it’s very exciting when a viewer is prepared to really immerse themselves in the experience of looking; to enter into ‘a conversation’ with the painting.
FW these three paintings that we have selected for the exhibition, i ﬁnd them very moving, especially as a series (though i’m not sure they were intended to be). looking at them as images on my laptop, i am once again made aware that my eyes, and my attention, are pulled into a space, onto an object, only to be thrown back to something else—a piece of coral for example—in the foreground. here they might brieﬂy remain, restless, before being caught up by something else, perhaps a reﬂection or a shadow behind an object that i hadn’t seen before, so i am both surprised and disappointed at my own inattention. this visual sensation of being pulled in and thrown back seems to happen in relation to these particular paintings because i have no horizon or vanishing point to escape to. Because you withhold this escape route my sense of space and place is slightly disorientated. instead i am thrown between the whites of disintegrating paper, the gleam on a surface, or the tendrils of dehydrated seaweed. i feel like i’m being caught up in a sort of visual drift, it feels like ﬂoating, not landing or delving. like i said earlier, i’m not sure whether i should be searching for small objects or massive ones, real, transformed or dreamt ones. i’m getting caught up in a drama without a narrative. i’m not sure whether a scrap of tissue is behaving as a tarpaulin might in a sand storm, or whether i’m looking at tissue that has found itself blown by human breath into an overlooked corner of the studio. or something/somewhere in-between, or both? What your paintings manage to do is to make me suspend my disbelief, which is remarkable given that all the objects are so keenly observed.
cc Referring again to the paintings inviting you in ‘only to obstruct and divert your viewing’ you asked, Why is this i wonder? …… By ‘this’ do you mean you are wondering, Why do YOu FEEL that? or, Why do tHE PAiNtiNgS DO that?. FW so my wondering, that you asked me to explain, was to do with why i was responding like this and whether you paint with the intention of making me (and others) feel like this. cc i’m deﬁnitely not painting with the intention of making anyone feel any particular thing. the only thing i would like, regarding people’s responses, is for them to experience an ambiguity of scale in the paintings, to have to ask, is it a tiny bit of grit or a giant boulder? or to prompt the question, Where am i? …… and then, rather than feeling the need to answer those questions with a particular deﬁnition or place name, to allow their experience of the painting to be a more open ended journey. the viewer’s reactions (feeling unsettled, liberated, frightened, ecstatic or anything else) doesn’t feel like my responsibility and certainly isn’t a concern when i’m making or planning a painting. You talked about being ‘caught up in a drama without a narrative’. i want the viewer to be able to inhabit the painting. i’d like them to be able to journey through it as a tourist, a local, or even a protagonist. For me the viewer’s imaginal or sensuous presence in the painting is an important component of the image itself. i like what you said about not immediately knowing what kind of space you were looking at when you ﬁrst saw the paintings, and needing to recall back into your own imagination and memory bank to interpret them, to get a footing, but i don’t feel there is anything to interpret. Hopefully the paintings are more like sponges than blackboards. i want them to absorb the viewer’s own narratives and imaginings rather than the painting telling anyone what to think or feel or understand. i love the idea that diﬀerent people might overlay completely diﬀerent narratives on the same painting. You said you feel able to suspend your disbelief when you look
AmBiguOuS PRACtiCES 37
Catalogue by Frances Woodley