Recently, and to my surprise, there have been at least three references to Philip Guston in relation to my own work; in the Pecha Kucha discussion, the studio visit from Sotheby’s MA Curating and also with Kate Rose. Each referring to Guston. ‘Reminds me of…’, ‘looks like… Guston’ even down to ‘spikey-hairy-legs-Guston-type-marks’. Is this a coincidence ?
In the Millbank studio there are no books on Guston on display. I work on the floor, on the wall and energetically fast. Some use computers to make work. My ethos is to employ organic individualised works on paper and lately three dimensional in plaster. My palette on paper is limited to tones of black using ink and charcoal and pink acrylic referencing flesh. Charcoal allows for aggressive hand-scratch mark-making or slow contemplative rubbing and steady slow fine lines. During the process my imagination or memory is not with Guston’s paintings. Any similarity is totally by chance. I am thinking in a psycho-geographic way: aware of the place I am standing above/in, the layers of the people and institutions that have been before.
I admire Guston’s work and visited his retrospective at the Academia, in Venice this year. I included a painting from the show in my Pecha Kucha because I consider him as a ‘painter’s painter’. The use of picture plain, confrontational and visceral energetic brush marks, flattening of the vast canvas, oversized distorted shapes representing lugubrious human figures, the personal subject matter etc are all symbolic of the artist as an individual, impossibly to be replicated by a computer. You need to be able to taste and smell the artist’s hand and his paint.
To hear his name in criticism to my own is gratifying, momentarily, but at this stage I think it has no contextual correlation.
So what is the significance if my work ‘looks like’, but is not intended to remind the viewer of Guston?
And tonight I am reading Nicholas Serota’s quote in the Guardian review (2004) calling Guston a ‘Painter’s painter’. Another coincidence and does this now diminish my own original comment in my Pecha Kucha?
Researching Guston’s work for this blog I am astounded by the visual similarities: limited palette, Guston’s is predominantly pink. Symbols – the recurring boot. In my Pecha Kucha I included a random pair of hobnail boots that hang in the London Plane Trees on Millbank. To me that’s a sinister suggestion of a human life dead. Reminds me of the public hangings. In Guston’s paintings there are many hobnail boots. For me the thoughts emerge from psycho-geography. Mark-making
On reflection and after researching, there are more visual similarities than I acknowledged. However Guston was emerging from abstract expressionism whereas I am working in multi media intuitively as a reaction to the location of Millbank and its psycho-geography.
Annabel Ludovici Gray