I have now had a bit of time to think more about this painting and I actually think it is really strong.I had initial doubts for reasons previously discussed but I also realised today that the green along the edges was a mistake and this element detracts from the overall prescense of the work.
Here is the green edge
I have already painted over this green with white acrylic so that only the orange can be seen. and this improves the work greatly. Here is a proper final picture of it below.
I have also been thinking about all the different elements that have actually gone into its makeup. I have already covered where the orange and green fluorescent paint came from and also the idea of the grid like structure of tones of grey. But it also occurred to me that there was a more subliminal influence on its design that only came to me last night.
In our house we have a framed poster of one of Andy Warhol’s 1955 butterfly prints as shown below.
We have had this print for many years and as I have seen it a lot over my relationship with it changes. I bought it first because it was a nice colourful print, I liked the structure and placement of the butterflies but I was a bit frustrated at the slightly ad hock arrangement of them. Assuming that it was designed or made in a top to bottom and left to right configuration – it started with similar sized individual butterflies. As it progressed the sizes started to change and so did the angle of which the butterflies sat adjacent to each other. Further down the print the “pattern” seems to descend into further chaos and less order, increasing entropy if you like. This is something that I have pondered over for some time. Why did Warhol not place them in a routine order with each row reflecting the last, did Warhol even make the print? Was this lack of regular order a deliberate and ingenious factor that Warhol consciously included?
A few years later I found that I was still asking myself the same questions regarding this print. Then I realised that it was actually irrelevant why Warhol made the print the way he did, yet because he did it has captured my imagination and made me think long and hard about it. This was a moment of realisation for me I saw firsthand the power an artist can hold over his or her audience with simple decisions or even subconscious acts. Warhol often liked to down play his artwork and it’s widely accepted that he himself was an important part of his art in as much as anything that he produced was. I now like to think that the inconsistent pattern of the butterflies was a deliberate act of genius by Warhol as it has made what is a simple print of butterflies into a piece of art that has held my attention and made me question it for many years. If that is not genius then what is? It is simple yet very cerebral and this confirms to me that Rubinstiens "Provisional Painting" is not necessarily a bad thing.
All this made me think the power such a simple element in a work could hold over the audience and in many ways this is what I like to do (or at least try) in the work I produce. Introduce or present a simple element that allows the discerning viewing to interact with the work on a more sublime level. For this to work effectively the actual element you introduce should be visible but not openly discussed. If Warhol had said at the time of the creation of his print that he deliberately made the butterfly pattern disordered to encourage questioning from his audience then straight away he has defeated the point for doing it in the first place. He would have told them to think about why they are disordered and then the “magic” would not exist. Perhaps this could be said to be an example of that non verbal communication that occurs in truly great art?
Ballards High Rise
Having previously read Ballard’s High Rise a month or two back the concepts in the book have remained with me as I had been spending a fair amount of time looking and thinking about Brutalist high rise developments and the impact of them on the residents inside. My first introduction to the book high rise was through a song by space/prog rockers Hawkwind called “high rise”. This is a fairly simple song that takes a couple of incidents from the book and presents them in lyric form. The song has always held an interest in me as it has what I would call a “dystopian future-retro” feel about it. By this I mean it discusses a flawed model for living that is both out of date yet at the same time very modern and actually with us today. There are several new complexes been built around the world where theoretically the residents will never need to leave the building as everything is located inside, shopping, work, doctors, entertainment etc... and this is exactly what Ballard prophesised back in 1975.
One of the lyrics in the Hawkwind song is “Neon totem pole to the sky” and the meaning behind this is something I have considered for several years. I now understand it to be a simple reference to a large lit up structure in the night sky that appears to go on forever, in many ways the tower blocks built in the 60’s and 70’s must of appeared like this to the people who grew up in the 50s. The “totem pole” reference could be linked to the fact that totem poles were traditionally made to visually represent the cultures of the people who made them, events, stories, legends etc... Whereas today (or at least in the early 70s) these high rise flats are actually the modern equivalent of totem poles rather than using these large structures to represent our lives we simple just live inside them. Either way the imagery that lyric conjured up in me was something that went into this work.
It is quite hard for me to always pick out everything that has gone into something that I have made and often there are so many different things I would spend all my time writing about them and not making work. However, for this painting I have tried to references the main factors that have gone into it to illustrate that these things could be a recently thought about aspect or something that has somewhat subconsciously entered the work from many years previously.