What is crystallising in my recent work as a fascination is the relationship between painting and drawing. All “making” I identify as “drawing”, but the one I am specifically considering at present is the use of black and white; a form of drawing that is autonomous: one that does not lead to painting in any preliminary way or even as any orchestrator of form which would consequently be achieved through colour.
I am working on canvas with a rich shellac based Indian ink. The canvas is prepared with a ground coating, which is a plaster-like surface of marble dust medium. This accepts the stain of the ink more readily than the cotton weave itself would (I use a buff canvas colour which generates a subtle warmth in the black ink): making these drawings feels akin to the art of fresco painting: I tend not to overwork them but if I do need to make alterations, I “re-plaster” the paint on with a skin of the ground colour and then I can redraw the adjusted passage back on top - staining the new ink back in - similar to the modus operandi of a fresco.
Aside from the technical considerations, formal issues have led me to rejecting the ink’s ability to make a wash. From the outset I wanted to avoid any atmospheric effects. I am not seeking to allude to any known ‘localised’ notions of a familiar, if abstracted, space. The drawings thus become simple “on-off” decisions - either it’s black or ‘white’. Although a wash is inherently seductive in appearance, the omission of it as an expressive element has forced my hand somewhat by placing a greater demand to be inventive in the mark-making. As things have progressed I have employed a range of “characters”: lines, dots, ‘circular’ shapes and brush marks; through repetition, direction and weight, I can create tone, contrast, scale change and ultimately, space. Furthermore, as there is no atmospheric ‘depth’, the actual space in the work becomes haptic and shifting; surprising in how it reveals itself. This is one quality that does give me clues for possibilities for what can be achieved through colour. To maximise space I must keep the eye on the move - taking in differences of detail.
I am seeking an art-form that cannot be pinned down to a specific culture either. This is an intriguing quality that has quietly emerged. So much abstract art is working within the residues of European Oil painting and harnesses so many of the checks and balances of traditional easel painting (Abstract Expressionism being the flip side of the same coin: although it rejected the easel and moved to the mural, the motivation was still to put together an iconographic work of art - one that stands against this tradition in ambition, yet one that has ironically ended up actually enhancing it through its own very iconography). In short, all abstract art, I feel, has “sought the museum” in pictorial ambition.
The very material of these drawings - the ink - has made me look further eastwards. I have recently visited the Far East and absorbed a lot of the visual qualities of the art I saw there. I am comfortable connecting in my mind the work of a European such as Van Gogh, in his magnificent landscape ink drawings from 1888 with the stunning prints of Utamaro, whose draughtsmanship revealed through line, pattern and visual weight is so sophisticated and visually striking; Arabic tiles can be also thrown into the mix or even Aboriginal dreamscapes. All these artists and cultures have sought something beyond the look of nature and found a more penetrative reality to life revealed through a visual statement of intent.
These sorts of connections encourage me in considering that a greater universality is up for grabs; one with a greater potential for a more expansive and meaningful cultural dialogue. I would like to think that people in other parts of the globe would respond to them positively.