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Showing posts from March, 2019

Auto-biographical Fragment

I was born in Birkenhead; a shipbuilding town in the North West of England on the banks of the river Mersey, close to the stark, melancholic landscapes of North Wales. I trained as a painter and art historian in Liverpool and Manchester, and now live in Leeds. In 2018 I completed a practice-led PhD in Painting at the Royal College of Art, re-considering medium specificity within a contemporary frame. This involved reflecting on the nature of pictures, temporality and surface in respect of both the object and the activity of painting.
Though as a boy I enjoyed drawing, I enjoyed filling-in more. I was exposed to art early, through library books and visits to local galleries. Victorian paintings and reproductions of works by Brueghel, Bosch, Constable, Turner and Monet affected me a great deal, as did works by the Dutch still life painters and the flowers of Fantin Latour. As a teenager I immersed myself in the paintings of Friedrich, Van Gogh, Picasso, Utrillo, De Stael and Bacon, the f…

Pictures, Truths and Methods: From Function to Form in Abstract Painting

This paper takes Patrick Heron’s assertion as to the abstract nature of painting as a starting point for a phenomenological investigation into the ways in which abstractworks comport themselves. How is it that abstract paintings become meaningful, and along which communicative channels might meaning flow? Perhaps in opposition to Picasso’s denial of the possibility of abstract art, and affirmation of the vitality of figurative painting (his restatement of, “the power of the object”), Heron presented an alternative idea; declaring all paintings to be, in effect, of the abstract. In positing an abstract primacy to one’s experience of the world inpainting – Heron’s proposition, I will argue, opens more doors than it closes. In support of his hypothesis, Heron drew together the terms spacecolour and form – the bedrock of countless claims as to abstraction’s truth – and invoked an, “abstract reality” that painting (including that which is usually taken to be figurative painting) is seen,…

Involvement, Inbetweenness and Abstract Painting

To come to an awareness of painting in the period after abstraction – by which I mean after the emergence and development of abstract painting – is to contend, to a greater or lesser degree, with the idea, language and look of a large assortment of painted objects from the past hundred or so years; dissimilar in form and content. The figurative painter Paul Winstanley goes further, stating that: “It is […] impossible to make paintings of any sort now without an internalised vocabulary of twentieth-century abstraction (2018: 13)”. For him, this is especially apparent in the manner of painting’s particular pictorial arrangements – in the ordering of space – but also in a call to its own condition as object (in respect of its surface/image or object/edge). Together, to Winstanley, these elements serve to: “heighten the metaphysical nature of the painting surface as a reflection of the depicted surfaces and space” (2018: 13). 
Notwithstanding, it is permissible to consider levels of involv…

To See or Not to See: Pareidolias and Abstract Painting

This is a presentation about what abstract painting looks like, and about the extent to which looking like can be written into the possibility of how it is that abstract paintings function. It might seem odd that, in a paper about seeing, there are no images, but more on this later. For now, a few words on limitations and intentions: I will not dwell on arguments for or against abstraction as idea, or privilege one form of painting over another (or painter, for that matter), although I will, on occasion, consider types of configuration. I will deal mostly with the possibilities of picturing, and therefore my points don’t, as such, come with strict temporal handles. However, a consideration of British abstract paintings of the 1980s affords an opportunity to think through some ideas. The pluralisation of approaches to painting in the aftermath of debates around the legacies of Minimalism and Conceptual Art; the lavishness of installation practices; the re-emergence of figuration and ex…