Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Colour Field Painting

The great @markpvenema suggests that: "Perhaps a stain blog post is in order"

I'm never very sure. I have always been deeply suspicious of abstract act, both on modernist and traditionalist grounds, and yet it is the kind of work in painting (I'm much less convinced by modernist, far less abstract, work in sculpture or other plastic forms) which I find interesting, and more interesting as I look more and more at, and work more and more with, paint.
I wouldn't rather have a Pollock than a Sargent above my fireplace. I have no hesitation in saying that Van Dyke is a better painter than de Kooning. And yet, and yet...
When one starts painting every day, there is the hesitation which, like writing every day,has a tendency to paralyse. The blank page, the blank canvas, have all your possibilities potential within them. You just need not to mess up.
It looks as if abstract and field painting would be easy places to start. The reverse is true. To discover what you admire about such paintings requires a great deal of work in copying representational paintings. You get to a low level of technical competence with someone who is nonetheless a great painter (say, bad case, someone like Van Gogh, good case, someone like Hopper) then footer around with Chagall, then, Matisse, then Picasso (as far as one is able), then Kandinsky, then Malevich, then Gorky...
Then what do you do?
Perhaps you become interested in the mechanics of paint on canvas, as did Pollock, Motherwell, Still, Newman, Rothko &c &c. Staining canvas is an immediate, dramatic, solution (and a nightmare for conservators). The reason I cannot point you to great online images is that they don't exist. You can't really capture raw pigment in photographs. I've just tried photographing an ultramarine-stained canvas I did perhaps 10 years ago seven or eight times. It doesn't look like itself at all.
I'm beginning to think that sheer colour is almost the hardest thing to work with. But I still think the line is where it all begins, so I'm sketching more.

Dots for Susan Hill

Moleskine sketch: a Liberal

Moleskine sketches: baby elephant

Saturday, 17 April 2010