Blackpaint 6


Where do you get titles?

So, following from yesterday, if the paintings only have a visual meaning, that’s to say, the shapes and colours don’t signify anything but themselves, how does one give them titles?  People need titles, if only for convenience.  If you have a load of pictures called “Untitled, no. 5” or whatever, it’s not easy to distinguish between them in your mind.

Actually, in yesterday’s piece, I wrote that people ask you, the “abstract” painter, what a painting means, but before or instead of that, they often ask you what it’s called.  When you tell them, they will often just nod, or say “Oh, right !”, as if that has made it all clear (which is pretty unlikely).  What they are doing is trying to work out why it’s called that; they are looking for pictures in the picture.

 Of course they are, it’s an unavoidable human reaction I think; I do it myself.  You finish a picture or and you realise it  looks like something: a room, a giant insect, a bull’s head, a human body, a head… If you come to this realisation during the painting, you may change course to avoid it – or you may choose to enhance the resemblance- but then, how abstract is it?

So, I often give my pictures titles based on some superficial resemblance.  I’ve got one which looks like a cross between a cow’s head and a heart so I called it “Beefheart”, to grab a musical connotation for middle-aged or older punters.  This process  isn’t unknown, even with world class painters; De Kooning once called an abstract  painting “Pirate” or “the Pirate” because it bore a slight resemblance to a pirate ship.

And then, with abstract pictures, you can always just call them anything which sounds good.  I tend to steal titles or lines from old blues songs for just that reason; it’s another example of cultural imperialism, of course – but a huge reservoir of great titles.  I suppose I’m hoping that, somehow, the beauty and integrity of the music will seep into the picture.  Now that I’ve written that, I feel guilty, so I’m going to change my ways in future. 

Well, there we are – I’m a person who thinks Beefheart and blues titles are “cool” – clearly, not recently out of art school!

What is art for?

last night, on Newsnight Review, Johan Hari said something about the purpose , or one of the purposes of art being to enable us better to engage with the world, or to understand the world in which we live; he was talking about an exhibition of art relating to the environment – but it made me wonder how my stuff could be said to do that.  I suppose my stuff is “Art for art’s sake” – I wonder how (or if) the two can be brought together?

Listening to: “Jerusalem” by Steve Earle and “Lover of the Bayou” bythe Byrds.

“Drank the blood from a rusty can;

Turned me into the Hunger Man,

I’m the Lover of the Bayou”

Blackpaint, 05.12.09

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