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The language of paint III

My intention has never been to reduce the practice of painting to a theory. The whole point of the practice of the six visual languages is to get on and practise it.

Practical studies like painting, drawing and printmaking (and, indeed a mix between all three) demand a physical, embodied engagement with the materials as you play and process your concepts through it. The kinaesthetic activity of making a painting can bring with it, if allowed, powerful questions. The haptic resonances of the paint on a flat surface can open up wonderous opportunities. If the artist allows the materials and their restrictions and personalities to challenge the idea thoroughly, even supplant it, extraordinary things can happen. Sometimes things not looked for or anticipated can happen in the process of the making.

It would be like going to Edinburgh in a car, with no intention of getting off and just going from A to B. In other words, it would be like filling in and illustrating the idea if you don’t allow your materials to challenge and suggest new ideas to you. There would be no metamorphosis of the idea through your body and soul to the materials. The language of paint is a different partnership of mind, body, and soul. Each new work is a unique journey with its very own language game. It is through this marriage of the artist’s body and soul with the chosen materials and mediums that can cause surprise and create a unique visual language.

Colour theories don’t provide a bridge into the physical handling of colour. They are not much use to the painter for whom colour is pigment which becomes paint.

This physical matter is transformed by your imagination. A fusion takes place when all these factors combine:

  • Past embodied experiences with a range of materials.
  • The language game that you have chosen for this unique expression. By this I mean decisions about size, scale, and proportion for the surface; and about the ground colour, tone, underpainting, texture, absorbency and so forth.
  • Then there is the choice of colour palette suitable for this conversation.
  • As you paint and play, it will be your body responding through all your senses as your soul interacts with all the materials.
  • You then pull on all your associations, feelings, and lived experiences. These are expressed instinctively and intuitively.
  • Throughout the process, you draw on your logic and ability to reason, with the deliberate intention to control and make something happen.

This marriage of self with the materials becomes an imprint of your soul – your very essence.

The finished painting becomes, as Winnicott explains, your ‘transitional object’, a ‘not-me’, a separate entity. At this point, your humanity, mind, character, thoughts, and feelings have conferred with your individuality to reveal something of your inner self.

This alchemy of materials and (you yourself, actually) is a language-making that lies way outside of words.