Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Repeating Myself

I'm sometimes criticised for the obsessive repetition of characters, compositions, colours and dimensions within my paintings. The most obvious examples are the Dangerous Career Babes, in which each Babe is posed exactly the same within a 2.0m x 1.6m high-gloss colour frame. It's also apparent in series as different as The Lin Triptych (watercolour, pencil, acrylic on cold-pressed paper), Lake Eyre (enamel on custom-made board) and Precious Blood (enamel on custom-made board): in each, individual paintings look like random frames excerpted from the same film sequence.
They're intended to reflect the insistent repetitiveness we encounter in advertising, just as
their flawless, shiny surfaces are intended to be as seductive as any high-end consumer product.
Such repetition is rooted in religious iconography. Indeed, the Precious Blood series suggests that it's an ancient propaganda device. For nearly 2,000 years, t
he Catholic Church has used it to reinforce, among other things, notions of purity and piousness. Look how consistently similar and accessible images of the Virgin Mary and popular saints have been over centuries, our impressions of them (as well as our understanding) as carefully managed as any product advertising campaign.
I readily embraced the power of repetition in my work even if, when I was younger, it unsettled me a little. Maybe I suspected it undermined the originality of individual works. However, as I grow older – and as I begin to think of myself less as a painter and more as a conceptual artist – repetition makes more and more sense. It communicates the intellectual intent of my work and tracks the relentless, serial productisation of what we used to think of as 'high culture' – another thing
Andy Warhol (himself a good Catholic boy) 'got' way ahead of the rest of us.


glennhudson said...

yes. repetition.
i went to each hyper-linked example. wonderful. really.
i'm reminded of a quote i saw earlier today" i don't need a critic to tell me what's art." ...and then, for someone to criticize repetition. curious?
from the moment of creation *save a one celled creature* repetition (in the form of multiplication) is occurring. from the root of your core, and into your art.
makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

we repeat ourselves every day, that's life. Change is not always progress. I dared last year to suggest to an artist friend whose paintings are gorgeous but focus on urban isolation, that he move to a more cheerful brighter subject with less melancholic somewhat sunless though very sensual colours. His reaction told me I had betrayed him somehow. He had trusted me to understand him over the years and I suddenly failed him.

vee gee

jennie Rosenbaum said...

I've been listening to an album which has some very well added repetition so I have been thinking on the nature of repetition myself lately. sometimes it's banal and lazy, a chance to rehash and reuse rather than exhibit creativity. but sometimes repetition in itself is a point, it can hammer home emotions and drum up resonance inside you. it can be hypnotic and mesmerizing. I think that when it works it really really works. I love the dangerous career babes series!

btw, you might like passing strange, it gave me my favorite quote ever "I let my pain fuck my ego and I called the bastard art"