The second of Paul Coldwell’s lectures, at the very beginning reminds me to talk again about gesture, which has to do with the body and is closely associated with painting and its directness.

Vitruvian Man – the proportions of the human body according to Leonardo da Vinci

I have already written about the circular gesture, how I have derived it/why I use it, in an earlier post:

The scale of the work has everything to do with the body, is integrated with the body. I particularly like to work on a human scale, that I can relate to with the greatest directness. The scale of the painting I typically work on is 125 x 123/127 cm, as is the case with the most recent one.

Gesture, for me, has a relationship with self-control in that I am interested in moderating my ideas through the painting rather than acting on impulse. I allow/guide/encourage the patch/passage of paint to “be itself”, as much as possible in my cultivations of it. Always it is a balancing act of feedback mechanisms – homeostatic? cybernetic? I have tended to restrain gesture, as far as possible looking to intensify the work, detecting its potential in Negative Capability terms. I am interested in depth, the surface as an emergent property of all the undercurrents. A portrayal of the visible invisible.

My technique involves brushes hardly ever, I use instead a palette knife. I like the contradiction that lies in wielding a cold and hard-edged tool to create sensual passages of paint. A brush is too soft, too predictable. The circular gesture is apparent throughout. I also use a sweeping circular gesture over the whole painting, literally polishing the surface as I go, so the actual surface becomes reflective. I recall my very first blog post.  My technique has emerged purely out of the medium of oil, honed over the years taking into account its implications, applications, and individuality. There is nothing like oil.

I have experimented with many alternative mediums as I have gone along, and invented some of my own – and I find that there is nothing I want that the oil cannot do for me, it always satisfies and there is no reason to turn away from it, even though it is notoriously difficult to handle and so weighed down with the appraisal of a history which suggests that everything that can be done has already been done in oil painting  – not so.

To a large extent, I have built up my system of painting because I have had to get around the idiosyncrasies of the medium, such as drying times. I exploit the medium in terms of the richness of its possibilities, such as its unique fluidity,  transparency and glazing properties, amongst others.

I have made many works in oil on paper – these I must re-evaluate if I can find the time. Not only that, oil as a substance is symbolic – it was once alive, and I try to clarify what it is to be alive, so it seems in keeping. I have a special bottle of cold-pressed linseed oil from Zecchi of Florence – I brought it back to the UK 26 years ago and had it years before then, so it has its own history of itself and a sensual fragrance which is intoxicating. I began by making paint from oil, grinding it with pigment. Oil is my own history as a painter. Oil has universal history; it is a material imbued with and embodying the unbroken thread of the past. Oil was once alive as linseed, flax comes from linseed, flax is linen, made from threads. The etymology of the word line works back to linen, a thread (Lines on Lines). Oil, as lipid molecules, was needed for the first cell membrane to form eons ago when life began. I see the oil as a mythical, magical and mystical material.

Note to self: 

Re-evaluate works on paper. Including the series intended as a “TAO” of painting – integrating this with the Lines on Lines and Lines on Lines on Lines. Pictopoiesis to potentially identify a syntax for painting, evidenced through of my own pictures.

Signature as gesture – the ultimate gesture, in a way is to write one’s name. For me how/when to sign a painting, if at all, is problematic. Is the signature an intrusion into the world of the picture, or is it part of the picture and if so how can it be best integrated? Is it enough to just have done the work in my style (are gesture and style synomymous?) I would like to resolve this, if possible, once and for all. Perhaps a stamp – something physical but uniquely identifiable. on paper ( pouncing – piercing), on the painting – two quite different signatures, each designed for the different mediums? Bearing in mind oriental ceramic marks – stamp mark and calligraphic mark…stamp mark and calligraphic mark…



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