Friday, January 25, 2008

New Painting: Super Special Chat Twenty Dollars

Super Special Chat Twenty Dollars, 34" X 47" Acrylic & Foam on Board
Back in Calgary, on my Mother's couch watching cable, I was struck by some familiar strangeness in a Looney Tunes cartoon.
It was the one with Foghorn Leghorn and the Dog and the impossibly hungry weasel(possibly my favourite cartoon character). The dog has convinced the weasel that he should not chase the little chicks, but rather go after bigger game, in the form of Foghorn Leghorn. In the midst of all of this, the dog occasionally pauses to deliver a few lines directly to the viewer.
I would say "directly to the camera", but this being an animated cartoon, the camera is non-existent.
This means an animator decided to have a dog he was animating speak as if he were pausing from some scripted scenario to deliver a few lines to a non-existent camera.
I find a corollary in what the animator is doing, by having the dog speak to an imaginary camera, to what I am doing in the studio lately. Applying paint skins, draped and folded, coming far off the board and towards the viewer, mimics the dog's pause and delivery. While both the application of paint directly to the painting - poured or applied with brush to render illusionistic form - and the attachment of paint skins are both from my hand, the former adheres very strongly to an official narrative, and the latter to some subtext or supertext(?) that feels a bit like Rauschenberg adding a bucket and other items to an otherwise typically painted painting, but even more like that Looney Tunes dog.
The attached paint skins are the dog turning from the action, to deliver the very necessary joke possible only in an aside by a character drawn and imagined in the same incubator as the rest of the narrative.


Mason said...

But there IS a camera. The dog and the camera are just in different spaces.

Wil Murray said...

This seems like an argument-winner, balloon-popper more than a furthering of the discussion.
Interesting though.
I don't think the animator thought of the dog speaking to the camera used to photograph the animation cells when he animated the dog speaking to a camera. Rather I think that the animator, in inventing the dog character, invented as well a camera that the dog would speak to but would never be seen, or indicated by anything bu the dog's actions.
Much like a black hole, that cannot be seen, but is found by how things act around it. A criteria has been developed, that if satisfied indicates the presence of a black hole.
In this instance, we see "A dog's black hole camera"....

Mason said...

I agree, that I doubt I am furthering your theory at all by saying this (the abstracts you apply to your painting elude me at the best of times), but I just have a distinct feeling that there is little difference between an animated dog speaking to the camera, and an actor addressing the viewer through the camera.

I'd say the camera is a worm-hole more than a black hole.

Jesse said...

Whether or not the camera exists in this sense seems to me to do little to change Wil's argument. At least as I'm reading it now.

It seems to me that the central distinction is one between official narrative, which includes painting-as-painting, brush and canvas sort of stuff, and the "ridiculous" side where paint leaves the painting, in some sort of subversion of what you're calling the official narrative. I think the use of cartoons makes this reference work nicely - as criticism that is, the painting's different thing.

So, if that's the distinction at the heart of it, I follow.

The camera is interesting here, especially because I'm reading a lot of psychoanalytic film theory and they're always on about the spectator and their relation to the apparatus of the camera, screen, etc. Wil, you're comparison of the camera to the black hole (invisible save for its effects on other things) makes me think you'll love the Lacan stuff if/when you decide to pursue it. There are so many concepts there which turn on paradoxes like that where things are affected by the presence of objects that can only be inferred.

I'd say in that respect that the camera in both the animator's sense and in traditional film certainly does exist. But, the camera also exists in theater as well. Am I explaining myself well? In 2 out of 3 cases there is no physical camera but in all 3 it exists, because the camera is not a thing so much as a structural position. It's the necessary imaginary position where the subject as spectator is located.

I think I've only got that half right from the Lacan side but this is part of a dialogue that's been going on in my head for some time.

Fuck concepts though, let me get formal for a moment. The work looks shit-hot: the oranges in the background are just great. And you've hit on some beautiful new things with the applied skins this time, I think. Perhaps I simply didn't notice them before like this but in this work I can really see how the skins make some foreground/background stuff absolutely pop at you. The thin skin hanging in the centre really conveys this; it speaks of its "markness" so intensely. How to explain that... It looks completely impossible, falling off the painting like that, like a pencil line that somehow leaves the page and hovers in the air. And the way it does that really changes the way I see all the marks in your painting now; they have the capacity to detach themselves and exist independently of the surface. It's a very eerie and beautiful effect.

Talk more soon, wonderful to see new work up.

