Paintings on copper

“I adore the act of painting, it’s so extraordinarily subtle. To paint the expression of a face and to change that expression, from happy to sad by one miniscule change in the shadow of an eye, makes one never want to do anything else.”

(Glenn Brown quoted in Charlotte Mullins’ Painting People)

Glenn Brown brings our attention to an exciting aspect of painting – its mutability. His thinking about paint as a fluid, shifting substance on a surface offers a useful point of entry for reflection on my work. In this project, oil paint that is dissolved in solvent is poured onto a horizontal sheet of copper. The non-porous surface of copper causes the paint to flow, pool and disperse across the surface. The luminous ground shines through the thin layers of paint.

The importance of the medium and a search for exploratory processes of painting underpin this project. But the formal concern of light and transparency that is offered by the copper surface ties into my interest in x-rays of paintings, in particular recent autoradiographs of works by Dutch Masters, Vermeer and Rembrandt. X-ray images of such paintings reveal things that would otherwise remain invisible to the unaided eye. These images present an opportunity to engage with the changeability of technique present in paintings. The human forms that were whole in the original paintings become ghostly shadows in x-ray.

This project brings together x-ray images of paintings with fragments from well-known paintings and personal images from my family album. While diverse in their origin, the activity of painting seeks a moment of recognition or empathy with the painted figure; searching for lost moments, hidden in memory or behind new layers of paint.