Wednesday, May 06, 2009
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, the 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.