Paintings of Paintings
Galerie Pompom, 2017
Paintings of Paintings
Galerie Pompom, 2017
In the Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes of the effects of snow upon a house;
Inside the house, everything may be differentiated and multiplied. The house derives reserves and refinements of intimacy from winter; while in the outside world, snow covers all tracks, blurs the road, muffles every sound, conceals all colors. As a result of this universal whiteness, we feel a form of cosmic negation in action. The dreamer of houses knows and senses this, and because of the diminished entity of the outside world, experiences all the qualities of intimacy with increased intensity.[i]
Bachelard writes of the Winter House in negative, revealing the psychic state of interior space from the outside in. The walls, doors, apertures and corners of the house are set in relief—made visible—because of their relationship to warmth, cold, intimacy and distance. For the dreamer of houses the foundations are always built upon a semantic equation. We are, as Bachelard so deftly lays out, where we are not.[ii]
Mason is on the floor of his studio, casually shuffling through soft piles of hand-drawn sketches as if they are receipts or quotes (albeit from the artist himself). He appears to be looking for—and finding—nothing in particular. He talks while he touches the paper. His process is to flicker—a jarring term he often uses to describe both the quality he is seeking to bring out in the paintings and the way he goes about bringing it—between the material spaces of screen and canvas, between digital process and painted form. He wants the images to flicker too. From these paper quotations, he makes digital collages that form the basis of larger works on canvas, painted in oil and collaged with scraps of synthetic fabric sourced from second-hand stores and torn and cut sections of his own painted canvases. He gleans from his own crops.
Each painting is embryonic in the sense that it holds the key to its own potential. Each painting is historical in the sense that it is made from a collection of past parts. By being both similar and different to themselves, these paintings enter a third state; with each being defined by its alterity rather than its difference, by something other than the sameness of the imitative as compared to the original.
Kurt Schwitters saw collage as a shortcut between intuition and the artwork.[iii]William Borroughs used the cut-up to short circuit language. Freud sorted through quotidian scraps to help us understand ourselves. Virginia Woolf made use of whatever fragments came her way. The connections between hitherto unconnected things, via the accumulation and arrangement of scraps, is what collage—bald and basic—so acutely achieves. In the context of Mason’s work, slicing, splicing, compression and omission are processes that circumvent perception, cutting out the distinction between the viewer and the view.[iv] The semantic equation in Mason’s work is the way the process inevitably refers toward the image’s own precariousness and decay.
Patterns, lines and relationships are scaled. A section of this one is swapped out for the architectural motif in that one. A lizard-skin grid from here is forced into a neat companionship with a blue isosceles triangle from over there. A balustrade is just as likely to be made from steel as it is from chalk. The slippages between works make the passage of elisions and ellipses nearly impossible to trace. And these slippages, along with an understanding of Mason’s strategic use of the screen as an aid for process, could inevitably lead to a characterisation of his painting as a type of tab surfing, where information is arrived at through potentially endless hypertextual association. Such a restless search is prone to conspiracy, association and proof as coincidence (Wonderful!), but the budding and burgeoning Rhizome is not Mason’s project. His vernacular glance—directed toward the screen as much as is toward the interior of a book or a room—is not circumscribed by the tabulated screen, but by the colour of his thought.[v]
These works make little distinction between the acts of painting and thinking. They are painting
[i] Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).
[ii] Jouve, Pierre Jean, Lyrique, as quoted in Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).
[iii] White, Michael, 'Merzzeichnung: Typology and Typography', Tate Papers, no.14, Autumn 2010, http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/14/merzzeichnung-typology-and-typography.
[iv] Horn, Roni, “Among Essential Furnishings” in Interiors (Originally published in Earth Grows Thick, 1996) (Centre for Curatorial Studies Bard College and Sternberg Press, 2012).
[v] “The Vernacular glance is what carries us through the city every day – a mode of almost unconscious or at least divided attention. Since we are usually moving, it tags the unexpected and quickly makes it familiar, filing surface information into safe categories. Casually self-interested, it accepts the miraculous as routine…[It] doesn’t recognize the categories of the beautiful and the ugly. It just deals with what’s there…Its directions are multiple…its disorder needs no order because it doesn’t require thinking about or “solution”…it is superficial in the best sense. O’Doherty, Brian, “Rauschenberg and the Vernacular Glance,” Art in America 61, no. 5 (September–October 1973).