Over the past few months I have been reading the excellent William Feaver biography of Lucian Freud. Some of my followers will already be aware of my affinity with Freud’s work, especially with his earlier paintings. I have always admired his facility and continued attention in the application of paint in relation to his subject. Simultaneous with this reading has been the presence of two of my own paintings in the same room. They are from very different bodies of work but they correspond in their analysis of depth of space and, albeit on different planes, on the idea of perception and existence too.
In chronological order they are this one that began a series of paintings that I called Screen Play:
The painting was first exhibited in York rather appropriately at York City Screen in 2010. The screen in question is something approximating what we see when we look at the illusion of the depth of field on a computer monitor. A keyboard and a mouse is suggested. The painting also plays around with patterning approximating marbling – like the endpapers to a book – a book of fact or fiction. There are snatches or glimpses of landscapes – I imagined a travelator on the left and a snowy woodland scene at the base as well as abstract shapes there are various points of perspective. There is perhaps a lamp to the left of the painting.
The second painting is more recent. It has never been exhibited but had some nice praise when I first posted it on Instagram. The painting derived from a model of a small theatre that I had made. This follows on from a large body of work upon reflections upon man’s existence – which I realise are essentially rooted in the plays (and poems) of William Shakespeare with possibly nod to more recent readings of other philosophers. But it probably because of Shakespeare that the stage became a recurrent motif. Followers of my work will know that this theatre construction is one of many. This one is the tiniest.
Looking at these two works on a daily basis whilst reading about Freud’s own deep reflections upon vision – and perceiving that incisive investigation in the recent Freud exhibition at Liverpool has made me look at the main areas of analysis in my own paintings. If it wasn’t already obvious, the visual materiality of the third dimension is certainly a recurrent theme in my work. Further back in 2005-7 during my M.A. at the University of Sunderland I was working on fragmented images on wide open canvases whose surfaces were otherwise populated by screen prints. In an exhibition around the same time I elaborated on this theme by reproducing the composition into a three dimensional model on one facet of a lantern book.
More recently I have been indulging this further with a stereoscopic app on my phone – viewers (invented by Brian May – yes, THE Brian May) are available from the London Stereoscopic Society.
More recently I have been building more three dimensional models and experimenting with these in film and painting – below, an example of an experimental film still.
Above a pen and ink study of the camera chamber model, (lined with hand marbled paper and also used in the film) where I’ve taken this perception and relay of the third dimension and distorted it – as Freud sometimes does – to as the eye sees it rather than as it correctly is. A sort of travelling of the eye over space.
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