Painting and Memory

Crowning the Grand Sow

Painting is the power of suggestion. There is nature and then there is art. When painting you look at something, and then you have to shift your eye to the canvas. There’s a few seconds where there’s only memory to guide you.

It would be interesting if some real authority investigated carefully the part which memory plays in painting. We look at the object with an intent regard, then at the palette, and thirdly at the canvas. The canvas receives a message dispatched usually a few seconds before from the natural object. But it has come through a post office en route. It has been transmitted in code. It has been turned from light into paint. It reaches the canvas a cryptogram. Not until it has been placed in its correct relation to everything else that is on the canvas can it be deciphered, is its meaning apparent, is it translated once again from mere pigment into light. And the light this time is not of Nature but of Art.” – Sir Winston Churchill.

Churchill is talking about painting, say a landscape, and the seconds needed to transmit in code what is seen in nature onto the canvas.  I think there is a certain style or look in painting which has been lost because of  modern aids like projectors. You lose those moments when you hold a reference in memory. After all, how a painter transmits this code onto canvas (basically how their brain works and interprets visual cues) is what makes each painter unique. A projector cuts out that middle process, creating something more photographic in nature. That’s ok if that’s the intention. But I like the natural awkwardness that working from memory lends to my works. I don’t work from models (also partly due to antisocial behavior) and rarely from finished drawings. I like to hold compositions in memory. This process of recollection and piecing things together is vital to my art. How else to create images a step removed from reality and suspended in time?