The paintings are smoke and fire now, clouds and a blazing sunset. They're New Year's Eve at the Yasakajinja Shrine, fortunes written on sticks burning in the black night. How and why? One must push until something comes out, break the skin and see the blood.
The Checklist paintings no longer seem to be Checklist paintings. The lists have been buried. The restrictive black and white color palette has been subjugated. Mostly these six little paintings are floundering, flopping around helplessly like caught fish before they meet the club.
When I'm in the studio painting I'm often so deep in my own head I sometimes forget where I am. I forget that I am in Japan. The dialogue is between myself and my paintings. It is slightly shocking when I open the door and step into Kyoto.
The Checklist paintings are just beginning to open up. A whisper, "This way." Not the path I expected, but I'll go along, see where it leads before I take the wheel.
I've lost the connection to the brushes. I feel a tourist visiting a strange land. What am I doing here? I must work hard to reestablish communication.
Restrictions are in place: A4-sized printed Checklists, black and gray washi, black and white paint. Now what?
This is a short film produced on the occasion of my exhibition Under the Influence: paintings and the collected ephemera of life at Foil Gallery in Kyoto, Japan 2015.
1. The flâneur vs. the salaryman
2. Train station announcements
3. For all we know
4. Having outgrown their usefulness
5. That didn’t pan out
6. Existential forecast
7. Drunk as a skunk
8. jusqu’à la fin
9. Painting at it
10. Document the abrasions
11. Don’t despair
12. Up, down, across
13. instant dream / dream instant
14. Took it too far
15. The greatest unknown
16. Living like it’s 1915
17. It’s been so long
18. sunrise: 4:44AM; sunset: 7:08PM
19. Like opening the wrong side of the milk carton
20. Intellectual mumbo jumbo
21. Am I repeating myself?
23. Never bow to the Burning Sky
24a. confronting death
24b. investing in rain-checks
26. I’m tired of
27. Throwaway 20/1
28. When you ain’t got nothing to lose
29. Round and round and round
30. hors pistes
31. Keep up the façade
32. Numbered days
Under the Influence: The Collective Ephemera Wall
Foil Gallery August 1 -16, 2015
Under the Influence は日々私たちが集めている一見ランダムで関連のないもの全てを用い、私たちが誰であるかとうことを浮かび上がらせる試みです。この「日常の陽炎」は私たちの潜在意識に浸透し、しばしば他のものとして再浮上します。私にとってこれらは文字通り大小様々な影響を作品に及ぼし、テクスチャーと色をそこから受け取っています。
Under the Influence is my attempt to show how all the seemingly random and unrelated things that collect around us everyday actually shape who we are. This ephemera penetrates our subconscious and often resurfaces as something else. For me, these are the influences large and small that literally go into my paintings and give them form, texture and color.
I invite the viewer to think about their own personal daily ephemera and what influence it has upon them, and to post something here on the gallery wall. It could be anything: a receipt from lunch, a business card which someone gave you, a page from the magazine you’re reading, a grocery list, a train ticket, your broken umbrella, an old photograph. Use the pins, thumbtacks, tape and stapler provided to stick these things on the wall.
Then watch the collage grow over the next two weeks. I will photograph the ephemera that is put up here each day and post the photos on my website www.rscottwallace.com and the Foil Gallery website www.foilkyoto.com.
The last push before the show. Painting in the morning heat with the cicada. Finally this large triptych looks like something. Days doubting; you won't finish. Then it reveals itself. Confidence returns.
Driven by fatigue. Can't know if this piece is anywhere until my eyes are clear and bright. Maybe just applying paint and paper simply to cover the large panels. Wrongheaded approach. Leave it open, let it breathe. Pull back. Anyway, there is perhaps too much pressure to finish for this ever to be good.
Pushing, pushing because of the exhibition deadline, but is it any good? I like working towards something, a show, but a painting mustn't be forced. Uncertainty hangs over the work. Tonight it is an I-don't-know. We'll see what morning light brings.
Chasing something. A color, a feeling. Hints of an earlier painting. But the light is dim and the fatigue stains my eyes. The pressure of the show looms large. Best foot forward. First and last chances.
This is coming from the kitchen uncooked, totally raw. It is the result (perhaps) of 6+ months of stuttering. This is where we were going. This is where we were going?
It's a battle. So many years of attack, attack, attack. Now, trying to hold back, simplify, make something light, open. I must be careful not to eviscerate the painting.
Too long idle brushes. How to view it: a fresh start without baggage, or lost rhythm and direction.
Still chasing that restrained Japanese style. Decent start. Potential for something good or a derailment. So it is with every painting.
It's getting good. A lightness to these colors. A new dialogue between paper and paint.
Color palette defined by washi paper. Rich earth tones. It rips and bleeds beautifully. Black and white paint over/under. It's all somehow early 20th Century, a cup of coffee in Vienna before the Wars.
Sometimes a painting won't speak to you until dusk. The changing light. Shadows grow. Colors somehow become more lush. I sit staring at the painting wondering where it came from. 60 minutes earlier we weren't speaking. There was no dialogue. Is this something?
Another long pause. Dull brushes. Another eruption. Action. This piece is a loaded spring, rough, moving from left to right. A mid-century color palette.
Still the Japanese sumi-e approach eludes me. One can't force a painting to be something it is not. Like John Lee Hooker said, "it's in you and it's got to come out." The others will come when they come.
The little piece that pushes and pulls. Uncertainty. This one, despite its diminutive size, asks something. It requires your time. You're not going to get off easy. Troublesome.
It was getting good. Then...it went off the tracks. Paintings are funny that way; they can sometimes be rather delicate creatures. It is important to listen. Don't be headstrong with your ideas about the direction they should go. Push them, but recognize resistance.
And then it busts wide open. Your patience is rewarded and you remember why you do this.
Finally put hand to brush and brush to panel after a too-long hiatus. Always difficult to return. The relationship is severed. You don't know the paintings, and they don't know you. Basically starting over.
Working towards neutral. Black and white. Washi paper in earth tones. Away from color riots. A miniature "fusuma" is the direction. Four panels that tell one story.
1. Nobody else to blame
2. The cricket’s chirp
3. Remarkably ordinary lives
4. Race 7 – Flat Gone
5. art bilk
6. I’m sure I’ve seen this movie before
7. Everyday…still here
8. Page not found
9. Broke the skin
10. Unsolicited exclusion
11. Make it through to the other side
12. Like a gunfighter
13. When the money’s all gone
14. Voice control
15. Wary of one’s countrymen
16. Reading yesterday’s news
17. Sitting Japanese
18. Oh yeah, here I am
19. Assistance vs. assistants
20. A keen observer
21. The smell of earth
22. Someone I used to know
23. Don’t lose focus
24. Losing the point
26. Speaking to an audience of one
27. Between stations
28. A coquettish smile?
29. art gibberish
30. Feeling combative
31. It all adds up
32. This isn’t working