painting by numbers

Saturday 16 January 2010

Another hand-coloured, intaglio collagraph print on paper, mounted on canvas… titled according to my colour value rules (read about that here..).. and this one is called… Nepal

Nepal 2010, intaglio and painting on canvas

which called for a quick visit to the encyclopedia for the casually-minded, wikipedia… shown below, is a topographical map of the country, bordered by India to the south, and China to the north.

There is a rich and diverse geography to Nepal, with tropical low-lying plains in the south, rising up through verdant foothills up to the mountainous peaks of the Himalayas. Curiously, the country has five distinct seasons – spring, summer, the monsoon season, then autumn and winter. When I think of Nepal, I think immediately of tea, and of the very abstract agricultural patterns of the steep hillside plantations. So, it seems not so far-fetched to see similar striations echoed in my own work – however unintentional.

Thinking more about painting by numbers (after Gerhard Richter and his colour chart paintings) leads one to the master of appropriation, Andy Warhol..

Andy Warhol, Do It Yourself (Landscape) 1962

…and then, Damien Hirst (all three artists were featured in the recent Colour Chart exhibition)..

Damien Hirst - spot painting
Damien Hirst, 2-Methylbenzimidazole 2008/09

Hirst inherits the concept of art as a mass-produced brand from Warhol, using assistants for his chemical spot paintings, and then later manufacturing ‘spot painting kits’ with strict instructions as to the completion of the artwork for the new owners. Rules for these spotted works included the spacing beween the dots and that a single colour appears only once in the final composition. Many of the titles (and the ideas) for Hirst’s work are appropriated from medical textbooks and technical manuals – inspired by his idol Francis Bacon, who found inspiration in many a documentary or medical image.

Artistic appropriation is good; it’s about finding something interesting and then applying it to something else, for a different purpose – whether it’s conceptually based or process-related.

Thinking back to the paint colour charts and the assignment of names to certain colours (and my reuse of them), these branded (sometimes trademarked) names are yet another type of appropriation, taking words out of their original context (or putting them in a new context) –  their minimal poetry promises a piece of paradise, a taste of the exotic, in harmony with the natural world – less about colour meanings or symbology, but more about instilling ideas and aspirations in the potential buyer.