06 June 2018

INCONTRO Project Post 3: Involuntary Action

The application of colour begins. 160 separate components for each of the ten elements of the series. There is a diagrammatic way of working here. Each of the elements is laid on a sheet, on the floor and painting process remains floor based throughout.

The diagrammatic feel to the potential layout is an issue. I recall Frank Stella's comment on the diagram: "A diagram is not a painting; it’s as simple as that. I can make a painting from a diagram, but can you? Can the public? It can just remain a diagram if that’s all I do, or if it’s a verbalisation it can just remain a verbalisation". (1)

The grid or diagrammatic structure is a rigorous compositional organisation. Within each element the the multiplicity of tiles and format (rational axis) defines a heightened spatial expansion. The handling of the painting separates the series from the purely diagrammatic; the structure of permeation.


The painting of each tile seems to be coherent. Marks, lines, gestures flow across the surfaces as if in a unified code. 'As if', and 'seem' are essential terminologies here, fundamental to painting itself.  Colour seems to be the structure; it is as if the deep orange stands out against the grey. 

Gerhard Richter: "The red in Picture 300, 1971, in the Bonn Retrospective Raisonne, had three basic colours as wells steps between, 'Zwischenschritte', bluer blue, greener yellow, whiter yellow etc; in all there were 180 squares. They were somewhat re tainted.
Peter Gidal: "Were?"
Gerhard Richter: "Seemed". (2)

Fact is illusionary in these elements and in my work. It probably is in all art. Peter Gidal adds as a footnote: 'Perception and knowledge do not coincide ; any tentative relation is not automatic, it needs to be made'. (3)

But, my painting process is undoubtedly to do with colour and to make the painting look compelling. 16 components for each element have to work across and with each other within their base colour context. Some darker, some lighter, some fluorescent. Painted mark, shape and form allude to a horizontal table/floor view. We look down on the shape and trace across a surface.

I am also thinking here about the concept of involuntary representation. In 1932, Brassai published 'Involuntary Sculptures' (4). Here, he featured everyday items, distorted then photographed close up and in strong light to render unrecognisable but as a new sculptural form. In each element of my work, there is an involuntary allusion to the recollection of configurations of a mosaic design. It is a kind of directional geometry. Involuntary as maybe, with my work, the start point must be distortion itself. Configurations of recall. Moreover, the result of the current process remains the language of colour, shape and line.

(1) Lippard, Lucy R (ed) . Questions to Stella and Judd. Interview by Bruce Glaser 

http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/stellaandjudd.pdf. Accessed 3.6.18
(2) Gidal, Peter. Endless Finalities Part II. F Essay. (p.95, Gerhard Richter's 4900 Colours, Serpentine Gallery 2008)
(3) Gidal, Peter. Endless Finalities Part II. Footnote 10 to the essay. (p.99, Gerhard Richter's 4900 Colours, Serpentine Gallery 2008)
(4) Exhibition label. Shape of Light. Tate Modern 2 May to 4 October 2018

30 May 2018

INCONTRO Project Post 2: Preparation and System

Preparation of the 160 tiles included white primer for each of the small squares. The quantity is significant and as with all priming there is a neutralising of the support, whilst thinking about the application of colour. The structure of permutation is the repeated square. The repetition will only be in the format as each element, although related, will be independent and moreover, each tile of the element will be unique as its own painting.

Each element would be defined by its prime base colour. This colour would be its key signature, title and identity. These colours would be fully saturated colour with the addition of white to some colours to boost opacity and luminosity, but essentially the colours would be controlling and dominant.

The tiles were painted three times with the base colour. As a potentially floor based work, potency of hue would be fairly essential. The matt colour of acrylic paint would be ideal as there will be minimal reflection of gallery lighting from the surface, when placed horizontal as designed. The full force of the base colour would comprise and seize the surface in a positive way. As each tile will be 50 to 60 cm away from the next, the strong colour would also connect in a diagrammatic way across intervals of the grid like structure of the element.

The base colours include Violet; Cobalt Blue; Cerulean Blue; Cadmium Orange; Cadmium Red; Cadmium Yellow Deep ; Cadmium Yellow; Fluorescent Yellow; Fluorescent Orange; Fluorescent Vermillion (System 3 Daler Rowney and Windsor and Newton Galeria Acrylic Paint). In painting each of the elements with their base colours, they stuck to floor sheet and I decided to keep them as a tile sheet for the duration of the process. Therefore the tiles remain together and can be moved around  180 degrees; each element having its own unity in the making.

