Happy New Year!!! – I’m looking backward to move forward


Fractal of ‘Obsessions’ 2015 – Plaster, Ink, Varnish & Paper on Plywood

Nothing beats a retrospective view of the the last few years on New Years Day. 2016 has been trying so I’m going to start positive… Uni Days and the impact it has had on me.. most count it as stressful but I see the stresses as a major defining factor on my approach to the everyday…

“Painting is about the trace of human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard. The content of a painting cannot be separated from the feel of its surface…”
                                                                                                                   – Marlene Dumas, 1993.

Despite the fact this was written by Marlene Dumas in 1993, it never graced my eyes until 2014, during my 3rd year at uni and working on my dissertation. As soon as I read that, my heart stuttered, a grin came over my face and total understanding came over me. My practice was falling into place and this quote explained a fraction of my work, the part that explained what it was about paint that I never wanted to work with any other medium at that time. And it still stands to remind me that the feeling of anything I create is at the core of what I do (when I get to do it around working full time and when I’m not battling space constraints).

My paintings are described as sculptural, and while I agree on some level, because things need to be defined, the only true categorization is that they are paintings. There is no grand master plan as it develops, it starts with a point, a small or large obsession, a curiosity, a message, a theme, and that is where any form of structure ends. Emotions take over, it depends on my mood for the day as to whether I will add a layer, strip it away or demolish a section of it. I never knew what it would be, and I never knew when it would end. I know, I know, you ask how I worked to deadlines? It was simple…

I exhibited the paintings as they were, wet and changing before the audience’s eyes – depending on how long they stayed. Someone once called it brave, but I didn’t see that. I still don’t…

Time does not have a place in this type of work. It cannot be the begin all and end all of works that are  deeply rooted in emotion, reaction and its immediate environment, it cannot be rushed.

I pushed time even further aside by using materials I knew were not cohesive, materials I could not control. Ink and varnish – no matter how hard you try, it cannot be coerced into doing what you want.


Fractal of ‘Obsessions’ 2015 – Plaster, Ink, Varnish & Paper on Plywood


The point was to make it work with whatever you had to hand. In life, there are things we understand, things we don’t. Things that just are. It’s what we do with them and how we react to them that matters. And translating that into my work t the time was the most important thing. Each layer in the picture above did its own thing, the materials reacting with or against the other.

I used whatever was lying around the studios, or found in the street.  I once roped a now very good friend into carrying buckets of sand from the seafront. I was in my element for 2014 and 2015.

I’d graduated with a 2:1 BA Hons in Fine Art. And I realised on the last day, as I packed my studio in boxes, that I could never go back to not creating. To not being so engrossed. I’d already started to feel bereft at the thought of not having the space to create large paintings that I could get lost on and decided I would create anything, because I had once allowed myself to stop creating and felt lost, like something wasn’t quite right. I risked not feeling right, and balanced.

The feeling of being balanced in my mind and that I was doing what I was supposed to was the most important part.

Something about doing what you love – creating – makes all the outer vibrations of your environment that can offset you that slightly more bearable. The things that you fight to change but don’t have much impact on your own – the current political and financial climate – how we get by on a daily basis – the reactions of others to your choices – because let’s face it, it’s always imposed on you.

All of that is infinitely (not slightly) more bearable when you are doing what you love…

Tan xx


‘Obsessions’ 2015 – Plaster, Ink, Varnish & Paper on Plywood. Various Dimensions.

One thought on “Happy New Year!!! – I’m looking backward to move forward

  1. Pingback: The After Uni Experience… | T. A. Douglas

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