11th Apr 2019
The coffee is tasting great thanks! A welcome break from my '£1 Maxwells Classic Roast'. I'll try give a general idea of experiences/ ideas & how they've fed into my work
I think for a long time i had my head especially deep in the sand, i just wasn't looking at the world - or if i was it was a self absorbed sentimental way of looking - a lot of assumptions that allowed the world to stand in front of me as an unquestioned complete picture.i was probably walking around ,city or in country side, not seeing anything, but in a complete dream where things were archetype's of things, i didn't see THAT wooden thing miraculously growing out the ground, i saw just TREE , unquestioned set dressing for my determinations. i had these (and have still somewhat - though hopefully diminishing)foggy assumptions of all things and objects, and my sight of each specific thing, whether a drum, a chair or a branch,was simply there to fulfil my impression of that thing. i was just too in my own head, my experience was just one big dense chain of assumptions.
The problem with that is that when I'm looking at the sun or a tree or anything, I'm not really seeing whats in front of me, I'm not learning through observation - which has become very important to me - furthermore if i'm not learning from observation, the most obvious of the senses- then theres not much chance of paying attention to the others for any sustained or substantial amount of time- and what is 'known' feels kind of un-grounded and weightless - for me at least. so i started to want to build my sense of what life is from the ground up. because once a removed awareness began to appear on what i said, thought and observed, i became very confused and alienated in my place in the world, not realising that was because my assumptions on the way the things worked, the connections between things i was drawing were breaking apart. I was noticing their redundancy to explain things, their lack of substance or weight as a self started to appear in the back end of the hubristic husk one tends to be at the end of adolescence . I realised there really wasn't much to me - i hadn't really worked for the case-closed assumptions i had of the world or life. I was just born in an age of scientific discovery and lazily went with third hand knowledge of how the natural world worked that i got from this.
The aim now is to steer clear of that lazy way of looking and cultivate kind of informed ageless way of looking and feeling while i'm alive- to notice things like the patterns of growth and decay - and how these patterns arise from a non-material will, and how what we see, the material universe, is only the temporary result of this will - and to find this out for myself through a slow cultivating awareness.
It's this train of thought that seems to be the thing that excites me and pulls me from a hole these days and the painting inevitably follows that. i think you can vaguely see it in the focus of subjects in more recent work, whittling away the crap to leave something that doesn't feel done for cheap effect, not some puff of smoke, but something that falls under these things i've been writing about on how to look closer, - while maintaining a sense of not having a clue, not 'to draw conclusions like curtains' as John Martyn says.
At the moment the inspiration, on a material level atleast comes from little things like rocks or sticks, things that aren't overwhelming at first, just a simple bit of nothing, but with some sustained observation and thought they become humbling and powerful representations of bigger things at work.
ANYWAY, to lazily conclude, the painting is wrapped up in all of this stuff. I hope some of that made sense! Sometimes I don't know when i've lost my train of thought and am just talking bollocks ha!
These days the research is a bit of slop bucket of experience and scattered reading.
I don't think my work is really based on any individual ideas. Its this sort of snowball rolling down the hill on its own and occasionally i throw a book at it that might push it more accurately in the direction it was going anyway. As i said earlier I find if i just work on making sure how i'm feeling, thinking and working are feeding each other then a natural engagement with the work emerges, where its not so much individual ideas that are worked on, but a constant progressive search for something that will surprise me, built on things I've done that already seem right.
Everyone is engaged with all sorts in their heads in their day to day, i just try to make sure my work honestly reflects or at least tries to reflect what i am engaged with and what is important to me, as appose to having some highly specific enquiry that is put away as soon as i leave the studio. if i had to narrow down that 'engagement' it'd just be 'whats all this then?'
Where i used to recoil at something like a worm , now its something i want to look at and pick up for a few minutes, curious at the fact that its even alive, and what makes it alive? Outside of the word worm, what the hell is thing thing? I dont know, nor will I. But once i'm outside of that anxious annoying line of questioning thats when the fun of observation really begins. I kind of feel like ive been wandering through a desert and come across some abandoned city, and i'm interested in all of it just for being there, but instead of a abandoned city its just everything. Generally speaking nature feels more intriguing to me because its actually alive, its getting on with its mysterious business with or without me.
I find reading some of the Hindu texts 'the Upanishads' helps with this sort of thinking. John Berger's 'why look at animals' that was a good un'! And i'm currently trying to read Schopenhauer's 'the world as will and idea' which is proving to be a bit dense for bedtime. Overall I just follow my nose as far as what looks like it might help with my own questioning, looking for a sense of familiarity with my own weird self in any corner of history - which isn't too hard considering my line of thought is pretty well trodden ground.
