Friday, January 21, 2011

The Remains of the Day (My Painting Epilogue I)

The Remains of the Day, 2011, recycled acrylic palettes on board, h41 x w76.5cm

It's all Daphne's fault. Meeting my friend the admirable portrait painter Daphne Todd at Green & Stones in the King's Road (the last true artist's shop in London) I saw that she had bought a pad of disposable palettes. She said she always used them... so practical, no more cleaning palettes at the end of a working session etc. I said I thought they were meant for amateurs but I would give them a go; and anyway I had just used up my three wooden palettes making Beckett Again and had been about to buy a new one.

So, for the whole of the reworking of Quantum Poetics I used them for mixing colours and for making the cumulative mix for the current Terminal Grey canvas. Always aiming to be the Compleat Recycler I did not however dispose of them but let them pile up and dry in the corner of the studio.

Nor did I discard the sturdy tray that Andy had made to house the panels of Quantum Poetics as I was painting them, and on which I cleaned my brushes as I proceeded.

One day looking at these curling, flimsy but paint laden palettes I had a taste of that epiphany that visited Kandinsky a hundred years ago when he observed that the mixtures and random conjunctions of colours on his palette were perhaps more exciting than the picture he was painting.

I could see that the verve of the brushwork and the sliding and colliding (often called 'painterly') of colours were events that had largely eluded me in my work, as was the physical presence of paint itself that French artists call matière.

How to harness this observed energy was the problem. Boulez (quoting Sibelius) says that, to compose, 'one must take delirium and organise it'.

I got Andy to make a single panel that would exactly fit his tray frame (now itself covered in streaks of paint, plus the odd brushed-in memo or telephone number). I made a border for the panel of square sections of Terminal Greys gathered from the palettes, to link it with my original recycling project started over forty years ago. This made a frame within the frame. Then I started to build an improvisatory mosaic of choice fragments of colour and texture, following where the emerging shapes led, sticking down the little rectangles piece by piece with acrylic medium. Scissors, scalpel, straight-edge and glue brush was all the equipment I needed, and, once stuck down the pieces remained with no revision allowed.

I call the picture The Remains of the Day, a recycled title from Ishiguro's novel which would appear to be in turn a recycling of Sigmund Freud's Rückstände des Tages, the daily residue of impressions that make the basic recipe for a later encoded dream.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Brushes with the future

Having downloaded the Brushes app on my iPad I was keen to try it out. An evening at the venerable London Sketch Club armed with no other drawing tools put me nicely on the spot.

With half hour poses being the order of the day I had four chances to make a fool of myself (since being so oddly equipped made me an object of curiosity). Luckily I could quickly press the bin ikon and trash my first three attempts which went sadly out of control. By the last pose I was almost getting the hang of it and produced something like a drawing I could honourably leave on the screen. So I count this my first effort. Certainly in terms of new technology it is a Sketch Club First, though essentially it seemed old fashioned as I held my reminder of a child's tablet to work on. Drawing with my finger, moreover, seemed virtually prehistoric.