one thing leads to another

i often describe my work as abstract, but bearing the influence of the landscape, or my experience in the landscape. it’s an influence that’s perhaps more evident in some cases than others, but one that’s always present, always doing its part to inform whe way i make pictures.

here’s a specific example of how one thing leads to another. when i go to a particular beach, i always lock my bicycle to a post at the edge of the carpark. this is what is see when i stand at that post:

photograph of seascape with signpost

and here’s a painting, ‘interrupted view’ that came about as a result:

seascape painting with big black and white obstruction

now, here’s what’s going on…after looking at that arrow decal on that post several times a week for a couple of years, i started to get intrigued by its qualities as a pretty rigid, graphic, abstract element in an otherwise ‘natural’ setting. i made the photo in order to capture that juxtapostion. the photo is a key element in the whole process.

it’s clear, in the photo, that what’s visible is a signpost (presumably on a path of some sort), with a directional aid on it, in a landscape – in this case the beach. but by framing it in the way that i did, and choosing to focus on the arrow rather than the scene behind it, i flattened the space, which allows me to treat it much more formally in terms of composition, the play between positive and negative space, the similarity in tonal values of the greys in the background and the reflected light on the arrow, the way the shapes are arranged (as a side benefit, the way the arrow is curved at its tip suggests it’s pointing at the horizon, which brings in a whole metaphorical element – travel, adventure, risk, a ‘spiritual’ journey of some description). i made the photo because the scene intrigues me, but i had only the vaguest notion that i might use any part of it in a painting.

in the case of the painting, it was a piece whose progress was not going well, and it was becoming more a source of frustration than anyhting else. dropping a big black and white vertical stripe on top of the piece was a way to disrupt the visual space of the painting, but to also disrupt my intentions regarding what i wanted the piece to be or ‘look’ like. by reframing the composition in terms of how the disruption, the ‘post/arrow’ relates to the rest of the picture, i was able to relax about what i thought the viewer should be ‘seeing’. the formal qualities i described about the photo are still present to a degree, but oddly, in the painting, the presence of the ‘post/arrow’, and the thin vertical line to its right serve to create a sense of space and depth in what otherwise would be a pretty flat composition (as opposed to flattening the space in the photo). titling the piece ‘interrupted view’ plays to that, and suggets that though the composition appears abstract, there’s something else going on. the one element that’s sorta lost is the metaphorical one suggested by the arrow pointing at the horizon, but maybe that’s something to be addressed in another piece at another time.