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i hope the viewer can get past that, it’s not my intention but i obviously get that this interpretation is possible! Actually the first point of it was to reference Philip guston (1913-80), who used similar ‘lumpy’, functional objects. i also had in mind a piece of African sculpture, from the Louvre, of a wooden dog covered in rusty nails—like a porcupine! i responded to both as transformative things. So i wanted to make a thing a little odder but one that was, in its strangeness, also decorative. the pattern of the nails makes for a circular or elliptical shape. in fact both objects in this painting are decorated by pattern. And the foliage in the background also forms a pattern. So all of the ‘players’, despite the differences, are somehow ‘married’. the vertical timber assumes a more alert role, like a protagonist. And this energizes the space. FW i would like to explore the strategies of metaphor and ambiguity in your still life painting a little further, though i appreciate that they are not foremost in your mind as you paint. metaphor draws meaning into something through association with something else, whereas ambiguity blurs boundaries of meaning, operating in the in between, or from two places at the same time. taking the two paintings that will be in the exhibition, and others if you like, could you describe instances where the paint itself is made to operate metaphorically, and, where it operates ambiguously? this may start with the way you set up viewing conditions, preparatory drawing and painting, whether you approach painting as a protagonist or a provocateur perhaps? the way you lay down paint, the function of the effaced or gestural mark, the qualities of mattness, opacity, resistance and viscosity, that sort of thing. is the way you paint leaving traces of processes that act as metaphors? one of the reasons, and not the only one, that i respond to the ambiguity of your painted series of the wood blocks and tea pot is because the size of the painted marks is much the same in the foreground, mid, and background, as is the level of abstraction of its elements and this seems to brings the background forward. i’m writing as an observer here, not as an experienced painter, this is why i ask. pn i don’t consciously court ambiguity because i believe the very essence of painting is implicitly ambiguous or at least contradictory. For example the act of making space involves touching a flat surface. through attending to this surface i can invent air. that is the magic and problematic nature of the activity. i also never paint with the idea of metaphor or ambiguity foremost in my mind. i am often in a non-verbal state when in the act of painting, that is, i live it rather than analyse it. Of course i do eventually stand back and discern qualities (sometimes metaphorical, sometimes literal) that can be added to my visual concerns. But these become a somewhat skeletal set of concerns to arm myself with. metaphorical states can be about time, weight, stance, energy etc., which are not directly associative. i think visual metaphor is different than verbal. i cannot define what it is that actually interests or excites me when taking on a subject. in fact it only through the act of painting that this might become evident. my aim is first to be as clear and specific as possible (anti ambiguity and metaphor). But visual signs often veer towards other qualities in the service of describing qualitative states. So to emphasize particularity (an object, a space, a set of relationships) you bring to bear qualitative states through the material and it’s processes. this is when other interpretations become possible. So when you say to me, describe metaphor as the manner or process, i cannot, it’s absolutely entwined. the same about ambiguity. i understand that the painting of the pot and piece of timber has an ambiguity of meaning regarding why are they together. But it could easily be so in actuality. And i have been very clear about this relationship, it exists in the clear light of day i think. But i was interested in the potential fragility of the teapot, even though it’s painted in a harder fashion than the stick. this stick is painted in a soft, out of focus way (close up) and i think because of this it becomes rather mute. As a result i think the pot is more animated and the stick more

74 AmBiguOuS PRACtiCES

Still Life: Ambiguous Practices Exhibition Catalogue  

Catalogue by Frances Woodley

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