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Three Talos Tryptich One Painting in Three

Acrylic, collage, varnish and found objects on wood and canvas

98 x 64 cm, 59 x 46 cm, 51 x 41 cm

I normally make paintings from bits of waste stuff that I find lying around in the street. Sheets of wood or actual other paintings that people have thrown out. Or actually sometimes when I go to car boots and I see people selling paintings on canvases or in frames or something and I ask them with politeness how much it is and then they get a bit enthusiastic as they initially think that I am interested in their artwork and so they mention a price which I consider wildly optimistic as they’ve probably momentarily forgotten that they are at a car boot and not a fucking art fair, so I destroy them with my prepared line of ‘Oh no sorry I only wanted it for the frame I’m just going to paint straight over the picture with primer’.   Sometimes they look horrified and nearly cry and I know it’s evil and I must be stopped but personally I find it considerably amusing, especially later when I’m painting over their picture with primer because they relented with the price and sold it to me with dejection.

I don’t plan on making paintings and I never really think about them when I’m not making one. When I’m not making one I usually think about when I will be making one and what could possibly happen to me to make the change from not making one to actually starting to make one. More often than not the catalyst that brings on the painting making is finding something in the street that is either a discarded painting or a big flat piece of wood that would benefit from being turned into a painting instead of being left by someone’s bins, cold and alone.

This was the case with the big sheet of wood that I found outside someone’s house down the road. I went past it when I was out running and I thought ‘hey that’s nice I could use that for a painting’ but I couldn’t get it then as I was out running so I went to get it later in the car as it was quite big. It was 98 by 64 centimetres when I got it home and measured it which is a good size for the activity.  Curiously it was already painted black on both sides and I had never found a sheet of wood of that colour in the street before. I wondered for a bit about who had painted it that colour and why and also another why had they then decided to fling it out to the bins? Perhaps the blackness was a badly thought through error?  I only wondered for a bit though, then I thought about something else. Anyway, I took it home and then left it for ages behind a door while I then began to think what I could add to it to start making the painting.

Nothing actually came into my thoughts at all regarding items to add and I was already aware that I couldn’t spend time actually trying to make the thoughts happen as I don’t like it when I try and force things to happen that way as it’s strenuous and makes me not like myself. I have to resign myself to waiting for the ideas to pop up like one of those lightbulb things in a comic. Other bits and pieces happened to me and my thoughts were diverted and the black sheet of wood got left behind the door for ages, gathering dust and laughing at me. 

Then ages later I was waiting for the bus and saw someone had flung out a canvas by the bins in front of their house. It was smaller than the black one that I found and was an actual canvas not a piece of wood. It had some rubbish stick paintings of some people on it that looked like they had been done by an absolute talentless infant so I grabbed it quick and took it home. I put it behind the door with the other one and thought something like ‘oh fucking hell now I’ve got two to paint’ so I panicked and left them both there again for ages and went and did other things instead so I didn’t have to think about them.

Life then continued and loads of stuff happened and the two blank sheets still waited ready to have something done to them by me but I did nothing as I couldn’t make myself do anything to them and I was preoccupied with other things like just wondering about all sorts really and trying not to cry.

Then the actual catalyst that started the artwork into motion actually happened and I remember thinking ‘Yes this is it the painting is underway’.  I was walking back from Nando’s quite full of chicken and found another sheet of wood, not a canvas. It was bigger than the canvas that I’d got and smaller than the black sheet of wood and I thought ‘ah this is the in-between size.’  The idea that the finding gave me was that I can now commence the painting as I have three surfaces to paint on and the artwork will really be one painting divided into three and not three separate paintings and I could then work on them all at once and not one after the other as it was now to be one artwork spread over three surfaces. It was like the painting was waiting until all three pieces of its background were found before it let me start.

Sometimes I become a bit frightened when I find these pieces of wood or canvas lying around in the street because I ask myself is this naughty to take it but I manage to balance it out in my mind by also thinking that it doesn’t matter as it’s been thrown out anyway and stop being so precious you are stupid. The balancing of these conflicting thoughts took me on a quick mind train to a happening in a film I am fond of called Jason and the Argonauts. There is a scene in it where two Argonauts are looking around inside this massive plinth thing which a massive statue called Talos is sitting on top of and one of the Argonauts finds a big needle or something and decides to take it as he wants to use it as a spear. Then when they leave the plinth the Talos statue comes alive as he’s had his needle pinched and all sorts of shit starts kicking off. I first saw it when I was really young and thought ‘ah yeah I understand that bit, it means don’t nick stuff’.

So I let the Talos thoughts start dragging me along with them and I realised that a Talos addition would be an intrinsic part of the one painting divided in three and I became especially drawn to the alliterative possibilities of titling the piece with something along the lines of a three Talos triptych. My wife was also away at the time doing some art stuff in Athens and it all started to slot together as Talos was Greek as well and I started fizzing with confidence at the painting ideas that were developing. My wife’s Greek absence time frame was two months and I thought ‘yes that is an appropriate time frame for creation of the artwork if I try and do a bit each day’.

I started to imagine different shades of grey when I mixed both black paint and white together in varying quantities but I started to doubt my mixing ability and became not confident in being able to do it properly. I don’t know how many years I’ve had this poor confidence in paint mixing but it can be evidenced with reference to black and white paint by the amount of differing shades of grey paint tubes already in my colour box. I think that the mixing potential of white and black paint is better than if you mix other colours because with black and white you’ll always end up with a nice grey but if you mix other colours together too much you’ll often just end up with brown. Especially if you use blue and green.

I’m writing this with hindsight as I’ve finished the painting now and I’m struggling to decide if its worth writing down much of what I was thinking about when I was living through the period of starting it and going along with it until the end and it’s finished. I don’t really know why I paint the lines and use the colours I do until I look at it afterwards and realise something about certain little bits of it that I didn’t think too much of when I was doing it. Then I get the feeling of ‘oh yes that bit makes sense now and I’m glad that I did it. Conversely, I sometimes I think that parts of it look a bit shit the day after so I paint over them and do something else on top.

I have developed this use of varnish as a final coat on all the paintings which I make.  I like varnish because for me it makes the painting sealed and real and it can’t be pretend. When I was at school I liked the membership cards that you got when you joined fan clubs and things or pretend organisations in comics but they always seemed pretend and made up until I covered them in sticky backed plastic and they were then sealed and final and real. I tried using it with oil paints once but fucking hell I thought they were a nightmare as they take ages to dry and the varnish that I use just knackers it all up. I use that clear acrylic varnish that you can wash your brush in water and not that solvent stuff which gives me a headache when I breathe it too much by accident not on purpose. I like the smell of oil paints though and sometimes I inhale oil paintings when I look at them close up.

I spent time looking at the completed Three Talos Triptych hung on the wall and gradually began to see common themes and reoccurrences over the three painting parts that I had not noticed while making it. Colours, gestures, images and ideas started to become pronounced and revealed themselves. It was by noticing these that I became satisfied that the finished item was successful.  I remember thinking that other paintings that I have completed do not reveal their aspects until much later and it is only when other people see them and make comments on aspects that I was unaware of that I then start to appreciate them. With this one though, I liked it fairly quick. I suffered a usual fear when it was first finished and thought ‘why have I done this it’s stupid’ but that thought process was disregarded quick when I put nails in the wall and hung it up and let it present itself to me with its finished finality. Now I have to jump over the confidence hurdle of putting it in a gallery or art show somewhere so other people can see it without them having to come round to my house. Yes.



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