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November 30, 2004

Sticky traditions

Good painting is Unstuck Painting. What is bad painting? Painting is not like maths, itís not RIGHT or WRONG. It either works or it doesnít work. If a painting doesnít work, then it could be said to be bad painting; as the purpose of the marks on the support is to communicate something. If it doesnít get its message across, it doesnít work, if it doesnít work, maybe itís because of bad painting.

first find your message Ė what is it youíre trying to say?

Time was, [oh, yes, time always was] a painter must needs attain a level of realism in their work for it to be even considered. But now, with the camera and digital dickery, the painter has been freed, [see Monet onwards].

But that makes it difficult to determine the process. Freedom is all very well but when someone is given freedom whatís the first thing they look for? A hint of tradition, to give their work some foundation. And with Traditional Foundations youíre halfway to becoming Stuck.

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November 27, 2004


Com-punc-tion (kom pungkíshen) n. 2. any feeling of uneasiness or hesitation about the rightness of an action. [eccl. L compunction equiv. To L compunct(us), ptp. of compungere to prick severely.]

Not what an artist needs in the slightest.

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photographs and drawings

The camera records all in front of it, or almost all. Lots and lots of it anyway. Millions of pixels, if we believe the statistics. So when we look at a photograph our brains are bombarded with almost the same amount of information as when we look at something in real life. So to simplify things, our recognition system kicks in, and looking at photographs, if we are not careful, becomes a blind activity.

We donít see people in photographs, we recognise them. But what the photograph does not give us is context. So sometimes photographs are a puzzle. As is evident by the amount of puzzles that have sprung up from sections of photographs and photographs of things from odd angles. It is often hard to even recognise the image, how often have you heard someone say of a photograph of someone: ďOh, that doesnít look like them at allĒ? But it is this puzzle, this difficulty, that allows the photograph, when handled with care, to illuminate our lives.

A drawing has far less information. The artist processes the information presented to him and extrapolates the details he feels are required to form the image. And, with any luck, bypass the ancient recognition systems and present fresh images.

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November 25, 2004

Feeling emphatic

Iím feeling emphatic right now and it helps. Itís becoming unstuck, itís getting out of gumption traps. To find yourself you have to change something, become somehow different. Sometimes this can be achieved by putting on a mask.

Wearing a mask you feel different, you get different reactions from your fellow passengers. Though the trouble is the mask is just that, a mask to hide something, not reveal something, the mask isnít you.

To become truly emphatic, truly unstuck, you need to strip away something from yourself, strip away the accumulated masks that society demands you wear, and bare your vulnerable self, physically and actually.

People ask why I paint nude figures, and in particular nude, shaved, figures. I am trying to find the emphasis. Iím trying strip away the trappings of centuries of civilisation, and find the vulnerable, real, self underneath it all. Iím trying to emphasise the essence of what we are, that there is more to life than mobile phones, e-mail, tv and magazines.

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Talking of prepositions...

As mentioned below, it is not thought proper, by those who think properly, to end a sentence with a preposition. Well pick the bones out of this:

Young child in bed, frustrated at not getting the bed-time story she wants, asks of her mother: ďWhy did you bring that book, that I didnít want to be read to from up for?Ē

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stuck gauze

Some days itís as if Iím looking through gauze, and this isnít simply a case for the optician. Itís not about being unable to look, but being unable to see. We say ďseeĒ very easily, and, most of us do indeed see to the extent that we donít get run over by a bus. In artistic terms this is a function of looking and recognising, not seeing.

We could, most of us, if pushed, make a reasonable stab at scratching such marks on the back of an envelope that would enable a casual observer to remark upon its likeness to an omnibus. [At this point a spokesperson for the Plain English Society states: we can all draw a recognisable bus shape.] There are certain shapes and details that tell us itís a bus, these may be called signifiers. The signifiers trigger a response in our memory and we retrieve a picture from our mind that fits the responses and BINGO! Itís a bus. We recognise it.

However it is far more difficult to draw the particular, individual, bus that we avoided being run over by. [Spokesperson for the Society of Theoretically Correct Grammar interjects with the notion that one shouldnít end a sentence with a preposition, see above post.] To draw the particular we need more detailed signifiers, we need to look in more detail, we need to begin to see.

In everyday life we are bombarded by images, millions and millions of bits of information. For our brains to cope and make some sense out of it all we ignore millions and millions of bits of information. We have a system of recognition that means that if an object resembles something we have seen before we ignore all the details and just see the stored image. This saves us immense effort in the long run, but when it comes to painting a portrait for instance it is a great handicap.

Some days I can see better than others, there appears to be no tangible reason, just some days the gauze isnít so thick.

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November 18, 2004

stuck kettles

There comes a time in the lives of all men [and women] when the kettle, having finally given up its sole purpose in life, namely: heating water, has to be replaced.

The kettle is an object used many times everyday, so its function is clear. You have to get cold water in, you have to apply energy to heat it and you have to get hot water out. Not too complicated I feel.

