do I need a system?

May 2017

The use of a more systematic approach to making my work has become more and more relevant and needed recently and this resulted in the creation of a mechanism which would allow me to push a painting through it and it would remove the top layer of paint and drag it across the surface. The mechanism was made by a fellow fine art student and was able to be manipulated to fit the exact size of the surface as well as the tension that the straight edge exerted on the surface. It allowed me to make really minute decisions such as whether I wanted a drag of paint that would interact with what was underneath it or whether alternatively I wanted a clean drag through of wet paint to reveal a solid block of colour underneath. The results were really interesting and totally different to the way in which I approach making work, I am interested in gesture, in hand on surface, hand on paint brush and that intrinsically organic and human gesture. Yet this experiment was coming from a completely different approach to mark making, it was still to some extent in my control yet the mark was so manmade and relied on a tool, not on my hand. There was no human error, no slight wobble in the straight line or slight dip as I reached the end of my arm span. This was a harsh, non apologetically manmade mark; I liked this contrast and tension. I also found that I really enjoyed the process of making, adapting and using a tool. This idea of a tool, specifically made for the mark or process I want to perform, as an extension of my human gesture, as an extension of my will; this is an idea I want to take further with me into third year. 

The way in which I approach drawing is very different to how I approach a painting. My drawings are all about mark making and capturing shape and form, they are filled with different layers of different types of marks made from different materials or different processes. It was after a pull back to research and drawing that I noticed this lack of variation and differentiation in my paintings that existed elsewhere in my practice. I realised that I was really craving this different type of mark on top of or existing with the pours. Within my exploration of edges I had always used natural and organic lines, however you can't really be interested in edges and borders and boundaries without considering hard, clean, straight edges. Manmade edges, mapping grid systems, this human need we have to possess, or control something natural by placing a system ontop of it in order to limit and boundary it.  I began searching for this different kind of mark that could be imposed on top of the pours, something referencing maps or grids perhaps.

This is still an exploration in my practice that has not been resolved at all and is still very much being played with. This took the form of originally using post it notes to create these grids on top of already existing paintings however it could mean an entirely new body of work rather than changing my current work. On smaller scale works I had the opportunity to try out a specific process that would create quick, straight lines. I used the same premise as a builders chalk line. I didn't want to paint lines on, I didn't want it to share the same painterly quialty as the original pours. Therefore, I soaked a piece of nylon cord in pure powdered  pigment and then with a technician pulled it taught against the surface, pulled up and then let go. This created a clean, crisp straight line that went over and in and out of all the crevices and terrains created by the skinning oil paint. Although not resolved or experimented thoroughly with, this process was really successfull in imposing this different kind of make on top of my paintings. 

My most recent two paintings are not by all means resolved pieces of work, they were born out of a need or attitude to create work with the same tools and techniques I had previously gathered but without the pre-conceptions I had in my head of what these 'pours' should visually look like. The weren't dictated by coastal maps or drawings or photographs, the colour schemes were initially chosen through necessity and aesthetic value not pre-meditated. The marks were collected as I went along, all I knew was that I had these techniques and processes in my arsenal and wanted to limit myself and use each one. I wanted to include a transparent stain on the bottom, a fluid pour next, a drag of paint after and then a hand made paint brush mark. 

The way in which I created these paintings is an approach I have never used before. It was the most liberating process to just make a painting that existed as a painting, a culmination of marks, a distribution of tones across a flat surface.  Each layer was made then walked away from and thought over, considered, stared at, until I knew exactly what mark I wanted to make next. It felt the most purely artistic or visually driven way I've ever made a painting. 

After producing the first one, I knew I had another surface left over and wanted to keep going in this apporach even if the final pieces were not massively synonymous with the rest of my body of work. However,  I came to my usual conundrum of colour, what colours to choose now . I initially went for the opposite of the one I had already produced, warm tones with a cool gesture on top. However, it seemed to obvious  too much of 'me' in that decision. I wanted a system to tell me what colours to use, I was so fed up of seeing my decision making in the colours of each painting. So as I sat staring at colour wheel, the discussion of transposed chords came up. In music, transposition refers to the process, or operation, of moving a collection of notes (pitches or pitch classes) up or down in pitch by a constant interval.For example, one might transpose an entire piece of music into another key. This process seemed like such an incredibly systematic way of using something you had already created and the relationships within itself and just tilting it around to create a new collection of relationships.


This second painting was therefore created by plotting the previous colours on a colour wheel and rotating everything around 4 segments in a clockwise direction. This process is obviously not particularly sophisticated and is only really an informal starting point, however as a premise it was an amazing way of creating a new colour scheme that would essentially have similar realtionships within itself, yet be an entirely new collection of colours without me having to make those critical decisions. 


This systematic approach to colour or to painting in general, is something I would like to continue to do, exposing this tenison between control and abandonment  between my own authorship and then a system outside of my control. I think this will be an area of exploration that will take up a central aspect of my work next year. Trying to balance painting and producing paintings as an autonomous act with my body of research and fundamental interests is something I would like to resolve next year and reach a level of understanding of how my practice navigates and sustains itself. 

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