This Monday’s lecture by Stewart Geddes was very intense and really helpful. In addition to the fact that he uses paint and therefore there were elements of process which were of more specific interest to me, there was an overview of how his studio practice has developed over several decades to which he gave us a really interesting insight as to how that can happen. In this case how a ‘crisis’ in his practice evolved and allowed him to go in new directions. This is really useful at this stage where we are in a sense ‘unpicking’ what we do.
These are the things I chose to reflect on:
The idea of making a painting into an object. Geddes changed to wood as a support as it is more resistant to his process of removing and scratching away than canvas for example. He has also chosen to alter the shape of the support and reference contemporary objects such as ipads. I am interested in the connection between the painting and the object and seeing paintings as objects in this way.
The idea of the unstable sign. This was present in Geddes’ work in the process of ‘decollage’ for which he referred to Jacques Villeglé and Raymond Hains
This is present in his process of adding and taking away. so continually modifying both his ‘found’ signs and his own constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed ones. In a world where most agree that signs are extremely relative he takes this idea one step further in his practice. It is interesting that his other practices of found paintings and photographic work follow a very different process. It was especially useful to see how he unpicked the process of one painting for us. He showed many stages of transformation of this piece. One of the most memorable statements he made was how when he was seduced by one element of a painting he painted over it. This is especially interesting in the light of watching the interview on VL2 with Tomma Abts who says that the more developed a painting is the more difficult it becomes to totally change everything as she risks losing everything. I think we have all felt that so I am impressed by Geddes’s discipline. I tend to remove or paint over parts of my work that are not working and therefore become unbearable. This stage of the presentation was probably the most useful and enjoyable for me as a practitioner. Although I work very differently it was a great insight a made me question how I choose to edit my work.
Geddes’s ability to change his practice when he had a successful career as a painter is also really significant and opened up new ways of working. The use of photography focusing on the ruin of buildings from his own lifetime and the urban environment he lives with and found paintings which are again objects that he exhibits alongside his paintings and photographs. This mixture of practices which seem very separate in terms of process create another discourse when placed together. I suppose therefore illustrating the instability of the sign even further. I found that Tanya’s question about why he needed to paint when he could make the photograph really resonated with me. Tanya’s photographs she showed at this point were really impressive. As Man Ray said
‘I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence’
What Tanya’s and other good photographs have is that existence and something else I think but I have to be careful as I am very much out of my depth here. I did observe, however, that painting still seems to be Geddes’s main practice and the other elements are important but support the painting, add to it even, rather than protagonise his studio work. But I am a painter.
The drawings. It was really great to see the drawings that Geddes shared as part of the presentation. I would personally have loved to have seen more of them. As is often the case they show most of the process and have an energy that few final pieces of work ever achieve. I regret not asking him about exhibiting the drawings and how they fit in with the other strands of his practice.
We were really lucky to get this chance to listen to Stuart Geddes and be able to ask him questions, he was a very generous lecturer.