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In many ways my painting practise couldn’t be simpler. I start each work by placing a random selection of paint into a dispensing gun. With this I distribute blended dots of colour across the painting surface until the field is covered. The painting is then finished. There is no editing; I only get one chance. This constraint is very liberating: the latent potential of the paint in the gun could describe near infinite worlds but ultimately a single image will emerge. I no longer have to consider when a painting is finished. This process has been fairly consistent over the years. What has changed is the way that I consider the slowly evolving trail of paint and the ways that it might equate to the visual world.

One of first things I discovered working in this way was that it was futile to try to draw anything on purpose. I no longer had traditional control, and any attempts at intention resulted in awkward and inept images that were uncomfortable to live with. I had to find a different approach to accident whereby paint and drawing evolved in tandem.

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A change came about when I reconsidered how random the emerging paint really was. On a global scale the range of colour was completely unpredictable, yet on a local scale I could say that any blob of pigment would be closely related to the next one to emerge. I also realised that in an image, a pixel and its neighbours share a similar relationship. Take, for example, a photograph of a red dress. Choose one of the red pixels that make up that dress. The chances are that similar ones surround it. The further you move away from it, the weaker this relationship becomes. (I see this as being analogous to other evolutionary phenomena and relationships). With this in mind I started creating paintings that followed one simple rule: I could only place colour next to a pixel that already existed. In this way the images started self-assembling more organically and a form of logic entered the frame. The paintings no longer fell apart as before. They somehow made sense.

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I have a fairly analytical approach to painting. This doesn’t mean that I embrace all the powerful tools available today. Quite the opposite. I’ve explored many graphics programs and this has helped me to differentiate some of the unique qualities of paint. I could never see myself using a computer to create a work. The paintings look digitised and are partly informed by image analysis, compression and other aspects of digital imagery. Yet at the same time they are a reaction against processing power and the signatures and decisions of software programmers. A computer’s ability to let the user adjust and appraise endless permutations is a quality I want to counter, in the same way as the painter’s ability to adjust and rework endlessly. I’d like to create through an immediate and unchangeable action and I want this action to be singular.

What do I mean by this? Ideally, the painting would be completed in the blink of an eye and have no visible divisions. Sometimes the works have been made up of less than a hundred actions and at other times tens of thousands. What is important is that I treat the initial mix of paint as a single whole, ready to be transformed into an evolving colour vector line. It is one, but it could be divided into infinite pixels. The actual amount of divisions is merely a reflection of physical and temporal conditions.

These idiosyncratic methods I have developed to build and map out a painting are simply a means to a pictorial end. I want human scale and physical gesture to be as invisible as possible from the journey of mind to image. I’m running away from style and responsibility, yet never quite detaching myself completely.

When I was younger I wanted to paint everything and yet not have the responsibility of choosing the subject matter. In some ways this thought still informs what I am doing today: creating the unpredictable in the most controlled way possible.

 

Further reading:

Greg Hilty on Pascal Hervey. Frieze issue 35