Sunday, 19 March 2017

More on my current collage series

The collage series has grown quite a bit since my last post. I'm making 4 or 5 of these small collages each week and posting them on my Instagram account.

I did scale up the process completing this image, which is about 12 by 22 inches. I called it "Taking on the News"


This collage is on plywood, primed with acrylic paint back and front and all sides. The background consists of acrylic paint applied with a palette knife.

I am beginning with the intention of constructing a single figure in space. I may, of course, revise this as I go along.Then, as usual I began by building up the figure, using torn pieces of paper (in this case newspaper). The figure is built up from the bottom. As I proceed I get a feeling for where the shoulders should be, and thus the head.When I have this sorted, I search for  eyes of the appropriate size. The eyes are not necessarily a pait taken from the same original image.  Once the eyes go in, the character of the figure becomes more obvious. This figure seemed to want an arm and hand, so a suitable one was built up using torn paper and an image of the hand.

I then added various texts from newspapers. When I was making this image, I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount and pace of news happening around the world, particularly in the United States. My placement decisions are partly aesthetic, achieving a balance in the composition by breaking up the large space above the figure, and partly thematic, the sense of the figure being threatened by a wave of news. The little texts, to the right of the figure, contain suggestive words, so they add another dimension to the piece.

At this point, I usually modify the raw image, softening some parts and bringing others to the fore. Text can overwhelm image in our word-dominant culture. (Note, the number of people who read the description beside museum art works and then glance briefly at the painting before moving on. I once got told off by an angry lady for standing in front of the description and looking long at the painting). So I knocked back the words and some of the main figure by applying a light paint mix with a brayer.

At this point I may use a drawing implement (pen, crayon, pencil, charcoal, watercolour) to add suggestive details or to add shadow to bring out more of the image. The trick here is to use as little as possible and not to  complete the image. I want suggestion and a fertile field for the viewer. An example of this is the suggestive face left of the main figure, where I have emphasized the eyes to more clearly show the face I could see here, along with the fingers holding some sort of cylindrical object (stick? staff? scroll?). And the masked  face above that. In working by responding to what is happening on the surface, I use pareidolia ("seeing faces in clouds") to access an inner direction for the image.

It's finished when it's finished. The danger is overworking the image and killing whatever sense of liveliness and mystery it might have. So I try to stop before I think it is finished. I let it sit around for some period (a few days) to see if it needs any further touches.

Sometime during this period of reflection, the name will come. Since I don't work with ideas directly or overtly , but rather subliminally and subconsciously, what the work is "about" in the notional sense is only revealed, and then only partly, by NOT thinking about it at all This one was particularly problematic, because my mind was captured by the partial word in the top left VOCAT...which led me on to Vocatus. Such a lovely word, redolent with mystery, but, alas, just not right for this work. Only when I "killed the thing I loved" (to slightly misquote Oscar Wilde), could the phrase "Taking on the News" come to me. I delight in the duality of meaning, taking on  as in taking on cargo and
fighting.

In writing this blog post, I have tried to be as clear and as honest as I can be, given that the process I am describing is one that happens without conscious direction by the rational mind (the I-mind), but rather is directed by the whole mind (the no-mind). Happy to answer any questions you may have or respond to any relevant comments.
Still wasn't happy with the lack of contrast, so I added some slivers of painted plywood, some more pieces torn from the newspapers, white acyrlic wash and extra black paint to harden the figure in parts. Finished? (2 May 2017)

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