While planning and thinking out this project, much of my focus was on the stretching and forming of the canvas to bring out its character—and wondering if my ideas were even physically possible.
I wanted to take the canvas past its usual flat, and mostly discrete role as a ground to hold paint but had never expected for the shapes to hold such beauty, as to tempt me to leave them entirely blank? While tempting, I went through many stages before I finally concluded that any approach to painting these structures had not only to justify the sculptural qualities but be a means to help the viewer truly see, and appreciate the aesthetics of it all, or there would be no balance.
But, after a lengthy process, I’m finally at peace with the result.
Upon completion, it became obvious that the name of this piece had to change. Though the structure remained the same, the dynamics had changed the identity—hence “Changes.”
The rectangular dimensions listed with the photo, are only for crating and shipping purposes. If “Changes” is to be displayed as in the above photo it measures a full 254 cm from top to bottom.
Getting a little closer and on a slight angle, should help improve the perception of what otherwise could be seen as an entirely two-dimensional object?
I particularly like how the sharper angle allow lights, reflections and shadows to better illustrate the shape and chroma in this photo.
The arduous process required to bring about these structures makes photographing them seem like a reward, frequently opening up an all new perspective to me. Once transferred to a two-dimensional format, the different viewing angles takes on a unique character, with an entirely new aesthetic value–conceptually connected, yet entirely separate from the original.
Acrylic paint on canvas, triptych (123 x 245 cm.)
Just like the title, this is indeed a work in progress, yet I wanted to share the current developments.
Knowing some of the journey may help you further appreciate or entirely dislike the finished product but either way, the process is what I must work my way through to find the balance needed to call the product finished.
This series of photos was a rather difficult task, and while I didn’t really succeed in accurate depictions (as can be seen in the varying tonal qualities,) I think I managed to share how these pieces interact with space and light?
The intended focus of this piece are the multiple dimensions and use of materials, to best share this I tried to change my angle of approach as much as possible from photo to photo. For the sake of authenticity and honest depiction, I used daylight lamps (5500/5600 Kelvin) and allowed the light from my garden window to blend with the light of the lamps, still the colors varied from photo to photo? It may seem unlikely but I’ve used no filtering to allow viewing to be as natural as a camera possibly can.
This photo has what seems more like a late afternoon sun hitting the painting, which didn’t happen but if you keep that in mind and use the other photos for cross-reference you may have a better idea of the colors? I just didn’t want to start manually altering any of the photos in fear of losing the integrity of the photo.
These colors are actually close to how I see them myself in the painting, I hope that helps?
When I first photographed this piece in the garden for my Instagram account, it quickly became a matter of timing, wiping off drops of rain and rushing to take more pictures before the next drops began to fall. I finally thought we had succeeded and posted the pictures, only to find that the painting still had traces of drops, some partly wiped off and others not so much. After all the work preceding my rainy day photo session, a few drops of rain ended up giving name to the piece.
Before I had to fight the weather to photograph this piece, it had to be formed, first in my mind and then in the studio. I wanted to free myself from the conventions while still using conventional tools to do so, and what could be more conventional than paint and canvas in art–so that’s where I began.
The canvas, often referred to as ground, typically given a barely mentioned passive role and stretcher bars, discrete supports for the ground, could instead be called on as media, all working together, not to just carry a medium but all be equally significant media.
Much thought and experimentation came before the actual conceptualization of my idea but I wanted paint, canvas and stretcher bars to be media–all merged into one expression. For canvas and stretcher bars to be considered of value, their characteristics had to be considered and properly displayed to qualify as media.
But, with multiple media there must be a balance and when both stretcher bars and canvas explode into view, demanding attention, the painting must be equally explosive.
Photographed under different circumstances, away from the rain and using in-house lighting, here is my first realization of what began as merely an idea, challenging myself, wondering if in bringing out the characteristics of canvas, if I could really stretch it as much as I wanted–and still not get wobbles (the wobbles are for another painting, another day.)
I couldn’t help including this old favorite of mine, although it’s a long time since I painted it but it triggers a lot of memories for me.
I was on the ferry to visit a dear friend in the Gulf Islands, who has long since passed away. While out on deck to enjoy the scenery, I noticed how the sun empowered those potently red interiors of the lifeboats, all in perfect contrast to an otherwise subdued and clouded Pacific West Coast sky. In my eyes, it just had to be painted and although it came with some difficulties–I quite like the result.