PS. Any chance of a profile view? I'd like to see how far out the bunched skins come out.

Wil Murray said...

Hmmmm...fry me up some Lacan suggestions and I'm on it.
I think the camera business gets tricky where I associate still photography as a better corollary to traditional film(a mechanical, very real camera, photographs a scripted scenario, any asides are made to and actual physical object(the camera), no matter whether scripted or not), and painting a corollary to animation(where a physical camera does photograph the physical objects that make the action, but the narrative and the asides are both made to an imaginary camera, indicated not by the main narrative, but by the asides in combination with the main narrative).
This isn't watertight by any means, as cross-medium comparisons never are. But what that dog, who never existed other than in the sealed bookends of start and finish of the cartoon along with a narrative he occasionally jettisoned himself out of, was doing to that camera, that never existed and was never even referred to, questions the temporality of the narrative internal to the cartoon itself AND my own placement of the dog in time(the use of the past tense in describing what he did...hell, referring to him as "he".....seems insane).
Where this intersects painting is in mixing paint as object along side paint as a descriptor of illusionistic form. The form, rendered, does not exist in any way without the paint, the object. One something on the painting is described by my application of paint, one something IS paint-made-object, applied.

I've run out.

I'll try to get a profile shot for you. This painting, and "Sexing up..." are indicative of where things are going.

Wil Murray said...

PS. I am hanging paint skins like drying hankies off paintings now too.

Mason said...

Ok, so reading what the two of you have said here, two people that are much more educated in these matters than I, who I sort of depend on to say things for me to think about on the train to work, I have a question.

Does the camera even matter? I mean this more in context with what Wil originally said. Jesse sort of ran with the camera thing, but I have a feeling that if Wil sort of abandoned the Camera and exchanged it maybe with the Gaze or some other paradigm, (maybe one less loaded than The Gaze) and especially let go of the idea that the camera does/doesn't (or even can) exist, things might sit neater.

I guess I might be hung up on this idea because I work with a camera and maybe I take the word to literally. Who knows. I also just have a very literal mind.

Speaking of literal, would it be wrong of me to add a parallel to footnotes to the camera/paint off the plain discussion? The David Foster Wallaceian type of footnotes that have a story themselves.

sophiaface said...

haha argument winners and balloon poppers and filmic tones right... I've always liked it when someone can find an analogy in something they've found in the everyday, it makes it more personal and also has that neat amazed thinking of realizing something by letting the mind sleep into a certain space. What other analogies have you made or what else have you been thinking of with this new work where sections and hankies and limbs are caught, in a way, frozen in escape-mode, yet still supporting the painting?

Wil Murray said...

Oh God...the first thing that comes to mind is when I was imagining giving my artist talk and all I could see in my mind's eye was me, with a bright orange parking pylon held over my crotch, swinging my hips and going "Whoooooooo-ooooooo-oooooo".
Next time, I swear.
More on this later, got to eat.

sophiaface said...

haha what, your most recent artist talk or others in the recent past?

Jesse said...

Okay, I'm going to start out with the questions that feel more tangible to me and with luck by the time I'm done I'll have a better idea what to say about the more difficult stuff Wil is raising later in his comment.

To Mason, I think the way I'm talking about the camera - in terms of it being the hypothetical place the spectator ends up occupying - is already answering your call to let go of the camera; at least that's how I intend it. I'd be wary of the Gaze in Lacan, simply because I haven't read that stuff as much yet and I know just that it's far more complicated than the more common sense understandings I had at first.

Wil, I'm having trouble understanding the correlation between painting and animation, at least insofar as the role of the camera is concerned. The film-still photography dyad makes sense for the obvious technical reasons but perhaps not as an opposition if the issue is the camera. I'm not sure how much I want to extend the ideas of spectatorship I was raising before to painting - I'd need to think about them more - but they certainly apply as much to animation as they do to film. So, I'm having trouble understanding the distinction you're drawing between the two.

I think you're making a far different point than I am; In fact, I'm thinking now that the camera is definitely not the issue at all. Real or imaginary, both film and animation require the spectator-as-camera position in order to operate. Painting and still photography certainly do as well - at least if you assume objects require viewers in order to matter at all, perhaps you don't, perhaps you draw a distinction here between painter-photographer and each one's viewer. Regardless, let me put the camera aside.

