HOME page>                  NEW STUFF page> 
          WRITING CONTENT page>       GUEST ARTISTS page>Home_1.htmlNew_Stuff.htmlEssays.htmlGuest_Artists.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2shapeimage_1_link_3

How Does It Happen?

July 2010

by Michael O’Brien

I think my painting period is coming to a close.

I say this because the paintings are becoming less about paintings and more about process and narrative, and there are some bits that make them more three dimensional or techniques that make them ultra two dimensional, and it’s becoming tricky to manage to call them paintings at this point.

What I’m calling process pieces are less about the process of making and more that they include some element that is responsive to something other than the brush and paint. I enjoy this because I don’t control it. I do try to cajole it most of the time. Trying to convince it to make a graceful arc or a convincing knot. But by and large, the material makes up its own mind about what to be…and then I try to find the next act…. “Well if you’re going to be like that, then I’ll put this next to you,”…and then the “this” takes on its own will, and I look for the next move…its like a game of chess; I try to outthink the material, but the material usually has its own way, and at some point, I agree with it and try to help it become more of what it is.

This is a good example of what I’m trying to say. The wood fibers have their own history. Drought, solar access, injury, nutrition; all have shaped each set of cells that make up the fiber. This history affects the fiber’s ability to make a tight turn or stand straight or curve gently or tightly. It took me a while to accept this and a while more to be able to offer the fiber some discrete assistance.

The wood fibers move a lot because they are largely unrestrained and because the humidity here varies quite a bit. So each day on the wall, each time I relocate the piece, (I don’t have too many walls that are receiving parallel light.) it’s different in ways I can see and appreciate. It could be that if my eyes were better educated, I could see the difference in color, shadow and texture in the other paintings throughout the day, too. But the nuances are too difficult for me to see. It could be a question of patience.

All this is to say today I started cleaning up the painting place in the living room. Not the way most people would clean…I thought I’d try and put most everything that was on the table onto a canvas…but not all at once!

So today I was making a spot for some silver wire and brass rods that were leftover.

And like usual, there was paint leftover, so, waste not want not…I took another canvas and the nearby mixing bowl, outlined the bowl and began working the leftover indigo and gray into the edges of the circle, pulling to center. The darkest paint went to the center and the overall effect was…uninspired. So, given that this piece was shaping up poorly to my eyes, I took bits of wood fiber that were laying about and cut them over the top of the painting. As the fibers fell into the acrylic, they made their own pattern which I realized was a function of both what I was cutting with the scissors and where I stood to cut it. I moved to the second side of the painting and cut some more. The pieces fell as they might. There was some ribbon that I had gessoed into a canvas months ago, then pulled out to leave the line subtracted in the surface. It had red paint and gesso on it and so sometimes fell heavily when snipped, sometimes floated down. I noticed that when the air conditioning came on, the ribbon moved on the air currents until I hit a gesso spot; then it fell heavily.
So there is a lot that I’m not controlling specifically in this one, and I’m not sure how to hold the fragments more or less where they fell. I’m thinking of a gesso pour over the whole thing to try and hold all the bits. What do you think?

The last stage of this might be for me not to control the title. You’ve seen the captions get long and maybe too convoluted or cryptic. Partly I’m not sayin’ what I’m thinkin’ when I make these paintings and things, and partly the naming is a reaction to the photo more than the painting itself. Regardless, I was thinking it would be interesting if you named this one, if you’d like, if it strikes you….

I’ve been giving paintings away lately and hope whoever gets them takes the opportunity to rename them…mostly I hope they don’t end up in the trash! If nothing else, paint over them to recycle the canvas and stretchers!

Anyway, time for work.

Take care of each other. Enjoy the beauty of things you can’t control and try not to control too much..