Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let It Bleed

When I exhibited my first works in mixed media – pencil, ink, watercolour and acrylic – on paper, three years ago, I was asked why I'd 'suddenly' decided to turn my back on the slick, colorful, high gloss enamel paintings that had proved so appealing to collectors. I hadn't worked out a good answer. All I knew was that, for a long time, I'd wanted to fracture the shiny surface of everything I'd created to that point and expose what was really going on beneath it: a simmering gumbo of long-suppressed frustration, brittle anger and confusion.
It wasn't easy to do. I had to unlearn everything I'd taught myself over the previous decade – all the rigid, highly disciplined processes derived not only from my take on post-modern theories about 'objective', de-personalised art but also an almost neurotic drive to obscure any trace of the human in my work. Then I had to re-learn to think and feel more deeply and at the same time, acquire the confidence not to stifle any stray, instinctive impulses that resulted in marks on the paper that I didn't always expect or understand.
As all this went on, I had to get to grips with the materials themselves. Being someone who is awkwardly obsessive/compulsive, my initial ineptness almost defeated my ambition: my studio floor became a rustling dune of crumpled or torn-up paper as I went through sheet after sheet of expensive, Italian-made, cold-pressed stock. I also went though several tubes of imported English watercolours.
The floor of my studio is again buried under reams of discarded paper. This time, instead of tubes of paint, it's dozens of three-ounce, tin-capped bottles emptied of ink and broken pen nibs. In between regular commutes to the enamel factory, where I spend many hours drawing the finest, straightest, cleanest outlines and painting wide fields of colour which dry with no trace of my repeated brush-strokes, I hunch over my drawing table and try to tame the anarchic, spidery trails and random blots that spill across the paper from my dip pen – without success.
Failure in my art wrenches at me worse than the loss of any lover. But as with a broken heart, all I can do is endure.


JenXer said...

In my never ending (it seems) quest for efficiency and less waste (things that don't mesh well with making art), I agonize over drawing something "wrong," or "wasting" materials. It requires constant reminding that it's OKAY to draw less than perfectly; it's OKAY to go through paper- it's a necessary part of the practice.

Kellie said...

There's no such thing as failure, it's all relevant and beautiful.
These new pieces in the last two entries are rich with feeling and freedom.