Illusion and appearance

“Life is not what is said but the saying of it, not the picture but the picturing.”

Gerhard Richter


Reflecting on Richter’s quote, it is not easy for me to talk about my paintings. Perhaps I could say as John Cage would do, that ‘there is nothing to say and I am saying it’ which gives a legacy of a painting as an independent entity.

The concepts that drive my studio practice have included psychoanalytic thinking, particularly related to the collective unconscious and the symbols it produces. This takes the form of ‘snapshots’ from social cognitive networks that our mind is a part of, which creates the body of my latest works.

I am using ‘autobiographical narrative’ as the source inspiration for my studio practice. The foundation of my work can be found in the emotional content of my life. The feelings and the experiences provide a framework in which I can discover the characteristics of intense feelings and how these are related to sensory driven experience.

Within my painting I am able to layer metaphorical memories, mood, explicit emotions and perhaps psychological qualities throughout the core element derived from the autobiographical narrative. By looking inward, I am examining the relationships in the cognitive distributive networks which I am part of. Here my inner vision reflects my focal point within a western cultural context.

However, in saying that, I refer to the work of Gerhard Richter retrospectively informed by psychoanalytical thinking. I am looking at the mutual connection between Richter and Lacan and their interpretation of the real. Richter said, “Illusion – or rather appearance, semblance - is the theme of my life.” There is a similarity between the two interpetations, Lacan questions the ‘real’ in verbal communication and Richter is suspicious about the ‘real’ in painting. I share this view and I have explored it in each of my paintings, even they are very topical to me. My aim is not to pass on my ideas to the viewer, but create the piece of work. Each painting should be able stand on its own so that the viewer is able to deal with the artwork on its own terms.

Like every painter I work with or against the historical context of the medium I choose. The strength of the historical context of oil as a medium makes it almost impossible to challenge. My aim is to find an ‘authentic painted content’ as Cooke described, that speaks of something of the cultural discourse I am a part of.

Technique

Within my work I use a variety of techniques that have come about through trial and error. I have developed a way of combining both wet-on-wet painting and glazing techniques that allow me to build the picture plane through many layers. I like to play with the layering to achieve colouration in seen and unseen areas. I am able to hint at a subset of patterns and symbols through the use of transparency.

That helps me to create a dynamic and an energy that comes through the layers, the exposed and the hidden all add to the final composition. For me, this links to the preverbal experience of ‘symbolic order’ (Common symbols of a collective unconscious or the ordinary narratives of ordinary lives) as I am able to measure revelation, to orchestrate the amount that is revealed and there can be a controlled letting-in of the viewer. Through accessing my inner vision I am hopefully able to produce an artwork that becomes a carrier of memories, mood, explicit emotions and perhaps psychological qualities.

Scale & Proportion

Beyond the medium that is chosen, size is also an important aspect for the understanding of a painting. I have chosen mainly to work in a landscape format for many of my recent works, there are historical and traditional values that I chose to co-opt for my own purposes. By working on a large scale, I am looking to achieve a ‘monumental’ impression where the viewer may achieve mutability of her/his senses without great effort needed when reflecting on the painting. However my creative ambitions are quiet often restricted by the size of my studio space.

The proportion acts to try to influence subjective aesthetic judgements, emotional evolution and reflects Lacanian patterns of the Gaze. Again, understanding of the subjectivity the viewer brings to the painting, their past experiences, their willingness to engage emotionally with themselves and the work all influence what is perceived. Richter talked of the ‘illusion’ of reality, in painting there are other illusions, such as the power of the artist to shape what the viewer perceives. My paintings are only driven by a fascination with colour and a very personal iconography.

Paintings

As an artist, I employ the whole of my human experience and mind to bravely and hopefully originally make artwork. However, I do not want to impose meaning, I want to preserve the ‘meaning’ I have put into the painting, in the world the painting has a life (and many meanings) of its own. The anonymity of the subject is preserved by the fact that the name doesn’t appear in the title so I am freeing the viewer from the limitation imposed by “knowing” in some of my work. The title reduces the subject to a signifier and divests them of the true dimensions of their identity.

I add to the anonymity and complexity through blurring the some parts of the image, this enables me to give and to take away, to provide something solid and to undermine that solidity. It is ‘the gaze’ driven or fuelled by ‘the desire’ of the viewer. The desire is to consume the surface of the painting, in order to understand it, to reach the depth or the meaning of the painting. There is this great desire contrasted with absence, there can only ever be a surface and a limit to what the painter can provide a viewer. As a painter I am aware of that what I provide is a space for the viewer to see themselves, through my very personal process of life narration.