work in progress: late 2017 - early 2018
Currently, I am rethinking and reworking ideas that evolved from one particular painting that I made in late 1964 (see below). It began with a photograph shot from above of a person treading water in a swimming pool. Initially, I intended to render a realistic painting but, as things developed, the hitherto-3D image became abstracted and flattened, and certain elements gained in significance. In particular, were the edges of the form and the lines around and across the swimsuit. The format of the finished painting was square and the background became divided by edges of the swimmer's body into three differently coloured segments .
I liked the flow of lines in what was essentially an exercise in abstraction and out of it came a series of small canvases. The format was again a square, but the colours were limited to three or four, and the compositions confined to arrangements of abstract, linear elements. For this series the finished products were acrylic on canvas, a medium that is more suited to this kind of work than is oil paint and one I have stayed loyal to ever since.
Clearly, these paintings were a conscious move away from representational imagery and, for about a decade, this approach influenced a succession of ideas and images that permeated my two and three dimensional work. Here, the two paintings are shown as black and white because the colour transparencies made to document work in the 1960s became so faded with age that, even after making adjustments in Photoshop, it became clear that original colours could not be resurrected.
Recently, my work has been developing from a realisation that, even in the representational content of early 2017, ghosts from the mid-sixties were reasserting themselves. In essence, I discovered that familiar elements and colour choices are as interesting to me now as they were when I focused on them fifty-plus years ago. The difference today is that, in the intervening years, my experience with materials, mark making and surface quality has evolved. No longer is it enough to fill areas with flat colour or for work to appear so planned as to be fabricated by a surrogate filling the blanks.
Perhaps I should have seen this coming in 2013 when I revisited ideas from the 1970s. At the time, my interest was to recreate the original works in miniature, but with different materials and with surfaces painted with more 'life' than was possessed by their precursors.
Unlike the work of the 1960s to the mid 1970s, each application of paint in the newer work is less material-monologue and more sensuous-dialogue. Perhaps ironically, in order to move my practice forward I am currently looking further back in time. But, for now at least, the new work will remain unpublished. I still need to wrestle with it and significant modifications are likely before any of it sees the light of day. Stay tuned.