as always. I’ve been wondering about depiction in my paintings and the level of reality i required, and it came about from doing, or attempting to do, more commercial stuff – pub paintings, landscapes and still lifes. In those i automatically went for a more refined, realistic painting style, and without thinking abandoned my more abrasive paintwork for those particular pieces. Once i’d finished a few it felt in many ways like another diversion. I’ve had so many strange changes in style and content in my work over the years, but in hindsight it is still very possible to pick out motifs and common bonds between paintings.
Anyway, i wondered if maybe i could introduce the realistic painting style into my more usual weird folklore-y work, maybe in the form of a realistic background, with spiky, liney characters in the fore, but it didn’t really seem to work, until this week when i had more time to think and started to try and reconnect with some old themes – of painting from found footage – films, photos, other paintings, internet memes, newspapers, to show more a reflective approach of modern experience.
And with this meandering i came upon a thought which stuck with me, it felt sort of true. That all painting is failure. Maybe it extends to other art too, i haven’t thought about it. But painting, all of it, is truly failing. It’s impossible to depict life as it is, no matter how good you paint, and few have attempted to try and paint how we actually see (with two eyes, moving about constantly, with person-specific thoughts informing each object seen), and even if your intention is not a hyper realistic depiction, it is impossible to attain the original desire or intention you had for the painting. At some point you have to compromise through abandonment.
So, having sort of established (at least to myself) that all paintings fail, i began to see the worth in painting: the attempt reveals the artist. At least in good art. All painters fail in different ways, some don’t care that they fail, and even stress it (Dubbuffet), some merely use painting illustratively, their searching is not in the paint itself, but in the symbols depicted (such as Magritte, or Hogarth say), others (like Auerbach, Cecily Brown, Anselm Keiffer, Freud, Baselitz, surely my favourite category) do use the paint itself as a searching tool, working the material in the hope of a revelation. And there are many other categories.
In this context my troubles with depiction began to grow in my mind as something that could be used as a feature of my work, rather than hidden. Unity has always been something i’ve strived for, and never really gained in any capacity, but if i could find a way of uniting these disparate ideas i have of painting, and the differing stories i’d like to depict, then maybe i could create something a little closer to my true self.
Thus (thus!). Motif Of Being Held and Saintly are two paintings on that road. They’re not the first of mine to do that, but maybe they are the first i’ve done conscious of that understanding.