Over the month of August, the MA fine art and art and design by research students were given the opportunity to hold a group show at The Lighthouse in Wolverhampton entitled ‘We are not boxers, but we have seen Rocky III’. I have mentioned this exhibition in a previous blog. Now the exhibition is over it is worth reflecting on how it went.
In this exhibition, I showed my series of ‘cannot live without objects’ and called them ‘The Nature of Things’ after my current favourite book, my ‘thing’ bible, of the same title, by Lyall Watson.
I displayed the paintings in a grid of six paintings by three. I seem to veer very naturally towards these rather mathematical, neat and tidy ways of displaying my art. This is partly a legacy from one of my tutors at Shrewsbury College who was very keen on display and he said that my artwork lent itself very naturally to a minimalist style of presentation. I agreed with him, and still do. My art tends to be quite detailed but have a commonality in terms of theme and size or number. It presents well in a neat and ordered way, which is ironic as I am not a neat and ordered artist, either in terms of mind or practice.
I think in presentation, the artwork looked striking. It stood out well against the white wall as it contrasted being on a black background. However, I’m not sure whether the images themselves made much sense or stood out individually. I don’t think anyone looking at them would have understood what they were or how they came about. As one of the curators from Walsall Art Gallery put it: ‘They might just think they are a nice collection of squiggly paintings’. Hard though that was to hear, he has a point. I know what it all means. I can explain what it all means. But does anyone else?
It could be argued that that is not the point of art. It doesn’t matter hugely what the artist’s intention was, it matters whether the audience gets something out of the experience of viewing the art. In other words, the core question is: can they feel the essence which I hoped would be felt?
With this analysis in mind, I’m not sure the answer is positive. I’d like to think so but I cannot tell. The feedback I received was generally positive but that came mostly from people who know me and knew what I was doing. I don’t know what people coming at the artwork cold thought. For me, the point of painting is to give pause for thought and create a sense of ‘recognition’. Did I do that?
Looking at the paintings on the wall as a series, in isolation from the rest of the world and its noise, I think they are too dark and dull and small and static. The colours don’t come through very effectively. The images lose the dynamism they had in virtual reality. And the vibrancy is lost. However, I am not sure they would work better if the colours were brighter. The colours I used in the digital world of virtual reality drawing were very bright and ‘brash’ but I can’t see how that would translate well in oils. Digital drawing and oil painting are two very different mediums.
So, some thought is needed about what I am trying to do, what effect I want to have, and how I want to create that effect. I’m not there yet. I need to think more about subject matter and colour. I have six months in order to ‘be brilliant’ to quote the MA course leader, and I don’t mean in terms of brightness. Or perhaps I do: brightness in mind and brightness in effect.