I need to know more about what you mean by narrative in these paintings. Also more about paint-as-object / paint-as-rendering-forms. These concepts all sound really seductive to me but I don't always see how they work. In any number of bits of writing others have done about your work, they've referenced how your work is all about surface, all about paint as paint, which I read as paint-as-object. You yourself used to talk about that too, way back. I haven't heard you talk much about it recently but am not sure if that's just because it's pretty established and you've moved on to think about other things or if you've changed your mind about it.

You have started using a brush I suppose! What's one to think?

Enough. I've written this post at three different points today and at two radically different states of sobriety.

Also - I'm not trying to pin you down here at all, not even trying to get you to further your initial argument if you'd rather leave it and talk about this if it's not related.

Nice Barthelme quote by the way, I'm going to read that one as I go to bed.

Wil Murray said...

Fuck this gets hard, because I only summon words to make up the distance between what paint can sayto others I want to talk to and what it is able to say itself.
Biggest thing is that the daog and the imagined camera are....made of the same stuff.

Im getting a bit itchy with how big this became...the frivolity of the comparison held a lot of water for me. Ill think all day and see what's there...i certainly have no love for animation or film theory and discussions of either make me want to take my ball and go home.
I think half the time, the ridiculous in my comparisons is half the interest for me....tracking the specifics really kills the lightness of a well-placed, and funny statement like "Well, it's like the dog in Foghorn Leghorn...."
And it's not really paint as paint...never was. That requires all chickens seen in my paintings to not be chickens, all space, however plastic to be accidental.

Wil Murray said...

Moreover, the dog, the camera, the narrative...all is made of the same stuff.
Much like paint is used in my painting as object(describing itself directly to the viewer), and as medium to describe form and space(speaking through...errrr...illusion). But both is made up of paint: undeniably an object when sitting in the tube on the table.

Jesse said...

The last thing I want to do is wreck a good joke by analyzing it. And I get that a real part of the allure is the ridiculousness of the comparison. Personally, I'm just happy to be reminded of the hungry weasel again; you're right about him.

Listen, this is what I meant when I said feel free to leave the original argument if you want. I know you're not trying to make a super nuanced point by invoking Foghorn Leghorn. But the point you're making is still interesting, I think! Clearly it's not one about the camera as I was raising it, whatever, that's just an entry-point of mine into the discussion. I really like what you're saying about paint as an object always being the thing that is at stake whatever form it assumes: object, medium, narrative, dog.

Writing this though, I'm struck by something: the 'paint is undeniably an object when it's lying on the table' is odd in a different way. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a film maker. I remember watching a documentary on George Lucas where he was talking about his love for film and he said that one of the things that made him a great director (just play along) was that he really loved film. Film stock, that is, the physical rolls of film. Now, I totally didn't get that at all as a kid. I thought, "shit, why do I have to love the film itself?" Of course, later I inevitably understood; as a musician I loved every physical thing I used: the tape, the cables; as an academic I came to appreciate nicely bound books, whatever. This kind of affection for the means of production is pretty common I think and Lucas isn't really making an uncommon remark. What's got me thinking here is the relation of the object that is involved in production to the piece itself. You're definitely touching on it when you talk about paint but you also are when you talk about the animator and the dog. Just like the film stock isn't the film (I'd argue the film doesn't except outside of projection, it requires that time-movement to exist) so the animation doesn't exist as a single cell drawing of the dog turning towards the camera.

Don't know where that leads to, just interesting.

Wil Murray said...

Jesse, I think the first bit you've written here looks back a little bit to the conversations we've had about what is possible in humour that is impossible elsewhere. That nuance and elaborate statements can housed very nicely in a few words, if humour and the ridiculous are invoked.

You'll know I'm deadly serious when I start discussing the Dodo character that Porky pig had such trouble with.

The inclusion in my work of brushed paint, describing form has forced a tension between that and actual form made out of paint that has me feeling like a babe in the woods. To describe this easily without setting up representational painting vs non-representational painting, I could name John Eisler as someone who I've never seen use paint to make actual, form or object, and Miriam Bankey who has exclusively used paint as a construction material, and never as a medium to describe form. And then i lose the plot again.

Your Geoge Lucas example makes me think of every time I've said that I became a good painter because I was very good at being in the studio, I liked being there and didn't have to use what I did there to lure me.

Panic said...

Ok, but let's talk more about this pylon.

Wil Murray said...

The imaginary pylon is safety orange, with two stripes of reflective grey tape, in stripes near the smaller end, or "tip". At it's base, it measures near 12 inches in diameter, openings at either ends.
It keeps cars out.