So, there is a definite structure here. Each of the ten elements having 16 paintings. Perhaps a system would evolve. I am drawn to reflect on a statement by Thomas Alloway on Systemic Painting: "I took the point of view that a system could be quite human, in a sense that it could involve a very idiosyncratic choice of variables. My rationale had to do with a strong organisational principle I saw developing. I felt a similar sense of order was happening with some of the gestural painters, I think of Pollock now, in the sense of the drip or gesture being repeated and choreographed in an essentially orderly field. Orderly is of course relative, but orderly in a sense of a series of repeated marks. In the 'Systemic' show the artist's mark had condensed in a more geometric way. It wasn't that one was more personal than the other. In retrospect I suppose a distinguishing element would be that in the gesture, painter's color seemed to be the more unorganised element. With the Systemic painters, color was more organised and it was more difficult to distinguish between color and line". (1)

(1) Thomas Alloway conversation quoted in essay. Michael Auping; Fields, Planes, Systems,: Geometric Abstract painting in America Since 1945. p. 73. Abstraction Geometry Painting. Albright Knox Art Gallery Catalogue. Abrams, New York 1989

24 May 2018

INCONTRO Project Post 1: Ideas and Proposition

INCONTRO project features a specific brief to create ten artworks that will fit into ten capsules, each capsule measuring 20 x 15cm. The capsules can then travel together or singularly to different locations for presentation. The project follows an interrecce meeting in Trieste earlier in 2018 where the idea was developed and the discussion led to the brief for each artist to make ten objects to fit ten capsules. The inter-recce meeting was with Patrizia Bigarella, Franco Vecchiet, John Brown and myself.

In March this year I visited Palermo, Sicily just a week after the inter-recce meeting at Trieste. Here I was struck by the dynamic design of the marble floors in both the Cathedral of Monreale, just outside Palermo, and the Capella Palatina. The contrasting light and dark geometry takes the eye across the floor and in varying directions creating a strong interconnecting trace. As the marble design is floor based the eye unavoidably connects with the intricacies of the lines moving across and around the floor, a shifting geometry as we move through the space.

In reflecting on this experience I thought about a floor based, tile-like configuration. In making some quick ink drawings in black and white on small rectangles of paper the potential for moving and arranging at will became apparent. This represented a non fixed condition for the artwork. An intriguing proposition, a diagrammatic structure with multiple reconfiguration.

Therefore, as a start point I have decided to develop a floor based series of ten works each with 16 tiles each measuring 13cm square (to fit the capsule) that will have independence from each other in thematic colour but that would interconnect in series. The ten objects, to be called elements, will be painted and therefore unavoidably become paintings. Issues became apparent. The paintings would not be wall based. They would be floor based in presentation questioning the paradigm of the terminology of painting and locating this work in other contexts. However, the hand brush pigment application will draw on my existing practice as a painter and therefore, also unavoidably raising the issues of painting language to be employed for each tile.

Additionally, chance or involuntary action might be present, as to what order each tile would be configured within the grid structure. This presents a possible detachment from authorship, especially if the arrangement is by a third party. In any case, each element comprising sixteen tiles has multiple possibilities for arrangement, a structure of permutation (1).

The basic tile form for each of the elements (each capsule object) was cut out from 3mm medium density fibre board making 160 tiles in total. The tiles to form each element will be arranged  in a square, @60cm apart from the centre, each making a diagrammatic grid of @240 metre square.

(1). The term is Benjamin H. D. Buchloh's in his essay 'The Diagram and the Colour Chip' Gerhard Richter's 4900 Colours'. (p.67, Gerhard Richter's 4900 Colours, Serpentine Gallery 2008).

29 April 2018

A Liverpool Bestiary. Liverpool John Moores University Print Project.

Yr Afanc

For my beast, I chose Yr Afanc. The choice was partly to do with geographic location, Yr Afanc is described to have dwelt at Betws y Coed near to my my studio location in nearby Meirionnydd and also because the visual documentation of the beast is scarce, leaving more to the imagination.