I've been painting pretty solidly on small boards since graduating in 2017, i have a fad every now and then where i paint on clay or something thinking that will solve everything, but i usually end up back where i started with these small boards. I like making small paintings because its easier to make them feel dense, where the forms seem locked in the space they inhabit - through trial and error trying to make them look thick, bulging or heavy - not so much that its the only thing noticeable but enough that it registers. I'm working with the assumption that to capture this believable weight of each thing, the scale has to match the size of the thing if it existed in real life (more or less).
These 'things' are pretty nondescript, they look like alot of things, but not too much of anything- a bit fleshy, a bit rocky .The way I'm working suits the subject or the subject suits the way i'm working - which side i lean on more depends on the painting. Its a sort of triangle where my current approach, the subject and more generally, what i think about on a day to day basis are all connected - nothing is being needlessly hemmed in.
The paintings usually arise, with no plan, from constant changes, building up and scraping down, they naturally end up as basic forms, if i start adding on beaks and legs and eyes, for now at least, it feels kind of overly assumptive to force the paint to look like something its not. At the moment I feel theres more of a kinship between the inanimate and paint, their from the same neck of the woods, so it feels like less of a lie, less of linear theatrical 'sign' of something in the world. Instead, despite its lack of direct identification with anything i recognise, i'm able to use paint to more honestly follow the logic of matter of things in the world because of the freedom allowed from not having to round the form up to some comprehensible sign. The things feel more real and weighed down this way yet still blatantly not the thing itself, but this provokes a exciting tension where it is at once something alive and thick, but also just material under no guise of illusion.
To get close to this its just a case of scraping out and starting again till i hit on some arrangement of form and colour that falls under this sort of thing just mentioned, to feel i'm making something new, but built on what i've done before- another rock stacked on the mound!
Its like a Russian doll where the various incarnations move toward something less obvious till i'm left with something new. Something that isn't some static mask confined by conscious ideas. Instead I'm left with something that is the result of a few key decisions that represent a truer self that could never be expressed through the linearity of talking as talking, in some ways, is pushed into the narrow single file structure of time, one moment to the next, where as painting can hold hours in it yet seen instantly, hitting you at once while simultaneously containing the undocumented tenacity to reach its natural conclusion.
I like painting on wet, resolving a painting in a tiring burst of a few days, as i feel this helps knock them into the ball park of what i'm talking because its not a scrap book of moments that happened over weeks or months that resolve into a picture. Instead its evidence of a process of whittling down on a silent train of thought. I feel the paintings become more kinetic this way, everything relates to everything else in it in some incalculable way, each decision happened in the same state. And that state is this sort of mad earned focus when I know what it needs and know when i'm going wrong -I can suddenly part without a thought with what I was helplessly fiddling with the whole day before. I feel i'm solving a problem i solved before, but was done a long time ago and i barely remember how i did it. And even if i think it's shit in a year i'm doing a more articulated form of it, there's still a sense of it being finished, nothing needs changing, despite its faults that appear with hindsight, i did the best i could and felt a sense of enjoyment and fulfilment putting those final marks in. I suppose thats my vague aim or concern, to continue getting the bus home feeling as though i completed something i didn't even know i wanted to do.
Till a few months ago i kept the titles pretty descriptive and matter of fact. I'd write what i thought it looked like. i suppose they sound playful because whats there was quite eccentric. If there was any intent with those older paintings titles, it was just to create some drab humorous contrast between the 'wacky' pictures that could be many things, and then i come in and say 'no, its this, this is the thing it is' - to rob it of its blatant multiplicity. Slowly though the humorous contrast has drifted away because the work itself has become more true to this matter of fact approach. i want to straddle a line where there is still a sense of fun and spectacle in the picture, but its also quite solid, believable, almost like a anatomical drawing despite the fact it's all made up. Theres a tension between this stupid cartoon like imagination i have being on a leash, held by another part of me wanting more focus and patience in the work. Funnily enough where the gap of the grounded title with the mad image used to be large, now it's closing i felt i've been able to allow a bit more ambiguity in the titles. Since i've started to get somewhere with this focus and weight ive been banging on about, adding a title that is a bit of a cheeky question mark, usually in relation to what i'm thinking about that week, or from a song of a good album that fits the bill - can make a painting that has a sense of finality to it more mysterious, the title can make the painting something of sign post for something more, left for whosoever is looking at them (probably not many!) to think on their relation.
