Date: 23rd January 2018
with Jonathan Kearney
This is long overdue! Chicago has been keeping me busy with its biting winter winds and tons and tons of random moments of artistic inspiration. But, finally, I am getting around to writing this (compulsory!) blogpost.
Upon reflection, this tutorial was so vastly different from the previous one. In the previous one I stepped in uncertain and after the discussion, came out with so much clarity and direction. At the beginning of this tutorial I was more excited. I was bursting with ideas, but by the end I had discovered multiple new perspectives from which to view and understand and explore those ideas.
The conversation began with me telling Jonathan about my newest painting obsession (pour painting) and how I sought to control the flow of the paint in order to better communicate with my audience. But, truth is, ‘control’ is far too strong a word to apply to such fluid mediums. The question arose that aren’t you denying the very nature of the materials you are using if you don’t allow them to flow their course after being poured?
Jonathan suggested a far more appropriate word: Influence. He confessed that much of his own work involved the use of the pouring paints, mainly using PVA glue as a pouring medium and rather than squashing the soul of the medium, he stayed true to it by merely influencing its direction. So, essentially, it was like a back and forth conversation between the artist and the medium. The artist seeks to understand and anticipate the next movement of the paint and thus nudge the painting towards his imagined creation.
So how DOES one learn to anticipate the movement of the paint? Through experience. Jonathan used the analogy of a football game. When you play, you know the general rules but you cannot predetermine the step by step play. All you can do is take two skillful players and allow the understanding and experience between them to translate into a successful game. It is a fast moving, intuitive scenario.
We then talked a bit more about the materials we used to create different effects while pouring. Jonathan said that even though acrylics are a versatile and robust medium, it is better to be careful with what you add to your paintings as it may harm the longevity of the painting. He spoke of a colleague of his who made metal 3-D sculptures and painted them; a lot of his sold work began to chip and fade after 10 years or so, leading to a bunch of dissatisfied clients and a lot of fixing up.
We also discussed the challenges of pouring on canvas. Jonathan mentioned that often when using unstretched canvas he felt the poured paint pool in the center areas. I talked about how I planned to use canvas wood blocks instead as I transitioned towards the use of mosaics as the wood may be able to hold both the paint and the tiles better. We spoke of how the canvas takes ages to dry and the paint keeps shifting internally since the poured layers are very thick.
At that point, Jonathan viewed a recent video of mine and commented that one of the dangers of filming could be that when we record ourselves painting, we may end up painting for the film! It was a good point. I was forced to reflect what purpose my recording serves. I felt that if I set up the camera once to document the whole process it usually doesn’t influence my work. But if I switch the recording on and off as I work to capture certain aspects I DO feel as though I am painting to create the video as opposed to the painting. Jonathan mentioned Jackson Pollock’s video where he painted on a piece of glass with a camera filming him from below, not to create a piece of art but to capture how the artist created the art in the first place. So yes, lots of interesting perspectives popped up on the why and how and whether of video recording studio work. Will I continue to record? For now, I say yes.
We then moved onto to my project proposal. I had titled it ‘Colloquy in Mosaic’; Jonathan observed that that was a complex title, which is not necessarily a bad thing. A complex title, with innuendos, opened up more possibility for exploration. I explained that I had written out my reasons for using these terms in the project proposal. We then discussed certain initiatives I was looking into and Jonathan said they fit well into the overall narrative I was building. He concluded that the possibilities seemed exciting, I was finding relevant connections and there was a positive interweaving of the different corollaries of my project proposal. Needless to say, I was delighted at his approval.
Finally, we talked about this new thing I am trying out: keeping a visual journal. I explained that I often felt the best ideas come when we least expect them and my visual journal will be like a penning (or should I say drawing) down of my thoughts as and when they come. The goal will be to record visually and emotionally and spontaneously. And the hope is that it will create a work of art.