Raewyn Martyn in conversation with Simon Morris and Erica Van Zon
Transcribed by Duncan McNaughton
E: Welcome everybody to enjoy for the first show of the year, if you don’t know me I'm Erica Van Zon, and I've been lucky enough to work with Raewyn over the summer she's been our artist in residence and we’re going to talk about the work in the space today with Simon Morris, a local painter. And thanks for all coming along. And we’re going to respond directly to the works on the walls around you, we’ve got these three here and the three on the back wall and the one on the door over there. Shall we just have a general discussion about the works and how they came about?
R: Ok so, I arrived at the start of January and I started thinking about how I wanted to work in the space and I was really interested in combining some sort of response to the architecture but also thinking about the layering qualities of building up a wall work up over a certain period of time and thinking about some of the studio processes I use when I’m playing with paint in the studio and finding out new ways of layering paint. And so I wanted to bring some of that activity into these wall works and thinking about it more as a working studio than as predetermined installation of sorts and its quite interesting reflecting on how that’s affected the format of the works. So that’s where I started from I guess.
S: How much time did you have?
R: 3 and a half weeks, so there was time to make changes and rework things which is really nice, that’s quite luxurious compared to turning up at a gallery and having two days to paint something that pretty much has to be predetermined in that situation.
S: That’s a long time to make a painting in a space like this really, did that change the way you normally work?
R: The way I work in a gallery or studio?
R: I guess it made me more free to work more slowly like I would in a studio situation and I guess with the period of time there was time to think about the way light works in this room and that was quite important with the history of the building as being custom built as a photographic studio so these windows were custom built to allow really good natural light for taking photographs so light is a really important part of this space and the way tone works in this space reflects those shifts of light reflecting of the surface of the walls and then off the colour in the paintings so I could add new layers a week after having made the first layers.
E: I was kind of the other day when we were leaving and Bhopa was like there’s your computer a mirror, your table ,the door, is that true, is their some resemblance to domestic scale?
R: More the format, the physical format of the object , than the format that I was interested in. I like the intimacy of a mirror shape of a computer shape than the openness of a window shape or throughness of a door shape or the acrossness of a table. So it’s the height of where things could shift or things could happen so yeah so there are literal things or resonances I guess.
S: I find that quite ugly In a way. I’m not sure whether people would really hunt that out I guess, I’m not sure. The first thing that occurs to me is that there is a lot about how to make paintings in space and if you kind of think of a painting as a discrete object like on a piece of stretched canvas and you’ve kind of moved off that into a space. But there’s a lot of coding about how painting exists within this space here, its not like there’s one treatment of a pictorial space.
R: No, and I was thinking about depth of field a lot in terms of the tonal variations. Do you mean treatment of the architectural space of treatment of the space as a picture plane?
S: Yeah, as a painting.
R: As in the way things move in and out of the masked out frame?
S: Yeah well I suppose what I really noticed was that there was no consistency about it. You are jumping from one type of pictorial space to another. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
R: I guess I was thinking of each one as a different proposition about how a painting of that sort can work. A painting that is directly onto the wall, how the picture frame could work, so each one was a different play with that.
E: But even through that processes you can see that you have been working through it in the gallery and I know that these two here, the sort of roundy one and the one going up the wall, the twisted shape for me feel like there – for me feel like there is a progression of you working through your time here and moving beyond using such a rigid format. And it will be interesting to see what happens next because that’s quite you in your practice, where you’re quite stuck in these sort of more set shapes.
R: We the set shapes were something I wanted to try, having done works like the High Street installation I did where I used the whole of the gallery walls and was pasting similarly low tone pieces of paper onto the walls and using across the whole space more in the way that door piece works and I wanted to come back to thinking about the way things work in a rectangular format after having done those sorts of wall works and working on the floor quite a lot I wanted to think about how I might work in a more contained space in a way that uses those processes. Because the floors works I guess relate a little bit in the format to scatter sculpture or more random or incidental forms of composition and as soon as you introduce the rectangular frame that changes the dynamic of having an open space. There are different compositional concerns going on.
E: In don’t know if people are familiar – but in ‘08 Raewyn did a work here in the stairwell painting in all of the chipped off bits in the space, scratches and things painted back into them. I actually haven’t seen many photos of it, and its hard to actually differentiate what the original mark was and your tracing thereof but it was interesting to your progression. For me it really acknowledged the paint in the exhibition, so much more than that. In a picture plane.
R: But in that I think I still retain an interest in what is an incidental mark versus what is a mark that is more composed or expressively of deliberately gestured. What is the difference between a workman like mark, or an accident or spillage versus mark that is made.
E: And the tools of the trade we have been blogging quite a bit. A lot of Raewyn’s stuff over the past couple of weeks. And a friend, Eve Armstrong came in a saw Rae’s sponges and immediately went woaah and just ran towards them… (I couldn’t understand this part!) the tools change along with the process, these beautiful cut sponges for me it seems a much more painterly process.
S: Yeah I see it. I think there’s a really lovely sense of light in the work and that comes through in the way the pieces have been made and the way the real light works in this space too. I’m interested In how that had some kind of impact on your thinking on the way you have handled the pigment?
R: I guess the pigments reflect light and they do it a different amount depending on the pigment. By toning everything down you make those observations. There’s a slower processing of that information. Definitely I was thinking about that in relation to photography as well in the way that in the darkroom or in the camera itself you control the expose and its all about the amount of light reflecting or the sensitivity of the film to the light.
