About Second Thoughts
This series were made using and capitalising on excess paints and other materials unconsciously created on surfaces after works have been removed; a sort of forensic examination of what’s left after a work has been removed from the site of its making; like the scene of a crime from which the primary focus of investigation, be it a body or missing possessions, have been removed, leaving only the traces of what might have happened.
The works made for the Happenstance exhibition were concerned with ideas of contingency and chance, and many consisted of tiny abstract squares or rectangles of paper, card or canvas treated with oils, acrylics, earth, plaster, ferric oxide, blood, etching varnishes and various unscientific chemical processes. Alluding to our obsession with the imposition of order on the inherently chaotic natural world in order to better understand it, or so as to be able to better protect it, or conversely to exploitatively abuse it, these were used randomly to create large grids.
These squares and rectangles were first tacked onto large cardboard sheets in grids and subjected to various gestural treatments using art and non-art materials and chemical solutions. Working in layers, with each subject to unpredictable chemical reactions and variable atmospheric conditions, these usually took weeks to complete. When I considered each to be finished I removed the individual pieces – the primary works – from the cardboard grounds, and subjected them to another randomising process by cutting them into hundreds of smaller, mosaic-like pieces to be incorporated in larger works. In the process I became fascinated by what remained on the cardboard sheets, the unconsciously made blurred brushstrokes and the chance residual overspills between and at the margins, and the seepages and pooling that had been unknowingly created beneath where the primary works had been. Blind painting.
“I cannot forbear to mention among these precepts a new device for study which, although it may seem but trivial and almost ludicrous, is nevertheless extremely useful in arousing the mind to various inventions. And this is, when you look at a wall spotted with stains, or with a mixture of stones, if you have to devise some scene, you may discover a resemblance to various landscapes, beautified with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys and hills in varied arrangement; or again you may see battles and figures in action; or strange faces and costumes, and an endless variety of objects, which you could reduce to complete and well drawn forms. And these appear on such walls confusedly, like the sound of bells in whose jangle you may find any name or word you choose to imagine.
Do not despise my opinion, when I remind you that it should not hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of
walls, or the ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which, if you consider them well, you may find really marvellous ideas. The mind of the painter is stimulated to new discoveries, the composition of battles of animals and men, various compositions of landscapes and monstrous things, such as devils and similar things, which may bring you honour, because by indistinct things the mind is stimulated to new inventions.”
Ruskin in Modern Painters (1857), states that:
“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something (…) To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.”
And in his Stones of Venice (1851-53) he encapsulates precisely what I’m most concerned with in my work:
“But what we want art to do for us is to stay what is fleeting, and to enlighten what is incomprehensible, to incorporate the things that have no measure, and immortalise the things that have no duration.”