22 PAINTINGS OF URBAN LANDSCAPES
These paintings build generic places from various details of architecture, attendant figures and transport, occasion or event, season or hour, perspective or projection, focus or volume. Yet the pictures never quite add up to a cohesive whole, never quite break down to easy parts. Parts are diverse, graded and slippery, wholes are full of holes. The pictures juggle impressions and make for a restless, uneasy grasp of places and pictures (more at the bottom of the page).
Blue Tower – 42 X 33ins Acryl/can 2000
Express – 42 X 36 ins acryl/can 2000
Heritage Alley – 42 X 33 ins acryl/can 2000
Two Buses Descending – 42 X 33 ins acryl/can 2000
Kiosk – 42 X 33ins acryl/can 2000
Industrial Picturesque – 33 X 26ins acryl/can 2000
Mercedes – 33 X 26ins acryl/can 2000
The Old Surgery – 33 X 26ins acryl/can 2000
Guided Tour – 33 X 26ins acryl/can 2000
Boutique Scene – 33 X 26ins acryl/can 2000
Outside the Civic Centre – 33 X 26ins acryl/can 2000
Traffic Lights – 28 X 22ins acryl/can 2000
Bueno – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/canv 2000
Backlot – 20 X 16ins 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
Trolley – 20X 16ins 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
Summer Suburb – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
Pink Snow – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
Forecourt – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
Edinburgh Gardens – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
The Old Town – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
The Old Mill – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
The Aquatic Centre – 20 X 16ins – 50.8 X 40.6cm acryl/can 2000
They started out as studies in architecture that would highlight the intersection between presentation and representation, or an object displayed and an object pictured. Most architecture is about creating a striking impression as much as any practical function and such impressions ultimately involve pictorial terms, a point of view and framing, lighting, scale and focus. Architecture thus shares the theme of display with some of my preceding series. But unlike sculptures, pop singers and prepared food, presentation for architecture tends to invite wider design, civic planning, landscape gardening and zoning or neighbourhood. It is easy enough to isolate a single building of course, but this rather restricts an appreciation of its appearance in a given location or context. Once I noticed how a whole landscape smoothly followed from considerations of a building as presentation, the theme expanded. But it was not clear whether the presentation was now an expanded view of architecture or a reduced view of a city. The pictures sample a grey area, or perhaps ‘cityness’.
The urban landscape, while pervasive in mass media, is not quite conspicuous or easily recognised there. The series refers less to an obvious print genre than a broader one shared with painting. Having dwelt upon print legacies through preceding series, this seemed less of a priority now. At the same time, refinements to my technique made it tempting to apply them to a more traditional genre. Urban landscapes traditionally range from a utopian formal programme (usually with geometric ideals) to social criticism (mostly humanistic ideals). Formalism is either optimistic for technological progress or nostalgic for a classical past. Social perspectives are pessimistic and variously deplore poverty, crime and oppression. My series falls somewhere in between.
Works draw attention to how an impression of an object bundles additional qualities drawn from circumstance. A building’s lighting scheme is best seen in the dark for instance, an imposing forecourt best admired with an empty standing zone. No one view will accommodate all of a building or city’s assets, and any sequence or conjunction would only be one such combination. In practice of course we happily switch between views for convenience. We see with many glances. We variously note a city’s restorations, revivals and revisions, for example, accepting a degree of compromise and inconsistency in priorities. Similarly, we are untroubled by confusions over false facades and forced perspectives, a fashionable folly and future landmark, faux ruins and failed construction. We disregard some views in order to adopt others.
My pictures amplify this practice. They build a perspective from parts of architecture (by hour, weather, scale, focus, etc) as much as build architecture from a perspective (wrapped in other resources). Structure and content are a two-way and tentative affair. As with preceding series, my approach rejects fundamentals of form for pictorial fragments that cue an object by angle, light and other circumstance. A fragment links variously to others by one or some qualities – may maintain light at the expense of proportion, or vice versa, scale at the expense of weather, focus at the expense of angle and so forth. It accommodates conflicts within larger, looser arrangements. Here this method finds not just an exemplary theme in urban qualities or ‘cityness’ but a model for pictorial negotiation and navigation, a ‘cityicity’. The multiple, circular character of the name catches a restless reflection to method.