Wednesday, January 08, 2014

"Stick with what you are interested in ...."

Of the other four artists in the Tate Painting Now exhibition, Simon Ling interested and intrigued us the most.  My husband has turned his mind mostly to taking photographs, and we had extensive thought provoked discussions in this room.
Simon Ling: Untitled (from here)
When an artist is articulate with words as well as with their chosen medium I always to prefer to read or hear what they have to say.  I am taking the liberty of reproducing the excellent article which was published by the Guardian newspaper in November last year:

Simon Ling
When I was a student, painting was perceived as having run out of energy. Of course, the more you find out about it, the less sense that makes. But, in a way, it was good that the pressure felt off. At college, I saw a documentary about the painter Philip Guston (A Life Lived by Michael Blackwood), which convinced me that you should stick with what you are interested in and screw everybody else. What he said was a revelation to me, especially about the position the painter could occupy in relation to the world and to your own life, and how to connect the lines between the mind, painting and the world.

I paint in the street because the texture of decision-making is different. It feels sharper and healthier and quicker. One day, I saw a group of schoolkids approaching and I thought:"Here we go." But then one of them said something really perceptive: "That's live." And that is the reason I do it. I want to make this a live, but slightly shifted, version of the world that has me both in it and looking at it.

This picture is of a hotchpotch drag of shops on Hackney Road [in London]; elements constructed years apart that jut into each other. I started with the ornate bit of Victorian or Edwardian plaster decoration that seemed proud but useless. Then these other elements in some strange way hung around it. When you convert something from the real world into a painting, it has to function within the painting. And when it comes down to it, everything is a form of geometry on a flat surface. But the great thing about paint is that it still retains a sense of its temporality. So you make a fluid mark which then becomes solid. But the sense of it once being fluid is still there. That gesture you made to place that mark is held, as is the observation and the thought that prompted it.

The relationship between what I am painting and why isn't 100% clear to me to begin with. The subject is suspended in a way, and the result is more like a poem than a description, something that is evasive and slips away if you try to grab it. This painting is of a real place, but it is not to do with documenting or cataloguing; it is less a celebration of the ordinary than a demonstration of the idea that by painting something that is apparently nothing, it has the opportunity to become everything. The simple act of observation is a deep, mysterious and beautiful thing.
Simon Ling: Untitled (from here)
There is also an interesting conversation between Simon Ling and another painter, Chris Ofili here.


  1. Oh the vagaries of fashion ... thank you once again for setting me thinking - in fact thinking so much that I have written a post for my own blog which is in a sense a follow-up to yours.

  2. "The simple act of observation is a deep, mysterious and beautiful thing." - that could be my line.

    As always I envy your access to so many great exhibitions. But I should be more diligent in getting out to the ones here in Vancouver - have been lazy!

  3. Margaret - thank goodness there continue to be those who defy fashion.

    Marja-Leena, Indeed. Yes, we are lucky to have London on our doorstep, but increasingly I get much more out of smaller exhibitions, such as this one - despite it being in London.

  4. I looked at the paintings before reading, Olga, which is what I always do. And they bewitched me. I then read the extract, and it somehow added to the work which I was able to appreciate more deeply. 'Slightly shifted' and 'evasive and slips away' describe it so aptly.

    I am not sure whether I will be able to go and see this exhibition, but I have added it to the list of what I want to see when I manage to go to London next.

  5. Eirene, even if you do not manage to see this exhibition, perhaps you will be able to see the paintings elsewhere.

  6. I'm reading a book of interviews with David Hockney and he says something of the same thing: "the idea that by painting something that is apparently nothing, it has the opportunity to become everything. The simple act of observation is a deep, mysterious and beautiful thing."

    I never could explain why I felt (and once said to gasps of horror from my fellow painters) that I could paint anything anywhere -- what I meant was not that I was a brilliant painter, but that I find the world of objects totally fascinating, and it scarcely matters what those objects are. Thanks, Olga. Another treasure. The images are fascinating.

  7. Happy New Year June! Yes, the greatest favour an artist can do for anyone is to get them to LOOK, and look and think again.

  8. Wow! I read this entire post that is really interesting and interactive.

    Jose Manuel