One: Paintings of Single Objects
"Painted with passion, a single object surrounded by space can have more power than the most elaborate composition. It can have a hypnotic effect on anyone looking at it. Because of the way it triggers the imagination. With less to absorb, viewers will project their feelings and experiences onto the art and connect with it in a deeply personal way" Christopher Gallego, Artist
The act of looking begins with the artist. Looking at the world around them, noticing small detail, seeing beauty in the seemingly insignificant, the painterly possibilities offered by an ordinary object such as a cardboard box or plastic cup.
What is it about certain lone objects that catch an artist's eye and entice them into further investigation? A mass produced product, organic matter or handcrafted article. Flowers or fruit, laden with their own art historical significance, timeless subjects that give little away or cheaply produced ornaments celebrating the preoccupations of their time. Perhaps the artist is attracted by a metaphorical or sentimental quality, the evocation of a memory or suggestion of a narrative, it could be formal properties, a colour or a shape that sets off an idea for a painting. Simplified to a single subject in a square or rectangle, the object's lack of context can allow the artist to contemplate its presence, elevate its status or celebrate its mundanity. An everyday object freed of its context and placed on a plinth, measured, observed, abstracted, scrutinised, immortalised.
For the artist, the concerns might be of space, form and experience. Attention paid to shape, colour relationships, proportions, measurements, a painting about the act of painting. Once the object is detached from its function, what is the artist left with? The beautiful shape of a shadow created in the folds of a paper bag, the muted tones of a plastic funnel or shifting light across the composition. The subject loses itself in the painting. The surface becomes important, the paint on canvas, the passage of time.
The artist may amplify the object, through the slow, painstaking recording of details or the distortion of scale or colour. The neutrality or ambiguity of its background can create a quiet tension and looming sense of presence. An object standing alone, stripped of context and inviting scrutiny.
It is an intimate experience, between the artist and the object, realised through the act of painting. Some artists will record the changing conditions of light and form, others will work quickly to capture the moment before it is gone or find ways to preserve the stillness of an organic object to avoid its inevitable decay. They may move away from the subject and respond to the needs of the painting, whilst others will remain true to the object and act of observation to the end.
And what of the viewer? How do we respond to this new object, created by the artist and hanging in the gallery? The mundanity of the subject can allow us to see beyond the object depicted and apprehend the actual painting. With the absence of a clear narrative, we can bring our own story, look at the paint on the canvas, remember again that we are looking at a painting. Perhaps it brings us closer to the artist, the lone object allowing the same intimacy felt when observing a self-portrait. We witness the artist at work, paint brush in hand to record the small details or layers of paint added and removed, documenting the objects presence in a particular time and space. And do we trust the artist? Do we believe in the authenticity of the object, did it ever exist?