Oil on Canvas Paper
With this work I was drawing from a few different influences, specifically Evelyn William’s brand of expressionism, as well as Picasso’s blue period, and early Russian Christian art. This kind of Noir lighting is a big step away from my usual style, where I mostly try to employ even light. There is also an intentional distortion of certain facial features, most notably the enlargement of the eyes and shrinking of the mouth. The use of straight lines, as opposed to curves, for the eyebrows and bridge of the nose was also intended to help intensify the feeling of the piece.
As I mentioned previously, I had realised that the formalist approach was limiting, in that it’s not an approach designed for expressionism. I wanted to work in a way which was more intuitive, and could express my feelings in a simple way which could appeal to a wide range of people. Of course, I was still wanting to use non-toxic mediums, but I hadn’t really experimented with watercolour and acrylic.
So I purchased some hardboard and gum tape with the intention of building up grounds with blending and blotching techniques. The resulting textures I could then gaze at for a while and anthropomorphise whatever figures and forms I see. I was getting into various conspiracy theories at the time, and these kind of became source material for the works, which were devoid of colour, for the dual purpose of making the process simpler, and expressing feelings of despair which were associated with working a lowly part time job and needing some welfare to supplement my income.
I continued exploring the same themes while beginning to bring in colour, especially by way of water soluble crayons and acrylic.
I was enjoying these much more, but still felt like they were a means to an end. They are imitations, especially of Jean Michel Basquiat, from whom I was definitely learning helpful things, but whose style i also wanted to divorce myself from a bit.
I decided to look a little closer to home for inspiration for how to move forward. I took the time to watch a few documentaries on New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere, whose ingenuity gave me some good ideas. He uses words in his work, and he manages to merge minimalist style with expressionism. I’ve also been lucky to have been exposed to the paper assemblages of James Robinson, who really exploits paper in ways which allow for the element of surprise akin to that of how I imagine the alchemists of old went about their work.
He’s also a fellow chigong student, and introduced me to Yuan Gong, a simpler style of chigong invented by Yuan Tze, which I have since begun to learn and practise.
These two artists, along with Shane Cotton, have managed to continue along the same line as Colin McCahon, in the way that they explore the sacred and the sublime aspects of New Zealand life without resorting to obvious and over-used “Kiwiana”, as so many here are like to do.
During this period I picked up another part time job, so another challenge these days is managing my time so that I can continue to be productive with both poetry and painting.
This almost brings us up to present day, where I find myself trying to find the best way for me to do all of the things I want to in painting, and to make it cost effective.