Monthly Archives: April 2015

I don’t know what I’m doing. Again.

As is the case with all my paintings, if you would like this one you can have it for free. Just email me.

I don't know what I'm doing III, 2015.  Acrylic & gloss on canvas 25.5 x 20.5cm.

I don’t know what I’m doing III,
Acrylic & gloss on canvas
25.5 x 20.5cm.

These three most recent paintings were initially deemed failures. They were all intended to be like Time gentlemen, please XIV i.e. a composition in black acrylic on raw canvas overpainted with black gloss – the entire work was to be a uniform colour with the composition described by the way the gloss paint reacted to the 2 different surfaces – retaining its sheen against the resistant acrylic, but losing it when it soaked into the absorbent canvas. When I made them I felt they hadn’t worked as intended, however coming to recycle them and remove the canvases from the stretchers I found that the backs of the paintings were a lot more interesting than the fronts.

Whereas the thick, waterbased acrylic sits on the surface of the canvas, leaving the reverse pretty much unaffected, the liquid, solvent gloss applied on top immediately bleeds through the exposed areas of raw fabric, staining the other side. The front remains uniformly black but, with the acrylic paint acting as a mask, an appealing light & dark composition appears on the other side. So, I restretched the canvases back to front and varnished them to pull them taught on the stretcher (necessary to act against the acrylic now on the back). Just by chance was able to rescue works that had been slated for execution.

Why do these paintings work backwards when they were not very good forwards? Partly because of the quality of the materials – their natural behaviour has a greater influence on the final outcome and the marks I made are somewhat hidden. Also, as was often the case when I was working figuratively, flipping the composition into a mirror image makes an instant aesthetic improvement. This may be because it allows me to see the work with fresh eyes – to make it slightly unfamiliar without it becoming completely alien and therefore offer an opportunity to assess it one step detached. To remove at least a little inherent bias and perhaps glimpse it for what it is, even if just for a moment. Of course this will not be relevant to anyone else looking, apart from the fact that if I hadn’t been able to look at or use these paintings in this way, they wouldn’t have seen the light of day at all.

I like that this process cannot be planned. It relies on use of particular materials and then failure in the use of those materials to have any chance of existing, and even then there is no guarantee it will be possible to hold a mirror up to failure and see success. There are varied factors outside of my control that contribute to these paintings and perhaps this is why I am able to see value in them. They cannot be planned. All I can do is keep working and hope that every now and again they might show up.