Part of that interest in people lies in my curiosity about the way we know things and the certainty or uncertainty we each carry about life. This is focussed on the way we see things, what we see and how we create knowledge and understanding from what we see. I am particularly interested in how we come to understandings from what we see. This, of course, is one of the integral fascinations of painting.
My investigations into the question of the connection between seeing and knowing have led me over time to an exploration of ‘the blurr’. I first encountered the idea of the blurr in Gerhard Richter’s work. It is of course present in most painting modes. The essence of the blurr is the elimination of information so the viewer is required to fill in detail for themselves. Quite simply painting requires the viewer to ‘imagine’. The painter, under these circumstances, by omission or design, determines what the viewer is required to imagine. Increasingly my painting has focussed on presenting a situation of interaction with as little information as possible so as to encourage the viewer’s interpretive play without prejudice.
Another obvious feature of the painting is its connection to everyday realities. It is this connection with the mundane, be it related to the news media, a cup of tea or an evening meal, that makes some continuity between the pots and the paintings. Both make claims about the importance of the body, our relation with other people and the material world around us.
While I emphasise subject matter in these discussions I am always aware that my pleasure in living with the paintings of violence and conflict always derives from the tensions created between the violence and the non violent treatment of the subject. Subject matter – especially the particularly powerful subject matter of violence and confrontation can be neutered in some aspects by the way it is treated. If, for example, it is regarded with a detached objectivity which removes its inherent emotional investment it can become an isolated, aberrant and strange behaviour rather than immediate and engaging. Aesthetics can become a counterbalance and even an antidote to violence. These tensions become apparent when there is a contradiction between, for example vivid action and subdued colour, or, action and lack of detail which thereby refuses to ‘consummate’ the action. The primary tension of all the work here is analogous to that between documentary and fiction. The fictional paintings derive from documentary photographs. Gerhard Richter claims the subject matter of the photographic material is irrelevant (but that he simply likes photographs because of their total honesty). Warhol also chooses photographs and claims that the ‘creative’ challenge is in selection of the image. I think that the ‘subject’ content of both their work is crucial to its impact and is an integral part of the communication it delivers. If painting is a communicative medium then each painting is ‘about’ things. It may well be not just about what is pictured but what is pictured does play a part in making its meaning.