Why I like representational painting:
Representational painting is a visual depiction of physical existence. We visually understand the physical environment through colour, so when we look at a representational painting, if there are colours which mimic the physical environment, then the physical environment has been represented through paint. When we paint, we are applying colour, thus giving us the ability to capture something which exists as colour using colour; if we want to paint the clouds (which are white), then we will use white to paint them. Representational painting allows us –through colour– to capture what we are seeing in front of us, so that when we can no longer see the physical reality, we have a physical body of colour which is representative of the visual physical reality.
Painting is able to visually represent the “objective physicality” of physical existence through application of colour but it is also able to embody the non-objective and the non-physical. By using different painting techniques such as impasto/ thin glazes, heavy/light brushstrokes, hard edge/soft edge we are able to use the physical body of coloured paint to create something which goes beyond the objective and representational and is an embodiment of more than the physical.
If we use all of the elements as described above (impasto/ thin glazes, heavy/light brushstrokes, hard edge/soft edge) within a single painting, we have the ability to access the physical and the non-physical, the rational and the irrational and the objective and the non-objective.
Why would we bother to paint the landscape? When we experience it in its full physicality, it is a much fuller experience than any painting could be. And if we like the landscape so much, wouldn’t it be better to work with the land itself? There is a chance to break from the solitary act of landscape painting and towards a participatory art in which we work with the land, rather than from it.
When I paint something using a digital medium, it exists only digitally. When I print this digital painting, it exists physically as a “thing” but is still flat and is made up of a single layer. When I make a copy of this painting using physical paint, using thin glazes to create a painting without brush strokes, I have a flat painting but one which is made up of more than a single layer. In order to increase the physical presence of this painting, I can paint it using impasto, so it is no longer physically flat, the paint has been applied more thickly which results in something which has a three dimensional surface. In order to further increase the physical properties of this painting, I can remove it from the surface on which I am applying the paint and use paint or another material to build something which is the same as the first digital painting which I have produced - but exists in the more physical form of a sculpture. In order to take this one step further, and create something beyond sculpture, I must create something living, or something which is not constrained to a single object but is an art form based upon a temporal activity (which may or may not create art objects).
Here is an excerpt from a review of “Painting the Modern Garden” exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Painting in 2017
“This is one of the most astonishing exhibitions of our time – and in the final rooms, one of the most heartbreaking. Here we see Monet’s very late works of lumpy reds and thick yellows, painted from memory when he was more than half-blind. After his cataracts were operated upon, all boundaries dissolve into light. Debussy composed a piece inspired by this scene, and I would single-handedly carry a piano up the steps of Burlington House in order to hear the notes, as separate as the first drops of rain, played beside the works themselves. In these galleries you witness something very rare: a naked expression – by brush, pen, or musical score – of what the artist believes to be most valuable and elusive in the human spirit. It happens in Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, the great self-examination of the heart wrung out on scraps of paper in jail; it happens in Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, it happens in Johnny Cash’s rasping last album, Ain’t no Grave, where the guitar notes are reduced to a handful and scattered like gravel. And it happened in Monet’s garden. In the end, art is art, but gardens are life.” 1
1 Woodward, Christopher. 18 April 2016. Painting gardens? More of a radical pursuit than you think