Pictopoiesis and Pragmatism

Painting in progress:


There are certain facts about oil painting which make it tricky to handle at the beginning. When I began painting in earnest, I found it difficult to handle oil paint, actually I did not like it. I had only ever used water paints before. But I persisted with the oil painting. I was taught by Alexis all about the technical aspects of the medium. In Florence he had studied Art and Restoration formally but more than that, in his own way had made an exhaustive study of the techniques of painting. He has always been a point of reference in this and countless other ways.

In learning how to handle oil paint there is always the awkwardness of drying times. Actually, the oil oxidises, it doesn’t actually dry, as it is not water based. Working with the technical limitation and resistance of the paint with respect to drying time informed my methodology fundamentally. My technique is an new adaption to the demands of traditional oil painting. This makes my work problematic in terms of categorising it relevent to the work of others.  The problem of categorisation is this: oil painting is traditional, I did not invent it but I have taken it, and consciously built something new out of it, reinvented it really.  Pictopoiesis is the result, a system of principles rather than  In Italy I was in an art history environment, seeing the physical legacy of the artists of history, and correspondingly I also wanted to make work which survived well into the future. To make oil paintings with their longevity in mind is a very particular technical matter.

One rule about painting in oils for it to be technically sound is to not paint on top of paint which is half dry, as it will result in cracking. Though cracking is interesting aesthetically, that was not what I was after, not just a surface effect. I wanted to make work built through and through. Make the mirror rather than look at my own reflection in a consideration of what makes a well-done work. I had to find out what all that meant by the doing of it.

Technically, I needed to find a way of creating a continuum such that I did not have to keep stopping for the paint to dry. That can take a long time, and I had to work all the time, resolving all matters, technical or otherwise, on the painting itself. Otherwise, I would not have learned and progressed rapidly enough in the medium. It was never a question of changing the medium as it is like no other in terms of its aesthetic potential. I wanted the medium to be the material well-spring of all that I would produce. A principle of pictopoiesis is that origin always has its echo (a recent post on this) in the outcome, which is traceable back to its very beginning (hence the sequential photo records of the painting in formation)

Technically then, when I reapproached a painting, to continue it I developed a way of bringing that surface to a restart. But one in which the historical narrative of the painting was echoed. In short, it is as a result of the flow, conscious or otherwise  between material and immaterial, technical and conceptual. The pragmatics and the poetics interplay in the doing and become the unity that the emergent whole is.

notes to self: consider the verbs in bold in last sentence above/ phenomenological

adjective: pragmatic
  1. dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
    “a pragmatic approach to politics”
    • relating to philosophical or political pragmatism.
      relating to pragmatics.
late 16th century (in the senses ‘busy, interfering, conceited’): via Latin from Greek pragmatikos ‘relating to fact’, from pragma ‘deed’ (from the stem of prattein ‘do’). The current senses date from the mid 19th century.

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