Brancaster Chronicle No. 42: Anne Smart Paintings
Everlong Say When, 2016, oil on board, 102x102cm
13th August 2016, the artist’s studio near King’s Lynn.
Taking part: Anne Smart, Anthony Smart, John Pollard, Richard Ward, Alexandra Harley, David Lendrum, Helga Joergens-Lendrum, Robin Greenwood, Sarah Greenwood, Charley Greenwood, Hilde Skilton, Mark Skilton, Noela James, Mark James.
Everlong Wanted, 2016, oil on board, 102x102cm
Everlong With, 2016, oil on board, 102x102cm
Everlong Wondered, 2016, oil on board, 102x102cm
Everlong Waited Here, 2016, oil on board, 122x122cm
Just to say, the qualities of the film and the photographs do not do justice to the qualities within Anne’s paintings. There is so much more to experience in reality.
thank you for that Noella…and a thanks to you and to everyone else who has taken the time to come and look at my work.
There are difficulties in photographing my work
One of my intensions when I make painting is that they achieve a presence which defies an optimum viewing position. I feel driven when in front of the paintings to move in and out of them physically, something which other people have picked up on. Maybe that interferes with a photographic discipline?…also the nature of the surface of some of my work can make a single all over focus of the camera unsuitable for a viewing which requires multiple focus on that fractured surface
I am more than optimistic about this because too many times I have seen “great” paintings for real after only having seen them in reproduction and been very disappointed.
I cannot think of any other abstract paintings that have such astounding depth of detail (“depth” being an interesting word to apply here…), and what’s more, none of it is “accidental” – i.e., no splashes, scumbles, drips or dribbles, it’s all been properly “made”. Amazing.
These paintings do worry me a bit, though. In the talk, somebody mentions Pointillism. I don’t think there is a direct comparison, but I do think that there is a correlation. Like Pointillism, there is from a distance an “effect” of the mutual influence of divisionist colour, which mutes everything towards grey. This “effect” is the worry. In fact, I’m worried because it IS an effect. It’s a reason why I’m not a great fan at all of Pointillism. And I’m also reminded of the look of some sixties paintings, for example, Ian Stevenson: http://www.ianstephenson.net/decades/1960s/ . True, such comparisons are forgotten when one looks at Anne’s paintings at middle/close range – from where they have a fantastic vital structuring entirely of their own making, and look so original. So maybe that’s enough?
Nevertheless, I think there is a debate to be had about the “all-overness” of them and its relation to the achievement of wholeness. For me, “wholeness” and “all-overness” are not by any means the same thing (though they might overlap). As an experience of true wholeness, I find some of Anne’s paintings from two years ago more persuasive, precisely because they are less “all-over”, and have a more diverse, inventive differentiation of “things”, or areas, or spaces, or “stuff”; in other words, a more diverse content; and thus in the end, perhaps a more compelling wholeness, because it is a unity made out of a greater diversity.
I tend to think that “all-overness”, especially when the differentiation of form is so muted and happening in possibly more conventional ways (maybe even based on a soft geometry in this new work?), is, in result if not in intention, borderline “minimal”. I recall talking about an “all-over” painting by Anne called Pique Pique, 2013, in the very first Brancaster, and Tony saying it came at you all at once, as one thing: “Boof!”, he said, with characteristic hand-gestures. I think that is close to the Goukian “Wow!” moment of a few months back, and a bit of a modernist cliché. I’m still not convinced of it, unless there is a lot to back it up; i.e. something sustaining once the “Wow!” is over, or perhaps another, subtly different “Wow!” each time you look. But maybe these have that already, in the close-up view? Maybe God is in the detail? I think, though, that in the end, this group of paintings is less spatial, or rather, the space is “tighter”, more compressed into a narrower zone, than in some previous work by Anne, and that might be to do with this thing of how and from where you view them. Not sure if that disagrees with Anne’s comment or not.
Interesting to consider the idea of a painting looking “natural” or free, and the apparent contradiction at work here, in that Anne’s paintings, from what I can tell, and from the comments of others, seems to be very “made”, considered, I’ll refrain from saying intentional or deliberate. Although we could think about what the nature of intentionality is in relation to this. But I want to follow up on what I believe David Lendrum said about the work looking “natural”, as if it had arrived on its own somehow, and not been forced or dragged to the finishing line. I think that is a really great quality to have, and it doesn’t have anything to do necessarily with colour being interwoven, or not having clearly delineated areas, as for instance a painter I regularly get that “natural” feeling from is Cézanne. It’s a feeling as though his work has always existed, most unlike Pointillist work, where I feel very much as if I am looking at something that has at some point been decisively judged to have ticked certain boxes and so be a work of art.
Perhaps this sense we get is the result of our felt understanding and recognition of the level that the artist has applied themselves to the work. This high, demanding level of application will always show in the work. It will add more complexity, in Anne’s work seeming to very much result in a kind of bafflement as to how the thing is put together, and this might have something to do with the sense that they are natural, because we can’t see how they could be made by another person. What is on top, what is beneath, are there layers, where does it start, where does it end, where is the process? All I’d be prepared to say about the process, would be that it must require so much activity and decisions that may or may not have any logic to them, and that the incredible accumulation of decisions made by Anne, and the ruthlessness with which she must scrape out or get rid of so many “good bits” along the way, would add up to so much experience with the thing (the painting), that it maybe does just arrive, and there can be no moment of pinpointing where it was finished. It’s as if the more you try to control, the more involved you are with every conceivable facet and detail, the more likely you are to push the picture into becoming something that defies a very clichéd notion of what control looks like, but also has nothing of the highly contrived look of much supposedly “accidental” mark making.
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I like Richard Ward’s description of space in Abstract painting being a “welcome gift”…and that the spaces created and their combinations with “things” suddenly happening is a “mystery”.Trying to see “things” from a different angle is a personal challenge.
At present I am aiming to make my paintings just BE space rather than describe space or help to define or hold forms. Harry Hay perceptively describes my desire to deny any sign of process…in that desire I would not wish for “soft geometry” ..much Abstract painting has to deal with that. Sarah Greenwoods quilts ARE Geometry but “something” lifts out of them to give an Abstract visual experience…that’s a real mystery.!!!
So…back to the “space” again…which for me is about “wholeness”…In attempting NOT to be involved in “relational”decision making does not have to mean that my paintings will be “non relational” In the current Ab Expressionist show there is a wonderful Lee Krasner. “Untitled”1948. It is small about 100cmx50cm. It is solid, cross hatched paint. All over,non relational, dense and matted. Its intensity is overwhelming. ..However if you were to cut it up into square pieces you could rearrange it in any way and not notice the change. So that achievement of intensity is short lived. For me “wholeness” diminishes the power of that work.
I am hoping for a movement through my painting [ space?] not just because of a built intensity made by me but also because of a changing flow of pace and colours and depths. Wholeness or non-relational[ness] usually happens in ONE thing.I hope for ONE thing which is a constant discovery and rediscovery of countless separate unities.