The beast is described as ferocious and terrifying, being sometimes a dwarf like creature, frog with claws or like a beaver. It is quite large and big enough to cause flooding in the Conwy valley from the lake where it resided and is named after, Llyn Yr Afanc. It had green eyes and could emit loud noise. Legend says because of the flooding, the people of Betws planned to remove Yr Afanc and eventually with the help of many people, oxen, and a maiden to tempt the beast out of the lake, it was dragged up the Lledr Valley to Llyn Ffynnon Las, close to the summit of Snowdon where, hemmed in by the rocks around the lake, it is now trapped. Yr Afanc was perhaps evolved as a myth because of the flooding that is a continual issue in the Conwy valley. 

The description of demon is useful. My interpretation was to envisage a large beast, that would fill the print. It would have as a feature at least one eye, a large jaw with zig zig teeth and claws perhaps similar to a crab. However, I did not want to be descriptive rather create a form alluding to elements of this imaginary creature that might loom in and out of focus as perhaps in a dream. The looming in and out of focus is also linked by the beasts location at the lake. I imagined mists and fog the would be horizontal across the surface of the lake and this would distort the form of the beast and make its presence more foreboding; what we cannot see, we fear. 


My preferred choice for the prints was reduction linocut. The inherent drawing process fits with the subject yet allows flexibility in the cutting for non-linear areas of flat colour. The linear marks left by cut away sections would add to the expressive quality. Being familiar with reduction lino print (where one plate is reduced by repeated cut and print and the image made by successive overprinting), I felt the combined drawing and colour application could deliver satisfactory result.

Three lino blocks were started with three different Yr Afanc drawings, making three series of prints. For these, initial idea drawings in pencil were made and then the structure carried onto the block for cutting. The initial print of the block was without any cutting so solid colour (no blank paper) is evident in the final prints.

Materials used were oil paints with Daler Rowney block printing medium, printing onto Seawight 250gram acid free cartridge paper. Equipment was an Intaglio JM25 roller press with one blanket and perspex blocks to support the lino, that is flexible. The perspex blocks also reduce slippage, a common issue with lino block/roller pressing.

Colour was applied with lightest first then through successive printing moving toward deep blue black for final linear description. Colour was applied throughout in stripes with two colours on the roller to facilitate the effect of the mist running horizontally through the prints. This also highlighted the effect of hue and tone and with interaction of colours to varying degrees of contrast so that in places it is just the hue rather than any tonal element that is evident. The feature of mist or fog was as important for me as the drawing of the imagined Yr Afanc.

Reflective Comment on Process

Non figuration and abstraction are terms not unfamiliar to the labelling of my work although neither are really true. However, the challenge of the bestiary with its descriptive and literary facet was to be challenging and I found myself returning to methods previously departed from. 

In actuality, the territory was surprisingly familiar though and the intervening exploratory practice largely to do with colour came into a new perspective as the process developed. My prime investigation in studio practice into colour remained to the fore by the deliberate decision to use my existing range of oil paints and mix on my painting palette with block printing medium. 

With print there is necessarily time to wait and absorb as you work through the at times laborious method of making prints, but these are essential periods when reflection can take place. The linocuts appear structured and planned; this must be to do with the cutting away of the block. You have to do this section and slice through the surface, imagining what will remain underneath (the colour previously printed) but in effect through colour, the chance revelations of one colour against another happen despite all planning, revealing something new and unexpected and the element of chance and risk remains. 

For me, the final cut and print remained problematic. I liked the colour of the prints but the final blue black linear elements would define Yr Afanc and further the structure of the image; it remained and printed through all three series.

Final Prints

One illustration from each series:

11 February 2018

Winter Painting 2017 - 2018

Work currently in progress on a multi panel component painting. Possibly to be shown together or separately, the new series represents a study of tertiary colour with a focus on space in and around shape in each  panel area.

2017 New Paintings: Return to Rectangle

The full 2017 series of paintings are available here

Painting No.8 2017 62 x 81cm oil on canvas

Paintings in Oriel Brondanw December 2017

Two new paintings from the 2017 series were shown in Oriel Brondanw in December part on an international selection of artists as part of Connexion 2017.

Painting No.3 2017 35 x 46cm oil on canvas

Small Sierra 2017 31 x 45cm oil on canvas

Oriel Brondanw installation first floor north side

Oriel Brondanw installation first floor north side

Oriel Brondanw installation first floor north side

Connexion Project Poster December 2017