A Story of a Painting

Following conversation with fellow student Deb, I decided to try to write a ‘story of a painting’. I was interested to see what would happen when I explored a narrative within an otherwise decontextualised image. I am not describing a painting, nor narrating an event; I don’t know what I mean by ‘story’ yet.

After sending the writing to Deb, who is also in the process of writing a (completely different) story of a painting, I learnt a couple of things about my work.

I am trying to translate an experience of art-making that is pure, without the interruption of narrative and pre-concieved ideas. Or in Deb’s words: ‘An attempt to get at purity of response that is separate from the mess of human sogginess.’

Deb went on to say she’s ‘not sure if that’s possible – or desirable?’ … Hm.

Nothing exists in a vacuum, but perhaps it is about pushing the boundaries of this; trying to get as close to a pure experience or response to something as possible. 

The work is likely to be a comment on people, and how we try to deal with things in a way that is manageable for us. 

As Deb says, perhaps it is neither desirable nor possible, but I think the work is about my own personal release from this ‘human sogginess’, as though I’m trying to reach an escape from this ‘mess’ through the work. Perhaps it is this that I’m chasing.

The story is as follows:

I open my eyes to a peculiar, bewildering space that surrounds me. There is a deep red, plush and runny. A purple (or is it white? I am too close to tell) that is smeared across the surface I’m leant against. A quick glance upward and I see a curious glow of mint green. Further beyond that exists only more of a blurred and murky mass. That purple-white is unsettling. It’s vagueness; the smudgeness it suggests. I strain my eyes looking into it, then I squint in an effort to find some kind of form or object or surface, but there is nothing. I am faced with a nothingness that sits like a heavy fog or mud-filled pond. I am blind to what lies beneath it.

I look around again with urgency now. I am searching for a sign or something that I can move towards; something that will place me in this unfamiliar space. There is a feeling of wide-awakeness that takes over. I am clear of the fact that everything is unclear and little else. The tension that exists threatens the power to halve me.

I am disconnected.

Straining into the beyond-smudgeness, forms erupt before me with vulgarity and heaviness. Bloody, clotted mounds arise out of a vaporous haze, interrupted by sharp cliffs of black and grey. Ghostly traces of white slide like mucus, or the deposits of a slug. Is this a place of dystopia? Is this a place of human-kind, or humanity? Is this a place in the real?

I ask these questions because things are erased by that awful, engulfing nothingness just as quickly as they jut and form with clear intention. There is nothing here to cling to.

Nothing that is, but that curious little glow of green; a strange feeling it evokes. I find myself gravitating towards it; eyes fixed upon it, fearful of its existence as some kind of illusion. Something about its tiny peeping presence makes it twinkle amidst the violent swarm of red and purple space.

Is it light? Is it hope?

It appears from the rage, suspended in its own space. It ebbs and pulses, apparently existing separately from its surroundings. A second glance though, and it has shifted, now barely visible beneath that dripping red; dominating red; engulfing red.

Is it nothing? Is it something?

I realise what it must be to feel drawn to something that can hurt you. Consider a moth to a flame; an insect to a light; a fly to a venus.

I climb upward towards its gentle, sparkling rhythm; scrambling up and over harsh black contours that dip in and then out, pushing through the sticky, runny red that sucks me in and swirls me around, slipping and sliding between a thin, translucent white that vanishes as quickly as it appears. I get closer to the mysterious, charming green and I am made aware of its trickery.

It changes before my eyes, becoming a nuclear chemical, an alien heart, artificial in every sense of the word with threatening and looming presence.

This green signals the form of some kind of dark and empty space, for as I look just beyond it, I see jagged lines of lilac and violet thrown around a ground of black that sits starkly amongst pools of red. Lines cross and jump and drip and fold, and as I move closer to that green I move closer to a mass of furied marks; this sea of danger.

Realising my error and this cruel trickery, I retreat. I stumble upon the uneven surface, thrown in each and every direction by the harsh run of black that emerges from a pool of throbbing blue. I land in a vast expanse of white that dips in and breathes out and takes my form. This is not a place of human kind and there is no humanity. This is not a place in the real. This is not a place. This is a form that has engulfed my own.

My breath breathes in with it and out with air I cannot choose. I writhe and fold and struggle. I close my eyes to this peculiar, bewildering place that surrounds me. I think about that ebbing, pulsing glow. I let it place me, for I am halved and lost and disconnected. I am the smudgeness.


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