I have been painting pretty much daily for about 3 months now and it is fulfilling and has moved swiftly. Without other distractions I have been able to concentrate on it far more keenly than ever before. With the irrelevant and mundane things that used to waste my time discarded I can focus and ideas flow freely, can be explored fully, and are executed in a manner which, more often than not, pleases me.
I inhabit a different world now. That which has come before has formed and informed what I make and the way I make it. I have the time and opportunity to evaluate and analyse why I make things the way I do. I have been making small, abstract paintings for about 4 years now and production has been vigourous. For more than a year before that I made very little and prior to that I made, generally speaking, a small number of large scale figurative paintings.
When I made the significant move to abstraction it was in order to ensure that I could enjoy painting. I wanted to indulge in the singular joy of applying paint and the work was designed purely to afford me this opportunity, and it worked. At that time I understood it to be a simple thing. I love painting. I was unable to do it to any satisfactory degree in the form I had previously pursued. I had no means to change my circumstances and therefore the thing I could change was my practice. I redesigned it to fit into my life, such as it was, and by doing so I could paint again. Quite simple. Now though, I see things a little differently, or at least, being able to stand away and look back at things with some sort of overview, I believe I can see more of what lead me to reshape my painting as I did.
The truth is, since early 2013 I have not enjoyed life. I was not happy, but, and this may sound odd, I wasn’t actually aware that I was that unhappy. I shan’t go into detail, but I was busy – excessively so. I didn’t have much time to think about things like happiness, or to paint. At least I managed to figure out a solution to the latter! So now I look back on my change of approach as a far more profound attempt to inject some little joy into my daily existence. I wanted an escape. An indulgence, a responsibility free pursuit that I could be assured would give me a little pleasure and honestly, it did offer me that. Now of course, things are vastly different. Day to day life just does not compare. I can confidently say that I am much, much happier. There’s a way to go of course, as is the case for most everyone I’d have thought, but the direction of travel is clear.
What intrigues me now, is how my painting will respond to this change. The form it has taken until this point has perhaps been protective. It has taken the shape of psychological refuge, offering that little bit of respite from difficulty, but now that I have been pulled free of that I feel it just beginning to move in a different direction. It has served its purpose in its current form and I am excited to see where next it will go. There are already some new questions I am beginning to ask of my practice. Something more I want it to provide for me and, I hope, for others. It’s exciting, and I welcome the potential complexity that I have hitherto consciously and quite vocally eschewed.
I don’t suppose this is the sort of post most people would put out as they try to promote their ‘business’ (yuck). It’s not what you’d call projecting a relentlessly positive or ‘on message’ image, but frankly I don’t care about that. One’s experiences shape and inform one’s practice. It would be easy to spin it all with a cheerful grin, but it would not be honest and it wouldn’t cast the things I make in the right light. For those of us blessed/cursed with the creative urge it can be the case that we don’t really know what we’ve made until sometime after we’ve made it. If it turns out that what we made isn’t actually what we thought it was, well, tough shit. Give it all greasy gloss, present it with a forced smile and toe the line you drew for yourself if you want, but I’d rather be straight about what’s really going on or, if it’s not clear what’s going on right now, at least give my best guess about what went on. And if my opinions change, or I realise i got something wrong I’ll say so, because if i can do that, I think I’ll have a much better chance of seeing and embracing whatever comes next.