The works are a considered set, to be shown together. Complementary, they are able to stand alone.
The Making of the Atheist:
I wanted to create a portrait of Jessica that reflected her personality and character. She is a very thoughtful and deep thinking person, interested in science and the world of reason. She is an atheist and is keen to share the freedom from oppression of religious belief. I decide to paint her in a contemplative state, I rather liked the echo it bears from my monastery painting, which I used to help inform the textures and mood of this painting. I wanted to echo religious iconography and painting by including gold embellishment, which takes the shape of particle collisions as recorded during the work at the large Hadron Collider as they search for the Higgs Boson particle.
This painting is built upon the foundation of the Bigallo Monastery which I painted last year, the window echoes another piece based on my Brno visit, which dealt with imprisonment.
The Brno piece that helped inform The Atheist
Like The Atheist, Long Exposure reveals something about the figure in the environment. In the darkening sky he sits on his haunches, patient yet tense, hand poised waiting for the exposure to complete. He, like every photographer before him, will find the scene and the light will be impossible to capture. As I painter I have included the gold leaf to signify the brilliance of the light against the dark sky and dimly lit landscape.
Controlling the value of such a painting was the major challenge, to keep the details, low lights and highlights suppressed within the larger value scale was vital to retain the brilliance of the golden sky. His glasses and the lens of the camera pick up a hue not found within the painting, hinting of more outside the frame.
I used the gold here, not as an embellishment but as an integral part of the scene.
The Making of Europa:
Kate is a half English half Italian, and has been devastated by the Brexit vote. Her boyfriend is half Mexican, half Norwegian so she has a keen sense of the value of international relations. Here she is depicted in the financial district of London, with the obvious connotations for the British economy. Kate wears a halo of the European flag in gold in the finished version of the painting, and she leans towards us from above, superior and above nationalist small mindedness. Her halo resembles and echoes religious iconography, which sits in stark contrast to the steel and glass structure behind her.
The Making of the SKYPOOL:
I was inspired to attempt something developed from my earlier experiments with paint-o-graphs. I found the vibrant glow of projected light upon a painted surface very appealing and unusual, and wanted to make a more subltle and designed version.
Reflections, domes and the elements combined in my conceptual "back boiler" along with images I had collected below. Ideas about non religious yet sacred feeling art had already begun to appear. My satellite dishes looked like baptismal fonts, and I liked the idea of us looking down on the sky. Just as Hubert Damisch has explored the notion of the celestial sky, with the unwothy human underneath, I wish to elevate us to Gods, looking down, the domes that soared about us are now those we look into beneath us. The support for the dish became a challenge. It had to be not obtrusive, yet had to support the notions of quality, the font-ness, yet not be a font. I found some concrete like boards, and constructed a scooped plinth, embellished with gold, like a church stone. The dish appears to float above, like a flying saucer or sting ray. A single large steel sphere sits in the middle, reflecting the surrounding environment and incorporating it and any viewer into the work. The parabolic shape creates a peculiar sound effect to those standing around it.
Falling leaves, inspired by the original film, have been created ( again in Houdini) blow across the sky. The effect is very atmospheric, and cannot be appreciated in the video. The lighting is lower than it appears, and the dish glows.
THINKING ABOUT THE HOLISTIC GALLERY EXPERIENCE.
As a result of my recent reading and thinking with regard to Relational Aesthetics, I decided that I should think about the space in which I would show my work, and how the conversations would go within the environment, triggered by my work. Of course the visitors , some assessing my work, all bring their ideas and contexts into the room. I realised that in order for my work to be fully successful it has to engage and facilitate guests in creating a work that was much bigger than the pieces I had hang upon the wall and placed within the space. For others to bring their ideas and add to what happens in the space is both exciting and open ended.
