FW is there something about Bataille’s cool approach to documentation, expressed poetically, a contradiction that appeals to you? For example, are the ‘brains’ extraordinary objects that you ﬁrst make, and then set up, as if for an absurd debacle? do you then interpret them objectively as if you were an artist/ethnographer like Bataille positions himself in some of his writings? JG Bataille is another ﬁgure that had a very early impact on me. Story of the Eye (1928) was/is pretty standard reading for most young art students, but for me it was a book that i kept on coming back to, trying to decipher it for myself over the years.2 i don’t know how much of an inﬂuence it’s had over my work but i suppose the parallel you made has some validity. Your reference to Encyclopaedia Acephalica isn’t quite what i meant when i used the word ‘documentary’ to describe my approach, although i think you were spot-on about his use of a complex poetic language to deal with very concrete ideas.3 my own documentary approach is very much a denial of certain modernist notions about ‘expression’. i have a strong drive to describe things in clear terms within my paintings, being pictorially speciﬁc helps me to clarify my ideas and make some sense of things that are perhaps too big or overwhelming. FW yes, i can see that. that’s what comes across. But do you set things up like this as a way of coming to terms with ambiguity? ambiguity is threatening to us because we are unable to explain it; it is boundless and evades interpretation. you take what is already ambiguous, and make it massive in both in scale and size, the paintings Babel and Fracaso for example. yet, your painting of the ‘brain objects’ also seems to be an attempt to contain the threat of their ambiguity whilst also empathizing with their attempt to withstand the ambiguous debacle they ﬁnd themselves in. JG the question of ‘what’ they are is the one that contains the ambiguity, and that’s exactly my intention. You are looking at something that is highly realized in pictorial terms, but you don’t know what it is, you have no idea of its provenance or its intentions. the ambiguity i’m avoiding is more of a formal one. i want to clearly describe this entity to you so that the questions it asks are not clouded by something vague or uncertain. FW one thing we should just mention is the intermediate stage of photography and whether you see this as a process that disambiguates the objects or one that makes them more so by evocative lighting and blurred arenas? is this what you mean when you say your painting is a documentary rather than an ambiguous practice, one that seeks to document ambiguously constructed and manipulated things in non-speciﬁc spaces? do you rely on describing to also evoke a sense of empathy? or is there a tension here rather like you’re being pulled both towards the detachment of poussin and the empathy of chardin? JG As for the photography, the crucial part here is that it’s the point where the decision is made about the presentation/viewpoint, the reduction from three dimensions to two. the switch to this static, ﬁxed state takes time. Decisions about what is shown and what is concealed, how light falls onto the object etc. are all walking the same tightrope, so really at this stage i’m both disambiguating and occluding. Conceptually this is where the biggest decisions are made, the painting that follows becomes a document of those decisions. the descriptive aspect of my painting method is relatively neutral i think, at least as far as evoking feelings about the depicted objects is concerned. i’ve already gone though the process of manipulating and selecting the image that i feel conveys what it is i wanted to say best. if something extra happens during the process of making the painting, i think it’s out of my conscious control. By this stage i know what i want from the ﬁnal image, and my energies are concentrated on the practical and technical problems of making that a painted reality. Still, oil paint often has a way of being transformative, even if you don’t want it to be. Further information on the artist is available at jonnygreen.net 1 2 3
mizzi, Katia, 2011, Pinocchio, Puppets, and Modernity: The Mechanical Body, London: Routledge. Bataille, georges, 2001, Story of the Eye, London: Penguin. Bataille, georges, 1995, Encyclopaedia Acephalica, London: Atlas Press.
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