Abstract Painting. Then and Now. Andrew Smith. Among these phenomenal artists is Andrew Smith with stunning abstract paintings A unique chance for contemporary painters to gain from an international experienced painter. Abstract Painting. Then and Now. Andrew Smith is featured in painters TUBES magazine – now available on READLY.COM
Abstract Painting. Then and Now. Andrew Smith – in his own words
Recent work over the past 18 months has been studio based and reflective of my international placements of the preceding 24 months. Taking as a point of reference the idea of non-place, my painting has evolved through a parallel questioning of objectivity with methodology exploring memory and experience. With diffused imagery there appears an interrogation of reality, a dense clustering of line, shape and colour; intersections, gestures and directions. Rhythm and repetition, spontaneity and design are indicative of current work, combining both the rational and emotional state of making.
My painting methodology of working on location is defined as creating ‘scapes’ (involving multiple facets of a subject) evolved through both exploratory studies and in the production of a definitive project portfolio for exhibition. The overarching aim is the continued deconstruction of existing method to forge a new image, one apparently not encountered before. On short or longer residency situations there is relational time to assimilate surroundings and context, hence the work necessarily shifts and evolves depending on the place; the method explores the physiognomy of location.
Abstract Painting. Then and Now. Andrew Smith…
On Drawings 2021
Return to Consciousness is the theme for this years’ painting referencing the changing state of being as we emerge from the lockdown times of 2020. Whilst actual movement in terms of international travel was initially slow and the opening of galleries, museums and society in general only fully realised in May, there remained a sense of returning to a state of heightened awareness or at least, an optimistic anticipation of a revised state of being.
Drawing remains integral to my process and in some ways because of the flexible and facilitated approach and experimental order of making, ideas are moved through in a concentrated and fast way. I spent some time at the Dubuffet exhibition at the Barbican Centre in April (1). The visits there enabled reflection on my relationship with Dubuffets’ work, partly from the Jeu de Pomme Paris Retrospective in the 1990s (the reopening inaugural show of the gallery) and before this in Aftermath, Paris Post War, the inaugural show at the Barbican Art Gallery in 1982, when I was a student just finishing Foundation Art at High Wycombe (I have the catalogue). Dubuffets’ concept of non-place reverberates with my work at the current time, being in part a deconstruction of established modes of making but also referencing the placements at international locations and integral exploration of place.
I have increased the board size making two new support boards of plywood for floor working. The increased dimension is facilitated by Fabriano roll paper; quite difficult to stretch but giving a custom bespoke size. The large vertical drawing boards are 1221 x 2442 cm.
Whilst making these later drawings on the larger boards, I recalled a quote by Malcolm Morley in a film interview when he talked about losing the image. If you are going to lose it then lose it he says. I always think of this when I am not sure if to go on; we think we might lose something but something else comes from the deconstruction or construction.
Abstract Painting. Then and Now. Andrew Smith….
On Acrylics on Paper
The first series of acrylic paintings on paper triggered a new response to colour through the use of mediums. Liquitex and Golden semi gloss and gloss mediums and Windsor and Newton mediums and varnish were all employed to increase the viscosity of paint. I wanted as much pouring and splash as possible, so using sign painting brushes that have long hair length that hold more paint and enable a flick on movement; thus paint application become totally free from the contact hand/brush/support method. The space between brush and support is now relevant, perhaps crucial in the construction of the image. Of course, as is evident in the work, there is still much direct contact with brush to draw and mark but the complementary move to gestural application increases dynamic and moreover, the intention is free flowing brush directed action.
I like using flat varnish application brushes that I source from Cornellison and Brodie and Middleton (incidentally the latter is where all my raw canvas comes from). These brushes give an angled arch that increases and decreases in line with the movement unlike a round brush that would be more consistent in the entirety. For me, this means an increased dynamic and meaning to each gesture; the arch has, for example, a narrow start curving to a rounder form in the centre and round to a narrower end. It means a kind of form is described; something larger or wider in one part than another.
These photographs highlight the exploration into the lustre and sheen that is obtainable with the mediums and varnishes; the surface of colour. In addition the paint application is multi coloured in one stroke. In other words a violet and deep red paint (in the painting above) are placed together on the palette and the brush picks up both making for a striped stroke.
Abstract Painting. Then and Now. Andrew Smith
The kind of gesture I am concerned with is fluid spontaneous and fleeting. The movement is instinctive and unconscious; whilst making ones thinking is deliberately abstracted so that intention is absent and response is unguided in a cerebral way. The state is somewhere else. Getting to this point or place takes a little time and concentration, not just within a day but over the time of making, a week or two. It is definitely the studio thing; concentration to the point of transcendence, if that does not sound too pompous! But, to focus on the specific. What of gesture? It is a recording of the mind in motion. Certainly more to do with movement, process and journey rather than end point or product. It is possibly something akin to Zuihitsu, the Japanese method of writing that translates loosely as ‘following the brush’. Another correlation with Zuihitsu is the element of fragmentation. Areas of colour are brought together as if by accident, parts are relating through juxtaposition rather than by design. As ever, the image is made only by a process that has no defined outcome. The element of gesture applies to many artists, Saura and de Kooning for example. However, with Saura and de Kooning there is a figurative cohesion; the gesture is part of the construction of a subject (a figure). My stance however is that the mark itself is the both the subject and the image.
