Residency : Simon McAuley - June, 2012
Following Simon’s third residency, we trace his thoughts and production from the first drawings in 2009 to where his practice is now. This most recent series of works represent a recent transition from drawing to painting and demonstrate a reworking of painting's conventions at their most radically reduced. In the artist’s own words, it is apparent that he is a painter for whom painting is an uninterrupted personal investigation. Simon tests painting's material and conceptual possibilities with the attitude “learning as you go along”. The prospect or outcome of his practice remains an open question; answerable only through the production of new works.
This is your third year as artist in residence in Project Ability. Did this particular time reveal anything to you about your practice that you didn’t know already?
Yes, year three. It is strange really, a number of things have changed. This is the place I have been spending most of my days and I have completed the first wave of paintings. I decided not to do any painting before I got here, one of the first days I was working, there were sparks coming from my head.
Can you tell me a bit about your transition from a drawing tradition to a painting one?
Things have taken a considerable leap in a painterly direction; I had anticipated for a while that would happen. I like that space between drawing and painting; it feels like a very ambiguous place. I think it was a seamless transition - I started to make a number of paintings and tried not to think too much about how the materials were going to fit into the previous work, into my previous drawings. I feel that I wouldn’t have known how successful I could be as a painter, until I had actually done a painting.
I am interested in the starting points of your paintings. Are you able to tell me where the line comes from, do you use any kind of systematic procedures?
I always have in mind minimalist ideals and also how I can push paint. On the other hand, a lot of my decisions are quite personal; they operate as part of a more intuitive process rather than a theoretical one. With regards to a lot of the drawing I have done in the past, I enjoy making marks with paint a lot more in a way that didn’t with the drawings. There is much control involved in drawing, you can be free with paint and I like the idea that it is not a repeatable mark that can ever be reproduced again.
Your work has developed links with traditional painting. Are you happy to be seen as a traditional painter?
Looking back now I understand the drawings more and with painting, I have reached a phase where I don’t need that preliminary drawing stage. Even though I consider the paintings and the drawings to be different, I still consider the thinking to be the same. I work with happy colours. I like to be playful and really enjoy painting colour. When I make decisions it can be about happiness. I have deliberately used a lot of white to achieve a very pastel, saccharine, sweetie effect. When I think about colour, I first like to see how they behave with each other, think about what it is that I want the colour to do. I haven’t used oils for 20 years; oil gives me more control over the manipulation of the paint while I get a feel for my palette.
Your works are always untitled, is it because they have no representational meaning?
Not at the moment. Landscape is still important in my work, I have still held onto that but that’s not to say that in the future those references won’t fade as the painting comes to the fore. Rather than thinking of a title, I work towards getting to a point where I think that a work is finished.
What are your influences?
Artists, Richter, Monet. I am interested in Monet because of the way he handles light. Not only painters, I am influenced by concrete poetry, minimalism, I have always wanted to be that kind of painter.
Where will you go from here?
I will continue painting.
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