on the edge of painting

some thoughts on the edge of painting, or maybe on the side of painting, a casual sideways glance at some things i have been working on.

paintings edges artist studio
edges of some some paintings i have been working on [stacked]

on the side of painting suggests support or encouragement, to keep going. on the edge of painting is the doubt or hesitation before starting a painting, or the anxiety about not painting, or whether it really is a ‘painting’ – but i will try not to get too hung up about it.

paintings edges artist studio
more sides or edges of paintings

a page from a recent sketchbook, from around february-march 2014.


these sketches remind me of my older stuff, way back, before the internet, back in the day when we weren’t encouraged to check out what every other artist was doing every hour of every day. life seemed so simple back then.

i was toying with the idea of creating relief constructions, but in the end i used the square as a building block. there is a sort of push-pull tension between holding it together [containment] and it all falling apart [collapse].

curiously, i have also written [alongside the sketches] that “these [inserted 'manly'] discussions on abstraction are getting nowhere because they can’t let go of the ‘machismo’ ego in the act of creation” – not sure what was i thinking – is some abstract painting an act of male bravado, showing off?

here is one ‘painting’ in progress on my studio trestle table. i think i have a title for this one: shedshack.

painting in progress artist studio table

this piece has texture, or textural incidents and juxtapositions – it’s not really a painting. incidentally, i have makeshift shelving constructed from old housebricks and scaffold planks, and around the place are bits of bark or driftwood, crushed or corroded bits of metal, pebbles and the like. i like things that are tactile, that you can pick up and feel, as much as look at.

i am interested in the objective ‘craft’ element of minimalism and how it [usually] rejects narrative, representation or emotional content, at least from the perspective of its making. afterwards, i guess it’s anyone’s guess – the precision and clarity of minimalism gives joy to many. [by interested in i mean intrigued, curious - what are we/they really thinking?]

here is a quote from a young Frank Stella (aged 31), a painter best known for his constructed ‘paintings’, where perspective, shape and form are real elements, not illusional:

My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. It really is an object. Any painting is an object and anyone who gets involved enough in this finally has to face up to the objectness of whatever it is that he’s doing. He is making a thing.

[A New Cut in Art, LIFE magazine, 19 January 1968]

Hey Stella!

frank stella painting studio 1967-68

[Frank Stella in his studio, circa 1967]


  1. Jazz
    Posted August 25, 2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    more thoughts on the significance of the edge…

    here’s the thing, Soren Kierkegaard wrote that ‘anxiety [or dread] is the dizziness of freedom’, literally on the edge (of the abyss), faced with a choice, into the unknown – the possibilities are endless – with the inverse being inaction, playing it safe, boredom, nothing new. so, a little anxiety is expected because it wills us into action and creating change. this also relates to the ‘object’ of the painting, freedom from it being a picture. to quote Robert Ryman: ‘it’s not representing anything else – what you’re seeing is really what it is.’

  2. Jazz
    Posted August 26, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    the thing is, it is to “do your own thing”

    call it truth, instinct, from the heart, from within – not what’s on trend, in with the in crowd… i was reminded further of the edge/anxiety/truth thing in art by looking intently at the Francis Bacon paintings in the Sainsbury Centre [UEA] at the weekend [although i actually went there to see the John Virtue exhibition].

  3. Jazz
    Posted August 27, 2014 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    one more thing…

    the photograph i have taken in my studio is me standing on a stool, on the edge, looking down at my reconstructed ‘painting’…now, there’s a thing.