ON PAINTING



Don’t bother with the public stuff? It’s about the past after all and just let it be what it is/was and let it happen. But there are others and other needs that have stimulated an effort in this new/old direction. Other work (ONYX) has interrupted the painting and so now it’s a period of musing and reflecting on the paintings and the question of what they are while preoccupied with the Hippie Modernism show. Where are the paintings going? If they were worked on without interruption, they’d be what they were intended to be. Now, over time, they've come to mean different things and they look different, even those that have been “completed”.



One inspiration for the project was Magritte’s comment that what makes a painting fascinating is the simple fact that it is painted. What happened when these images were not only enlarged, but painted? Was there a loss of spontaneity as the original images were translated? The simple process of painting changed everything.

The first paintings were done on bare styrofoam which was great to paint on and made the paintings look fresher than what followed. Now the next few paintings have become demontrations of what was happening as the process developed. The layout drawings for the paintings were built on grids used to enlarge the original cartoon for the bigger painting. That required a struggle to keep the dynamics the originals had at the larger size. The larger drawings themselves became documents of that struggle. They had their own dynamism which seemed a shame to cover with paint. The drawings became records of the frustration involved in making them. A minor mistake required redoing part of a drawing. The technique for redoing that part created an appearance entirely different in the area affected from the area of the rest of the layout. It made the drawing much more interesting and made the covering of the drawing with paint even more difficult. The longer the image remained a drawing, not painting over it, the more interesting it became. Sacrificing the drawing by painting over it fought the promise of what the drawing itself could be. So far, the paintings have not made the sacrifice worthwhile.

An abiding thought throughout this process has been the answer to the question “How do you know when a painting is finished?” The usual answer has been “When you stop working on it”. When it was time to start another painting, we realized that it would be harder and harder to get back to it’s predecessor. There was work necessary on the pieces set aside but it was harder and harder to return to them.

So ART took over. It was time to reassess. Works that were more than just the panels and paint, that extended beyond the boundaries of the original square and included and would make themes of all these contradictory thoughts arose, an inspiration earlier in the process that had been sneaking around in the background waiting for a chance to pounce. When work on a painting in the studio was no longer tenable, a place to prop was it up was found where it would be visible and out of the way. Placed among a clutter of things the surroundings begged to become a part of the image itself and the original square was no longer enough.

 


Now things are beginning to come together. Work on the ONYX broadsheet has been on an image that uses a mixture of means and has a malleability. It becomes an amalgam of older and newer ideas. The broadsheet or poster, assembled on the computer over a five or six week period, working with drawings, prints, drawings upon prints, photos, tracings and whatever combination eventually becomes a satisfactory image. It's now apparent that there isn’t and might never be a “final image” as far as original intentions are concerned. There is no plan, the work will constantly change and evolve until work on it ends. The painting has fallen into a similar pattern that requires a new path. ADD at work?

In an interview of Emmet Williams by HUO he tells how he sent his students to see work of Kurt Schwitters at MOMA and they were disappointed because “They didn’t have any of his important works” and he realized that they were at a loss because they had only seen Shwitters work as giant slide projections in classrooms and didn’t realize that his works were actually small scale. The popular attention in the “art world” to large works says the artist’s work is responding to the architecture of the galleries. Is it just the opportunity to see work at a large scale and taking advantage of that situation or is the work generated in response to the space in which it is hoped it will be shown?

A mind full of contemporary ART by others has been difficult to resolve and not allow attention to be diverted from the work at hand. Emmet Williams’ little anecdote opened a doorway to another world; passing through it has been an unconscious process that’s generated a frustrated hunger for the next thing.


Some copies of the early ONYX posters still exist in good condition. These and reproductions of other prints like the colored broadsheets and many of Ron's images are available. Go to the ONYX Gallery to see available ONYX. 





© Ronald Williams 2017