The new body of work I’m making has the working title of New old forms, so it was heartening to discover there drawings I made on paper from when I was Sydney in 2012. They talk to the latest works quite nicely.
studies on various A4 gallery room sheets
Study on hardback envelope
Working on old hardback envelopes initial marks sit in the middle of the surface. Painting up to the edge, my awareness of how I’m making a mark/line and how it relates to the surface / object changes. I’m now very conscious of the edges, of the thing-ness / rectangle-ness of the surface and of how the line I’m making sits in relation to and is confined by the edge.
And then of course I push it too far and what was working is now failing and flailing and in need of rescue. But this change in perception when I’m aware of and engaging with the edge of the surface is intriguing. Bumping up to the edge a potentially infinite world become finite.
Work in progress
This time last week I was painting. Well, I say painting but If you saw what I was actually doing – reading, putting the laundry on, looking at Instagram, reading some more, getting distracted by the internet, snacking, painting, drawing on my phone, doing the washing up – well, there wasn’t so much painting going on.
That said, my time spent avoiding painting was well spent. Reading Amy Sillman’s writing and thinking more about my practice I had a mini breakthrough in understanding where I am with my work. I feel like I’m returning to a language I was once semi-fluent in. I know core words and certain phrases but am rusty. Right now I’m relearning some of those words and phrases and exploring how they string together.
I’m also remembering what it’s like to go over works and push them. In the above gif you’ll see I’ve started to work over a piece from several weeks ago. While it was close to a completed state it wasn’t working for me as a whole so I’ve started to push it. I feel there’s still a lot of work to go in to this one so it’s good to get it moving again.
Work in progress, acrylic on small mdf panel
“The first question confronting artists is, ‘what should I do’? And the next question is, ‘what would make it better’? Is this ‘aesthetics’? I don’t know – but I know that we are no longer making things for the Beaux Arts, for truth, beauty, elevation or virtuosity. Yet the familiar forms of what could be called ‘negative aesthetics’ also fail to adequately describe what a lot of artists are doing in their studios. Dada, the readymade, ‘bad painting’, the Dandy, ‘provisional’ painting, deskilling, etc. – none of these ring quite right in accounting for something I would call negativity-at-work, the arduous search for form, the feelings of dissatisfaction, the endless decisions and changes that constitute the work of various artists. How to discuss this, without resorting to a cliché of artistic work? What is everyone doing, and how do they decide to make it ‘better’?
We are trying to surprise ourselves and that is hard to do. I think it is a kind of metabolism that drives me to change and change and change my forms, searching rather earnestly for something I don’t quite know already, a kind of questioning machine, endlessly discontent. I would say that form is the shape of my discontent, and that what interests me is how form can match that feeling or condition – of funny, homely, lonely, ill-fitting, strange, clumsy things that feel right. In other words, a form that tries to find itself outside of what is already okay. Awkwardness is the name I would give this quality, this thing that is both familiar and unfamiliar.”
Amy Sillman, from Notes on Awkwardness, Shit Happens