My recent investigations into my practice took a turn last week. I had been trying to convince myself that my work could be more specific and intentional by simply concentrating on subject matter. I realized at some point that it was getting very forced and that I was having to work around this whilst painting as if it were an obstacle. I went back to writings on painting and read some interviews with painters such as Charlene Von Heyl, Gary Strephen, Agnes Martin and Robert Irwin. Taking some time to go back to my initial interest; painting, I was able to see that my tangent into subject matter was not a waste of time; it was necessary and quite informative. I started to see parallels and connections that have helped me to position painting in the context of other human activities and cultural production.
Reading about nature and how nature writers try to encourage people to engage with it by referencing art, literature and poetry made me realise how important these non-narrative visceral and intuitive acts are. We need things that can only be felt under the skin so that we can realize that the most important things in life can only be felt in this way, like being alive. We can only truly engage with the world if we are able to do this. Linguistic explanations and directions cannot teach us how to feel.
I have been trying to formulate a question so as to interrogate my practice and some ideas have been rising to the surface; I am interested in providing occasions to make work and how these occasions can be affected by outside forces, which in turn can affect the work to some degree. Over the last three or four years of my practice I’ve noticed, for example, that walking and taking photographs in natural landscapes gives me a lot of inspiration and visual references for making paintings; that the media I choose to work with can create different responses; that allowing a visual vocabulary to develop of its own accord is extremely exciting and surprising as long as I don’t try to control the process. Moreover, last year I discovered a new approach that also has great bearing on the work; collaboration. Working with others on art projects is extremely enriching, it also prevents me from falling into the temptation of controlling the way the art is made to a great extent. It relieves me of the burden of authorship and helps to build relationships with others.
As part of this experiment I have been working on various collaborative projects. In line with this, last Saturday I collaborated on a painting with my 3 year old daughter. I provided the canvas, and directed her towards some materials but she chose the colours, the paint brush size and she made the marks. It felt like essentially her work although I did contribute I felt like she was directing. We talked about it afterwards and complemented each other on our respective contributions. She did very surprising things which seemed like they wouldn’t work but ultimately gave a lot of energy to the work. We combined drawing and painting and a sense of colour. We listened to music and danced. We worked side by side and far apart. It was very gratifying to see how we were learning from each other whilst we worked, and also reacting to what the other did. It’s interesting to notice the change in dynamic when working with somebody else, the mood was lighter, although there were moments were I felt worried about ruining the work, but I was able to work through these feelings.