Painting

143. Sherman Sam

Could you discuss how you approach each painting? Do you have any rituals or particular processes which determine how the work begins and then evolves? 

I wish I could say that it’s like being a sportsman where you have your lucky boots or cross yourself then kiss the field before you play… but it’s not quite like that. Not even lucky brushes or painting slippers… dammit!

At any one time, there are some 15-20 works in progress. Some of these have just been sitting in the studio for some years. I would say that half of them are getting more attention than the rest. I move them around, glance at them. A touch of paint here and a touch there, that’s the main action, and not always every day. BUT it is the looking and trying to stumble on to a solution or way forward that takes the time. Well, sometimes it’s not a stumble, but the accidental path is always the most satisfying because it’s so much less predictable. So even those seemingly forlorn pieces sitting around collecting dust, are really still being thought over somewhere in the back of my mind.

143. Sherman Sam

043. Andy Parkinson

Your work must require a degree of planning before you begin a composition. How do you know when a pattern should begin and end?

I am rarely ever aware of planning, even though of course it must be taking place. Each new work comes out of a previous one and there are so many other variations that suggest themselves whilst I am working on one that it never really feels like planning. I am working with very simple systems or patterns, once I have chosen one that interests me for the present then multiple permutations become immediately available. I almost always work in series, and there’s a lot of repetition involved (even though strictly speaking repetition is impossible). 

There is no beginning or end to a repeat pattern, but it exists within the limitations of a frame, whether an individual motif is the starting point that then grows outwards, or whether the dimensions of the support are the starting point and the space available is divided, resulting in an outside-in direction. Spatially, beginning and endings are always somehow related to the support. At the moment, I am working on geometric divisions of a hexagonal shaped support, whereas in the last few years I have been using divisions of a square. In 2010 I first started using a pattern I named 'Berkeley Square,’ that was a 3-inch motif repeated by doubling, the 'ending’ was determined arbitrarily by the size of the piece being as big as 'felt right’ in the end they were 4-foot squares. The doubling process meant that they could have only been 3"x3", 6"x6", 12"x12", 24"x24", 48"x48" etc. At 48" I thought I’d done enough to establish the pattern. 

043. Andy Parkinson

035. Lisa Denyer

Your earlier paintings exhibit an interest in geometric forms, but more recently your mark-making seems to have become much looser and more expressive. How has your visual language developed over the last few years?

I tend to think of the natural manifesting as freer, spontaneous brushwork, and the man-made being represented by hard-edged, more formal structures. My background is in landscape painting, but when I moved to Manchester I was very influenced by the architectural elements of the city. I was also thinking a lot about microscopic crystalline formations, and that was when I began my geometric work. At the time I was interested in quite a formulaic way of working, and I would always pre-plan the grid structures in my paintings.

Thinking about structures in this way led me to want to play around with ideas of form, and as I experimented my paintings became much freer and more spontaneous. The idea of closely exploring form through a complete stripping down to elemental components feeds into concepts of microcosm and macrocosm, which I often think about when I’m painting.

In my current work, I’m looking at rough, simple shapes contrasted with very textured, layered surfaces. The excavation and subsequent covering of color is important. I’m interested in entropy and materiality, so details such as broken bricks or peeling paint on buildings really appeal to me. These incidental details are so profound because they represent a certain transience, which I find very compelling. 

035. Lisa Denyer

028. Hester Finch

Your solo exhibition will see you present a new body of work. What new threads have you uncovered in the process of realizing these pieces?

The work that I am showing in my forthcoming exhibition is made up of three series, all in small format: ‘The Hospice’, ‘The Accused’ and the ‘Atrocity’ series. All three deal with similar issues of a loss of individual freedom and control, either through illness or imprisonment or war. However, the processes behind them are each quite different, which not only allows me a more comprehensive examination of the ideas but also the pleasure of a variety of painting techniques.

'The Hospice' are painted from life, in oils, on 8 x 6 in linen boards. They are based on my experience of working at a local hospice for 18 months up until autumn 2013. In the patient’s place, there is simply a twisted piece of cloth set in a box, pinned in space by the coloured triangular shadows cast by the walls of the spare hospice room. The folds of the cloth represent the wasted body and the absence.

028. Hester Finch

025. Jock McFadyen

Your city and landscapes appear to have an almost collage-like approach to paint, with each part being cut from a different fabric or texture. Do these depths depend on how details come to you as you observe?

What I’m obsessed with in painting is surface and making the paint bloom. What I like in painting is the counterpoint between accident and design, so I like the fact that paint is fluid, oil. I think that if a painting has got any life there has to be chaos. You know when you see a tightrope walker and they pretend to fall, just to remind you that it’s actually dangerous; the painting has to have that possibility of it being chaotic.

For me, the best paintings, that I enjoy making, are controlled accidents, where the paint falls around in a way that is better than you could have placed it. I can’t stand paintings where the painter has just done it in a controlled way. I like it to be a mixture of being highly graphic and abstract expressionism, which sound like opposites but I like them to be somehow the same. The reason for that is, because every painter has been to art school – one or two haven’t – and my generation of artists who went to art school in the ‘70s were taught largely – this might be something that people will argue with – by abstract painters. And I never wanted to be an abstract painter.

