|Fukushima Samurai II, oil and bitumen on paper, 170x152cm|
Continuing my theme on the Fukushima workers, this painting is a vision of the Daiichi plant workers as the mythical heroes who entered Hell to discharge their labours - Aeneas, Odysseus, Orpheus. Even Hercules who had destroy the three-headed monster, Cerberus. These workers have been sent into the nuclear fires to battle the contamination that threatens the lives and well-being of literally millions. A Herculean labour indeed.
This work is a development of the ealier piece, Fukushima Samurai I (left)
which in turn evolved from the initial painting Fukushima Future (left).
Fukushima Samurai II also represents my second attempt at a large format painting. Working large format presents a whole new set of problems. But i sense a greater freedom at this scale. Brush-work becomes a whole-body exercise. Hogs hair bristles give way to 3 inch commercial house-paint brushes. The sheer quantity of volatile fumes from solvents sprayed onto an extensive surface presents some special health and safety challenges. I find myself working outdoors much more.
Even photographing the work at the end is problematic. The craft paper, though 300gsm or more, curls because it come off a roll and I have no wall large enough to pin it out. The result is that the black bar underscoring and supporting the figure is no longer horizontal in the photo. The gloss surface reflects the sky and so the colours and tonal values are not true. Ironically, a photo doesn't even give a real sense of the overall composition, as one gets from seeing the painting at a considerable distance (the thumbnail pic does that better).
But mostly what is missing from the photo, as with the photo of any large scale painting, is the IMPACT! Whoaaaa. You have turn your neck to take it all in when up close. It is immersive. You ARE in those colors. Marks that barely register in the photo are read as machinery wreathed in smoke when in front of the actual painting.
Similarly, I have no easel large enough to support a 2.5 sq m sheet of paper , so i've jerry-rigged some rickety structures. A properly stretched canvas would be so much easier but would also cost $100. These are just learning exercises and don't warrant such expenditure.
And as important, i've come to realise that using canvases and quality oil paints has robbed me of freedom. I feel too much the burden of responsibility to 'paint a good painting' onto expensive supports. Because small Chinese canvases are cheap i inadvertently became a painter of small paintings.
Now, even my artists' oil paints have given way to tins of bitumen and old house paint and varnish stock that has been languishing out in the garden shed for decades. Some is so settled and compacted that stirring the paint to life is impossible. So i'm pouring off the solvents and mixing them with pigments and agents i discover elsewhere.
These are indeed Heidegger's at hand materials. And the constant need to innovate equipment, supports, media, brushes and applicators, body movement and materials skills in my creative praxis well and truly call forth my material thinking (my thoughts on Heidegger, Barbara Bolt and material thinking are here.).
Painting on a large scale almost for free is very liberating. Is the work any good? Dunno. Seems like it's neither fish nor fowl at the moment. But it's energizing and i am learning a lot.
And .... I'm having fun.
|a detail from Fukushima Samurai II|
Gary Everest wanted a better sense of the painting's size, so ive added a pic of it pinned up on the lichen-covered awning protecting the door of my studio. The tressel tables on which i sometimes work can be seen outside the bay window.
It makes me realize that size is relative. This seemed huge and difficult to handle in my small studio building. But really it is barely as tall as a person stands. So i will aim to paint something at least twice the size, just for the experience