Thursday, 2 September 2010

To title or not to title?
"Usually I am on a work for a long stretch, until a moment arrives when the air of the arbitrary vanishes, and the paint falls into positions that feel destined” Philip Guston

30cm diameter on 35 x 46cm rectangle

As I began to put the finishing touches on a recent painting I thought about the whole process of giving a piece of work a title . Because my work is abstract, a title is necessary to give it some identification to help lead the viewer into the painting

A title defines a work and finding the right title for a painting is an equal part of the whole creation of every piece of work. Ideas for titles of each piece can come from memory, poetry, books or random associations of ideas. It can sometimes take a long time to find the right wording to title a painting though equally, a title does on occasion emerge very quickly and then there is a knowing certainty about the outcome of the work. Once a title has been found the work gains, clarity and direction .It becomes a something rather than an undetermined exploration of paint.

"You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."  Pablo Picasso

Yet often a title remains elusive. It takes a while to emerge and ‘match’ the original concept of a painting. The work evolves and I am become totally absorbed in the creative process. My attention is held by the play of colours, form and texture. I intuitively know at an unconscious what I am trying to create but as the work comes into being this can change so that I often start painting one thing then by the time the painting is finished have a completely different image to what was in my mind initially.

This can be illustrated by ‘Nocturne’ a circular painting that originally was thought of as something on the lines of ‘Evening meditation’ to pair with another painting that I had already named ‘Morning Meditation’. As I worked with the silver and deep indigo canvas, I took various photographs of it at different stages and these were filed as ‘Blue textured’ ‘Moonlight Inspiration’, and ‘Night dream’. These descriptions were for personal reference and actually did not gel as a name for the painting. ‘Nocturne’ only emerged as the final title a couple of weeks after the painting was finished. It felt right and gave the painting the identity which linked with the ideas that went into its formation
'Blue and silver'(Nocturne) in progress

'Moonlight Inspiration'(Nocturne) in progress

Often I paint a series of paintings with a group title. Individual painting therefore have a predetermined title before they are begun. The Four Seasons Windows are a good example of this. This group of paintings was painted a few years ago and conceived as a whole. Then I worked on each canvas moving through the different seasons consecutively starting with autumn through to summer. I find when a series is painted in this clear way there is a subtle but marked difference how I approach the work, It has been defined from the outset and then painted to meet its existing title. The creation of the work is as engrossing as ever but there is less serendipity or unexpected developments as the painting unfolds.

'Four Seasons Windows' Series on display
Titling is both part of the process of each painting and gives it completion. Once the title has been found and settled on the work, it claims ownership and identity.

Then it is time to begin another piece and start the whole dance of what it shall be all over again! Because as A.N. Whitehead says
"Ideas won't keep, something must be done about them.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this Arabella... much food for thought here...
    I have a similar process with creating and writing for the Inner Circle monthly teleseminars...
    I find I start with a seed and let it evolve... my constant frame of reference is connecting at a visceral level with what I want to share... what is authentically me...
    Like your work... sometimes I am in for wonderful surprises...
    that little universe eh?
    Many blessings and keep the blogs coming... the mind of an artist is an interesting tapestry...
    with love,
    Joyce Lee