Glorious Descent

Glorious Descent
Acrylic on canvas 60 x 40cm

Friday, April 11, 2014

New work in group exhibition

Smooth Descent 90x110cm Acrylic on canvas 2014

This month Renew Newcastle celebrated it's 5th anniversary and to commemorate this NANA contemporary art space mounted a retrospective exhibition titled: Out of the Woodwork. 
Renew is famous for enlivening the creative heart of Newcastle by supporting artists and facilitating their creative projects in otherwise disused commercial spaces. Represented by over 16 different works were the efforts of artists, designers, collectives and galleries who have all contributed to the Renew program in the past 5 years. I have been involved with Renew since 2013 when I occupied a studio in a disused office block on Watt St in Newcastle's CBD. In this space I developed the textile work that formed my solo exhibition Hiding Places at the Lockup Cultural Centre in July 2013. When this project ended I became the co director of NANA contemporary art space and opened a gallery in the former David Jones building in Hunter St Mall. 

Smooth Descent is my contribution to Out of the Woodwork and is a significant piece as it marks the beginning of a shift in my practice. Completed in early 2014 it represents a time when I became less concerned with the conceptual content of my work but rather the ability of paint. This is a time when I first asked the question: 'What can paint do ?' On careful observation you will notice that this painting has been made using a wet into wet process, meaning, unlike in previous works where I was concerned with creating deliberate layers and allowed surfaces to dry before painting over, I painted a variety of colours into one another. The reason for this was I was primarily concerned with edges and creating more tonal depth within my chosen colours. 

A pivotal piece for me in 2013 was Clouded Desire, where I first worked all over the canvas completely with my chosen palette. I appreciated the immersive environment that this technique created and how the limited palette allowed one's eye to move slowly around the canvas rather than abruptly from bright colour to the next. However I was not satisfied with the transition of brush stroke to brush stroke, which were quite angular and awkward. Like many of my earlier paintings Clouded Desire was still concerned with colour blocking as if I were creating a design of shapes rather than an environment. In Smooth Descent I set about experimenting with smooth edges, bleeding colour, curving the brush and trying to extend the possibilities of the composition beyond the canvas. This is why I painted the yellow, like a frame around much of the composition, not to contain it but hopefully to suggest that the colour spreads beyond the rectangle. Whilst the colours are still very bright and contrasting the edges between them are softer the shapes have been pushed into one another rather than over the top. Generally though there is a peculiarity to the composition that evolved unintentionally. It is suggestive of a figure and ground and  there is a subtle horizon like. But there is also an all over flatness to the shapes that reminds you that it is just a surface. This tension between depth and surface and indeed the conventions of opposite genres (landscape and abstract expressionism perhaps) entertains me. The fact that these were unintentional effects intrigues me. 

Smooth Descent is the first of a new series of paintings where i have continued to ask what can paint do ? Which has led to experimentation and deliberate actions on the canvas that challenge the direction of the painting. Like in other parts of life, humans have a tendency to stick with what they know, even if we don't intend to, we develop habits and tendencies. Artists are mown experimentalists but even so we can develop practices that can restrict us. I have been known to 'solve' paintings according to techniques that i have used before. Sometimes it even feels like I am painting the same composition again - it is as if the subconscious reverts to what it knows. I am at a stage now where I am choosing to challenge my subconscious into making new decisions by deliberately changing how I apply paint. My friend recently asked me if this scared me as I didn't know what was occurring on the canvas couldn't gauge where it was going. Entering the studio daily I am surprised by what I find but more importantly I feel quite free as I relinquish control. Yes, I am the one applying the paint, but I don't know to what end and rather than painting a brush stroke so as to form something I know I am instead painting a question. 

Smooth Descent can be seen as part of Out of the Woodwork at NANA contemporary art space. 185 Hunter St Mall. Until April 12 2014.

Clouded Desire 120x110cm Acrylic on canvas 2013

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