Scroll down to review the painting's progress from bottom to top
Leaf Gatherers in the Season of Entropy: Oil on Linen, 3 x 1 m (118 x 39 in)
31st December 2009
Complete at last, I have stuck with the original working title. I originally said that this would be a 5 month project but it has taken 7 months owing to the difficulty of the working environment, Niue.
The painting differs from most of my work in that it contains the whole gambat of painting genres, ie the figure, landscape and still life. Also where I usually simplify the composition down to three or four elements I have gone all out to cram as much into this as possible without detracting from that composition. More is more and this has also served to keep the whole 3 square metres of the canvas alive and intense.
As already hinted at, the basis of the idea is the depletion of fossil fuels and in particular oil/petrolium which has contributed to the exponential growth of human population over the last 150 years which has in turn contributed to the many social and environmental problems the world faces in the 21st century and beyond. Much has be written on theses subjects but here is my interpretation for what it is worth. The season of entropy I hope will also be a season of readjustment in the cycle of humankind.
21st December 2009
Figures are now complete.
3rd December 2009
No immediately decernable progress here but the left hand figure and leaf motif is now complete which means the left hand side up to the central figure is complete.
19th November 2009
Damn, with all these distractions this painting is getting harder to paint. The sun is always out, the people are beautiful and its hard to stay cooped up inside a studio sniffing turpentine, oil paint and mozzie zappers. No wonder I have ringing in my ears.
I have doubted the composition of the figures in this painting and now I wished I'd only kept the two foreground figures, perhaps with the one raised up arm women on the right. As I said earlier, I'm making it up as I go with this painting. But as it stands, the composition has a great V-like asymmetry so it really doesn't matter.
The politics of the painting are quite wonderful. There is a thread of thought in NZ art that criticises Pakeha (Eurpoean) men for objectifying Polynesia women in their paintings. I have done portraits of my daughters and have been accused of this,an ignorant disregard for the fact that they, like my models here, are half European. Shortly after they modelled for me, both Mitch and Nessa became beauty pageant winners in their respective regions. So they have no problem with self objectivication while they move on in life. The only objectivication comes from the ugly critics of these beautiful and intelligent women and how I have and will continue to portray them. This is a collaboration between, myself, Ahi, my children, these two women and the head-in-the-sand attitude of the so called academic world.
15th October 2009
Progress now is becoming less discernable because it is quite detailed. Have started to complete the wreckage from the left and to give me a respite from that tortuous concentration, the much more fluid detail has been added to the forground surface and weeds.
23rd September 2009
Completed the clouds by softening them with small vigorous brushstrokes. Finished the background landscape. Now back onto putting detail into the wreckage.
13th September 2009
Doesn't seem to be much progress here but have put some ground work in so I can get working on the detail. Some splatering effects in the forground and more work on the cloud which will now allow me to move forward without waiting for the paint to dry. I usually leave the figurers till last but have taken the exposed parts to an advanced stage. More to do there though.
26th August 2009
Still not happy with the sky/horizon but getting there. The use of the plumes of smoke were always in my mind, in relation to the entropy theme but how they were to look, I am making it up as I go. This process also reflects the methodology of the government of the country I am painting the picture in.
8th August 2009
Blocked in the sky and built a horizon reminiscent of the Tibetan desert. Why Tibet? No reason other esthetic appeal. Added in more detridous courtesy of the Tafalalo rubbish dump. Computer box in the right hand corner.
31st July 2009
At last the blocking in of the wreckage is complete although will be placing miscellaneous scraps of detridous in the foreground
26th July 2009
More work on the wreckage and the spacial sense of the forground is starting to take form. A few more days on the wreckage and the hard grind of the under painting will be complete.
17 July, 2009
Dissappointing progress and torturous, but managed to complete the top of the wreckage so can think a little more about the sky and horizon. Will focus on completing the underpainting in two weeks ... hopefully no interruptions
10th July 2009
Like the act of writing on a page the wreckage is slowly creeping across the canvas. Have decided to go with the greenery in the form of invasive weeds. Making it up as I go isn't my usually process with fairly detailed preparatory drawings bringing the perceived image close to what the final painting will look like. Have replaced this process with the PhotoShop work earlier mentioned as well as an element of spontaneity which is proving enjoyable and keeping the interest going in a somewhat torturous process. Consideration to the back ground (sea and sky) is now happening as I draw closer to completing the fore and middleground.
4th July 2009
More work on the wreckage while trying to concieve how the forground may look - with or without greenery is the decision to be be made.
25th June 2009
After being dragged away on another project I am now back on track. The panorama of wreckage across the horizon has been sketched in and now I have started the painstaking process of blocking this in with intricate detail. Warning! This process will be like watching paint dry so bear with me.
Owing to unseen circumstances, the progress of this work will be put on hold until further notice
9th June 2009
Two more figures are blocked in. With the aid of PhotoShop stitching and digital projection I have penciled in the post cyclone consumer detritus that was collected after cyclone Heta in 2004 prior to being compacted and shipped out. This will grow to be a metaphor for social entropy
5th June 2009
We all know now from the outset that this painting will be somehow pigeon holed into some kind of Romantic tradition. Its a pity Di Vinci didn't have a camera oscura, but he was so damn good he didn't need one. Then Vermeer came across the camera obscura and did some amazing things with it. But imagine what he could have done with PhotoShop. Magritte had PhotoShop in his head 80 years before it was invented.
Now you see this 3 square metre gessoed linen desert and what do you say to yourself? You say you need to fill this space up but you need to go wild with every #1 brush stroke to keep the surface alive. If I can full a canvas this size up with a vibrant and rapid small brush, that whole surface will be vibrant which in turn will amaze the ignorant, alienate the pre programmed and be accepted by the intelligent. Lets forge forth.
29th May 2009
And now I'm going into risk aversion mode by making this primary compositional motif configuration overtly symmetrical. This is a safe strategy at this point because I know that what I am going to add to the composition later will contrast with other elements further down the track there will be a passive verses active dynamic.
26th May 2009
So here I am, playing with ideas on a beautiful Belgium linen horizontal canvas. A vast desert that I need to make into something powerful and beautiful. In the human world, power and beauty are often at odds. Through our anthropocentricity we get confused because we don't realise our madness is a part of that beauty. We can't see the wood for the trees. My idea here is basically to talk about the last 150 years that humans have prospered due to fossil fuels through hundreds of wars, many ongoing as I write, but with giving thought to the sophistication of these wars and the consumer lives they are so intricately interconnected with.
My models in this painting (I prefer to call them protagonists) are the beautiful and intelligent Marsh girls Nessa and Mitch, ethnically from this part of the world I am thinking from. Its important to undersand this for reasons that will become apparent down the path to the completion of this painting.
Please come with me on this 5 month journey. Best Wishes, Mark