025. Jock McFadyen

022. Pascal Rousson

What are the main threads running through your practice?

From painting to sculpture and installation to ready-made objects, there’s a great diversity in my work and people can, sometimes, find it quite eclectic. I tend to produce a lot, trying new ideas; not to exploit one theme over and over again. Irony is a constant component, also the use of popular culture and found objects (Comics, photo magazines etc). References to art history to try and highlight or understand today’s problems is another idea I have explored. I once did an installation called ‘The Museum of the Dispossessed’ which look like a car boot sale display where each found object referred to an art movement or persona. This title could summarise my practice quite well.

022. Pascal Rousson

021. Sarah Bold

The drive behind your painting is admirable, as you state that you aim to convey the onset of climate change. How did this aspiration come to play a role in your painting?

Climate and isolation have been two very defining factors whilst growing up in rural Australia. The livelihoods of rural communities are dictated to & affected by patterns in the weather and changes in climate. These changes can have devastating effects on those dependent on the land yet the reality for these rural communities is that they often just try their best to get on with it. It is only when the economic fall out hits the wider country that response comes, often too late. This is why I describe my work as being concerned not only with climate but the slow creep of catastrophe. I describe it thus because I am referring not to the tragedy of a single cataclysmic event, but to a daily incremental change that is barely discernible in real time and only recognized in retrospect. These isolated rural communities are often at the frontline of these changes, trying to adapt and make a living, yet are often overlooked. From living and traveling through these isolated landscapes I have experienced the dependency on the predictability of the seasons. With the onset of climate change the seasons are no longer predictable and so, in turn, the future for rural communities is more precarious than ever. I feel this connection with the land is ingrained in me from childhood and so wholly informs my work.

021. Sarah Bold

020. Joe Warrior Walker

How does painting lend itself to your practice?

Painting has always been at the forefront of my practice. As a medium, it has the ability to encompass other technologies. The advent of photography instigated the ‘death of painting’ debate that continues to arise from time to time. However, painting as a medium has always developed through incorporating the very technologies that threaten it. Nowadays, it is very rare for a painter not to use any form photography at some stage in their process. For me, the interdisciplinary nature of painting is where it lends itself to my practice. I have never been able to just paint a picture onto a blank canvas. For a long time, I wished I could, and felt as if I was somehow cheating by always starting with some form of print or collage that I would then work over. I have come to realize that, in fact, it’s the very relationship between the different materials that I find most interesting.

My work often fluctuates between the digital and the painterly. But the way in which I approach the work is always from the mind of a painter. Even my digital film works are created through the same process by building up layers of color and image. I see these works to be closer to the idea of a moving painting than that of a traditional film or video.

020. Joe Warrior Walker

017. Morag Donkin

You say that your compositions are inspired by photographs taken on local walks; do you ever paint from life?

I very rarely paint from life. My research for new paintings often comes from cinematic imagery. Currently, I am working on a series of 3 paintings that has the potential to turn into 5. I am using photographs I have taken in Aviemore, in the Highlands. I like to translate the effects of the photographs into the painting as a way of developing their relationship with film. Often my skies will be very non-descript because they appear whited out in the photographs. I like the stark, severe look it creates. It also makes creating atmosphere a challenge, but I enjoy overcoming that.

017. Morag Donkin

016. Mark Beldan

Much of your work deals with the landscape. What draws you to paint a particular place?

When I was a kid, at the end of my road, there was an abandoned bungalow. It seemed ancient but it probably had been built in the 1950s. The rest of the neighborhood was newly built and somehow this slightly older house ended up disused, stranded between the new development and the highway. It stood there for years with the windows smashed and the doors ajar. Rumours went around my school that it was haunted, that all sorts of horrible things lurked inside.

Feeling brave one summer afternoon, I went into the house with some other kids. There was a stained mattress in one room, there were a few beer bottles and cigarette butts, but mostly there were just huge piles of rotting undelivered newspapers. It was a teenage hangout. The ghost stories were totally functional, they stopped little kids like us hanging around or reporting back to parents.

016. Mark Beldan

013. Robina Doxi

Your paintings often play out across the canvas as maps, with constellation-like patterns that guide the eye; are these designed for us to follow as a way of reading your work?

I think of the canvas as inviting the viewer to take a walk within the picture, but leaving the choice of which route to take up to the individual. This way there can be a number of possibilities in one image, built up the way a dream is, with its own sense of logic and gravity.

The likeness of maps or constellation patterning in your work, paired with titles like Fate and Change, give your work a wistful sense of destiny. Do you see them as calling to viewers in this way?

The titles are deliberately open and intend to hint at a mapping of the mind, rather than a physical space. Most of the pieces are imbued with a notion of uncertainty, and I want the titles to reflect that this does not have to be a scary thing. ‘Psychogeography’, a term coined by author Guy Debord, is an intriguing concept – the idea of a collective awareness, social existence, and relationship to a place.

013. Robina Doxi

011. Gemma Nelson

The pieces in ‘Growth’ center around a very organic, spontaneous way of working. How much do you know about how you want a painting to look when you start?

A lot of reading and research goes behind each new body of work, investigating appropriate symbolism and thoughts. I have a composition in mind when I work on a new painting, but the exact structure of painting occurs within the weeks and months it takes to create. Sometimes the painting completely changes direction halfway through making the painting as my ideas alter throughout the time it is created. I am currently researching folklore relating to cults such as ancient Baalism of Mesopotamia and Osirism of Egypt, which were rich in symbology and rituals. I am also researching the practice of tattooing within ancient religions; often wrapping a person or an object in patterns and symbols would offer spiritual assistance in fertility rituals. I almost construct the work ritually; the process is rather obsessive, enfolding the paintings in various patterns and symbolic representations that are quite organic in construction. 

011. Gemma Nelson

009. Trevor Kiernander

Your paintings seem to reference landscapes, scenes or structures that you have seen or experienced. What kind of material does this personal language stem from?

My personal language in painting has been developing for a number of years. This is informed by many things, as I take my references from pretty much anywhere. The paintings reference landscapes, as they are interpretations of my surroundings. Source material is gathered from both actual and virtual environments and put into a painting, often times quite simply because I think “hey, that would be great in a painting”. (It’s obviously more complex than that, with certain characteristics of objects and their relationships to others are what peak my curiosity, but on a quick surface level, it is an immediate attraction that inspires me). I always have a phone, camera, or some paper on me, taking and making photos and sketches of things I see, and how they might come to be a part of a painting. The internet and my computer play a big part of my creative process because I can visit anywhere and take pictures, editing them to suit.

009. Trevor Kiernander

006. Veronica Smirnoff

You employ imagery traced from a huge and varied body of historical material. Is there a particular source you are constantly drawn back to?

An abiding sense of art history is ever present in my work. I have many artists’ catalogues/books spread out before me as I work. In a way, it helps address the ethos of real life rather than topicality.

Sources from pre-renaissance and icon painting as well as newspaper clippings, periodical cutouts, and media culture are being reassembled, tested for authenticity in an emotional and critical way, defined through constant analysis of things that surround me and their relationships to each other. 

006. Veronica Smirnoff

005. Katrina Blannin

How does your use of geometry facilitate the clarity of form that prevails in your paintings?

The geometric forms are generated from drawings that always start with a grid, which provides the armature for the main structure. Lines are drawn from one corner to the other or from the centers – sometimes grid squares are bisected. Symmetry and asymmetry are essential considerations – all the moves and decisions taken throughout the process are somehow repeated on the opposite side, whether they are mathematical or regarding layers of color and tone. I have built up a set of rules by which to work by – actually a methodology that is slowly evolving. This involves experimenting and researching new visual ideas all the time, and I am still asking a lot of questions. I am certainly looking for a way of working that will produce paintings that have a logical clarity, compositional and material interest, and which ultimately work phenomenologically in some way – at least that’s what I hope for! 

005. Katrina Blannin

004. William Stein

Your paintings are very emotive in their treatment of abstraction. How do the recurring motifs in your paintings resonate personally with you?

I think this question cuts straight to the underlying activity of my painting practice. When I paint, I put myself in the work, and I am an emotional being, so one thing must surely lead to the other – I do not close myself off when I work, so yes, the works are emotive. The recurring motifs are the conduit, the link from myself, to my work, to my viewer. They begin as inarticulate shapes, objects, but I hope that once they have been worked, caressed, beaten, they will carry a voice and a story, albeit an unknowable, unknown, abstracted story. And I think this leads onto why a limited pallet of shapes and objects, rather than a figurative remaking of the things we see around us: this is because I have no desire to illustrate the seen world, neither to illustrate an idea or a concept. Rather the work is to be sensed, to be felt, not analysed and understood. I want to guide the viewer into a space, somewhere liminal, somewhere to be explored, and it should sit aside from the known, otherwise surely there should be no reason to create it. The shapes and objects in my work are sometimes quiet, sometimes restless, and they gaze at the viewer, and in turn the viewer moves into herself, and then moves back to the shapes and objects, and takes herself with her, and the circle is closed, and the motifs are no longer personal to me, they are the viewer, they hold everything that the viewer is. And so the motifs are only personal in that I have formed them, I have made them just enough of something so they may act as a vessel to others, and indeed they soon enough are anyone’s, they become personal to all who care to take them on.

004. William Stein

003. Dale Adcock

This is your fourth year showing work in The Future Can Wait. How has your work changed over this period of time?

I make three to six paintings a year, so they develop and emerge quite slowly! The biggest development has been the clarity of the total idea of the imagined work and it’s closeness in feel to the actual painting.

Your paintings find a certain abstraction within the bounds of figuration. How does your approach to form enable this balance?

All the paintings balance between figuration and the ancient question of how to represent something on a two-dimensional surface.

003. Dale Adcock