Journal

Three things from the last two weeks

1. The paintings of Bernard Piffaretti

Painting by Bernard Piffarettie. Black lines on white ground.

Bernard Piffaretti
Untitled (2005)
acrylic on canvas
38 1/8 × 57 3/8 × 7/8 inches
© Bernard Piffaretti

I’ve been aware of Piffaretti’s work before now and reading this article brought them to my attention again. I can’t help but look and keep looking at his work – it’s a spot-the-difference game coupled with the how-did-he-make-it question. And then there’s the language of gesture, of impulse and expression being undermined by the careful but not a one hundred percent accurate repetition – you see drips and small differences. They’re clever paintings and leave me wanting to know more.

2. I’ve got the moves by Habibi

Record sleeve image.

YouTube

A great little song. And yes, I’m adding I’ve got the moves to my list of titles – just got to find the right work for it.

3. Gordon Walters at Te Papa

Gordon Walters, Untitled (X).

Untitled (X) 1989
Private collection, Auckland
Courtesy of the Gordon Walters Estate

Good to finally see some of Walters’ work in the flesh at Te Papa. It helped me put some of Simon Morris’ early work in context for me. I also felt very aware of my European heritage when looking at Walters’ work. My art history and exposure is, not surprisingly, different to my New Zealand peers – I’ve mentioned before how only after spending three months exploring the the landscape of the South Island did the work of Colin McCahon begin to make sense to me.

In this instance, while Walters is perhaps best known for his koru works, it was the works talking to European and American minimalism and abstraction which resonated with me.

A stocky, blocked black, white, and grey work of considered and subtle proportions reminded me of Sean Scully’s work. It had a real nice weight and presence to it.

A quiet, pale lilac / grey and white work of horizontal stripes with, I think, four asymmetrical interventions was gorgeous. I’m sorry I can’t find an image of it.

And a smaller canvas, pictured above, from the Transparencies works caught my too. Those colours, that blue for the overlap, are perfect.

Another small work in progress

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Work in progress
acrylic on canvas
152 × 203mm
2019

There’s a speed and ease in working at this size. I feel I understand how the scale of the marks work in relation to the canvas. In such a small work the energy of the marks becomes compressed and intensified. On larger surfaces this energy, being less contained, can easily dissipate. Marks and gestures often need to be much larger to carry a similar intensity, but it’s not just a question of scale. There seems to be a different relationship at work between the marks, the canvas and the larger space within it – it’s challenging to manipulate and manage these relationships.

Back to this small work and the challenge is to decide if it’s complete or not. Time for me to live with it, look at it, and see if it needs something more.

Talking not writing

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Untitled
acrylic on canvas
152 × 203mm
2019

Trying to write some words for my exhibition and noticing I’m much more coherent when talking with people. Here are some notes made from conversations with friends about my upcoming show:

I’m wanting my exhibition to inspire people, so when they leave they want to go and make their own thing.

Where I’d usually show work from the “end of the funnel” in my process – this will be a show of work from an earlier stage of the funnel process. There’ll be several different works, and types of work – a wall work, some paintings, various works on paper. It’ll be a mix of things. It may appear incoherent and that’s ok, challenging but ok.

It’s a conscious decision to show these works at this earlier stage – work which is (hopefully) still open, has potential, and doesn’t have all the answers.

How to show this motley crew of works is a challenge. My previous exhibitions have mostly been quite reduced and focussed. This one, made up of multiple pieces, is less familiar ground for me – which is no bad thing.

It may be the show will feel a little rough in places. Again this idea of an unfinished / raw state pushes me out of my comfort zone of what I find acceptable for an exhibition. And that is partly the point.

Unfamiliar ground in uncertain times.

The exhibition is an honest reflection of where the work and my thinking is now at. Of course, come February I may be in a different place…

Already I’m feeling the urge to go and produce something more resolved for the show. I’m itching to pick one of the various threads and follow it to its conclusion, but that is the next show, not this one.

Each group or type of works could be a seed for my next show, a new body of work or the basis for a residency. I’m wanting to build on this show, using it as the foundation for future proposals and work.

New Old Forms is the beginning of something rather than the end.

And then this happened

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Work in progress


And then, last night, I made this.
Still very much a work in progress.

Anxiety bananas

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Work in progress


Right now (I’m writing this on Tuesday 24 September) I’m enjoying some post planning glow where I feel everything is under control. Of course, there’s still a sh•t tonne of work to be done for my exhibition in February – blurb to be written, poster designs, beer sponsorship and more – but for the moment it all seems possible, on paper at least, so I’m going to enjoy the calm.

This is a welcome change as I’ve been feeling quite anxious about it all.1 In particular I’ve been struggling with the painting. I’m wrestling with the content, if that’s the right word. I have a strong aversion to narrative and am struggling with my tendency to perceive paintings as objects rather than windows into another world or even as images. This affects how I relate to the work.

I can of course, look at it formally – is it feeling balanced, does it need this colour or that shape, does the work feel coherent? Thinking about composition I have to be careful not to slide into thinking about “image” as this trips me up. Perhaps I need to tweak my understanding of image or live with being uncomfortable with the work for a while just to see what happens.

That said, the paintings I’m happy with have a coherence, an internal integrity. It’s this integrity I’m looking for in the pieces I’m struggling with, which means I will need to keep pushing and changing them until they lock into place.

Not necessarily unrelated:

Stay loose. Let go. There are other bananas.

From a blog post by Frank Chimero.