety of outcomes is limitless. 
My own version of this process seems to entail an endless amount of searching.  The seemingly indecisive technique that I employ, of applying (and scraping off) multiple layers of paint, is like an external echo of the questioning nature of my brain.  It often feels like I am more interested in the searching or questioning then the final result or answer.  It is a process of creating chaos and then finding a way of ordering it or making it comprehensible.  The final order may provide a sense of satisfaction but ultimately I seem to be more interested in the chaotic search and so, the dance begins again.
I am very interested in the ways that concept, process and judgement all intersect.  At times it is hard to decipher what came first.  
I can start a series with a strong (or faint) intention or idea.  Before too long, the process  (the actions, the materials, the techniques etc) can interject and suggest  some new possibility that I may never have thought up on my own.  When this occurs, an entire body of work can then travel on a whole new trajectory.  This is the sub conscious search and this is where it really starts to get interesting.  Here, the underlying motivations behind an intention can be revealed.
An idea or intention is only a starting point.  Resolution and conclusion always come later.  Sometimes much later, perhaps years after a series has been completed. Objectivity is only possible when looking back from a safe distance.  Somehow it is easier to understand the whole process in the context of comparison.  
After the first layers of paint have been applied, a painting seems to take on a life of it’s own.  The process becomes an exchange and is about much more than just me imposing my aesthetic judgements upon an inanimate white surface.  It is a hard thing to describe without sounding esoteric but to me it is a fact.  Paintings hold energy.  
At times I even talk to the painting or mumble things like:
“oh you think so do you?”
“ok...well maybe I’ll try that”  or
“stop being so damn stubborn you mongrel!”
This is why it is so crucial to stand back and look at the work after any new action is taken.  This is where the painting gets to have its say and suggest the next strategy.  Sometimes (like today) the painting goes mute and sulky.  Withholding it’s love, it leaves me to do all the work.  
The painting may as well be a mirror.  Its reflective surface reveals all the demons, angels, drunkards and fools that are some of the myriad parts of who I am.  It is a funny dance.  Sometimes it is fluid and graceful and at others, it moves “like a washing machine with angina.”  *

 I can’t imagine doing anything else.
* A wonderful line used by my friend Lachlan Brown when describing his five year old daughter at her first ballet class.


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