Culture Colony Vision's picture

Art in Isolation


The lockdown came at a time when I was planning to be in the studio for a time of production as for the past two years I have been travelling on residency placements and in most cases, new work has been left with the host collections as part of the terms of Residency.

Therefore as the light began to improve in February, the desire to work in the studio was high plus, during March and April, due to the warm weather the studio began to warm up sooner.

Initially in February drawings were made. These are large acrylic works using black and white with a mixed grey seeking to explore gesture, expressive application of media and tonal relations. I aimed for an overlaying of liquid paint to become an expressive force.. emotionally charged and with fluidity in form. In contrast to previous more geometric work, I sought consciously to redefine. With the colour of blacks, Pierre Soulages (1) and Franz Kline were, and have been constant sources of inspiration and now seemed to be the time to embark on a redefined language in my work. I think it a huge step to break away and redefine ones language in this way; followers and identity are shaken with a change of direction.. but the desire and challenge remain so this transformation of practice maybe is part of the objective and clear state of a questioning practice.

Working on large boards with three sheets of paper on each, moving from one to one as floor based production is in play due to the fluidity of the paint, working in series really takes precedence here; each flows on from the other and in a way there is no direction to them in a linear sense. Backwards and forwards, top to bottom, drawings are worked on in an unconscious semi-automatic way; responsive to what is already present yet cancelling, adding and changing at the same instant.

A number of canvases I had prepared from just before I went to Australia remained waiting in the studio and now able to use. Primed for oil paint and all mid range in size on stretchers I had made ten years earlier (at least) I now embarked on a series of oil paintings that would directly develop the progress of making that had taken place on the residencies, namely the more expressive way of working. It is closely aligned to the medium and allowing viscosity of paint to be developed and adapted in as broad a range as possible and moreover, specifically to attempt to have a liquidity for oil paint that would enable the most fluid non brush mark.

I found myself, applying paint and leaving, so with oil an element of overlay would be possible. Technically I had never done this before and using long liner brushes, the paint line is distorted but has a tension that is away from the direct hand drawn brush mark and creates painting that is almost as if it has developed on its own accord. This is always a priority for me; that paint and colour look as if they have just come together. This is still a key aim, despite the almost opposite way of applying paint: no masking tape and a fluid almost splash like mark. The paintings, at the time of writing, are still drying (oil paint takes six months plus) but the results look promising. Certainly image wise, there is good result in several of these paintings I feel. One technical note of importance is that after twenty years or more, I have started using pure linseed oil (bought from Paul A Daniels in Hackney E9 in the late 1980s) that has remained on my palatte for this time (in the sunlight) and it is in first class condition (not the plastic container!) . This mixed with pure turpentine makes a heady medium for oil paint adding to structure rather than destroying (as white spirit does). The medium of oil paint remains for me the premier paint.

A4 Luxlakes Art Museum run an artist in residency programme and devised a project Artist Voice for the lockdown. participants would answer a number of questions preferably by video. I answered the questions with a one minute video of the everyday journey to the studio and sketch of things going on. This low resolution video is designed for mobile screen size:

(1) I travelled to Paris in early March for the retrospective of Pierre Soulages at the Louvre; but it was closed because of Cd 19 on the day I went but a good selection of his work was at the Pompidou.

Andrew Smith