Increasingly I have come to view my painting more through the spectrum and traditions of music and improvisation. Drawing on musical variations from Jimi Hendrix to Beethoven, working over months in the isolation of my studio in a remote coastal area of Victoria, this body of work maps my unscripted response to music across a range of genres.
Though the work is highly experimental in nature and the process is philosophically as physically central to the result, resolved images only became possible after a lengthy period of investigation on smaller scale studies. I had first to decode how particular media behaved when subjected to certain stresses and conditions, or how one colour reacts to another given their different base compounds, pigments and binders. Once this foundation was set, I could plan for substantial works.
But invariably it is the unexpected that asserts itself as central to my practice. As a result, I’d categorise these paintings as manifestations of studied chaos.
Such methodology may seem haphazard, but there is a rich history of harvesting chance in art, literature and music; William Burrows, author and primary figure of the Beat Generation made his cut-ups- absurdly poetic stories- by dissecting articles and joining them randomly.
Francis Bacon, one of the twentieth century’s most important painters, described his paintings as ‘a series of accidents mounting on top of each other. If anything does ever work in my case’, said Bacon, ‘it works from that moment when consciously I don’t know what I’m doing.’
Jazz legend Miles Davis recorded his seminal album Bitches Brew over the course of three days in 1969. Davis called the musicians to the recording studio at very short notice. A few pieces on Bitches Brew were rehearsed before the recording sessions, but at other times the musicians had little or no idea what they were to record. Once in the recording studio, the players were typically given only a few instructions: a tempo count, a few chords or a hint of melody, and suggestions as to mood or tone. Davis liked to work this way; he thought it forced musicians to pay close attention to one another, to their own performances, or to Davis's cues, which could change at any moment.
I like to work this way because I’ve found that it is only through putting myself into uncomfortable situations that that the experience is fully charged. The common thread between the artists I have referenced and myself is the search for a fluid, immediate language informed primarily by well researched spontaneity. When at times such as now it is incumbent on me to pin it down, to come up with a summary for what it is I am aiming to achieve through my painting, I feel the reductive constraint of a language that is incompatible. Ideally the work should be viewed through a more open perspective- such as the scales of music appreciation.