My latest work signifies something of a breakthrough in terms of what a jar of paint can depict: A degree of subjection is instantly attached to the contents of each jar. They no longer represent paint; they represent the essence of paint.
The properties of food have still been exploited in order to achieve the paint. But rather than describing the face value of the paint, labels have been attached that describe metaphorical and experiential attachment to the paint, based on the paint’s properties. For example, the label ‘Home’ is attached to paint made from tea. This is because the concept of a cup of tea contains within it connotations associated with the experience of being home.
The jar of paint is now able to communicate the notion that memory has an intrinsic and complex correspondence to the food we consume, and that preconception dictates our preference to food.
A notable juxtaposition is that, inherently, what I have created are still essentially jars of paint – meaning that they can be consumed, exchanged, revered and dismissed in the same way all products can. The notion of memory-based subjection and individual regard becomes restated as a consumable item.
I have also applied each paint to a surface in equal rectangular strips behind the corresponding jar. The nature of applying paint in this way seeks to remove subjection and seeks to regard application of paint as a reference – a tool which one can use to ascertain the nature and density of the paint at face value. The medium has therefore exchanged roles with the painting – for it is the medium that communicates an idea and the painting that becomes an object.
So, this is ‘where I’m at,’ as it were. But I believe that this breakthrough acts as a precursor to something grander, with more emphasis on the notion that memory and connotation can be appropriated as a consumable product.
Yesterday I endured the acquaintance of an extremely heavy, cumbersome and joyless piece of apparatus commonly known as a ‘camera.’ As some of you know, I have been asked to produce over twenty images of jars of home-made paint for a forthcoming exhibition at Forum Cafe, Sheffield. Whilst I am delighted at this prospect, it has also enabled me to ponder the virtue of photography as a means to communicate.
I have been using photography as a means to document for years now. The pictures I take are never deemed the actual work. They are used to share and promote my work with an audience, and to exchange ideas and correspond with other artists. They are also useful personally, to compare and analyse your own work in context. I have never, however, used photography solely to portray an idea. Here’s why:
- As a tool, the camera removes the artist from a subject to such an extent that coherence in communicating an idea is compromised. A camera will bound a concept to its own limitations, and the artist has little hand in emphasising that which they wish to depict.
- Your inherent perception of the physical world is lost as a compromise must be made between yourself and the viewfinder. The experience of taking pictures feels absent and you can’t immerse yourself in the experience; and if you can’t, how can an audience?
- Painting is able to capture the essence of life whereas photography conveys nothing other than the face-value of life: A photograph conveys an almost binary sense of reality, whereas painting conveys the complexity of reality.
- Image manipulation packages such a Photoshop render all imagery unreliable. Truth is lost in favour of achieving a perfect image.
- The main problem I have with photography is that, often, photographs say more about the camera than the person behind it. Any pleb can take a half-decent picture these days, and I am no exception. Everybody thinks they are a good photographer, but hardly anybody thinks they’re a good painter.
So, that’s the problem I have with photography. Hasn’t stopped me from completing a series of work comprised entirely of photographs though! If artists can’t completely contradict themselves then what can they do?! You can see this work at Forum Cafe, Sheffield, From August 12th until September 23rd. You can find more details here:
For the past two weeks I have attempted to begin and complete one painting a day, ad so far, I am ecstatic to report that such attempts have been successful.
The initial reason for undertaking such a feat was simply attain a sense of solidarity and rhythm to my practice. But then it hit me that the very process of completing one painting a day comes with its own set of challenges which perhaps can be attached to a concept. It emerged that parallels existed between this energetic, hurried yet somehow hollow approach to making work and the processes involved in preparing and eating lunch: And so lunch, and the concepts that exist within lunch, have ultimately been attached to this particular strand of my practice.
Lunch is seemingly a diminished meal, it can consist of anything, and it has no definition, no identity and no authority. It can exist virtually any time in the afternoon and often exists whilst at a place of work. It is devoured over a desk, in the formal and contrived environment of a staff room, or purchased from an outlet and guzzled down on the move. Lunch has no lasting joy, but is penetrating within its own time frame.
