Thursday, October 21, 2010

Painting is Good for the Memory

Like a dream, painting is a record of the artist's memory, both conscious and unconscious. How strange to look back on my (unfinished) painting, based simply on a photograph of an anonymous man on the tube, and find that within it there are signs of what has been occupying my mind.

The horizontal strokes of the under layer were, at the time of painting, quite basically representative of a train. In retrospect, they remind me of my habit of standing at the very edge of the platform as on the edge of a cliff, as the train passes. It's sort of the same feeling - the soul-swelling wind and seeing something dark and moving. At those times my eyes are at the front of my mind and various questions of mortality quiver a little, as the wind makes them cold and the vibrations make them shake. Milliseconds of madness. I've been catching the tube much more often, and this has become a frequent occurrence. The tube, at times, is an intense experience.

This intensity bleeds into some other shapes I make in my mind: well-crafted fear, a wise old fear, cunning and smooth at the edges. The fear of the noise of the tube (why the fuck is it so loud in London?) and the fear or just plain being here with a paintbrush in hand and a makeshift palette, deciding what mark to make and worrying all the time what mark I will make. Here and in the future. Whether it matters at all. And all the while telling my brain to go fuck itself.

In my half-painting, there is definitely fear in the lack of colour, but the loudness of this all really isn't there.

For Luc Tuymans I think that is the point. Max told me to look him up. His colours are muted like the ones in my painting. Often his subject matter is relatively dull as well. This is deliberate. He uses the banal to paint the indescribable. Here is his Still Life (2002) painted for an exhibition about social and political engagement, for which he was expected to make works based on the September 11 attacks. "It is a monument to the inadequacy of language" (Saatchi gallery).

Perhaps there is some vague unintentional link between my unfinished painting and his paintings. His paintings are muted but represent the intense.

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