Interview by Lydia Meehan
Published February 2016
Aidan Myers' work uses brush strokes as suggestions of movement, physical gestures and expression. His work regularly eludes to human representation without being over explicit.
So many contemporary artists are working in cross-disciplinary mediums. I am interested in (what feels like) your unwavering commitment to painting. What is it that draws you to painting in particular?
I believe greatly in the way that painting gives me freedom; it allows my mind to wander into many other dimensions as it were. These dimensions are personal and unique to each and every painter and can certainly only be felt or realised rather than explained. My first inclination or realisation of being in the moment or in another mindset is something that I understood by reading philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. One cannot necessarily strive towards or dictate these mindsets or dimensions, rather they come at any point during the painting process and are clearly unnoticeable until the moment has passed.
I have a huge obsession with painting - I say this wholeheartedly, with all seriousness and respect, because I think that the physicality of applying a brush stroke or sweeping a palette knife across a canvas is the most energising and vitalising thing. The power of being able to build layers of painted gestures, marks, colours and textures into a visible composition is mesmerising and extremely satisfying – perhaps even unexplainable. The whole physical process of creation from an initial idea or thought is an unforeseeable journey and totally fascinates me. Those accidental splashes, drips and unintended marks often deviate from the initial starting point, idea and take me on a journey of unprecedented discovery.
Stagnant, oil on canvas, 2015
Paint is quite certainly a first choice discipline for me. It could be considered a traditional, old method for artists, though in many ways it has stood the test of time as a strong, monumental discipline. For me it’s limitless in terms of the possibilities that a painter may achieve, certainly by means of experimentation with materiality of paint as it allows me to achieve many different effects within my images.
It is interesting to hear such a passionate and intuitive response to painting, particularly as I find your works so emotionally rigorous and energetic. I am interested in the themes of your work so, to start, would it be fair to say that you push as much of your own emotional energy into your paintings as painting pushes emotion into you?
Allowing the mind to wander can release teething anxieties that are a result of everyday life. Many times have I realised that my paintings reflect particular moments within my life. There are numerous paintings that are testaments to certain positive or negative times, by the physicalities of paint in terms of heavy, thick gestures, or their light, uplifting colour combinations. Themes or emotion-evoking aspects of my paintings tend only to be understood or uncovered in a period of reflection following the painting creation. For me, this period of reflection is equally a vital journey of discovery, as the painting process itself.
One could consider that painting is a stress-relief, diary of emotions or therapy of some kind; it certainly emits aspects of being therapeutic, especially as one can eject numerous kinds of gestures that reflect personal, emotional feelings onto the canvasses, perhaps similarly to how a musician writes songs that reflect a certain mood or lead the listener to particular nostalgic memories etc.
It could be a singular, significant gesture amongst 100’s within a composition that evokes or unleashes nostalgic memory, emotional feeling or angst. Generally I can re-feel the moods or remember my emotional states of mind when looking back at painting, particularly ones created at turning points or milestones within my life – I guess that this links closely to the idea of how the paintings reciprocate emotion and energy relative to my input of energy and emotion.
Eminence, oil on canvas, 2015
In which case, how important is subject matter to you? Is it primary or secondary to your emotional response?
I’d suggest that any specific or underlying subject matter is irrelevant to my paintings during their creation. Rather I use resources, images and sketches as reminders or references to inform a composition, not as a full, sole and purposeful subject matter.
I’m really driven by the power of immediacy of materiality. I think that such factors of a painting reveal and suggest a lot more than having an obvious subject to focus upon. Perhaps another influence of the Deleuzian theories in terms of subject matter being unnecessary and secondary to emotion.
As a human, one is quite driven by emotional responses and the gut feeling as it were; the immediate gut feeling or response is the factor that remains important to me as both an artist and viewer.
Of course an example of this would be when I walked into the Tate Modern Traces exhibition; I was completely taken and struck by certain works due to their materialistic qualities, harmonious colour fields, size, and tentative compositions. All of which formulate that one powerful, striking impact that dominates you upon first view, without the necessity and immediacy of subject matter or underlying meaning that sometimes instructs and dictates how the viewer should perceive the image.
Emanate, oil & acrylic on canvas, 2014
Without the potentially misleading factors of subject matter, paintings can allow the viewer a choice of investigating a compositions for its values and tensions by responding to individual emotions and feelings, without having to follow an unnecessary narrative or a set of rules around the subject matter. The allocation for a viewer’s mind to wander in response to the painting’s materiality is quite important as one can experience a sense of freedom relative to the freedom of creation.
By freedom, I mean that the processes of creation aren’t in any way fixed or literal. Some artists may adhere to a set of rules or guidelines to allow their creation to exist; instead any one process may be used at any particular stage of painting. Thoughts, memories and ideas are in constant sync with these processes.
Music generally forms part of my freedom too, by how it creates zones for which I feel that anything is possible, perhaps re-entering or un-hatching nostalgic memories that become part of the new painting. I say this with all hope and anticipation for that completely infamous, prolific painting that transforms any idea or composition previous.
