“In many cases one can hardly say that the artist is painting pictures; he or she is rather painting or creating spaces.”
When I began this body of Masters research, I wanted to throw away the motif of the security gate, that had anchored my undergraduate body of research. Instead, I wanted to explore and create space, hinting simultaneously at the familar and unknown, through inherent moments of fractured structural and architectual understanding. But how? My theoretical research was easier to establish, although I got lost in phenomenology along the way. I know I wanted to look at Gerhard Richter and Serge Alain Nitegeka’s work, and critique how they use space as a meduim within their practices.
I took metal sheets and reflected rooms as soft water-colour drawings, which you won’t see in this exhibition or body of work. They were beautiful drawings, but they were representations of space. Unfulfilling, to me and my research. I floundered. I had no reference material. No crutch. No anchor. Why had I done this to myself? To create space, of course.
Suggested solution on repeat: Find a space, a physical space to work within to realise your spatial creation. But to work ‘in-situ’? Site-specific? Felt too limiting. Too much commitment, not enough flexibilty. Shouldn’t space be flexible? Couldn’t it be? If it were my creation, why shouldn’t it be?
despair; teach; change supervisors; break a leg; mend a leg; be slow; build the largest canvas stretcher frame you’ve ever worked on with your dad’s help, hell, make it double-sided: there’s a joint UCT/Wits Masters show coming up. Maybe keep using one crutch, for now.
Building the stretcher frames myself adds a layer of awareness to the painted process. Warped wood becomes straight and square. The motif of the window, a theme within my theoretical research, plays itself forward time and time again as we build the frames. Only to be partially covered by the stretched canvas and primed not long after. What does it mean?
The 7.2M canvas is not ready to be shown at the ‘Only Parts’ joint exhibition. Nobody else notices except perhaps myself and Dorothee. And not because we’ve spoken about it, but because its almost decorative in its wrong-ness. It niggles like a needy child for months, screaming for something I can’t comprehend.
I decide to paint. There’s no time for doubt. I’m facing the abyss, seems like as good a reference as any. Spill some paint on purpose. Leave it to dry. Make a list? Make a list. Ugh. That looks terrible. Time to destroy, it. The uglier it is, the easier it is to improve. The more you like something, the more it needs to be destroyed. “Kill your Darlings” - the only solution.
I work on three pieces at once, maybe more. Scrape that off, all of it. How long until that one is finished? What does it need? Just look how this one pushes and pulls through its lines. Look how this one’s edge is the only structure available to cling to. This one’s emphasis on the interior frame- its too much, it needs something- a glaze?
Vastrap. Pour. Scrape. Glaze. Rub. String. Cut. Masking tape. Blister. Strip. Stab. Watered down white spillage. Blade. Masking tape. Masking tape. Enamel. Dry. Paint with brushes. Turps. Rash. Masking tape. Oil bar. Enamel. Masking Tape. Acrylic. Oil bar. Varnish.
The paintings are starting to have dialogue with one another. They’re cross-referencing spatial understandings and moments, before even consulting the spectator. A private dialogue made public. The 7.2M becomes a painting. It’s elemental. It’s structural. It’s ready.
I invite people - lecturers, students, curators, friends - into the studio to test the work, and get feedback. There’s something there. A tension that’s grabbing them, suggestions about editing, curatorial, and display strategies abound. Rory reminds me of the value in opening the hinged gaps that seperate the six panels that the 7.2M comprises. Nitegeka comes to the studio, he sees vestiges of Richter in the work. I wonder if Richter would see Nitegeka there as well?