blockpaintings : encaustics

Motivation for the series

As I’ve mentioned in various other posts, I often find it difficult to stay focused on tasks, especially repetitive tasks. This results in my body of work jumping all over the place.

Apparently, that’s not how things should be done, especially if one hopes to be successful, marketable, or understood. I disagree to some extent, but there is value in having continuity in the work.

Defining the parameters

Although I have previously worked in series, the motivations were based on design or style. The shortcomings are once I’d executed an idea it seemed somewhat redundant to repeat it in a slightly different form.

A different approach was required for the blockpainting series. This time I would set out some basic parameters first. I knew which materials I would use, encaustic (wax) on a wooden former, and I roughly knew the look I wanted.

The controlling factor for this series would be format. Each piece would begin as a preassembled plywood block of a set size. I know this might seem an obvious place to start, but I tend to be ideas first, format second.

I hoped this approach would remove some dithering from my thought process. It did, to a point, until I had to decide on a number. As I usually struggle to extend a series beyond about five or six pieces I eventually decided to go for nine.

It might seem like a joke, but that would really test the endurance of my interest.

Scale and proportion

Another motivation for the series was to explore a flat painted surface as a sculptural form.

We often look at a painting as being two dimensional, as a single surface, rather than as an object. By extending the front surface further from the wall it is easier to appreciate it as a solid object. Keeping the objects small also enabled me to achieve a sense of solidity without each piece becoming unwieldy.

10x10x5cm seemed like a pleasing proportion to explore the idea, while keeping the scale small enough for me to complete a series without getting distracted. Larger objects of a similar proportion would also have been interesting but there’s no way I would have been able to sustain enough interest or patience to complete more than a couple.

An interesting aspect of working at a small scale is one of intimacy and approachability.

Large scale work fills our field of view, creating an emotional and psychological response that only large works can achieve. There is also often an idea that bigger is better.

Small pieces, on the other hand, demand us to get up close to really appreciate what is going on. This in itself creates a different response.

Working in a series

As for the series itself, there was still some struggle in maintaining continuity throughout, but I don’t feel that is an issue. This is really just a collection of individual pieces, loosely related by format, material, and a few graphical elements.

As with the ‘Loading’ series, I chose to use encaustic wax for its body, sculpting quality, and luminosity.

Some graphic and compositional elements are also related to my tattoo work, and aspects of some of my paintings. Of course, using wax did bring some challenges but I allowed the working qualities of the material to inform the results.

Although I have deliberately tried to limit the sculptural qualities of the wax, I definitely see these as sculptural works rather than paintings.


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