I spent a number of days walking amongst the trees and gathering information for a series of paintings through drawing and photography; I absorbed the sights and sounds of the trees in the forest and found a way to recreate something of that experience in paint.
I am interested in surfaces and textures and the way materials can be combined to create tactile qualities. Cold wax can be applied in thin layers or heavy impasto. It can be scored, scoured and burnished like a rich stoneware ceramic glaze; it can left dry, broken, fragmented and uneven. I have included up a number of close up photographs to give some indication of the extremely rich and highly textured surface of the painting; you can also begin to see in the reflections, the depth and lustre contained in the burnished wax.
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
’Til it’s gone…
Joni Mitchell, from “Big Yellow Taxi,” lyrics written circa 1967–68
Additional layers of cold wax, deeper black tones to build contrast and depth. More removals and reinstatement, but travelling slowly in a direction I’m reasonably comfortable with. Endlessly surprised by my lack of insight into my own work, I have to leave it for a day or two before I can actually understand what I have done and need to do… If I continue working without a significant pause for assimilation and reflection (preferably a few days or maybe even a week) I become delusional. I can persuade myself that bad work is good, that the composition is dynamic, fresh and original, that the colour relationships are challenging yet harmonious……..the list of misreadings goes on…and on………….
As each successive layer of cold wax dries, I build additional marks and surfaces with an assortment of palette knifes and tools, scraping back where a colour or tone is too dominant or suffocating. I didn’t know paint could be claustrophobic…but it can, intensely suffocating and airless…..sucking out the very life we try to capture. Knowing when a painting has arrived at a destination is never simple…all artists know this….its a difficult judgement to make and we can always be wrong. So many factors come into play, tension, harmony, contrast, compositional structure….this is especially true of work that is primarily abstract and does not need to conform to a particular code of realism. It is a question of ‘rightness’ ; knowledge, experience and technique will only take you so far…..then your’e on your own.