Monthly Archives: September 2015

Paint nothing now.

As I suggested before, I favour the absolute freedom of the naïve or unburdened mark, but like any this preference is shaped by context. Without all that’s gone before, all the stuff I don’t like, wouldn’t I just be left with a load of scribbles? Contrast dictates value. The scarcer or the harder to obtain something is, the more desireable it is. Gold is better than not gold. In my little world a painted mark free of reason, meaning, context, influence or anxiety is more valuable than the many, many examples of the other, but only because it is venerated by comparison. The stereotypically uninformed say “I don’t know about art, but I know what I like”. They also say “that’s just a load of scribbles. My 2 year old could do that” (I say stereotypically, but I’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth more than once. I dare say if you’ve spent any time in the field you’ve probably heard it too). They don’t appreciate the quality because they have no frame of reference. No value scale. And that’s completely fair (ironically the person who made the painting they’re criticising may well be thinking “I’ll never paint as well as a 2 year old”)

So, given that I struggle to make paintings that I feel stand up well to comparison, I have tried to make some that can avoid it. ‘Impossible!’ you might say. You’re right! Short of hiding them all away and denying their existence entirely I cannot avoid comparison with all the other paintings a viewer may be able to remember. But what I can do is to reduce the level on which the paintings can be judged. As far as I can see they will be considered on three things: Appearance, construction and intention (Ideally in that order, but depending on who you are ‘intention’ will likely move up the list quite quickly. That’s another story).

I can’t remove judgement on appearance. That’s the point of pictures – to be looked at. I could easily remove criticism of intention by simply not discussing my paintings anymore. That there’s a tricky question because whilst I generally dislike having to read about pictures in order to appreciate them, I still write a lot about my own (it’s a frustrating contradiction). I find many accompanying texts can serve to cloud the issue rather than demystifying things, which is just annoying. I’d like to think my texts go some way to clarifying what I’m doing so whilst I could stop, reducing the viewer’s ability to judge my work based on my intentions, my approach to explanation is different enough from the texts that irritate me to justify continually wittering on.

So, the only remaining aspect upon which I can deny the viewer judgement is construction and this is apparent in the Happy being stupid… series. By making it unclear just how these things are produced I can deny a viewer the opportunity to decide whether or not they are constructed well. In the case of these works paint application is often perfunctory and unfinessed, but this is not obvious based on what I present to the viewer (fair enough, if you could take a painting off the wall and inspect it you’d get an idea, but that’s not the game). Furthermore, the composition is defined not by my decision or ability at all, but entirely by the shape, structure and physical qualities of the canvas and stretcher and the type of the paints used. So, as the factors defining the form, composition and textural quality of the finished work are concealed or not of my design it is much harder to make a qualitative judgement of the paintings in question or my ability to make them.

Thus, you can look at my paintings and decide whether you like them or not based on your own aesthetic inclinations. There’s nothing either of us can do about that. I can’t tell people what their favourite colours should be (much as I try, the idiots won’t listen). If I clear that first hurdle and manage to retain your attention you can choose to read about them and decide whether they’re made for the right reasons. You may find mine an interesting and unusual approach, or perhaps you think it’s stupid and shallow and lacks rigour. That’s a risk I’ve decided to take. But, what you can’t do is see how I made these things or if I’m any good at it. You may glean some information on process from what I’ve written, but the physical evidence of the act itself is unclear. All you get is a hint, and by hiding evidence of the act and leaving you without the ability to judge my competence with a paintbrush (assuming that’s what I used), I can make it more difficult for you to make comparisons with all the other paintings you can think of and decide that mine, upon considered reflection, are a load of old bollocks.

Resale of the century.

Since introducing the concept in February 2015, giving my paintings away for free has become a cornerstone of my practice. I have found it more defining than I had expected, so it makes sense to offer an explanation of greater prominence than my original introductory post achieved (hence the added page in the menu above). For those unfamiliar, very simply any paintings illustrated on my website have been made available for free. Anyone may request one by simply emailing me. Many have already been claimed so I can offer no guarantees of satisfaction and my only caveat is that recipients cover any costs incurred in getting their paintings where they want them (postage being the most common). If paintings can be easily delivered or collected for nothing, all the better.

Aside from a couple of disinterested, long forgotten instances I have not tried hard to sell my paintings and certainly don’t rely on them as a source of income. Therefore they have no traditional route out of the studio and for the most part sit idle, awaiting a fate unplanned. In a corporeal sense they are no different from those things that roll around the upper reaches of the artworld – objects made of paint, canvas wood and so on. Whilst it’s clear that these blue chip paintings and my own oven chip equivalents do not exist on the same societal or commercial plains, on an objective, materialistc level I believe they do hold their own modest quality and this project has made it clear that there are at least a few people out there who agree.

An alien finance and a common materialism conclude that the most sensible and fulfilling thing for me to do is to ignore the idea of trying to sell moderately desirable but commercially irrelevant items and in pursuit of the most satisfactory conclusion, give them away for free instead.

My intention is that this will benefit both myself and the recipients. Everyone likes a freebie and in a small way perhaps this gives people the opportunity to own something they might not otherwise have expected to. I benefit in that my paintings are going out there and ‘doing’ something rather than sitting in a box their whole life. By eliminating any residing concern that painting be a financially viable pursuit I can assert that it is an activity undertaken purely for enjoyment and need not be qualified by any other marker of success.