I find the 'irrelevance' of the subject matter (replaced by immediacy) very interesting; particularly as, for me, your works are both devoid of subject and bursting with it at the same time. There seems to be a tension between abstraction and form and what really captures my imagination about this tension, is how you title your paintings. 'Thrust', 'Stagnant' and 'Fused' for example, as titles, draw something out of the image or draw my eye to see in a particular way - often differently to without the titles. They seem such fitting descriptions for something so abstract and I have been wondering what your process is for titling your works and the significance of the titles. Is titling as immediate as the act of painting? Does the painting reveal the title to you or do you reveal the painting through the title?
Titles for the paintings are a relatively new thing, having generally felt that the physical work should stand alone without the necessity of a title (similarly to that of the underlying narrative or story). Some of the older works are still left untitled. More recently I’ve been titling in response to physicalities and things that may cause tension, similarly to the compositions themselves.
I understand that a title has to be suggestive, strong and give the viewer a tiny, single, perhaps immediate blast of written language to allow them further investigation into the work or spark some prospect of debate or intuitive response. To a certain point, titles can lead to narrative, though I much prefer a title to suggest something physical, to perhaps extend or anchor the viewer upon a significant tension within the composition, to be lucrative and to allow even more freedom of thought.
Titles come naturally, though sometimes it takes time to uncover relevant words that link to ideas that I’m pursuing.
Thrust, Stagnant and Fused are descriptive towards tensions within the compositions; Generally these titles are fitting to how I felt or how I reacted to the gestures whilst creating the works. Thrust in particular is quite a physical title that relates to the aspects of a converging figure within the composition, just as if the figural form is about to burst or launch out of the composition. Thrust in particular had so much relevance to me; and the descriptive word was very significant and important whilst making the painting, which is why the title was rather fitting and necessary. The effect of leaving the composition at such a tentative point left me really wanting to work upon the piece further, almost as if the painting is constantly teasing me.
I would also suggest that these demanding physical titles are suggestive towards movement and thus leading to the figure or anatomical form. Physicality of the creative approach within the studio is highly important to me, so if a title can aid and transform or maintain a painting’s movement, my physical, bodily movements or perhaps tease the viewer into something further, then I understand a title to be relevant and necessary.
As you rate physicality and intuition so highly in your practice, it is hard to imagine your works as consciously stylised. In that sense, it is like handwriting - unconsciously natural to each writer and equally recognisable to the reader. Despite this, I see relationships between your paintings and those of Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland, for example. I would like to know if you see these artists, or others, as influences yourself?
Drift, oil & acrylic on canvas, 2015
What artists, if any, give you a gut response that fuels your work?
I’m influenced quite strongly by Francis Bacon amongst many other artists.
Since encountering Bacon, I’ve focused a substantial amount of research towards his practise with specific focus upon paint materiality.
Bacon’s sporadic approaches and chaotic paint activity are perhaps most influential within my own paintings. Physical gestures & marks are very immediate, intimate and true responses to my thoughts and feelings. The freedom to evoke inner, chaotic, emotional spasms and feelings through the physical gestures is relieving. Sometimes I can spend hours pondering and anticipating a moment of chaos in the studio; when something strikes me, when an idea emerges, when a spark of energy is found - This is the point at which being in the moment becomes active - Where anything can happen - again this is something unnoticeable until well after the moment has passed. That complete fixation upon nothing but the paint and canvas is when painting becomes its most prolific.
Other artists’ work have to resonate with me in terms of materiality or image quality. I guess it’s the point when an artwork talks to you in some way - whether this is feeling of totality, being completely connected to the piece or whether it is suggestive/ enticing. I’m quite responsive towards works that both immediately strike me, but draws me closer to full fixation and awe.
Some of Graham Sutherland’s work does grab me to a certain level, though I’m generally not too overly driven by his paintings. I feel that some of his compositions are a bit clunky or perhaps too literal of landscape to me personally, something that doesn’t provide enough tension for me. In terms of landscape tensions, the work of Richard Diebenkorn completely resonates with me. Having seen his retrospective of his paintings at the Royal Academy of Art, London in 2015, I was completely mind-blown by the intensity of his Albuquerque series in particular, due to the vibrancy of the gestures and surface qualities of the paint - leading to unforgiving tensions between colour fields within the compositions.
Recline, oil & acrylic on canvas, 2015
I’m otherwise influenced by the work of Frank Auerbach, Jenny Saville, Lucian Freud, Adrian Ghenie, Tomory Dodge, Alex Kanevsky, Antony Micallef, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Anthony Caro, Henry Moore and Richard Serra to name just a few.
As one constantly researches and explores the realm of oil paint as a discipline, it’s fair to say that painting is a lifestyle, it’s a means to which everything else sits within, alongside or underneath; it’s a process which I use to find meaning, to probe questions, to attempt to find answers. As much as some may criticise this line in terms of it being a typical artist cliché - it’s at the point where art becomes the only sensible, feasible way to source a solution to any situation, issue or question due to the artist’s intense obsession when the so-called cliché becomes a reality.
The James Elkins quote from book What Painting is, quite clearly details this for me.
“As the decades go by, a painters’ life becomes a life lived with oil paint, a story told in the thicknesses of oil. Any history of painting that does not take that obsession seriously is incomplete.” James Elkins
Aidan Myers lives and works in Cardiff. Recent exhibitions include One Man Show, Waterloo Gardens Teahouse, Penylan, Cardiff, Insert Art Here, group show at Curious Duke Gallery, London, Affordable Art Wall, Winter Show, group show at Cardiff M.A.D.E and Affordable Art Fair Hamburg, group show, Germany
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