S: There’s a real sensitivity about the way you’ve built up layers especially in the green one and I think possibly that sensitivity just comes from spending a generous amount of time in the space being accustomed to the light,. I think that sense of quietness, there’s a strong sense of that in the show., That’s so different to how things operate in most other places.
R: Painting is a really nice activity and it can be meditative and it has a history of being leisurely. So I’m really interested in spending time doing it.
E: I enjoy observing the way the gallery standard paint functions as a window frame and that seems an interesting extension of your special experiments or thinking about being an art teacher, existing kinds of surfaces etc.
R: Yes. But the door works but the actual shape is unmade by the way the negative space paint is painted around the brown toned marks, so the brown toned marks are actually behind the pale grey paint so there’s a real relationship between the negative space.
E: I’m just remembering from the 2008 stairwell, I think one of the works was a burnishing array of paint so its interesting to see more of a layering, I enjoy thinking about them s portholes burnishing their way to a future space.
R: Well some of them have shapes that move in or out of the frame and that was a way of playing with that idea
E: And that feeling of that with the framing device of the wall. That would be so different than to sitting on the wall, that frames itself. Encroaching over the paint as though there’s something under there. -----couldn’t get it.
R: And they’re temporary works as well. They’ll be painted over at the end of next week. They are glimpses not objects that will keep existing.
E: So I was just thinking it might be nice to talk about some of the other projects that will come off this – I know we’re talking about the works in this space, but these also lead to a couple of other things that are happening. Do you want to talk about them, what you’re thinking about or what you’ve noticed?
R: Well, so these works in the gallery have informed a mural that I’m painting up at Camp A Low Hum this week. We’ve actually just driven back from Bulls this afternoon. And its um made up of a line of frames or blocks of colour and they’ll have figuration and gesture over the top in transparent layers as well and that’s I guess a way of taking this work out of this space and thinking about how it might operate on an exterior wall and it’s a site that people will come across and its not that conscious – people make a decision to come to the gallery to see this work but they’re there for a music event so the art will be part of that environment for them so thinking about how the painting can work in that way. But there’s also another series of works, one in glover park, where I’m making a canvas work stretched over two of the park benches and the kids will have some parts made on it with paints that soak into the canvas and it becomes an image that will be embedded into that and would also function as an extension of those seats to turn them into a daybed or a hammock but not as low as a hammock, it will be a bit flatter. So that’s one work. And then, id also like to do another mural a smaller mural than the camp a low hum one but elsewhere in the Cuba area. That’s to come in May So yeah, just thinking about this sort of more subtle paintings can work outside of a gallery space.
Audience: So are you going to be responding to the exigencies of each site?
Audience: I’m very interested about this composition, you’ve got these four, five hard/soft edges and there are two that are more shaped?
R: Yeah well I guess these came out of the first few weeks of the residency when I was interested in the idea of using this architectural frame to become the frame of a painting and having the resonance of that format, not necessarily, its oblique but it was a strategy to try using a frame and then worked through that and made some discoveries and thought about how some of those ideas could come back into working more openly.
Audience: So you’re discovering and then bringing those back to a familiar type of way.
R: Its interesting reflecting on how initially the proposal is a working studio, it’s a place to try things and not having a predetermined way to respond to the space and thinking about the exhibition at the end, how it works altogether. I think.
E: I really love the way that the beginning of each of these was slightly different the way I think the wall paper and the windows and there’s a huge slippage between what you’re looking at and what you’re thinking about. And it comes backwards and forwards and I really like the way you’ve made that happen. They seem to perform different functions.
Sorry I interrupted.
E: Any questions or wonderings or comments?
Audience: Just in continuation of those previous thoughts, I feel although the work its as though you’re giving a time lapse of how you might have worked through the space. How much of the expectation to exhibit was at the fore front of how you approach this residency and have you thought about erasure and did that occur at any point?
R: Yep, yes it did occur. Most of these works I erased at some point and then restarted – I tried out on strategy and then started on another. And then that process of erasure is applied to that one where the white shapes erase where what that image continued but used the wall colour to erase parts of it and I think the expectation to exhibit, that wasn’t placed on me and I kind of knew the working studio as an exhibition not the end product.
Audience: What would it be like if we were all standing here and the walls had been covered over?
R: And we had talked about what had happened in the residency and would you do it with documentation or would it just be me talking about it?
R: There is that in a sense, there are interesting explorations.
Audience: I’d love to see documentation of you painting them out, you know so there’s that losing, how are you going to do that – roller away? Or…
R: Yeah, well I’ve only got four hours to do it so that’s very quick.
Audience: Or to start painting out lines
R: Yeah, well that’s tempting after that process it would be really lovely to apply the same gestures to erase it, yeah that would be cool. Actually that is another point I use Photoshop quite a lot to do other painting and photographic things, through Photoshop tools you get quite a lot of control over opacity and erasure and that has actually informed the way I paint a little bit.
R: That’s probably time to have some beers!
E: Thank you Simon and thank you Raewyn and hope you enjoy the show and keep tuned for Raewyn’s offsite projects, I think they’re going to be more around April-ish and onwards
E: And are you still going to keep up with your blog?
R: Yeah. That hasn’t had much time spent on it so I’m going to keep going on with that until May.
E: And there’s going to be some nice public works on, is “DPAX” still on?
E: Yeah so if you’re down in Dunedin then Raewyn has a work in the window at Dunedin public art gallery as well which is beautiful linen works, if you’re down that way – check it out.
E: And this show will be up until the end of this week- no the end of next week sorry. So if you fell like coming back again and having some more time with the work pop on in.
Cool, thank you!
Transcribed by Duncan McNaughton