Mark-making and emptying out subject-matter

I have just began painting after a month or so off due to moving into a new house so I am relieved to finally settle into my new studio. To get myself going I decided to re-work some older paintings that I had begun some two years ago. At the time I was focusing on mark-making and more abstract approach. I continued to work these and enjoy being playful with shape and line and bringing this
way of working to tackle subject-matter which I previously worked in a more realist approach. This change makes sense to me as I felt I was reaching a bit of an impasse and drying up creatively.

Compared to painting from a photo where you have a subject to hinge to; in terms of colour, form, formal aspects in general, working in an 'abstract' vein is more challenging. My difficulty is trying not to leave stuff out. Painting that is more  'language based', turns inward upon itself -the mark-making  resonates inwardly- ie: repeated patterns, colour and form that is already in the painting and the danger is taking this too far which inevitably will 'empty' the painting of subject-matter and external references the more it feeds on itself so to speak..basically what happened in the 1970s. it becomes  a formal exercise. This is the tight-rope that you need to walk..I think of Richard Diebenkorn's ocean park series.. is an excellent (successful) example of abstraction, not cold and dry and devoid of life like a lot of late modernist abstraction.


Sylvain said...

Wow, here is something very interesting. I kind of bump into the same problems as I am feeling limited thoses times by working on "reality". I really share that feeling and it has been months that i am thinking of a new serie maybe abstract. Same subjects, same problems? :) Cheers

Stephen Abela said...

Hi Sylvain,
I am glad you can relate - I often find that the subject-matter remains the same for me but when i reach a point where I feel I am repeating myself or just not feeling inspired -I need a break. I find that abstracting -is almost a necessity for me from time to time.. often I will go back to looking at Picasso -less illusion and more surface. The tension between illusion and surface is always there for me but there are many ways too approach it..