This rushed experience of lunch is reflected and exploited in my work, whereby I have depicted the lunch I have eaten that day within the time it took to eat it: Therefore, captured in my ‘one painting a day’ is a superficial sense of vibrancy, without definition or authority. Brush-strokes contain energy without quality. Form is not fully realised and addresses the social disregard for lunch, relative to other meal times.
I have placed these works on my Timeline on my Facebook Page. This serves to further reflect the temporary and disposable nature of lunch: Timeline posts appear in news feeds instantly; they explode onto the screen and are readily accessible. However, the passing of time sees my post disappear from immediate regard – incessantly shifted into obscurity and replaced by new posts, from other individuals, all of which are interchangeable and often concern disposable social themes.
So, think of my ‘one painting a day’ images the next time you attempt to gobble down your lunch whilst trying to brave the elements. And enjoy the penetrating yet fleeting burst of joy lunch time has to offer.
Over the last week or so I have been concerned with the identity of painting. Specifically, I have been thinking about how the practice of painting can be deemed irrelevant if the paint itself contains enough conceptual prowess. This post really acts as a steam of initial thoughts towards a more refined idea of how paint and painting can be perceived. Well, there goes…
Painting no longer has to exist on a surface. Indeed, when applied to a surface, paint becomes condemned – Fated to be judged with the attachment of subject matter and blinkered by the boundaries of a canvas. Allowing paint to exist untouched achieves a coherent sense of liberation and purity, which can be applied metaphorically to political and social instances or regarded as just that – pure, untouched and alive with potential. Painting, then, no longer has to exist with an identity, as the raw medium of paint is able to obtain identity without even being applied to a surface.
That is not to say painting is without relevance. Painting is a language able to describe the invisible and allow an audience to engage, to connect and to regard the physical world qualitatively. However, if painting is approached conceptually, than that concept doesn’t have to exist within painting. It can, however, exist within paint. These images detail a concept that exists within paint but not painting. That is, a deliberate lack of identity for the sake of raw possibility.
Moreover, the very practice of painting is now disposable – It is interchangeable with other cultural, social and political endeavours. It exists between meals; is halted when your favourite program is on TV; dismissed in favour or dicking about on the internet; or not even considered due to the sheer breath of cultural activities available.
I myself am interested in the consumable nature of the paints I make – and how they can exist isolated from contemporary art environments – in shops and supermarkets, ready to be purchased and consumed. Indeed, I have considered popping along to my local corner shop and simply leaving a jar of paint or two on a shelf – a piece of conceptual innovation in amongst the chopped tomatoes and pickled onions. A jar of paint as an object is small, fragile and inconspicuous, but that it represents is loaded with possibility and transcendence.
…There! All done! It’s good to actually begin to solidify these ideas just by writing them down. Some of this stuff I’ll probably deem untrue or irrelevant over the next few weeks/days/seconds. Still, that’s part of the fun of it all!
What exactly is a cup of tea? It’s a bloody good question, I’m sure you’ll agree, and one that perhaps art is able to explain: Or at least enable us to explain it for ourselves.
As an object, tea is one of the most universal recognisable consumable products out there. And as such, is open to an almost limitless degree of subjectivity. It contains within it the broadest of subjects – from ancient Chinese mythology to accessible domestic consumption, and from being cited in medical texts to being recognised as a symbol of ‘Britishness’: It seems that tea contains as many stories as the individuals that drink it.
However, it is clear to me that, despite the rich complexities concerning the very notion of tea, it is undoubtedly a revered and highly relatable product. Tea is a powerful vehicle that is able to bring people together and allow individuals to connect through simple pleasures. It is a common tool that allows the individual to discover mutual comforts and shared interests and so ultimately to achieve a base sense of integration into society.
So, what with the sheer boundless nature of tea, how the bloody hell am I going to achieve a visual rendering of it with any coherence? Well, my theory is that a sense of objectification is needed in order for an audience to connect with tea on a base level. It is then for the audience to decide how to respond to my work and how to apply it to their experience of tea.
