January - An Introduction to Expression

I didn't see the true value in fine art until my early thirties.  Before then, I saw myself as a designer or a creator of sorts, but not as an artist. Artistic endeavours had to be useful; to have a purpose for being. I didn't see an image as an end product. 

That was before I understood what expression was worth to me and how vital it was to my feeling human.  

In 2001 I returned to UK after an adventurous few years living abroad and traveling. Once I was settled back home, I realised just how serious my depression was and had no clue how to work through it. Until I started to paint.

The act of mark-making became a form of language; I would say something to the canvas and it would say something back, often correcting a wrong assumption. It would speak to me.

One of my early expression paintings.  acrylic on canvas (12x16)

Maybe the act of taking a thought out of my head helped me create distance from it and move on, or maybe I was engaging in conversation with a Higher power.

Whatever it was, a painting became a living thing, always evolving, always engaging in conversation, questioning and offering revelation.  I wasn't painting pictures, you understand; I was expressing emotions I couldn't otherwise articulate.

I knew then, that a painting can have transformative powers; you can look deep into it and you can feel different as a direct result. 

The Abstract Expressionist artists of the 20th century were the first to place value in this genre of painting.  Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) and Mark Rothko (1903-1970) rejected the notion of image-based art and "representation" and turned to abstraction, defining painting as "an act of absolute personal authenticity"

I'll be studying the above mentioned artists in greater detail at a later date as they each had a unique point of view and often opposing theories. Jackson believed in capturing the physical "action" of emotion; Rothko believed in stillness.  After seeing both artists' work recently at the Abstract Expressionist Exhibit at the Royal Academy in London, I was struck by how differently a viewer experiences their work if you give it the time it deserves.    

Art, for me, is about communicating an emotion.

We all have the desire to be heard and understood. The lucky ones amongst us are skilled verbal communicators. If we're not so mellifluous, I believe we seek another form of communication in order to not feel so alone or isolated.

We communicate because we need to connect with others. Our most valuable tool in creating great art and learning to communicate effectively is knowing how your audience can best receive your message.

What information can we transmit in a single image? How can we use those elements for maximum impact? 

My previous work as a screenwriter taught me that we can absorb much more information visually than we realise. We are sophisticated thinkers; we understand subtext and subtlety; we never approach an image uneducated, we bring all our previous experience with us which forces us to make immediate decisions in terms of survival.

This may not seem relevant when talking about a painting, but believe it or not, it's the basis for how we react when we stand before a painting and either love it or loath it.

The elements of a painting I'll be experimenting with first are composition, colour, value and line.

I'll be posting regularly to this blog throughout the year as I explore these ideas further, but you can also sign up for my special email list Year of Expression where you'll have first dibs on the paintings I produce. 

(Unfortunately, I was hit by a winter bug on New Years Day and it's taken me some time to recover, so, I'm a bit behind on my plans. However, today is a new day and I will soldier on! )