Paul Wallington: Information Gap
My paintings come out of a preoccupation with the studio as the driving force behind the creation of my work. Having recently graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, I found the internal world of the studios on campus to be a complex and enriching environment. The presence of the artist’s studio in their work has a long and well-documented history yet I am particularly drawn to photographs of Francis Bacon’s studio in Kensington, London. Bacon created an ocean of reference materials in which he worked: books piled on top of tins of paint, pages torn from magazines and newspapers, sometimes even copies of his own paintings torn from books and painted over again. This influenced my own process in trying to find certain images that interested me and linking these images to one another. Sifting through magazines and books became more and more central to my process as did torn pages from magazines, screenshots from films and self-portraits taken on a timer. As I continued painting I started to piece together bits of a story that were strewn about in my studio.
Social psychologist Suzanne Oosterwijk explains that “people experience curiosity when there is an ‘information gap’ between what they want to know and what they currently know.” I believe that much of painting is an information gap. A gap between imagining what one will create and what the result actually will be. In what one initially wanted to achieve through painting, only to end up somewhere completely different. I am curious as to how paint, particularly oil paint, works as a medium and how the painter must build upon layers in an effort to selectively erase and reveal their painterly vision. To paint each figure, rock and feather is an attempt to bridge the information gap. With each layer that piles up on the canvas, the old images are almost entirely forgotten, with only mere fragments showing through.
The process of painting is like piecing together a distorted and broken narrative, like William Faulkner’s The Sound and Fury– a story told four times through four different perspectives. A singular painting only tells one part of the fractured tale. The result is a world where there are vultures as big as men, divers lost in underwater caves and men weeping from their own fevered masturbatory impulses. A place of mist and decay and expired love. I am often lost in thought when I think of the depths of oceans, the murkiness of lakes and the darkness of caves. I am interested in the idea of entering a place that would seem otherworldly to humans yet somehow caters to creatures that live in perpetual darkness, their hearts as cold as slush. It is because of this fascination of things left to one’s own imagination that my obsession with oil paint continues.
Oil paint is able to tell a story of an imagined violence, a wetness that appears to come from the human body in a way that other mediums do not. Barbra Dawson writes on how the “process of mutilation” was critical to Francis Bacon’s work, essentially because as an image is translated onto a page, its meaning shifts. With this also comes the ability to change paint into a visceral medium where the physical act of painting is a frustrating and often chaotic one. To paint is to constantly destroy and rebuild, ultimately showing a broken image that like a fractured mirror, gives hints rather than comprehensive narratives. These shards of information offer something more interesting than a cohesive story as they allow the viewer to link and communicate with the other fragmented pieces in ways personal to them- to bridge the ‘information gap’ with their own perspective. Ultimately, the painting process is a mirror to another place that focuses on questions rather than answers. A place where there is no beginning, no middle, or end—an ocean that is constantly moving.
Paul Wallington was born in Johannesburg in 1993 and raised in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. He completed his final year at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa in 2019. As an artist, Wallington works predominantly in oil painting. Much of his recent work has drawn on South African literature and poetry as a starting point. His paintings exist within a larger narrative set by writers whose stories hold a powerful resonance within South Africa today. These novels attempt to explain or dissect the ongoing narrative within South Africa and challenge our idea of truth. Wallington is interested in the relationship between fiction and reality and the ways in which the transposing of text into oil paint further muddies the original process of textual representation. It is in this world of exchanges from the textual to the visual that these images emerge, taking on a life of their own. In his paintings, there are strong visual links to artists such as Francis Bacon and Francisco Goya.
Paul Wallington: Information Gap runs at 99 Loop, Cape Town until 25 July 2020.
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