Back into the studios this week, and trying to start working straight away, continuing on from last year. Over the summer I visited Wales and Dublin and visited a few galleries, and I think this reaffirmed that I definitely want to continue painting and exploring viewer/subject boundaries. I also really love the idea of documentation – of the everyday, incidental moments that make up my life. In the IMMA there was a show by Nan Goldin. I love the immediacy of her work and the incidental nature of her photographs, the obsessiveness in her need to document everything and everyone. In the exhibition flyer she discusses her photographic montage work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. “The diary is my form of obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember.”
This prompted lots of ideas about the relationship I have with the imagery I use in my work, what it depicts and whether it is taken as an observation or with a concept in mind. I work pretty exclusively from film and photograph, rarely having someone sit for me, so the origins of these photos is becoming increasingly important. I’m also really interested in the relationship I have with images that are unfamiliar to me/have not been taken by me as a lot of my paintings stem from self taken, deliberate photos rather than incidental ones.
I found a photo on my dad’s hard-drive that I found really interesting, in a folder just marked ‘2001’. It pictures a lot of his friends, some who I recognise, some who I don’t, at a party. The nature of the photograph is confusing – taken from a high angle like its documenting the scene rather than focusing on a person/action. All the people in the room are looking away, unaware of the bright flash, but one person in the foreground looks directly into the lens, about to pop or having just popped 2 party poppers. I don’t really know why but I just find it a really fascinating image, maybe because I feel a bit removed from it personally and I can’t place exactly what is happening. I think in the context of the tableau and the gaze its relevant too, the scene is very real and closed off, but then the direct eye contact sort of invites you in and creates a very direct confrontation with the viewer. I think really I might be reading a bit much into it, but to document this scene in a painting is something that I feel might bring forward other questions in my developing practice.
I chose to go quite large scale, (120 x 140cm) but limiting myself a bit because I haven’t worked in this size before and have no idea how long it will take me to complete. Over the course of this week the painting has taken shape, however I’m not quite sure I’m happy with it in its current stage. I’m trying to find a balance between realism and abstraction, on one hand I want the viewer to feel it is a real scene and that the people are actually distinguishable, but on the other I think on its own the picture is bland because of the dark colours. I think surface is also very important. My choice to paint the scene rather than just have the photograph as a piece on it’s own