Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Painting in the dark


Brett Whiteley's ghost, oil on canvas, 

This portrait was painted in the dark.


Because I haven't been able to paint for months. I've been daunted by the blank page. A blank canvas seems a mountain i just cannot climb. Have i simply run out of ideas? Motivation? Bravado?

It is as if i have been as if frozen, trapped in a torpor, paralysed by self-doubt. No, it's not that i didn't have ideas or desire to work. It's that i was intimidated by the task. The responsibility of producing a 'good' painting was too great.

And along comes fellow post-grad student, Bec, who is exploring the notion of liberation from self-critical thinking during the process of painting. She is doing this through contour drawing and painting while looking away from the canvas. She has tried painting in low light as a gambit. So after we talked about, i was fired up enough to give it a try.

The process went as follows. After setting up the canvas and squeezing some Titanium white, Ultra Blue, Prussian blue, Cerulean, Viridian, Lemon Yellow and Indian Red onto a white plastic picnic plate (my disposable palettes), i went and turned out the lights in my studio. I found my way back to the easel with a torch, picked up palette and brush, and turned off the torch. I could just make out the shape the canvas in the gloom. When i looked at my palette, all the colours had turned to globs of black and grey.

I set to work to paint Brett Whiteley's features from recollection. I also carried a query in my head re Brett post postmortem. What might the ghost of Brett look like? Could i touch his presence in dark?

I guesstimated where the bits should be located on the canvas. Very quickly the blobs of black and grey on my plastic plate merged to become a dog's breakfast of vague grays. I pressed on. I could only gauge how loaded the brush was by the resistance as bristle dragged through paint, the weight at the business end as i lifted it to canvas. Sometimes i heard a splat as excess flipped off and smacked onto the canvas as i worked in haste. Whatever image was emerging in the dark, i was not responsible. I stabbed and slashed and squiggled. And then stopped to turn on the light.

Surprise. An image that had a rawness about it. Non-realist. Expressive. Parts were satisfying. Other parts silly or dead. The whole didn't hang together. So i poured on some gum turps to let osmosis fill in the gaps. A mistake, in hindsight. It killed off much of the immediacy and freshness.

But for better or worse, here it is, warts and all.
Art or a mess, interesting or silly, i don't care.
It's what happened in the dark.
I've called it Brett Whiteley's ghost. A visitation in my darkness.
Hopefully it will kick-start some deliberate work in coming weeks.

In the meantime, i've started some art-related 'busywork'. I've stared a Pinterest blog HERE. It enables me to gather together drawings and paintings i like and are influential on my own creative practice. It enables me to share my passions and my work among a growing online art community. If you too have an art Pinterest board i'd love to connect up!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Harry Kent art published in Singapore

 Blue Rain by Harry Kent

Two of my paintings have recently been reproduced and published in a monograph Big difference in a small world  by publication Art Director, Desmond Kon.

Big difference in a small world is a research study report by Peggy Leong Pek Kay into the job satisfaction and retention of almost 400 pre-school teachers from over 100 schools in Singapore. 

The art direction for this 124 page A4 monograph was done by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. Desmond, himself an artist and poet, has edited more than ten books and co-produced three audio books. His work in entertainment and lifestyle journalism has taken him to Australia, France, Hong Kong and Spain. 
You can discover Desmond's extensive writing and publishing history HERE

Desmond contacted me back in April this year to request permission to publish two of my paintings. 

Along with the over 70 works by various artists around the world,  Desmond requested my Blue Rain and Private Moment for inclusion. 

Private Moment by Harry Kent

When i discovered he had trained in Professional Publishing (Books) at Stanford University, so i knew i was in good hands and  was most happy to give approval. 

Desmond has done a fine job putting together a quality publication that showcases arresting and expressive artwork from a broad range of excellent artists. I am honoured to be included among them.

Big difference in a small world,  p. 44.

The surprise is that the artwork is interspersed through an education research report. There is no direct linking of text to the art images. Rather, the two inhabit parallel worlds. And yet the overall effect is to humanize the statistics and analysis contained in the report and to somehow illustrate a key theme of report itself - the worth of human endeavour.

This brings to four the number of publishers who have discovered my work on line and went on publish reproductions.

Kosmos in the USA (see HERE)

Réseau "Sortir du nucléaire" in France (see HERE)

the cover of Konrád György's novel The Case Worker , Korean translation, in South Korea (see HERE)

and now Big difference in Singapore.

I am delighted with the outcome.

Much thanks, Desmond.