January – May 2020
68 DIGITAL SKETCHES ON THE THEME OF TEAMWORK
TEAMWORK started from reflections on prior series where single figures function as isolated icons or symbols, such as ROBO, MUSING and YOUR TURN. There is very little interaction with other figures there and while other series such as ACTIVISTS or PASS WORDS offer ample opportunities for elaborate multi-figure compositions, on a more intimate level, it is true I had not really dealt with relations between individuals much. Nor was I interested in turning to the usual romantic or sentimental genres as remedy, to scenes of care for the very young or vulnerable either. For the moment I leave those options to others. Instead, I wanted to focus on simply tasks shared, scenes of co-operation or partnership, in a word, TEAMWORK.
I soon discovered how regimented such tasks have become in our occupational health and safety world – strict uniforms, accessories, stances and conduct. I was a little out of touch. All streamline the task to robotic efficiency. This gave pause, certainly. Even if not exactly dealing in individuals in the workplace, the theme could nevertheless display interaction and dependency, aspects perhaps undervalued in previous work. I went with that. As I researched the theme, the sense became as much military as corporate, as much sporting as civic maintenance. Teams were everywhere. On the one hand, the theme seemed to drift toward socialist realism and an old fashioned salute to manual labour, on the other, jostling sponsorship logos and new technology steered the theme to a strand of science fiction.
The juncture between the two inevitably suggested the work of Neo Rauch, but differences there in method and attitude made as much for contrast as concern. And it is just one corner of my project. More of a concern was a kind of mission creep resulting in a good number of landscape format pictures. This occurred with the temptation to explore situations further. Teams and their goals took on a broader, often absurd aspect through novel situations or locations. Task and team became equal parts work and play, commerce and character, political and personal. It was an unexpected outcome and made for a longer series than planned, but added a twist. Teams are not easily confined or discarded, might be the message.
More notes at the bottom of the page.
NB. sub pages are used where there are more than four variations on a composition. The link to each follows the title of a work.
TWK-12 (Five Variations)
TWK-38-A (Five Variations)
TWK-49-A (Seven Variations)
While TEAMWORK complements preceding work in ways indicated and proves more central than expected, I have mixed feelings. The problem is whether the theme now comes too easily, perhaps dissipates the overall project. On a technical level, it has been ten years since I began to work in Photoshop and while a certain expertise is only to be expected, at the same time there is a nagging awareness of falling into predictable formulae. The problem is not confined to software of course, at some stage in an artist’s career consolidation is needed, options harden into a signature and variation must be pursued within that. All the same I fret about the scope of variations.
My solution had been to diversify my efforts, to pursue fiction and criticism and slow my pictorial output. I need to step back a bit, take in a wider perspective. This year I planned to publish only two or three series, to spend longer on each. As it turns out, other factors have slowed my output still further. The initial research for the series began in January and was then put aside to concentrate on a batch of new paintings. I hoped to alternate between the two but painting proved all-consuming and slow. Some of that was due to professional reversals which robbed me of momentum but the pandemic and freeze on business further undermined plans and confidence, seriously added to my doubts. All in all it has been a difficult five months.