I did not set out to paint flowers, the images emerged – pretty much like most of my work – from following the ghost of what I see, amplifying a murmur, thereby letting the work surface from its own potential. I made this work because of what came before.
If “progress is the angel (of history)… being blown backwards into the future… trying to repair the things that have been broken”, then what is reworking a painting, and how does its ontology work differently from a painting made from a blank canvas?
Palimpsest V, Ophelia’s Pond is one of five works on canvas in the Palimpsest Series (2021). The works in this series have all been painted on previously used canvas given to me by a friend when moving countries. On the canvases he had splattered and squirted primary colours in a Pollock-like fashion. Painting over someone else’s completed work is contested (for many reasons) and not easy to do, especially with heavily textured surfaces, but because I am interested in the integrity and value of that which is discarded, or unwanted, no longer pristine and seen as damaged, and because I think a lot about repair, I committed to seeing if I could work with what I had been given, embroidering on the notions of care and love that I explore in my work more broadly.
First the work went through my process of de-escalation. At times I didn’t know if I would be able to find an integrity, but ultimately, I quieten the surfaces down by considering the act of painting as a process of untangling, leaving bits of the original painting that I didn’t know what to do with, until I have resolved a section, or pattern of mark, and could then return to the unresolved isolated tangle, to respond to. The exercise of surfacing what I can, an untangling of sorts, like a knot clump that you have to patiently take apart is a counterpoint to the compulsive surfacing present in other of my works, and I thought of this method as painting as repair or revisioning through unravelling of mark, encouraging the emergence of a work through a process of sorting. For example, the deep linear gashes of mark felt like “stab wounds” (the current paint-like salve in the lines) and became an isolated rhythm I could find and respond to, these gashes ultimately became stems of flowers.
In resisting hiding or covering up, the painting instead became a process of recovering or recouping. I resisted erasure, rather thought of the canvases as having their second life, or another chance, a recycle, or a re-valuing – I wanted to prove that it is possible that something valuable could emerge through taking care or making repair. Subsequently, I encourage the viewer to continue the work of reappraising through their own gaze and experience.
Very little of the previous painting’s given colour has remained, but the bulbous impasto clumps and gash like marks remain as scars (traces) on the surface as a past, and the imagery that emerged slowly, a response to what I was given, became a flowering memento to mourning.