Abstract Painting. Then and Now. Andrew Smith…
On Oil Paintings
In line with the development of acrylic exploration this year, my oil painting followed a similar trajectory into mediums. The process method of working has repositioned my work away from a hard edged flat image where the surface of each colour has little or no definable brush mark to a freer more gestural way of applying paint that makes for a completely different pictorial treatment. With the previous method no mediums were required; the paint straight from the tube without even pure turpentine sufficed, a purist way of working. With current painting, the new language requires different mediums to enable fluid and liquid paint to be applied and for that application to remain intact through the lengthy drying process of oil paint.
Penataran was started late 2020 and reworked 2021. Again using the sign painting brush that allows for a heavy volume of paint to be carried, the long hairs quiver and paint drops begin the application that in many instances does not involve the brush actually touching the surface at all.
Lamphun features silver oil paint. I first used this colour as acrylic in Vilaka, Latvia (see Valdis Buss Symposium, Vilaka previous post). The colour worked well and is more than a light grey.
The paint application in Salamanca was extremely fluid, and I was surprised at the way the paint and medium actually adhered to the surface. However, the freedom of brush movement was astonishing and I relished the on-canvas mixing of the blacks and naples yellow, fusing the paints and integrating the surface. The more figurative elements of this painting developed in line with the larger paintings worked on at the same time and featured in the next post. The illusion developed out of the handling of the paint and with no other intention, device or method.
This post features the early stages of the larger paintings of 2021. Penataran was started in late 2020 and rested in the studio until the following summer when further concluding paint was applied. The other larger canvases were made and started in May working through until September. I wanted once again to work on large paintings (above 1.25 metre approximately), the first large painting for six years. In doing this some of the process features of current work like gesture and physical mark can be explored to a fuller extent as the arm can move through a full arc and the record of such physicality reflected in the painted application.
Following along with this painting I began a new canvas, Dahlan (centred below). Thematically, thinking behind these paintings were the experience of pre-Covid travel, particularly in this case, Indonesia. There is no descriptive element in these works, more a reflection on the absorption of place, difference and space. Space in the sense of altered horizons and meanings. Illusion, if any, develops out of the process only and with no other preconceived idea, plan or concept. This is because when painting I go into a place where thought is arrested.
I have increased the fluidity of the paint using mediums like linseed oil, pure turpentine, shellsol, Jacksons gloss medium and glaze medium. Toxic fumes forced abandonment of the studio for several days until I sourced a protective breathing mask that I now wear every time applying paint. In such a large studio space the issue of ventilation would perhaps not be a problem but it is, probably because of the close proximity to materials when painting. Latex gloves are worn for oil and acrylic painting.
Two new canvases were stretched from paintings made in the 1990s. I could not recall the dimension of these but the old paintings were removed and rolled. I am working through all my old large canvas stretchers and recycling these to make new work. It is such a good way to work. As usual 9oz cotton duck is stretched with three coats of rabbit skin glue and a thin oil based undercoat for all my oil paintings.
Painting remains almost exclusively floor based. This is largely practical enabling the application of paint from brush to begin before the brush touches the canvas and indeed in many cases the brush does not touch the canvas. In these next two canvases, large areas of colour are applied to activate the pictorial environment and begin the process of making the painting. Like territories of colour, applied flat on the floor; areas of colour that interact. That interaction initiates responses through colour, paint, and brush.
Continuing from the previous two oil painting posts for 2021, the VR exhinbition features the latest two paintings, Brink and Calzada, both approximately 1.7 x 2 metre. Early stages of both are featured in the photos of post 2 where the flat areas of colour are applied to activate the surface. As can be seen below, the new method of painting with multiple mediums enables overlay whilst retaining the vibrancy of the colour, something with paint alone would lead to sinking and heaviness. I also want, despite the element of impasto and surface texture, complete freshness to the work, as if the painting has just been made. This characteristic runs through all stylistic periods of my work. As I am painting on the floor, all sides are worked from and the final upright position of the completed work is not decided on until later stages. This can be seen in the image below; part of the process is to look at the work in progress for a protracted time, whilst other things are going on so in part unconscious seeing, locating future actions.
Oil paintings require six months to fully cure (or even longer). With the types of mediums and the way they affect the paint plus the fluidity of the application means that this time of rest can be decisive in whether a painting could be exhibit able as the surface changes in the process. This part of painting is a case in point where the drip element bubbled and I thought this would not dry/cure well. At the time of writing, the surface is promising. Therefore, titling the work and documenting (website) is only completed several months after making to ensure the work is viable for presentation.
written by Andrew Smith reproduced by painters TUBES®
- Barbara Hope Steingberg – The Crows exhibition – click
- The Blue Path – Anniversary Exhibition – click