THE UNIQUENESS OF PAINT by Chris Hardman (January 2016)

30 YEARS ON: BRIAN NEISH Solo Exhibition at The University of Winchester (May 2015)
2nd May 2015
MANHATTAN Solo Exhibition at Store Street Gallery (February 2016)
2nd February 2016
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Manhattan Window #6 (2015) Oil on canvas 30.0 x 40.0" / 76 x 101cm SOLD

FOR ME THERE IS SOMETHING FUNDAMENTAL ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH PAINT. AS A MATERIAL IT IS DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE, HOWEVER ITS APPLICATION OFFERS US A UNIVERSE OF POSSIBILITIES. Paint offers the opportunity for the youngest to the oldest to say something with marks and colours, and has left us the legacy of painters as diverse as prehistoric person painting on a rock wall, to Vermeer to Rothko and Pollock. These are just a handful of stars in the myriad of constellations in the painting cosmos, some famous, some unknown, but still personal, whatever their quality or ability.

I remember Hockney waxing lyrical on the TV about the sensuous quality of the material and how the very act of dipping a brush into a paint pot had a satisfying feel to it. The painted mark in all its diversity and intentions connects in a very personal way with its audience. Here is part of the famous Leonardo comment about the power of the imagination when stimulated by the apparently random, implying there are as many ways to see as there are human beings:

”Do not despise my opinion, when I remind you that it should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or the ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which, if you consider them well, you may find really marvellous ideas. The mind of the painter is stimulated to new discoveries …”

The whole quote and I urge you to read it all, never fails to excite me. It provides an awesome glimpse into the universe of paint. Some are intimidated by the breadth of possibilities it implies, applying unnecessary rules and limits. I’ve come across abstract painters who won’t discuss their work with me because my particular painted abstractions represent something recognisable. The don’t believe they have anything in common and that I don’t understand abstraction. Brian Neish is enlightened, realising that he and I represent a range of differences and similarities pulled together by a breadth of shared experiences as painters, enabling us to discuss and enthuse about our good fortune at being painters … he the abstract painter, me the representational …

Part of my working discipline involves contemplating an area of a painting, without any regard to its intended purpose, and allowing my mind to consider it well, so that, to paraphrase Leonardo, I ‘may find really marvellous ideas’. It prepares my state of mind for the work ahead. This is the experience I have when looking at Brian’s work. He has taught me not to be so controlling and manipulative, not to be so reliant on skill, but to give time to examining a work in another way and become sensitised to is subliminal qualities … to let the marks and colours take me where they will. This is very much the view he takes with him when he tunes into his “Noble Decay” and roams around, seeing a universe in the things we may ignore as we go about lives defined by routine and order that have become accepted, taken for granted. To add the things he sees to our creative repertoire, gives us that moment of stillness when the usual narrative of our lives is suspended and we can allow an expressive and creative bridge to extend to a different world, another planet.

His use of paint, so at odds with his pristine studio, is thick, it’s flowing, and it is crusty: each method of application revealing surprising and unexpected colours in many and varied relationships. Thin colour with others barely visible beneath, areas of colour with other colours exposed as if they had been affected by the same forces of time, weather and random acts that contribute to his notion of “Noble Decay”. I feel that his work has contributed an enhanced sense of freedom and broadened my expressive repertoire. I have learned a bit more about paint and how it can make a slightly better artist. Thank you Brian and from the mighty galaxy of paint, may the force be with you.

CHRIS HARDMAN, JANUARY 2016