Paint Box

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Corn Field

The idea for this painting came from the series of collages I made as part of my Exploratory Project.  Originating as hybrid squirrels with human bodies, I worked on top of the images to make them more human. Although the figures showed movement they were out of context so I placed them in an imaginary cornfield to reference my reading of Elias Canetti's 'Crowds and Power'. The crowding and personified effect of corn is intended to create a claustrophobic environment and suggest a slight apolocalyptic sense of fleeing something unknown, which exists outside of the image.

Unit 1.4 original collage (A5)
Unit 1.4 Development from collage - acrylic over photocopy of original (A4)
What is your art practice about?
The change in scale is really important as the viewer is intended to encounter rather than just 'view' the work. The figures are child sized with enlarged heads which hang heavily like dolls or puppets. This work addresses ambiguous narrative, using whole figures to give context. The large nested eggs on the ground obstruct the figures' progress; they also use negative space to reference something real without extensively describing them using paint. The clothing of the figures is child-like; the 'pirates' t-shirt references exploration whilst the floral pyjama bottoms of the figure on the right suggests a dream-like or fluid state.

How has your work developed in the last six months?
What do you wish a viewer to derive from the experience of viewing/hearing your work? 
Reflecting on the progress of this work from its original conception to the evolution of the painting, there are key process and ideas which are starkly different. The pairing and use of whole bodies has been integral to the composition of the work - I haven't used the whole figure in my paintings before. The impact of this is that they seem more permanent in the environment, and I have been able to play with cropping limbs to re-reference the original collage construction. The difference in colour saturation and technique is clear; this has again contributed to a more fixed surface, although I have still used dribbling and thin washes as well as the linseed glazes. Using a high horizon line has forced the figures into the front section of the painting. They look upwards slightly with a challenging gaze which places the viewer higher, but not in a position of power.

How do you position your practice in a contemporary context?
My references for this painting drew on a combination of painting techniques (Doig, Bas) and sense of ambiguity and foreboding which is prevalent in many narrative works. The gaze and juxtaposition of figures, creatures and objects suggests a story but as a single frame which could be based on a scenario which might have happened.
Hernan Bas - Lost The figure's isolation and the way that he is consumed by the environment inspired me to consider the personification of nature and how it can become threatening and dangerous. The context also has a dwarfing effect where the boy's scale is slightly ambiguous.
Paula Rego - Human Cargo  - Really interested in Rego's use of angels and the non-human figure who are placed in the scene, static and puppet-like. She has created a convincing space and has used tone to add shadow and menace. There is also a sense of the mask and age-ambiguity.
Tim Walker - Karlie Kloss and Humpty Dumpty - Obviously this uses the corn field but the subversion, slight danger and black humour make the viewer reconsider their previous knowledge of the nursery rhyme.
Peter Doig - Music of the Future - Love the vivid, saturated colour and the scale (you can't really understand this painting until you encounter it in the flesh). The layers and reflection are evocative and full of secrets; this place is hidden but the viewer feels that they are reminded of somewhere or something.
Midwich Cuckoos - Hypnotic, staring, menacing, subversion of your expected reading of children

What criticisms might be made of your work? 
I know that my painting skill has developed hugely during the studio project, but there are still elements of my paintings which could be considered as 'bad'. I find it very difficult to paint hands; I think with this image I partially resolved the awkwardness of the hand by photographing and working from adult hands - this in turn added ambiguity as the limb seemed at odds with the figure.  

The figures are completely grounded; they are not quite touching the floor and despite adding the gestural brushstrokes to suggest broken corn, they still feel planted in the space. This is something I can play on but I know that it is a weakness of my original planning and painting skill at this stage. However, this painting has much more depth, feels stronger and is more successful in communicating my intentions because I identified what I wanted to show and reminded my self of that throughout the process. I also discovered that I had to respond to the painting itself, rather than making exactly what I had planned as the glazing process was slightly unpredictable; this was quite difficult to adjust to but I embraced this way of work and allowed myself to continue to push the work far passed the point that I would have 6 months ago.

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