11 - 16 December 2015 Wittgenstein famously remarked that “ If a lion could talk we would not understand him.”If these paintings could talk, we would not understand them either. The point is, of course, that there are many languages. The language of “ abstract “ painting, perhaps all painting, does not primarily require the means of communication I am using in this statement to explain or define its imagery. There is always the seemingly unavoidable barrier “ What does it mean ? “. I recall Anthony Caro’s riposte when someone asked him this about one of his steel sculptures that had been erected outside a new college or university campus : “ What does breakfast mean ? “.
Flippant ? Perhaps, but wholly justified. Maybe the more telling enquiry would be “ What does it do ? “. What does the painting the viewer is looking at do ? How does it instigate a response ? Is there an interaction, perhaps even a kind of visual dialogue that may develop as the viewing experience progresses ? This engagement, to see an abstract painting as an event, or a series of events that occupy the field of vision simultaneously, not in any sense a narrative, is admittedly problematic when the viewer may unavoidably, or even unconsciously, transpose the imagery into some kind of linear linguistic “ clarification “ or reforge the visual elements into recognisable or even figurative forms.
In my own work it is always the intention to imbue in the viewer a sense of well being. What I am trying to make the paintings do is make the viewer feel good. That's it.
The musical experience may well be relevant here, and I suspect equally important from both the listeners and the players standpoint. How and why does a piece of music make one feel, think and respond the way it does ? And, interestingly, the same piece may do this repeatedly, provoking the same reactions. Explaining this in the common discourse, the language we use in societal interaction, may prove as difficult as defining the dialogue with abstraction. Or talking to that lion.