Diary of a painting
‘Acid House Party Disco’
Oil on found wooden box, 50x35cm
December 23, 2017- March 20, 2017
The support for this painting had obviously enjoyed some life before I found on the way to a Jim Lambie show at the Modern Institute, in Glasgow, propped up against a lamppost. It caught my eye, I could see it had a hand made pine frame topped with a sheet of ply. It was pretty crudely put together with screws sticking out in the wrong places and the ply was badly cut. On the underside there was some childish graffiti, doodles and choice phrases such as, Acid house party disco, from where I took the title. I picked it up and fell in love with it immediately, I felt that it has some life in it. That will be a painting one-day, I said to Gill.
The Lambie show was ok, some interesting painted iron grids and pastel coloured washing machines. I found a nice book of Matt Connors paintings but the whole time I was thinking about the box and what it might become.
It was an odd size for me, more of a landscape format than I usually go for, I knew it would give me a bit of a headache. This proved to be the case, it took me a relatively long time to arrive at the finished composition. Before I could start to think about painting I had to fix it up a bit. I took out the dodgy screws, planed and sanded the ply and lightly skimmed the whole surface with a household filler. Once I had fixed and squared up the box I gave it a few coats of gesso. I was beginning to feel a physical connection to it as an object, something that is important in my work.
Progress was slow as I had several other pieces on the go at same time. I would put some washes down, a few marks, some pencil lines, trying to get a feel for the proportions. Early colours were washed out lemon yellows and greys, then teal, blue/green and turquoise. Nothing decisive was happening, it was all surface play and flat. I made a strong vertical divide and decided it was going to be portrait. Despite its length, I wanted to get away from the obvious landscape reference.
After about a month the painting came to some kind of a conclusion with two intersecting L shapes that were tonally very close. There were some things happening that I liked but I felt it was too tight and came too easily. The structure needed to be broken, compromised in some way, it was too polite and didn’t reflect the reality of the desired experience.
I started to use the paint much thicker and with bolder colour choices, intuitively putting anything down. Blocks of true colour in close proximity with edges caressing each other. The whole surface was activated but the colour combinations were confused and chaotic.
I knew it had to change but was content with the stage it was at and thought I could work with it. A week or two of drying time went by before I would work on it again. An off white grid was overlaid which separated the forms and allowed each colour to hold its own space. The resulting composition was slightly irregular and off kilter, colours were highly saturated, Sap Green, Cerulean, Naples yellow, Cadmium red and black, all straight out of the tube. Another week or so of drying…
The final stage of the painting happened very quickly, an hour or two and it was done. I knew I wanted to keep the previous stage visible, to lie beneath but to be disjointed and not quite connected to what lay on top. The paint had to be thin again and every move traceable to keep its vitality, allowing things to happen rather than just being, a tension between the labored and apparent freedom of creation.
Listening to Radio 4 and 6 music
Reading an interview with Thorton Willis
Watching Sean Scully on you tube
Jim Lambie, Modern institute, Glasgow
Joseph Beuys, Modern Art, Edinburgh
Joseph Albers, David Zwirner, London
Terry Frost, Beaux Arts, London
Sandra Blow, Fine Arts Society, London
Kentridge & Koorland, Fruitmarket, Edinburgh