ANDREW JOHNSTONE art
ian aitken smith
Songs and Arias
Paintings by Harry Jepson
These last three years of painting have come to represent a personal liberation in terms of creative instinct. My initial decisions were to make work celebrating the mid-twentieth century schools of abstract art that I most admire, and to be unashamedly decorative in the sense of a classical non-programmatic aesthetic. More particularly, I sought to ‘play’; to extemporise without intent. The rest has been a discovery through trial and error, and it is only in retrospect that I feel able to discuss themes and content, or understand an overview of process. The work continues to evolve slowly by tiny increment.
Each new canvas is approached with an arbitrary gesture. Over a period of weeks, months, or years, and living with several paintings in various states of completion, I allow the materials, my formal instinct, shifting mood and current interests to inform further gestures and development until the work is complete. In this way, and by the employment of various non-brush techniques and countless ‘happy accidents’, I aim to achieve an appearance of the organic, working towards compositions that feel grown through a process of osmosis. I am influenced by an inner catalogue of ‘beautiful-things-seen’, usually from natural sources, though sometimes I see emerging the memory of an ancient stone wall, or a poignant graffiti, or light shining through a glass vessel. Most of the work takes place nocturnally when I am most focussed and much of the world is asleep.
It feels safe to say that the resulting paintings are informed by a life’s love of music as listener, performer and composer. Reflected within this is my interest in measured time and movement. Some of the paintings appear to depict abstract narratives and linear movements respecting the eye’s instinct to scan from left to right (songs), whilst others suggest snatched dramatic moments, which I see as photographic ‘stills’ (arias).
I recognise a non-threatening ambiguity in the finished work emerging from a varying richness of benign tensions. In a purely visual sense these can be seen in the abrupt juxtaposition of flat and textured, the use of hard edges, amorphous shapes, imperfect disks, pentimenti, objects that fictitiously extend beyond the canvas boundary, and the avoidance of straight lines. As is technically true of music, I believe that these ‘tensions’ have the potential to attract; to impact subliminal emotional responses in the viewer that will ideally lead to a deeper reading, understanding and relationship.
It is my hope that such readings will further reveal those mysterious conceptual tensions and polarities that have an abiding resonance for so many of us, and which I seek to draw out by the use of recurring ideas and symbols: weight and weightlessness, movement and suspension, perfect and flawed, harmony and dissonance, ancient and modern, primitive and refined..