Ian Grose: Pictures from the Studio
From 30 November 2017 to January 20, 2018, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town will present Pictures from the Studio, a selection of new paintings by South African artist Ian Grose.
Reflecting on this work, Grose writes:
One of the first lessons that made an impression on me was ‘draw what you see, not what you know’. I remember that the improvement to the pictures I was making at the time was so immediate and significant that I subconsciously installed that lesson’s implications as some of my foundational maxims: the subject is always more complex than you can grasp, let alone remember. The subtlety of a colour, shape or line will always surprise you, and it’s up to you to omit from your process any vestige of preconception. These aren’t assumptions that I still hold, although I’ve found it’s not so easy to ‘uninstall’ them.
As attempts at unlearning, the works I’m making now fit into the project of moving away from painting what I see – without understanding, ‘syntactically’, mechanically – towards painting from knowledge and understanding, ‘semantically’, deliberately, and respecting what emerges from the process.
Many of the images in these works are drawn from the by-product materials of previous paintings. For a year or two I had a growing collection of large sheets of acetate that I’d used to press areas of flat colour onto paintings. After some time the overlaid sheets with patches of dried paint started to catch my eye, and I photographed and re-printed some compositions. I was reminded of the colour relationships in shells, rocks and moss, each picture having a ‘personality’ that I wanted to capture as elegantly as I could. After a number of attempts at turning those images into paintings, I found that they started working when I stopped reproducing the pictures purely visually, like a camera would see them – and instead started developing strategies that took account of what I knew about the structure of the layers (in terms of positive and negative space, the order of the sheets of transparency, the shine off the plastic surface). That knowledge provided a ‘recipe’ to work with and against, so to some extent I could free myself from the information received exclusively from the photograph.
At the same time, the technical solutions I’d found to help me reproduce the images (and liberate me from their appearance) gave me new ways of approaching figurative subjects. In particular, they allowed me to start painting from knowledge and memory. These small compositions depicting friends and furniture in my studio are my first explorations of these new strategies.
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