Monday, December 16, 2013

Here's a new one in progress. Unlike some of my other recent self-portraits in which I've pulled back from the mirror to show its surroundings, here I have centered in on a mirror tile that I've gridded with twine. I'm looking to get the painting of the twine to look as physical and 3d as possible. Grids have been used for centuries by painters seeking to accurately transcribe reality.  The photorealists, too, have famously employed grids towards the end of  capturing more precisely the look of a photograph. In including the grid of twine and emphasizing its physicality, I allude to the perceptual painter's goal of ensnaring a section of life's experience. In making the grid appear more physical than the mirror it entwines, I privilege the process over the image, drawing more attention to the means than the ends.   See paintings in previous posts that explore similar themes.   
                                                                      an earlier state...
                                                                 And an even earlier state...


And here's the final work.
                                    Here's an updated view of the painting in progress  described below.
                                              Gradually getting realized...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Here's a new one. Still in progress, it's part of my series of self-portraits which pull back to include the mirror. As such, the painting is not merely an image of my self, but of its reflection. Rather than focusing in on my appearance, I believe this draws attention to the phenomenological experience at the heart of perceptual painting. I originally planned for this to be a fast and loose painting, but I'm liking it more and more as it gains focus.  Below are a few earlier states...
                                               Here it is prior to tightening up the plant...

                                      and here it is at a much earlier state. I like the energy here, but I                                            appreciate the specificity of the newer states.    
                Here's an updated view of the decoy painting. See below for a description and earlier pics.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Here's a pic of another new one dealing with tropes referencing realism. This one features the decoy, too, an old one-eyed one from my parents. I like where it's going, but the flatness is getting to be a bit much... gotta infuse some areas of contrast asap.
Here's the latest state of the self-portrait I'm doing in my backyard, part of my reflections in nature series. Spent Sunday working on the face, and I'm pretty sure I like the earlier version (seen below) better. A bit better.  Ah, well- such is painting.... fraught with disappointment. Gonna put this one to the wall for a week and start something new. I'm resolved to finish it soon (still needs a bitta work) but I think a breath of fresh air will do me good. Hope I'm not finishing this in the snow!

earlier state

                                                                          my studio
Here's a loose sketch I did up at my parent's place recently- gonna go back into it soon. I like the idea of a decoy in a representational painting, especially in front of a window, another metaphor for realist painting.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here's one I'm working on in my classroom.  A previous advisor said to not do any more ducks while I'm in the program, but, what can I say? I'm stupid sometimes. I think this might be the  52cnd in my long-running series of rubber ducks, all pretty much done from this duck. That guy and I have weathered a lot of long hours together.  As the object of my focus one could argue that he's a stand-in, or surrogate for me, in this mirror’s reflection.   

Here's a more wild /n wooly self-portrait in the landscape, done right around the corner from that other landscape a few frames down. Portrait still needs work. I think I'll keep this one loose, letting some areas come into sharper focus.     

Here's one I've started of my wife Helen's panda watering can. The way this stamped metal figure, obviously man-made, offers up that little piece of bamboo could be seen as a metaphor for the painter's goal of depicting nature for the viewer, a process fraught with mediation.  Or something like that.  First and foremost, I think it'll make a nice image. 


Gettin' there..

                 So I've taken the plunge and started committing some ideas to canvas. The underpainting's basically done- ready for some color!


Here are the planning stages of the new self-portrait in the landscape I’ve been working on the last month or so. Finally found a suitable spot- the tree in my backyard. I figure this will make it easier to put in the time this painting (which'll be pretty big) will require. In addition, it's a more truthful reflection of my real habitat. In the second study I taped up a string grid, which I plan on including in the final painting. I think it's kind of a funny way to reference the painting process, and also as a bit  of a nod to perceptual painter George Nick (he doesn't include the grid in his paintings, but he does use simple, gridded viewfinders he makes himself when does his larger works from life). I guess you could see it as a good-natured jab at painters like Chuck Close, too, who grid up photos; I'll bet he's shaking in his boots! Well, maybe not...
     Conceptually, the string also represents another barrier between the viewer/painter and direct, unmediated experience. Here are some thumbnails-



Sunday, September 1, 2013

                     Here's one I've been at for awhile. Almost there...  At any rate, time to finish up these loose ends and get back to the self-portrait series... Summer's slipped me by again!

