In the studio, below the paint laden palette, I use old magazines for cleaning brushes. These pile up over time and gradually dry out, becoming board like. They used to be thrown away when the pile became more awkward than useful, and then at some point I noticed that some of the magazines had in themselves become interesting objects, with the solid bonded pages, often being fronted by a paint stained cover star. I started to look through them, to see if there was anything worth retrieving before they bit the dust? There would often be a number of pages solidly fused together, some that could be prized apart, others that would rip, merging disparate images and text together, becoming something new. Other images that survived more wholly, had often undergone a strange transformation, with certain elements of the print having been dissolved by the white spirit used to clean brushes. The dark colours are often wiped out, making the faces that accompany articles seem unusually charged. On the odd occasion I have scrawled an addition to a picture with a brush, a smile on a face, or a pair of glasses, but otherwise what occurs is mostly a matter of the chance circumstances of cleaning the brushes, determined perhaps by the mood in the studio, the speed at which the work is moving, whereabouts I am working in relation the palette and countless other factors that I have no interest in. In other words, these things make themselves, I only salvage them.
What's interesting about this tiny fragment of irrelevant studio activity, is that it raises many questions about images, how they affect us, what makes something beautiful and what is relevant in the language of painting? These marks happen by chance, the best way of working. No thought is put into their creation, which is why they are so often surprisingly effective, without all of the trappings of conventions you are left with pure marks, accidentally interacting with other images. This kind of approach is often forged in the midst of a painting and sometimes it's achieved through blind determination to resolve something that seems impossible. With every painting the primary concern is in capturing the subject, but this has to somehow be balanced with the formal arrangement of colour and weight of marks, with no room given to pointless decoration. So the question is always occurring as to why certain marks seem more relevant, and how that impacts on my approach when making a piece of work? What do these marks mean and why do they resonate, and when does a mark's relevance cross into becoming decoration?
A further comparison is also highlighted by the fact that these 'things' are made in the way that I have a great envy for, because they just happen, like a splash of vomit that forms into a masterpiece. To be removed from the impossible decisions of what to do in front of an ongoing piece of work is the best way to be. That's what I want to be; The Overseeer, The Caretaker, The Editor, The Salvager...
But then something else occurs to me, that when photographing these pages I realised that I was adding a further stage in the life of these images, they were being transformed again. Though still arresting images, they started to take on the look of the type of painting that mixes realisim with 'surface effects', the decorative squeegee wipe or drippy slapdash sloppiness that signals suface rather than subject, something which automatically sends me to sleep. The difference between the genuine accidents and those that are used for effect is somehow stored within the mark, as though a record of integrity is held therein.
On these pages the marks are allowed to survive because there was no initial intention, they are just happy accidents, preserved for pondering. Below are a few examples of details from these pages.