And there have been remarkable inroads to this function. Weíve gone from a blackened, heavy, hand-scalding pot that hung on a chain over the flames, to an un-tethered, light, jug-like object. But the evolution of the kettle has peaked.

Once we got the handle to the back, the cord to the front, and the whole thing totally un-pluggable the kettle was nearly unstuck. But they wouldnít leave it there would they?

I went to buy a new kettle, an electric kettle. Nothing fancy. And I am faced with the nightmares of a deranged product designer. Things with wooden bits, things that look like plastic jugs which have been left too close to the fire, things that look like flip top waste bins, things that look like the sort of thing Ronald Reagan buried in the ground to defend the Land of the Free, things that look like they could play cds while heating the water, things that donít look like they could heat water if thrown onto a bonfire, things that look like toasters Ė oh, hang on that is a toaster, isnít it?

Shelves [for they are many] stacked with kettles which only seem to be trying to stand out among all the other kettles that are trying to stand out. THIS IS A VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION. Once you start trying to be different for the sake of being different the meaning of life as we know it is in the balance, and kettles become useless.

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November 16, 2004


ďPoetry is a dark art, a form of magic, because it tries to change the way we perceive the world. That is to say that it aims to make the texture of our perception malleable.

It does so by surreptitious and devious means, by seeding and planting things in the memory and imagination of the reader with such a force and insidious originality that they cannot be deprogrammedĒ

Don Patterson, poet

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November 15, 2004

Time was

Here I sit in the midst of the twenty-first century, with twentieth-century communications [keep up technologie, come on, keep up] [just tell me the keys to press Jonathan, and Iíll be there] and, hell, Iím still in touch.

The artistís studio is still populated as it was in the fifteenth century. Not with real people, as it was then when real people contributed to the whole, but populated in a sub-ethereal way with text messages and e-mail.

Not a bad thing.

Time was they were all there, playing the viola [címon Charlotte] tapping out the beat of the picture with a well-turned cuff and a tricky strawberry nipple - if that was what was desired: the conspirators, the patrons, the sycophants, the admirers, the pupils. Grouped in an oft claustrophobic presence.

Then they disappeared, disappeared up their trug-bearing middle class arseholes. But now, with the coming of the age of Aquarius, they are all here again, god bless them.

Thank you for being here Ė you know who you are [if youíre in doubt at this point, donít worry - youíre important]

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November 12, 2004

Unstuck Dance

The basic idea of Becoming Unstuck, is to get me away from mere figure painting and allow me to indulge my creativity.

Whilst indulging my creativity: especially using white body paint and projected text:

unstuck 02 epson print.jpg

I began to see the potential of moving images, and a moving figure with texts and lettering moving over them. This has lead to the Unstuck Dance Project.

Iíve been working with a dancer, from America incidentally [International Unstuck Dance Project], creating a very exciting test piece, to music by the excellent Fortdax. Images from this first experiment can be seen on my site.

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November 10, 2004


As you may have noticed, from the lack of activity here in the Unstuck Diaries, and the absence of work in the studio, I havenít been painting for a while. And I realise, in these flat spots, how much I miss it.

I think it is good to have a break from painting, to reflect, to regroup and to reorganise my thoughts. But now Iím ready to paint again, in fact Iím hungry for paint, I miss it, like an old friend, or a woolly hat left behind the stove to keep warm on a cold morning.

I have an ache, a palpable yearning for it. I feel something is missing. I walk through town and feel Iíve left something in a shop. I talk to people and think Iíve forgotten what I was going to say. I have very realistic dreams about missing trains and not quite getting things right.

I stop painting either because the Gumption [see below] has gone, or because there isnít time or because I donít have a model to sit for me. At first itís okay, I potter and pretend Iím not an artist, and never really was one. Then I fidget and write a lot in notebooks. Then I start looking at people and wondering what theyíd be like to paint. Before I know it Iím asking people to sit for me and without any specific direction, booking half day sessions.

The paintís talking to me, shouting actually Ė screaming from the tubes ďLet us out!!Ē So I guess it wonít be long. That or the padded van and the patient men in white coats, whose politeness belies their strength.

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November 05, 2004

Recognising it

Itís very hard, when painting, to know whether it is going to be a good painting or a bad painting Ė whether it will work or not work as a painting.

Good paintings are painted in the same way as bad paintings. Itís only after theyíve been resting in the racks for a while, or when they are on display amongst other work, that itís possible to begin to assess the paintingís success as a picture.

When the paint is being applied [schlapped on] Iím undoubtedly doing it [any existential discussions on this point can wait till after class]. A measure of the paintingís success is when it Ďleavesí me, that is when it appears, to me, that I havenít done it. [will M. Descartes kindly leave now]

The painting needs to exist in its own right, divorced of my hand. Yet, and, as Hamlet Prince of Denmark was wont to remark, hereís the rub: I donít want the picture to be a complete trick [lie]. I want the picture to call out loud and clear I AM A PAINTING, LOOK, SEE THE PAINT. To this end I use big brushes, I try whenever possible to avoid blending and am partial to drips and splatters and runs.

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