Limitations/ Renaissance


I have to accept the limitations of my current art practice. It is totally impractical of me to consider myself in competition artistically with the wealthy and successful artists on the current scene. I can't make work like them, because I have neither the time, resources nor the space to produce such ambitious (and commercial) work. The only person I have to please and produce work for is myself. But... This doesn't mean I can allow myself to slack off. Conversely, I have to be even more critical of myself, even more sure of what I want to do, and why. If my work can't be ambitious in scale, it can still be ambitious in scope. I can make my art both an art of necessity and of ideas. Certainly I feel I haven't had the opportunity of thinking about and exploring my ideas on art since last summer.


I've been looking at a lot of Renaissance art and architecture recently. For me this was a way to get back into looking, especially at something which started to interest me, and which doesn't seem to interest many contemporary artists now, except David Hockney.

So let's think of what it is that I could find interesting about this particular period of art and history. Firstly, there are parallels with today's art patronage. "Art has always been made for a very small number of people", says one interviewee in Emile de Antonio's documentary Painters Painting. This is true to a certain extent; there is also an often cited parallel with today's "top" artists such as Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, and Marc Quinn. Although I would argue there are specific differences, I agree that most art then, as now by these "super" artists, is not made by themselves alone. But neither of these things really interests me.

For a long time I've known that I'm interested in space - in the physicality of a thing in a particular space, and of the arrangement of things, or absences between objects. I am also interested in cosmic space - interstellar space, galactic space, the space of the whole universe. Most people think of one discovery or 'invention' when one mentions the Renaissance: perspective.

Perspective, and its corollary the illusion of depth on a flat surface; cubism, with its breaking up of perspectival space, and rearrangement to form both the illusion of some kind of depth, and to emphasise the illusion at play of colours and shapes on a flat surface; and abstract expressionism, which mostly rejected the idea of any kind of depth and instead worked more on the flatness and 'objectness' of the paint on canvas, or of the shapes and colours on the surface. I have been interested in all of these things over time. So it strikes me that an important field is the tension between real space and represented space on a flat surface (and in sculpture real space represented by objects within a real space).

What has eluded me so far in my thinking is exactly why this interests me so much. As a child I was fond of secret spaces - hidden cubbyholes, false backs on cupboards and wardrobes - I still like these things now. I think my interest in videogames stems from the chance to explore imaginary spaces almost at will.

In my paintings that show hard-edged structures against an inky backdrop of the night sky, I thought I was contrasting the concrete solidity of the ground with the infinite realms of cosmic space. I realise now however that I was contrasting the clearly perspectival space of architectural constructions with the more ambiguous depth of outer space. And I have realised too, the futility of trying to represent this space in paintings.

I've been struggling on and off to complete a large version of YOUR LEVITY IS GOOD that I started as long ago as 2009. This work, which I've now finished, is somehow a failure. Something doesn't feel right. I believe I know what it is: I have never really been able to understand the depths of space shown in photographs from NASA or other institutions and observatories. On some fundamental level they are simply ungraspable.

Many of my starfield paintings emphasise the flatness of the painting by incorporating written quotations from films within the support of the paint. Usually, to see the text properly a viewer must move in relation to the painting. The painting changes as the viewer moves through space. Inducing the viewer to move in this way is an important element of installation. However, I like the idea of something looking different from a different point of view, rather than simply seeing the same thing from another angle.

The pieces I've been making called Destruction Constructions are all about representing hypothetical destroyed spaces. These spaces have been destroyed by us. Sometimes they are windows - views through which we see illusory destroyed space. By presenting through an aesthetic object something like destruction through war, or the banal imagery of an office block or some other bland corporate space, I want to draw attention to our feelings when we are within those spaces. I am not interested in 'reclaiming' that space through art, but to highlight the ambiguity of feelings we may have, which I certainly do have, for these and other spaces.

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