Towards paintings for Thames Narratives
The Thames straddles geography and human enterprise. It is so interpenetrated by human activity that it has developed its own kind of language. Watching it, the Thames is conversational. Chattery and noisy both audibly and visually. Its conversation is a rickety rackety of human day to day bustle and its body is clouded with substances from human usage. Wherever I look I see mesmerising incessant action, the water turning, whorling and eddying. My first thoughts are to embody this flux in the painting process.
I wanted to engage with the river in such a way that human intention or gesture don’t dominate. As a way of following or observing natural process and incorporating flux, I decided to employ John Cage’s idea of ‘chance procedure’. For this, you devise a collection of actions, choose a group of objects, paint colours, brushes etc, and then throw a dice to determine which combination you use. Chance procedure reduces the amount of choice and control you have thereby opening up a free space which can also be thought of as an opening into nature. It seems to me to be a good place to initiate a conversation with flux of the river.
The chance procedure is only an element of the painting. There are always aspects of choice as well – what way up do you lay the stone? Where do you start circling the stone with the brush, at what point do you stop? But incorporating even an aspect of chance opens up a free space, like a wind running through the process.
In this open element I’m looking for a moment where there is a mutual human/nature action at work. This is not a fixed destination or a precisely definable thing but it does exist and the aim is to weave in and out of it.
I tried to choose quotidian sections of the river. Nothing special, no particular drama. I was, if anything, more attracted to hum drum murky lapping of the brown, milky and hardly variegated areas of the surface.
I had decided to layer over the photographs of the Thames surface, to bring in a filmic aspect of transparency to correlate with the character to water and to bring an element of depth.
From the same area of the river I found my way (steeply!) to the foreshore to collect objects and residue.
I picked a good group of objects, mainly stones and oyster shells, from the beach. Everything heavy and slimy with mud: flint, chalk, bone, metal, wood and one clay pipe head.