This third painting in the series is much simpler, and probably took a lot more work. I began assuming the works I made in Brickwork #2 would form the base for a new work, but one of the most significant criticisms of that painting was that there was “too much”, and I had planned to extend it across a whole wall space. It was time to give each frame its own little space to breathe, and also make a piece where the weakest pieces weren’t propped up by better painterly “incidents” nearby. I still needed a volume of little “postcard” pieces, but I needed to be extremely judicious about choosing only a few that would make up the final piece. Not trusting the development of my own eye entirely, I tried to regularly consult with others about which frames worked and which ones did not, and then the final few also had to work together into some aesthetically pleasing composition.
Most paintings did not make the cut. I ended up with a stack of “duds”. I’m still not certain I chose the right final set, but I do think they work as a set. If anything, I struggle with whether each stands well individually, but they do appreciate that extra space around them. In earlier works they came together like a thick slurry of Christchurch’s crisis, and I think that was part of what made those works seem inappropriate to some. I hope I’ve improved the pieces, made them less confrontational or “too much”, but that remains to be seen. I’ve contacted some more Christchurch people I know to talk out the potential issues in terms of working as an outsider, but at some point I suspect I need to cast off my neurosis about that and get on with just painting what I want. It does not help matters that I am now torn between a small group of people from Christchurch accusing me of appropriating their traumatic experience, another small group that says I’m being bullied by the group accusing me of appropriation, and vastly bigger number of people from Christchurch who have said nothing at all. Perhaps it is a disapproving silence? Perhaps it is a silence of the uninterested? Perhaps it is a silence of the plain old too-busy-getting-on-with-our-lives-to-look-at-your-blog-Matty kind? That seems most likely. There are so many kinds of silences. I shouldn’t read too much into them.
At any rate, Brickwork #2 provoked some extremely tense exchanges such as this one. (Dammit, seems to require a FB account to read. I’ll see about printing it and putting it in WB). Processing these is taxing, but necessary.
All of these are serious problems, and worth investigating and sensitising myself to, but in the end I have to paint on. Again, I painted on A4 watercolour paper. I tried to control my colours better this time, using a round palette and mixing first a colour wheel, and then mixing more carefully from that. Watercolours are very unforgiving. I wanted to limit my brushstrokes, control my palette better, and let the paint bleed and play.
I sat and played about with composition quite a lot, taking rough late-night photos as I did. None of these really amounted to much, but I’ll include them here for thoroughness
I chose ten final images for basic aesthetic reasons. Firstly, five widthways is a nice ratio for display. Secondly, I don’t think I had the volume of really good pieces (without writing scrawled on them) to extend the work much more than that. Thirdly, the reaction to Brickwork #2 left me with the impression I should be thinking “less is more” when it comes to exploring such a sensitive issue from an outsider’s perspective. My lecturer, Shannon, used some term like “dissipating the heat” on that subject.
Ultimately, the future of this project rests on my travelling to Christchurch, on conducting some thorough interviews, and I am thinking that should happen in the Summer, in which case the next semester should be dedicated to a smaller project with less “heat” around it. I sense people want a break from what I’ve been doing here, and it’s about the right time to take such a break as well.