Decisions and action

While I have been thinking up ideas about what my contribution to the final exhibition should look like I’ve been distracting myself with painting and that has given me an idea for my contribution to the final exhibition that is very different from any previous thoughts.

I’ve been working on this picture over the past week. image

I think I had a problem with the way I tried to approach generating ideas for the final exhibition in that I attempted to do it logically rather than intuitively. My posts have been about ideas and the criteria I should use to decide an approach but in reality my practical work has determined it. I just couldn’t see that until now. For example,  much of this last week has been spent painting this large 82 cm square composition that contrasts with my small picture that I posted about here and this process set in motion an idea for the final exhibition.

I still had textures and layers in mind with this painting, but scale was the main thing here. I used use similar colours to the small image. So painted the whole canvas with white emulsion to give the canvas some texture and then, after letting that dry for a day, painted a red background and then began painting the symbol with a mix of yellows and orange. Each section took some time as I had to build up layers to obtain the textures I wanted.


I’m pleased with the result as the textures worked well close up. image

I then added the blue lines which add some dynamism to the form and to match the smaller image previously mentioned.image

Once the painting was dry I applied a layer of paper varnish in order to bring out the textures.image

I had ordered a frame at the start of the project and selected a thin black frame to contrast with the thick frame of the first small picture. So once the image was complete I placed it in the frame. I then hit a problem as the double sided tape I used to slick the piece on backing board meant the painting is well and truly stuck but it expanded slightly with the varnish and rucked up a little. Here is the finished image in the frame.


This photo gives you an idea of the textures. image

The very different scale of this painting to the first one (82cm square compared to 10 cm squared or 24cm square with its frame) had an impact in terms of process, form and outputs.

In terms of process it was harder to create as I can’t move around or, move the large image around, easily. Then there was layering of emulsions, acrylics and varnishing. This all took time to dry and then I’d see gaps and have to touch up areas.

The process is just so much slower than working with digital. It makes me slow down and there is a pleasure in focussing on a single task such as painting in a layer. letting that partially dry, seeking gaps and painting some more and so on.

The scale of this painting made me think about outlining the symbol with a thin black line. In the end I decided not to because I wanted to keep the form the same as for the small picture. However if this was a single image I probably would have given it and outline.

But the key thing this work as shown me is that I should use the opportunity of the final exhibition to go with showing some of the current work alongside the resolved body of work in the book. The time spent daydreaming about different approaches to the final exhibition is just that and I have no real connection to them whereas the work on these two paintings of symbols has given me great pleasure that works well will the books.

The idea
Here are the small and large images shown together.

The plan: Versions of the symbol
Look at these two images of my symbols above. Together they gave me this idea about creating as set of images – a bit like these. But whereas the evolution series is just about that, these symbols will be about different production and presentation values. That way the symbols work as a statement both about disability and signification/stigmatisation and artistic representation and production values.


One idea would be to create six pictures of symbols and show these alongside the six different drafts of Paralysis Unseen so viewers could see how the books developed into its final version. This would convey two messages: firstly it would expose viewers to my discourse; but it would also expose the phenomenology of seeing in quite an explicit way because of the repetition.

In that way I would hope my contribution to the final exhibition would

  • Present my discourse – about impairment, disability and re-presentation
  • Arrest and engage viewers and aim to confound and puzzle

People will be moving through multiple presentations and passing any number of images and artefacts and so I need to capture their attention. This means I need to generate a simple clear eye catching display. I think this approach achieves that objective. I don’t know whether it meets Waldermar Januszczak’s expected standard, but hope it goes some way toward it.

“The Jackson Pollock exhibition in Liverpool begins as all exhibitions should begin – with a burst of art that thumps you in the chest and forces your mouth open.” Waldermar Januszczak (2015)

Waldermar Januszczak, Any Colour as long as it’s black, Culture 05/07/2015 The Sunday Times


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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