                                 Getting there- here's another one from life I 've been working on...
                                                                    An earlier state...

 Finished this one recently out at Two Lights park. Relatively pleased with this one's lively nature...
                                                                      Here it is in progress...
 Been working on this tiger lilly painting on and off... gotta get back to it...

                                                           Here it is in an earlier state...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

                       Here's my latest self-portrait. It's done from a small candle mirror I inserted into the landscape. In keeping with my latest self-portraits, it's as much an image of my reflection as it is of myself. Highlighting the perceptual here-and-now nature of working from life, the mirror serves to remind the viewer of the presence of the painter both behind the work and within the landscape. I'm excited about pursuing this idea further. I plan on spending the next semester working on larger scale self-portraits in the landscape, painting fewer works but pouring more time into each.
                                                 Shown below are some earlier states...

Monday, July 15, 2013

 This work references my interest in painting's potential as an archive a bit more obliquely. This is my second painting to feature a pickle jar, a container meant to preserve life. Paintings can be seen as such- containers that preserve both life and experience.    Shown below are the set up and an earlier state.


                                               Here's a little study of dandelions I did recently.

 Been awhile since I updated the ol' blog, so here's what I've been up to the last month or two. Did another self-portrait in the blue mirror, again showing myself in the act of painting. I wanted this to function more as an archive of marks and decisions, so I've let some of the earlier layers remain untouched.

                                                               Here's an earlier state.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

                                                 Violets! Letting it hang out fast and loose...
                                        Did this out in Falmouth, just down the road a piece-
Did this out at Schoodic, part of Acadia National Park, right around the corner from my parents. Felt great to get out. Pretty pleased with this one- it's got some of the robust vitality I'm after.

Here's one I've been working off and on again for quite a while. Might be done...  The rooster makes an appearance in this one, too.
Started this one a little while ago- gettin' there... It's the access lot across the street from my parents' house.                     Here's an earlier  state...

A recent landscape. Still got a ways to go, but starting to get some air in there...
Here's a kitchen still life I finished recently. The rooster's been around for a long while- it was in my family's kitchen all through my childhood.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Here's another new one, definitely still very much in progress. Some stuff needs to be toned down a bit... getting there, though. This, too, is derived compositionaly from a recently posted drawing.

Here's another new one. If you scroll down, you'll see the composition is based on a sketch I posted recently.

