Is it possible, and is it even necessary? Quite a few years back I doused a dozen 30 x 30 cm. boards in household emulsion and started a set of pictures that used a restricted palette of colours combined with some very loose forms drawn from images from my mobile phone shot on holiday in the south west. As happens occasionally I abandoned them quite early on and went back to one or another of the other projects I’d got on the go at the time. Why I can’t quite say now but they lay abandoned on a shelf in my studio for at least four or five years.
Moving studios is quite a wrench. I’ve been through it and am still working through the consequences – one of which is reorganising space here at home to make room to get larger scale projects underway. Whilst that happens (it may be well into Spring before I get properly sorted) I’ve been thrown back on utilising the smaller projects from the past. Hence the re-emergence of those panels. First off I backed them to give them more substance. It wasn’t strictly necessary and I recalled that part of the initial impetus behind them had come from visiting the exhibition of Olav Christopher Jenssen‘s marvellous Estimation; Love Letter Headings For The Bronte Sisters in Kassel back in the 90’s.
But for me lifting the surface away from the wall makes it seem more crafted somehow so it had to be done. After that I took the electric sander to the rough, often thickly daubed, surfaces revealing some underpainting and the grain of the emulsion.
This perked them up a fair bit…but what to do next? Might I simply react to the marks, textures and forms revealed to date? Did I need some kind of determination as to the formal characteristics, even to go as far as to have an actual idea or -goodness – maybe even a subject? I’ll admit that I started in the most direct way possible by placing some brushstrokes against or over those already there. But gradually a raft of differing thoughts started crowding in ranging freely over inchoate notions such as why not use some geometric patterning (something I’ve toyed with around roughly once a decade!) through to even more woolly thoughts connected to the landscape settings of one or another of the crime novels I’m fond of reading.
However then just as it seems it can’t get any less structured or meaningful something pops up that seems to make some kind of sense. I read (or initially, to be strictly accurate, listened to) a poetry cycle that comprises 26 works that move through the season. Somehow suddenly, at least to me, the forms and colours begin to coalesce into a kind of meaning for these panels. Of course I’m going to have to make another fourteen to complete the project…but I have a staging post to which I can tether the steed. But although I’m now rifling through my back catalogue of winter images (I’ve many hundreds of these taken whilst out walking) and maybe can plunder a few for forms am I really making meaning, adding value, purposing the process of painting? Only time will tell I guess.