I had been to see Rose Wylie’s exhibition ‘Quack Quack’ at the Serpentine galleries in February 2018 and apart from all the other factors which blew me away when I started to engage with her paintings, the scale of her work had got me twitching to paint some bigger pictures! A relatively simple physical thing to take on board, so in the summer of 2018, I arranged time, space and materials and I got a chance to scratch that itch.
This painting, shown as a work in progress in the image above, was made without any preconception. Soon after I finished painting I wrote down something of a diary of my process, here it is.
Journal of a painting, August 2018
This painting followed on from ‘Life’s a gas’ 2018, acrylic on canvas.
1: Yellow ‘writing like’ mark-making in a cross shape, from top to bottom side to side. This was an intuitive dance-like, way of entering the space of the painting, which developed into some actual words, a phrase from a Kate Bush song.
2: Listening to the album Hounds of Love. The feeling, the emotion, Kate Bush’s voice, her music, I hadn’t listened to it for years, it completely hit the spot of my anticipation to start painting. The album has this sense of enormous female creative power and I was taken over by it. The phrase which suited me right then came from the track Cloudbusting, ‘something good is going to happen’. So romantic, sweet but with a driving power,
“Ooh I just know that something good is gonna happen
I don’t know when
But just saying it could even make it happenKate bush ~ Cloudbusting
3: Something innocent and primal about what I did next; separating the phrase up, I painted it in the four corners of the canvas, like an incantation which would gradually become hidden (though still exist in the base layer of the painting and the initial abstract conception), as the painting took on more layers of paint.
4: Mark-making: bright grass green, which became parts of a generalised cell, a nucleus, mitochondria, microtubules etc. I had been looking at a copy of the Anatomy Colouring Book by Wynn Kapit, I love that book and Wynn Kapit’s illustrations, my feeling was to give the painting these miniature essential components for life.
5: Tuning into the news about the Parker Space Probe, a small car-sized spacecraft that was attempting to launch from Cape Canaveral. It made me aware of my existence on earth and my humanity. Making a painting is one of the early markers of human creativity and abstract thought. The Parker Space Probe, which was at that moment tearing through the earth’s atmosphere on its Solar mission (via Venus), seemed to me right then, the pinnacle of that same human creative energy reaching out to ‘touch’ the sun.
6: The two large irregular shapes on each side. Different perspectives create the shape in the middle. Like architecture/body
7: The stripes started by being huge blades of grass at the bottom of the picture, something familiar and literally down to earth. These later also became like windows or architecture or bars reaching up towards the top of the painting.
8: Before I painted the darker paint it was feeling very light and childlike, like a children’s illustration with the big letters and colourfulness. I was addicted to making the lovely colours but I didn’t appreciate the feeling of it yet.
9: I also had in mind a recent day out; where I had this beautiful experience in nature. It was actually at Wightcliff Bay on the southeast coast of the Isle of Wight. I got a lift on a paddleboard to the base of the chalk cliffs and managed to hop along the rocks and around the point, from there the view completely blew me away! It was seeing somewhere familiar, looking so fresh and impressive, and it was totally unexpected. I was wanting to express a feeling of the place, a sense of the space with height, distance and water, but it wasn’t coming to fruition in the studio.
10: Then at some point, I was sitting with my husband, Erling and I was recollecting about that day. As I sat with him I leaned over and rested into him, I spoke about the day and the beautiful experience. In that moment I embodied my memory. I relived it in my body, I wasn’t trying to do anything, it just happened, it was so beautiful and I felt a painting in that. I felt physically the sense of place, I felt the visual imagery that I needed to express the experience.
It was a little later when I could come to paint again, I tried to use this feeling, the embodying, the sense of the majesty of the cliffs and seascape I had felt. It was very exciting to paint. Intuitively, I knew exactly what to do, it wasn’t about getting it right or wrong it was simply that moment expressed. Consequently, I felt like what was created through the painting was a doorway for the viewer and the beginning of a visual conversation that is out of my domain.
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