Matthew Meyer
Jan Avgikos
MFA Semester II
1 March 2013

The Relationship between the Archive and Elements of Traditional Oil Painting

            Sven Spieker, in his book The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy, traces the lineage of most archivist activities to the procedures first introduced by the Privy State Archive in Berlin. It was there, in 1881, that the principle of provenance was first introduced  (Spieker 17).  Documents at the Privy State Archive were not arranged merely by subject, but according to the time and place in which they were produced. This was a significant shift, for in Spieker’s words, “it is these conditions- this place- rather than meaning (or history) that the nineteenth-century archive aims to reconstruct.” (18).
One can see these concepts continue to guide the work of contemporary artists working in an archival mode. Using physical materials to which a particular time and place are attached, these artists work to evoke a past real or imagined. Discarded files, photos, ephemera- all become artifacts asked to stand for the past by proxy. Creating or confounding meaning, these artists use stuff to stand for time. While it may not be so novel or de rigueur, there is another, older art form that shares much in common with the techniques and intents of the archivist: traditional oil painting.
            While one may balk at the notion that, as a lone document unto itself, a painting might constitute an archive, an important point must be considered: a traditional oil painting is constructed of many individual decisions, one built upon another. While it may appear to the untrained eye to be a singular burst of expression, oil paintings built on the time-honored technique of starting first with an underpainting yield to the educated eye a subtle timeline of the work’s creation.   Work painted in this method is begun with an underpainting done in thin washes of earth tones to establish the basic drawing and lights and darks. Once this is dry, the painter can begin to go in with full color, adding increasing amounts of oil to each successive layer or painting session (a process known as painting “fat over lean”).
There is a chronological order indexed through these layers, like sedentary rock.  These layers allow art authenticators to view earlier states of the painting through the use of x-rays. Even the naked eye is offered tantalizing glimpses into the history of the painting: the newer, fresher strokes of paint not only overlap the previous ones, but they typically are more glossy, as well, a byproduct of the fat over lean process.  Even in heavily varnished works whose overcoat gives the painting a uniform sheen, one can still deduce where the underpainting peeks through, as it is almost invariably painted very thinly, with muted earth tones. In this light, a traditional painting can be seen as the manifestation of many moments, which can be viewed discreetly or en masse. Each of the painter’s strokes indexes an experience, a phenomenon witnessed.  As Canadian archivist and video artist Jayce Salloum so succinctly puts it, “Fixing the temporal, space and time become conflated. (Merewether 186).  Just as the Privy State Archive filed its documents according to the time in which they were produced, the painter’s decisions announce their own provenance through their position within the strata of paint layers.
This process of painting fat over lean serves more than an aesthetic concern, however, for one of the primary reasons for layering paint in this way is to maintain the flexibility and integrity of the paint film such that it doesn’t crack or otherwise destroy itself. In so doing, it serves the aim of many an artist and archivist- to preserve time and experience.  One of the reasons this painting process has remained popular for so long is that it is one of the most permanent and stable. It is, in a word, archival- a term emblazoned across any artists’ material worth its salt. Artists go to great lengths to ensure that their work will withstand not just the onslaught of critics, but of time, as well.  While some painters may experiment with materials they know to be ephemeral, most do not wish their testimony to be undermined by fugitive media.
            Permanence should not be seen as an end in itself, however. “To amass an archive is a leap of faith, not in preservation but in the belief that there will be someone to use it, that the accumulation of these histories will continue to live, that they will have listeners” (Merewether 186).  Although this statement comes from Jayce Salloum, an archivist who works with video, it applies no less to traditional painters. This is a concern that haunts artists of all stripes. No artists want their work to be a tree falling in the forest that no one sees. Why, after all, put in all the hours of solitary work for what usually amounts to very little money or critical acclaim? Yet thousands of painters labor away under these conditions this very second.  Part of the reason for this must reside in the fact that, among other things, what painters document are their own lives and experience. The very permanence of traditional painting materials surely emboldens the ego of many a painter. If, after all, a properly painted canvas can survive with minimal care for centuries then one still has hope that their voice may eventually fall on responsive ears, and some small measure of immortality achieved. In other words, the fact that the medium is archival is, in itself, an incentive to continue.
 Legacy is a notion that is of paramount importance to many painters, surrounded as we are by the extant works of generations upon generations of past masters. The fact that some artists identify themselves as ‘traditional’ signifies the value they place in being part of this continuum. Painters’ dogged insistence in clinging to a medium many have long considered outmoded speaks to this notion, as well. In working with the same exact materials used by the masters of yesteryear, they forge a link between themselves and their forebears, a link that is still not lost on the public or institutions.
Outdated or not, as an archival form traditional painting still has much to recommend itself. As new data storage systems come into being with increased frequency, so, too, do they become outmoded. Without the proper platform to read them, many storage devices and the information contained therein are rendered obsolete. Painting’s strength, however, lies in its very directness.  All a recipient needs is eyes for a painting to divulge its information- no network connection or batteries required.
Painting’s role as a documenter may have diminished slightly since the advent of photography, but it has by no means disappeared.  Sure there may be an increased element of subjectivity, but there are certain records (not the least which include courtroom and battlefield sketches) in which that element is prized, not as a corruption of the record, but as an integral and informative part of it. Emotions are no less a part of our life’s experience than the paperwork, photos, and other detritus we share it with. If the last few millennia are any indication, I expect that painting will remain a valued and viable element of humanity’s collective archive for some time to come.    
                             Works Cited
Spieker, Sven. The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008. Print.
Salloum, Jayce. “Sans Titre/ Untitled: The Video Collection as an Active Archive”. The Archive: Documents of Contemporary Art. Ed. Charles Merewether. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. 185-193. Print.

As per the suggestion of my mentor, I've been doing some drawings to help work out some of my compositions. I'm hoping it'll help speed up my process, too; that last little painting was a bit of a time drain. Here are some drawings from around the house and out the window: