Negative Space (Things I don't understand) - 2000

Oil on canvas, 203 x 168 cm

Five paragraphs on Negative Space

These are paintings of things that I do not understand. The title of the installation 'Negative Space', is a borrowing from life-drawing classes where you are instructed to describe and draw the areas where the subject is not (the triangle formed by neck and wall, the shape the carpet makes against the thigh etc), and through this process one ends up with an accurate deliniation of the area that the subject occupies. Can we achieve this sort of representation with concepts and ideas? Is there some quixotic undertaking whereby deliniating that which is not known, one could guess of that which is known? Can we represent something through representing its lack? Perhaps this is a form of psycic or mental portraiture?

That these events and things occupy this negative space becomes their organising principle. In a manner analgous to Borges description of a Chinese Encyclopdia with its curious organising principles (things which look like an ant from a distance), this allows the conjunction of disperate orders of event -electricity, David Bowies recording career - and in turn throws into relief the arbitariness of our everyday systems of structuring and the way that we classify and order things. It also allows a sort of poetry to be generated and becomes an engine for the making of new links and new meanings.

Wittgenstein said that whereof we cannot speak we must remain however is a sort of anti wittgenstein event. I AM speaking of those things that I cannot voice because I do not understand them. However I can name them, so bring them into some form of visibility. Deep at the heart of the rhetoric of (usually representtional painting) is that painting is a means of investigation and understanding of the phenomelogical world around us. We cannot represent (the saw goes) without understanding. Can one represent that which one does not understand? These painting are cetainly representations of things that are not understood.

The texts are curved and twisted in pictorial space because I wanted to work in such a way that these things were objects, out there, that these things that I do not understand have a concrete reality, like a rock face or a building or a bubble. I also want the texts/paintings to shape the viewers perception of the world around, both through distortion, and a tendency towards op-art, a dumb but warming analogy with the way that language can shape our world. They heighten and twist our perception of the space around us in a way more usually claimed by sculpture which operates outside the picture plane. Its for this reason that they were also designed to work as a group as well as individual paintings. I wanted these abstractions to be physical.

The texts are all run together without word spacing then broken down into lines of the same numbers of letters to make the works performative. They are difficult to understand when approached only with the eye, it is easier to get the drift when we bring the body in and voice the letters, hoping that the movement of our lips and tongue makes clear to our mind what our eyes are seeing. It slows us down, makes each letter more itself and less component. It also slows down the eye, insisting that we look at the painting both as a text, a representation, and as as an event of shape and colour.