Having left-off for a while because of the move from Australia to the UK, I'd been painting again in 2020, starting with portraits and trying to perfect representation. At the same time, the history of art was consuming my evenings. Camera-invention-triggered impressionism is the pivotal moment of course...once a camera can represent something accurately and quickly, what does one paint next? The 'better' my portraits became the more this became an issue. What was the point? And, I could sense that becoming more and more accurate, heading toward photo-realism, would cultivate a state of mind that felt constricting and days of painting that would be boring.
I'd become very interested in the development of abstraction, in particular the New York school of abstract expressionists - a long way from classical representation - but, it made sense to me that the raw elements of painting were worth exploring and that painting could become about 'representing' unseen things. Next, I came across Chaim Soutine and his incredibly daring brushwork. His willingness to distort what he saw into something more interesting, more rich, more emotional than plainly existed in front of him, impressed me. And, Helen Frankenthaler too - her unapologetic and confident attitude as an artist was a model for me - she seemed to believe in the value of art and the role of artist in a way I haven't achieved yet. They both challenged me to 'more'.
I'd been experimenting with abstraction in the 'Context' series of paintings which are somewhat thoughtful and considered. The idea of being more expressive and spontaneous was being shown to me in the various documentaries and artist interviews I was watching online. In this spirit, I didn't plan to paint that way...it just happened one day. I had two canvases in the studio and paint spare from something just completed...I don't recall what I thought or felt...I just painted brushstrokes.
The first two paintings emerged easily. Each brushstroke was a response to the one just before. This must be, I thought, what artists are referring to when they say "I don't plan the painting, I just see where is goes" and similarly 'arty' descriptions of their process. I never liked that...it seems irresponsible to me. But, that approach made two paintings I really like. So, I decided to repeat the idea.
Now there are 13 paintings. Each time I focussed only on applying paint, the singular element of the brushstroke...making each one worthwhile and relate well to the ones already there. I'm still a bit resistant to being so spontaneous and unplanned...perhaps a little guilty that I'm not trying hard enough.
When I stood back and looked at the collection that was emerging I saw that each brushstroke reflected the moment it was painted. It expressed something which could, if seen by someone wanting to, be 'felt' by the viewer. Each stroke, and all the strokes, could touch the viewer with something of the feeling that went into them. I imagined the viewer who could see that way and that they would need to want to be touched by the painting. So, I called the collection "Touch Me" - to call-out to the passerby and let them know that, if that's what they wanted, they might find it by looking at the paintings.
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