I'd say being there is the majority of my practice. despite all I've mentioned about trying to learn from observation being important to me, its the accumulation of these experiences into the process of making a painting that in some ways make it feel like it counted - or atleast confirms that this attempt to see clearer is even happening, as to me atleast, the work reflects this - and encourages me to keep at it.
I think on a more basic level its good for me to have a studio as a form of tangible obligation to keep going aswell. As in, 'you did this degree, you pay for this room, you may as well go there and see what happens in there' - it can be hard after graduation to stay focused. Out of education, with only a few people from degree I felt i could get anywhere real when discussing what i was up to - so to just have some solid (and expensive!) ground to keep the ball rolling has been a good thread to help guide me through a time where on all other fronts i was completely clueless as what to do.
Probably the conversations of Phillip Guston and The Upanishads - one guide for painting that leaks into everything else, one guide for everything else that leaks into painting. The Guston because, for me, he's just great at talking about painting. Things i struggle to articulate, he throws out casually in a q and a - it was just really satisfying having all these very abstract thoughts and feeling that surround painting, put so succinctly in one book.
With The Upanishads there was calming sense of identification despite some initial confusion. I found out about it through David Lynch's book 'catching the big fish' - the stories and conversations in it seemed a bit impenetrable at first because of their ease and simplicity towards big things, but with time they really open up, or rather opened my head up.
Alongside this i'd say i find just as much inspiration in music and films. I've always loved albums and films that feel all encompassing, that bring you into their world, and use all the tools at the mediums disposal to get your there. theres no deviation what their trying to get across. Albums like Spirit by Willie Nelson and Hejira by Joni Mitchell, as much as i love each song individually in these, each song feels like a building block toward broader themes. The main one of 2018 was probably Leonard Cohen's 'The Future' and 'No Guru, No Method, No Teacher' by Van Morrison, there ones that i think really benefit from being familiar with almost everything by the artist and suddenly a blind spot in their discography really clicks.
Film-wise the ones that help my 'painting brain' most are when theres alot of content and activity found in small circumstances. Il Fidanzati and Time Stood Still by Ermanno Olmi, the Beckett on film version of Waiting For Godot, Kaneto Shindo's The Naked Island. and more recently i saw The Music Box - the Laurel and Hardy short film - i loved that for how much they got out of this aimless task, finding intrigue in tiny baron circumstances and how its this separate little world that operates on its own logic - i know its a bit backwards, but it reminded me of that great spongebob episode 'rock bottom' - mad happenings on empty landscapes - all that stuff goes somewhere deep and weird in me ha!
I've answered these two questions as a duo, as number 4 kind of answers number 9! I'm absent from any scene as much as i am online!
It's been a weird year and a bit of slowly moving forward and seeing alot of short comings in the work, at first stumped as to how i could 'fix' them - and only just starting to feel mildly satisfied with my direction when i just keep my head down and keep digging into what feels right from the previous painting, while learning how to function as young adult ha!
i'd say i'm in a bit of a cycle of short-sightedness where the frustrations and excitements are involving enough that i usually forget that showing , going to shows, or atleast trying, is part of the parcel. i'm just in this room doing this thing that keeps me relatively sane.
Laziness plays a part in it for sure, its something i need to work on, and then i go back in there and the dumb short-sightedness with what ever i'm working on kicks in and i stop caring again!
I make music aswell and i'm even worse with that. Its something i love doing so much, and am fascinated by on all fronts, but show about 5 people it (at that).
I assumed there might be some life lines, but in reality you have to make things happen yourself, i just haven't really got stuck in yet - i'll leave that as a 'to be continued'.
A big house in the middle of nowhere with a dog and a cat, food for the next 2 years is sorted, and i just have at it with music and painting! Jokes aside time is the most valuable asset for me, chunks of time to focus, so whatever circumstance allows more time and less bullshit. I've been trying to work on an album, and its taking alot longer than usual, not because of any lack of inspiration, but when your trying to hem creativity in through little pockets of time it can suffer , though occasionally it helps. and hearing these songs back, which i know are decent, but just not done to the best of my ability is a bit sad to me sometimes. forcing conclusions and seeing this thing kind of having to take a back seat to painting, which realistically, i have more chance of getting anywhere with. So really, just a nice environment, a big bucket of time and enough space to naturally come to the best conclusions i can come to with whatever i'm doing.
Seems far fetched, but a lad can dream!
SORRY 4 LACK OF DRAWING - HOPE THESE STUCK ON ONES COMPENSATE!
Jamie Scott-Dyson is an artist and musician based in London. To see more of his art check him out on Instagram @jamiescottdyson. To hear the odd piece of music, you'll find him on Soundcloud, if intrigued, get in touch through email@example.com and he'll bombard you with past albums he's made.