Creating the works to be shown within a large studio space was instrumental in allowing me to view the works as a set as they developed. i did not work one piece from beginning to completion, but instead developed them all incrementally, even at times using the same colour mixes on the palette. This allowed the pieces, despite having an individual nature, also have a familial relationship. I was able to think carefully about the height of the plinth, how it would affect the view of the paintings. "Skypool" developed an "Anish Kapoor inspired" steel sphere in the centre, which allowed the paintings to have a presence within the work, joining the visitor in a metamodernist mash -p of work, reflected work and viewers all within the same space. Talking across "Skypool" made me realise that the dish, being a parabola, had some interesting acoustic qualities. I was reminded of my original park soundtrack from the Brno film that was the inspiration for this piece. If I am able I shall run the sound from within the sculpture.
I've always had a sense of disquiet regarding the format of the White Cube....but have never taken the time to reflect on why and if there was any basis for my feelings. Certainly as a landscape painter light is both my enemy and my friend. My hat, which prevents bright direct light from entering into my eyes, is essential if I am to keep my pupils dilated in order see subtle colours and judge relationships.
It was only by reading Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows I began to think a little more deeply about my apparently irrational dislike.Tanizaki's writings (his most important works written in the 1920's) are lyrical and meandering, as he find himself uncomfortable and with many of the aesthetics of the modern age, white tiles and porcelain toilets and electric lightbulbs and streetlights. He praises Japanese architecture and it's effect on the light of the interior
“The light from the garden steals but dimly through paper panelled doors, and it is precisely this indirect light that makes for the charm of the room. We do our walls in neutral colours so that the sad dying fragile rays can sink into absolute repose”
— Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows
And Tanizaki again describing an old Sumiya teahouse in Kyoto:
“On the far side of the screen, at the edge of the little circle of light. the darkness seem to fall down from the ceiling, lofty intense monolithic, the fragile light of the candle unable to pierce its thickness. I wonder if my readers know the colour of that darkness seen by candlelight....It was a repletion, a pregnancy of tiny particles like fine ashes, each particle as luminous as a rainbow””
— Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows
The love of shadows in the West is well recognised ...the beauty of chiaroscuro relies absolutely upon the scuro, the shadow, for it's impact. The National Gallery in London as well as many of the older galleries have retained the deep greens and reds of the Victorian era, but none that I know of have deliberate muted neutrals. With the rise of Impressionism and electric light, and an explosion of pigment colours newly available to the artist, the appreciation of the subtle aesthetic and artistic value of the shadow was much reduced.
The Irish art critic Brian O'Doherty writes about the phenomena of the White Cube at length, and it seems to sit diametrically opposite to Tanizaki's ideals.
“Unshadowed, white, clean, artificial-the space is devoted to the technology of aesthetics. Works of art are mounted, hung, scattered for study.Their ungrubby surfaces are untouched by time and its vicissitudes. Art exists in a kind of eternity of display, and though there is lots of “period” (late modem), there is no time. This eternity gives the gallery a limbo-like status; one has to have died
already to be there. Indeed the presence of that odd piece off furniture, your own body, seems superfluous, an intrusion. The space offers the thought that while eyes and minds are welcome our occupying bodies,are not - or are tolerated only as kinesthetic mannekins for further study. This Cartesian paradox is reinforced by one of the icons of our visual culture: the installation shot, sans
figures. Here at last the spectator, oneself, is eliminated. You are there without being there - one of the major services provided for art by its old antagonist, photography”
— Brian O'Doherty, Inside the WhiteCube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space
Perhaps that is what I dislike about the White Cube, the impersonality, the rejection of the human and the reality of bodies and presence. O'Doherty also states that it has become " For better or worse it is the single major convention through which art has passed"
In terms of my Gallery space, then I have decided to reject the notion of the white cube. Although I have been unable to negotiate the painting of the walls a softer colour than white, the space will be semi-lit, the light entering obliquely. This is a better backdrop for my work, being semi-painting semi-projection, requiring the lower light to be viewed at it's best.
Unlike the White Cube, with it's dazzling lights, the iris is allowed to open, and subtly of vision is achieved. Is it any wonder that we prefer low lighting for a meal, for romance or an evening of good music? Does not the contraction of the iris occur when we are stressed or angry, or enlarge with love and emotion? Which emotion would I prefer people to have when viewing my art?