Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scratching The Surface

As hard as it is to get to grips with a new medium, it can be even harder to get to grips with a new idea. I am struggling with both right now.
When I first started working with watercolours, four years ago, I was determined to strike out in a completely different direction from the hard-edged, tightly constructed, Pop-infused images that defined the enamel paintings that had been my enter output for nearly ten years. As I've written before in several other posts, I wanted to puncture the seamless, shiney surfaces of these works and expose the unpretty emotional and psychological mess I'd wanted to entomb beneath them (think Chernobyl and thousands of tons of concrete poured into its nuclear reactor to seal a rupture).
My first marks on paper felt like I was committing some nameless crime and for several days after – and several dozen false starts – it didn't get any easier. The breakthrough came only when a close friend picked up one of many discarded attempts off the floor – one in which I'd deliberately defaced a pair of serpentine female demons with slashes of heavy black paint instead of tearing the paper apart – and said, simply, "Maybe look again at
this one. I think it says something." I did and during the two days I spent repairing and reworking it, I came to understand, finally, what I was trying to get at.
It took just four weeks to produce the other dozen works that were exhibited with it at my first-ever exhibition of mixed media works,
Venus In Hell, in Melbourne.
I haven't yet had a similar breakthrough with my experiments with pen and ink. Again, my lack of self-confidence and frustration are such that I over-work and destroy nearly every picture. And yet, somewhere in the recesses of my psyche is an imprint of past experience that reminds me that, although the next few days or weeks are likely to be bloody hard and unproductive, something will eventually emerge as the key to unlock the meaning of all the disparate symbols now scattered – like unresolved cyphers – across these pages.
Until then, I have to keep reminding myself not to give up – and resist the impulse to destroy all evidence of my failures.

4 comments:

Mike Wood said...

"evidence of my failures..." or evidence of early experiments in pen and ink? Studies you might not share, might not like, but keep in mind had you destroyed the initial furtive steps that ultimately became Venus in Hell, you would not have had that first exhibition...

MB said...

the pieces you define as "failures" are artifacts of experience. without them, there could be no evolution of idea or object, and little opportunity for refinement of either. i always think the stuff leading up to the piece that is defined as "successful" is equally if not more valuable, at least to the maker. and interestingly enough, a wise and informed collector is always interested in the backstory, and can often trace the conceptual line from beginning to end when they have the chance to see the artifacts.

Lisa Klow said...

I wonder if it's an artist thing to destroy failures. I rip up bad drawings and tear bad paintings off their bars and rip them up to use as scrap canvas. It's how I express my frustration.

Darren Daz Cox said...

the only bad art is the art you are too fearful to make.

hang in there....