In my above work, ‘The Infinite Cup Of Tea’ I seek to remove all experiential, symbolic, social, cultural and political connotations associated with tea in order to visually explain that it is the very properties of a cup of tea that a mass audience – of any race, religion or culture – can respond too. Essentially what I’ doing is laying out the components of a cup of tea, and allowing the audience itself to attach meaning: This is a cup of tea without identity, but from which an identity emerges when an audience establishes a connection.
This work is isolated from form and placed with reverence upon the gaze of the viewer. It is limitless in potential yet restrained by personal contemplation. It is a lie, from which the viewer extracts their own truth.
Anyway, enough of this tea-based musing – I’m off to put the kettle on.
Why paint making should be for everyone.
Teaching. It’s a concept I have entertained since watching my year 7 art teacher painstakingly render an accurate yet grossly unnecessary drawing of a dentist’s chair and thinking ‘pfft, I could well easily do that.’
Not that I could draw a dentist’s chair with the same precision as him. In fact, in hindsight, the guy was probably a frustrated yet brilliant designer. But, even as an 11 year old, I did think briefly that the idea of teaching a craft looked fun – you got to do what you loved doing and you got to communicate with others the value of what you are doing.
Of course, what I was witnessing at the time was the teaching of school pupils under a structured syllabus. And I have taught before – In 2009 I belted out a few lectures about the history of British art to summer-school students who, frankly, would have rather been outside than in a stuffy lecture theatre being bombarded with information that they’ll either forget instantly or won’t even listen to in the first place. What concerns me in earth year 2013, however, is the idea of teaching people the practice of making paints: I envision this to occur either in the form of workshops or through guest lecturing.
It is practice steeped in rich history, yet its appeal is diminished with the ease at which paint can be purchased. Yet I believe that it is important to develop a relationship with your materials: materials purchased from a shop contain no presence of an artist. They are joyless, and can be applied to a surface with dispassion, flippancy and disregard. They are a consumable product – untouched by an artist’s hand and, as such, without integrity or passion. If a tangible affinity with materials is established, then it will enable an artist to richly engage with a piece of work on a physical, tactile level. Further, it will considerably develop an artist – allowing a more coherent communication to occur between artist and material and consequently, artist and subject matter.
I will take a conceptual approach to the teaching of paint making and communicate the idea of seeking new directions to achieve an established process – In similar vein to how I extract pigment from food in order to achieve a re-imagining of still-life. Indeed, the practice of producing your own materials is an art in its own right – it contains within it subject matter, craft and can be considered as a concept. I believe that the idea of communicating this and allowing people to engage with their materials has the potential to be extremely valuable and absorbing. Now all that’s left to do is the tiny matter of finding someone who’ll have me teach…
How can art made from food be made relevant?
A simple Google search of art and food conjures up so many insipid images of landscapes moulded from vegetables you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped in to a six years olds’ re-imagining of Emmerdale Farm. And whilst it is endlessly fascinating that cauliflower looks a bit like the wool of a sheep I believe a more conceptual approach to the very notion of food can produce art with a more coherent and informed spiritual prowess. How? By extracting the very material of food and applying it to artistic practice: By turning food into paint, in other words.
So why is this of any value? Well, first of all, let’s consider food as a concept. The very notion of food contains within it a vast array of social, political, environmental and religious implications: And individual foodstuff contains implications all of its own. Take an apple, for example. When befittingly considered and engaged with, an apple can represent anything from the symbolic representation of forbidden fruit to a social comment on local produce. If we are to create paint from such affluently encompassing material, then said paint will forever be loaded with such considerations, even when applied to a surface and used to represent objects and concepts far removed from its own: So whilst as a material it will be intrinsically pure, it will simultaneously still contain concepts associated with its original physical state, and so will be intrinsically laden.
Let it also be said that there is a certain juxtaposition to be found in the complex processes found within making paint and the purity of the end product. Indeed, I would suggest that paint, when produced manually, contains as much artistic merit as paint applied to a surface. So much so, that they can be marketed both as consumable good and as a contemplative and informed body of work. Paint just got interesting, in other words. Now to make so many jars of the stuff that Google images will be drowning in a sea of ground pigment and egg yolk.
If you would like to purchase any jars of paint, I sell on a made to order basis. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to get a quote or for more details.