Reuse, rework, reevaluate

Being confined to one place leads to, among other things, a tendency to look back over what is nearby more closely than might otherwise occur. That could mean introspection, or simply the local area during daily exercise, but in this case, earlier works. In particular I have two canvases I enjoyed painting but which, despite heavily reworking them, I was never happy with. Something about the composition mainly remained unsatisfactory – they started life before I thought of myself as an artist or knew what ‘artistic practice’ was, so juvenilia of a sort. Overpainted daubings. So, as they sit, racked alongside the preferred, I have a few options – keep them as they are (pointless), bin them (wasteful, unsatisfying beyond the bit of extra storage space), re- or overpaint them again (futile I believe, especially as they are heavily textured), or do something else. The underlying concepts and intentions remain sound, so I went with the latter. In particular, as I am working through The Artist’s Way, I have realised (accepted is probably more accurate) that I need more creative freeing, to think but not overthink, to avoid over-complication. I need ideas, approaches and outcomes that can be conveyed. My practice needs clarity, openness, vulnerability. So, I took one of these pieces, From Dark Water, an 80 x 100 cm oil and acrylic, and decided to let my thoughts lead where they will.

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Before…

OK, striking enough, but only the lower half really works – the top looks stitched on. The aim was to capture something of our oil-addiction, the wars fought over it as lowlands drown, hence the fleshlessness, the black pool in which it submerges. But, how to explore the wider notions of fire and destruction, a system propped up by greed when alternatives exist? A knife, blowtorch, some ashy grit were applied. It certainly felt freeing – more so than simply burning or binning – and the result? More satisfactory than it had been, even if lockdown life precludes access to a suitably plain backdrop. Is it finally finished? I think so…

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