Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brett Whiteley ponders fate


Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley ponders fate, oil on canvas, 50x60cm

I'm seeking to make non-conventional images about an unconventional painter - my own images that express something of my own sense of the man and his art.

Why paint this way? I'm searching for expressive power and freshness. I'm turning to pure colours straight from the tube, mixing only on the canvas, for freshness and saturation. I'm turning to colour to carry emotion rather than produce accurate physical likeness.

How to render hair in a way that is not simply 'painting in'? How instead to trust in the agency of the medium to supply a myriad of marks which suggest hair texture? How to rely on plastic qualities of oil paint like paint viscosity, fluid dynamics of solvents, effects of suction and gravity? How to do enough yet not do too much?

detail from Brett Whiteley ponders fate

This painting is part portrait and part Rorschach. It was made the same way an inkblot is made.

Its ambiguous marks rely on the viewer to read form and meaning into the work.

Without the viewer this portrait would not be complete.

So thank you, gentle viewer, for visiting this blog and finishing this portrait for me.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Brett Whiteley tangled up in blue


Harry Kent, Whiteley tangled up in blue
oil on paper, 30x42cm

"I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on

like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue."

                            Bob Dylan, Tangled Up In Blue

This is a series of 16 monoprints in oil on  29.5x42cm A3 Canson Oil Sketch 290gsm paper.

Although i call it monoprinting, actually sixteen impressions were made from a single image painted by brush onto plastic sheet. Impressions were taken by hand using an linoprint roller. Therefore pressures were inconsistent from one print to the next. I regarded that as a plus rather than a minus for it introduced some random vagaries that stopped the whole exercise simply becoming mechanical.

They are intended to viewed as a single work that traces the fading of image from heavy impasto  until only a ghost remains. If ever exhibited, they would be hung beside each other in a horizontal run along a wall at face height. Or maybe in 4 x 4 grid 118 x 168 cm as a single work.

Not so visible in photographs is the Viridian of the shadow side of the figure's face. However, it virtually spent by the 6th printing.

The dominant colours however are Ultramarine and Prussian Blue contrasting with the red-orange of the figure's hair. Brett Whiteley had red hair in real life though the colour has now taken on symbolic overtones for me. In my iconography his red hair repersents his passion and creative fire. Ultramarine is Brett's wild blue yonder where all things are possible while Prussian Blue is the darkness in his soul.

As the series advances the fire is gradually extinguished and darkness subsumes the figure.

As i worked, i also had my earlier drawing Brett Whiteley fades away in mind which was a response to a critic's comment:
"there is something unsettling in the way the BWS [Brett Whiteley Studio] is part gallery and part shrine to the memory of man who was once vital, and then faded away."

You can read the resulting discussion here.