In my review for part 1 I felt that I would like to use symbolism. Using a subject that I feel strongly about I thought I could use a backdrop for a painting that would by symbolic. A subject that angers me passionately is crime against children and women. I cannot say how much it infuriates me! Too often I come across child abuse in my job and I struggle to contain my feelings. I had never really considered trying to show this through painting, mainly because I tend to use painting as an escape from reality. I worried that if I tried to use a Jackson Pollock approach that my anger would dissipate as I started to relax with the paint and to make it a true painting I would have to sustain the feeling of anger throughout.
I enjoyed creating the ‘balloon popping’ painting and thought that perhaps if I used a slightly different approach to this type of painting that I could use it to express my feelings. I gathered clippings from news items about child killers, rapists and paedophiles and glued them to a large piece of card. As I read the articles I experienced a mixture of anger and disgust. Many years ago I read a case of child abuse that was about to be closed by social services due to a lack of evidence. Based on a gut feeling and records of the child’s behaviour the teacher pleaded with social services to keep the case open. The key social worker made an impromptu visit she was horrified at what she found. The mother had gathered her children and held them as she slit her wrists. She survived due to the actions of the social worker. The children were immediately removed from the home and the teacher never saw the little girl in class again. It left an image of blood soaked crying children that I still struggle with.
My thought was to fill the balloon with red paint and pop it over the newspaper clippings to symbolise the blood that was on their hands.
I toyed with throwing mud at the painting as a symbol of the perpetrators but I felt that the ‘blood’ was a strong statement. I used watered down acrylic because I wanted it to be translucent in order to see fragments of the criminals to echo the fragmented lives that they left behind…parents without children, women whose lives would never be same…scarred and ashamed by the trauma and unable to form positive relationships…those who were fortunate to survive.
I think the painting might seem minimal but I think the symbolism in the colour speaks volumes. I am not sure if it portrays my emotions. If I am honest I could have thrown a lot more paint at the picture and I might just have expressed the emotion I really wanted to but I needed to keep the images of these awful people visible through the ‘blood’ so that the observer would ask significant questions.
My next painting was experimenting with moving paint without using a paint brush. I knew I that physically I would be unable to make a more elaborate ‘robot’ to make marks so I continued to experiment with other mechanical devices to make marks. I tried using the hoover but felt that I controlled it too much. One morning I was drying my hair when I suddenly thought that the hairdryer would push paint around the canvas if the paint was thin enough.
I mixed acrylic paint with flow enhancer and poured them onto the canvas. I then used a carousel to move the paint before I used my hair dryer to push the paint about.
I used white, light blue, dark blue, green, yellow and pink paint. I think it is colour overkill. It was an experiment that I enjoyed. I had no idea how it would turn out. I think this unpredictability was part of the charm of doing this type of painting. It left me thinking if I perhaps used only three colours, or if I used only the hair dryer what might happen. I had experimented with my son’s robot to mark make and using a food mixer with lead refills attached and felt that I had very little control over the marks made yet found it quite exciting. I think the way the paint responded in this case was refreshingly unpredictable.
I did not experience a sense of rhythm apart from when I used the carousel. The motion was a gentle whirring like a mechanic pulse. Since it didn’t work I feel cheated and can’t count this as choreographed or musical in any way. I toyed with using a motor and switch to make a battery operated carousel but I didn’t think I would feel the rhythm in the same way that you can feel the rhythm by pulling the string in my very primitive carousel.
The third painting was one that I needed to feel the rhythm as I painted. I had used pencil to emulate a sketch that was choreographed by Toni Orico. The sketch was simple yet energetic and wholly satisfying to sketch. The rhythm was like the sound of a train ‘ch-ch, ch-ch,’ with a movement that was like a swan twisting her body, lifting and dropping her wings over and over again. It became like a marking of territory in quite the most majestic way. I wanted to try this again using paint and without a paint brush. I used twigs from a fallen tree as a ‘paint brush’. The black paint used was household floor paint against a pale grey ground. I stood on a circle of card in the middle of the grey card and dipped the twigs in paint and repeated the action. I only used one hand this time as I used the other to balance.
This was my favourite of the three paintings for a number of reasons. The first was that my emotions were not negative in anyway. Secondly, the action and rhythm became a mindful act of mark making. Thirdly I loved the shape it created. Although my ‘brush’ marks were short and straight they look deceptively curved because I moved round as I ‘brushed’ the paper. Using twigs as a brush gave me a connection to nature that is pleasing to me. The dripping and splattering although a little unpredictable added to the character of the painting.
Although I enjoyed the feeling of expression and rhythm I can’t help but wonder if the observer will get that from the painting. My children were out when I painted it but they loved it even though they were unable to think of how I created it. I showed them how to paint the picture so they could experience the rhythm and mindful experience at some point for themselves. My two younger boys are on the autistic spectrum so the repetition is very therapeutic for them.
The contrast of black against pale grey is very pleasing.
Painting 1 – What went well?
I think the concept of the splatter painting was quite poignant given the number of similar cases that has surfaced of late. The colour red was highly charged and appropriate for this painting. The action of the splattering was significant and the translucency of the paint allows the observer to see what is behind the pain.
Painting 1 – What did not go so well
I would have liked to express my anger in a Pollockian way as I think that way the observer could have felt my anger. On the other hand that style would have covered the imagery of these dreadful perpetrators and I think they should be seen and despised. My feeling is that it might spark anger in the observer which is desirable.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I did not get the overwhelming feeling of anger that I wanted to get out of my system. I think that getting it out of my system might not have felt choreographed but the act of throwing paint would have created and image that may have left the observer asking why.
Painting 2 – What went well
This painting was exploring unknown results. It really was an adventure. I wanted each painting to explore something different. I wanted this one to involve ‘automation’ yet be different to my previous experiments. The carousel was not a change but the viscosity of the paint was a variable. The way the hairdryer pushed the paint about was scary…I couldn’t tell if the painting would fail or not. The unknown was quite exciting. I don’t think the painting actually worked in the way I would have liked it to but what did work was that it made me question the variables. I don’t mean it to sound like a science experiment but it feels right to test the medium and to see what I can do with it. I think that the process has got me on edge to try it again is very positive.
What did not go so well
I think that I tried too many colours. If the paint was more viscous it would have moved more readily and would have created a more fluid effect.
I am not going to write this one off. I will probably use this painting as a base for another painting at some time.
Painting 3 – What went well
The third painting is my favourite because I enjoyed the rhythm of painting it and the fact I wasn’t hostage to a paintbrush. The black and white contrast is clean and the shape draws the observers eye into the painting. The very short movements at an angle of 45˚ creates the illusion that the strokes were in fact curved. That was unexpected but quite satisfying. I think the household paint I used was a good choice as it is glossy and thicker than acrylic. Jackson Pollock used household paint in his paintings so I thought that I would try it out. It was a bit risky but worth it. There was a musical feeling to this painting that made it feel so intense. I think that comes across in the painting.
The most important reason why I felt that this went well was that it inspired my children and gave them a lot of joy. They are my most important observers.
What did not go so well
I wish I had painted on a different surface such as canvas or wood. I think it would somehow seem more complete. I am trying to talk myself through the variables so it could just be that another layer of paint would have built up a nice texture but I am not sure if I would use the same paint. I would be inclined to think that a high gloss would give a more three dimensional quality.
I have learned such a lot during this part of Studio Practice but I feel that my journey is just beginning.