©2018 by Michael Rowland. 
 

Do-Over

October 27, 2017

"We don't live in a country. We live in a language."

E.M.Cioran

 

 

Part 1

 

An artist friend asked me if I ever painted over old paintings. I told him what I had been taught at art college; that one should never either throw away or paint over anything you had made. One day It may suddenly make sense whether you disliked it at the time of completion or not.

My friend said he did it all the time.

Said he loved to do it in fact. He likes that you can find something new in something discarded. He also likes that something which never sold could be made more attractive and consequently sellable.

 

I have painted over pieces before. The reason is usually lack of funds for new canvases combined with a feeling of emptiness when looking at an old painting which has ceased to sing. On a number of occasions I kicked myself for having done so after coming across old photos of inspired work now forever lost.

 

The reason I bring this up is because I believe I misnamed an entire series of paintings!

I was originally happy with – What We Do After the Revolution - but it was taken in the wrong light by so many people in Czechia as a result of their own recent history. My title had nothing whatsoever to do with the 1989 velvet revolution, and yet the title set a few curator's eyes rolling with weariness at that worn out subject.

The title, I realised, also did not reflect clearly my original concept for the series.

My original goal is still clear in my head....

These were to be my destructive, punk, conceptual paintings.

What could be more rebellious than painting in a classical style, found images of people doing nothing much? A sort of 'what next' after we have fed the poor, freed the people, smashed the state, found ourselves and actually won our personal revolution.

I had a satirical picture in my head of conceptually enlightened artists and artistically educated gallery goers looking at these representative paintings in a conceptual art gallery context and saying in disgust 'My six year old daughter could do that!'

Seemingly innocuous images born of a highly psychological and philosophical concept tricking the conceptualists into thinking they were looking at mere 'illustrations'.

 

I told myself that the titles should be simple. Say nothing more or less than the image itself. The subject should be 100% apolitical. I wanted to create the same type of effect Barnett Newman strived to affect when he painted his plain abstracts.

 

 

Note – This image was taken from an article with the most tired cliche of a title, 'Is this really art?' - The Tower - October 24th 2017.

 

Or Martin Creed’s Light Goes on and off.

 

Note - These images were incidentally taken from an article with an equally vapid title 'But is it installation art?' 

 

The viewer is confronted with a physical thing in real time. No manipulation at play. Just you, alone with a picture or concept and a present, empty, though mindful mind.

The questioning of the validity of abstract or conceptual art as 'art' forms is as cliche as The Hay Wain in a hallway and yet these question persist.

 

I thought it would be nice to lure the 'BUTISITART?' crowd into looking at a 'nice', 'normal' painting but having been tricked into looking at conceptual art, and then, perhaps, giving thinking about it a go.

Now, the trick of the trick is to make the viewer aware of this.

Here I failed. I fell into the trap of speaking about and naming what and who was actually in the painting.

 

Part 2

 

We need poetry because words are so weak.

Poetry is not talking flowery nonsense; it’s talking right.

You got to get lucky though because no one looks at the same thing in the same way let alone picture or feel the same thing when they hear the same word.

 

Example:

 

My current given nickname Sicko nay Sicco:

 

Sic = The Latin adverb Sic inserted after a quoted word or passage indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous or archaic spelling, surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other ...

Sick = Ill

Sick = Cool

Sickboy = Trainspotting

Psycho (Czech pronunciation sikko) = Psycho

Sicko = Disturbed in the head

 

Which am I?

 

To tweak a painting by giving it its title is a delicate operation but also a subtly entertaining and illuminating process.

To call the painting Untitled is a telling enough title and wholly dependent on the weight of the painting.

The point I realised I was making whilst mulling over the renaming of a piece is this: to rename a painting is akin to painting over the painting.

 

Naming colours doesn't physically seperate colours. Naming feelings doesn't nail the feeling. But we act like it does.

 

Art and poetry are the peeling back of these blurry layers; these weak approximations of personal reactions to something we presume is shared.

There are not as many like-minded people as we believe.

Art, Music and Poetry, at their best, try to break down these barriers. Invent a new language. The Categorical Imperative made visible and audible in a world where silence is the closest we can get to truth.

My friend Carl has a pet peeve.

He hates when Heart is used as a metaphor for ‚love‘ when it is nothing but a functional, mechanical pump. I always thought this a harsh judgement until I started to get irritated by the common notion that colours are symbolic of our emotions and feelings.

Yellow means happy AND poison. So feck it.

I suggested in Elpsis Boo - Erogements that everything should have a different name every time you call it something. Nothing is the same. Everything is new under the sun. What I mean is; I have changed since that last sentence. I am not the artist you once knew. Never was.

Quantum physics has taken us this far. Envionment is key.

Spacetime does not reminisce. Spacetime soldiers on like a drunken old bastard looking for a bed.

 

Know where did I put my pyjamas?

 

Part 3

 

Words are painting's opposable thumbs. With them we can grip the idea more firmly and squeeze out the essence of what we are trying to find or convey.

The words and symbols within the painting are not doing the same thing.

They are part of the conjurer's prophetic, free-form associations. The title must act as a cautious mediator between predator and prey. The respective roles being interchangeable.

Words, letters and symbols are images like any other image. If I paint a face or a human body, I have to ask myself what I am sharing. Why choose this form as oppose to a mountain or a cat or a big blob of red? So it is with words.

To reiterate; tweaking the name of a painting is akin to painting over the piece entirely.

I remember making a photo collage at college. It was a cryptic fictional collage/tale of a woman who had perhaps drowned in the local canal.

I struggled to name it.

Our teacher offered a title.

"DEATH" in capitals like that.

His suggestion was so awful to me that I struggled further to find a title as far away from such cheap transparency as possible.

That collage is long lost and still untitled.

('Long Lost and Still Untitled' may have worked!)

 

As I mentioned in the last blog, this was the one issue I had with Kristof Kintera's current eye-inspiring exhibition 'Nervous Trees' at Rudolfinum. The room which is occupied by dozens of washing machines assembled into a mountain is called 'We all want to be clean'. The model city made out of electronic junk is called 'Postnaturalia' and this is why the trees are nervous, hence 'Nervous Trees'; trees which are represented in room 4 by shaking trees - because they're nervous.

 

One of my favourite art titles of all time has to be Michael Craig Martin's 'An Oak Tree'. The title he gave to his glass of water on a small glass shelf.

 

…and so

 

Step 1

 

The titles in this WWDATR series should say nothing of what is in the painting. The content could almost be said to be unimportant. The relevance of the represented artists doing things other than their art is coincidental to the project.

The concept is all important here.

 

Step 2

 

How to find the title:

Lucky dip?

Deliberate Obscurity?

Numbers?

Untitled?

Full Sentence Title?

State the bleeding obvious?

Get someone else to do it?

 

Meanwhile - 2 weeks later….

 

Step 3

 

Series title: Non-Commercial Interiors

Painting titles: The Unnameable Object (1-8)

 

Step 4

 

The viewer begins to ask questions about why the hell I should consider these paintings 'conceptual'. 

 

Step 5

 

Happy artist.

 

 

 

 

I enjoy showing people the Prague art scene and what it represents and presents to us.

Simple stories. Short messages. Quick news. Small Aha! moments, guidance, encouragement and perhaps a little exhilaration.

 

So if you have a group of friends who have the same interests, let them know about this blog and follow me on Facebook.

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