This post features works made over the recent weeks with an attempt to explain their emergence.
I recently found Arthur Boyd’s “Caged Artist” at the Royal Academy – the closest to tears I have ever been in front of a painting. It felt like coming home. I realised that Arthur Boyd was almost my default idea of what a painter could achieve. There was sadness around the futility of painting in self-inflicted isolation but at the same time a passionate raging against the tyranny of monoculture that I believe fluid directness in painting can evoke.
About the same time I had a half-joking idea to make some Action-Man paintings. Being a suspicious lover of words I enjoyed the thought of Action Man actually action painting. It also made me think of Arthur Boyd’s brilliant paintings of Acteon – “Acteon Man” I chuckled inwardly. Feeling emboldened I set up a live-stream video account and set about broadcasting Action Man live action painting. During theses transmissions I incanted phrases borrowed from the New York school of painting, “I am a spiritual tuning fork!” “I seek emotional truth” “I value the unknown over the known and the unfinished over the finished” “All over all over all over”.
Making the paintings I had intuitively enacted the childhood game of lying on the ground holding the doll and talking – much to my surprise I found that at the end of the process I had paintings that seemed to come from nowhere transmitting an instant and intense feeling.
Sidney Nolan described painting as “getting rid of lies”. Could it be that by painting through a surrogate action figure I had found I secret door into my own hidden realm beyond the surface of the canvas? For me as a painter this surface can feel like a reinforced steel wall, which I had, at least temporarily, dissolved and this is the place that my recent works come from. As if to confirm my new direction I finally came across the phrase “negative capability” and realised that this was exactly what I valued in painting. This has interesting repercussions in terms of “truth” and “lies”. Is the jettisoning of labelling the same as “getting rid of lies”?
Clement Greenberg advised that a rigorous system of critical analysis was required on the part of the artist to avoid the work turning into decoration. Oh how we have suffered the steadily amplifying waves of this decree. I now reasoned that there comes a point when my left-brain must stand back and witness the death of the author not look the other way. Perhaps what I am left with is more battleground than murder scene as content struggles back to the surface.