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Interrogating Abstract Expressionism using Photography

Updated: Mar 27




the image should be based on something, not just chance

but there should be chance involved


the recognisable should be almost unrecognisable

and the unrecognisable should be familiar

an uncanny resemblance to nothingness

as well as everyone you’ve known at one point


the face means that each picture is not mute

as pictures of places and objects and nothing are


don’t paint likenesses but what the photograph looks like

in its light and dark, grain, blow-outs, stipple and circles of confusion

can you tell if it was shot on colour neg

or lit with a flash

is that the bright light of the morning sun on the side of the subject's face?

you should be able to tell

the drips and splashes must be able to held to account


interrogate photography with Abstract Expressionism

grain is not ink or paint

brushhair-strokes, spills and drips are not pixels

but photography loves analogue detail, loves what it can't achieve by itself

let paint and ink be paint and ink

and in doing so render the photographic


see the photograph appear on the surface of your painting before you

start with the whites on a non-white ground

no tracing or gridlines

wait a bit

go back in with the darks and the midtones

very soon it will be finished but you might not be sure

until you go too far then you'll see in hindsight that it was finished

and now it's not


it pays to abandon the work just before you think it’s finished

on the up like the Bends not at the zenith like OK Computer

leave space for the Lord to enter the room as Quincy Jones would say

let paint and ink be paint and ink

overwork it and you'll be back on the merry-go-round

until you can smash it new again

should you varnish? canvas?

good questions

oil paint just slows everything down and dulls the edges


these are history paintings

but they are also concerned with ahistorical concepts

like impermanence

reincarnation

history is trying to make sense of the events that shape us

what's going on

tell me brother, what's happening

reincarnation means history is not important

imagine no countries

I am multitudes


I wasn't ready for the psychological impact of these faces

and how they talk back


when we finish a painting that's successful

we look at the painting through the filter of the initial

creation experience and what it meant at that moment

this is the sole preserve of the artist to have this insight into the work

but later, that experience fades and we only see

the artwork as others do

based purely on what it is

not where it came from

this is why the crash after the initial high


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