While this wouldn’t sell for much in a western european market, it went very quickly in North America and sold appropriately to a hotel in Victoria, British Columbia–where many of their customers likely would have traveled through those same Gulf Islands and would easily recognize those same Vancouver-Gulf Islands-Victoria ferries.
Again, one of my first acrylics and one of my first figure paintings. With this, I aimed to create a reflective scene, sharing that deep inner feeling of peace, calm and contemplation.
When working with people and perhaps especially with the nude figure, it’s not enough to know about media and process.
I knew very little of working with models, especially posing them. Perhaps I had imagined that poses just sort of happened but surprisingly (at least to me at the time,) a whole lot of preparation and directing is involved.
By necessity, I soon learned that the art of figure painting begins long before even stapling canvas to its stretcher bars but I’ve been fortunate, beyond what I could ever have hoped for–the models I’ve worked with have all been very patient and understanding people.
In a vague hope of sharing the three-dimensional qualities of Dry Spell’s shaped canvas and keeping in mind the limitations of two-dimensional media, I had to change my approach. Instead of attempting to include everything, I moved in close–showing just portions of Dry Spell. Using close-ups allowed me drastically different viewing angles–and although segmented, a more complete experience for the viewer.￼
The aesthetic qualities of what was initially only meant as details surprised me. The close-ups now seemed to take on a life of their own as little independent expressions, perhaps worthy of being shared and displayed as prints?
214 x 90 cm. Diptych. Acrylic paint on shaped canvas.
105 x 65 cm, acrylic paint on canvas.
By seeking a more universal representation of the figure and excluding all but the actual torso, I hoped to give credit to the sculptural qualities of the female form and not let the aesthetics be an obstacle to the feelings of the piece.
The emotive qualities were however my top priority. Although perhaps entirely too ambitious, I was looking to depict the inner solace found at the core of total acceptance–not just by others but also oneself.
The cooler tones dominating the piece while the composition eliminates all but a faceless torso, is to make viewing it a less personal and more universal experience, creating a comfortable distance for the viewer to enter the space, and relate.
The thought behind this piece is one of great importance to me, acceptance. When accepted and respected, we seem to become better versions of ourselves. This is my visual representation of that acceptance.
When I visited London some time back, I also had the good fortune to see the Picasso exhibition curated by Sir John Richardson “Minotaurs and Matadors” at the Gagosian Gallery. Despite having seen many of Picasso’s works exhibited before (an entirely different and much more impressive experience than seeing them in books or online) this once again allowed me a grand experience.
It’s a known fact that Picasso in a way identified with the bull and with that in mind, his drawings depicting a bull when processing it through a reductive process might allow some insights, as all choices in the process were entirely Picasso’s.
First, Picasso takes on his usual role as the artist, expertly selecting, isolating for focus and removing visual elements–all with the intentions to find those essential elements of art in the subject but as the process nears the end, it becomes more apparent–intentionally or subconsciously, what he chose to reduce almost to extinction.
As is frequently seen in design and icons, the bulls head is often used to symbolise unstoppable strength, mind, mentality and tenacity while also sometimes fiercely imposing, can be enough to clearly identify the idea of a bull. The head of a bull was also enough for Picasso to suggest himself a bull when putting on a bull’s mask, as he would do but in the last image of the Bull Series, the head is as near to being completely gone as it can possibly be.
Similarly have the genitals of bulls been used to refer to the character and traits inherent to the masculinity and strength in the bull, just like people in some parts of the world compare themselves or parts of themselves to that of the bull but again in a final stage of reduction, Picasso almost completely castrates the bull in the last bull drawing.
Returning to Picasso, metaphorically identifying with and relating to the bull or better yet–the minotaur as half man, half bull said “If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a Minotaur.” In Picasso’s world, the bull portion of the minotaur was ultimately destined to fight for its life and die fighting–while man portion of that same minotaur still tries to make sense of it all.
The drawings are indisputably Picasso’s recorded expression as he chose every step of the way, which brings me to question if this was a statement on more than elements of design and abstraction, intentionally or unintentionally? Did Picasso feel burdened by his own success as he inescapably became a greater celebrity, seeing his identity, real strength and artistic freedom reduced to the point of being almost removed?